Blog Tour: Beyond the Ivory Tower by Jill Blake #BEP @Jill_Blake_

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Book Title: Beyond the Ivory Tower
Author: Jill Blake
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 11, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

If there’s one thing math professor Anna Lazarev believes in, it’s the value of higher education. So when her younger sister announces she’s dropping out of college, Anna places the blame squarely on the man who inspired her sister’s rebellion.

Venture capitalist Ethan Talbot claims the US academic system is broken. His solution? Pay top students to “opt out” and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams without wasting time and money on a university degree.

In a passionate battle for the hearts and minds of a new generation, Anna will do whatever it takes to prove Ethan wrong. But when his demands take a more personal turn, will she sacrifice her principles to come out on top?

excerpt

Ethan ignored the first few emails. Likewise the faxed letter, the phone message slips, and the envelope delivered by registered mail.

Ever since his usual assistant, Margaret, went on medical leave, he’d been saddled with a series of temps who had neither the wits nor the will to guard his inner sanctum. What he really needed was someone who not only knew how to organize his schedule and take dictation, but could also screen out and deflect all the noise of the outside world. There were simply too many people asking for money, or looking for a job, or hoping for an interview or sound bite, or just eager for the opportunity to rub elbows with the man of the moment.

Frankly, he was tired of it. But until Margaret returned from getting her hip replaced, he was unlikely to catch a break.

Maybe, after this weekend’s summit, he’d take some time off. Fly down to Belize and do some diving. Or visit his parents in upstate New York. He hadn’t seen them since Christmas. And even then he’d spent most of his time taking meetings by Skype and reviewing business plan executive summaries, financial projections, and capitalization tables.

When was the last time he’d taken a real vacation? Gone away somewhere, leaving behind the constant demands on his time and attention, the perpetual buzzing of his phone and jabbering of a hundred different voices, the endless stream of requests and offers—most of which held about as much appeal as a root canal done without anesthesia?

Sighing, he turned away from his contemplation of San Francisco’s skyline, the high-rise towers of the financial district limned by late afternoon sun. He needed to make one more pass through his PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow’s keynote address.

He was nearly halfway through the slides when the door burst open and he found himself facing an interruption he couldn’t ignore.

She was five foot five—if he was being generous. But that was the only average thing about her. She swept into the room with rapid, angry strides, dark brows drawn together over almond shaped eyes, nostrils flaring. Her hair was caught in a casual twist from which glossy black strands escaped to tumble past high cheekbones and bare neck. A V-cut T-shirt that stopped just short of displaying any cleavage was tucked into a pair of close-fitting jeans.

Ethan’s latest assistant—Tina? Trisha? something with a T—scurried in after her. “Dr. Lazarev—”

The woman shook off the restraining hand and continued to advance.

“Ma’am, please.” The assistant cast Ethan a nervous glance. “I’m sure we can schedule you in for an appointment. If you’ll just come with me…”

Ethan pushed back his Aeron chair. The woman faltered and ground to a halt as he rose to his full height. Then she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin.

The assistant fluttered nearby, wringing her hands. “I’m sorry, Mr. Talbot. I tried to stop her—”

He waved a dismissive hand without taking his eyes off of his unexpected guest. “It’s okay, Tina.”

“Trisha,” the assistant whispered.

“What?”

“My name’s Trisha,” she repeated. “Should I call security?”

That would be the smart thing. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t hesitate. But something about this woman stopped him. Physically, she was no threat. He had at least eight inches on her, and easily outweighed her by sixty pounds. Of course, she could be packing a weapon. He eyed her sleek silhouette. No purse, no tell-tale bulges. His gaze paused briefly on the inscription over her breasts: Decimals have a point. She must have noticed him looking, because she crossed her arms over her chest. Blunt unpolished nails. No rings. He smiled. He’d take his chances.

“I’ll handle this, Trisha.” He slowly rounded the desk. “Would you mind closing the door on your way out?”

“It’s after five, Mr. Talbot. I was about to leave for the day. Unless you need me to stay…?”

“No.” He stopped in front of his desk and leaned against the edge, palms braced on the polished mahogany. “You’re free to go, Trisha. Enjoy your evening.”

The door closed. Silence descended.

Ethan cleared his throat. “Dr. Lazarev, is it?”

“Yes.” She glanced around, as if suddenly uneasy at the idea of being alone with him.

“I’m Ethan Talbot. But I guess you already know that.”

Her eyes came back to him and stayed. The color of moss, with a darker rim of green, and surrounded by a thick fringe of lashes.

For a moment, he forgot to breathe. Then the lashes lowered, and he felt the rush of oxygen returning to his lungs and brain.

“Yes, Mr. Talbot,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for the last two weeks.”

He gestured toward the visitors’ chairs before his desk. “Why don’t you have a seat and tell me what this is all about.”

