This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Darren E. Watling will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
The earth’s epilogue was a forgone conclusion.
Our World selects seven of the best human beings that man, woman, and other could put their faith in, to ensure human existence, each displaying traits of a master in his/hers/its field.
However, not all traits are in the best interest of humankind.
Out of this World places seven hospital patients on a Plan B shuttle. Life was difficult on Earth. A new planet presents new problems. The ex-Fruit and Nut Friendly Psychiatric Hospital patients are up for the challenge.
Into the Other World—The Twist. Not only a mid-1900s dance, it is also associated with a lemon, a warped shape, a frame of mind, a warped frame of mind, a face you pull from sucking lemons and an end of story, unexpected finish, not to be given away, glancing at the back cover.
Read an Excerpt
“The court versus Jarred Pork,” the bailiff announced.
“Another serious offence. Jaywalking again. Unbelievable. What have you got to say for yourself, hmm? Well? Speak up, speak up,” the judge said, his thick and fearsome eyebrows alternating up and down.
“If the court pleases, Your Honour . . .” Sid, the defence lawyer, started.
“I’m not too pleased so far but ‘carry on, Sid’.”
“I’m the accused’s attorney. I will speak for Jarred as the accused is mute.”
The judge gave a heavy sigh and adjusted his black gown. “Very well, continue.”
“Jarred went out looking for his husband, as he hadn’t returned with an asthma puffer for their great-grandson., Wheelchair-bound, Jarred left the child with a trusting neighbour. As Jarred left their tiny unit, the red-bearded, dreadlocked kiddies friend, Molly Lester sang a kiddie song, and everyone assumed the child was safe, sport. (It is said Molly was heard on the phone: Hey, Dad! Bring Bill over. I’ve got another one. Presumably, another child to nurture, teach and explain what fine examples of human beings they are).
“I’ve heard enough from that man’s/woman’s/its mouth. Guilty! Throw away the key, like a rapper!” “Next, and this better be good, Johnny,” Clint said, as Sid swapped out and Johnny became the new defence lawyer.
“You sure are a weird lawyer Johnny, but I like you.”
“The court versus Harlett Sexton Action. The Honourable Judge Clint Eros presiding,” the bailiff stated.
“Oh, you poor thing. What have they got you in here for?” the judge showing compassion to the DD’s.
Harlette continued chewing gum as she spoke, “Well, Clinty, I’m pretty sure it’s a case of mistaken identity. I was on my way to make another porn movie, and the next thing I remember was a police officer saying I hit something or something.”
“You have a very strong defence Miss Action,” the unbiased judge claimed. “Let the prosecution begin.”
From chapter ‘Clint’ part three – Into the Other World
About the Author:
Born Darren Edward Watling, Subiaco, Western Australia, 1966. Darren excelled in English, maintaining ‘A’s, throughout his schooling and wrote a play, ‘Laughing Gas’, for his school at the age of 10. Credited with one small, published article, Darren found inspiration and reward, arriving at his latest piece, ‘Last Chance’.
He completed an apprenticeship, as a fitter, at Princess Margaret Hospital, while continuing his passion for short story writing.
Traveling Australia for three years on a private bus gave Darren a beginning to the experiences and continued, humorous outlook he has on life.
Darren approached his mother Jill Stubbs Mills and asked for her blessing to take her short story, ‘Deception’, and rewrite it into a novel. (The feedback from her publisher about her story was exceptional). Jill agreed to her son’s request. Sadly, Jill now suffers with dementia, but, keeps her sense of humour.
Various forms of employment, including a movie extra, a welder on a crocodile farm, a drummer for a touring band and currently a roof plumber, gave Darren considerable ‘fuel’, for a fired up, comedic novel.
Darren has had several passions over the past 56 years while walking this Earth. Drums, Karate, tennis and continuing today- comedic writing.
Blackout Trail Linda Naughton
Publication date: January 10th 2023
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic
Doctor Anna Hastings is no stranger to disasters, having spent much of her career as an aid worker in conflict zones around the world. Yet when an electrical phenomenon known as an EMP brings down the power grid, Anna faces catastrophe on a scale she never imagined. She must learn what it means to be a doctor in a world deprived of almost all technology.
As the blackout causes planes to fall from the sky, Anna crosses paths with devoted father Mark Ryan in the chaos at the airport. Mark convinces Anna to travel with him and his seven-year-old daughter Lily to their family’s cabin in remote Maine. There Mark hopes to reunite with his wife, and find a safe refuge from a society on the brink of collapse.
Journeying across a thousand miles of backcountry trails, they will face a daily struggle against nature. Their biggest peril, though, may come from their fellow survivors. As Anna grows closer to Mark and Lily, she resolves to see them safely home. But can she hold onto her humanity in a world gone mad?
I lowered the phone and narrowed my eyes at the blank display. No indicators, no clock —nothing. How could it be dead already? I’d charged it before I left Jess’ house last night, and the damn thing was barely a month old. I scowled. “Oh, come on.”
The nearby baggage carousel ground to a shuddering halt. A collective groan from the other passengers drew my attention away from the useless brick in my hand. Snatches of disjointed conversation reached my ears.
“Can you hear me? I think we got cut off. Frank?”
“The hell? I had plenty of charge left.”
“Moooommy! My movie stopped!”
A growing sense of dread pooled in my stomach. It wasn’t just our baggage carousel that had stopped; they all had. Both the overhead lights and the computer screens showing the baggage carousel assignments had gone dark too. The only light streamed in from the floor-to- ceiling windows lining the perimeter of the baggage claim area. Why hadn’t the emergency lights kicked on?
The automatic sliding doors had also stopped, confounding a gaggle of college kids trying to leave. Beyond the doors, an ominous stillness had replaced the constant bustle of parking shuttles, cars, and taxis creeping along the pickup lane. There should’ve been engine sounds. Horns. Something. Now there were just a bunch of confused and pissed-off people getting out of their vehicles.
Grumbling from the other passengers gave way to a stunned hush. Panic bubbled just beneath the surface. You couldn’t set foot in an American airport these days without being bombarded with reminders of terrorism. Everyone looked at each other, the same question written on our faces: Was this some kind of attack? What should we do? I expected some sort of alert or explanation over the loudspeaker, telling everyone to remain calm, but none came.
A thunderous crash from the opposite end of the terminal had me ducking and covering my head. Metal screeched on metal, accompanied by the tinkle of shattered glass and an ear- splitting grinding sound. A chorus of terrified cries erupted around me. I’ll admit it—I screamed too. I caught a glimpse of a plane fuselage crashing through the airport ceiling before plowing into the ground.
The plane flattened the south end of the building as casually as a child knocking over a stack of blocks, and the resulting fireball sent flaming debris flying in all directions. At the opposite end, the shock wave knocked me off my feet. A rush of hot air stung my face and hands.
People started picking themselves up off the ground. Dozens of survivors made a mad dash for the exits. Their screams sounded distant to my ringing ears. Non-functioning doors proved to be a mild hiccup for the exodus. The lucky ones smashed through or pried the doors open before they got smashed against the glass.
Catching my breath, I rose to a crouch. The putrid smell of aviation fuel mixed with acrid smoke tickled my throat and made my eyes water. Heart hammering, I surveyed the destruction in slack-jawed horror. The rectangular terminal stretched for the length of a football field, and nothing remained of the south half but fiery rubble. Between here and there was a wide stretch where it looked like a bomb had gone off.
Linda Naughton is a writer, software engineer, paramedic, and mother of two. She’s the author of several novels, gaming products, and the blog Self-Rescuing Princesses. A proud geek and gamer girl, she enjoys TV, movies, video games, and role-playing games. Visit her website at https://lindanaughton.com.
I know how villains are made. I’ve watched their secrets rise from the ashes and emerge from the shadows. As part of a family tree with roots so twisted, I’m strangled by their vine. Imprisoned in a world of decadence and sin, I’ve seen Gods among men. And he is one of them.
He is the villain. He is the enemy who demands to be the lover. He is the monster who has shown me pleasure but gives so much pain. But something has changed… He’s different. Darker. Wildly possessive as his obsession with me grows to an inferno that can’t be controlled.
Yes… he is the villain. And he is the end of my beginning.
Download today on or read FREE in #kindleunlimited
Alta Hensley is a USA TODAY bestselling author of hot, dark and dirty romance. She is also an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author. Being a multi-published author in the romance genre, Alta is known for her dark, gritty alpha heroes, sometimes sweet love stories, hot eroticism, and engaging tales of the constant struggle between dominance and submission.
