Whitley & Austin, Where Truth and Fiction Meet by Parker Paige @parkerpaige86

Daylight savings time brought in the night sky earlier this time of year. At five o’clock, darkness had already fallen when Charlie arrived home. It would have helped to open her mini-blinds once in a while. Instead, they remained closed while she enjoyed the sense of freedom it induced, freedom to do whatever, without being watched.

Her visit to her family’s gravesite seemed to have worsened her mental state. She believed that maybe, just maybe, if she traveled there a second time, she might finally move past her anguish. She wanted to move forward, but at that point, all she wanted to do was go to sleep and never wake up.

Her once semi-contented spirit was now replaced with a somber one, and she considered taking a nap in the early evening. After she thawed out from the cold, she poured herself a glass of Chardonnay in her rose-colored champagne glass. She didn’t even bother to remove her coat as she stood at the kitchen counter. She began drinking after the death of her family, probably because her sister used to drink wine with her dinner all the time. Somehow Charlie adopted that habit as her own. Only in Charlie’s case, more times than not, no dinner accompanied this new practice. Though not a permanent solution, it served its purpose for now.

Charlie hung up her coat and after two long sips of Chardonnay, she found herself standing in the center of the living room. Her eyes panned across several eclectic hand-painted pictures of flowing water, which lay on the floor against the sofa.

With the temperature outside reaching almost freezing, winter made its presence to the city early, but she found great comfort from the intense heat that circled her apartment. Her eyes perused the mantle of the framed family portrait. She couldn’t help but focus on her sister. The picture seemed to stare back at her as she remembered how her sister Sandy always cared for her, looked out for her and encouraged her to value herself for her own unique abilities and talents. Now Sandy was gone, all because of the secret life she chose to live, a secret life which led to her demise.

Encouraging, compassionate, adventurous and free-spirited were the words that best described her sister, Sandy, which explained Charlie’s private wish to be like her. Charlie felt her eyes well up with tears; so much that she could barely see the picture in front of her. She then headed into the bathroom and stood in front of the bathroom mirror. She stared at the bun in her hair, which gave her the appearance of an astute and very plain-Jane librarian. When she removed the large hairpin, her dark brown hair splashed against her shoulders. A few grey strands patterned the sides of her head, and it could only be stress because she was only a few days shy of her thirtieth birthday. With a somber expression on her face, Charlie stared at her reflection in the mirror, the tears trailing down her face.

How could she go on without her family?

How could she go on without her sister Sandy? She just wanted the pain to stop, all the suffering and all the heartache. As she contemplated putting an end to her emotional pain, she removed the belt from her corduroy pants, then gently placed the belt around her neck. With a determined gesture, she buckled the belt around her neck. She pulled it snug, tighter and tighter until she could hardly breathe and a wonderful thought came to mind.

This could end it all. Right here. And right now. All the suffering and all the heartache could be a thing of the past, and she would not have to live another day. Charlie continued to stare at the reflection of hopelessness on her face and surprisingly, out of nowhere, she heard a female voice ring out from the other room, calling her name.

“Charlieeeee? Charlieeeeeee?”

It startled her, and she thought she must be hearing things, but as quickly as she dispelled the voice, it rang out again. This time louder and longer.

“Charlieeeee? Charlieeeeeee?”

The voice sounded so familiar, too familiar. It was the voice of her sister, Sandy. Charlie released the belt from her neck and hurried into the front room. But the voice mysteriously stopped. Charlie stood there motionless, wiping the tears from her eyes, wondering if she was losing her mind when she heard the voice again.

“Charlieeeee? Charlieeeeeee?”

This time it came directly from the full-length hall mirror, framed with dark red trimming. Charlie approached the mirror fast, and to her amazement, in her own reflection was an image of her sister Sandy. She was as beautiful as always, long curly red hair, flawless makeup and a smile that could light up any room. She was draped with expensive shiny earrings and necklaces to match. She was the elegant side of Charlie, if Charlie possessed red hair and were not so plain looking. If this was how you look once you die, then Charlie could not wait until it was her turn.