She dropped her arms to her sides, and Ethan had to force himself not to look down. He was no stranger to women’s anatomy. Was, in fact, accustomed to seeing considerably more flesh on display, whether it was framed by business attire, or evening couture, or a tangle of sheets. But he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt such an immediate, irresistible attraction. Particularly to a woman who clearly hadn’t gone out of her way to entice—no jewelry, no discernible makeup, wearing an outfit that looked like it might have been acquired second-hand a couple of decades ago.

Instead of sitting down, she rested a hand on the back of one of the armchairs. “Mr. Talbot—”

“Ethan, please.”

She ignored the overture. “I’m here about my sister, Klara Lazarev.”

The name didn’t ring a bell. Should it? Or was he about to get snowed? He wished Margaret were back. She’d have known, and run interference for him. Or at the very least vetted Dr. Lazarev before permitting her to cross his threshold.

He wondered what sob story the woman planned to pitch. Or was she paving the way for some sort of extortion scheme? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been threatened with a trumped up charge of sexual harassment or wrongful termination or some other equally spurious accusation of malfeasance. Did the details even matter? The bottom line was always money.

Fine, he’d play the game. “I’m afraid I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Klara’s one of the twenty Talbot Fellows this year.”

It took a moment for his brain to process: this wasn’t a shakedown. The tension drained from his body. “Congratulations. You must be very proud.”

It made sense now that he hadn’t recognized the name. Though the Talbot Fellowship was his brainchild, his involvement these days was limited to funding the sponsoring foundation, giving the opening speech at the kickoff summit, and doing some occasional PR. He didn’t participate in the selection of Talbot grant recipients or in the administration of the program.

The woman’s expression darkened. “It would have been better,” she said, “for Klara to stay in school.”

Uh-oh. Maybe his relief was a bit premature. Time to do some damage control. “I understand how you might feel that way,” he said. “But the Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for some of the best, most talented students to pursue their dreams in a non-traditional way.”

“Look, Mr. Talbot, I didn’t come here to argue, or to go into all the reasons your program is a bad idea.” Her knuckles whitened on the back of the armchair. “The only reason I’m even here is that some Fellowship administrator referred me to you. She said her office has never dealt with a situation like this, and she’s not comfortable taking any action unless the directive comes from you.”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Lazarev. I wasn’t even aware that there was a ‘situation.’”

“Well, there is. My sister just turned nineteen, so technically she’s an adult. But it’s still my job to look out for her best interests. And I can tell you for a fact that dropping out of college to pursue some pipe dream funded by the Talbot Foundation is most definitely not in her best interests.”

“I see.” He ran a hand over the back of his neck, trying to loosen the muscles. “What I don’t understand is why you’re telling me this. Shouldn’t you be discussing this with your sister directly?”

“Believe me, if I could have convinced her to be reasonable, I wouldn’t be here now.” She took a deep breath. “Look, Mr. Talbot, I’m asking for your help. In fact, I’m willing to pay for it.”

His hand stilled. Well, this was something he hadn’t heard before. Someone offering to pay him? Was she talking about money, or some other form of payment? His gaze skimmed over her feminine curves, and he felt the kick of anticipation in his gut—along with a stirring further south.

By the time their eyes met again, she looked flushed. Had she read his mind? Was she even now picturing what it would be like to peel off one item of clothing at a time, until they were both naked and—

“I’m sure the Talbot Fellowship had a slew of applicants,” she said, quashing his fantasy more effectively than a negative quarterly report at a stockholder meeting. “Many of the applicants who were highly qualified probably didn’t receive a grant. Maybe there’s even a waiting list…?”

Ethan dropped his hand back to the desk, keeping his expression blank. He could see where she was heading with this, and wasn’t sure whether to be amused or appalled by her misguided efforts to manipulate her sister.

“Anyway,” she continued, when it became clear he wasn’t going to answer, “I’m sure you could find a dozen young people who’d be thrilled to step into a Fellowship position if one were to suddenly become available. If, for example, one of the current Fellows got disqualified on a technicality.”

He shook his head. “Sorry to disappoint you, Doc, but I’ve got two words for you. Not happening.”

She bit her lip. Funny, until this moment he’d never considered how sexy nude lips could be. He wondered what they would taste like. What they would feel like against his bare skin.

“What if a Fellow doesn’t meet certain expectations?” she said. “Every contract I’ve ever gotten had milestones or deliverables attached to it, and payment was contingent on timely submission of agreed-upon work. I’m sure your people do periodic assessments to see what kind of progress the Fellows are making, right? And after three or four months, if they’re not doing so well, maybe the funding could just…dry up.”

He had to concede one thing. She was certainly persistent. But not in any direction he was willing to go. He glanced at his watch. “Listen, Doc—”

“You can call me Anna.”

