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Author Showcase – Tricia Copeland (Kingdom of the Damned: Kingdom Journals series)

Volume 1 (Kingdom Journals)

Alena’s story -$0.99 in ebook, Free on Kindle Unlimited)

He wouldn’t understand. He didn’t live in a pretend world. In truth, he did. Most beings, pure humans, walked around thinking they were the only type of people that existed.” –Alena

As a creature forbidden by both vampire and witch cultures, Alena is forced hide her identity. Her mother moves them from city to city searching for answers. When Alena finds Hunter everything changes. She believes their bond may be the. But her mother finds Theron, an equally handsome and mysterious suitor. Will the truth of his intentions be uncovered before it is too late? Or will her Mother’s kingdom be reduced to embers?

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 Volume 2 (Kingdom Journals)

Camille’s story – Free on Kindle Unlimited

“… the previous night’s vision, or whatever it was, ended with a name I heard clear as day, as if the people were in my room. Ivy, the girl and boy recited together.” – Camille Could her dreams be real? Is she the key to freeing witches from their curse? Of course not, right? Thinking that her only chance at a normal life lay in a new treatment, Camille joins Dr. Antos and a group of teens for a month long camping trip in Iceland. There she meets Jude, a fellow schizophrenic. Dr. Antos invites Camille and Jude to extend their work with him on the island of Sardinia. Camille is suspicious of Dr. Antos’s intentions but her dad goes missing, leaving her no choice but to travel to Italy. Is she walking into a lion’s den or has her illness invaded her reality?

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Volume 3: (Kingdom Journals)

Jude’s Story: Free on Kindle Unlimited

Jude only knows one thing: he must rescue Camille. It doesn’t matter what must be done to save her from the evil coven, he will do it. But once she’s recovered, what will his role be? How does he fit into the trinity’s prophecy? Find out in this urban fantasy adventure novel that finds the Kingdom Journals characters traversing the globe in search of Camille, and the key to breaking an age-old curse.

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~ Newest Release! ~

Volume 4: Anne’s Story

Kingdom of the Damned is a stand-alone prelude to the Kingdom Journals Series.

“…he that believeth not shall be DAMNED” – Mark 16:16

In 1557, witches burn her home and family. She escapes with the help of a family friend and they hide among humans. At seventeen, another atrocity ignites Anne’s passion for justice. Circumventing the globe, she seeks to unite the vampires and build peace. Powerful enemies amass against them, but her friends number many, including a surprising and mysterious hero. In a war for survival, love feels extravagant, and heroes don’t always prevail. Can she best her enemy and find happiness at last?

 

 

Foreword

The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

cursed are you above all cattle,

and above all wild animals;

upon your belly you shall go,

and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life.”

Genesis 3:14

 

The Edict of Châteaubriant, signed 27 June 1551 by King Henry II of France, censored Protestant rhetoric and enabled seizure of funds for punishment. The Edict of Compiègne, of 24 July 1557, allowed the death penalty for crimes of heresy. The witch community, garbed in the Catholic faith, hunted and killed vampires under the guise of bringing the pagans to justice.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Mabon – The Fall Equinox – 21 September 1557, France, during the reign of King Henry II

 

A vampire has memories from the time they are born. I recall my mother’s face and her warm skin, the sound of her voice. I’ll see you tonight in your beautiful red dress. I love you. She kisses my forehead.

In the evening, I slide the garment over my head, and Elizabeth curls my hair with a hot iron rod. She fits the sash around my waist and into a large bow on my back. I sit in a chair, waiting for the sun to set as she dresses her children for the party. Her daughter Elle twirls in a circle, making her skirt fan out. Even though Elle is older, I am as tall as her, because she and her brother, Hank, are halflings.

Hank is two like me, but not as big or smart. He fiddles with his collar buttoned tight around his neck. As the sky grows dark, I climb atop the chair near the window, impatient to be united with my family and to begin the festivities. An orange glow rises over the hill where my house lies in the next valley. The color looks different than any sunset I remember.

