Date Published: September 2016
Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true...Lauren's life has been turned upside down by some simple choices that have gone awry.
Since her father’s mysterious death, Lauren Cowley has been stuck in a pitiful rut until she begins having ominous encounters, haunting her every move. While attempting to break free from her wretched life she meets Donovan. He is tall, dark, good-looking, strangely familiar – and yet terrifying. His unexplained ability to stare deep into her soul with emotionless eyes frightens her, yet she has no desire to break free from the gravitating pull he has on her. He unlocks her passion…and suppressed memories forcing her to fight for everything she loves. Lauren now has to face the reality of demons and the tragic consequences they have had on her life.
The room was filled with several insidious beings, a scene Donovan was all too familiar with. This was a part of the work he detested the most. He didn’t want to be here, but this man’s corrupt desires forced his hand. Donovan’s height reached a good foot above the man’s stout body, making Donovan appear even more menacing. A heavy debate had transpired between the man and a friend who had tried to stop the transaction, causing heavy amounts of sweat beads to form around the stout man’s receding hairline – despite the cool air.
Turning towards Donovan the man begged, “Please, you don’t have to do this. I have a family and…”
“You should have thought about them before you decided to ruin their lives.” Donovan’s voice was dark, yet a tinge of regret coated his tongue.
The man’s eyes pierced into a part of Donovan he hadn’t felt for years. How could he justify what he was about to do? Just because he was trapped in this situation didn’t mean he should damn someone else to this life – if it even is a life. What is wrong with wanting something so bad you are willing to sacrifice everything for it?
The man slowly turned towards his dark-haired friend who had tried to stop the exchange, gazing into his eyes sorrowfully. The two men were a yin and yang of each other. Where one was stout and fair with the beginnings of a receding hairline, the other was tall and thin with dark, thick hair and olive complexion. Though the two were opposite in appearance their friendship was intertwined like a thick rope.
The dark-haired man’s eyes narrowed as he pleaded to his friend in a weak whisper, “If this needs to happen, let it happen to me. I have no family, nothing that will be destroyed by the outcome.”
The dank air within the room hung thick and dark like a heavy blanket suffocating the room and making it hard to breathe. Donovan was familiar with what was transpiring. Gripping his fingers into a tight fist he fought back the urge to give in to his now natural instinct. Locking his sights onto the two men in front of him he silently watched their useless debate. There was only one way out of this situation and that was if Donovan would let him go, and that could never happen.
The stout man grabs hold of his friend’s shoulders, uttering firmly, “No, this is my fault and I take responsibility for it, but I need you to do me a favor. I need you to…”
Instantly the door opened, causing the two men to turn towards the intruder. “Father, what are you doing?”
A blithe voice rang in Donovan’s ears as he turned abruptly towards the intruder. The girl’s eyes locked onto his and for a brief moment he was reminded of who and what he used to be – a good man. Though his past was now just a grain of virgin sand in a murky moat, for a brief moment
Donovan was able to see the grain and grab onto it.
Donovan watched her eyes transform from a bright joyful appearance to one of fear and disgust. Her smile dropped, ripping out her heart on its way down. Donovan’s eyes remained locked onto hers like two magnets colliding, mentally grabbing hold of her with fervor and strength – refusing to let go. Her eyes too were locked onto Donovan’s, though hers told a very different story. One of betrayal, rage and despair, something he couldn’t look upon anymore.
“Please leave, sweetheart. I need you to go – now,” the stout man uttered to his daughter. His voice echoed loudly with guilty pain.
“No,” she snapped back.
A growling voice instantly cut into the small yet crowded room, making everyone freeze with fear. A man stepped out of a dark corner from the far side of the room. He seemed to materialize from the bleak shadows draped mysteriously from the corners of the room, like tattered curtains ready to reveal the main event. “You are pathetic, Donovan. Do I have to do everything myself?”
“Darius, please don’t,” Donovan uttered, trying to stop Darius, but it was too late.
Darius’s black eyes deepened as he tore across the room. A swirling wind ripped through everyone as Donovan rushed over to the girl. His eyes locked onto her now silver-dollar-size blue eyes for the last time. He quickly lifted his hand, wrapped it firmly around her throat and gently squeezed. He watched as the light within her eyes slowly diminished, leaving the room a black plague where there once was light.
