Tag Archives: Wednesday Welcomes

Wednesday Welcomes – Lucie Ulrich!

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Okay, this looks like a seriously fun read! Hmm, wealthy intellectual or sweet, hunky officer? Wow! What’s a girl to do? 😉


Sarah Alexander’s marriage to millionaire Logan Montgomery is put on hold when Logan is offered the opportunity to go on an extended archeological dig in Egypt. Though not happy with his decision, Sarah supports her fiancé, despite the fact she’s already given up her apartment and teaching position.

When Sarah’s best friend, Pippa, suggests Sarah move to Sunset Cove, she figures a new town, new job, and new friends are just what she needs to help her through the separation. If she’d known one of those friends would turn out to be kind-hearted, good-looking, well-built, Officer Kevin Jenkins, she might have figured a little harder.

Though Sarah goes out of her way to keep her relationship with Kevin on a friends-only basis, it’s clear their feelings for one another are teetering toward something more. Now Sarah must make the most important decision of her life. Will she choose the man who can shower her with diamonds or the one who isn’t able to offer much more than free donuts?

Excerpt

Sarah changed into her pajamas, pulled out the sofa bed, and crawled under the sheets. Sleep, however, didn’t come easily. She wanted to talk to Logan—needed to talk to him, but it wasn’t possible.

When sleep finally came, it was accompanied by dreams of missed phone calls, arguments, and misunderstandings. There might even have been a fight between Logan and Kevin, but it was all too blurry to remember. She awoke with a headache and heartache.

Pippa’s bedroom door opened and she appeared makeup applied, dressed and ready for church. She stopped short at the side of the couch. “Yikes! Who did you wrestle with last night?”

“Crazy dreams.” Sarah pushed herself to a seated position and ran a hand through the tangles in her hair.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Pippa placed a hand on Sarah’s arm. “What’s going on?”

Tears clouded Sarah’s vision. “Guess I’m having a harder time dealing with Logan’s absence than I thought I would.” She blew out a breath. “I should be planning my wedding, not moving into a new apartment. Alone.”

“It’s barely been a month since he broke the news. Your reaction is normal. I’m sure it’ll get better with time.”

“He got mad at me yesterday.”

“Who? Logan?”

His harsh tone replayed in Sarah’s head. She nodded. “He was upset that I didn’t have dinner with his folks, and we parted on less than loving terms.”

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. You seemed to be having such a good time with Kevin that I never suspected anything.”

Her headache intensified. “Yeah, that’s another thing. I’m starting to feel guilty about spending time with Kevin. He’s a great guy and I like him a lot, but I’m afraid I might be giving him the wrong idea.”

Pippa’s eyes widened. “Like how? I know better than to think you’ve been flirting with him.”

“No, nothing like that.” Sarah thought back to last night and the other times they’d been together. Had she been flirting? Had he? “It’s just that I really like him. We’re so comfortable together, I forget he’s a gorgeous, well-built guy and I’m an engaged woman.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Amazon UK

BN

KOBO

Smashwords

LucieLucie Ulrich took her time becoming a writer. Not much of a reader as a child, writing was of no interest to her–until she joined a church drama team. The desire to write a skit, and not simply act out someone else’s was so strong, that once she started, she couldn’t seem to stop. That first skit led to her becoming the drama team director, then eventually, the performing arts director at a small Christian school.

Lucie’s first novel was penned under a tree in a field in Holland. Though her first, second, and third attempts never saw the light of day, parts of each of them became the foundation for “Broken Vessels,” her first published work.

No longer involved with the performing arts, Lucie enjoys going on photo shoots with her husband, and taking long (or short) road trips. She hopes to find inspiration as she and her husband explore the four corners of the United States.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucieUlrich

Website: http://lucieulrich.com/

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Wednesday Welcomes – Elaine Cantrell!