He stepped away from his desk. To his amusement, she dropped her death grip on the chair and took a step back.

“Anna,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure. But I’m afraid it’s getting late—”

“And you have plans,” she finished for him. “Of course. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to take up so much of your time. Do you have a few minutes this weekend? We could work out the details by phone.”

“Actually—” he glanced at the laptop still open on his desk. Screw it. He’d given practically the same speech three years in a row, since the first Talbot Fellowship summit. And the pile of paperwork that never seemed to get any smaller would still be there even if he took an evening off. “Are you hungry? There’s a pub down the street that serves great burgers. We can continue this conversation over dinner.”

Meet the Author

Jill Blake loves chocolate, leisurely walks where she doesn’t break a sweat, and books with a guaranteed happy ending. A native of Philadelphia, Jill now lives in southern California with her husband and three children. During the day, she works as a physician in a busy medical practice. At night, she pens steamy romances.

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“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Cover Reveal: Courage in the kiss by Elaine White #BEP @ElleLainey #Giveaway

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Book Title:Courage in the Kiss
Author: Elaine White
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 6, 2015
Publisher: Simply Sexy Reads
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

Book Blurb

Hadley has been a member of the Williams household her whole life; she’s practically one of the family. Younger son, Micah, is her best friend who knows all of her secrets … particularly her secret crush for his brother, Maxx. Although Hadley accepts that he doesn’t return the feeling, shock rocks her stable world and threatens to expose her secret. With her world turned upside down, Hadley must make a choice: tell Maxx the truth or move on with her life. No matter what she chooses, the biggest question of her life dangles before her eyes: Can she stick to her moral compass and remain a dreamer, even if that means she’ll be alone? Or will Maxx and his natural charm have her in the palm of his hand, compromising everything she’s ever held dear?

excerpt

“Do you enjoy humiliating me?” Maxx asked, suddenly.

Hadley turned to him, caught off guard by the question. “What?” She stared at him in shock.

“Flirting with them all, throwing yourself at every guy in the room?” he continued angrily.

“Me? Flirting with them?” she asked, incredulously. Hadley let out an aggravated groan and walked along the corridor to the kitchen.

Maxx grabbed her wrist and turned her to him, pulling her close. She stared at him, her heart thudding against her chest, half terrified and half desperately wondering what he was going to do next.

Until he kissed her.

The sexual chemistry between them was like a current of electricity, drawing Hadley closer. As soon as he realised she was about to say something, he cut her off.

“Your body can tell me more than your voice can, Hadley…let me feel you,” he whispered in her ear, gently backing her up against the wall.

He kissed her before Hadley could react, his mouth overpowering hers easily. She moaned as his hands drifted over her body, teasing every inch.

The dress she wore had a discreet split, mid-thigh, and Maxx must have noticed, because he took full advantage, slipping his hand beneath the red fabric.

His mouth was hot and insistent as they kissed with a kind of desperate passion that she’d never felt before. She knew, from overhearing Maxx giving Micah dating guidance, that he preferred rushed encounters; moments of need and pure lust. Women who weren’t a distraction from work or his responsibilities.

Was she just another one of those women? How could she be, when her skin burned where he touched it?

Her hand swept into his hair, as he cupped his hand around the back of her left thigh. The moan that escaped into her mouth, as Maxx guided her legs apart, was even better. But just as she was going to reach for what she wanted, Maxx drew her leg up his, until she had it wrapped around his thigh.

She loved that he seemed so desperate for her, acting as though he’d waited as long as Hadley had, for this moment to finally happen.

It only made it all the sweeter, as he reached between them and slipped his fingers beneath the lace panties she wore.

Hadley couldn’t stop the soft moan of pleasure that came from the back of her throat, as Maxx released her from his punishing kisses and let his lips dance down her neck.

She couldn’t believe how amazing it was to feel his kisses, his hands exploring her body. When he ventured under her dress, the way he looked at her, with those hot and hungry intense eyes, had her breathless. She couldn’t even vocalise how good it was to feel his finger stroking her.

She was already struggling to breathe properly from the way he kissed her until she was desperate for air. Even then, he only released her long enough to torment her some other way.

He didn’t even give her enough time to breathe, so that she could tell him how she really felt.

Maxx pulled back from her neck, biting his full bottom lip, as he stared unashamedly at her breasts, heaving in an attempt to get air into her lungs. He delved further with his finger, rendering her blind to anything but the shooting pleasure such a touch caused.

She was lost, for what felt like forever, as the reality of what they were doing sank in. This was possibly the most erotic, most dangerous, more reckless thing she’d ever done in her life. And good God, it felt amazing.

“Maxx…” Hadley attempted to stop the whirlwind that had begun so harmlessly with a kiss, before she really lost control of the situation. She had never intended for this to move so quickly, without even a declaration of love or intentions.

