Blog Tour: Feel The Burn by G. A. Aiken #Giveaway @Tastybooktours @KensingtonBooks

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FEEL THE BURN
Dragon Kin #8
G.A. Aiken
Released Nov 24th, 2015
Zebra Imprint

War makes strange bedfellows.

I, Gaius Domitus, one-eyed rebel dragon king of the Provinces, know that better than most, since I have to fight off half my ungrateful family on a regular basis to keep law and order here in my lands. But I never expected to have to consort with a barbarian human woman.

Kachka is beautiful, if you like them fierce—and of course I do. But she keeps complaining about how spoiled and decadent I am, and how a feared Daughter of the Steppes has no time for foolish dragons. I think she likes my eye patch, though. It is quite dashing. With death always at our tails, we take our passion like we take our allies. As they say, love the barbarian you’re with…

Excerpt-Banner

Gaius Lucius Domitus, Iron dragon and the one-eyed Rebel King from the west, rolled that one eye and continued out of the back halls of the Senate and toward the royal palace. He had important plans to make and he didn’t have time for yet another discussion about his poor kingly skills.

“I think you’re a fool to do this.”

“Thank you, Auntie. I appreciate your confidence.”

“Don’t get that tone with me.”

“What tone?”

Lætitia Clydia Domitus grabbed Gaius’s arm and yanked him around. She was a small She-dragon and ridiculously tiny in her human form, but there was a power to her. There had to be in order for her to have survived as long as she had. There were few who had survived Overlord Thracius’s reign while openly loathing him, but Lætitia had managed. Somehow.

“First off—” she began.

“Gods,” Gaius groaned. “There’s a first off.”

“—you shouldn’t be walking around these streets alone. You’re the king now. That makes you a clear target. Second, you’re king now. You can’t run off on stupid errands every time you get a bug up your ass. You have an empire to rule.”

“An empire that will no longer exist if I don’t get control of my cousins and, more importantly, squash the rise of Chramnesind cults.”

“I don’t disagree with you, but I don’t know why you need to go yourself. You have dragons and men at your disposal. Why do you not use them?”

“Why? Because I trust no one. Except my sister.” When his aunt groaned and rolled her eyes at the mention of Agrippina, Gaius gently pulled his arm out of her grasp and walked away.

“Wait! I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No. I didn’t. I love your sister—” Gaius snorted at that, and Lætitia gripped his arm again and yanked him around to face her with even more strength than he’d given her credit for. “Do not, boy, question my loyalty to you or your sister. Ever. You two are the only thing left of the one sibling I adored, and that means something. But your sister went through hell. Absolute hell. And she hasn’t recovered from it, no matter how much both of you want to pretend that she has. So leaving the throne in her claws while you go off to be the hero king seems a . . . risky decision at best.”

“Well then . . . I guess . . .” Gaius glanced off, pretended to think a minute. “You’ll just have to give her your guidance while I’m gone.”

From the corner of his one eye, he saw his aunt desperately try to hide a smile. It wasn’t an evil smile. She, unlike most of his kin, was not evil. But, for the first time, she felt she’d be allowed to use her knowledge and skills directly rather than behind the scenes, which was usually where one could find her. Her machinations had been legendary, but they were often attributed to one of her other siblings. Of course, it was her willingness not to be openly involved that had kept her alive this long.

“Your sister,” Lætitia finally said, “won’t like that.”

“Of course she will,” Gaius lied. “She respects you, Auntie.”

“Good gods, Gaius Lucius Domitus!” she cried out. “You’re just like your father—such a

liar!”

 

 

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Originally from Long Island, New York Times bestselling author
G.A. Aiken has resigned herself to West Coast living, which involves healthy
food, mostly sunny days, and lots of guys not wearing shirts when they really
should be. Writing as Shelly Laurenston, she is also the creator of the
wickedly funny Pride series for Brava. For more info about G.A. Aiken’s
dangerously and arrogantly sexy dragons, go to www.gaaiken.com.
 
 
 

 

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

Book Blitz: Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor #Giveaway

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This is my stop during the book blitz for The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 14 till 20 December, you can view the complete blitz schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.