She lives in a log cabin in the woods with her husband, two daughters, and an Australian Shepherd. When she isn’t battling the bats, and watching the deer, she is writing about villains who always get their love story and happily ever after.
Welcome to the reveal of the cover for Fires of the Forsaken (Across Time #1) by Stephanie E. Donohue. Isn’t it a beauty?
Fires of the Forsaken (Across #1)
Expected Publication Date: May 2023
Genre: Adult Fantasy/ Romantic Fantasy
Addie wanted a gosh-darn pizza.
Lass wanted to avoid being cooked over a spit.
Neither figured they’d end up with a one-way ticket to the end of days.
Addie did not have “getting plucked from the 21st century and thrown into a rudimentary fantasy world” on her “fun things to do at 30” checklist. Yet here she is, struggling to survive in the hellscape known as Sakar, a place where Wraiths flame-broil humans and Celestial armies wage war with each other over a centuries-old spat. Thankfully, Cheriour, the hunky commander of the human army, takes her under his wing—although he’s allergic to giving straight answers. And talking.
As Addie reluctantly starts to care for him, and the rest of the Sakarians, she also learns why she was sent to this world. And it’s a doozy…
The violent society of Sakar is the only home Lass has ever known, and it’s been a wretched one. She has spent her life being tormented and twisted into an inhuman hybrid by the Celestials and hunted by the humans who fear her. But she finds solace with a cocky, blue-eyed boy who comforts her, even after she accidentally slaughters innocents.
As Lass struggles to control her volatile powers, she slowly transforms into the monster the humans believe her to be. And even the boy she loves is in peril…
At the end of time, there is only fire. And neither Addie nor Lass will escape unscathed.
As a child, Stephanie E. Donohue roamed Narnia with the Pevensie siblings and rode the Hogwarts Express with Harry and his friends. She never tired of discovering new and magical worlds through the pages of a book. And, when the yearning to explore still wasn’t satiated, Stephanie turned to writing. With a pen and a few sheets of paper, she learned to craft new worlds, and vibrant characters to explore with.
That passion has never died. Stephanie still enjoys writing stories that take readers on exciting, and sometimes dangerous, adventures.
When she’s not writing, Stephanie can usually be found cuddling with her two cats, obsessively re-watching The Office, or rocking out to a Pound Fitness class.
Welcome to the book tour for A Kinder City by Peter Taylor-Gooby. Read on for details and grab yourself a copy today!A Kinder CityPublication Date: April 28, 2023
Genre: Eco Sci-Fi/ Sci-fi/ Dystopian
What place for love in a city ruled by greed?
Sarah, spirited and caring, is on her first trip outside her village. The city is dominated by the grim law of the market – the only relations permitted are between buyer and seller. Her gift of a wagonload of food to those who need it is a crime. David, a serious-minded police cadet who naively trusts in the law, arrests her and finds himself falling in love.
Franklin, the richest man in Market World, puts a price on everything. His giant factories spew forth road beasts – the huge machines that devastate the lands beyond the City in pursuit of yet more wealth.
How can David prove his love to Sarah? And how can they save her village and build a kinder city?
A gripping and thought-provoking eco-sci-fi novel, set in a world a little bit like ours.
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In an overheated semi-basement, seven storeys beneath the Council Chamber, David awaits Sarah’s Audit Hearing. The windows are horizontal slits high up the walls and the overhead strip-lights are still on, although it’s before 11.00 am and bright sunshine outside. The room is barely wide enough to hold the dais with the wooden table for the Assessor, her Recorder and the clerk, with the chair for the witness to the right and the dock for the defaulter to the left. He feels stifled and wonders if he suffers from asthma.He has found a seat at the back of the courtroom on an upright chair that grates when he moves. He shouldn’t be here. He crept in with the public through the main door, and was squeezed against a young man with inky fingers, a notebook, and furtive eyes. As soon as he sees the uniform the young man introduces himself as a TV reporter, but doesn’t give a channel. He slips his cuff back to show his wristband.‘We pay for your stories. Do you think Franklin has the answer to lawlessness in the Old Town?’David touches the insignia on his sleeve: ‘No comment.’A group of young women and men in blue uniforms without badges fill the benches at the front of the room. David guesses they are cadets from the Academy. Not so long ago I was one of you, he thinks. A cadet whose hair seems unruly despite the regulation cut looks back at him and says something to the young woman next to him. She glances round and giggles.The Assessor enters at the door behind the bench, a spare black woman in a navy blue trouser suit with the badge of office – the Golden Balance – on her breast pocket. Her clerk follows her. Everyone rises with a scraping of chairs and David is forced back against the main door.The Assessor surveys the room through metal-rimmed spectacles, sighs, and sits down.‘What have you got for us today?’The clerk bows his head. He’s short, plump-faced and his hair needs combing. He reminds David of a pocket spaniel.‘Long list, Madam. First case, Major Breach of the One Law. Conveying a cargo without contract. Intent to supply said cargo without payment.’‘Bring the defaulter to scrutiny.’David is forced to stand as the main door opens and the Court-Serjeant enters, a square-shouldered older man in a gold-braided uniform who scowls at the Bench, the Assessor and the audience. He leads Sarah into the courtroom. She glances round the room, as if noting the details for when she tells her friends the story.The Serjeant grasps her arm and the clerk slaps his hand on the desk:‘Proceed.’She nods to him, picks the officer’s fingers from her arm with her other hand and strolls forward.‘Take her to the dock.’‘Please. I’ll find my own way.’The clerk snorts.‘Silence.’She takes her position to the left of the bench, the Serjeant behind her, and looks round. David feels she is searching him out. The journalist licks his biro and scribbles at his pad.The Assessor leans towards her.‘You are Ms S.Cordell, known as Sarah. You are called to scrutiny for a serious Audit transgression. I have reviewed the evidence and am minded to order full compensation with costs. Have you anything to say?’Sarah frowns, and for an instant David feels dizzy, as if everything is back to front. She is the judge and he stands accused in the dock. Then her face lights up.‘Not really. I was taking some fruit and other produce from Coneystone in the wagon with Juno. We wanted to share it with our cousins and friends in the Old Town. First time I’ve done the trip, we had a great crop this year. These people,’ she waves a hand towards David, ‘him and his mates, jumped out on me, all dressed up like comedy policemen. Pity it was muddy, they kept falling over. He’ll do it now if you’re lucky.’Someone sniggers and the Assessor fixes her gaze on the cadets.Sarah keeps talking.‘It’s not funny. They scared Juno.’‘That’s of no importance. The question is: have you a valid contract?’ The Assessor pauses a moment, then raises her voice. ‘You have no contract, it’s idle to deny it. Answer a simple question: who pays you for the apples?’‘But it’s a good act, you really should see it. Then they frightened Juno and upset the applecart.’ Her face darkens. ‘So to speak. Then they took me here and kept me in and I’m worried about Juno. The apples will spoil. So will the blackberries.’ She turns to the court: ‘You haven’t seen where they’ve put Juno have you? Lovely beast, heavy horse, red ribbons in her mane. You wouldn’t miss her.’The Assessor thrusts her face towards Sarah.‘You will address the question. The longer you waste the court’s time, the more it will cost you.’Sarah smooths her forehead with her hand.‘Oh no, I’m sorry, didn’t I say? The apples and everything, they’re all presents. Brilliant harvest this year. You can have some.’She looks round at all of them, smiling at her good fortune.The Assessor straightens her back. She glances at the clerk, who nods.‘Thank you. Transfer of commodity at zero price: major breach.’‘I’m sorry? Would you like some apples? Don’t you want witnesses? Look, one of them’s over there.’David colours and hunches down in his chair, but he can’t stop himself gazing at her. He feels as if everyone in the court is craning round to look at him.The clerk slaps the desk again.‘Silence!’Sarah raises an eyebrow but says nothing. The Assessor sighs.‘Breach of the One Law. Full confession. Witnesses are unnecessary.’David feels the tension flow out of his shoulders.Sarah shakes her head, her face comical. Her eyelid flutters. David can’t tell if she just winked at him.‘I’m sorry?’‘The One Law directs that all transactions must be between willing buyer and willing seller at an agreed price. Law of the Market. You do not give people things that you could sell to them. There are no exceptions.’‘But….’ Sarah stops, her mouth open.‘Be quiet. You have incurred substantial expenses.’She gestures to the clerk, who reads out staccato from a thin strip of paper:‘Deployment twelve Enforcers, 1 captain, 1 sergeant, 1 half-sergeant for 4 hours: 300 credits; Item: deduction for value of training exercise: minus 110 credits.Uniform cleaning: 10 credits.Accommodation, item: basic cell by one night: 200 credits; item: stabling and incidentals: 4 creditsSecurity during accommodation: 50 creditsIncidentals: toothpaste, soap, towel etc: 5 credits.Courtroom, third grade, by one hour, staffing and incidentals: 100 credits.Compensation: inconvenience of arrest to the detainee, standard rate 2 credits an hour by 18 hours: minus 36 credits. Item: proceeds, sale of 1 horse: minus 17 credits. Item: proceeds sale of cart and contents: minus 32 credits.’David keeps his eyes on Sarah. She raises her eyebrows again and shrugs her shoulders.‘Total 474 credits.’‘Thank you. Ms Cordell, your breach cost Market World 669 credits minus 110 credits value of training provided, 36 credits citizen compensation and 49 credits sale of confiscated items. Your civic recompense is set at 474 credits. Next case.’Sarah stares at her.‘You must be joking! What is a credit anyway?’The Assessor blinks.‘Next case.’