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Hubby and I once toured the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO. I’ve been fascinated by the idea that a haunted hotel could inspire an author to write a book. Rest Thy Head looks like a great read for the same reason. Enjoy this excerpt from Elaine Cantrell’s recent release! 😀


Running away from a fiancé who betrayed her, Peyton O’Malley finds employment at a beautiful mountain inn called Rest Thy Head. She didn’t expect to live in the haunted room or to fall for the inn’s owner, a fire-scarred, war veteran who uses the inn to hide away from the world. She didn’t expect her sister to show up at Rest Thy Head either, much less her formidable mother.

Now, thanks to the aid of a friendly ghost, Peyton has a shot at true love, and so does her sister Ashley, provided the guys cooperate of course!

Excerpt

Jake rummaged around for a pot to boil some water and caught her staring at him again. Oh, wait, she must be staring at his face. He’d forgotten to sit so that the worst of it was turned away from her. He carried the water over to the fire and caught her staring again. This time he stared back at her. The expression on her face absolutely took his breath away. Her beautiful blue eyes had gone all misty, and her face looked soft, rosy, and dreamy. And oh, those moist looking, tempting lips.

“Jake.”

“What?” He held his breath in anticipation of her answer.

Her eyes dropped. “I…I …nothing. Well…”

“What is it?”

“I love you,” Peyton blurted out.

She surprised him so much that he jumped and hit the pot of water with his knee. The fire made a hissing sound as the water hit it, but there hadn’t been enough water in the pot to put it out. At that moment Jake would have given ten years off his life to look the way he used to. She loved him.

Peyton’s face had gone scarlet. “Say something,” she demanded. “Didn’t you hear what I said?”

He bit the inside of his lip until he tasted blood. This was something he’d never expected to hear, but he had to keep her welfare in mind, not his own. It didn’t matter that his heart felt warm, full of love and desperate all at the same time. “Yes, I heard you, and I thank you for saying so, but what you’re feeling is gratitude, not love.”

Peyton fell on her knees at his feet and grabbed his hand. “No! You’re wrong. I love you. Don’t you love me back?”

Jake would rather have lied to her, but the joyful look on her face compelled him to tell the truth. “Yes, I love you, and I have from the first time I saw you. You’re everything I ever dreamed of, and you’re so beautiful it almost breaks my heart.”

Peyton jumped up and threw herself into his arms. “Oh, Jake, this is like a dream come true! I love you so much!”

She rained kisses on his face anywhere she could reach, and for one brief moment he held her close, then he gently put her away from him. “It wouldn’t work, Peyton.”

“Oh, but it would! Why do you say a thing like that? We’re in love!”

Buy links:

http://amzn.to/1MpQBsM

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/rest-thy-head?store=allproducts&keyword=rest+thy+head

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/rest-thy-head

elainespictureAuthor Info

Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina where she obtained a master’s degree in personnel services from Clemson University.  She is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary society for women educators and Romance Writers of America.  Her first novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest.  When she’s not writing or teaching, she enjoys movies, quilting, reading, and collecting vintage Christmas ornaments.

Links:

http://www.elainecantrell.com

http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/elainepcantrell

http://www.twitter.com/elainecantrell

http://www.goodreads.com/elainecantrell

http://www.amazon.com/Elaine-Cantrell/e/B001K7V90M/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1411604384&sr=1-2

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Wednesday Welcomes – E.A. West!

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I’m happy to have back E.A. West! She was a guest last year with her book, Battlefield of the Heart. I have high respect for our military and so I’m thrilled to be able to bring you an excerpt of West’s new book, Pressure. Enjoy!


Ravi Singh is a homeless veteran haunted by memories of his time in the Marine Corps. Thanks to his attempts to get a group of teenaged gang members to leave the life of crime they’ve chosen, he got shot. Now the wound is infected, and he’s too sick to move. When the teens bring his favorite nurse practitioner to him, he’s torn between anger that they kidnapped her and gratitude that they cared enough to get him help.