The Spirit ChaserThe Spirit Chaser
By Kat Mayor
Genre: Horror/ Ghosts/ Dark Romance
Age category: Adult
Release Date: November 13, 2015

Blurb:
Some places are too evil. Some places should be left alone.

Austin Cole has it made. Star of the hit television show Spirit Chaser Investigations, he has become the world’s most famous paranormal investigator. Although hard work, a talented investigation team, and favorable genetics have something to do with it, it’s his lack of fear and willingness to take risks no one else will that make Spirit Chaser Investigations cable’s number-one show. When a ghost-hunt-gone-wrong seriously injures his best friend and lead psychic, Austin is forced to find a replacement for a team member he considers irreplaceable.

Casey Lawson can’t catch a break. She’s been on her own since she turned eighteen and is scraping by as a part-time psychic and cashier at a New Age store. When a desperate Austin Cole calls her up and offers her a position on his team, has her fortune finally changed?

He’s a control freak; she’s stubborn and opinionated. It takes time, but when they finally realize they’re working on the same side, everything clicks, both on and off screen.

Just when things are looking up, a new threat emerges. Over the years, Austin has angered plenty of demons, and one of them has set her sights on him. Now he’s the one in danger, and it’s up to the team to rescue him from the riskiest investigation of their lives.

Excerpt

Once Austin registered that Gary was in trouble, he took off toward the Barrett thing. He grabbed it by the waist and tried to pull it off Gary. The monster let go of Gary, slowly turning as his focus shifted. Austin couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It wasn’t Barrett’s eyes that were looking at him. There was no trace of sclera; the entire eye had been overtaken by black. His best friend was staring at him with pure hate. “Barrett?” Austin asked. The thing lunged at him, grabbing Austin’s throat with its good hand and lifting him off the ground.

With all his strength, Austin tried to pull Barrett’s hand away, but it wouldn’t budge. Austin was fighting for breath and feared the creature invading Barrett’s body was going to snap his neck. One will be hurt and the other one killed. Would Barrett kill him tonight? Or would Austin have to kill Barrett to save his own life? He didn’t think he could do that. Dots appeared in his vision and the voices of the other guys seemed far off as he grayed out. The next thing he knew, he was sitting on the floor against a hard cinder block wall, gasping for air. Slowly, he pushed himself up.

Luis had pulled out his Aspergillum and was flicking holy water on Barrett. It acted like a holy whip and with each lash of the blessed fluid, a red laceration appeared on his skin. Thai grabbed Barrett by his good arm, and with Gary’s help, pushed him to the ground. Luis sprinkled more holy water on Barrett, and red welts bloomed on his skin. The creature wailed as Luis chanted a prayer. His thrashing slowed. They rolled him onto his stomach. Gary ground his knee into Barrett’s back to hold him in place and pinned his arms down. Thai sat on Barrett’s legs.

“You okay, man?” Thai asked Austin. He was out of breath from trying to subdue a preternaturally strong Barrett.

Austin rubbed the sides of his neck and swallowed. His throat felt shredded, like raw meat. “Yeah, fine,” he croaked.

“The spirits are really out to get you tonight,” Thai observed. His eyes flicked down to the panting and grunting monster beneath him. “Both of you.”

Luis looked at Austin. “We need to get him out of here. The evil here is too strong.” The priest turned to Gary. “Do you think you can move him?”

“Yeah. As long as he stays like this.”

Thai and Gary lifted Barrett up and half-carried, half-dragged him toward the exit. Luis continued to chant prayers. He turned and saw Austin lifting the camera over his shoulder. “Leave it, Austin.”

“I’ll be right there,” he said. He picked up what equipment he could and followed them out.

Josie, the lead tech specialist, ran out of the tech trailer when she saw them approach. Her eyes grew wide and she took a step back as she saw their docile psychic growling and spitting like a rabid dog. “What happened in there?”

“No time to explain,” Thai yelled over his shoulder as he helped Gary lift Barrett’s thrashing body and pin him in the backseat of the Suburban. Gary and Thai sat on either side of him to hold him down.

Austin turned to Josie. His voice came out a hoarse whisper. “We left a lot of stuff behind. Don’t go in there, JoJo. I’ll come back at sunup to retrieve it.”

