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Friday, July 29, 2011

From "A Spy At Home" by Joseph M. Rinaldo

A SPY AT HOMECIA agent Garrison, having lost his wife to a tragic accident, writes in his journal his concerns about what will happen to his disabled son Noah if he dies before Noah does:

Note To Reader:

    Since you’re reading this, I’m dead. I worked for the CIA. I don’t know how much spy stuff will be in this book. The important thing is that royalties from this book support Noah, my son. He was a surprise, but not the kind of surprise you’re thinking.

    I was too chicken to release this while I lived. Most people tell stories using themselves as the hero. I’m certain you won’t conclude I’m any hero. I hope you don’t hate me. My excuse for not presenting this during my lifetime was National Security.

    Thanks for the money. You paid me a lot of dough over the years for my salary, and one big lump sum, which you’ll hear about. Don’t worry; nothing you’re going to read will put American agents in danger. Most governments I helped create or defeat have no one left alive who can figure out my identity…

    Some of you might recognize this story from newspapers in Nashville. I’m the guy who shot his wife. You’ll hate me for shooting someone who gave so much to the world. I hate myself for it…

From "Hare's Heart" by Darren Harrington

Hare's Heart“I want to buy him a race car bed” Brittney said as she plopped down next to her husband on the couch. They had had this conversation at least ten times and Steve gave her the same answer he always did “ He’s not big enough he would just get out of bed and cry at the door all night.” She changed the subject “can you try to not get him so excited right before bed” Steve looked at with faux-hurt “What? How are we supposed to play and stay calm he’s just a baby.” Brittney sighed “I know it’s just so hard to get him to lay down and watch his movie when he’s so worked up.” Steve decided to let it go he knew she was right but it was their time and that she would never take it away from him. they settled into their evening together “ we have a lot of shopping to do tomorrow” Brittney reminded him in case he forgot Steve knowing his wife and knowing that this was something he couldn’t change her mind about just said” I’m ready.” 

From “Affairs of The Heart” by Borislava Borissova

Affairs of the Heart“I wanted to see the face, to look into the eyes of the dangerous driver who scared us with his crazy driving, caused a series of collisions and accidents on our streets and placing the life of each of us in danger and uncertainty. I still remember the squeal of the high-speed tires and the sense of an evil menace and I wanted to rage at him, to strike him. I expected…” Michael sighed sadly and, forgetting everything and everyone around him, he lapsed into the memory of that time.

“In the hospital, I ran up the stairs and I looked in the room to peer over medic’s shoulder. There were a multitude of tubes and wires. The intravenous system and respirator were attached to the body in the bed, to keep the driver alive. I saw the ashen skin, dark rings around the eyes, fragile hands—they were already powerless to hold the wheel. The body was worn, similar to a shadow. It was a young woman who wanted to die, who searched for death on the road as fast as the car would go. And to take another life with hers so she wouldn’t be alone when she drew her last breath.”

FROM "1106 Grand Boulevard" by Betty Dravis

1106 Grand BoulevardThe quiet peace of the humid August evening was abruptly shattered when Cal stormed into the kitchen.  He pulled up short, slammed his fist into the ice-box and roared at his young bride.  “You slut!  How dare you let Rusty see you like that!  You stupid, or something?”  When he puffed out his chest, folded his arms across it and glared at Billie Jean, his hooded brown eyes blazed with anger and his nostrils flared, pulsing to the beat of some hidden rage.

   Billie Jean couldn't believe Cal could be so cruel.  His drastic mood-swing terrified her.  As a tremor shook her slight frame, an odd observation slashed through her mind: Cal looks madder'n that old bull on Uncle Bob's farm.  

She flashed back to earlier in the evening when Cal had seemed so happy and carefree.  They had enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing supper with his young brother, Rusty, followed by a refreshing run through the lawn sprinkler; it had been a swell day.  Then he had driven Rusty to a friend's house and returned home in a rage.

So what had happened between now and then?  Why was Cal being so mean and hurtful?  He was like a different man.

From "The Hour of Tiamat" by Lisa M. Taylor

The Hour of Tiamat
Evelyn has just witnessed a group of people performing a dark ritual, and has been sprinting through the woods for her life; one of the people in the group, though, seems different from the others...