As Emma Johnston works to treat Ravi, searches for a way to escape, and attempts to figure out just what his relationship to the gang is, she meets the young orphan boy dubbed Twitch. The child brings out the best in Ravi and helps Emma see a side of the gang members she never expected. The more she learns about Ravi’s unconventional life, the better she understands him and the more she wishes he would quit stubbornly refusing to seek psychiatric treatment. Falling for him was never part of the plan, but neither was getting kidnapped.

Can their budding relationship survive such challenging circumstances, or will it end in devastation?

Excerpt

Emma Johnston’s footsteps echoed through the dark parking garage as she hurried toward her car. The hair on the back of her neck rose with the sensation of someone watching her, but the garage appeared as empty as ever. Why hadn’t she asked security to escort her to her car? Waiting an extra twenty minutes for a guard to show up when she was already exhausted would have been better than compromising her safety by venturing so far from people in the middle of the night.

She formed a fist around her keys, making sure the points stuck out between her fingers. It wouldn’t do much damage to an attacker, but it would likely cause enough pain to let her get away. Drawing in a deep breath, she tried to convince herself she was just paranoid due to exhaustion. The unsettled spring weather had everyone jumpy, which was why she had finished her shift in the Green Team clinic and been called to help out in the emergency room. The number of accident victims, fight participants, and psych patients had been overwhelming, causing the VA hospital emergency room to call in assistance from other departments. Because Emma had begun her career with the hospital working long hours in the ER, she’d been near the top of their list. That experience plus her skills as a nurse practitioner made her able to do whatever they needed.

Spotting her car ahead, she breathed a sigh of relief. In less than two minutes, she would be safely inside and on her way home for a well-deserved rest. The scuff of a shoe on the pavement to her left made her jump and tighten her grasp on the keys. Whirling toward the sound, she spotted two older teenage boys in baggy clothes standing much closer than she liked.

“You Emma Johnston?”

“Ye-es?” How did they know her name? She knew all of her patients and some of the family members by sight, but there wasn’t even a faint glimmer of recognition with these two.

The two teens stepped closer. “You gotta come with us.”

“I don’t think so.” She backed away, prepared to run screaming until they disappeared back into the shadows. Of all the days to forget to charge her cell phone…

They both pulled out black handguns and aimed them at her. At first, her mind refused to accept what she was seeing, but then it sank in that the weapons were nearly identical to what the police carried. Her heart leapt into her throat as the two teens advanced.

“You’re coming with us.” The boys flanked her, and the only one to speak so far took hold of her arm as the other one pried the keys from her fingers and took her purse. “We heard you straight, and the old man needs a doctor.”

Someone was ill or injured? “I’m not a doctor.”

“We heard you close enough.”

Buy Links:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Pressure-E-West-ebook/dp/B00TJI5L4E

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pressure-E-West-ebook/dp/B00TJI5L4E

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pressure-e-a-west/1121232262?ean=2940151569484

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/520491

EAWest_AuthorPhoto_300E.A. West, award-winning author of sweet and inspirational romance, is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.

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Wednesday Welcomes – Ariella Moon!

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Teen Wytche fans get ready! Ariella Moon’s latest, Spell for Sophia looks awesome! Enjoy the preview 😀


Spell For Sophia by Ariella Moon (The Teen Wytche Saga #4)

Paranormal Young Adult Romance

Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you cannot see.

Sophia Perez-Hidalgo’s survival depends upon her mastering magic and the supernatural before her lawless parents and their vengeful boss catch up to her. How far must she flee to escape them? Sophia runs until she’s out of stolen money, then…Fate delivers her into the arms of Louisiana teen Shiloh Breaux Martine, and his grand-mère, a voodoo priestess living deep in the bayou.

Breaux knows Sophia is trouble — but he’ll travel through time, battle zombies, and risk his bright future to protect her. While Ainslie, best friend extraordinaire, will jeopardize her sanity to find and aid Sophia. When friendship, magic, and love are not enough, Sophia will have to save herself. But first, she must believe she’s worth saving.

