Saturday, July 4, 2015

Coming Back blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Coming Back 
Emma South
Publication date: July 2nd 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Suspense



Synopsis:

Once, Christabelle Jayne defied death. Learning to live and love again is going to be so much harder.

After being abducted and vanishing without a trace, she was presumed dead. But Christie isn’t the kind of girl that goes down without a fight. When she crawls out of the forest almost two years later, bruised and bleeding, she is confronted by a world that seems to have moved on and left her behind.

Dean Hawking returned to Warfields after a terrible tragedy on the job shook his faith in humanity. The cop’s transfer home wasn’t the cure-all he hoped for until the best thing about it, the girl he loved since high school, Christie Jayne, turns up alive.

Their worlds are thrust together again for the first time in years. Though still reeling from her ordeal, in Dean she finds a fathomless love that reminds her there are still beautiful things in the world. In Christie, he sees his chance at redemption…

Then Dean uncovers some startling information about Christie’s case, revealing that she might be in imminent danger, and their second chance at love will be put to the test when the full story of her escape is revealed. Can there be any coming back from what she’s had to do?


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25473145-coming-back-to-life?ac=1


Purchase:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Back-Adult-Romantic-Suspense/dp/1512119822/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1435672671&sr=8-1&keywords=Coming+Back+by+Emma+South
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/coming-back-emma-south/1122106335?ean=9781512119824


Excerpt 

Dean

“Hey Christie, I really need your help, King’s getting fat.”

The German Shepherd wagged his tail at the mention of his name, and Christie looked down at him with whatever fondness she could muster, given her energy levels.  She brought her eyes back up to me and seemed to be searching for the right way to decline, but then gave up and shrugged.

“OK.  Why not?  Mom? Dad?” she called out and waited for the response. “I’m going out, I’ll be back in…” she turned back to me.

“Couple hours, tops,” I said.

“A couple hours,” she finished.

Her mother stepped into the hallway.  “Really?”

“Yes, really.  I’ll be with Dean and back for dinner.  Police escort.  OK?”

“Well… yes, of course.  OK.”  Mrs. Jayne took the news with mild shock.

Christie picked out her shoes from a pile near the front door and lifted a light coat off a hook before stepping outside as she shrugged it on.  I was a couple of steps ahead of her and offered her my hand when I noticed how wet the steps were.

“Careful, it’s a bit slippery here.”

I couldn’t help but smile when she took the help I offered.  How often had I hoped to have her hand in mine, to walk through the kingdom of Warfields with its princess at my side?  An embarrassingly large number of times was the answer.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


AUTHOR BIO:

Now a USA Today Best Selling Author!

Please visit http://emmasouth.com/?page_id=31 to sign up for my newsletter.

I'm in my thirties and living in New Zealand. About 2 years ago I lost somebody very close to me. I was lucky in a way, I was given enough time to make a promise. My promise was that I would never forget our young and innocent love, and it's a promise I intend to keep.

My writing is a way to help me keep that promise. I've always enjoyed writing but was forced into being 'prudent' and giving myself over to soul-crushing office work for the sake of a steady salary. Recent events forced me to re-evaluate my priorities and I decided to take a chance. I like to put little pieces of 'us' into my writing, from funny conversations we had, to apocalyptic arguments, to that special feeling you get when you hop into bed fully aware that your feet are freezing but your partner doesn't kick you away.

Even though these things are set in fictional worlds and attached to fictional characters, in a way it feels like I'm doing something that will make our love live forever. If somebody reads one of my stories and likes a joke or sheds a tear, then our love has lived on, and I thank any readers I might have for that.

Author Links:
http://emmasouth.com/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7304575.Emma_South
https://twitter.com/EmmaSouthAuthor


Friday, July 3, 2015

The Do It List Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

The Do It List
Book 1
Jillian Stone 

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Publisher: Jillian Stone

Date of Publication:  June 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9963459-1-0

Number of pages: 334
Word Count: 90,000

Cover Artist: Jillian Stone

Book Tagline: 10 sexual encounters. No strings attached.