“Stay away from me!” she said through heavy breathing and choked back tears. Shadows moved along the ground as clouds passed over the moon, and in the shifting light she saw a long stick lying on the ground next to her. She wasted no time in diving for it, and the next moment she was holding it out in front of her like a sword, brandishing it at him like some terrifying weapon.  “Don’t come any closer!” she threatened. He still simply stared, but she saw an eyebrow cock at her defensive attempts and realized he was laughing at her. Great, that’s just what I’m getting at, comedy, she thought to herself. With an embarrassed huff, she dropped the stick to her side, and scanned the trees for a sign of the other three. When she was satisfied with the silence, she looked back and simply asked, “Who are you?”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

From "Tessa B. Dick: My Life in the Edge of Reality"

Tessa B. Dick: My Life on the Edge of RealityThe man told me that they were dropping me from the program because I was neither physically nor mentally fit for long-term space travel.  I begged him to give me a chance, promising that I would work very hard, but he only looked sad while telling me that it was impossible.  He added that I was remembering too much, and that I might tell the secrets to people who shouldn’t know about the program.  So now I’m telling the secrets.

From "Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman" by Nancy Werking Poling

Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a WomanI seldom looked up. Meet the eyes of a guard and you were likely to be dragged behind a building and raped, especially if you were young, as I was. So my eyes were to the ground when the disturbance broke out: a woman’s curse shattering the monotonous grunts of those of us lifting and pulling and pushing; the angry shouts of men. Furtively glancing out the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a gold-trimmed robe disappearing around a corner.

“Keep moving,” we were ordered.

Usually the corpses we stepped over belonged to our sisters who had fallen from exhaustion or malnourishment. This time we were shocked to see the dead body of a guard.    

In the days that followed whispers passed among us. Mosiah, step-daughter of the princess, had heaved a rock at a guard and killed him. She had fled the city, a regiment of soldiers in pursuit. “After all I’ve done for her,” the king was heard to say. “I should have known she’d turn out to be like the rest of them.” The rest of them referring to women like me, foreign women who had for generations lived in captivity.

From "Crucifying Angel" by P.I. Barrington

Future Imperfect Book One: Crucifying AngelPayce Halligan nearly repeats the action that killed her former partner and fiance'...

Gavin walked out into the hall, a towel around his waist.  He reached down and pulled the dangling gun from her hand.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"What am I doing?"  She half-screamed.  "What are you doing?  I almost killed you — I al-most killed you!"  Payce peeled herself off the wall and gave vent to her fear-crazed anger.  "You stupid, stupid man — what are you doing in my shower?"

"I thought this was the guest shower," Gavin answered simply.  "I didn't think you'd appreciate my using your master bath."

"My master bath—" She stopped, suddenly realizing the situation.  She backed away from him, intensely aware of his nearness.  "Just… just get dressed," she mumbled, walking past him back down the hall.  She stopped after three steps and turned back to him.  "And give me that!"  She snatched the gun from his hand.  Then she stomped away toward her bedroom, ignoring his laughter at her back.

From "Puttypaw" by Tom North

PuttypawIt took some moments for Toby to realise to whom Theroros was speaking: he was addressing the dead rat. The smashed cadaver had begun to pick itself up on its broken bones. It had no feet, its tail had come off and it trailed bits of flesh on the floor. Toby watched in horrified fascination as it roamed around collecting various bits of its limbs and attempting to reattach them. Small cracking sounds emanated from it as it foraged. Eventually it rose up, swaying unsteadily on its haunches, ribs showing through a hole in its chest. It was as complete as it was going to be, although it had to hold one foreleg in place with the other paw because it kept falling out of the socket. Toby turned his eyes away from the revolting spectacle and focussed on the cave wall. The rat began to squeak, the noise low and urgent. It sounded annoyed, which, Toby thought, was reasonable under the circumstances. Out of the corner of his eye he could not help but notice that the rat was gesticulating wildly, forgetting itself sufficiently to wave its detached foreleg to emphasise a point. The squeaking ended.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From "The Gamblers" by Martin Stanley

The GamblersDave woke with a groan. He tried to touch his face, which was in excruciating pain, but realised that he couldn’t. His hands were bound to a radiator in the corner of the room with handcuffs. He attempted to stand up, but his legs had been bound with rope. Despite several attempts at wriggling his legs, the ropes that bound him were too tight and movement was impossible. He looked around.

Dark curtains had been drawn, reducing the room to shadows. As his eyes adjusted to the lack of light he realised he was in the living room. The place smelled of old takeaways and strong booze. Dave tried to wriggle his legs again, realised he couldn’t and then opened his mouth to scream.

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”

From "Zombie Bedtime Stories: Locked In" by Thea Isis Gregory

Locked In (Zombie Bedtime Stories)Haley threw up her arms as he made a lunge for her face. His unimaginable strength pitched them both to the ground. The blow winded her. Her eyes widened in alarm as she squirmed under his wizened form to keep his decaying teeth away from her flesh. His fetid breath was tinged with the scent of blood, the overwhelming stench burning into her lungs. Haley thought she was going to vomit. The three officers and Frank shouted as they struggled to gain control of the crazed man.

Deafened by Buddy’s shrieks, the terror of the cacophony threatened to paralyze her. A Taser was drawn, but its discharge barely seemed to jolt Buddy, prompting a renewed flurry of attacks. Haley felt a discernible electric tingle pass through her own body, so she knew the device had worked, but on the wrong person. With this realization her thoughts became frantic and incoherent. As she felt her arms weaken from the exertion, she couldn’t help wondering if Buddy was drugged.

From "Fezariu's Epiphany" by David M. Brown

Fezariu's EpiphanyFezariu has just been issued a mission that will see him return to Clarendon, the town he fled years before...

Fezariu could not shake the fear that was cold around his heart whenever he thought of Clarendon. Though the city had never been far away during his training on Merelax Island there was still that reassurance of the sea being between Fezariu and Clarendon, while his devotion to the pursuit of excellence as a mercenary ensured he never felt the need to return and confront his past. Now his hand had been forced. Not only would Fezariu have to complete the assassination of a political figure, he was now returning to his childhood, to relive the memories that had driven him into the arms of the mercenaries in the first place. Fezariu’s only hope was that he could remain disciplined and focussed on the assignment and not submit to the temptation to confront the painful battles he had fought as a boy.

From "Mystified" by TC Booth

MystifiedGabe gazed into my eyes for a long while before speaking. “You are very special Erin. You have evoked emotions in me that I have not known. You have challenged my intellect beyond any other. That is why I have to remain your guardian angel and protect you even from myself.”


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From "To Become Like Gods" by Jonathan Frame

To Become Like GodsThe huge double doors closed, shutting off the light, sounds and smells of the outside world, leaving the seven men who had just entered in a haze of musty half-light.   Two were holding flaming torches, given to them as they entered, whilst other torches sat burning steadily along the walls.  The amount of illumination on offer was adequate for them to see a few dozen paces ahead but it did nothing to ease their nerves.  Behind those heavy wooden barricades the sounds of the crowds, so loud in the lead up to the entrance, were now muffled and remote as if coming from a huge distance away.  A scraping of metal, closer, sharp and precise, struck the ears of the seven men.  The doors were being locked.  They were trapped inside, the oppressive, mournful half-light around them clawing at their flesh.

‘So, this is The Labyrinth,’ a voice remarked, trying to sound calm and unimpressed, but failing to keep fear out of it entirely.

From "The High Kingdom" by Philip S Weeks

The High Kingdom (The Scattered Realm Series)Carlton fought alongside a company of armed men. He felt that he knew them well, although as yet he couldn't identify them. As they battled on together, surrounded by flames, and orange and gray clouds of smoke, the heavy stench of sulphur reeked in his nostrils.

The air was rent with screams and inhumanly deep threatening growls, while steel met steel with resounding clashes like giant anvils ringing, like hammers the size of planets beating mercilessly upon them, fashioning destruction with every blow.

Carlton fought with every ounce of might he could muster. But forced back by the fury of the onslaught, he retreated grudgingly, until his feet found he had reached the edge of an uncrossable chasm. He pressed his full weight forward upon his shield once more in a vain attempt to gain some space on which to stand. Still he felt himself pushed backward.

His unsighted opponent lifted him effortlessly as if he were made of straw and tossed him up and over the edge into the chasm. He began to fall, and to spin as he fell. He cried out, as he did in every dream, the name of his sovereign liege. "For the Scattered Realm, and for the Prince!"

From "Godhead" by Jordan Alexander

GodheadI called his name over and over again, but I could not see him now. I wanted to go with him, but I could not follow, shame locked my legs and stilled my blood. I crawled halfway across the field before I could carry myself again. 

   I could see the godhead now and I headed toward it carried by something other than shame and fear and regret, borne on a tide of bloodlust. I went up to it and looked it right in the eye and beat my fists against it until they bled, raining curses on its presence.

   “I have made my sacrifice!” I told it over and over. “Let me go.”

   When I was sure it was not humming again, I pulled myself up the stairs and into the house. It was dark, the generator had not been filled and the lights were gone. But I did not need light now. I was a creature of the darkness, a destroyer of souls.

   I walked naked and dripping into Dante’s room and crawled right on top of his bloated sleeping belly, straddling him, shaking him awake.

   “I’ve done it, you bastard.” I meant to shout, but my voice was diminished by the enormity of what I had done. “I’ve won the wager.”

   He sneered at my naked, storm-whipped flesh, the empty triumph in my eyes, and knocked me to the floor. “You haven’t won yet. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

   I started to rise up, even to strike him, but he was on the floor faster than he should have been able to move, pinning me down, his hands around my throat. “Don’t you dare raise your hand to me or I will kill you,” he promised.

   “I broke him,” I told him. “I took God from him.”

   Dante's smile was carnal and merciless.

   "Body and soul,” he said. “It has to be body and soul.”

From "Foreclosed: A Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery" by Traci Tyne Hilton

Foreclosed: A Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery (Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries)Realtor Mitzy Neuhaus and her personal assistant Sabrina found what might be the perfect foreclosure...

   “The kitchen must be on this side,” Mitzy said.

   “Sure is. My lands!” Sabrina was on her tiptoes trying to get a good long view into the house.

    Mitzy saw it too. “Is that a professional, stainless steel range?”

   " I’m sure it is,” Sabrina said. “But what on earth is it doing in this house?”

   “Apparently being a matched set with the rest of the stainless appliances and—it cannot be,” Mitzy stopped short, amazed at what she saw.

    "I think it is,” Sabrina said in awe.

    The sun was shining just right to glance off the counter-tops. It made an appealing sparkle.

    “That is a quartz counter-top,” Sabrina said.

    “It is. It is acres of quartz counter-top. Well, we know why they were foreclosed now, I guess. Just plain ran out of money. Let’s get back to the office. You get the tax records on the house and I’ll call James at the stone works and see what he knows.”

They risked a ticket as they sped back to the office.

They were gone before you could read MIT-Z on the Miata’s vanity plates.

From "Freedom's Sword" by J. R. Tomlin

Freedom's Sword
Young Sir Andrew de Moray, captured after the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Dunbar, has just been cast by the English into a dungeon at Chester Castle:

There would be a window slit high in the wall. If he waited, it would get light. It had to get light. It had to.

He lay huddled for hours, quiet. Thinking thoughts he could have done without. Like that, he'd heard of prisoners left to starve to death in dungeons. Like that, men were sometimes gnawed by rats as they died. Like that, he might go mad if it didn't get light.

It didn't. He counted his breaths to keep from screaming. Pressed his fists into his forehead. Nothing changed. He had to move--to know where he was. He licked blood off his lips, his tongue so dry it felt like leather. Perhaps he could get to the water dripping somewhere. Perhaps...

On his hands and knees, he crept across the clammy floor, pressing a shoulder against the rough stones of the wall. Otherwise, he might crawl in circles. He swept his hands ahead as he went. A well or hole could be in front of him, and he wouldn't know. He trembled, half from weakness and half from fear of what he would find. A few feet of crawling brought him to a corner.

Monday, July 25, 2011

From "Destiny's Kiss" by Misti Wolanski

Destiny's Kiss (Darkworld Chronicles - Destiny Walker)Someone Destiny used to know just showed up in the middle of her otherwise normal day as a high school junior...

I shake my head.  I pinch my arm.

He's still headed my way, so he is here, unless I'm hallucinating.  If he's seeking Jordan, at least he's not here for a snack.  He's fond of high schoolers, claims we taste better.  Cleaner than adults but riper than children.  His words, not mine.

I cringe and glance at Fionn.  From his frown, he can tell Signor Ambrogino is a fellow Magik; he just hasn't yet figured out that the signore's a creep even by Darkworld standards.

So Signor Ambrogino is the one making my tattoo go wonky.  I didn't have it when I knew him, so it's adjusting to his magic.

Oh, merda.  Does that mean his magic's noticing it, too?

I flinch as I look up to meet the gaze set a good foot above mine.  I swallow uncomfortably.  His kind are creeps, but he's passably friendly.  I shove myself off the wall and turn away, biting my lip.

Please don't let him recognize me, God.  He'll find out what's happened, track down my owner, and…  Things get bad when his kind and my owner's kind get mad at each other.  And Hollywood likes to think that it exaggerates.

From "A Measure of Disorder," Book One of the Mother-Earth Series, by Alan Tucker

A Measure of Disorder (Mother-Earth Series)Jenni and her 8th grade science class find themselves in a strange place while on a field trip in the forest...

Twilight gave way to darkness and stars filled the sky. Unfamiliar stars. Jenni had received a small telescope one Christmas when she was younger and spent many evenings in her back yard with it pointed at the sky. She'd learned the names of some of the stars and several constellations — the Big Dipper, Orion’s belt, the distinct “W” shape of Cassiopeia — all had been replaced by a much brighter assortment of strange twinkling lights.

“Well, that tears it,” Mr. Kain said, also looking at the stars. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

“Kansas?” Todd interjected. “We live in Idaho.”

Sara snorted. “Wizard of Oz, you dork.”

Several kids snickered and Todd opened his mouth to retort when Ms. Pap held up a hand. “All right. Enough.” Todd scowled but remained quiet. “We have some decisions to make and I think we should discuss our options, such as they are.

“We have no idea how it happened, but we’re obviously very far from home with no apparent means to get back. We haven’t seen any signs of civilization and the land around us has changed. We need information.”

From "The Sixth Seed" by Lee Allen Howard

The Sixth SeedAt the end of his rope, Tom Furst contemplates his family's spiraling circumstances and his wife's difficult pregnancy:

Melanie had been virtually comatose since lunch. Late that afternoon, he’d slipped into the bedroom to check on her and laid his hand on her warm belly. She didn’t stir. Faintly, almost imperceptibly, he felt the baby move. It made him smile.

His smile had died when he felt the child trace the outline of his outspread hand.

Stinging tears splashed over his cheeks and onto his bare chest. He let them come, swell, die.

“Why, God. Why? Why has all this happened?” He buried his face in his hands. “Are we going down the tubes? What have I done wrong?”

He cried harder, his shoulders racked with sobs he tried to keep silent. He prayed for forgiveness, for help. When the weeping subsided and a calm exhaustion settled over him, he rose and started upstairs.

From above, creaking. He froze.

Someone walking. Then a throaty retching, splattering, followed by something thudding on the floor.

He shook off his fear and ran up the stairs.

Gurgling with delirium, Melanie lay sprawled on the bathroom floor, clutching her swollen belly.

From "Victor" by E.J. Loera

Victor“Look at her,” said Victor calmly.  “Tell me what is wrong, that I may fix it.”

A quick shove broke an interminable pause.  Cold fingers slithered down my jaw as the alert part of me eagerly wondered what the room I was in looked like.

“She continues the same,” the Doctor exhaled.  “I see nothing –“

“No,” Victor interrupted.  “That – what is that?  Those markings were not there previously.”

“Hm.”  Shafts of ice swept aside the dangling curls that fell about my neck.  My mind was failing, and the voices began to drift to a distance as a sigh issued from my lips.

“Do you see?  Now, with your own eyes!  Explain that to me.”

“Those scores… they simply… appeared?”

“They are the impressions of a hand, are they not?”

“No, no… they are much outsized to be such.”

“He did it!  Alas!  Demon-fiend!  Nevermore will I afford a breath to his vindictive lungs!  Ah, but to God!” A disconnected part of me perceived Victor crumble to the ground.  “You will die by my hand, accursed wretch!  I will kill you for this!  Oh, my Elizabeth.  My sweet, sweet, Elizabeth…”

A destitute splintering resonated somewhere… but unconsciousness overcame me afresh.

From "Forbidden Temptation of a Vampire" by Jodie B. Cooper

Forbidden Temptation of a Vampire (Sídhí Summer Camp)“Stop shaking her!”

Katie sensed the vampire stopping a few feet away. Then she heard him.

She jerked her eyes toward the vampire as growls erupted from his chest. It wasn’t like his first short growl. This echoed through the bare room and she heard the deep anger rolling through this rumbling sound. His mouth opened, exposing fully extended fangs. In growing fear, she watched the now furious vampire slowly extend his claws as he moved closer toward them.

“Come on, Sis, let go!” Mitch snapped at her, never shifting his attention as he glared at the growling vampire. He suddenly stopped shaking her, flipping her toward the bed, he snapped his arm around, but she doggedly hung on. His motive was transparent. The minute he got her off his arm, he would attack the vampire and enjoy every darn minute of it. It’d make him happier than a kid with a new puppy.

“Damn it! You’re hurting her!” The vampire snapped, flinging his accusation at Mitch. Deep snarls punctuated his words. “I can smell her blood!”

With each word, the vampire’s fury seemed to be growing. She felt a flush of surprise go through her.

Friday, July 22, 2011

From "Dark Lake - A Mike Angel Mystery" by David H Fears

Dark Lake: A Mike Angel PI Mystery (Mike Angel PI Mysteries)Mike and partner Rick in typical exchange:


“Okay,” I said, “so you had your .22. How’d you manage to get the drop on the whole bunch with that peashooter?”  

 “New York cop 29 years, Mikey, learned a couple things in that time. The bad boys had a Walther PPK under the bar. Interesting gun. I backed Inga up with the .22. Without her happy whip, she whimpered like a virgin at a Teamster’s outing, if you can imagine.”

“Typical Nazi.”

“Exactly. Anyway, when I got the drop on Inga, she must have pressed a silent alarm. One bozo flew down the stairs and we swapped lead. That’s why the sling. I scored a nice shot grouping around his sternum. By the time I checked upstairs you were gone, so too everyone else. Phones were ripped out so I hiked to one of those nearby mansions and strong-armed a butler into letting me use the phone.”

“You muscled a butler, eh? What’d you use, adverbs?”

“Not really. Butlers don’t read much. That’s why they’re always accused of the murder in the parlor. Everyone knows they’re stupid enough to be the killer.”

“Go on, Miss Marple.”

From "A Dragon's Dream of Love" by Jodie B. Cooper

A Dragon's Dream of Love: Song of the Sídhí #2Leah, a seventeen year old half vampire/dragon mix, has arrived at summer camp and desperately needs to feed...

Ooh laa laa! Hunk Alert!

The thought popped into her head as a drop-dead gorgeous guy strutted past her shallow sanctuary trailed by four, no five girls. He was tall and broad shouldered with a literal full mane of hair falling down his shoulders, all golden strands of honey streaked with dark and milk chocolate. Sculpted muscles rippled across his shoulders and… ooh yummy, a light wet sheen highlighted a wonderful pulsing vein.

Thump, thump, thump.

The throbbing of his jugular called to her as it ran down the side of his golden neck, pulsing with neon intensity. Decisions, decisions! Join his growing harem and get a speedy lick and a mouth-watering bite or starve? It almost seemed worth the humiliation. Almost, but not quite.

She groaned, thumping the back of her head against the cool wall. She quit after several brain bashing thumps, but only because her ears began ringing. She seriously needed some shuteye if random thoughts like chasing and biting total strangers started popping into her head.

She’d never bitten anyone. She drank her daily blood allotment in a metal – no-see through – cup. If no one was watching, she pinched her nose shut.