Her head lolled back against the wall as Maxx went back to kissing her neck, letting his lips drift down to the top of her dress. “I-” She tried once more to tell him that she loved that; that she was relieved he’d finally seen the light.

Maxx caressed her neck with his free hand, looking her over approvingly, then, before she could speak again, he tugged her dress down to expose her bra. He kissed his way down to the hollow of her breasts, before slowly pushing the straps from both shoulders.

“Maxx, I,” she gasped as she tried to speak again. It was a complete failure, since he silenced her, perfectly, by licking her bare nipple and looking up at her with those playful eyes. It was so beautifully sensual, so unexpected, that she told herself to shut up.

The truth could wait a little longer, until she’d explored just how sinfully free Maxx could be, now that the cold, hard businessman was gone.

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Meet the Author

Elaine White was born and raised in the small town of Haddington, Scotland. She began writing from an early age, experiment with various writing styles. Fighting cancer in her early teens taught her that life is short and dreams should be pursued. Now, she finds inspiration everywhere, which has led to numerous novels and series in any genre that can involve romance. Elaine currently lives at home in Scotland with her parents and a pack of wolves cleverly disguised as one standard poodle. She is a full-time writer.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Super Middle Grade Mondays Blitz: Author Spotlight – Krystalyn Drown with Giveaway #SuperMGMondays

Super Middle Grade Mondays Blitz: Author Spotlight – Krystalyn Drown with Giveaway #SuperMGMondays

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Welcome to this week’s Super Middle Grade Mondays Book Blitz
presented by Tantrum Books/Month9books!

Today, we get up close and personal with

Krystalyn Drown

author of Tracy Tam: Santa Command
from Tantrum Books.

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

Krystalyn Drown

Krystalyn spent thirteen years working at Walt Disney World in a variety of roles: entertainer, talent coordinator, and character captain. Her degree in theatre as well as many, many hours spent in a dance studio, helped with her job there. Her various other day jobs have included working in zoology at Sea World, as an elementary teacher, and currently as a support technician for a website. In the evenings, she does mad writing challenges with her sister, who is also an author. Krystalyn lives near Orlando, Florida with her husband, son, a were cat, and a Yorkie with a Napoleon complex.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | YouTube

 

Describe yourself in three words.

Quiet. Determined. Quirky.

 

Describe your book in three words.

Scientific. Magical. Santa-riffic

 

Tell us about your day job.

I’m a substitute teacher. I used to be an elementary teacher, but I love how subbing gives me more time to spend with my family and to write.

 

Which writers inspire you?

Judy Blume because she understood what it was like to be a preteen, Richard Peck because of Bel Air Bambi and the Mall Rats as well as all of his historical novels, JK Rowling because Harry Potter.

 

What is your writing process like?

I know the beginning, a few main points in the middle, and the end. Then I sit down and write. I send one of my critique partners (Dianne K. Salerni) my chapters one by one for feedback. Once I have a rough draft, then I write an outline and revise from there.

 

What are you reading right now?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Again.

 

Do you have an author crush?

Maggie Stiefvater. The way she writes her characters leaves me in awe.

 

Quick questions:

Physical books or eBooks? Physical books

Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi

Twitter or Facebook? Facebook

Song you can’t get out of your head right now? Bad Blood by Taylor Swift

Sweet or salty? Sweet

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Write on computer or notebook paper? Computer

 

Tracy-Tam-Cover

Tracy doesn’t believe that Santa can deliver all of those presents in one night with out a little help from science. A flying sleigh can only be powered by jet engines, and Santa’s magical abilities can only be the result of altered DNA. In order to test her theories, she sneaks onto Santa’s sleigh and ends up at Santa Command, the place where a team of humans monitors Santa’s big night. When Tracy attempts to hack into their computers, she accidentally introduces a virus to their system. As a result, three states get knocked out of sync with the rest of the world. Before the night is over, Tracy has to fix time and help Santa finish his deliveries. And she has to do it all with Santa’s magic, which she doesn’t believe exists.

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 I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Sneak Peak: The Bureau of Holiday Affairs by Andi Marquette #Giveaway

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Sneak Peek

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Book Title:The Bureau of Holiday Affairs
Author: Andi Marquette
Genre: Holiday Romance (Novel)
Release Date: November 15, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Executive Robin Preston has dedicated her life to climbing the corporate ladder, using whatever means necessary. In the shark-infested culture at Frost Enterprises, anything goes, and Robin is a master at the game.

On the verge of a major promotion, Robin receives a strange visit from Agent Elizabeth Tolson of the Bureau of Holiday Affairs, who informs Robin that, though Robin may be a lost cause, the Bureau has scheduled her for intervention. Robin will receive three visitors in the two weeks before Christmas, who will escort her on visits to her past, present, and future.