Book Description:

Hotshot copywriter Gracie Taylor-Scott has a reputation—for her artfully edgy ads. A rising star at Darcy Wexler Dean, New York, the long hours are perfect cover for Gracie’s fear of intimacy issues.

Great job. Great pay. No life—including her on again off again sex life. Then one night, she is plunged into darkness with a handsome stranger.

Bradley Craig is the new head of DWD’s research division, and this ad man has secrets of his own. Much lauded in his field of consumer behavior, there’s a darker side to the attractive ad man—his erotic, list-maker side.

Gracie and Bradley are assigned to work on the biggest new business pitch Darcy Wexler Dean will be in all year, and the two tangle immediately, battling copy concepts and focus group findings along with their explosive attraction to each other. 

Bradley has a proposition: they make a list. Ten erotic sexual encounters, no strings attached. What’s at stake? Two Super Bowl spots and two fragile hearts.


Excerpt

“Close the door, Gracie.”
I checked the hallway through the floor-to-ceiling glass by the exit. No one was about. Coworkers were in their offices, filling out time sheets, getting ready to call it a day.
I shut the door with a soft click.
“I believe there’s a light switch on the wall.” He used a huskier voice, more like the elevator Bradley.
I pressed the controls, and the conference room dimmed enough not to be seen by passersby, as long as we kept things quiet. Nose to the door, I stared at the smooth, matte-black surface.
“I know things got a little heated––” I stopped myself and cringed. Was I talking about last night or the testy words between us several minutes ago? And since when weren’t things heated between us? I sucked in a calming breath and exhaled silently.
It occurred to me, this attraction to Bradley might well be the hottest, most erotic experience of my life. I pivoted away from the door to face him.
“Sorry I can’t be more enthusiastic about creative testing, it’s just that I’ve been screwed by research in the past, and not in a good way.”
Bradley flopped down on the sofa and raked me over with his gaze. He patted the seat next to him. “You and I need to build some trust.”
I approached slowly. “Have you any idea how many focus groups I’ve sat through where smirking research geeks underlined every word or phrase that didn’t test high enough—some of them the best words and phrases I’ve ever written in my life?”
I dropped my bag on the floor for emphasis. “Just once, I’d like to believe research has my back.”
He clasped my wrist and tugged. “Since we’re going to be working closely together…” He pulled me lower.
I settled a knee to each side of his thighs and straddled him. It was about time I climbed on the man. “How close?”
“Intimate close.” He easily worked through the buttons of my pants.
“You’re staring at my belly button.”
“You have a piercing.” His gaze turned darker, hungrier—as if I were a mocha chocolate truffle and he had a craving for Godiva.



About the Author:

Jillian Stone was born a storyteller. A skill that got her into considerable trouble as a youth until she solved the problem by becoming an advertising creative. And the career did seem to suit her as she won many national ad awards including the Clio and the New York Art Director’s Club Gold. What more could she ask for? Create her own worlds? Become goddess of her own universe? Yes! So, she began to write fiction. Her Victorian Romantic Suspense novel AN AFFAIR WITH MR. KENNEDY won the 2010 Golden Heart and sold to Pocket Books. Her sexy, controversial steampunk novel THE SEDUCTION OF PHAETON BLACK won the 2010 Romance Through The Ages Erotica category and sold to Kensington Brava. Jillian lives in California and is currently writing a new spin-off novel to the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series as well as book #2 in the DO IT LIST series.

Website: http://jillianstone.com    

Twitter: @gJillianStone https://twitter.com/gJillianStone






Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cockpit Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Cockpit
Throttle Up
Book One
Kate Deveaux

Genre: Erotic Romance 

Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Date of Publication: June 3, 2015

ISBN: 9781419991868
ASIN:

Number of pages: 65
Word Count:  30,000

Book Description:

It seems turbulence isn’t always caused by weather.

Throttle up as past loves collide…

High school sweethearts re unite forty years later at 37,000 feet.

Fifty eight year old commercial airline pilot, Bobbi Cooper, gets a blast from the past when her high school sweetheart, Mack McConnell, appears as one her first class passengers on her 747 transatlantic flight to London.

Used to being in control at all times, Bobbi is reeling from a crummy marriage and she must learn at Mack’s capable hands that losing control can be oh so sexy.

Available at  Amazon   BN   Ellora’s Cave



Excerpt

There was silence. Then the familiar sensation of her stomach being dragged down, right down to her standard issue black shoes. G force. It was the same every time.
Flicking off the autopilot and taking control of the 747, Bobbi gripped the throttle in her right hand, fearlessly pushing it forward. Slow and even. The plane bounced and shook in the wake turbulence of a passing 767. The muffled sounds of passengers’ outbursts at the sudden drop mingled with the clatter and clang of the galley carts that Bobbi damn well hoped were secured as she’d ordered.
They had to head to higher airspace. Now.
Bobbi knew better than to heed the shrill rapid warnings echoing throughout the cockpit to urgently trim to turbulence penetration airspeed.
Scott, her first officer, nodded as they increased power and held the jet seemingly against its will. Dozens of lights flashed. Air traffic control rattled off a series of confirmations when she pressed the plane higher, the metal creaking as she forced nearly a million pounds of steel and its occupants upward.
Pushing the throttle hard, Bobbi knew smooth air was only a few moments away. Under her guidance, the plane jostled and battled its way through the rough air. A sudden bump, followed by another, then the resulting loud gasp from the passengers.
Holding firm at her command, they broke through the rough air into an eerie smoothness as they glided seemingly effortlessly into calmer airspace.
Bobbi exhaled, only now aware she’d been holding her breath. Turbulence was an everyday occurrence for a seasoned pilot like herself, but this had caught her off guard. A heady mix of bad weather and the wake turbulence of the other aircraft had left her reeling when she tried to steady the 747 inbound for Heathrow.
Scott turned away to double-check some details with the flight engineer seated behind him. Bobbi wiped a trickle of sweat from her brow when he wasn’t looking. As captain of the immense beast, Bobbi couldn’t let her fellow officers—or any crew for that matter—see her sweat under pressure. And that was becoming more of an issue, since hot flashes were now often brought on not by an adrenaline rush from flying but by Mother Nature.
Bobbi Cooper couldn’t believe she would be fifty-eight next year. Where had the time gone?
She knew damn well where it had gone. First a stepping-stone career in the Air Force and then thirty years flying commercial. Enough to establish her as one of the highest-ranking woman pilots in the country as a 747 captain for Atlantica airlines.
“Perfect,” Bobbi said, switching back to autopilot and settling the aircraft into the calmer and higher altitude.
Scott did as she ordered and tinkered with the gauges, she watched. Once she was sure all was under control, Bobbi unbuckled her shoulder harness and rose from her seat, reassured all was secure.
“Keep her on route—I’m stepping back for a moment. You two got it?” she asked, standing behind her first officer Scott and her flight engineer Neville, the new recruit fresh from a small regional airline.
“Sure, Bob, we got it,” Scott said casually, calling her by the familiar cockpit nickname. “Have them send up some coffee while you’re back there.”
Bobbi buzzed for the flight attendant to open the cockpit door. Standard procedure after 9/11. Bobbi peered out through the peephole. It was Sandy, the flight attendant with a penchant for displaying her ample cleavage by wearing her uniform extra tight, so it hugged all her curves. But it wasn’t only her inappropriate dress that annoyed Bobbi. It was the fact she’d also had fucked Bobbi’s husband.
But then again, who hasn’t?