But this didn’t make any sense. How could her sister be in her reflection when her sister was dead? In shock, Charlie turned her eyes away from the mirror for a moment before returning her focus to it, but, still, an image of her smiling sister remained.

“Is that you, Sandy?” Charlie asked.

“How are you, Charlie?”

“It is you,” Charlie uttered in amazement. She was stumped for words. Here she was having a conversation with her dead sister. “I don’t understand. I thought you were─”

“Dead,” Sandy said, finishing Charlie’s sentence. “I’ve been so worried about you, Charlie. I thought you might need someone to talk to.”

“You did?” Charlie asked, as a tear made its way down her face.

Her sister’s words brought back many memories, memories of times when her sister stepped in to comfort her in times of great need. And now was definitely one of those times. Sandy seemed to have a flair for sensing when Charlie was in need of her assistance.

Charlie touched the mirror, hoping to connect with Sandy, but Sandy was just an image.

“I saw what you were about to do in there,” Sandy said. “I’m disappointed that you allowed yourself to become so hopeless.”

Charlie was speechless. Not just because her sister was right, but because she was curious how her sister always seemed to know these things.

“It’s certainly not the answer,” Sandy continued. “And I think you know that.”

“You’re right. I do know better. Of course I wasn’t really going to do it. I just needed to toy with the idea for a moment and exorcise my demons, if only to realize my foolishness.”

“Are you feeling any better now?”

“Only because you’re here with me. I miss you so much, Sandy. I don’t think I can make it without you.”

“Of course you can. You’re stronger than you think.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Do you remember who loves you no matter what?”

Charlie didn’t even think about it before she blurted out, “Sandy loves me.”

“That’s right and don’t you ever forget it. I have to go now, but we’ll talk again soon.”

“Don’t go, Sandy. Please don’t go.”

Charlie didn’t move her eyes from the mirror, hoping that if she didn’t blink, Sandy might not disappear. But it was no use.

Sandy was gone.

Whitley_Austin

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Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG-13

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Hindsight by Owen Banner @OwenBanner

Five

I, nervously, thumbed the coins in my left hand as I made my way down the sidewalk towards the payphone.

In my right hand, I flipped over the piece of paper that I’d pulled off the suitcase the night before. I had been flipping over the whole idea of this thing since waking up that morning.

As the coins bounced around like pinballs inside the payphone, I asked myself, Shirley, what are you doing?

I couldn’t come up with a straight answer. Money, that’s all I could think of. There was money in that briefcase. This guy, Isaac, had it, I needed it and money can make you do some crazy things.

“This is Isaac,” came the voice on the other end.

“I wanna know what’s goin’ on.”

“Ah, Mr. O’Shea, I was hopin’ you’d call. I take it that you opened the briefcase. You didn’t open the package, did you?”

“No.”

“That’s a good lad.”

That wasn’t exactly true. You see, I had found a package inside the briefcase, wrapped in brown paper. The paper read, “Mr. Lyndon James McAfee, 7 South Juniper Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107.” I scratched the bottom of it just to see what was inside. Nothin’ but an old watch box, but damn, it was heavy for a watch.

“I’ll tell you what, Shirley. There’s a grand Chinese restaurant called ‘The Beijing Duck’ just off of Market Street in Philadelphia. Why don’t you meet me there tomorrow at eleven o’clock in the morning?”

“You better bring some answers.”

“I will, and I’ll see you then, Shirley.”

I pushed the receiver down with my fingers to end the call. Then I replaced them with the phone. What are you doing, Shirley? I asked myself again.

Hindsight

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – R

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Infernal Gates by Michael J. Webb @mjwebbbooks

Chapter 5

After searching his home, verifying his wife and children had packed and taken clothes with them for their vacation to St. Thomas, Ethan had frantically called Quest Airways.

They’d confirmed what he already knew.

Flight 1485, his flight, had crashed shortly after take-off.

No other details were available. The woman he’d spoken with had asked if he had family or friends on the flight. Still in shock, he-d muttered, “Family—”

Now, he sat on the couch in the living room, his eyes glued to the big screen T.V. He knew he’d get more information from CNN than from Quest Airways.