Robin will be forced to face not only who she’s become, but the parts of herself she left behind, when she was an art major in college and in love with fellow art student Jill Chen, in whom Robin found a kindred spirit—until Jill broke if off with her. In order for Robin to change her ways, she’ll need to reclaim who she was and open her heart again, to a past she thought she left behind.

The Bureau clearly has its work cut out for it, but Agent Tolson relishes a challenge, and she’s put together just the team for Robin’s case. They may have to cut a few corners and go outside a few lines, but Agent Tolson has a perfect salvage record and she’s not about to let that change. The question is, will Robin?

excerpt

Robin signed the paperwork and slid it aside. Maybe it was a dick move to fire people this close to Christmas— bleeding hearts would probably rag on her, but oh, well. The bottom line was the bottom line, and she didn’t need to burden the company with extra weight into the new year. Even though sales were up a bit, Robin didn’t want to take chances.

She answered a few emails and added a couple of figures to an upcoming presentation, which was sure to get her noticed as a CEO for a subsidiary, before she picked up the earlier paperwork. Robin walked the paperwork across the expanse of carpet in her office, past the sleek leather couch against the wall and the mini-fridge next to it, through the heavy mahogany doors to her assistant’s desk, positioned behind short cubicle walls.

“I need these scanned and sent to HR before lunch,” she said as she set the papers next to Laura’s keyboard. She retreated to her office before Laura could give her one of her questioning looks. Laura was damn good at her job, Robin conceded, but sometimes she acted like Robin’s conscience, like a little angel sitting on her shoulder. The last thing Robin needed or wanted was recrimination, silent or otherwise, on how she did her job.

Robin sat down and glanced at the clock on her laptop monitor. Not even ten yet. Her office door opened, and she looked up, irritated. Laura usually knocked.

“Good morning, Ms. Preston,” the newcomer said in a clipped British accent as she shut the door behind her. She wore a burgundy pants suit and sleek black high heels that looked like something a woman might’ve worn in the forties. Come to think of it, Robin thought as she studied her, the visitor looked a bit retro, like a forties professional woman. She also carried a classic black briefcase.

“And who are you?” Robin asked.

The woman approached Robin’s desk. “Your ten o’clock.” She smiled, pleasant.

“I don’t think—” Robin reached for her desk phone. How did Laura miss this? She picked up the phone. It was dead. She looked at her laptop. The screen was blank. She picked up her cell phone. Blank as well. She set it on her desk, wary.

The woman sat in one of the chairs in front of Robin’s desk and placed her briefcase on her lap. “I’ll just get right to it,” she said. “I’m Elizabeth Tolson, senior agent at the Bureau of Holiday Affairs.”

“Okay, you can stop right there. I don’t have an appointment with you, I have no idea who you are, and—” She stopped, puzzled. “The Bureau of what?”

“Holiday Affairs.” The latches on Tolson’s briefcase clicked as she opened it.

“This is a joke, right?” Had to be Robin’s brother. He was always trying to get her to loosen up, especially around Christmas.

“Absolutely not. The Bureau does not engage in such.” Tolson removed a small case from the briefcase, opened it, and took out a pair of gold-framed eyeglasses that she put on. The earpieces looped around her ears. Very vintage. Next, she took a thick brown accordion file from the briefcase and set the briefcase on the floor by her feet.

“What is that?” Robin leaned forward, unnerved.

“Your dossier.” Tolson undid the fastener—a string that looped around a small cardboard disk—on the accordion file. Robin hadn’t seen one of those in years.

“My what? Who the hell are you?”

Tolson opened the file and took out a manila folder, which she opened with a practiced flip. “Preston, Robin Anne. Date of birth, June 15, 1978.” She looked up from the file. “Seattle, Washington. Lovely city.”

“Okay, this isn’t funny. The joke is over.” Robin pushed back from her desk. She would kill Frank, if he was responsible for this.

“Bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon. Business.” Tolson regarded her over the top of her glasses. “But you started in art.”

Robin was halfway to the door before Tolson spoke again. “Master’s in business, University of Pennsylvania.” Robin’s fingers closed around the door knob, and she turned it. A strange sensation shot up her arm and into her chest, like a mild electrical shock. She pulled her hand back and started to reach for the knob again when she realized she was seated once again behind her desk. Her fingers trembled, and the small of her back was damp with nervous sweat.

“Somewhat of a business prodigy,” Tolson said. “Rose quickly here at Frost Enterprises.” She closed the file and let it lie flat in her lap. “The next logical step in your progression is CEO, most likely of an up-and-coming subsidiary.” She took her glasses off, disengaging them carefully from her ears. She held them in one hand.

“How do you have all that information on me? That has to be illegal,” Robin said, regaining some of her equilibrium amidst a flash of anger. “I assure you, Ms. Tolson, you will be hearing from my attorney.”