“We don’t need it. I got all the camera footage remotely in the tech trailer,” she called out to him, but he was already running toward the Suburban. Austin hopped in the driver seat next to Luis, who had not stopped praying. The creature began speaking in tongues and screamed at Luis, but at least it wasn’t trying to wreck the car. They drove to the closest sacred site, a protestant church. At that time of night, everything was locked up, but Luis knew that being on holy ground would work. There was a large wooden cross over the front doors, and Thai and Gary laid Barrett’s semi-conscious form on the church’s front steps.

Austin picked up the camera and began filming. “What are you doing, man?” Gary asked. Austin motioned for him to be quiet as he focused the camera.

Barrett’s head was lolling back and forth, and he spoke in two different octaves at the same time.

Luis frowned at Austin, but decided to let it go. Right now he had more important things to worry about than Austin exploiting Barrett for the show. “Hold him down,” he instructed Gary and Thai.

Luis placed his purple stole around his neck and kissed his crucifix. The demon saw the sacred object and began thrashing. “Don’t come near me, you motherfucker,” the Barrett thing yelled.

Ignoring the demon, Luis placed the holy symbol on Barrett’s forehead. The hiss of searing meat could be heard, and when Luis removed the crucifix, its outline was burned into Barrett’s flesh. He didn’t waste any time with the Litany of the Saints or bible readings and went straight into the exorcism. “I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every satanic power of the enemy, every spectre from hell, and all your fell companions.” The demon spat on Luis. Its many voices laughed. The priest didn’t miss a beat. He wiped his face with a handkerchief, then continued with the Rite.

When Luis began the Catholic Rite of Exorcism, The demon growled, “You’re not a real priest. You’re married to a whore. You have no authority over me.” Ever since Luis had left the priesthood to marry, the demons tried to use it against him. Luis was used to it and didn’t allow the verbal attacks to bother him. When the creature saw that Luis was unfazed, he tried a different tack. “Has your bishop authorized this? I doubt it.” Luis didn’t respond. That would be a mistake. He knew from experience that many a demon had been prayed out of a person by believers who weren’t even Catholic.

The she-demon knew she was losing the battle, and her grip on Barrett was weakening. She proceeded to beg. “No Latin. Please, no more Latin.” The Barrett thing writhed, then turned its head to face Austin. It spoke in a voice that didn’t belong to Barrett or any other human. “This isn’t over. I’m not done with you yet.” Then Barrett’s head rolled to the side and his eyes closed.

You can find The Spirit Chaser on Goodreads

You can buy The Spirit Chaser here:
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Kat MayorAbout the Author:
I am a native Texan, wife, and mom. In addition to The Spirit Chaser, I have written a young adult series, The Circle. I’m a full-time reader, part-time writer, and when I’m not kicking a story around in my head, I love to read and review books on Goodreads.

You can find and contact Kat Mayor here:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

There is a tour wide giveaway for the book blitz of The Spirit Chaser. These are the prizes you can win:
– a $20 Amazon gift card, paperback copies of The Spirit Chaser and The Circle Series.
– a $10 Amazon gift card and an e-copy of The Spirit Chaser

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

Blog Tour: Ring me later by Robena Grant #BEP @RobenaGrant #Giveaway

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Book Title: Ring Me Later
Author:Robena Grant
Genre:Romantic Suspense
Release Date: December 7, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Jack Barron is a reclusive, billionaire, hotelier who never got over his first love. Lisa Carpenter moved to London to escape him and his obsession with money. After five years, Lisa returns to Los Angeles to work in public relations at a medical center. She’s certain their paths won’t cross but they do…almost immediately. Forced into working together, because of a multi-million dollar grant, she must keep her wits about her. Jack wants to redeem himself; Lisa wants respect. He’s advancing; she’s retreating.

As her heart warms to him, she becomes embroiled in a web of deceit that ensures someone will gain billions. Lisa is being stalked. There is arson at Jack’s Arizona resort spa. A wealthy Broadway producer is trying to buy the spa. And the paparazzi are having a field day with Jack’s return to the social scene.

With nowhere to hide, they must trust in each other. Could all roads lead back to London?

excerpt

Jack stood behind his desk, replacing the phone handset. His head snapped up. Shock, anger, and something she couldn’t define washed over his features. Ms. Crofton had been super quick with her emergency alert. Good for her. But Lisa had been faster.