‘But what about Juno?’The clerk remarks to no-one ‘Additional court time may be purchased at 1.4 credits a minute.’The Court-Serjeant seizes Sarah by the arm and hustles her towards the door. David rises and pulls his chair out of the way. She catches his eye as she passes and looks back at him and grimaces. It strikes him to the heart. He grips the door and stops it from shutting. The next case, a market trader accused of short weight, in a shabby suit with the jacket too tight under his shoulders, is brought in.A buzz of conversation rises from the cadets. The young man who stared back at David tilts his head towards the young woman next to him and whispers something that is terribly important to them both. He takes the young woman’s hand, ignoring the others. The Assessor glowers at them‘Silence! Or I shall clear the court.’The journalist flips to the next page, sucks at his pen and writes.David slips round the door and pulls it shut behind him. He leans against it for a full half-minute, his eyes closed.He knows that the staircase in front of him leads up to the main hall where fines are paid. He turns left and strides down the corridor towards the barracks block. Voices sound from the guard room and he dodges left again into a narrower corridor with raw concrete walls lit by unshaded light-bulbs, then up an iron spiral stair. He listens for foot-steps, then creeps across a metal landing as softly as if he were on a close surveillance exercise and it was Adam assessing him. He listens again, and passes through a side-door into the Process Room. He blinks in the daylight that streams in from tall windows overlooking City Square. His heart feels tight in his chest. He has never in his life done anything like this. He doesn’t know why he is doing it now. He is a fool.The duty Enforcer sits at the metal desk with the band-reader on it and the empty metal chair opposite, examining her finger nails. She slips something into her mouth. David clenches his fist, relaxes it and lets the door slam shut. The sound echoes across the room. She jerks upright and glances towards him, and pulls her jacket straight.He knows her, they did their basic training together. Six weeks of square-bashing with Curtis shouting at you.‘Hi Jan. Your lucky day. I’m to take over.’He didn’t plan that. Where did it come from?Jan frowns.‘Who says? I’m here ‘til 18.00 hours.’She chews at something.‘Curtis. Extra duty – for yesterday.’‘I heard. Curtis doesn’t like you, does he?’‘Yeah, well. It’s a long story, I think he was a bit scared of the horse. Guess he likes you.’‘Sure he does.’ She studies his face. ‘Are you alright?’‘Yeah, well. I’ll be OK.’‘That bad, is it? You’ve got friends you know.’‘Sure… Thanks.’She touches his hand.‘All yours. I’m off.’The side-door clicks to. David expels the air from his lungs and breathes in slowly to calm the throbbing in his head. He touches the band-reader in front of him. He’s used it a thousand times. You key in the amount, touch your wristband against the screen and it deducts or adds on the credits.No citizen in Market World is ever without a wristband. It’s fastened to your wrist at the citizenship ceremony when you pass eighteen and goes with you to the grave. You get lessons on it in “Lifeskills” at school. It only works if the buyer assents to the deal and that is infallible. Willing seller, willing buyer. As the signs in the street say: ‘You’re not dressed without it’, ‘No pay, no get’ and ‘You are your account’.He swallows and pushes the hair back off his forehead.The door is thrown open and the Serjeant enters, still gripping Sarah by the arm. He marches her up to the desk and releases her. He reminds David of an elderly bullfrog.‘All yours. Watch her. She tried to chat up my deputy in the Guard Room.’‘I did not. I just said he had nice eyes for a comedian.’ She stares at David. ‘Nice to meet you again.’She holds out her hand.David reaches out, then lays his hand palm-down on the desk.‘The defaulter will maintain discipline,’ barks the Serjeant. ‘Sit.’Sarah looks round her, pulls out the chair, sits and crosses her legs.David squares his shoulders.‘Alright. I’ll take over from here.’‘The court placed Ms Cordell in my charge.’The Serjeant keeps his hand on Sarah’s shoulder.‘Until her debt is discharged. Which is now.’He looks the Serjeant in the eye. After a pause the officer drops his hand and pulls on a leather glove.‘Very well.’The door slams behind him. David licks his lips and looks at Sarah and tries to smile. He has the script by heart, he learned it last night.‘You understand that you must pay civic recompense as decided by the court. 474 credits. Touch your wristband to the reader.’‘Where’s Juno? I don’t care about the cart, but she’s not used to being away from me.’‘Your possessions will be auctioned to defray expenses. Just touch your wristband here. See that number? That’s your account: “Debit 474”. But you must have a wristband. It’s always issued at the citizenship ceremony when you leave school. You could buy that cartload ten times over with that many credits. Twenty times.’He taps the reader. She grins at him.‘We don’t bother with those things in the villages, waste of time.’ She starts to get up. ‘Let’s go and find Juno. I need to get on my way.’‘She’s OK, I sorted it. She’s being looked after.’‘Are you sure? What do you know about horses?’‘She’s OK.’‘Tell me about Juno.’She rests her chin on her fingertips and fixes her eyes on him. He places his hands together on the table.‘She’s a black Percheron. 18 hands.’She nods and her cheeks dimple.‘She’s being fed OK?’‘All the hay she wants – and crushed oats. And apples, but not too many. I tell you, she’s OK. Trust me. Now touch your wristband to the reader.’She’s puzzled. Her brow furrows in tiny creases.‘What wristband? I told you we don’t go in for them. My sister’ll plait you one out of wool. She’s only nine.’‘You really don’t understand do you? You are in Market World. You pay for everything, you have to. You’ve taken up the time of the court and the resources of the Enforcers. No-one is going to lock you up for free.’She giggles and the tiny dints dimple her cheeks. She places her hand over her mouth.‘Sorry, but you just said…’‘I know. Everything is for sale here, you get nothing without paying for it. The One Law – law of the market. It’s what give s us a well-ordered society, why we’re so much better off than you are in the villages.’‘Sort of “All for One and One for All?” Free for All?’‘Sort of – but it works. Don’t you see it?’He craves for her to understand, to see how his world is better, to want to be part of it. That’s why he’s here. For her. He will be her guide, her mentor, her friend and she will trust him.She shakes her head.‘You really shouldn’t take these things so seriously. It doesn’t make you happy, does it?’There’s a sharpness in her glance, as if it’s in her mind to say something else, but she continues: ‘Anyway, I don’t have a wristband.’He shows her the numbers on the screen set into the black band on his left wrist. ‘There. See – all my credits: eight thousand seven hundred and fifty two, until I get paid. It’s all connected up to central computing – they keep the records. It’s how we do things.’He feels a flush of pleasure at teaching her. She’s so confident and, at the same time, so wrong, so much in need of help and he can give it. His left leg trembles against the desk. He wills it to be calm.She folds her arms.‘Yeah, I heard stories about that. But I told you, we don’t bother with that kind of stuff – it’s no fun.’‘Listen. In the past was the Great Hunger. Didn’t they tell you about it in school? Everything was terrible, people fought for food, children starved and warlords ruled the land. So many died they could no longer bury the dead.’She shivers. ‘Sounds nasty.’He finds it hard to concentrate.‘Look out of that window.’ He points over City Square. ‘Can’t you see? Everyone going about their business. The shops, full of food and clothes and everything you need. The residence blocks where everybody lives.’The words come more easily as he remembers the lesson. She mutters something to herself.‘What’s that?’‘Don’t look as if they’re having much fun.’‘Clinics where you can buy medicine, schools and training colleges where you can pay for a degree, markets where citizens buy and sell at a fair price. Above them, the towers of the Entrepreneurs. And everywhere the Enforcers watching over us all, trusted by everyone, making sure we follow the rules.’She peers out through the window.‘They’re not happy. No-one’s smiling, nobody stops for a chat. Why aren’t there children playing? Or animals? And their clothes are so drab. Don’t you like to see trees?’ She spreads out her arms. ‘They’re so lovely this time of year.’ ‘Everyone’s busy, they’re going about their business. That’s what you do in Market World. Children are in school or training or working. No time to waste. We keep the beasts in their sheds and the trees in the park. What’s the profit in bright clothes?’He watches her as if, at that moment, she matters more than anything to him. The thought comes to him: I am an Enforcer. She will understand, without the Enforcers there is no market, no Market World. I am worthy of respect.She needs to see Market World as it is, but he can’t let her go out there. She’ll be as lost as he would be in the forest. How desolate it would be, to be alone on those streets with no wristband and the night coming on.‘When did you last eat?’He has her full attention.‘I don’t know.’ She pauses and tiny creases appear between her eyebrows. Her face clears. ‘I had some dried fish on the way. They wouldn’t give me breakfast back there, they kept saying didn’t I know “No pay, no get”. They didn’t like it when I asked if that was the chorus and could I sing along? I keep telling you, you people have no sense of humour.’David stands and at the same time flips his left hand forward onto the reader without looking down, hears the click as it makes contact and checks the screen. “Account cleared”. She doesn’t notice. He’s in command for once like he’s in a novel.‘Come on. We’ll find a café. You need someone to show you what Market World’s really like. And I’ll tell you my dream – why I’m an Enforcer.’Her eyes light up and she rubs her hands together.‘And I’ll tell you about how we live in the villages. And we’ll find Juno, won’t we?’ ‘Of course.’She trusts him. He knows that she trusts him.He leads the way, through the lobby and the double doors, and down the flight of steps from the Halls of Justice into City Square. Happiness bubbles within him. She laughs, mouth open, the dimples in her cheeks each side of it. He remembers he’s on extra duty. He’ll deal with that later.