“Gerald Moorhouse, of Moorhouse, Sanders, and Craig.” Tolson sat back and regarded her with a gaze as readable as England’s cliffs of Dover. “The Bureau has scheduled a meeting with him, as well. But that’s neither here nor there.” She smiled, the kind of indulgent but patronizing smile Robin remembered from some of her childhood teachers who were about to phone her mom.

“How do you know my lawyer?” She picked up her desk phone receiver again and held it to her ear. Still dead. She replaced it with extra emphasis.

“Ms. Preston, in all honesty, I argued against this meeting. At your annual case review—”

“My what? What are you talking about?”

“The Bureau analyzes hundreds of individual cases each year. At its discretion, it assigns certain cases to agents based on several factors. Those include whether the Bureau’s Board of Advisors feels the individual is salvageable.”

Salvageable? Robin’s previous indignation dissolved into uncertainty. “What does that mean?”

“Redeemable, basically.” Tolson tapped the file on her lap with her glasses. “Strong childhood, good deeds interspersed with the usual foibles and mistakes of children that carried over into high school. Overall, you displayed general acts of kindness along with the usual high school drama and angst, the latter of which was exacerbated most certainly by your struggles to keep your sexual orientation hidden until college.” Tolson regarded her. “No doubt to cope with your father’s indiscretions and continued absences.”

Robin hadn’t realized she was gripping the edge of her desk until her fingertips hurt. She forced herself to relax her hands. “That’s personal. How the hell do you know that?” She would kill Frank. With her bare hands.

“We at the Bureau of Holiday Affairs know most everything about you, Ms. Preston. Within proper parameters, of course.”

“What do you mean?”

“We know when you’re sleeping. We know when you’re awake. And we know when you’ve been bad or good.” Tolson cocked her head. “Surely you’re familiar with that adage.”

Robin stared at her. She had to hand it to Frank. This was by far her brother’s best practical joke since…well, it had been a while. She was unnerved enough that she didn’t even remember sitting down after that weird shock at the door. And since it was clearly a joke—there was no other way anybody could know that much about her—she decided to relax and go along with it. Besides, who actually used that line from a goofy Christmas song?

“We noticed a change, however, your third year of college.” Tolson tapped the manila file again, this time with one of her fingertips. Perfectly manicured, Robin noticed. Her nail polish matched her suit. Once this was over, and after she chewed Frank a new asshole, she might track Tolson down and ask her out.

“We attributed the change to Jill Chen’s breakup with you, your mother’s death, and in the following months, an overall existential crisis that left you bereft of previous foundations. And, unfortunately, drove you to engage in indiscretions in your personal life. No doubt modeled by your father.”

“Really? An existential crisis? Care to elaborate?” She smirked, choosing to ignore the reference to her mother.

“I believe you would refer to it as, and I quote, ‘an increase in general asshole-ness.’”

Robin’s smirk shifted to a frown. That was a low blow on Frank’s part.

“Not to correlate that with business school or business in general. There are thousands of individuals engaged in business pursuits all over the world who do not slide into asshole-ness.” She added emphasis to the last word to indicate she was still quoting Robin. “In your case, however, it seems you used your new field as a way to mask older and better ways of approaching problems and to emphasize less desirable characteristics in their stead.” Tolson paused and took another sheet of paper out of the file and put her glasses back on. “I’ll cite one example here. Allison Wagner.”

Robin clenched her teeth. “Her résumé wasn’t as strong as mine.”

“Nevertheless, deliberately misdirecting her with regard to the deadline date for the fellowship was simply not sporting. And Matthew Jacobs?”

Frank was toast. How did he even know about that?

“Mr. Jacobs developed the business plan that you submitted as your own to win the seminar competition your last year of classwork during your master’s degree.” Somehow, Tolson’s accent made it sound even worse.

“To your credit,” Tolson continued, “you did appear to experience some remorse about that. And about Wagner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after the fact.” Tolson slipped the paper back into the folder and removed her glasses.

“It was just business.”

Tolson raised her eyebrows. “There are standards regarding ethics in business as well, Ms. Preston.”

Robin hunched her shoulders. “That was years ago.”

“Lydia Evans,” Tolson responded. “Joseph Spinelli.”

Robin sat up straighter. “There is no way in hell you could know that. I just signed those papers this morning.” Nervous sweat gathered at her collar. Had Laura tipped her?

“I told you, Ms. Preston,” Tolson said. “It is the Bureau’s job to know these things.” She retrieved her briefcase from the floor, put the manila folder in it, and returned her glasses to their case before she put it inside as well. She latched the briefcase and returned it to the floor.
“Now. As I was saying, I argued against this visit because I don’t think you’re redeemable.”

“Hold on. What does that mean?” Screw Frank. She’d drag more info out of Tolson.