She stopped in the middle of the room, her heart pounding. Jack’s features seemed to blur. You can’t faint now. She blinked hard, and refocused. He still looked pissed off. Without the scowl he would be as handsome as ever. Chestnut hair fell across his creased forehead, and his golden brown eyes widened, then narrowed.

“Mr. Barron.” Lisa strode toward the huge mahogany desk, her hand outstretched. They’d made love on that desk. A wave of heat filled her as an avalanche of memories flashed by like the stock market tickertape. “I do appreciate you agreeing to see me. I won’t need much of your time—”

“I didn’t,” he said.

Lisa met his gaze. “Didn’t what?” she asked, feigning innocence, while holding the leather portfolio in a death grip. A tick in one side of his jaw jumped. She was certain he’d mashed down on his molars.

“Agree to see you. I could have security throw you out.” His voice was deep, almost a growl. Then he bounded from behind the desk like a wild animal, and stopped short only a foot from her.

She begged her knees not to crumple. “Oh, dear. An honest mistake.”

“Yeah, right.” He flicked his eyebrows skyward. “What do you want?”

Meet the Author

Robena Grant writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense about ordinary women thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Travel and discovering new places brings her great pleasure, and she often includes these discoveries in her stories. She is Australian by birth, lives in Southern California, and has two grown children. Robena may be contacted at: www.robenagrant.com where she blogs weekly, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.

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

Blog Tour: The Howling Heart by April Bostic #BEP #Giveaway

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Book Title:The Howling Heart
Author:April Bostic
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: August 8, 2013
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Paige Donovan is an ambitious college graduate who aspires to reach the top of the corporate ladder. She’s climbing fast when given the promotion of a lifetime at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Her bright future comes to an unexpected halt after news of her father’s death. She inherits his old cabin in the Colorado Rockies, and just when she thinks her luck couldn’t get any worse, she has a car accident in the mountains and awakens in the small, remote community of Black River.

Soon, she’s engulfed in the mystical world of Varulv—wolves descended from 13th century Scandinavia and blessed by Norse gods with the ability to appear human. Paige is desperate to return home, but never expects to fall for her rescuer, Riley Gray, a charming young werewolf from England who offers her an alternate future with his pack. Now, she must choose between the career she’s always wanted and the love she’s always dreamed.

excerpt

I stood in the hardware section looking at flashlights, when I suddenly felt someone staring at me. I tried to remain inconspicuous as I glanced to my left without turning my head. At the end of the aisle stood a slender, young man at least six feet tall, wearing a red and black plaid, flannel shirt with cut-off sleeves. Lean muscles flexed on his bicep as he grabbed something off the shelf. His bare arms revealed a tattoo on his right shoulder, but I wasn’t close enough to read it.

He must’ve felt my gaze on him, because he looked over at me. The sun gently kissed his skin with a golden tan, and his full lips spread into a charming grin. He had a clean-shaven, square jaw and sharp cheekbones that would make any woman envious. His sandy blonde hair flowed like waves and curled softly on the ends, brushing his ears and collar. A few, untamed strands fell in his eyes, making his hair appear disheveled. There was no doubt in my mind he was handsome.

Immediately, a heat wave crashed beneath my skin…and I knew it wasn’t due to the summer weather. I blushed under his steady gaze and looked away in an attempt to ignore him. For some reason, I couldn’t control myself.My gaze kept finding his. A smirk played on his lips—the color of a summer peach—and I wondered if they tasted as sweet.

Book Trailer

Meet the Author

April Bostic is a New Jersey-based, adult romance author who enjoys unleashing her creativity and letting her imagination run wild. Her love of romance books inspired her to become not just a reader, but also a writer. In December 2008, she self-published her first novel, a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist entitled “A Rose to the Fallen”.

Her first short story, “Right Here, Right Now”, released in January 2012, is an erotic romance with a dash of S&M. The following year, she released two more short stories: a romantic urban fantasy inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche entitled “Eros, My Love”, and a sexy romantic comedy entitled “Love Addiction”.

After five years, she released her second novel, “The Howling Heart” in August 2013, a paranormal romance that delves into the mystical world of werewolves and Norse gods. To end her busiest year in publishing, April also released her fourth short story in December 2013, a historical paranormal romance entitled “A Dark Scandal”.