“. . . this is Joan Archdale, live at CNN Center in Atlanta, with a Breaking News Update. Quest Airways Flight 1485, on its way from Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, crashed yesterday morning, approximately twenty-five minutes after take-off. Investigators are still—”

The anchorwoman paused. “We’re going now to CNN’s Don Reichert—”

Ethan sat forward as the scene on the TV switched to a middle-aged, balding man dressed in a short-sleeve shirt and Khaki pants.

“This is Don Reichert, reporting live from the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Georgia, approximately twelve miles from the town of Folkston, just north of the Florida state line. Behind me is the blackened, still smoldering, crash site of Quest Airways flight 1485—a huge crater at least forty feet deep and about three times as wide. It’s been a little over twenty-six hours since the A-320 Airbus, carrying one hundred forty-two passengers, and a crew of five, plunged nose-first into North America’s largest swamp. Although the cause of the crash is still unknown, an anonymous source told me that the residue of an explosive material has been found on a rectangular piece of metal tentatively identified as part of the door to the baggage compartment.”

“Does that mean investigators think this might be an act of terrorism?” the Atlanta-based anchorwoman asked.

“My source wasn’t willing to go that far,” Reichert replied. “I can confirm that the FBI has sent one of its top anti-terrorism experts to the crash site to work with the NTSB.”

“Any news about survivors?”

“From what I’ve seen it seems highly doubtful anyone on Flight 1485 made it out alive—”

The scene changed back to the news room in Atlanta.

Ethan hit the mute button.

The words “explosive residue,” “FBI,” and “criminal activity” raced through his mind—a harsh, threatening echo. He remembered, in stark detail, the sounds of the explosions, the terrified screams of his daughter, the panic in his son’s normally inquisitive eyes, the violent shaking of the aircraft, his desperate, unsuccessful efforts to hold on to his wife and calm her, and the last thing he saw before he blacked out—the gaping hole where the exit row had been.

He stood up and paced.

He needed rational, sensible answers—and he needed them now.

But who could he turn to?

The airline had set up a hotline, but they’d only give out limited information. The woman he’d spoken to over the phone recommended he come down to the Charlotte-Douglas airport. That option didn’t interest him. Hundreds of people would be demanding information the airline didn’t have, or wouldn’t release until it felt it was in their best interest to do so.

That could take days, or weeks.

Besides, as soon as the airline discovered who he was, they’d start asking questions he couldn’t answer.

He stopped pacing, stared at the TV, lost in thought.

As the reality of his situation sunk in, he cried out in agony, “Oh, God—not again,” then slumped to his knees.

When Ethan roused himself, it was dark.

He glanced at his watch. Six hours had passed since he’d fallen to the carpet!

He sat up, rested his back against the couch, and looked around the darkened room. The only light was that of the television screen. CNN was still on, but there were no further images being broadcast about the crash.

He hit the mute button, and the sound returned.

Another newscaster, this one a man, was interviewing an astronomer about the possibility of a rogue asteroid hitting the Earth. The anchor’s guest looked to be in his early thirties and had dirty- blond hair and sparkling grey-green eyes. “So, Professor Sharpe, you’re saying that we’re overdue for a strike by a killer asteroid—”

“We in the scientific community have come to realize the danger to humanity from asteroid or comet collisions is comparable to other natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods. However, where comet and asteroid collisions are concerned, we talk in terms of frequency of occurrence, rather than fatalities per year.”

“How often do these collisions occur?”

“About every half million years.”

“It’s been that long since the Earth was hit by a large asteroid?”

“Considerably longer. We’re way over due. It’s not a matter of if—but when. There was a near miss just over four thousand years ago, when a very large interloper—what we now believe was a rogue comet—came within fifty thousand miles of the Earth. We have a record of it in ancient Sumerian and Egyptian texts. If that happened today, we’d have less than ten hours notice to prepare for the end of life on Earth as we know it—”

Ethan sighed, stood up, turned on one of the lamps, then used the remote to turn off the TV. He had a lot more to worry about than a rogue comet hitting the Earth.