Excerpt

Two-and-a-half years ago

I’d thought escaping would uncoil the fear and worry squeezing my heart. I figured I’d stop looking over my shoulder once I crossed the California state line, or Arizona’s, or New Mexico’s, or the border between Texas and Louisiana. But I hadn’t. Terror and hunger dogged me. I reeked of desperation. My head throbbed from all the bad decisions I had made since I’d found my bio-parents.

I could still pull out of this; save Christmas. Call Ainslie, the voice inside my head urged. I bet he’ll loan you his phone. My gaze zeroed in on the leader of a ragtag group playing basketball on the schoolyard. His short black curls had been coaxed away from his face, revealing warm nutmeg-colored skin and kind, dark eyes. Fifteen years old? I wondered.

He handed the basketball to a young white girl, then glanced my way. His head-to-toe sweep took in my gaunt face, long inky hair, grungy jacket and jeans, scuffed ankle boots, and the school backpack at my feet. He glanced protectively at the little kids who shouted at the girl to pass the ball. Then his gaze migrated back to me. His mouth twisted to one side. I could hear the word tolling inside his head. Trouble.

I hunkered against the side of the school building and tugged my gray knit cap low over my forehead.

“Who’s she?” A little kid with Christmas bows stuck on her wooly ponytails wrapped herself around the teen’s leg. Her fearful stare gutted me. I’m pretty sure I had worn the same expression the first time I’d entered foster care.

Kick it. I pushed away from the wall. My vision blurred. My hollow stomach whirled and the schoolyard spun like a carousel ride. I braced myself against the cool bricks until the dizziness passed. Pull it together. It will be dark soon. I needed to find a restaurant or fast food joint — any place open on Christmas where I could dumpster dive for food scraps.

I lowered my eyelids and tried to picture the route I had walked from the train station. I hadn’t planned on wandering through a lush Louisiana neighborhood. The children’s shouts and laughter had lured me to the brick school and its asphalt playground. School had been my favorite place, before…

My thoughts torpedoed back to the barren southern California desert. Some developer had gone bust, and all that remained of his planned subdivision was a paved road dead-ending in sand. “Hide in plain sight,” Mamá had said as Papá parked their pink-and-white vintage camper. The vehicle stood out among the sagebrush and creosote like a slash of bubblegum paint.

Hide what? I had wondered. I soon had my answer: a methamphetamine lab.

I rubbed my arms, creating an X over my chest. Embarrassment heated my cheeks. How stupid and naïve I had been. My parents hadn’t gone legit. They were trying to evade the local cops and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They had planned to flee northern California without phoning my caseworker or me. If I had waited just one more day to contact them…

“See, the cops would be looking for a couple, not a family,” I later overheard Papá boast to his boss.

“Weren’t you worried they’d issue an Amber Alert?” one of the boss’s henchmen asked, casting a sideways look at me.

“For a foster teen?” Papá scoffed. “They run away all the time.”

Spell For Sophia Book Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqDjod1KtpM

 

Buy Links for the Teen Wytche Saga

http://www.amazon.com/Ariella-Moon

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Ariella-Moon

http://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/8187

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search?Query=Ariella+Moon

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ariella-moon/id507847259?mt=11

 

Ariella Moon author photoAuthor Bio

Ariella Moon is a shaman and the author of the Teen Wytche Saga, a series of sweet Young Adult paranormal romances. She writes about magic, friendship, time travel, high school, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, Spell Fire, and Spell For Sophia from Astraea Press.

Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. She lives a nearly normal life doting on her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and an enormous dragon.

 

Connect with Ariella Moon

http://www.ariellamoon.com

http://www.ariellamoon.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/ariellamoon.author

http://www.goodreads.com/AuthorAriellaMoon

http://www.pinterest.com/ariellamoon/

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Wednesday Welcomes – M.A. Foxworthy!