My novels deal with issues that matter – love, money, power and environmental disaster. I’ve worked on adventure playgrounds, in a social security office and as a teacher. I love walking, cycling, writing and talking to my children.
In my day job I’m an academic but I believe that you can only truly understand the issues that matter to people through your feelings, your imagination and your compassion. That’s why I write novels.
My first novel, “The Baby Auction” 2017, is a love story set in a fantasy world where the only rule is the law of the market. That someone should help another because they care for them simply doesn’t make sense to the citizens of Market World, any more that auctioning babies might to us.
My second, “Ardent Justice” 2018, is a crime story set in the world of high finance and city fat-cats, where money rules, but greed can trip even the most successful.
My third, “Blood Ties” 2020, is about the ties of love in a troubled family, and the bonds of debt that chain illegal immigrants to people-traffickers, and how they can be broken through self-sacrifice.
My fourth, “A Kinder City” 2022, returns to Market World where the relentless pursuit of profit leads to environmental devastation. I hope you enjoy them.
Billy has always been a loner, but after being bitten by a ferocious wolf, his need for solitude becomes even greater. He can’t get a handle on the wild forces now running through him. He makes the best of it by carving out a territory in the Canadian wilderness, but he’s far from happy with his lot in this strange, new life.
Luc knows Billy is just the guy he’s looking for. His small pack is made up of men who are special even among weres. Their ability to control the elements — air, earth, fire and water — makes them uniquely qualified to act as spirit guardians. But presently there are only three, and they need Billy to complete them or Luc will lose much more than his position as alpha.
It’ll take a lot of fast talking to convince Billy to join their pack, but first the Wild Ones will have to catch him…
The moon’s pregnant, white belly hung high over the Canadian evergreens. Billy gave it the finger, even as his body began to shift. He didn’t understand the biochemistry that transformed him from man to beast. All he knew was a full moon meant he was in for three days of sheer hell.
It had been that way for a couple months now. Each full moon he prayed he wouldn’t feel the tell-tale tingle rippling along his spine. Each month since that unlucky July evening when he’d been bitten by a rabid wolf he’d been doomed to disappointment. The change always came, no matter what he tried to prevent it.
It was more than just the transformation though. With the change came hunger. His appetite for food was only eclipsed by his craving for sex, and sating either hunger wasn’t exactly easy. He always went after big game so at least he could comfort himself with the knowledge that his victims stood a fighting chance. His human skin was scarred with reminders of each struggle, but he hadn’t lost yet.
Perhaps tonight he would.
His limbs contorted as they pursued a new shape. Hands became paws. Mouth became muzzle. Screams became howls. As the last vestiges of his humanity buried itself under a thick pelt of tawny hair, Billy pushed himself to his feet — all four of them — and sniffed the night air, searching for traces of hidden foes.
The Watcher was nearby.
The creature smelled different from other wolves… smelled almost like Billy himself, except that was impossible. There was no one like him.
Rage nipped at his hindquarters that another wolf would dare to enter his marked territory. It was an animal instinct his human side didn’t understand, to mark and defend. His wolf side demanded that the intruder be challenged. Tonight, Billy decided, he would do just that.
He loped down to the fast flowing river and then drank until he thought his stomach would burst. The change always left him dehydrated. And though he knew it would do little to assuage his hunger for meat, he munched down a rabbit that wasn’t quite fast enough to evade his powerful jaws. He needed more, much more. After he confronted The Watcher, he’d have it.
Or he’d be dead.
Either way, his problem would be solved.
Billy returned to the copse of trees where he’d gone through the change. The Watcher’s scent was still there. He’d tried on other occasions to track down the beast who’d been keeping an eye on him lately. The trail always ended in a tail-chasing circle. It had befuddled his animal mind, but the passage of time had brought about a blending between his human side and this creature he’d become. He could now think logically as a wolf, and use his animal instincts when he wore his human skin.
When it came to tracking down the interloper, logic prevailed where animal instinct had failed. He thought he knew how The Watcher could be found. Tonight, he’d test his theory.
Letting his wolf senses take the lead, Billy followed the scent trail through the woods. The invisible lines drawn by man to partition the land were beneath his notice in this form. He crossed into the territory belonging to the Iroquois Indians, a place where he’d be arrested for trespassing if he entered on two feet instead of four.
Some night bird gave a warning cry. Little furry critters scattered out of his path. The other animals sensed the tension in the air. Something dangerous was about to happen, and they didn’t want to be caught in the middle when it did.
The wind blew new information to his ultra-sensitive nose. The Watcher was close, and he wasn’t alone. Two more wolves had joined him. It was difficult to be sure where one stood in relation to the others, so close was their scent. Certainly, they were pack mates, living in the same den. And if they lived together, they’d fight together.
Three against one. The odds gave Billy pause.
This territory was his. He’d fought like the devil against other predators in the area and carved out a niche for himself. A lone wolf. A rogue. An outsider. He wanted to keep it that way. It would be far safer for their pack in the long run. Billy’d sacrifice one to save the whole from whatever evil, unholy thing he might become next.
But three against one? Surely they’d kill him. Part of him longed for that release from this nightmarish torment, but that part wasn’t currently in control. The animal in him said flight now would ensure he’d live to fight another day. Perhaps pick them off, one by one.
His decision made — at least for tonight — Billy started to turn tail and run. But then the scent of The Watcher came to him again, much stronger than before. Billy froze, his keen eyes searching the darkness around him. The surrounding forest was deathly silent, except for the sound of his own breathing.
A predator was near.
Slowly, Billy cocked his head to look over his shoulder. A pair of golden eyes gazed back at him. The beast was sitting there, waiting patiently. A skilled hunter watching his prey.
The circumstances had changed, and so had Billy’s options. To flee now would signal defeat. He’d lose face among the forest dwellers and once again be vulnerable to those he’d already bested. He had to fight now and hope the vestiges of his human logic that traveled with him in this form could out-think The Watcher and his pack mates.
Billy faced the threat, again sniffing the air to see if The Watcher’s companions had moved at all. They remained some distance behind him. Perhaps if he struck hard and fast…
Thought became action before it was fully complete. He bounded forward, prepared to knock his opponent down with sheer brute force. But when he landed, The Watcher wasn’t beneath him.
Billy looked around and spotted his quarry sitting several yards away, his tongue lolling out in a wolfish smile. Damn that creature to hell!
Leave or die, Billy yipped in warning. The temperature had dropped enough for his breath to curl up from his wet nose in spirals of white steam.
You’ll not find me so easy to kill, young one, The Watcher barked in return. Try me, if you dare.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kira Stone lives in a warm cave tucked away in the remote Scottish Highlands, where a small band of ever-changing heroes serves as company. As they relax in front of a roaring fire, demons dance in leather pants and angels stroke tunes from the harp strings, while the Fae stop in to share tales from other worlds. Bound by pen and imagination, these are the folk who wait to greet you from the pages of Kira’s stories.
When Marissa learns her abusive husband, Arfon Hanson, plans to murder her so he can take another wife, Marissa flees. She hopes to find sanctuary at the convent where she was educated, but fate intervenes when Steffan Gwinett rescues her from the henchmen Arfon sent to bring her back.
Years ago, Marissa and Steffan had been in love, but her father broke off their relationship, sending her away. Their chance meeting rekindles all their old feelings for each other. After they make love, Steffan vows to expose Arfon for a would-be murderer.
Marissa won’t let Steffan take on the dangerous job alone. She disguises herself as a boy, and they begin an investigation of Arfon. They get more than they bargained for when they discover her husband is the leader of a demon-worshiping cult — and is making plans to offer a local boy as a sacrifice. Can they rescue the victim and find a happy ever after for themselves?
Steffan Gwinett rode past the darkened house and dismounted in the pasture where Darias, his horse, could graze as he would. The moon was almost full, and the sky danced with stars, the heavens giving him enough light to guide his steps. He stood for a moment looking toward the spot where the bee boxes had stood. He could see no sign of them now.
“I’ll be back soon,” he said to his steed, before turning toward the cottage.
It was not an imposing dwelling. The main room had a packed dirt floor. When he’d lived there, the only furnishings had been a large fireplace for warmth and cooking and a table and chairs for sitting and eating. Up above, on the opposite side from the fireplace, was a narrow loft where he had slept. Beyond the main room lay another, barely large enough for a mattress, where his parents had slept until his mother had died. Then it was only Steffan and his grizzled old father — until his father, too, had succumbed to years of hard labor.
Steffan’s father had been a farmer whose fortunes rose and fell with the vagaries of the weather. When the crops were good they ate well, with extra coin for buying necessities they could not make themselves. Sometimes they could even afford a few luxuries, like sturdy fabric for his mother to sew into clothing.
Steffan had known that hardscrabble life was not for him. He’d dreamed of running off with the girl he loved, though that had only been a foolish fancy.
After reality had crashed over him, he had gone off to join King Norwen’s troops. That had not worked out either. Three years of enforcing the king’s draconian edicts had been enough for him. He’d declined his next enlistment and taken the coin he’d managed to save during his time of service.
Now here he was, having another look at this land, wondering if he could make it work for him in a way his father had never considered.
He was almost to the front door when he stopped short. Since childhood he’d enjoyed a talent other people did not possess. He had no name for it, yet somehow he always knew when he was not alone.
That sixth sense had saved his life more than once when he’d been a member of the royal troops — like the time they’d been ordered to clear a town of troublemakers. One of the ruffians had been waiting with a heavy club at the intersection of two streets. Sensing him, Steffan had stopped in his tracks and turned the tables on the would-be assailant.
That same ability slowed his steps now as he approached the cottage. Stopping short of the entrance, he drew his knife and reached for the knob, easing the door inward a few inches. At the same time, he stepped to the side so that he would not be an immediate target. With the door cracked, he stood in the cool night air — listening. He could hear nothing. The house looked as though it was abandoned, yet his instincts told him that was not true. Pushing the door open a bit farther, he peered into the darkness, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the shadowy interior. When he could take in details, he scanned the room. The table and chairs were gone, as was all the cooking equipment near the fireplace.
He tipped his head up, directing his attention to the loft. Someone could be up there in the shadows, waiting to leap down on anyone who entered. A quick glance told him the access ladder was also missing. Unless an intruder had pulled it up after himself, there was no way to reach the sleeping platform.
Who would be in here? From the squalid looks of the interior, obviously not someone who had made a home in this empty cottage. Perhaps it was a ruffian using it as a temporary hideout.
With the main room cleared, his next target was the bedroom. Quietly he crossed the packed dirt and listened at the ripped curtain that still hung there.
Steffan detected nothing — until the curtain flew open and a dark figure leaped out at him, the only thing clearly visible the glint of moonlight on steel.
Only Steffan’s instincts and his hours in the practice yard saved him from a serious knife wound. He twisted away from the assailant and thrust out his foot, sending the knave sprawling and their blade skittering away.
The man was hardly an experienced fighter, Steffan noted as he followed the attacker down, trapping him against the packed earth floor.
The man? No, it must be a youth. In their frantic struggle he detected little meat on the assailant’s arms, and little muscle mass. This boy had no idea how to fight off a warrior — luckily for Steffan. “Stop struggling before you get hurt,” he growled.
Probably realizing that further combat was dangerous, the assailant took his advice — which gave Steffan time to evaluate the body that lay beneath his. He had expected a shallow chest to go with the spindly arms. The reality was quite different. Instead of a boy’s upper trunk, he felt the swell of nicely rounded breasts. Confusion grabbed him as he stared down into glaring green eyes. Familiar eyes — eyes that took him back to another time and place.
He gasped, feeling as though he had taken a hard blow to the gut in a jousting match. For heartbeats he was frozen in place — as was the girl who glared up at him.
Finally he was able to choke out, “Marissa Dumfries.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling Author Rebecca York began her career as a journalist writing articles for newspapers and magazines, but after several years decided to try writing fiction. She’s a highly successful author of over 50 romantic suspense and paranormal novels and is the head of the Columbia Writers Workshop. Her many awards include two Rita finalist books. She has two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times: for Series Romantic Suspense and for Series Romantic Mystery. Her Peregrine Connection series won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense Series. She collects rocks, and enjoys cooking, walking, reading, gardening, travel, and Mozart operas.
Cambry is everything an omega shouldn’t be. He’s tall, muscular and attacks every alpha who approaches him, shifting into his wolf form before making sure they know their place—away from him.
Cambry’s father sends him to Feral Woods in the hopes that Cambry will return home too shattered to put up a fight against his next potential mate. If one alpha can’t tame him, then why not try two?
With two hundred supervised acres, Feral Woods is a couple’s therapy center run by Bryce and Jake—two massive alphas who could tear Cambry apart. It’s not long before Cambry finds himself drawn to them, his inner beast submissive for the first time in his life. But he is met with dismissive refusal instead of interest.
With his heart on the line and time running out, there is a chance he could remain broken forever.
Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of a shifter orgy.
Cambry grasped the curtain, pulling it away from the polished glass of his bedroom window. The fabric was soft and heavy in his hand—something from the latest designer his mother had fallen in love with. Instead of the previous indigo, it was now a deep blue that blended in with the softer tones of his room.
A fountain spurted beyond the window, its waters guarded by a black gate that matched the fence that surrounded the property. There were grass and trees, too, beyond those gates, not that he ever got the chance to enjoy them.
An alpha retreated along the concrete walkway, his back rippling under his thin T-shirt. Each movement was like a feral dance of instinct and desire. There was a streak of red across his shirt that hadn’t been there when he’d arrived. The alpha had been big, strong, attractive and sweet—everything a proper mate should be.
But Cambry’s plan had been disastrous, like a spectacular firework that had failed to launch and exploded in his face instead. The second the alpha had shown any intent that wasn’t exactly platonic, Cambry’s instinctive side had reared up and taken him out.
Sighing, Cambry let the curtain fall shut, the filtered light dimming to a sparse glow. Luckily, the alpha was only leaving with a scratch and a black eye instead of a broken arm like the last one—or the broken collar bone from the one before him. Maybe it was because Cambry had warned him?
Most alphas sneered at the warning—hence the broken arm and collar bone—but this one had seemed different.
“When you try to touch me, I’m going to react…badly.” Cambry couldn’t remember how many times he had said those same words. He guessed that the first few alphas had assumed that Cambry would react like any other omega was supposed to—with slick and a burst of pheromones.
They hadn’t been expecting violence.
Walking to his dresser, Cambry pulled the top drawer wide, fumbling with a pair of boxers and tugging them up his thick legs. The fabric was smooth and silken and clutched his soft package like a fitted glove. They were worth spending his tiny allowance on, that was for sure. Thank goodness for the little things in life.
The little things being both his package and the expensive underwear.