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

Blog Tour: The Oracle (The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three) by D.J Niko #Giveaway #TheOracleBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #Archeological #Adventure @hfvbt @djnikobooks @Medallion Press

02_The Oracle_CoverThe Oracle (The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three)
by D.J Niko

Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Medallion Press
Paperback; 456p
ISBN-13: 978-1605426273

Genre: Historical/Archaeological Adventure

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In Delphi, the mountain city deemed by the Greek gods to be the center of the Earth, a cult of neo-pagans re-create with painstaking authenticity ancient rituals to glorify the god Apollo and deliver oracles to seekers from around the world.

When antiquities are stolen from a museum in nearby Thebes, British archaeologist Sarah Weston and her American partner, Daniel Madigan, are drawn into a plot that goes beyond harmless role-playing: someone’s using the Delphian oracle as a smoke screen for an information exchange, with devastating consequences for the Western world.

Pitted against each other by the cult’s mastermind, Sarah and Daniel race against time and their own personal demons to uncover clues left behind by the ancients. Their mission: to find the original navel stone marked with a lost Pythagorean formula detailing the natural events that led to the collapse of the Minoan Empire.

But will they find it in time to stop the ultimate terrorist act?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIE BOUND

About the Author

Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO

Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO

Daphne Nikolopoulos in an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and lecturer. Under the pen name D.J. Niko, she has written two novels in an archaeological thriller series titled The Sarah Weston Chronicles. Her debut novel, The Tenth Saint (Medallion Press, 2012), won the Gold Medal (popular fiction) in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. Her follow-up release, The Riddle of Solomon, continues the story of British archaeologist Sarah Weston as she seeks the relics—and mystical secrets—left behind by the biblical King Solomon in remote Israel.

Daphne is currently at work on The Oracle, book 3 in The Sarah Weston Chronicles, which releases in 2015. Also slated for publication in 2015 is her first historical novel, The Judgment, which is set in Israel and Egypt in the tenth century BCE.

In addition to writing fiction, Daphne is editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine and editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group. Prior to that, she was a travel journalist who logged hundreds of thousands of miles traveling across the globe, with emphasis on little-known and off-the-beaten-path locales—many of which have inspired her novels.

Daphne frequently lectures about her research on the ancient world. She is an instructor at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society, teaching on the subject of archaeology. She has also spoken to audiences at the Jewish Community Center of the Palm Beaches’ Academy for Continuous Education, and several libraries and private groups throughout Florida.

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Daphne now resides in West Palm Beach with her husband and twin son and daughter. You can find her on the Web at djnikobooks.com and connect with her on Facebook (AuthorDJNiko) and on Twitter: @djnikobooks.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 9
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, November 10
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, November 11
Review at Back Porchervations

Friday, November 13
Spotlight at I’d So Rather Be Reading

Monday, November 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Tuesday, November 17
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, November 18
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Spotlight & Excerpt at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, November 19
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, November 20
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, November 23
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, November 24
Guest Post at Yelena Casale’s Blog

Friday, November 27
Spotlight at Teatime and Books

Tuesday, December 1
Review at Kristin Un-Ravelle’d

Wednesday, December 2
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, December 4
Spotlight at Diana’s Book Reviews

Thursday, December 10
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, December 11
Guest Post & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

04_The Oracle_Blog Tour Banner_FINALI love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Blog Tour: Pretty Little Creatures (The Challenged World #2) by Vince Milam #Giveaway

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This is my stop during the blog tour for Pretty Little Creatures by Vince Milam. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 1 till 14 December, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.
So far this series contains 2 books: The Unknown Element (The Challenged World #1) and Pretty Little Creatures (The Challenged World #2).

Pretty Little CreaturesPretty Little Creatures (The Challenged World #2)
By Vince Milam
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Age category: Adult
Release Date: September 10, 2015

Blurb:
Ebola, jihadists, blood diamonds, drug cartels, and a dark force driving events. In pursuit, an eclectic team of three very dissimilar individuals.

A reserved small town sheriff on a reluctant quest for justice. A beautiful and eccentric technology genius striving to piece together international clues to terrorism. An epicurean French priest committed to combat. Can they work together to challenge a nightmarish conspiracy without driving each other crazy?