After divorce and company paid-for counseling, Bobbi had come to the realization, and then acceptance, that Sandy was just one on a long list of Greg’s conquests. She did her best not to hold a grudge, but that was a constant challenge, as she ran into Sandy more than she would have liked. Once a century was about what Bobbi could tolerate, although it had been cleared by corporate that they were fine to work together. And they were. Bobbi was a professional. Through and through. She’d fought tooth and nail for her job, and with three and a half years until retirement, with the promise of a cushy pension waiting for her, which she’d only have to marginally share with Greg according to the settlement, there was no way she was going to let Sandy or any of the others put her off her game.
“How’d everyone do?” Bobbi asked Sandy with her cool, composed captain’s demeanor. It was the one piece of her dignity she’d salvaged among the women flight attendants, a good majority of whom had been treated to Greg’s lustful attentions.
Sandy motioned with her head back toward the passenger area. “Fine,” she reported. “Chucker in aisle sixteen and a few more farther back, but they should be fine now.”
Chuckers. That was what they called the passengers who couldn’t hang on to lunch during a bumpy flight. Today had been a doozy, and it wasn’t over yet.
Bobbi noticed with subtle irritation that Sandy’s blouse strained against her perky breasts as she efficiently flicked the switch on the coffee machine. Her bosom jiggled while she scooped ice into a plastic cup and pulled a can of tomato juice out of the galley cart. Shit. Greg really hadn’t had a chance. Big brown doe eyes and a body that wouldn’t quit. The sexy flight attendant was everything Bobbi wasn’t. Not that it mattered now. Greg was on to new, greener pastures. Her ex was consistent she scoffed —his conquests all had one, no make that two things in common— big knockers and tiny, round asses. Men were shit, really. Why she had let herself be demeaned and embarrassed by his bad behavior for as long as she had, she’d never know.
C’est le vie, Bobbi coached herself as she smiled her most innocuous smile at Sandy.
“Plan for a bumpy ride in to Heathrow—there’ll be some more weather ahead,” Bobbi warned her. “Might need more bags.”
“Sure thing, Captain,” Sandy said as she snapped open the lid on the can, poured the tomato juice over ice and handed it to Bobbi.
Bobbi nodded her appreciation and gulped down her customary in-flight refreshment. “I’m going back for a few minutes,” she said, handing the empty cup back to Sandy before pulling back the curtain to first class. “And send some coffee in for Scott and Neville before we head down, please.”
Entering the first-class cabin on her way to the pilot’s rest area located between first class and business, Bobbi scanned the spacious cabin. Most of her passengers were now contentedly dozing, oblivious to the formidable battle she’d been waging in the cockpit to keep them in precariously calm airspace. But that was her job—to deliver five hundred souls safely to London.
Sunlight illuminated the plush first-class cabin through a few half-drawn window shades, but not quite to enough to keep the blinding sun from searing into her eyes. Squinting, she walked down the aisle, passing by the first row.
A collective gasp came from the passengers when the plane hit another deep air pocket. Bobbi reached out to steady herself, placing her hand on the headrest of the second row seat for a brief second, smiling reassuringly at the surrounding passengers. She was their pilot, after all.
The passenger in the nearest seat looked up at her.
Bobbi smiled down, then did a double take.
“Bobbi?” the male passenger asked, looking up at her. “Bobbi…Bobbi Cooper?”
“Yes,” Bobbi said, instantly recognizing his features. Her mind was spinning. Those dark-blue eyes. And that unmistakable voice. Velvety and thick. The way scotch felt when it slid down her throat. She’d know that voice and that face anywhere. Even if it had been forever.
It was Mack.



About the Author:

Kate Deveaux is a contemporary, erotic romance writer and die-hard romantic. It was after reading Jane Eyre in high school, that she became hooked on the idea of writing about romance, excitement and drama. Kate has been penning stories, from the sensual to the sinfully sexy, ever since. 

A former wedding planner, Kate has always been "in love" with love!  She was inspired to transition from writing racy short stories to full length manuscripts after meeting other authors in the romance world at industry workshops, conferences and events. Originally from England, now resides in the U.S. with her husband. When she’s not writing or reading, Kate can be found on the tennis court—yes, there’s even "love" in that game too!