I run to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, the sky.”

“What child?”

“Come see.” I grab her hand and pull her to the window.

As I push up on my toes to look out the glass, I see flames shooting above the ridge. Men carrying torches summit the hill and race towards us. At one’s signal, they circle the house, making a ring around Elizabeth’s cottage.

“Finn!” Elizabeth yells.

“There’s no way out.” Finn’s eyes dart around the room. I can smell the fear rolling off his skin.

Elizabeth points out the window to a tall tree. “When we open the door, run.”

Wide-eyed, I nod. Elizabeth scoops up Elle, and Finn grabs Hank. Opening the door, they sprint towards the forest. I dart off in the opposite direction. A large dog barks on my heels, but I am fast and reach the tree before the animal overtakes me. Low branches form stairs, and I jump to the first. I feel a tug at my skirt and hear it rip as I reach for the second limb. I catch it and swing to a higher branch. The beast jumps and yelps, but I focus on the limbs above. The branches become thinner, and the space between them shorter as I climb, hand over foot, until I feel the trunk sway with my weight.

Looking down, I see the men with the torches have surrounded Elizabeth and her family. Flames close in on them, engulfing the group in smoke. A bitter smell assaults my nose. The men douse the flames, and when the air clears, I see forms lying on the charred ground. I watch as the men retreat, leaving Elizabeth and her family lying atop the charred grass.

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Tricia lives in Colorado with her family and four-legged friends. She writes young and new adult fiction including fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, and romance titles. If not out on the trail, you can find Tricia on your favorite social media!
Find Tricia and her books at www.triciacopeland.com or on your favorite social media.

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Author Showcase – Sorchia Dubois (Just Like Gravity)

  • Take Anna, a reluctant fortuneteller driven half-mad by nightmares.
  • Add one large, arrogant Scotsman on the run from Glasgow gangsters, a crazy ex-wife, and a brother-in-law who wants him dead.
  • Stir in murder, lost treasure, tarot cards, ghosts, past lives, and karma.
  • Sprinkle repeatedly with generous portions of Laphroaig Scotch whisky.
  • Let simmer in the Highlands for 300 years.

What you get is Just Like Gravity, a contemporary paranormal romance set in the Scottish Highlands. Just Like Gravitycombines reincarnation and mystery in an action-packed tale of star-crossed lovers.  Can Anna navigate the churning waters of Destiny? Will her dreams and tarot cards show her the way or is she doomed to relive the same tragedy over and over and over?

 
 
 
 
~~ Excerpt ~~
 
The sense of smell is the most evocative of the senses. An odor coaxes hidden memories into the open more efficiently than sight, sound, or feel. The scent of cinnamon and cloves takes me back to Yule celebrations when Mother was alive. Sage, fennel, and oregano put me in her herb garden at the summer solstice. Now the peaty, iodine-laced whisky spun me backward in time to the stairwell at the pub in Laggan the night before. I smelled Davy MacKintosh’s warm Laphroaig-laced breath on my neck and felt his solid weight against me.
 
What was it about the smell of peat, the taste of whisky, even the damp chill in the air that pulled unbidden images to the edge of remembrance? I closed my eyes, inviting visions in from the dark. They danced tantalizingly on the border of awareness, feral cats just out of reach. A voice called for me, familiar, compelling, promising pain. My eyes sprang open. My hand rose to touch my throat. Eternal, enduring, infinite agony seared me. I stepped back from water deeper than my craft.
 
The answer was here. Somewhere amongst the hills and lochs of the Highlands. But it would not be coaxed into the open just yet.
 