The resurrection of the blood diamond trade in the fetid jungles of Ebola-infected West Africa draws the trio together. They are joined by a stunning CIA professional killer with a clear and final solution to any problem. Together they struggle against the leaders of the illicit diamond trade and the foul entity providing the child slave labor.

Have they won? The doggedness of the technology genius and the assuredness of the French priest uncover deeper plans—a game of misdirection and intrigue masterminded by a powerful source nested in the evil enclaves of ISIS.

The stakes rapidly rise as the trail leads them into the wild heartland of a Mexican drug cartel—a launching point to unleash a hellish scenario into the U.S. The final conflict looms as forces for good and evil muster for battle. Can three regular people prevent this terrorist attack? They need to, because failure will forevermore alter the life of every American.

Excerpt

Cole remained planted in the center of the room. The priest sat on the sill across from him and smoked, while heat wafted in from the open window. Deputies and staff moved along the hallway, attending to their duties. “Sir, I have my doubts as to your understanding of evil given your life experiences. No offense. You’re a priest. I’m a lawman. I’ve performed this business of mine for some time, seen a lot, and still wrestle with what drives the terrible things I’ve seen, and how it all fits the human experience.” He paused and Francois waited. “I don’t mean to insult you, but the life of a priest is a heckuva lot different than that of a lawman.”

“A valid point,” replied Francois. “Allow me to provide some history. Some context. For many instances, I would agree. Perhaps you will see I possess some rather unique experiences.”

Francois gave a high-level overview of his work. He talked of possessions and exorcisms, his research into the nature and manifestations of evil, and his conviction that the human experience included evil external forces.

“It is not my intention to be intrusive, Sheriff. No. It is my intention to pursue a personal endeavor. Your knowledge of the current situation may be of great help. With such matters, I fear great danger for those unprepared. Therefore, I do not seek physical assistance. No. I seek your perspective. Private insights.” Francois extended his hands, palms up, as if to receive something.

Cole’s chin dropped to his chest and his defenses began to fade under the weight of uncertainty and isolation. Other than the phone call to Nadine to gather intelligence on Moloch, he had dealt with all of it alone. No definitive third-party ties or motives looped back to the nursing home horror. Burt Hall had killed his own mother, for God’s sake. But something didn’t fit. On a visceral level, something felt wrong. After three days, it had worn on him. Justice had not been fulfilled. He suspected answers might not be available through any normal or rational means. The thought of that dismissive SOB Moloch—flicking his damn hand—in the middle of that mess made for sleepless nights. Now this priest had arrived out of nowhere and clearly had no intention of leaving him alone. But the guy had different perspectives, for sure. There was a strange comfort in that.

He closed the office door. Francois stayed perched on the windowsill. Cole sat on the edge of the desk and let one leg dangle. The giggles of two young girls carried from the sidewalk through the open window, mixed with cigarette smoke and the musk of old-fashioned roses.

“I need to bounce some things off somebody, and do it without getting straitjacketed. Maybe …” Cole hesitated. “Maybe you can, or maybe you are able to—and I’m pretty hesitant to mention it—shed some light on some things. Things that I’d sure like answers to.”

Francois remained motionless, so Cole continued.

“I don’t know you. And I’m fixin’ to trust you with something. Something I haven’t talked with anyone about.” He was crossing the Rubicon, hell-bent on answers. “Sorta confessional, isn’t it?”

“You can trust me, Sheriff. I give you my word as a man of God.” Francois took another drag, crushed the cigarette against the outside brick wall, and showed Cole the butt as he tossed it in a nearby wastebasket. “And you can trust me as a man who can relate to your experiences.”

Gulls called from the outside salt air, and the sounds of coins as they slid into the soda vending machine drifted through the closed door from the hallway.

“There was someone.”

Francois slid off the windowsill and eased toward Cole, as if any sudden movements might spook the sheriff.

“You saw. Your eyes observed?” asked Francois.

At that moment, a clerk gave a cursory knock and stuck his head in the door to announce, “Sheriff, there’s a call on line two you’ll want to take.”