“In more casual parlance, I believe you are a lost cause. Some people continue to engage in behaviors that are generally motivated by mean-spiritedness or a lack of empathy for their fellows. They learn these behaviors at some point during their lives and continue to use them as coping mechanisms. Some cases are, of course, genuinely unredeemable due to various psychological issues that the Bureau doesn’t handle, but others might be, given the opportunity to change their ways.” She tapped the arm of her chair a few times. “Many of these have what you might call an epiphany, and surprisingly, it does stick.”

“So you’re my epiphany?” Robin said, sarcastic.

Tolson smiled. “Of course not. I’m your current case manager. Not that I was pleased about that, since I have a one hundred percent rating at the Bureau for ensuring that my cases have their redeemable moment. Or moments. Some need a progression of smaller epiphanies to point them in the right direction.” She straightened. “But I don’t shy from a challenge, even though I am on record as strongly advising against this course of action where you’re concerned.”

Typical bureaucrat, Robin thought. Passing the buck.

“Regardless of your opinion regarding my place of employment and methodologies,” Tolson said, as if she’d read Robin’s mind, “I am here to do a job. With that in mind, you will have three more visitors between now and Christmas Day.”

You have to be kidding. Robin fought an urge to roll her eyes.

Tolson stood and picked up her briefcase. “They will, of course, keep me informed on your case.”

“Of course.” Robin put extra snark in her tone.

“They don’t necessarily share their tactics with me ahead of time, so I can’t speak to those. But they all know they have two weeks before Christmas Day to schedule their visits in coordination with each other. And once this process has begun, the Bureau does not stop it for any reason.” She paused, as if letting that sink in.

“What if I don’t want your visitors?”

“Our cases never do. No one likes the mirrors we hold up to them.” She smoothed the front of her jacket. “Good luck, Ms. Preston.” She turned and moved effortlessly to the door, which she opened with no problem. It closed with a soft click behind her.

Robin let out a breath. “Frank, you dick,” she muttered. She reached for her cell phone just as a knock sounded on the door. “Come in.”

Laura entered. She held a stack of papers up and moved toward Robin’s desk.

“Did Ms. Tolson leave a card?” Robin asked as Laura handed her the papers.

“Who?”

“Ms. Tolson. The woman who was just here.”

Laura’s brow creased in puzzlement. “Here? In your office?”

Robin studied her. “You didn’t see her?”

“No. You were just at my desk with the other paperwork.” Robin glanced at her laptop screen, which was functional now. The clock on it read 9:59 A.M. “What the hell?” she muttered.

“Ma’am?”

“Never mind.” Robin stood. She’d go for a coffee. A big, strong cup from the café at street level. That would cure anything. “I’ll be right back.” She left Laura in her office and headed for the elevators. She was just working too hard. She always got stressed this time of year. But she couldn’t shake the chill wrapped around her spine.

The elevator doors opened onto the spacious lobby of the Frost building.

“Good morning, Ms. Preston.” The guard at the info desk nodded at her. She could never remember his name.

“Did you see a woman come through here a few minutes ago? Burgundy suit, dark hair, briefcase?”

“No.”

“You’re sure? It would’ve been the last ten or fifteen minutes.”

“No, ma’am. Hold on and I’ll check the cameras.” He appeared to be looking at something beneath the counter. “No. Nobody like that. Would you like to see?”

She shook her head and continued to the exit. She was definitely working too hard.

Meet the Author

me n hatAndi Marquette is a native of New Mexico and Colorado and an award-winning mystery, science fiction, and romance writer. She also has the dubious good fortune to be an editor who spent 15 years working in publishing, a career track that sucked her in while she was completing a doctorate in history. She is co-editor of All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance. Her most recent novels are Day of the Dead, the Goldie-nominated finalist The Edge of Rebellion, and the romance From the Hat Down, a follow-up to the Rainbow Award-winning novella, From the Boots Up.

When she’s not writing novels, novellas, and stories or co-editing anthologies, she serves as both an editor for Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that features speculative fiction written by women and as co-admin of the popular blogsite Women and Words. When she’s not doing that, well, hopefully she’s managing to get a bit of sleep.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

M9B Friday Reveal: Author Spotlight – Ryan Craig Bradford with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B Friday Reveal: Author Spotlight – Ryan Craig Bradford with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

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Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are featuring

Ryan Craig Bradford

author of Horror Business, a Month9Books Title!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

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Ryan grew up in Park City, Utah. His fiction has appeared in Quarterly West, Paper Darts, Vice, Monkeybicycle and [PANK]. He currently lives in San Diego where he acts as Creative Director for the nonprofit literary arts organization So Say We All. He’s the co-editor of the anthology Last Night on Earth and founder of the literary horror journal, Black Candies.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

 

If you were admitted to Hogwarts which house would the Sorting Hat place you in?