Street Team Kate’s Kittens:



Knave of Broken Hearts Cover Reveal & Excerpt!


Knave of Broken Hearts 
(Love in Laguna Series, Bk #2)
by Tara Lain

Blurb:

Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. 

How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?



Release Date: 
August 3, 2015


Pre-order available at 


Paperback from Dreamspinner 

Excerpt


The line for the bars had shortened as people gathered to dance with the grooms, so Jim made it to the bartender pretty quick. He popped a couple of bucks into the tip jar and carried one soda bottle and two beers toward the table. Somebody cat-called, and he glanced up in time to see Shaz spin and dip some blond guy. He laughed along with most of the spectators.

Jim took one more step. His foot caught on the edge of the wood dance floor, the slippery shoe slid, and—whoa! He stumbled forward, his arms flailing. Beer sloshed in a big gold arc. Shit, the tux! He raised the bottles high in front of him to keep the beer away, slid into a half circle, and timbered toward the floor face-first. “Damn!”

Strong hands grabbed him from behind and he twirled into a tight, warm embrace, his feet tangling but his body upright. “Got you.”

“What? Jesus!” He tried to twist his feet back and lurched again, but the hands held. Finally Jim planted himself steadily and looked up into eyes so shiny black they practically reflected his face. Wide and almond-shaped. Yaoi man. Hellfire. About 100 percent more beautiful up close than from a distance. Skin like beige marble, hair like midnight. Eyes straight from his fantasy.

The guy smiled. “How fortuitous. I was just coming to ask you to dance.”

“What?”

Dimples popped out in places where lean hollows had been. “I’d love to dance with you.” Shit if he didn’t just start dancing, holding Jim’s hands, which in turn held the bottles. Dance or fall? That was his position, so he moved his feet. Jesus. He couldn’t resist without spilling the beer down the guy’s expensively dressed back, but every movement rubbed him in places that really needed rubbing and were getting a very embarrassing reaction.

Wake up. “Uh, sorry. I’m, uh, I mean, I don’t normally dance with guys.”

Gorgeous smiled again, and it made Jim want to smile back. “You’re doing fine.”

Sweet Jesus, the guy smelled like something spicy. Grapefruit and cinnamon. Real subtle but sneaky. It kind of tiptoed in Jim’s nose and attacked—lower. “What?”

“The dancing. You’re doing fine.” He spun, holding Jim in his arms gracefully, and for a weird second Jim felt almost graceful too. That didn’t happen often. Between the smell and feel, Jim’s head spun and his heart hammered. His eyes closed on their own. He was floating like some gently moving leaf. Could move this way forever.

The silky voice whispered, “Want to deliver the beer to your friends and be hands free?”

Friends. He dragged his eyes from the man and looked toward the table. Charlie and Raoul stared, full-on, no smiles, amazement written all over their faces. Behind them in line, the women stared too, but they were laughing. Except for Peggy. She looked half pissed. Hell, it was okay for her to dance with gay guys, but not him? What the hell am I thinking? He stopped moving and tried to take a step back out of this person’s arms. Every inch away felt cold.

Mr. Beautiful cocked his head and dimpled again. “Oh dear, he’s come to his senses. Why do all the gorgeous ones have to be straight?”

Gorgeous? “Man, you’ve got some seriously bad taste.”

His face sobered just a little. “Quite the contrary. I’m known for my exceptional discernment.”

What the hell could he say to that? “Thanks for catching me.”

“Any time, dear. Any time.” Yaoi man turned and walked like some jungle cat back onto the dance floor, grabbing a handsome guy from the line as he went. By the time Jim’s heart started beating again, the guy was dancing and laughing with someone else.

Charlie and Raoul both rushed up. Charlie waved a hand toward the beautiful one. “What was that all about?”