His old friend Aubrie had asked him why he always splurged on the things if he had no one to show them off to. He had his own mirror, thank you very much, which added ten pounds, even on the best of days. But it was always honest about the boxers, which looked a hell of a lot better than they did on most omegas.
“Why don’t you give up, Cambry? It kills me to see you like this. If an alpha hasn’t induced a heat in you by now, it’s not going to happen.”
Aubrie had probably had the best intentions when she’d said that, but it had pierced Cambry’s soul like a dull pencil crayon. Or maybe that was why Cambry’s father had chosen her as his friend…to wear him down a bit more.
There was only so much loneliness he could take before he tried to be with someone again, hoping that everything would finally work the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t the sex as much as it was everything else. He couldn’t hug someone or even hold their hand without his feral side acting out.
His skin prickled as his door slid back, light footsteps moving across the floor behind him. And there was that.
“Your father is upset,” said his mother, her meek voice slapping him harder than any blow. He couldn’t look at her and see the same disappointment that was in his soul.
He could hear her shaking, her teeth chattering softly as she stayed as far away from him as she could. He was surprised that she had even managed to step into the same room as he was in.
“I tried, Mom,” he said, pulling a second drawer wide and tugging a shirt over his frame. He had to get alpha sizes, seeing as nothing for omegas fit his frame. His father was upset about that, too.
The alpha sizes were shaped differently than he was, though—the shoulders a touch too wide and the waist not quite narrow enough. Nothing had fit him well since he’d hit puberty.
The steady thumps of his father’s steps approached, and he hurriedly pulled a pair of jeans over his legs. They at least fit a bit better, his thighs stretching the fabric to its brink as it cupped his ass. The only place with too much room was the crotch, but he was almost glad that nothing ever touched him there.
He looked at the mirror above his dresser, scowling at his reflection. Fellow omegas were terrified of him, and alphas treated him like he was a strange cousin to the human race who needed to be broken or beaten until he fit into a different shape than what he had been born into.
He sniffed, slamming the drawer shut before his father could step into his room. There was no use crying, no matter how frustrated he was.
“We’ve tried it your way, Cambry. These alphas can’t stand to get close to you, let alone allow you to bond with them,” said his father as he hovered at the edge of the door frame. He was a few inches shy of Cambry’s height and had lost his alpha muscling to his age long before Cambry had been born. Like most alphas, he never got too close to Cambry—just close enough to hurt with words.
Cambry wondered if he would ever forget his father’s way. The restraints had dug into his wrists as a strange alpha had approached him from behind. Guided by an overdressed and undereducated doctor, Cambry’s father had hoped to kick-start Cambry’s omega nature with some good ole fashioned alpha cock. They hadn’t counted on Cambry breaking his own arm as he shifted, turning on the alpha and ripping a chunk of flesh from his throat.
The alpha hadn’t died—thank goodness—but they had never tried to restrain Cambry after that. And they had finally listened to him and had let him try on his own terms by picking up an alpha from a bar. It was about as romantic as a one-night stand could have been.
But it had resulted the same way—minus the shifting and massive blood loss, at least.
“It almost happened, Dad. I was so close,” said Cambry, touching his belly. He’d been naked, which had been a first. And the alpha had managed to touch him once before Cambry’s beast had risen to the surface and socked him in the face. Biting the alpha’s gland to bond with them had been the last thing on his mind.
“Close isn’t enough,” said his father, the snarl in his voice enough to prickle the hair on the back of Cambry’s neck. He’d never attacked a family member, but he had come close enough times that his father rarely approached him without backup. It was probably why his mother was strategically between them, shivering with her eyes downcast.
“Your heat could kill you. You’re already so much older than you should be for your first one, and there’s no way you can manage it alone,” said his mother, the edge of a sob in her voice. Cambry turned, his heart falling as he watched the tears stream down his mother’s face. She, at least, cared for him. His father was more interested in seeing him out of the door in a different alpha’s house—with some financial benefits for himself, of course.
“I’d have to have a heat first.” Cambry turned away as his father’s dark eyes glared into him. Most omegas had their first heat when they were still in high school, the late bloomers sprouting by eighteen at the latest. Cambry had turned twenty-two three weeks before, and he still hadn’t experienced a heat. He was hardly an omega at all by some standards.
But his mom was right. Those that had monthly heats had the mildest cycle, still able to continue their day-to-day lives with only a mild fever and a bit of slickness. Some of Cambry’s classmates had been that way, and he’d scarcely been able to tell.
Those who had heats once a year had to isolate themselves for nearly a week, their scent and instincts so uncontrollable that they could kill any stranger who attempted to approach. They needed a mate to ease them through it, more with their presence than their knot, from what his mother had explained.
For Cambry not to have had a heat at his age meant that his first would reduce him to nothing more than a feral beast that would kill and fuck without conscious thought. The idea was terrifying, especially since he was already so close to feral that an alpha couldn’t touch him.
“I’ve tolerated this abnormality of yours for long enough,” said his father, his mother’s spine stiffening.
“Dear, you promised,” she said, her voice pleading.
“No, he’ll be going to them, and that’s final. That doctor wasn’t worth his degree, but a colleague of mine gave me the name of a facility that he swears by. If one alpha can’t handle him, then maybe two can snap him out of this phase.” He tossed a business card into the room and it fluttered end over end before settling upside down on the floor. Turning, he stormed from the entry.
Cambry finally took a breath as his father disappeared, skirting by his mother to grab the business card. It was deep forest green with the name Feral Woods inscribed along the middle with deep gold lettering.
He flipped it over, his eyes going wide as he read the services listed on the card. “Instinctive therapy? What is that?” It sounded terrifying and alluring at the same time.
His instincts were everything that was wrong with him, though. As much as he wanted to listen to the little whispers in the back of his mind, he knew if he did, he would be alone for the rest of his life. Therapy brought to mind cages and bindings, the hair on his arms and chest thickening at the thought.
If it had been his father’s idea, the latter was probably exactly what was involved. His colleagues weren’t much better in Cambry’s experience, either.
“I hear they are very good,” she said softly, her voice trembling as she took a step back. His heart broke under the weight of her fear.
His parents were terrified of him. Maybe he should be locked in a cage for the rest of his days until they found someone who could make him submit. Or two someones. He quivered.
“When do I leave?” He took a shuddering breath as he looked around his room. What would he be allowed to bring? His collection of rocks from his younger years? Probably not. His romance novels? He should probably give them a proper burial before he left, because his father would burn them and disown him if he found them hidden under the floorboard.
Just another layer of his abnormalities. His father would have a heart attack if he ever read one of them or even caught sight of the cover. They were the only things that Cambry had ever intentionally rebelled with, and they could cost him everything.
“Your father pulled some strings.” Because of course he did. She cleared her throat. “You’re leaving in an hour.”
So his father had expected his plan to fail.
“There are single omegas, Mom. Why can’t he just let me be?” Cambry sighed, drawing a hand down his arm as his fur retreated, prickling as it pulled back under his skin. Others described shifting as painful, and even his mother could hardly bear to do it. But to him, it was a release he only ever found when he was in that form—wild and without the presumptions of a society that hated him.
“You know why,” she said, not even looking at him. He hadn’t noticed the exact moment that she had given up on him, but it had been a long time ago—perhaps when he had matured into an omega, only he hadn’t stopped growing like he was supposed to or maybe when the first alpha had offered him a mating contract and Cambry had bitten clear through his hand.
“I’m sorry,” he said. The reasons were too long for her to list, and he knew them almost by heart. “Your father has so much pressure at work. People are wondering why you haven’t mated yet. People will talk, son, and your reputation will be ruined. We can’t let them know that you’re…unnatural. Your heat will kill you, and if it doesn’t, your father…”
They did have a slight point. He had no desire to die, especially since he hadn’t seen the world except for his tiny slice of neighborhood and the bit of lawn within the black gates. The unmated omegas he’d seen were considered strange anomalies in the circles his father traveled in and were best to be left alone and shunned.
As if they couldn’t function without a knot to drool over.
Cambry rolled his eyes. The idea of a knot made him a bit nauseous. He had no desire to bend over and take it like he was supposed to. His feral side agreed with toothy gusto.
“You should pack. I’ll give you space.” She set a duffel bag on the floor before she swept from the room, the loss of her presence barely palpable in the quiet house.
She was his polar opposite. His beast refused to be compliant and meek, even when he tried so hard to overcome that part of himself. He didn’t want to be his mother, who was a shadow of a human being ruled by society more than her education and emotions.