Francois raised both hands, blew out a puff of disgust, and gave the young clerk a glare that caused the door to slam shut. Cole snapped out of his reverie and moved back behind the desk, grabbed the phone, and punched line two on the antiquated system. “Yes, sir. No problem. No, sir. Three hours. Will do.” He set the phone down and turned to grab his hat. “I’m afraid I have to go, Father. Right now.”

“Again, call me Francois. And to where, might I ask? It is most important, our discussion.”

“Austin. It’s three hours. I won’t be back until late today.” A decision made and potential lunacy averted, Cole added, “I believe our discussion has ended. It’s all craphouse crazy. There’s nothing I can do for you, Francois.”

“Bon. I shall see you tonight then.” The priest moved with his determined style to the door, apparently unable to grasp the meaning of “ended.” Before he exited, Francois spun and pointed a finger at Cole. His round, florid face had taken on a hard intensity.

“You saw. Your heart. You felt. You saw.”

A loud, puffed-cheek exhale, rife with resignation and relief, accompanied Cole’s reply. “Yeah. I saw.”

 

As they approached Houston, Cole gave Francois background on Nadine. He tried to explain in a digestible format how people might construe her as different. She had always been infatuated by computers, the languages of software, puzzles, and games. Her analytical mind frightened those who chose to get close. When the Internet and all its tendrils bloomed, she dove in lock, stock, and barrel. She had found her calling. No encryption existed that she could not break, no firewall she couldn’t breach, no system she couldn’t hack, and no information she couldn’t find. She carried a Top Secret clearance.

The main house had ionic columns and a porte cochère through which they drove to park in the shade of a huge river oak next to the garage. Francois couldn’t wait to smoke and lit one as they ascended the peeling wooden stairs to Nadine’s apartment.

Nadine flung open the door and admonished them to hurry before the cold air escaped. She stood in flip-flops, shorts, and an old Colt .45s T-shirt. As Cole approached, she panicked a bit, not sure how to greet him. Cole removed that concern when he gave her a big hug and a “How’re you, Nadine?” She hugged back and patted him on the back as he entered. “That’s Francois,” he tossed over his shoulder, followed by “Howdy, Mule.” She thought it was a nice touch to remember the cat’s name. The guy was authentic, no doubt.

Francois stood before her. “Mademoiselle. Francois Domaine at your service.” He gave a slight bow.

“Can I have one of those?” she asked, pointing at the lit cigarette.

“But of course!”

As he reached for the pack of smokes, she grabbed him by the arm and led him inside. The insulated metal door closed with a heavy clank.

“I know you fellas are thirsty after that drive. Drinks? Ice tea or adult beverage? How was traffic? Francois, sit anywhere. You’re a priest? Can I call you Francois? I like your socks.”

She turned and flip-flopped into the small kitchen while Cole relaxed in a comfortable chair and signaled for Francois to do the same. She paused long enough for an answer and to watch Francois inspect the couch and its resident, Mule the cat.

“Oui. Francois will be quite adequate.”

“Adult beverages, please,” Cole said.

“Cole, I haven’t seen you for almost a year. Tell me about the kids,” she said as kitchen cabinets opened and slammed shut in her quest for glasses.

“College appears to suit Lisa. Jeri Ann still hangs with the bum in Lubbock,” said Cole.

“Jeri Ann may not agree that her beau working toward a PhD constitutes bum status,” came back from the kitchen, followed by, “there they are.”

Francois settled on the opposite side of the couch from Mule and viewed the mishmash of computers, monitors, servers, and assorted blinking lights while she poured. He held one hand under the cigarette as a portable ashtray.

Nadine carried in three Flintstone jelly glasses and a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon—the latter stored in the freezer with a handful of mint from under her stairway shoved down the neck and mixed with the liquor. She always believed it made for a nice cocktail on a hot summer evening. She balanced on one foot and used the other to sweep documents off the coffee table in front of Francois. His long ash and lifted palm prompted a rush back into the kitchen to return with a vintage Tiffany silver ashtray.

“Wilma, Fred, and Bam-Bam,” she said. Nadine figured two fingers each of the Tennessee liquid ought to do it unless this priest wanted something different. If that was the case, she had wine cooling in the fridge.