During his time on the floor an idea had come to him.

He headed for the kitchen and wondered if he could find something to eat.

He also wondered if tomorrow he’d find the answers he desperately needed.

Jeremy Sharpe stared up at the star-studded night sky above New South Wales, Australia. For the hundredth time in the past two weeks he was grateful he’d persevered through myriad difficulties and finished what he’d started nearly eight years previously.

Fourteen days ago he’d been awarded his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Cambridge University. Tonight, he was about to embark upon his first research project, in conjunction with members of the AAO—the Anglo-Australian Observatory. Four hours earlier, he’d finished an interview with CNN and his head was still spinning from the sudden interest in his controversial theory.

He picked up his backpack and headed for the three-story domed building in front of him.

After a prolific letter-writing campaign, coupled with a highly complementary reference letter from his mentor, Dr. Antoine Levy, his request for seven nights use of the UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory had been granted. Getting time on this particular telescope was no small accomplishment. Only thirty-five nights a year were allotted for visiting astronomers. This was the first time someone whose ink on their degree was still drying had been given twenty-percent of that time.

He opened the door at the first floor entrance, stepped inside.

He glanced around and noticed four pairs of eyes staring at him. Although he’d never met any of them, he knew the four astronomers in the room by reputation.

On his left were Chris Hawthorne, an Australian whose specialty was the origins of life, and Quentin Mallory, the boy wonder from Caltech who had set the astronomical world aflame three years earlier with his radical theories of red dwarf formation. To his right, were Russell Hathaway, who studied globular clusters and carbon stars, and Ian MacGregor, the Scotsman whose mathematical calculations had revolutionized the study of star formation in galaxies and shed new light on the origins of galactic halos.

Chris Hawthorne said, “Well, well, well—if it isn’t Dr. Levy’s star pupil. The Yank who thinks he’s a Brit and who’s come to set us mere mortals straight about the reality of the existence of Nemesis.”

“Don’t mind him,” Quentin interjected. The Cal Tech graduate reached out his hand. “When I first came on board six years ago, Hawk called me the Yank who’d come to set him straight on red dwarfs. He’s got a thing about letting all the ‘newbies’ know he’s the Alpha wolf.”

“Hawk?” Jeremy echoed as he shook Quentin’s hand.

“We gave that nickname to him because he watches the night skies like a hawk, searching for anything that will give him a clue to the origin of the universe,” Ian said, his voice thick with a Scottish brogue.

“Come on, I’ll show you the way to your cubicle,” Russell said.

Jeremy spent the next half hour unloading his backpack and setting up his desk. He only had a week here and he wanted to make every minute count.

By the time he’d finished he still had thirty minutes before his first shift on the telescope began. He intended to use that time to check out the new multi-object, fiber-optic, spectroscopy system before he got started. The new technology replaced the decommissioned FLAIR system that had been in place for the past thirteen years. It would cut down the time he needed for his research from months to days. Although the mathematics for his project had been around for years, the technology to prove his calculations was only just now catching up.

“You really think you’re going to find Nemesis?” Quentin asked, startling him.

Jeremy turned and faced the gangly astronomer. “I’m going to give it my best shot.” He frowned, then added, “Although, to be completely honest, part of me wants to fail.”

Quentin’s eyebrows shot up. “Come again?”

“If I do find Nemesis, it means we Earthlings have a lot more to worry about than global warming, or planetary overpopulation.”

“The other guys think you’re on a fool’s errand using valuable time on what most astronomers think is a wild goose chase—”

Before Jeremy could respond, Chris Hawthorne came around the corner. “Okay, Yank, it’s my responsibility to make certain you don’t mess up our multi-million dollar facility. Follow me and I’ll give you the run-down on how we do things around here.”

Infernal Gates

Ethan Freeman, ex-Special Forces Ranger, wakes up to discover he is the sole survivor of a fiery commercial airline crash that killed his entire family. His nightmare is only beginning when he becomes the FBI’s prime suspect. Only Ethan knows he’s not a cold-hearted murderer, but he has no idea what happened to him–and why he alone survived.