Jim frowned. “The guy caught me when I nearly fell flat on my face.” He shoved the beer bottles at Charlie. “Here, take these.”

Raoul grabbed one of the beers. “Looked more like a tango to me, man.”

“Cut me a break. The guy was just joking around.”

Peggy’s voice came from behind him. “Oh, I don’t know. That dude is prettier than me.”

Jim turned and slipped his arm around her. Don’t force me to agree.

Charlie stared out at the dance floor, where pretty-face rested his head against a handsome blond’s shoulder. “Looks like you don’t have to worry, Peg. That dude’s got a guy for every night.”


True, and Jim fucking wished he didn't feel jealous.


About the Author


Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. 
She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!


You can find Tara at

               





Presented By


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Spell of Shattering Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Spell of Shattering
Dark Caster Series
Book 4
Anna Abner

Genre: paranormal romance

Publisher: Mild Red Books

Date of Publication: June 20, 2015

ISBN 978-0-09914031-4-1
ASIN: B00XDBNURI

Number of pages: 275
Word Count: 70K

Cover Artist: Jaycee DeLorenzo
at Sweet & Spicy Designs

Book Description:

Dive into the heart-pounding final chapter of the Dark Caster series!

If the Chaos Gate opens…

Demons will infest the world.

When the charismatic mayor of Auburn hires junior agent Jessa McAvoy to acquire him a very specific property, she hopes this is her big break. She’ll do anything to make her first real estate client happy, but the one favor he asks of her is impossible—convince her former friend Derek Walker to come out of hiding. Doing so will not only bring her into the orbit of dangerous casters, but force her to confront long-buried feelings for her missing friend.

After failing his tasks for the Dark Caster, necromancer Derek Walker is hiding in Alaska from his humiliating defeats as a card-carrying member of an evil dark cabal. But when his old boss begins opening the Chaos Gate, there is nowhere on earth Derek can hide. With no other options, he must return to the last place he wants to go—home.

When Derek Walker joins forces with Jessa and the entire Raleigh coven, the dark cabal’s biggest disappointment may be the only thing standing between earth and total destruction.