VillageGreen_500x750Not only does this debut dystopia look like a fascinating read, but check out the bio for M.A. Foxworthy. A full-time traveler! I’m a little jealous! 😀


Kelsey stood in a long line of ragged people waiting to receive her meager rations for the week.

Kelsey Cooper, a girl of fourteen, lives with her father in the village of Green, a ran-down community of small cob dwellings and outdoor toilets. It offers its inhabitants few comforts but many restrictions.

Kelsey and her beloved father live alone since the death of her mother, a teacher who became a threat to the authoritarian powers that be. She and her friends, Rosy and Derek, are now at the age of full-citizenship, meaning that they will be given their life-long positions in the society.

Everything in Kelsey’s life is well regulated and uneventful until the day that she and Derek decide to visit the ruined city outside the limits of their village. There Kelsey finds the journal of Henry Martin and her eyes are opened to life as she knows or thought she knew.

This one seemingly accidental event is the spark that sets her world on fire. Finding out that Derek and his family are part of an underground resistance, that her best friend Rosy has been brain-washed, and that her mother is still alive is astonishing enough, but nothing compares to finding out that she is the prophesied liberator of her people.

Does Kelsey have the courage to leave everything she knows and everyone she loves to fulfill her destiny?

Excerpt:

Kelsey stood in a long line of ragged people. She had risen at daybreak in hopes of receiving her rations before the sun reached its zenith and the suffocating heat of midday arrived. But her hopes were unfulfilled as she had been waiting for hours with the blazing sun beating down on the top of her head.

Resigned now to the long wait that still lay ahead of her she plopped down on her wagon and surveyed her surroundings. All around her stood the remains of small cob dwellings with thick walls which had at one time been painted white. They were now crumbling like a child’s mud pie left baking in the sun too long. The metal roofs that had kept out the rain were gone, having been recycled in some other village. There was a school and a child care center, but they were both empty now. Most of the residents had died when the dreaded disease flew into their village carried by the tiny wings of mosquitos. The children and the old had succumbed first and the few adults that remained were moved to other villages while this one was left to Mother Nature and the Hand-Out where Kelsey now waited for her weekly allowance of food.


Buy Links:

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/483049

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Village-Green-M-Foxworthy-ebook/dp/B00O92QV8U

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-village-green-m-a-foxworthy/1120483015?ean=2940150575226

M.A.Foxworthy

Before writing The Village Green I had never written more than a letter, contenting myself with drawing and painting. But my main character, Kelsey, came to me in what I can only call a vision and I had to tell her tale. After many hours in coffee shops and libraries writing and rewriting, the book was finally finished, that is until the edits began.

When I’m not writing you can find reading, teaching my four children, or visiting some new place. My family and I are traveling across the country full-time and learning to get along with six people in a 35ft trailer.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/M.A.Foxworthy?ref=hl

Twitter: @MAFoxworthy

Blog: mafoxworthy.com

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Wednesday Welcomes – Coleen Lahr!

Accepted_1400x2100Yay! Back to my regular schedule! I’m so happy to have Coleen Lahr for my first Wednesday Welcomes! 😀 Here’s her latest release: Accepted. Enjoy!


Ashley Smith spent her life being shipped from one family member to the next.  When Ashley’s estranged father dies, she finally has the money to go to college and the chance to find a place where she belongs.

Within days, Ashley has found the one thing she’s always longed for – a family.  She may have even found love.  There’s only one problem.  Ashley likes Colin…a lot, but so does Randi, and everyone likes Randi.  Randi’s approval is the single easiest way to belong.  Falling in love with Randi’s crush is the single easiest way to find one’s self on the outside for the next three years.

When Ashley arrived at college, she never dreamed she’d find this kind of happiness.  Will she allow herself to hold on to this happiness, and Colin, or will her fear of losing her friends, the only friends she’s ever known, dictate her actions?

Excerpt:

As I sat next to Colin in Organic Chemistry, I wondered if having classes together was actually a good thing.