About the Author
L. R. JOHNSON is the founder and President of The Inspired Writers League - an active community writers group. When L. R. Johnson was a child she would live in a world of her imagination. Her teachers would have to put her in the front row of the class or she would drift off into a story she was creating. Though she studied Psychology in college she never lost her imagination, constantly creating stories in her mind. Bringing to life her characters and writing great love stories filled with adventure, dynamic characters, and brilliant surroundings is something that L.R. Johnson has a natural gift for. She lives in California with her husband and two wonderful children.
Other books by L. R. Johnson:
Published: November 2015
Needing a fresh start, eighteen year old widow Breanna Hayes flees from America to England to fulfill her husband’s last request and her dream of going to Cambridge University. There she meets Callum. He’s arrogant, brash, affluent, rippling with charisma – and certain to run away when he learns about her tainted past. But as an unexpected bond is formed between them she discovers he has secrets of his own. She must overcome her stubbornness, fears, and open her heart again or risk losing a chance at love and the stable family she has always wanted.
“Stop,” I interrupt, not wanting to hear a frivolous apology, “What I do is no longer your concern.” A heavy sigh rolls off of me, “I come from trash. I have always known it, and now I know you believe it, too.”
Turning my back on him I begin hastily walking away when suddenly I hear him softly utter my name. It rolls along the surface of the mist, slamming against my back, piercing into my core, revealing his internal pain. Ignoring his pleading call I continue to walk away from him, leaving all my hopes and dreams behind. My decision is made. I am leaving as soon as my classes are done.
A Val Cameron Mystery, Book 2
Date Published: September 2016
Publisher: Henery Press
Senior Editor Val Cameron is back at her desk in New York. When her curator best friend returns from an abbey in England, she invites Val to see a priceless relic that has mysteriously found its way into her carry-on.
But by the time Val arrives at the museum, her friend has been murdered -- and the relic is gone.Val soon learns that a young monk at the abbey has also been murdered. What dark purpose is attached to the relic that has led to two murders? When Val discovers her apartment has been broken into, her native New York feels like a place she no longer knows. Now she has to unmask a killer who will stop at nothing to fulfill an ambitious plan-- and Val Cameron is just the latest person to stand in the way.
Praise for A Killer's Guide to Good Works:
“In her second adventure (after Practical Sins for Cold Climates), feisty, intrepid Val balances her publishing and sleuthing lives with verve. Dan Brown fans will enjoy this puzzler.” – Library Journal
“A smart, even sly, tale of relics and rituals, truth and lies, prophecy and forgery that will keep you turning pages late into the night.” — Leslie Budewitz, Agatha Award-Winning Author of the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries
“It’s a pleasure to see Shelley Costa, master of the taut, evocative short story, expand her range with this complex, multi-layered thriller.” - Linda Landrigan, Editor, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
“A fascinating, if sobering look into the world of stolen antiquities, a black market that makes billions of dollars every year, and that many have indeed killed for.” – For the Love of Books
“In this edgy first in a new cozy series from Costa, Val Cameron, a senior editor at a New York publishing company, travels to the tiny town of Wendaban, Ontario…A strong plot and engaging characters make for a well-crafted mystery, and Val’s humorous attempts to cope with the wilderness do much to lighten the tension. The core of the story is Val’s discovery of her own self-worth.” – Publishers Weekly (on Practical Sins for Cold Climates)
“If you want to read a beautifully written story with a twisting and turning plot, this book is for you. Five stars out of five.” – Examiner.com (on Practical Sins for Cold Climates)
Other Books in the Val Cameron Mystery Series:
A Val Cameron Mystery, Book 1
Published: January 2016
When Val Cameron, a Senior Editor with a New York publishing company, is sent to the Canadian Northwoods to sign a reclusive bestselling author or risk losing her job, she is definitely out of her element. Val is certain she can convince Charles Cable, but first she has to find him.
Aided by a float plane pilot whose wife was killed two years ago in a case gone cold, Val’s hunt for the recluse becomes even more muddled. When all signs point to Cable as the killer, she must work to clear his name before the scandal sinks her career.
Trapped in a wilderness lake community where livelihoods collide and a killer lurks, the prospect of running into a bear could be the least of Val’s problems.