Available at Amazon


Excerpt

Spell of Shattering (Dark Caster #4) by Anna Abner Excerpt

With a little pressure, Derek Walker punched his boning knife through the throat of a dead Silver Salmon. Working the knife like a saw, he removed the head and tossed it into the trash, and then got to work gutting the unlucky creature. Bright fish blood swirled in the lake below, creating an abstract waterscape.
Bo’s voice carried over the sound of the lapping tide. "Ice is the strongest element there is," he shouted at Stubby.
They were certainly surrounded by the stuff. Bits of frost clumped in Bo’s scraggly beard, heavy snow clung to drooping tree limbs, and gray clouds swept across the sky ready to shower ice upon their heads at any moment. Derek hoped the storm would hold off a little while longer, though, at least until the men finished fishing.
"Bullshit." Bo’s friend Stubby dug through the nearby cooler but came up empty. The six-pack was long gone, and it wasn’t even ten a.m. Frustrated, Stubby spit brown tobacco juice into the mud. "Fire's stronger than ice."
Derek shifted weight from one foot to the other and skidded in the mud, catching himself on a rock. It may be August in Alaska, but the wet ground around Bear Lake at first light was cold and seeped through his sneakers.
"No it ain't," Bo argued. "Glaciers carved up the earth, you dummy. A few drops of frozen water will break boulders." He waved Stubby off. "You don't know what you're talking about."
Stubby seemed to take the argument personally. "Fire melts ice. End of story."
Derek prayed it was, but of course, it wasn't. Bo and Stubby could argue for hours over the most accurate brand of deer rifle, the stoutest superhero, or the most potent tequila. The latest debate over nature’s most dangerous element could rage on for days.
Derek sliced up two beautiful fish fillets and wrapped them in paper for his boss’s dinner. Most likely, Derek would sear them on the grill with some peppers and serve them up tonight to a small house party of world-class belchers and bearded survivalists on Bo’s deck.
It surprised Derek he could even wield a knife or a BBQ grill in his condition. The memory spell Holden Clark had hit him with four months ago had devastated his mind. Literally. He may as well have dropped him headfirst from a forty-story building onto broken glass and concrete. Holden had stolen every single memory, skill, and instinct Derek possessed, leaving him alive but hollow.
Waking in a hospital bed blank and vulnerable had been the most terrifying moment of his life. He picked up the second fish and attacked it with the knife.
Generally, the work he did as Bo’s assistant was exhausting, which suited Derek just fine. He didn’t need the money. He needed the distraction.
Actually, it wasn't that much different from the work he’d done in Auburn as Rebecca Powell's assistant. Then, he’d redecorated houses, delivered paperwork, sometimes picked up coffee and her dry cleaning, and most of the time surfed on his computer or chatted with Jessa McAvoy, the adorable junior agent working as Rebecca's protégé. Here, he bought groceries, cooked rudimentary meals, lugged trash to the dump, and drove Bo home when he drank too much.
Whether it was good living or not didn’t enter his mind. It was just living.
"All done, boss," Derek said with effort, throwing the last of the slimy scraps into the trash and tucking the fillets into the cooler. It was a constant struggle to form words and transfer them to his tongue. He was getting better, but he feared he would never be whole again.
"Anything else?" Derek asked, rinsing his bloody hands in the icy lake.
"Yeah, run into town and get another twelve pack, will ya'?" Bo asked.
"Sure." He ambled for Bo’s pickup, jingling a ring of keys as he went.
“You’re putting too much weight on your bobber again,” Stubby accused. “You’ll never catch anything that way.”
“You don’t know what you’re yammering about,” Bo shot back. “I’ve caught twice as many fish as you have, and that’s just today!”
Derek climbed into the truck before he caught Stubby’s reply.
He didn't care. He didn't care about much anymore. Even after the memory-destroying spell had been reversed, he still wasn't the same. Like tying shoelaces. He just couldn't get it. No matter how many YouTube videos he watched, he couldn't make the bunny go round the tree or the fox go in the hole or whatever nonsense he was supposed to do with ease. It worried him how much he didn't remember. What else was gone, never to return?
Kissing, for one. Surely, he must have kissed a woman at some point—he was a grown man—but he couldn't recall specifics. Or even gather the desire to try it again. It seemed silly to him. That and sex. Bizarre, pointless endeavors when he had other much more important stuff to worry about.
Like how he was…
"…A huge fucking disappointment," the spirit spat at him. "A total waste of good space. You think you deserve a second chance? What have you ever done…"
A grizzly of a dead man with a full beard and hunters cap hovered beside Bo’s truck, a gleeful smile on his pudgy face. For the past four months, the ghost had been his unwanted but constant companion.
Derek tuned out the ranting. It was getting a little easier. Night was the hardest. Trying to sleep while a nasty ghost screamed obscenities and curse words at him from the ceiling was challenging. Ear plugs only muffled the noise. They didn’t erase it completely.