He finds an unlikely ally in Sam Weaver, the NTSB Chief Investigator. An ex-military pilot, Sam senses Ethan is innocent. She tries to remain dispassionate in her investigation of the crash even as she finds herself attracted to the man who may be America=s worst homegrown mass-murderer.

Neither Ethan nor Sam realize that shadowy spiritual forces are at work which will alter their lives forever.

A monstrous evil, imprisoned since the time of the Pharaohs, has been released by The Nine, a sinister group of powerful men and women who believe they are the direct descendants of the Anunnaki, ancient Sumerian gods. The demon they have unleashed intends to free The Destroyer from The Abyss, the angelic prison referred to in the Book of Revelation, and unleash a worldwide reign of terror and annihilation.

Facing impossible odds, time is running out for Ethan and all of humanity as he is drawn into an ever-deeper conspiracy–millennia in the making–and learns that he is the key to stopping The Nine. Will he overcome his deepest fears and find reserves of strength he never knew he had as he confronts pure evil in order to save himself and an unsuspecting world?

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Genre – Christian Thriller, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating – PG-13

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GIVEAWAY

The author is giving away the following prizes — mailed directly to the winner’s email address from Amazon.com.

PRIZES:

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DELETED SCENE TWO TEARS OF TESS – Pepper Winters @PepperWinters

DELETED SCENE TWO

TEARS OF TESS

Copyright PEPPER WINTERS

My lips parted. Oh my, was Brax playing with me? Finally! I nodded, not able to say a word. Could Mexico spice up our love-life, after all?

He gave me an indulgent smile, pulling me from my chair. Other guests at tables close by grinned as Brax hugged me. He whispered in my ear, “Let me swim for an hour. Then I’m all yours.”

My heart raced, kicking against my ribs. “Promise?”

He answered with a peck on my lips.

We left the outdoor restaurant, hands linked, carrying our beach bag with our kindles, sunscreen, and water. The best loungers around the pool had already been claimed. Couples and families all lay sweaty and content under the Mexican sun.

“We’ll go on the beach. I think I remember them saying you could hire cabanas for a few hours. Some shade would be good.”

I squeezed his hand. I knew he preferred to be in the sun, but I couldn’t handle much. My alabaster skin lived up to my last name, Snow, rather well. The sun liked to turn me into a burned shish-kabob rather than bronzed goddess. Guilt crushed me with the force of a heavy wave. After everything Brax gave me, after how considerate and kind he’d been… why did I still need more? I was a heartless bitch who didn’t deserve him.

Tears of Tess

Tess Snow has everything she ever wanted: one more semester before a career in property development, a loving boyfriend, and a future dazzling bright with possibility.

For their two year anniversary, Brax surprises Tess with a romantic trip to Mexico. Sandy beaches, delicious cocktails, and soul-connecting sex set the mood for a wonderful holiday. With a full heart, and looking forward to a passion filled week, Tess is on top of the world.

But lusty paradise is shattered.

Kidnapped. Drugged. Stolen. Tess is forced into a world full of darkness and terror.

Captive and alone with no savior, no lover, no faith, no future, Tess evolves from terrified girl to fierce fighter. But no matter her strength, it can’t save her from the horror of being sold.

Can Brax find Tess before she’s broken and ruined, or will Tess’s new owner change her life forever?

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Genre – Dark New Adult Contemporary Romance

Rating – PG-18

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Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer @colin_falconer

Chapter 2

Bells peal across the city. The town is hung with banners. Edward of England arrives in a thunder of hooves, his men dressed in royal livery, scarlet with yellow lions. He jumps down from his horse, his cloak swirling, and tosses back a mane of golden hair. He is like a song a troubadour might sing.

He carries himself with the loose-limbed stride of a man accustomed to having others make way for him. He is tall, and blue eyed, and smiles at her with such easy charm it makes her blush.

It is love at first sight.

Her father presents her and as she steps forward she raises her eyes, hoping to see that glorious smile again. But his attention is already elsewhere, on her father, on the bishop, on her uncle, Valois.

“We should get to business,” he says.

For three days they talk about Gascony. England camps outside the town, a forest of pavilions flourishes outside the walls, as if they are besieged. There is not a room to be had anywhere, beggars and camp followers sleep in porches and gateways, the town is bursting. Isabella patrols the battlements and passages, anxious for a glimpse of him. They cannot be married until they settle the politics.

She hates it here. Boulogne is grey and cold. The banners seem to be fading in the rain.

She closes her eyes and imagines him. He is hers. Her father was right, she is fortunate. He is beautiful, he is a king and he is all hers.

* * * * *

Isabella

She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

12 year old Isabella, a French princess marries the King of England – only to discover he has a terrible secret. Ten long years later she is in utter despair – does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death – or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?

Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight – but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage – and England apart.

Who is Piers Gaveston – and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war?

The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny – but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life – and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.

This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England – and win.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, ISABELLA is thoroughly researched and fast paced, the little known story of the one invasion the English never talk about.

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Genre – Historical Fiction

Rating – PG-13

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Greywalker Collected in Thirty Scary Tales by Rayne Hall @RayneHall #Horror #Excerpt

“You smell of death,” the witch said. Her age-mottled nose wrinkled in disapproval.

“You speak truly, honoured one.” Turgan bowed. “I am indeed dying.”

Oil lamps flickered between rodent skulls, and somewhere in the back of the cave, water dripped.

Turgan kept his gaze lowered, as befitted a man addressing a crone. “A fungus devours my flesh. Already my blood is sour and my liver is cold, and the healer says I’ll cross the life-end river before the new moon. I beg your forgiveness for my discourtesy in entering your home under this shadow, but I need your help.”

The witch’s eyes narrowed. “You think I will fight death for you? Go away, fool.”

He shifted his weight. Already, his knees ached from standing. “I just need more time.”

“Didn’t you hear me? Even if I could prolong your life, I would not.”

She turned her skinny back to him and poked the embers beneath her cauldron. Apparently, he was dismissed.

Turgan refused to budge. Judging by the sand-white hair, the knot-gnarled fingers and the way the wrinkled skin folds hung from her thin frame, this woman had already defied death far beyond her allotted years. She knew how.

“Honoured one, I beg you, show me the path. I’ll do what it takes… no matter how difficult, costly or dangerous.”

The witch fed the fire with dried camel patties and broken fir, and the flames spat yellow sparks. “That’s what they all say in their greed for more life.”

Sensing the question behind her words, he snatched the chance. “I neither love life, nor fear death.”

She swivelled on her heels. “Then what do you want?” Her small eyes peered like those of a hawk fixed on its prey, but there was something else: interest.

“I was married. Thirty years ago.” He studied his sandalled feet rather than meet the condemnation he knew he would see in the witch’s eyes. “I was young – we both were. Neither of us had sought the bond. Our parents’ combined force…” The words came haltingly from his dry throat.

“I treated her like a possession. An unwanted one. And she… she tried to make the marriage work. Laina gave me her patience, her love. I gave her nothing. Nothing but hard words, violence and disdain. She suffered in silence, always forgiving, praying, hoping. Now I see clearly what a monster I was, but at the time, I blamed her for my unhappiness.” The words flowed faster now. “I chafed at the imposed bonds, I found fault with her conversation, her cooking, her body, her caresses. Being married to me was a daily torment, yet she never gave up. And then…”

The shame of recall washed his cheeks with heat.

“And then?” The witch pointed her poker at his chest.

“One day I just walked away, without apology, without explanation. Without farewell.”

“Ha! So now you want to harvest the fruit of the love you once disdained? The coming of death always makes such youthful fruit seem sweet.”

She fed another camel patty to the flames, and the fire’s heat grew. Sweat trickled from Turgan’s armpits and slid down his sides.

“Your victim has had thirty years to heal. Now you want to break open her wounds with your demands?”

“I want nothing from her.” Turgan met the witch’s sceptical gaze. If Laina had built a new life and found a better man, he would rejoice with the gladdest spirit. But his actions had not been waterdrops that evaporated in the sun without leaving a trace. They had been cruel flames, scorching deep holes into Laina’s defenceless heart. “All I want is to kneel before her and kiss the dust at her feet.”