Sighing, he looked around the room before grabbing the bag. If he were lucky, he would have just enough room to pack his books under a thin layer of clothing. Then, at least, he could take everything that meant something to him.
He looked at the business card one last time. Alpha and omega instinctive therapy sessions. Two hundred acres of supervised development.
Well, on the bright side, he would probably get to see some hot alpha ass. A smile tugged at his lips. He could have a positive attitude. At least he was getting out of the house. And two hundred acres would give his beast a lot more places to run, even if he was supervised.
Checking to make sure the coast was clear, he lifted the floorboards just inside his closet. His collection of books that he’d spent years gathering barely fit in the space anymore. The pages were worn from being read so many times, the front covers smudged from his fingers. The covers gave away everything that his father didn’t need to know. Two men, bigger than even himself and twined in a primal embrace, painted a steamy picture that made his mouth water. Forbidden Alphas.
Heat flushed his cheeks as he packed them out of sight, zipping the bag shut with a hard pull. He balled up a pair of socks and underwear, jamming them into the side pouch to disguise the corners the books had created.
M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.
Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.
She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.
These words were uttered just after the creation of the planet that would
be called Flatrock, and from there, things only got worse.
All Milo wants is a life full to the brim with peace and quiet, though his
new work associate, Heidi, is a little more adventurous, wishing to see
everything the wide world has to offer. These unlikely friends see the
planet at its best and worst, from ancient wonders, to repulsive paperwork,
and everything in between, learning all the while just how astounding the
world can be.
The Highs & Lows Of Flatrock is a cosy comedy following Milo, Heidi,
and the people that surround them on this weird planet as they fumble
through the complete catastrophe of life and humanity left in God’s
Welcome, everyone, to Flatrock!
About the Author
Luke Harrower is a new author from the UK who enjoys comedy and fantasy
writing, ranging from light-hearted sitcoms to dark and twisted horror. Luke
has spent much of his adult life writing, watching, and performing comedy in
some form. After finding out he had a speech impediment called “Being
Scottish,” he decided to focus on the written word rather than
There’s something wicked in the wind on Ambrosia Hill.
Zinnia knows nothing is as it seems in the witching world. Her aunts calling her back to Fern House was not without consequences—for Zinnia and for her mom. Zinnia must embrace her witch abilities and undergo her biggest test yet. Can she learn to rely on her personal magic, embrace the strength of others and trust that what she sees isn’t always reality?
There’s something wicked in the wind this Halloween on Ambrosia Hill and Zinnia must fight for those she loves most.
Being a witch has one certainty—I’ll never have all the answers to life’s mysteries. But one mystery I needed to figure out, and now, was who was Ursula Geist. A strong breeze rustled through the maple trees that towered above me, showering my tree-lined path in a golden hue. I inhaled the aroma of dried leaves, their desiccated scent mixing with dying plants, rotted earth and plump mushrooms, reminding me I was home. My pupils dilated, a sensation green witches experience when our awareness comes alive in nature. Breathing deep, I could taste the crisp cabbage and sweet corn growing free in my aunts’ garden. Closing my eyes, I could sense the very fabric of life coursing through my arms and legs like an electrical current. In Ambrosia Hill, autumn was authentic, unlike the artificial scents of the city.
The world felt mirthful and alive, so incongruent with the fear I had a strong gush of for my mother. It seemed unfair the rest of the world would continue on when mine was so dangerous and unsure. The day was perfect. I could almost forget I was on my way to the local library to search for a clue about a cryptic name, spelled out by my obsidian pendulum. Almost, but not quite.
When I’d googled the name, nothing had come up, telling me that whoever this Ursula Geist was, I’d have to find the answers within Ambrosia Hill. The autumn breeze picked up my hair, so I pulled my beanie down tight over my head and stuffed my hands in my coat pockets, bracing against the wind as I charged down the path leading me to town.
I hadn’t been to the Ambrosia Hill Library in quite some time. I preferred to read the books at my aunts’ house, full of whimsy and witchcraft. The library was conveniently located across the village green from the local hardware store. I checked the time on my phone and flaunted my first real smile of the day. Billie would still be at the hardware store with her dad. I quickened my steps to make a detour inside to see her. She worked behind the counter on Saturdays so her dad could be on the floor to help with customers, and we had made plans to meet up after her shift.
I swallowed a lump in my throat as I debated whether or not to tell Billie what had happened in the garden after she left. She had told me she wanted to be included in my life, and that meant she accepted me being a witch. She had taken the news better than I’d hoped, but was this too much too soon? Do I tell her about Ursula Geist? I don’t know anything yet, but I do know it can’t be good. Magical candles holding secret messages was one thing, but a diabolical spirit trapped inside a pair of old witch boots buried in my aunts’ garden was not second date material.
I sighed, kicking a pebble off the sidewalk. I thought back to an online article I’d read on the train ride from New York—Nine Signs Your Girlfriend Has Toxic Baggage. An evil entity buried in the yard ran circles around each and every one on the list. I’m fourteen, not twenty-five, and here I am dating my first girlfriend with more baggage than a diva in Vegas.
Gathering my courage, I stopped in front of the door beside a wheelbarrow filled with hay. A snarky-looking skeleton holding a trowel smiled at me as I shuffled from one foot to the other. A tall man with thinning hair in an oversized work coat and black boots passed me. I pulled the door open and gestured for him to go in ahead. He shot me a peculiar glance, his eyebrows pulled together as he looked me up and down, as if he knew me and disapproved. Knew my family name, knew my house on top of the tallest hill in this sleepy town. It was a look I was familiar with, what with being a Fern woman in this small town. He rubbed at his thick beard as he stepped through the door, cutting a wide berth around me as if I were contagious. The door closed again, and I watched through the glass as he nodded to Billie’s father Ben, who greeted him in the center of the store surrounded by a horde of shoppers.
Billie leaned over the counter and spied me through the store windows. Laughing, she mouthed, “What are you doing?” before motioning for me to come in. The man paused his conversation with Ben to glance at me through the window, raising his bushy eyebrows in what I assumed was suspicion. Maybe he thinks I’m going to place a curse on the entire store where everyone’s teeth fall out? Whatever it was that was going through his head, I could tell he wasn’t crazy about me.
But now all three of them were watching me, so I bit my lip and headed in. The chime of the doorbell was loud, like a dinner bell calling the cattle home for supper, and I flushed, self-conscious that the rest of the store seemed to turn and was now staring at me. Then the moment passed, and everyone turned back to whatever it was they were doing. Only Billie’s puzzled grin was focused on me. My palms were sweating and I rubbed them down my pant legs.
The hardware store was packed. Customers cramped their aisles with their carts full of carving knives, decorations and large, round gourds. With everything that had transpired over the last twenty-four hours, I had almost forgotten that Halloween was a few days away. Ben caught my eye and shot me a big wave. Tension melted from my shoulders at the sight of his kind face, and I offered a shy wave with a warm smile in return. A line of customers awaited their turn at the checkout counter, and Billie held up her finger, letting me know she’d be free in a few minutes. I nodded and circled around the front of the store, listening as she made small talk with the old timers who praised her on her costume.
I had to agree with them. She looked amazing, and heat rushed to my face when she caught me looking at her and Billie responded with a wink. She wore a green blazer over a black T-shirt, which hit just above her belly button in her high-rise ripped black jeans. She wore a headband with two electrical bolts, making it look like she had sockets coming out of the side of her head, and she’d added stitches to her face and hands. She had topped everything off with black lipstick to match her black nail polish. Billie could pull off an outfit like that and make it look cool enough to wear out to a skateboard park, or even Price Choppers, the local grocery store.
An elderly man with stark white hair and thick overalls sidled up to the counter, tipping his driver’s cap at Billie. “Getting cold out there,” he drawled as he placed a package of light bulbs and a pack of gum on the counter.
Billie rang up his items with a smile. “Sure is, Mr. Johnson. Winter is coming fast this year.”
The old man nodded as he pulled a wallet from the bib of his overalls. “Speaking of fast,” he said as he handed Billie a ten-dollar bill, “which is faster, hot or cold?”
Billie smirked as she leaned against the counter, her eyes tilted up at the ceiling as if in deep thought. “Cold?” she guessed as she handed him his change.
“Hot.” He chuckled, pocketing the money. “Because you can catch a cold.”
Billie’s boyish grin spread wide across her face, and she fist-bumped Mr. Johnson on his way out of the door. “Good one, Mr. Johnson!” she called out to him. “I’ll have to remember that one,” she said as I strolled over to her.