 
 
 
Amazon reviewer, Laura Hartland 5⭐: This is not your average romance, or your average paranormal romance, for that matter. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much—I tend to favor the offbeat and the unusual. From the first words of the first scene, when Anna and Davy meet in a downpour on a Scottish hillside, I was hooked. No ordinary hero, Davy MacKintosh begins by insulting the woman who will not only become his love in this lifetime, but has been his love through many lifetimes. The story, written in three distinct parts that move through various periods in Scottish history, shows us that Anna and Davy, in other guises, have failed over and over again to find togetherness. Now he’s an apparent hard-drinking, fist-fighting Highland ne’er-do-well and she’s fed up with men, but there’s magic at work here…magic that spans the centuries. There’s also a villain who travels with them through time and treasure and a spooky Pictish broch and …
I won’t spoil it by telling too much here. I’ll just say I enjoyed every word, lapped up the love scenes and sighed over Anna and Davy’s need for each other. True romance and some of the best writing I’ve read in the while. It deserves six stars.
 
Amazon reviewerSumner Wilson 5⭐: A wonderful paranormal tale seen through the eyes of Anna Farquharson, a North American woman on vacation in Scotland.

Mariel’s story begins in Scotland in 1604.

Barney’s begins in Scotland in 1939.

All three are linked, and in case of Mariel and Anna, are more than linked. Keep your eyes on these two. This tale has great adventure. There are murders and murderers in the book. We have love and much lust. Anna and her boyfriend. Davy McIntosh drink enough scotch whiskey to float a you-know-what, But no more than what’s needed. They go through some really tough times. Whiskey is needed, and they find it by the barrel. Plus they never miss a chance to shed their clothes, inside, outside, and by the side of the pond.

Scorchia Dubois can really write. Just Like Gravity moves fast, has great humor, and even greater suspense.

I loved the book. I’m fixin’ to give it 5-stars.

 
Amazon reviewerJClark  5⭐: Spellbinding from beginning to end and a lovely jaunt through Scotland to boot. Makes you look at your enemies in present time in a whole new light.
 
 
 
 
 

Award-winning author Sorchia Dubois lives in the piney forest of the Missouri Ozarks with seven cats, two fish, one dog, and one husband.

A proud member of the Scottish Ross clan, Sorchia incorporates all things Celtic (especially Scottish) into her works. She can often be found at Scottish festivals watching kilted men toss large objects for no apparent reason.

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Author Showcase – Tracy A. Ball (Left on Marriottsville: Our Secret Nook Anthology)

Authors join together to support anti-bullying efforts with their words. Each has chosen one of three prompts and created a short story for your enjoyment.

1. You’re alone in your home and you keep hearing someone call out your name. What do you do?

2. Walking through an art gallery you come across a painting of yourself as a child, but it was painted more than 100 years ago.
How is this possible?

3. Driving on a dark, deserted road, your car breaks down, there is no cell service. A guy stops and offers you a ride. Do you take it? 

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Annalise is as brave as they come. That is until she gets stranded on a back road in an area that is ripe with culture-clash. Dennis is there to offer assistance if she can get a grip on her assumptions. Robbie’s arrival makes the challenge harder. Opposite of Dennis in every way, he calls to mind, a different set of judgments.

Accepting help from either man is a risk that will undoubtably offend the other— the only possible witness if things go wrong.

 

~~ Excerpt ~~

 

Headlights. A car came towards her. Help…or…uhh…not help… The vehicle rounded the curve, slowed as it passed her and kept going. 

“Wow.” She added ‘rude’ to her previous list of snobbish things to think about people who lived on Marriottsville Road.

Now, she really had to pee. “Oh god. This is terrible.” She rocked back and forth. Remembering her bladder put it into overdrive. Her options: none.

She opened the door an inch and listened. Nothing scurried, nothing charged. She opened it all the way and waited, just to be sure. Then, still clutching her phone she sprinted to the passenger side. When nothing jumped out at her, she held the phone in her teeth, yanked down her jeans and panties and tried to make the pee happen as fast as possible.

Relieving herself helped. She was outside the car and nothing happened. Now, she could put her overactive imagination to bed and think. She checked her cell. Still dead. 

The rustle of leaves and the snap of a twig made her hop on the hood, then the roof, petrified. A fox, a possum, a rabbit…something she wanted no part of crossed the road. 

That’s where she was when the second set of headlights landed on her. The car came from behind, slowing to a crawl when her hazards came into view. She hovered on her hood like a wide-eyed animal as the driver stopped alongside her, studied her a moment and drifted ahead. It was a man. Of course, it was. Smart people a.k.a. women, don’t drive on Marriottsville Road after dark. He pulled his car off the road and parked.

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Novelist, Reviewer, Content Editor, Blogger, T-shirt Wearer, and Professional Snacker; Tracy A. Ball is a native Baltimorean and a veteran West Virginian whose family is blended from three cultures. She has opened her home to foster children, drug addicts, AIDS victims and anyone who needed an assist. She knows people who have committed murder and people who have dined with the Pope.

Which is why she writes sweet stories about tough love…and takes naps.

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Author Showcase – Jeffrey L. Kohanek (The Arcane Ward: Wardens of Issalia, Book Two)

A dark enemy rises, driven by radical beliefs and armed with destructive weapons. The Wardens must respond.

Urgency forces ICON to accelerate the training of their new recruits, for a new Empire has captured the eastern kingdoms and seeks to conquer all of Issalia. Although a raw and untested squad, the Wardens might be the only hope of stopping this imposing threat.

Everson is a gadgeteer, tasked with harnessing a magical power source. Leveraging his brilliance, he enhances existing machines and creates new inventions that astound his superiors. His next amazing discovery might save lives…or it could destroy them.

Destined to become an espion, Quinn hones her skills in preparation of her first mission. Intense training, combined with her fierce determination and fearless nature, transforms her into something more…something lethal. However, skills of a different nature are required when she finds herself alone and surrounded by enemies in a land far from home.

Joined by magic-wielding royal twins and a small group of veterans, these individuals shall become Issalia’s shield against monsters and tyranny. Regardless of what occurs, ICON must remain vigilant, for the machinations of their enemy extend far beyond what anyone suspects.

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Parker Thanes pushed the tavern door open, stepped inside, and was greeted by a cacophony of cheers and laughter. The smell of salt air mixed with stale beer and unwashed bodies made him grimace. I don’t understand why she likes these places.

He pushed through the crowd as he headed toward the bar. Jostled sailors, spilled drinks, and a trail of curses followed in his wake. Ignoring the upset men, he scanned the crowded tavern until he approached his destination.

A hefty woman in her middle years stood behind the bar. The brunette filled a pair of tankards, turned, and placed them before two bearded men, one of whom had a pale scar on his tanned face, the wound running from his forehead to his cheek. After pocketing two coppers, she shifted her focus to Parker.

“Hello, Tess,” Parker greeted the barkeep.

“I’m glad you showed. Things are getting out of hand.”


Parker frowned. “Where is she?”


Tess flipped her head to the side. “Around back. You might want to hurry.”


Stifling a sigh, Parker forced his way around the far end of the bar. He turned the corner and found a thick crowd – the source of the cheers that arose earlier. Another round of shouts erupted, fists pumping into the air. He forced his way into the mass of bodies, emerging to find the back area open but for two people.

A man – tall and sinewy, with shorn dark stubble on his head and cheeks – stood facing a woman. She was short, even for a female. With blond hair that ran to her shoulders, she was dressed in a simple tunic, cinched at the waist with a studded belt. Her brown breeches were tucked into tall black boots, each with a knife strapped to them, matching the knives strapped to each thigh. Between the two was a round table with a dozen mugs on it. The man lifted a mug and drank, foam running to his chin as he chugged the ale. When finished, he tipped the mug upside down and slammed it on the table, where it joined the other empty tankards. Cheers rose up from the crowd while the man shook his head to clear it.

As the crowd quieted, the woman grabbed the last full mug and lifted it to her lips, emptying its contents without pausing for a breath. When finished, she lowered it, stumbled, and blinked, her blue eyes glazing over. A mixture of laughter and mutters came from the crowd until she flipped the mug over and slammed it down beside the others.

The man scowled, twisting a tanned face marked by a gold ring through one nostril. “Now, we will see who is better.”

He pulled a dagger from the sheath on his hip and gripped it by the blade. Turning away from the crowd, the man cocked his arm back and threw the knife, striking a hair below the intersection of an X carved into a wooden post fifteen feet away. He drew and threw another knife, which landed just above the first, the two hilts touching one another. When he turned back, his grin revealed the noticeable gap of a missing tooth.

“Your turn, Tenzi. Let’s see if a sodden girl like you can even hit that post.”

The woman moved toward the man, stumbling as she pushed him aside. As Tenzi stared at him, swaying, a satisfied smirk crossed the man’s face.

“Watch this,” Tenzi mumbled.

Her eyes seemed to transform, her half-mast lids narrowing with intensity as she stared at the man. Tenzi spun about, her hands a blur as a dagger appeared in each and flew toward the post. Without pausing, she unleashed the daggers strapped to her legs and they joined the first pair. A bend and a flick sent the two knives from her boots into the post. She then reached behind her back, pulled a blade from her belt, and flung it.

The seven knives perfectly formed an X, with the last blade landing directly on the intersection of the carved target, somehow fitting between the man’s two thrown blades. The crowd fell silent, the moment lasting a few breaths before loud cheers and shouts erupted. Heads shook in amazement as the men and women surrounding Parker began exchanging coins from bets placed.

Tenzi held her open palm toward the man. “Pay up, Ridley.”

The man snarled. “Leave off, Tenzi. I’m keeping my silver.”

In a flash, Tenzi had a knife in her hand and pressed against the man’s throat. “Didn’t know I had a blade strapped to my upper back, huh? I find it wise to always have an extra, just in case.”

With narrowed eyes, Ridley glared for a long moment before his lips pressed together and he slowly dug out a coin purse. Tenzi pulled the blade away and held out her other hand. After setting five silvers in her palm, he shook his head.

“Another ale and I would have had you.”


Tenzi smirked, gripping the coins in her fist. “Perhaps. Not today, though.”


The crowd began to disburse with many heading toward the bar for another drink. Parker shifted closer to Tenzi, frowning at her grin.


“Why do you spend time in these seedy places?”


Tenzi shrugged. “A girl’s gotta have a little fun now and then.”


Parker snorted. “I know you. Nothing you do is little.”


She moved toward the post and began retrieving her blades. “Why are you here? I thought you were staying on the ship tonight.”


“I was, but Joely and Hex came back early. They said that four others got into a fight at The Wind Sock tavern and were arrested.”


Tenzi slid two daggers back into the sheaths on her thighs, rolled her eyes, and grabbed the last three knives. “Again? Why can’t they stay out of trouble?”


Parker raised a brow. “I wonder who may have taught them to cause trouble.”


“You’re hilarious.” Tenzi slid a knife up each sleeve and waved toward Parker. “Let’s go. It looks like Ridley’s silver is going toward bail money, straight from him to the city coffers.”

Parker turned and squirmed through the crowd with the much smaller Tenzi in his wake. When he stepped out into the alley, the noise of the bar quieted and was replaced by a distant boom, followed by shouts and screams. With a furrowed brow, he led Tenzi down the alley and to the lit street.

People ran past in all directions, some heading toward the city wall, others toward the docks. Cries filled the air only to be engulfed by the boom of a distant explosion.

“To the docks!” Tenzi broke into a run.

Parker ran after her as she weaved her way through the foot traffic and around carts. They emerged from Downside – the portion of the Sol Polis that lay between the city wall and the docks – and found people crowding onto the pier. A flash of green flames erupted from a ship moored to the docks. People on the pier screamed and tried to reverse direction as the flames on the ship turned from green to orange.

“Flashbombs!” Parker shouted. “Someone is launching flash bombs!”


“That was a fleet ship,” Tenzi said. “We have to get the fleet out of the harbor.”