The witch stared at him as if reading his soul. Hot fingers seemed to probe his insides for sincerity. Leaning still against the wall of the cave, he allowed it to happen.

At last, she ceased. “What about your obligations to the people in your life now? Your friends, your associates, your current family?”

“My affairs are settled, my debts paid, and no one will wonder where I have gone.”

Was there a small nod of approval? Already, she shot out the next question: “How far from here does your once-wife live? How much time would you need?”

“Ain-Elnour is in Koskara. In peace times, the journey would take two moons with a trade caravan. Now, with the borders closed and the land in the grip of war… four moons, perhaps five… if she still lives in Ain-Elnour. I may have to search.”

The witch was rubbing her chin and gnawing her lower lip, calculating.

“So there is a path?” Turgan stepped forward. “Tell me, honoured one. Tell me what I must do.”

“There is a path, but…” She studied him through narrow eyes. “Are you man enough to take it?”

“I am.”

“That path is difficult, dangerous and dark.” Her voice was grave. “You’ll travel to Koskara, find your once-wife, and speak to her. You will be in your physical body – but you will not be alive.”

“A greywalker?” he whispered. Like a cold fist, understanding squeezed around his chest. “No! No, I won’t do that.”

Her nose wrinkled, and her lips curled in contempt. “Anything, you said. Where’s your courage now?”

Thirty Scary Tales

Thirty creepy, atmospheric stories by Rayne Hall.

The horror in these stories is spooky, creepy, unsettling and sometimes disturbing. It is not very violent or gory; however, the stories may not be suitable for young readers without parental guidance. PG 13.

This book is a compilation of volumes 1-5 of the Six Scary Tales books. It includes the acclaimed stories Burning and The Bridge Chamber.

All stories have been previously published in magazines, ezines, collections and anthologies. British English.

Stories in collection include:
The Devil You Know, Greywalker, Prophetess, Each Stone A Life, By Your Own Free Will, The Bridge Chamber, Only A Fool, Four Bony Hands, The Black Boar, Double Rainbows, Druid Stones, Burning, Scruples, Seagulls, Night Train, Through the Tunnel, Black Karma, Take Me To St. Roch’s, Turkish Night, Never Leave Me, The Colour of Dishonour, Beltane, The Painted Staircase, I Dived The Pandora, Terre Vert and Payne’s Grey, They Say, Tuppence Special, Disturbed Sleep, Normal Considering the Weather, Arete.

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Genre – Horror

Rating – PG-13

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Christmas for Juliet by Elyse Douglas @douglaselyse

Later that night, propped up on her couch, Juliet sipped a glass of white wine while scrolling through her emails and texts.  Most were from her colleagues, offering support and threatening to quit, too.  She’d given everyone courage to speak out.  Clients were dissatisfied with the company because Max was constantly alienating them and then expecting his project managers to smooth things out.  Everybody was unhappy.  Co-workers were suggesting they form their own company.  Carla apologized for spending so much time with her, thinking she had caused her to get fired.  Juliet felt exhausted and blunted. 

After she’d booked a flight to Columbus for early Tuesday morning, she closed her laptop, dropped her phone on the floor and shut her burning eyes.  Moments later, she fell into a light sleep.  She began to dream. 

She was standing alone in a forest under a gentle snowfall.  The ground was blanketed by fresh, glistening snow.  It was twilight.  She was cold and confused.  Off in the distance, she heard the cry of an animal.  A low, moaning sound.  It scared her.  She wanted to run but she couldn’t move.  Her feet were frozen to the ground.  Suddenly, through the scrim of falling snow, she saw an approaching figure.  Juliet squinted into the cold, blue night.  In dazed astonishment, she recognized the figure as the same woman she’d seen at the funeral, standing in the back of the church!  Dressed in an electric red dress, she seemed to glide forward, her bare feet gently skimming the ground. 

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Genre – Romance

Rating – PG

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Website http://www.elysedouglas.com/