Never read/watched any Harry Potter 🙁

 

Twitter or Facebook?

Twitter

 

Favorite Superhero?

Wolverine

 

Favorite TV show?

The X-Files

 

Sweet or Salty?

Salty

 

Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi

 

Any Phobias?

Bees!!

 

Song you can’t get enough of right now?

“Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas” by Beach Slang

 

Who is your favorite book villain?

The Judge in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

 

What are you reading right now or what’s on your TBR?

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

 

Spring Movie you’re most looking forward to?
The Witch

 

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Armed with a passion for classic B-grade horror movies, a script co-written by his twin brother, and a wicked crush on his death-obsessed neighbor; hardcore horror fan Jason Nightshade must finish his student film.

But his plans are derailed when the children of suburban Silver Creek start disappearing – his twin brother among them. Battling a possessed video camera, a crazy zombie dog, a monstrous bully, and a frighteningly broken down family life, Jason embarks on a mission to find his lost brother so the two can write an ending for his story.

As any horror fan knows, saving the day won’t be easy, as Jason finds himself forced to face the real world where death isn’t just a splash of fake blood on a camera lens.

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 I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Blog Tour: Digging Up the Past by Sandi Brackeen #Giveaway @bookenthupromo

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Book Title: Digging Up the Past
Author: Sandi Brackeen
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: August 22, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

Book BlurbThe Spade of Apocatequil can raise the dead and grant immortality—and it’s been stolen!

When supernatural agents Riley Perez and Jason, her partner at the clandestine government agency DUE, are given the task of tracking down the magical artifact, they discover that the culprit may be one of the workers at an archaeological dig at Shady Shores. Is it John Braden, the head archaeologist on-site, who was involved in the original discovery of the spade? Or is it Danny Roget, the anthropologist, who claims that there have been strange sightings? Riley and Jason’s hunt for the spade is endangered by a rash of sudden, unexplainable deaths of people involved in the dig. Together with Cameron Delaney, the intriguing alpha werewolf who runs Cerberus Security, the company in charge of protecting the archaeologists at the dig, Riley and Jason must find the spade before it can be used to destroy the world!

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Guest blog: Riley Perez

Hi, I’m Riley. When you read the stories in the Tales from Atlantis series, you’ll be reading about me and my associates. They are also friends, but I think associates sounds more professional. The PTBs at Homeland Security don’t think the agents are DUE are nearly professional enough, but then, we’re not the kind of agents they’re used to dealing with. Almost all of the agents at HSS are military, or were before they became agents. Not a single DUE agent has ever been anywhere near the military. What we are is preternatural. This is also the reason DUE hired us, and well, you can’t have it both ways.

We take care of those things that the mundane agents can’t, which includes most cases involving supernaturals. There are a surprising number of those cases, in spite of the fact that most people still deny that we exist, but as a result, our numbers are growing daily, and the Norms at HSS never quite know how to deal with us. I figure that’s why they act like we’re either indestructible, or dispensable. Current money in the office pool favors indestructible, but it goes back and forth.

History says this all started about two hundred years ago when some scavengers hauled off the stones on the Bimini Road. When that happened, magic returned to the earth, and Atlantis rose. Now, Atlantis sits out there in the Atlantic Ocean and for some reason, no one wants to go there. Explain that! I certainly can’t, but on the other hand, I have no desire to go there either, so I can’t fault anyone else for not wanting to go. The thing is, after all the legend and myth surrounding Atlantis, it makes no sense that no one wants to go there. However, that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I just want to tell you about the case we’re working on in Digging Up the Past. In this case, we’re trying to find a spade. Yes, a shovel. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, this particular spade grants the holder immortality and can raise the dead, which makes it a bit more complex. The file says it was headed here to be on display at the Smithsonian, but it never arrived. The scientists on the dig where it was discovered have returned to Denton to their home university, and are working on a recent dig at the local lake. A number of the other people on the dig are also at this site, so that’s where we’re going to start.

No one can say exactly where the spade disappeared. It left Peru like it was supposed to, but it was not there when the plane arrived in Washington. Our job is to figure out which one of these people took it. The options are the Braden’s, the lead archeologists on the dig, the anthropologist Nick Manulito, Professor Jackson, who supervises the grad students, and the grad students themselves. Oh yeah, we have to find it before they get a chance to use it.

Meet the Author

IMG_0389 (252x320)Sandi lives in Texas with a roommate, two yellow Labs, a shepherd/border collie mix, and two terrier mixes. The animals were all rescues. Her full-time job is as the public information officer for the local sheriff’s office, and she teaches English part time at the local community college. She says she has a couple of degrees lying around somewhere, and she’s been writing ever since she can remember, although she took time off for work and school, and previously her writing has been more geared toward short stories and academic papers. Sandi has now switched to writing fiction and currently has several more books in the works.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl