To wrap up the weeks of novellas, we have last, but certainly not least…
Nemesis By Jennifer Harlow
Sex traffickers, serial killers, and superheroes…welcome to the world of Galilee Falls, Sydney Rye!
This novella takes place between the events of Inviting Fire and Shadow Harvest. It also takes place after the events in The Galilee Falls Trilogy.
The Joy of Justice
The life of the vigilante is a solitary one. Always in the shadows. No one to talk to, no one to share experiences with. Uncle Charlie might be on the front lines as a detective, but he’s on the right side of that line. He gets paid to put the bad guys away, and according to the law, I am one of said bad guys. Of course if I had superpowers like The Royal Triumvirate or this new one White Knight I’d be considered a hero. Have my own action figure. But an ordinary woman taking justice into her own hands is called a freak. A madwoman. A vigilante. A murderer. Even a terrorist because of my affiliation to the Joyful Justice Vigilant Network. More labels. More identities forced upon me. At least now I’m not completely alone living with them.
I haven’t seen another Joyful Justice member, save for Uncle Charlie, since I left their compound in Costa Rica a few months ago when Uncle Charlie offered our services. Of course he got to stay in Independence while I ran around the jungle learning how to use an M-16, how to build bombs, and even learning a new martial arts form from Merl. I was one of dozens there, each of us touched by evil in some way. Each hoping to make the world a better place. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Few can face the truth. I couldn’t until recently. I couldn’t face every bone I broke, every time a man pissed his pants as I held a knife to his throat, every cry as I carved an “N” into his forehead to let the rest of the world know what he truly is, it fed my soul and helped me to continue on in this cesspool of a world.
Most aren’t there yet. I hope they never are. They’re just citizens, good people in need of help. They contact the website, looking for guidance, when the regular justice institutions fail. Even I’ve given other lost souls guidance in their quest for retribution. I am a veteran at the whole vigilante way of life. It’s been four years since I put on my costume: my red and black cloaked jacket and black jumpsuit, both made from ballistic fiber that’s saved my life more than once, steel-toed boots, dark red wig, white kabuki face paint with red lips, and black harlequin mask. Four years of stalking my prey at Frat houses, brothels, in their seemingly normal homes. I’ve been shot at, stabbed, broken several bones, and learned from every injury, every mistake. I am more than willing to share that knowledge with others, even if their quest for justice ends when their personal wrong gets corrected. This is not the way of life for everyone. Uncle Charlie does more for the network, giving them information only a police officer has access to.
We all must do our part to make this world a better place. I just prefer drawing blood to do it.
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Today, get a taste of The Catalyst by DelSheree Gladden
“The Catalyst” takes place between “Death in the Dark” and “Insatiable” in the Sydney Rye Series, and after “Trouble Magnet” in the Eliza Carlisle Mystery Series.
“Looking after Eliza Carlisle is about as easy as bathing a cat.”
“Before I let you get back to sleep,” Lauren said, “have you been keeping up with local news while you were in LA?”
It seemed like a random question. “No. Why?”
“Uh, no reason,” she said cryptically. “One of my students, could you keep an eye on her while I’m gone? She’s got a lot of talent, but she’s been struggling the last few weeks. She might need a little extra encouragement.”
My head ached from lack of sleep and jetlag, but I smiled. Lauren’s soft heart was a contrast to many of her coworkers at the culinary institute. Some might call it weakness, but I never would. “Who is this student?” I asked.
“Her name’s Eliza Carlisle. She’s a bit of a misfit at times, but like I said, she’s really talented and I would hate to see her get overwhelmed and give up.” Lauren sighed, like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you, Hugh. For covering for me, and for keeping an eye on Eliza. You’re a good friend.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve been there for me often enough the last year and a half, I figure I owe you,” I said with a smile. “I hope everything goes okay with your dad.”
“Thanks,” she said, emotion making her voice squeak. She’d played off her fears when trying to talk me into covering her classes, but I knew how much not being there was eating at her even then. She drew in a deep breath to calm herself. “I’ll bring the key by this afternoon. My flight is a five, so I’ll swing by on my way to the airport. Get some sleep.”
We said our goodbyes and I ended the call. Rolling back toward my pillow, I pressed my face into the fabric. James’ scent had long faded, but the memory of it hadn’t. I both loved and hated the reminders of him that still lingered even after packing up his things. I wondered if the wounds losing him created would ever heal.
Friends didn’t understand. It had been a year and a half since his murder. The killer was dead at Joy’s hand. Didn’t that mean closure? Shouldn’t I have been able to move on after so long? Sometimes I wondered that as well. Moving on sounded good, in the same way made-from-scratch mac and cheese sounded good on a rainy day. Comfort food didn’t make the rain stop. Wishing I could move on didn’t make me miss him any less. It didn’t make me feel any less responsible for not being there when he needed me.
My body begged me to go back to sleep, but my mind was too awake. Lauren’s question about whether I had been following local news poked at me. What had happened while I was gone? An uncomfortable dread settled in the pit of my stomach. The last time something had blown up in the news, it had surrounded Joy, James, the mayor, and murder. Picking my phone back up, I brought up the latest news stories, found nothing overly interesting, then wondered about the girl Lauren had asked me to look out for. It took me a few seconds to remember the name.
Typing “Eliza Carlisle” into the news app, I hit the search button and sighed when the results loaded.“Local culinary student plays key part in solving 50-year-old murder.” That wouldn’t have sounded so ominous if not for the pictures and videos accompanying the headline. Anything involving SWAT couldn’t be good. My mind decided it had had enough and was ready to shut off. Ditching my phone, I crawled back under my blankets and closed my eyes. Lauren’s favor just got a whole lot more complicated.
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Today we have Renee Pawlish with an excerpt from her novella Walk Softly, Danger
Two forms of justice collide in Colorado.
I stood for a moment and mulled things over. It sounded like the shipment would arrive somewhere tomorrow night at midnight and then rendezvous here about four hours later, so I could come back then and see what kind of operation Weeden had set up. That seemed my best option, so I crept back
down the drive toward the street. I reached the edge of the building, started around the corner, and ran into the biggest dog I’d seen in a long while. It bared its teeth and growled.
“Don’t move or he’ll rip you to shreds,” a voice said softly.
I did as instructed. I froze.
“Easy there,” I said gently to the dog. It was tall, like a Great Dane, but it had the body of a wolf, with a long, elegant muzzle. There was nothing elegant in the way it glared at me, though. It growled louder and bared its teeth. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Shut up,” the low voice said. “And Blue’s not worried about you hurting him.”
I recognized the voice. It was the black-haired woman, and she held the pistol in her hand. It was aimed at me. In the distance, cars zipped along the highway, too far away to be of any help to me.
I gestured at the dog. “Two against one. That’s not fair.”
“Blue?” I said. “That’s his name?”
She nodded. Then her eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
“Do you really need the gun?”
She took a step toward me. “Start talking or you’ll never see tomorrow.”
I held up a hand. “Okay, you don’t need to ask twice. My name’s Philip Marlowe,” I said. I liked to use pseudonyms when I wanted to remain incognito, and my usual choices were names of detectives in my favorite film noir or books, especially if Bogie played the detective. “I’m a private investigator.”
If she’d heard of Philip Marlowe, she didn’t show it. She scrutinized me closely. “Why are you following me?”
“I’m not,” I shot back. “I’m looking for Yana Zubova. She’s disappeared. You’re just a nasty bonus.”
She ignored my barb. “You mentioned that name to Spencer Gage.”
I nodded. “Yana’s father hired me to find out what happened to her. She went missing last week. How much you want to bet her disappearance has something to do with the women you’re looking for?”
“What do you know about them?”
“I didn’t know anything until I talked to a woman at the club earlier tonight, and I don’t know much beyond the fact that they disappeared after Spencer Gage took an interest in them.” I wasn’t sure I could trust her, but decided it couldn’t hurt to tell her what Lexi had told me. “She knew about the women you mentioned. Ana Garcia, Maria Vazquez, and Lupe Rosas.”
To find out more about Renee Pawlish, visit her here:
Today, please give an online round of applause for author Bev Pettersen author of Strange Behavior.
Justice…best served with teeth.
Blue was whining now, his streaking coat camouflaged by the night. But then his sounds turned to a frustrated bark as two dots of white danced above his head, high out of reach.
I was running so fast I almost planted my face in the steel mesh fence.
“Dammit.” I jammed the Glock into the back of my waistband and scrabbled up. Originally three strands of razor wire had protected the top. But it had been cut, the spot marked by a piece of white tape. Clearly the man in the sneakers had planned this getaway.