Fighting against the crowd, Parker and Tenzi pushed their way through oncoming traffic and onto the pier. An explosion blasted water into the air, sending two nearby ships rocking as seawater rained down on them. Running, Parker led Tenzi down the pier, running beside a handful of sailors trying to get to their ships.

“Why did we have to moor on the end this time?” Parker groaned as he ran.

They ran past the ship on fire. The flames had burned the length of the mooring rope and were licking the post tied to it. An explosion to the other side knocked them off their feet, Parker almost falling into the water as he gripped the pier edge. He sat up and turned toward the ship that had been struck. A wall of green flames raged upon it, turning orange as it spread. Burning debris lay scattered on the pier. Body parts as well. Tenzi cried out and frantically swatted the smoldering leg of her breeches.

Parker’s focus shifted toward the shoreline, and he saw armed soldiers running toward the pier. His eyes widened and he grabbed Tenzi’s wrist. “We need to run!”

Following his gaze, she saw the force collide with the crowd, cutting through them without resistance. Parker and Tenzi scrambled to their feet and ran toward the ship at the end of the pier. While Parker had never moved faster, he seemed be running in slow motion, the distance between him and the ship closing at an agonizingly slow pace. Until, finally, they reached it.

“What’s happening?” Shashi called out from the rail.


“Sol Polis is under attack.” Tenzi shouted. “Make ready to set sail!”


Parker reached the plank first and ran up it, heading straight for the pilot deck. Behind him, Tenzi shouted.


“I need Stein. Is he here?”

“Yes. Below deck,” Joely replied.

“Get him up here. Now!”

Sailors scrambled about the ship, some untying it from the mooring while others began preparing the lines. Parker turned toward shore and found dozens of armed men charging the pier.

Joely reappeared with Stein in tow, the latter rubbing sleep from his eyes.

“Stein. We need to take down the pier before those men reach us.” Tenzi pointed toward the soldiers and Stein’s jaw dropped. Without a word, he ran down the plank.

Parker unshouldered his bow and drew an arrow. He nocked it and prepared to fire. His gaze landed on Stein and found the man kneeling on the pier, tracing a rune with a chunk of glowstone. An explosion sent a thump into Parker’s chest as a wall of green flames blasted from the nearest ship. Again, flaming debris rained upon the pier and into the sea. Stein scrambled to his feet and ran up the plank as the enemy soldiers stormed down the pier. The moment Stein was on board, Shashi kicked the plank aside and it fell into the water. With its lines untied, New Horizons, the flagship of the Kalimar Navy, drifted from its mooring.

“Climb the rigging!” Tenzi called orders as she scrambled to the quarterdeck. “Raise mainsails!” She turned to Parker. “I’ll steer. You shoot.”

Nodding, he shifted away from the wheel and shot, the arrow arcing before it fell. A soldier in the vanguard stumbled to his knees and was bowled over by his companions. Another arrow launched as the rune on the dock began to glow a bright red. The rune pulsed while a third arrow found a target, striking a soldier who spun around and fell into the water. A fourth arrow struck an enemy soldier in the throat as the force reached the end of the pier. Archers stopped and raised bows toward the ship as the glow beneath them faded, the rune falling dark.

In a violent blast, the closest half of the pier exploded, launching debris and bodies into the air. Parts of both rained into the sea while angry red energy crackled and sizzled in glowing bolts that arced across the broken pier and the surface of the water. The portion of the pier that lay closer to shore remained, as did the soldiers who hadn’t made it any further.

As New Horizons gained speed and sailed out from Sol Polis, another explosion emerged from within the city. Based on its location, Parker surmised that the tower of flames came from the citadel. The city was lost. The capital of Kalimar had fallen in surprise attack. Again.

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** Keep scrolling for more reading material! **

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Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination.

Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all.

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Author Showcase – Jana Richards (Flawless) (Chill Out) (Burning Love)

France, 1942. The world is at war. The Nazis have stolen the infamous blue diamond, Le Coeur Bleu, intending to barter it for weapons that will destroy the Allies. Jewel thief Hunter Smith is given a choice; help the French Resistance steal back the diamond and avenge the death of his best friend, or stay locked up in an English prison. He chooses revenge.

Resistance fighter Madeleine Bertrand’s husband died when he was betrayed by Hunter Smith. How can she now pretend to be married to the arrogant American? How can she betray Jean Philippe’s memory by her passionate response to Hunter’s kisses? Neither is prepared for the maelstrom of attraction that erupts between them. To survive they must uncover the mysteries of the past and conquer the dangers of the present. But first Madeleine must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband and the Resistance or with the greatest love of her life.

 

 

“From now on you will be known as Jacques Lemay, Monsieur Smith.”

Monsieur Gagnon filled his pipe, dropping bits of tobacco onto his wife’s immaculate floor. Madeleine sat off to one side of Monsieur Gagnon’s kitchen, watching as Madame Gagnon prepared breakfast for her husband and their “guest.”

Madeleine silently seethed as Smith—non, Lemay—helped himself to another piece of bread. Did he have to eat so much? Didn’t he know that food was scarce here in Lille, just as it was all over France? 

She listened as Smith handed over the new two-way radio to Monsieur Gagnon and explained its use.

“It’s supposed to have a clearer and stronger signal than the radio you’re using now,” Smith said. He flipped a few dials to illustrate. “They also told me it is easier to scramble the signal to avoid detection.”

“Bon.” Monsieur Gagnon beamed in pleasure. “Good communications are essential to our work. Thank you for bringing it.”

“No problem. What else can you tell me about my cover here?”

“You are to work as a junior gardener at the chateau. I wrote to the head gardener, as if I was you, inquiring about work. He’s desperate for help. The Germans have rounded up many young Frenchmen and shipped them east to work in factories in Germany, so there are few able-bodied men available. You start tomorrow.”

He paused as his wife set a bowl of porridge in front of him. Monsieur Gagnon could not be connected with Jacques Lemay in any way; their comings and goings to this house had to be done with the utmost discretion. Madeleine knew the importance of keeping Monsieur Gagnon and his wife safe. He was the heart of their operation, their connection to the outside world through the radio he operated. If something went wrong and Hunter Smith was captured, it was crucial that no trails led back to Monsieur Gagnon. The safety of their réseaux, their Resistance network, depended on it. She hoped Smith understood the danger.

“I said in the letter that you had not worked as a gardener before, so he is not expecting you to know the difference between a delphinium and a dianthus.” Monsieur Gagnon poured milk onto his porridge. “But he is expecting you to work hard. If you don’t, you could be fired, or your cover could be blown.”

“I can manage.”

“The job might require a little more than sticking a shovel in the ground occasionally and spreading a bit of manure,” Madeleine said. The others turned to stare at her.

She immediately regretted her sarcastic remark, regretted throwing his words in his face. She shouldn’t let this man get to her, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. They needed to work together for the sake of the mission. But she hated him. After what he’d done to Jean Philippe…

Hunter’s gaze locked with hers, and the heat of his anger scorched her clear across the room. She refused to back down from the challenge in his stare. She’d be damned if she’d let him intimidate her.

“Madeleine, enough.” Monsieur Gagnon spoke sharply. “Regardless of your feelings, we need him. He is our only hope for getting the diamond out of the hands of the Nazis.”

He was right. If they couldn’t steal Le Coeur Bleu, Jean Philippe would have died for nothing. She couldn’t let that happen.

She inhaled deeply and looked away. “All right. We’ll work together.”

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Renata Cabral needs to hide for the weekend. Her cousin’s Valentine’s Day wedding means she’ll face embarrassing questions from her large, extended family. Questions like “Why aren’t you married yet?” Since the breakup of her last relationship, she’s not ready to answer that question. She invents a work-related excuse and escapes to a friend’s lakeside cottage.

Noah Brownlee has been hiding for two years. But now he’s ready to come home and mend his broken relationship with his brother. When a friend offers the use of his lakeside cottage, Noah arrives in the middle of a blizzard with his English Mastiff, only to find the place is already occupied. With her big brown eyes and quirky sense of humor, Renata stirs feelings he thought long dead.

As the blizzard rages, the candy hearts predict love. Can Valentine’s Day work its magic between them?

 

The bedroom door swung open and Renata stood in the opening wearing a short robe that revealed her lovely legs. A light floral fragrance drifted to his nose—he envisioned a field of flowers. Spike brushed past her and entered the room.

“Oh! I didn’t realize you were with Spike.”

“I’m sorry. When he gets a notion, he’s pretty hard to stop. I’ll get him out.”

“No, that’s okay. I don’t mind having him in my room. Besides, I doubt you could make him leave if he doesn’t want to.”

She was probably right. “You’re sure? He snores something awful. And did I mention the drool?”

She smiled. “Yes, I discovered the delights of sleeping with Spike last night. But I have to admit, I kind of like having the big lug around.”

“You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“I’m sure.” She took a step backward into her room, holding the door between them. “I should get some sleep.”

“Yeah.”

She hesitated, as if waiting for him to speak. For a moment he thought she was going to invite him into her room. But then she swallowed and lowered her gaze.

“Goodnight, Noah. Sleep well.”

“Goodnight.”

She quietly closed the door. Noah’s heart beat frantically as he stood outside. He wanted her in a way he hadn’t felt in a very long time, a deep primal urge, an overwhelming desire. Should he knock, ask to come in, ask to spend the night with her? Should he throw caution to the wind and let her know how he felt?
He raised his hand, ready to knock. What if he’d misread the way she’d responded to his kiss? Were his feelings for her simply a product of their isolation together? If she made love with him tonight, would she later regret it?

Fear slapped him in the gut. He couldn’t face another rejection. He let his hand drop to his side and walked to his room.

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After causing three cooking fires in her apartment, Iris Jensen finds herself evicted and homeless. She lands on Riley Benson’s doorstep, looking to rent a room in the beautiful old home he’s restoring. It’s only for six weeks until Iris leaves Portland, Oregon for her new job on a cruise ship. Firefighter Riley knows firsthand what a bad tenant she can be. But he needs money to finish the work on the house he loves. And something about Iris pulls at his heart…

Meanwhile, in Heaven, two angels watch over the young lovers. Angelica and Hildegard work in Heaven’s Relationship Division, where angels match mortals with their soul mates. The angels believe so strongly in Iris and Riley’s love that they break Heaven’s rules to help them. Can the angels convince them their love will last a lifetime?

 

~~ Excerpt ~~

Riley looked into her beautiful blue eyes and her smiling face and did the only thing he was capable of doing at the moment.

He kissed her.

Maybe later, he told himself, when sanity returned, he’d think of a hundred reasons why pulling Iris into his arms, holding her snug against his body, and plundering her soft, sweet mouth was not a good idea. But for now, right now, as she wound her arms around his neck and made tiny sounds of excitement deep in her throat, it felt exactly right.

Heaven. Having Iris in his corner made him believe everything was possible.

He stepped backward toward the stairs, pulling Iris with him, intent on taking her upstairs to his room. He suddenly tripped, nearly losing his balance. He glanced behind him and saw the object he’d stumbled over. A set of luggage sat next to the stairs, still bearing tags from the retailer.

“What the hell is this?”

Iris kissed his neck. “I’m sorry. I should have taken them up to my room.”

Iris had bought new luggage for her trip. Her plans hadn’t changed.

She’s leaving me.

The thought acted as effectively as a bucket of cold water tossed over his head. What was he doing? She was leaving in three weeks and didn’t plan to return. The calendar in the kitchen reminded him of that every day. Why start something that would only lead to heartache?

He’d already lost too many people in his life.

And Riley instinctively knew that if he let himself get close to Iris, let himself love her, a part of him would not survive when she left.

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When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.

In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com

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