Unlike my first professor, the Organic Chemistry professor comprehensively explained the syllabus, including course requirements, objectives, policies and assignments. All things I was sure were going to be important in the grand scheme of the course.

And I didn’t hear a word she said.

Once again, I was completely distracted by the man sitting next to me.

We were in another massive classroom dominated by stadium seating. We would, over the course of the semester, split our time between this room and the chemistry lab. There were no spaces between the seats, just a thin metal arm rest jutting out from the spot where the seat backs met each other.

Every time Colin moved — to grab his notebook, to turn off his cell phone, to turn the pages of the syllabus we were reviewing — his body brushed some part of mine. By the time we were on the third page of the syllabus, he had brushed me three times with his arm and once with his leg.

And I was frozen.

Every time he touched me, albeit accidentally, my stomach dropped, and my cheeks flamed. My entire face was on fire within the first twenty minutes of class, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the boy to my left. I was afraid to move even a quarter of an inch for fear that I would inadvertently shift myself too far away for his unintentional brushes.

To make matters worse, my mind, which never wanders in class, began to drift away and I, the girl who rarely loses focus on a task, drifted with it.

As I sat frozen in my seat, waiting for the next time Colin brushed against me, I wondered what it would be like if his brushes weren’t accidental — if he was touching me on purpose…leaning his leg against mine casually as he relaxed in his seat, running his fingers down my arms, holding my hand in his, entwining our fingers together…

And as I imagined this, I felt myself smiling, my fantasy becoming so detailed that I could actually feel his warm hand, his long fingers, wrapping around my wrist. I could hear him saying my name again and again, the concern in his voice growing each time he repeated it…

Wait…what?

“Ashley?  Ashley?”

Oh no. I looked over at him. His face was filled with concern. I cringed.

“Sorry.” I smiled sheepishly. “I’m just…” I closed my eyes and rubbed my face, which was on fire, in my hands. “…You know, taking it all in. E-everything’s a little o-overwhelming,” I stuttered. I hoped that being overwhelmed was a good excuse for acting like a lunatic.

He smiled. “Don’t worry, Ash. I’ll help you.” And as he stood, he put his hand under my elbow to help me up.

Thank goodness next class is in the lab.


You can find Accepted at these retailers:

Amazon:  http://amzn.to/13CDeEB

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/accepted-coleen-lahr/1120679923?ean=2940150383920

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/490424

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/accepted-1

headshotColeen writes young adult novels, loves running, rock music, the shore, daisies and bread.

When Coleen’s not plotting or writing her next book, she can be found making sandwiches in her family’s restaurant, running (but mostly walking) Disney marathons, reading any book she can get her hands on and playing with her adorable kid. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, two dogs, cat, and lizard.

http://www.coleenlahr.com

https://www.facebook.com/ColeenLahr

https://twitter.com/ColeenLahr

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Wednesday Welcomes: Heather Gray!

Whew! Summer is busy now that I’ve got a kid who’s been in school. It shouldn’t be any different than before he started, but somehow it is.

Weird.

Anyway, I can still do guest features pretty easily! 😀 So without further ado, I’d like to welcome back the delightful Heather Gray! Enjoy!


Back Cover Blurb:

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited?  His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?

 

 

Excerpt:

1810

A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter’s scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England’s hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He’d done as ordered, and they’d believed him, but had it been his choice, he’d have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he’d begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he’d been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he’d done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.

 

****

 

A change in the carriage’s soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They’d ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he’d felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They’d been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he’d worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver’s seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he’d assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He’d not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent’s countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal’s already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. “At whose hand am I to die this day?”

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. “Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter.”

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

“Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die.”

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

 

Author Bio:

Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen.  But that’s not all!  Interested in contemporary Christian romance?  Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict.  Some things just can’t be helped.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon US

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Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

iTunes

 

Where to Find Me:

My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+Heathergraywritingnow

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

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