Billie’s dad walked out from an aisle and flashed me a bright smile. “Hey there, Zinnia! Billie told me you were back in town for Halloween. It’s good to have you home, sweetheart.”
My face heated. “Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to be back,” I replied, a trace of bashfulness in my voice.
“Why don’t you take Zinnia outside to visit with Bacon for a bit?” he asked as he slid behind the counter. “She needs lunch. I’ll stay in here to handle the front.”
Billie took off her work apron, tossing it on the counter as her dad wrapped his arm around her neck in a big hug, kissing her on the cheek. “Too much, Dad,” she squealed as she squirmed away, a big smile on her face. It felt like an old routine of theirs, something they did a lot and that Billie loved even though she’d never admit it. With a pain stabbing my heart, I realized how much I missed my dad.
“What?” he asked, taking a step back in mock surprise. “I thought you liked head-lock hugs? Next you’re going to say you don’t even like noogies.” His eyes were twinkling with mischief.
“Yeah, maybe when I was like ten,” she teased, bumping him in the side with her shoulder and I laughed. “And nobody in the history of the universe has ever liked noogies.”
They had an easy friendship between them, so different from my relationship with my dad. Billie had a quality about her—she was real with the people in her life. Billie wasn’t afraid of embarrassment or displaying public affection with those she loved. Even though her dad was her parent, he respected his daughter, and in return, she respected him back. I knew from experience that it wasn’t an easy task to be included in Billie’s circle. She kept that number low, selective. But what she lacked in quantity, she made up for in quality. One friend of Billie equaled a dozen friends. Billie wasn’t shy—she wasn’t afraid to be who she was. If she liked someone, they’d know it—they’d feel it across their skin and deep into their bones. It was an electric charge that ignited the entire body. That was real magic, something no one could receive from even the most powerful spell.
Of course, there was a trade-off. It worked both ways with Billie. If a person ended up on her bad side…their one hope was to run and hide. I admired her ability to be honest and tell it to me straight.
Billie smiled at me and I went weak in the knees. She was so pretty it made my head spin, and it was hard not to stare as Billie brushed her arm against mine, and all the tiny hairs on my skin shot straight up under my sweater. A tingling sensation ran up and down my arm as if electricity were running through me, as though Billie had flipped on a switch inside of me.
“Come on, City Girl. Let’s go out back.” My heart quickened at my nickname, coined by our first encounter over the summer at the lake. She reached for my hand as I followed her out through the back door and into the frigid air. I watched her from the corner of my eye. How does she have that effect on me?
Billie’s pet pig Bacon snorted, and Billie crouched down to give her a cuddle. I curled my now-vacant hand into a loose fist, already missing her warm touch. Bacon waddled over to me, wagging her spiral tail. I squatted down and gave her a huge hug. It felt so good to be back with them. I loved animals, and part of the reason I’d fallen so hard for Billie was her sensitivity toward all living creatures. Her strong vegan roots acted like a moral compass for her.
Billie studied me and Bacon, her emerald eyes locked on my every movement. I let out a slow, shaking breath. I liked her looking at me and she knew it. Billie offered me a teasing wink. She stood up, brushing the loose dirt from her jeans as she picked her way to a storage container and scooped out Bacon’s lunch—a mixture of grains and leafy greens. Her tail swinging like mad, Bacon pulled out of my arms, snorting as she ran over to her food bowl with what I could only assume was pure gluttonous joy. I plopped backwards onto the ground with a giggle. It was impossible not to smile as I watched the two of them interact. Billie’s entire face lit up around her pig.
“What are you up to today? Any big plans with the aunts?” Billie raised her eyebrows at me. “Perhaps an afternoon sacrifice, or maybe raising the dead?”
I laughed with an uneasy head nod. She wasn’t too far off. I countered with, “Ah, nothing that gruesome for us green witches. More like calling the corners. Maybe I’ll conjure up a small storm, like a tornado.” I pressed my lips together as if I were thinking. “Just over your store, though.”
Billie threw her head back and laughed. “I see you haven’t lost your spunk, City Girl.” And she threw me another wink. My face responded as it always did—I could feel the color rising in my cheeks and I pictured myself turning a deep red. The same color as the beets growing in my aunt’s vegetable patch.
“Okay, in all seriousness though, what are you up to?” She tilted her head. “Still able to hang out when I get off, right?”
I got to my feet and toed a pebble around in the dirt with my boot. Billie scrunched her eyebrows together and stepped closer to me. “Zinnia, is everything okay?”
My gaze met hers. Her face was etched with genuine concern. I took a deep breath, knowing I couldn’t hide the truth from her. Somehow protecting her with a lie seemed like more of a betrayal than dumping my witchy teen drama on her. I bit my lip.
“I’m on my way to the library to look up a strange name that I can’t find on the internet, but my pendulum told me that’s where I need to start looking if I want to figure out who and what is hurting my mom.” Billie’s jaw dropped, and I gripped her elbow, allowing some of the fear I’d been feeling to spill into my voice.
“Billie, her reflection moved backwards in the mirrors. And she can’t eat cinnamon—it flipping burned her!” I wrung my hands together as I continued to verbally vomit on my girlfriend. “Do you know how serious that is?” I paced as Billie stared at me with wide eyes. “She’s in trouble. Something is wrong, and my aunts aren’t here to help me, Billie.”
I stopped my frantic pacing to gauge her reaction. She was staring, an open-mouthed, blank expression on her face, her willowy arms dangling limp at her sides. Even Bacon paused mid-chew to watch my freak-out. Girlfriend of the Year award goes to…um, yeah, not me. More like Baggage Accolade of the Decade goes to the complicated and never-ending string of commotion girlfriend…yep, I’ll take that one, thank you.
I inhaled a long breath before continuing. “They left for Conjure Lake and I’m not sure when they are coming back. I can’t get in touch with them because there’s no cell phone reception in the mountains, and all I have to guide me is this.” I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the divination board. Billie gasped, then reached out for it. I gave it to her and she turned it over, studying the rows and symbols, being careful while examining the board before handing it back to me.
“So to answer your question—yes, I’d love nothing more than to see you this afternoon. You’re the main reason I came back to Ambrosia Hill. I want to be with you.” Tears filled my eyes, and I blinked them back. “But I have to find answers, Billie. And fast.” I shook my head, closing my eyes. “I can’t leave my mom to face whatever this is alone. Something is wrong, and I’m afraid of what might happen to her.”
Billie stood mute beside me for a long moment, examining my face with the same care she’d shown the divination board. “Well, you are never boring,” she said as she wrapped an arm around my back, pulling me into her. She held me in a tight hug, and I huffed a laugh as I melted against her, my head resting on her shoulder.
“It’s okay, Zinnia, I’m not going anywhere. I meant what I said last night. I’ll support you, no matter what. We will figure this out together.”
I sighed, hugging her tighter, “You honest to God—or should I say Goddess—don’t care I’m a witch?”
Billie laughed, rocking us back and forth. “Omigod, no way. The biggest problem most girls have is a surprise pimple. Not you. You’ve got monsters crawling out of the dirt in your garden.” She pulled back to grin at me. “My girlfriend is a witch. How many people get to say that?”
We both laughed, and I sighed again. “Not many,” I said with a shrug.
Billie’s dad called from the back door. “Hey, kiddo, another wave just hit! Come inside as soon as you can, okay? Bye, Zinnia! See you soon!”
I yelled goodbye back as I waved, standing on my tiptoes as if the extra height would make my goodbye more sincere. Billie offered me an apologetic shrug.
“I’ll meet you at the library when I get off. Find out as much as you can and we’ll go from there. What’s the name?” I told her, and Billie looked back at the store. “I’ll ask around today and see if anyone recognizes that name.” She leaned forward to give me a quick peck on my lips, and my eyes bulged out of their sockets like Buzz Lightyear. First, I’m her girlfriend, and now we can kiss freely? It was like a fairytale, and I was loving every second of it…minus the spooky entity stalking my mom.
Every fairytale has something creepy, but mine’s the one with Billie.
Rebecca Henry is an American author living abroad in England. She is a devoted vegan who gardens, practices yoga, crafts, travels the world, and bakes. Rebecca’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and she is obsessed with anything and everything witchy! Besides writing fiction, Rebecca is also the author of her vegan holiday cookbook collection. Her love for animals, baking with her family, having a plant-based diet and cruelty-free food all came together in her holiday cookbook collection.
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