Praise for Practical Sins for Cold Climates:
“A strong plot and engaging characters make for a well-crafted mystery, and Val’s humorous attempts to cope with the wilderness do much to lighten the tension. The core of the story is Val’s discovery of her own self-worth.” – Publishers Weekly
“An engaging, deftly-plotted mystery with a smart, tough-minded heroine. Shelley Costa delivers a terrific series debut.” — Daniel Stashower, Author of The Hour of Peril
“Costa hits all the right notes—vulnerable but likable characters, a compelling plot, a clearly drawn setting, and a tangled web of past and present events.” – Sheila Connolly, New York Times Bestselling Author of A Gala Event
“Taut, well written and suspenseful, Practical Sins for Cold Climates draws readers into a community where the past haunts the present and residents’ motives are buried deep...just like the truth.” – Kylie Logan, Author of And Then There Were Nuns
“What a terrific surprise! Shelley Costa is a contender… a terrific book in which to bury oneself on a long, cold weekend. Not a bad beach read, either for that matter. Just buy it. Just read it.” – Seattle Book Mama
“Very well-written…this book reads as longer than typical cozies because it needs to, for honest character evolution. The mystery has a very satisfying conclusion…This is the first book I have read by Shelley Costa, and I am very impressed.” – Librarian at Jefferson-Madison Regional Library System
About the Author
A 2004 Edgar nominee for Best Short Story, Shelley Costa is the author of A Killer’s Guide to Good Works, Practical Sins for Cold Climates, You Cannoli Die Once (Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel) and Basil Instinct. Shelley’s mystery stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Blood on Their Hands,The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories, and Crimewave (UK). She teaches fiction writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Severe weather patterns - storms, floods and strong winds - are sweeping across planet Earth. Against this backdrop, three high school students, known and tormented for their strange abilities, fight their own battles against school bullies. The discovery of a strange key by their leader Chris Reynolds plunges all three through a portal into a sister world, Cathora, in another dimension. In this world, their behaviours, that labelled them as misfits on Earth, turn out to be the seeds of extraordinary powers.
They soon meet Batarr, the Guardian of the portal. He tells them they are not normal children, but are part of a group of six entities called Mytar who are periodically seeded throughout the dimensions to fight planetary invasions across these portals. Cathora has been invaded by an alien army, led by a creature known only as Zelnoff whose next target is Earth. The Mytar alone have the power to stop him if the other Mytar on Earth can be found. There ensues many struggles and battles as Chris, Susie and Joe seek to evade Zelnoff’s forces long enough for their powers to develop so they can detect the remaining Mytar back on Earth.
As the first rays of sun filtered through the tree canopy, Batarr’s forces assembled on the planet’s surface. They had emerged from a narrow, moss-lined tunnel had been chiselled between two sandstone rock outcrops. Compared to the underground complex, the surface was a cold and windy place. A light dusting of frost clung to the ground and the wind whistled and tore at the gathering company. To ward off the cold, the Mytar had been fitted with garments that had been soaked in oil derived from the boiled skins of warm-blooded fish. This oil was renowned for its unique properties. In the cold weather it solidified, sealing in the body’s warmth, while in hot weather it softened, allowing the skin to breathe.
Chris flexed his arms, twisted and crouched down into a squat. His clothes seemed to flex and mould themselves to fit the changing shape of his body. He pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and sniffed at the strange oily smell of the fabric.
“They’re made from the finest material in the land.” A deep, resonating voice jerked Chris out of his preoccupation with his clothes.
Chris looked up at a man over twice his size with dark, intense eyes buried above high cheek-bones and a long tapering jaw.
“I’m Altac, Leader of the Guard,” the man said.
Altac smiled, and Chris noticed a pink scar running from the side of his mouth to the corner of his jaw.
“I’m Chris,” he replied, feeling rather small and insignificant.
Altac brushed back some of the long curls of black hair that trailed down to his shoulder and bowed in what Chris assumed was this world’s version of a handshake.
“I believe you need no introduction,” he replied. “After all, aren’t you the reason we are embarking on this little errand?”
Chris smiled uncertainly, trying with his new found talents to catch something of Altac’s thoughts. He read admiration, mixed in with surprise at how young and small the Mytar were. Like so many of Batarr’s soldiers, Altac thought that the Mytar had volunteered to come and save Cathora from Zelnoff. Chris swallowed back some of his guilt, thankful that Altac hadn’t witnessed their behaviour when they first arrived.
Altac’s smile slid away. “I suggest yourself and your fellow Mytar travel in the centre of the company, where you will be best protected at all times,” he said, in a more solemn tone.
Chris nodded. Mingled with Altac’s admiration, he picked up the concern for their vulnerability.
By this time Susie and Joe had appeared. Chris noticed that both their eyes widened at the sight of this man. He wore what appeared to be a chest plate made of thick hide and metal, and a long dagger was strapped to his hip. Slung over his shoulder was the same weapon Chris had seen Zelnoff’s soldiers wearing in his vision. It looked a bit like a rifle, Chris thought, except it was shorter and bulkier. Altac greeted Susie and Joe with the same politeness he had shown Chris, bowing respectfully at each of them.
Joe circled Altac, paying particular attention to the weapon that hung by his side.
creature was gone.
Chris rolled onto his side. In front of him, the mountains towered into the clouds like a series of giant, white coated, metal spikes. The wind had dropped and the sun was beginning to break through the clouds. The warmth was magical. He crawled on his hands and knees higher up the beach, shivering uncontrollably in his wet clothes. Waves of exhaustion swept through him as he collapsed on his back. The rays of sun on his skin felt marvellous. He closed his eyes and thought he would sleep for just a moment.
About the Author
Robert Cole was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia. After achieving a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the Australian National University he travelled extensively and returned to Sydney to complete a Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Biology. Following a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Sydney University, he worked in a number of biotech companies and has numerous scientific publications.
Robert has always had an interest in writing speculative fiction, particularly with themes related to social and political issues. Recently he has published an Apocalyptic novel called "Nuclear Midnight," that reached number one on Amazon UK. His other areas of interest lie in children and teenage fiction, generated while raising three children.
Publisher: 4-D Publishing
Roberta Sedgewick is stuck in a house that is too empty without her beloved Burton—the rat died and left her with his dog and rooms that rattle. She convinces her three golfing buddies, all in their seventies, to sell their homes and buy adjoining condos. The widows intend to spend the rest of their days golfing, gambling at the casino, and having fun. Oh, the heaven of it. But then they all hire the same maid who uncovers long-hidden criminal secrets kept by each woman. Oh, the horror of it. The reputations of their deceased husbands, a banker, a minister, and a respected farmer, will be tarnished forever. Three of the widows could face jail time, and the fourth fears for her life. Whatever will they do with the conniving, blackmailing maid?
I catch my breath. This could be it. To make sure, I draw the newspaper almost to my nose and read the listing again. Right here in the real estate section of the Vista Harbor Chronicle is the answer. The date in the corner reads July 7, only four days ago. A happy dance springs within me, but I control the urge. No customer sitting at a high table in a bistro needs to witness a lady past her prime make a fool of herself. Instead, I jig my fists below the table in a silent yes, yes, yes. I’ve found the condos. Life at age seventy-two is about to change. I slide from the stool and head for the door, hoping no one notices the newspaper tucked under my left arm.
“Thank you, Mrs. Sedgewick,” the coffee gal calls after me. She saw the paper, and that’s her way of letting me know. Without looking back, I waggle my right hand above my shoulder and push open the door.
Outside, I dig through my Gucci for my phone. I love my hobo bag, but don’t like searching for whatever drops to the bottom. I need to figure that out. I also don’t like the dark face of the phone in the bright sunlight. Phone people need to figure that out.
I move under the umbrella of a red maple. In filtered light, I send a text to my three buddies. Meet me at the clubhouse. I have a surprise. I shuffle a little smart-step, unable to hide my joy. I’m still light on my feet even though my hair has turned soft white. I avoid coloring it but fight other signs of aging with a diet pill once in a while and wrinkle cream rubbed in nightly. Like most Pisces, I’m proud, a bit vain, and not afraid to admit it. I hop into my reliable Subaru.
A hand grabs the top part of the car door.
I gasp and brace against the seat.
A careworn woman stands there like a waif. “I did naught mean to startle you. I noticed you did a jig step before getting into your car and wondered if you are from Scotland. I’m so homesick for the heather.” She’s medium height, medium weight—medium all the way around. Her flyaway hair is sandy, and her sad eyes show more burnished gold than green. She removes her hand from the top of the door. “I’m sorry for intruding.”
“No need to be. I’m not from Scotland, but some distant relatives were. They mixed with my English ancestors, so I’m blessed with a good dose of Highland merriment and English good sense that battle each other. I hope you find your way back to the heather.” I close the car door. It thuds softly, not a hard slam to show dismay. So often anymore I’m prone to sharpness and a quick tongue, followed by guilt. Or else I rattle on about nothing and don’t worry about it.
The Scottish woman walks away, spine stiff, head high. An odd, lonely woman, but likable.
A sense of uncertainty chases around my shoulders. I banish it with a glance at my watch. There’s enough time to run by Jones Realty and arrange for a showing of the condos this afternoon. I tilt the rearview mirror and apply a boost of blush, lip gloss, and a dab of liquid concealer by my left eyelid—the dang droopy thing. There. All is repaired well enough to see Ned Jones, the realtor.
Before I swing into the late morning traffic on Harbor Drive, a white-knuckle thought smacks into my gray matter. The newspaper is only a few days old, but what if someone already bought one of the units? What a terrible thought. I press harder on the accelerator and zip through Vista Harbor, the alpine resort community I call home. It’s a small town compared to Aspen or Big Sky, but it’s more than big enough to accommodate tourists and newcomers. I don’t mind sharing the beauty of my valley, my mountains, and my lakes. Sure, there’s room for all, and yes, I claim ownership. This part of Montana belongs to me.
Ten blocks later, after having to slam on the brakes to avoid the rear end of a showoff car, I park next to a chalet-style house with a readerboard announcing homes or acreage for folks to buy. Big black letters read, New on the Market. Four Single-Story Condominiums in the Harbor Hill Area. Perfect. And no more stairs to climb.
I straighten my skinny jeans, smooth my top, and walk inside the office. A clock chimes the half hour . . . plenty of time before lunch.
Behind a glass counter, inlaid with prize listings and a Sold banner across each, a young man thumbs through a stack of listings and thoroughly ignores me. He must be the new assistant, and the talk of the town, like any new buck. No cure for small towns and gossip.
“Is Ned in?”
“No.” The young squirt doesn’t bother to look up and continues to scan a paper, nimble finger flying down the page.
I lean a little onto my right side and place my jewel-covered fingers on the counter, thrumming them on the most expensive listing. “Just tell your boss our mom called from the nursing home and wants more money.”
The kid makes eye contact. “You’re his sista?”
“No, but you should treat me like I am. Do I hear Boston in your accent?”
“Moving to a small town is an adjustment. Attitude counts.”
Satisfied I have his attention, I say, “I would like to see those newly listed condos at 2:00 this afternoon.”
“The ones out on Harbor Hill?”
I nod. “The ones with the same name as the golf course, ski mountain, and every other place that isn’t called Alpine or Vista. What’s the street number?”
“101. Ned is showing a unit now.” The kid tries not to smirk. He doesn’t make it. His brown-flecked eyes shine with mischief. They probably always do. He’s a young devil, I can tell, and figure he’s teasing me.
“Please inform him Roberta Sedgewick will be at the condos at 2:00 this afternoon. If he can’t make it, have him call me. He has the number.” Halfway out the door, I lean back inside. “Oh, by the way, I’m interested in buying all four and may be interested in listing four pieces of prime property. Like the kind you have there under glass on your counter. Tell him not to sell any of the units until we talk. Understood?”
I chuckle to myself as the door closes. I’m bad.
About the Author
Marie F. Martin is the author of an intense vow in MATERAL HARBOR, surprising twists of a family’s past in HARBORED SECRETS, a grizzly attack and lover’s spat in RATHAM CREEK. Together her three thriller, mystery, or suspense novels have over 250,000 Kindle downloads and 613 five star reviews.
She now adds DON’T MESS WITH MRS. SEDGEWICK to her list of books.
Marie lives in a fertile valley at the base of the Rocky Mountains. She enjoys a quiet life where laughter comes easy, love easier. She invites you to join in her rich, rural memories on her website where she has posted a memoir of her early childhood and raising her family of four children.
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