Cole got Fred. Francois stared at the offered Bam-Bam glass, and then with quick, sure movements placed the cigarette in the ashtray and accepted the drink. He took a long and loud sniff of the bourbon, gave a grunt of satisfaction as he took a first sip, smacked his lips, and settled back, giving Mule a look with every bit as much attitude as Mule conveyed toward him. This was good to see, since the priest and Mule both needed to find personal demarcation even if it resembled the Maginot Line. The grunt of satisfaction struck her as a nice touch.

Nadine sat at her computer console and swung the chair around, planted her now flip-flop-less feet on the coffee table, and began rummaging through a Folgers coffee container filled with small bottles of nail polish.

“I suppose I could have offered something other than bourbon,” said Nadine. “I have some wine.”

“No, don’t go there,” said Cole. He smiled at Francois. The priest responded with a shrug.

“It’s good to see you, Cole. It really is. First time in Texas, Francois?”

Francois adjusted himself on the couch and said, “Oui. I have purchased a belt.”

She gandered at the snakeskin around his waist. “Nice. Are you celibate?”

“Oh, Nadine,” groaned Cole.

“It is part of my calling,” said Francois.

Cole rolled his eyes and cleared his throat. “Those murders were a bad, bad deal, Nadine. You and I aren’t going to see worse.”

“Meadow Green or Mystic Purple?” she asked, and lifted two small nail polishes from the container, then took the proffered cigarette, already lit by Francois.

“And this Moloch character. I just don’t know,” continued Cole.

“And the effect. To what effect?” asked Francois, as one hand gave a broad sweeping gesture, directed toward Nadine.

“Analytical but passionate. Vulnerable but in control. Right, Cole?” She didn’t take her gaze off the two bottles of polish.

Cole appeared undaunted by the other two’s conversation and said, “This isn’t the usual crime story. Not by a long shot. Something is going on. Some connectivity I cannot get my head around.”

“Pourpre. Purple,” said Francois.

Nadine pursed her lips. “Yup. I think you’re right.”

Francois took a sip and said, “For such lovely feet, one may wish to improve on those.” He pointed with his chin at her Walmart flip-flops.

“Folks, this is serious. Nadine, pay attention please,” said Cole.

She heeded Cole’s admonition to a small degree. “I’ve got nothing on Mr. Moloch yet. But I will, bucko. I will,” she said, shaking the purple nail polish and waving her other hand in the general direction of all the computer equipment. “Retro. Very much a throwback to simpler times,” she said to Francois, pointing at the flip-flops.

 

 

You can find Pretty Little Creatures on Goodreads

You can buy Pretty Little Creatures here:
Amazon
Amazon Paperback

First book in the series:
The Unknown ElementThe Unknown Element (The Challenged World #1)
By Vince Milam
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Age category: Adult
Release Date: March 3, 2015

Blurb:
Three very different individuals. A dark force rising. The chase begins. A reserved small town sheriff in pursuit of justice. A beautiful and eccentric technology genius striving to understand. A bon vivant French priest committed to finding answers.

A horrific event in a sleepy Gulf Coast town pulls them together and the trio find themselves on a quest for the truth about good and evil, travelling first to Wales and the scene of another shocking nightmare, then on to the ISIS killing fields of Syria where the stakes rise even higher.

Can these three dissimilar people find answers without driving each other crazy? Can they survive while Middle East factional war rages around them? They need to, because the potential fate of millions hangs on it.

You can find The Unknown Element on Goodreads

You can buy The Unknown Element here:
Amazon
Amazon Paperback

Vince MilamAbout the Author:
VINCE MILAM has lived all over the world, traipsing through the Amazon, Congo, and Papua New Guinea—all the while demonstrating bourbon has medicinal qualities. Raised in Texas, he lives in the mountainous West where he proves—annually—that God doesn’t want us driving on snow. He relishes great reads, fine trout streams, family, old friends, and—especially—writing fast-paced thrillers with a dose of humor and a spiritual twist.

The first two books in the Challenged World series rank high on the Amazon lists in both Thrillers/Terrorism and Christian/Mystery. You can visit him at www.vincemilam.com to learn about new releases and writer’s angst. He can also be visited at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006177615953 or on Twitter @vince_milam

You can find and contact Vince here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Pretty Little Creatures. These are the prizes you can win:
– 5 ebook sets which include the following ebooks: The Unknown Element and Pretty Little Creatures by Vince Milam

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