But I refused to let him escape. I scrambled over the fence and leaped to the ground on the other side, breathless but pumped by the chase. The guy wasn’t that far ahead now. I’d been more agile climbing the fence. Or else he was tiring.
Movement flickered, his white sneakers flashing in the trees. Another ten strides and I’d catch him.
Blue was barking in frustration, stuck on the other side of the fence, but I lowered my head and kept running.
Wham. Something smashed into my chest, driving the air from my lungs and knocking me sideways.
“Bitch,” a man said, dragging me to my feet and yanking my hands behind my back. The gun was pulled from my shorts and rough hands ran over my legs, my ass, my breasts.
I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, could only gasp for breath. But I felt the bite of the rope where they’d tied my hands, the chill of the air on my suddenly bare butt.
“Get her shorts all the way off,” a gruff voice said. “Spread her legs.”
Panic galvanized me and I gave a desperate kick. My foot landed but someone laughed and grabbed my leg.
“I like a fighter,” the thick voice growled. He clamped his hand over my mouth, his breath hot against my neck. “We’re going to want a bit more time with this one, boys. She’s young and juicy. Someone go and shut up that dog.”
I wrenched my leg loose and gave another frantic kick. A man grunted in pain. “Not me. She got a leg loose.”
The man behind me swore and lifted his hand from my mouth. I twisted, trying to tell Blue to run, but his blow to my head knocked the words from my throat.
Then he flung me to the ground and I was spread eagled against the cold grass. I stared up, my vision spinning. It looked like three men, no, four. I heard the clink of belt buckles, the sound of their zippers as they bickered over who would go first and who had to go shoot the dog.
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Today, you're in for a treat. Today's excerpt comes from USA Today Best-Selling Author Toby Neal.
“A Thelma and Louise road trip gone wrong–only with samurai swords, tantra sex, and a big wolf dog.”
Rough Road is a prequel to Blood Orchids #1 in the Lei Crime Series, and falls right after Death In the Dark, Sydney Rye #2.
Lei pressed down on the accelerator. The bright red Mustang convertible surged forward and hot wind tossed her hair. Desert streamed by, populated by saguaro cactus and tumbleweeds. Beside her, Amy shrieked with glee at the speed, leaping up in her seat to throw her arms in the air. “Yee-haw!”
Lei flicked a glance at her friend, smiling. “You gotta lose that Texas-speak.”
“Heck no! And y’all better know it!” Amy sat back down. “How far to the resort?”
“Another hour or so.”
“This has been the perfect road trip.” The girls had left the San Francisco area three days before, tooling down Highway One along the Big Sur coast, spending a night in Pismo Beach and another in Los Angeles. They’d crossed the border into Mexico some hours ago.
“I agree. And we’re just getting to the piñata and margarita part.” Lei throttled back, pulling in behind a jacked-up pickup filled with rooster cages. A couple of pit bulls lolled their tongues out the back, panting in the heat. Lei smiled at the sight. This Mexican scene could be straight out of her old neighborhood on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she’d grown up.
Amy pulled her slim tanned legs up onto the seat, propping open the glossy Cabo San Lucas brochure on her knees. “Five days and four nights of epic partying. The drive down here was fun, but I’m ready for the dancing and cabana boys.”
“Me too,” Lei said, but she felt an internal quiver of doubt. Amy had begged for them to go for a real vacation this spring break. They’d had a heavy semester at their local community college in San Rafael, California, where Lei was working on a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and Amy was working on an RN. An unlikely pairing as friends, the girls had hit it off in one of their first general ed classes. Amy, from a wealthy family that had moved to California from Texas in her senior year of high school, had latched onto prickly, loner Lei—and somehow it worked.
“I just wish you didn’t have such an eyesore of a car,” Lei complained. “Why don’t we take out a billboard advertising what tourists we are? Seriously, we could always tell in Hawaii, whenever we saw one of these.” Lei and her family were originally from the Aloha State. She was proud to be a hapa local girl, half Japanese, one-quarter Hawaiian, and one-quarter Portuguese. This mix of races had given her unique looks: curly brown hair, big tilted eyes, olive skin, and a lean runner’s build.
“Who cares? I’m not ashamed of being who I am,” Amy said. “Yeah, I’ve got money and I’m from Texas. Got big hair and boobs, too.” She bounced, illustrating her words. “I’ve never understood your need to blend in.”
“No act,” Lei said. “A saying we have in Hawaii. Means don’t get above yourself. Standing out isn’t a good thing. It can be dangerous, too, in a place like this.” Lei gestured to the barren landscape. “Fortunately, this is a pretty major road.” Lei’s application to the Marin County Police Academy was already in. Through life experience and her college courses, Lei knew too much about the many ways people preyed on each other.
“You’re such a worrywart. How are we going to get any action except by getting attention?” Amy set the brochure for their resort back in the side pocket of the car’s door. “I’m telling you. I’m looking for some fun. That’s why we’re getting separate rooms—I plan on some chandelier-swinging and wall banging.”
“Thank God we have separate rooms, then.” Lei smiled at her friend, but felt that quiver again. She, too, hoped she’d meet someone nice and have fun—but she was way too messed up inside to just bring someone back to the room to have sex. On the other hand, she didn’t want to be tied up in knots about it anymore, either. Charlie Kwon, her mother’s drug-dealing boyfriend, had made her damaged goods—but that didn’t mean she had any intention of staying that way.
“You fall down, girl, you get back on the horse,” her Aunty Rosario, the guardian who’d raised her after her mother’s death, was fond of saying. Trouble was, the two times she’d had sex had been disastrous. She’d felt disconnected, her body stiff as a corpse, unable to even get into it, let alone have one of the orgasms Amy felt so loudly entitled to.
“You’re a shitty lay,” her last partner had declared. “Like doing it with a mannequin.” She hadn’t tried since. But, maybe third time was the charm and her libido would kick in on an exotic vacation in Cabo. She could hope, and maybe with enough tequila…
They reached a crossroads. Lei slowed down to a stop under a blinking red light that dangled between a couple of poles. “Can you check the map? I think we keep going straight here, but we should see the ocean by now.”
“Sure.” Amy set down the bottle of tanning lotion she’d been applying to her shoulders. “Pull over so I can take a look at it.”
Lei eased the Mustang over onto the soft, sandy shoulder as Amy unfolded the map. Lei stayed alert, watching the other cars and trucks approach and move on. Most treated the red light as a mere suggestion. A pickup full of young men wolf-whistled and called out compliments in Spanish, along with crude hand gestures.
“Hurry up, Amy!” Lei slid down out of sight in her seat, getting more nervous by the minute at their vulnerable position.
“It’s just another thirty miles, but we need to make a right here,” Amy folded the map at last. “Good thing we stopped.”
Lei pressed the gas pedal and hit the signal for a right turn—but when she accelerated, the rear-wheel drive of the sports car lost traction in the sand. She increased the gas, but the tires just spun, spraying sand behind the vehicle. Lei turned the wheel back and forth, seeking some purchase with the front tires, but instead they seemed to be working themselves deeper.
“Shinola!” Amy exclaimed, not one for swearing. A large, battered truck pulled up in front of them with a winch on the rear bumper. “Oh, this is handy.”
Two men got out. Lei stopped the useless spinning of the tires and sat, hands clenched on the wheel, teeth gritted, as Amy waved. The two approached. Both were young Hispanics with lots of tattoos. They smiled at Amy as Lei scowled.
“Hola!” Amy chirped. “Habla inglés?”
“Un poco,” The first man to reach them had greasy, shoulder-length hair and a silver chain the size of Lei’s finger dangling across a chest he was clearly proud of. His grin was missing a tooth. He leaned an arm on the frame of the windshield. “We help you.”
The other man approached Lei’s side. He was short, with a shaved, shiny head, thick neck, and the broad shoulders of a wrestler, reminding Lei of a Hispanic Vin Diesel. Probably someone’s nice dad or uncle, here to give aid. Lei wasn’t convinced of that, though, because the expression in his dark eyes was speculative as they ran over her, the car, and Amy. She glanced around for anyone else noticing what was going on. Cars continued to whiz by without slowing.
“We pull you out,” Missing Tooth told Amy. “Me Joao. This Fernando.” He gestured to the bald man.
“Gracias, Joao! Me llamo, Amy. And this is Lei.” Amy’s limited Spanish failed as she gestured.
Lei inclined her head stiffly, inhaling a strong waft of unwashed body and stale beer from Joao’s armpit. “Hola.”
The bald man returned to the truck and fiddled with the winch on the back, unspooling a length of cable connected to a heavy steel hook. Lei craned her neck to see what he was doing as he flattened out in the sand and reached under the front bumper with the hook. She heard a clunking sound as he got it secured. He backed out, standing up and dusting sand off his hands. His eyes gleamed, and he smiled for the first time. She felt his gaze on her like a touch.
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Launch day went better than I expected. Thanks to everyone who helped make it a success. And tonight from 7-9 EST come join me and the authors for a Facebook party. There will be giveaways and you can ask any of the authors and myself anything you like. Today's author, Scott Bury, will be there to talk about his Kindle World contribution…
This novella takes place between the events of Death in the Dark and Insatiable.
Sydney Rye thought it would be an easy assignment: trail Nigel Willem, a software company executive because his boss suspects he’s up to something with mysterious trips across Europe. Sydney thinks he’s just a boring businessman.
Then Willem is poisoned in his own home. Van, a mysterious young man with long, scruffy blond hair brings Sydney the dead man’s laptop, saying he knows who ordered the murder. The laptop reveals why Willem travelled: he was expediting human trafficking.
As Sydney follows Willem’s trail eastward, she finds more proof about Willem’s underworld contacts in pornography, people smuggling, drugs and murder. But the presence of the unpredictable, aggravating and irresistible Van may be more of an obstacle than a help.
Chapter 5: Needle
Sydney could never get used to the police vehicles in London. Vans and cars seemed too small by American standards, and the green-and-blue Battenburg markings along the sides did not make her think Police.
What really jarred her was seeing four of them together, blocking the narrow street in front of Willem’s house, lights flashing in the early morning when she arrived to begin her long day of surveillance. It had been three days since he had returned from France, three dreary London days of watching a man go through the same motions over and over again. The only variation had been last night, when Willem came home later than usual. Sydney had thought he looked nervous. He looked up and down the street twice after he got out of his limo, and practically ran to his front door.
And now, the next morning, there were four police cars in front of his home and a woman officer stretching yellow tape across the entrance.
Sydney kept walking past without changing her pace, Blue at her hip. She hit speed dial. “Mulberry? There are four London Police cars in front of Willem’s house and the cops are putting up crime scene tape. Do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“We just heard from a source at the Police. Willem’s dead.”
“What the fuck?”
“Police got a call early this morning. They found him lying on his back doorstep. There’s no official word from the medical examiner, yet, but it looks like he was killed some time last night.”
“Any idea who killed him?”
“Nair thinks it was someone connected with the people you saw him with in France three days ago. You better get back here to the office. Things have changed.”
“With the subject dead, I guess they have. So the cops are taking over the case?”
“They’ll be investigating the death, yes, but it’s not officially a homicide case, yet. And Majors-Taurus still wants us to continue to find out what Willem was up to. Only now, we don’t have to worry about him finding out.”
“Just whoever killed him.”
“We don’t know that anyone did. He could have had a heart attack—”
“Not very likely at his age.”
“It’s not unheard of. Or he could have slipped and fallen. We don’t know, yet. That’s why you need to come back, sit down and talk about what we know and don’t, yet, and what to do next.”
London is getting into his head. He never used to talk this much. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
She and Blue were walking down a street of two-storey brick homes with small gardens in front of them. The pavement was wet with overnight rain, and Blue was doing his best to step in every puddle. They reached a narrow opening between the sides of two houses when a tall man stepped onto the sidewalk, nearly colliding with Sydney.
“Why don’t you watch—” she began, and Blue barked happily, his tail wagging.
Then she recognized him: long, tangled blond hair, bright blue eyes, broad shoulders. “Van! What the hell are you doing here?”
Van was dressed for London: long beige cargo pants and a red rain jacket that covered a tattered t-shirt. He bent down to pat Blue’s head. “Just workin’. Fr’instance, I know who killed Nigel Willem,” he answered. He straightened, looking down at Sydney’s grey eyes.
“What do you know about Nigel Willem? Who says he’s dead?” Sydney could feel her pulse in her throat and her mouth began to water. She pushed a lock of light blond hair behind her ear.
“You know, you need to work on blending in. Yelling at someone who almost but doesn’t bump into you on the street really screams ‘New Yorker.’” He turned and started walking in the direction Sydney had been heading. For no reason that Sydney could imagine, she fell into step beside him, Blue between her and Van.
You can find more about Scott Bury, and contact him through his website, http://www.writtenword.ca, his blog, Written Words, and on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.
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