The irony was, Derek was especially good at shield spells. With a spirit’s assistance, he could produce an invisible barrier impenetrable to both magic and spirit chatter. With a spirit of his own, Derek could cast banishing spells on all the ghosts the Dark Caster sent to torment his every waking moment. But Derek didn't have a spirit companion anymore. Robert had been destroyed back in Auburn, North Carolina in the magical fiasco that had stolen Derek's memories. And a necromancer without a spirit was just a man.
Almost the way a stray, foul-mouthed ghost couldn’t do any real damage without a necromancer to channel his spirit power.
He and the taunting soul were in the same boat—stuck with each other and frustrated.
It didn’t make listening to his insults any easier.
“Go away,” Derek murmured.
“What’s that, you miserable piece of crap?”
Clenching his jaw, Derek glared through the mud-streaked windshield at his new boss reclining in his favorite camp chair.
“Lost your voice?” the spirit taunted. “Loser,” he chanted. “Imbecile. Idiot.”
Alaska seemed far enough away to be safe.
So far, the worst the Dark Caster had managed since Derek’s escape was the big-mouthed ghost clinging to the inside of the truck.
Derek cranked the engine and steered away from the lake at a leisurely five miles an hour. Driving was something he had only re-learned since he’d been in Alaska. With the way Bo drank, it was a necessity.
Derek drove slow. Probably too slow. He remembered, vaguely, driving his former sports car fast on long, lonely stretches of highway, taking turns at warp speed and weaving recklessly through freeway traffic. Not anymore. Now, he was worse than an old woman. He didn't drive the speed limit. He drove under it. When Bo teased him about it, which Bo loved to do at all times about all things, Derek blamed it on the rain and snow, but it honestly had little to do with weather conditions.
Just one more thing Holden Clark had stolen from him.
He parked in front of the town's shopping center, bypassing a hardware store, a smoke-filled tavern, and the post office to pull open the heavy glass doors of a grocery store. Derek selected a twelve-pack of cheap, cold beer from the refrigerator case in the rear of the shop, and when he spun around, he came face-to-face with the eighteen-year-old checkout girl.
"Hi, Derek," she said, grinning brightly.
It was too cold, too quiet, and too depressing to be so happy.
"Hello," he returned, veering around her.
"Going fishing again?" she asked, trailing him down the baked-goods aisle.
"Bo is." Derek didn't fish. He’d never learned and didn’t see the point.
"I love to fish," she exclaimed, scampering behind the register as he set the beer on the counter. "I'll teach you how. I mean, if you don't know how. Do you know how?"
While he rearranged possible responses in his mind, he studied the girl. Lea, read her nametag. She was young and dewy, and he envied the ease with which she spit out words, but something was missing. There was no light in her. An overabundance of enthusiasm, but no inner glow.
The thought of touching her in any way, let alone kissing her, made him slightly queasy. Definitely uncomfortable. And not in a good way.
"No, thanks," he said, the same as every other time Lea had invited him somewhere.
Her face fell. "Oh. Yeah. Some other time."
He paid for the beer with Bo's credit card and turned to leave.
"You're gay, right?" Lea called after him. "That's it. You only like boys?"
He lowered his eyes and exited fast, tossing the beer in the cab of the pick-up.
Derek had been called worse in his life. It hardly bothered him anymore. He knew what kind of person attracted him. At least, he used to know. Since Holden's spell, it was hard to say what turned him on anymore because nothing did.
He just wasn't interested in being tangled up in someone else's life. Or worse, someone tangling up in his. Because his was a twisted disaster of epic proportions.
To prove it, as if Derek held any doubts, his least favorite ghost appeared in the seat beside him.
“Worthless,” he repeated, making his voice purposefully ominous. “Worthless…worthless…worthless…”
Arriving at the lake a bit distracted, Derek stomped around thick-trunked trees toward Bo and Stubby's camp chairs and silently arranged the twelve-pack in their cooler.
"Thanks, my friend," Bo exclaimed. "Come pick us up later."
"I will." Until then, Derek would be working on his cabin. Struggling, he finally spit out, "Text me if you need anything."
Once Bo and Stubby started drinking, though, they’d be arguing good-naturedly and downing cold beers for hours. Derek would have the rest of the day to himself.
“…just kill yourself already…you spineless worm…” The Dark Caster’s spirit trailed him toward the truck. “…cut your own throat, and I’ll laugh while you die…”
Or maybe not.


About the Author:

Anna Abner lived in a haunted house for three years and grew up talking to imaginary friends. In her professional life, she has been a Realtor, a childcare provider, and a teacher. Now, she writes edge-of-your-seat paranormal romances and blogs from her home in coastal North Carolina about ghosts and magic. You can connect with her online at AnnaAbner.com.



@AnnaAbner