Welcome to the book tour for The Safe Game by Wes Verde. Read on for more details!
The Safe Game
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Crime Thriller
New Jersey, 1928.
The Cons – Roy, Urbane, and Victoria – made a living by separating fools from their money and rarely stayed in one place for too long. Keeping food in their bellies and a roof over their heads often meant hopping from one game to the next, barely staying ahead of the law or poverty and sometimes both.
That was until the day Roy – the Idea Man – thought he found a big score; one that would put the Cons on Easy Street. No more scraping by. No more hungry nights in the cold or picking pockets in desperation. Maybe even enough to get them out of this life for good. But things were never that simple.
When a tragic death brings the law snooping around, the Cons find themselves running afoul of cops, gangsters, and other powerful people – ones with secrets.
The Cons have gotten out of scrapes before, but their luck may soon run out and this particular game may end in luxury, a jail cell, or an early grave.
Today she was on fire. Heads started to bob and the group pressed closer, trying to get a better look at the device.
With her work done, Victoria fell quiet. The excitement of the crowd was properly kindled now. A contended grin curled up her full lips. To Urbane’s surprise, her sharp eyes suddenly found his. At first, he thought it might be a fluke. Or perhaps his supposedly concealed location had been somehow compromised. Before he could stress himself over the matter, she winked. Then, all other thoughts fled. Just as his face started to heat up, she returned her attention to Roy. It was his turn to bring it home.
“Now, I’ve been given strict instructions by Treasury Department officials to accept no less than two thousand dollars for this device,” he intoned formally.
This was met with groans of disapproval and one or two boos and justifiably so; one could buy a small house for that amount of money. It was a far higher bid than in previous towns.
Feigning surprise, the Idea Man continued. “You understand, surely, that such a sum would be recovered in a matter of weeks if the prescribed regiment is followed?”
Urbane wondered if that was right. Knowing the scam – game – he had not previously given much thought to its premise. Having lost sight of Victoria for the moment, he quickly did the math in his head and came up with about fifty days. This was with the assumption that the machine was operated every five hours… and that it was not a scam.
As one who dealt in numbers and concrete reality, this world of deception was foreign to him. How people could believe such an outlandish proposition boggled his mind. A naturally curious sort, Urb simply could not fathom the lack of such in others.
Outside, Roy let the groans begin to subside before he extended the olive branch.
“Hang on, now. Hang on. Well… it will mean some hard questions from my superiors. Maybe even some shady bookkeeping on my part. But if that is asking too much, perhaps a discount might be considered. Just for the hard working folks of Lawrence, mind you.” In a quieter voice, he added, “But I must implore you to please keep this just between us. I could go as low as twelve hundred dollars.”
Again, boos. Though, fewer than before. In the end, Roy was obliged to drop the bid twice more before a collection hat started passing around. Urb shook his head, astonished. Roy and Victoria could steer a crowd the same way he could tickle a lock or build a mechanism. For the price of a decent used car, these people had accepted this deal that should have been too good to be true – of course it was. The crowd soon divided into two factions, apparently debating how the forthcoming riches would be allocated.
One man emerged as the representative of the group, holding the collection hat. Urbane’s eyes went wide. It was more cash and coin than they had made in the past three towns put together. If properly budgeted, it could well be enough to carry them into summer. The crowd shifted and he caught sight of Victoria again. She had also glimpsed the considerable sum. Like Urb, she bit her lower lip in anticipation. Seeing the curve of her face and the swell of her hips, he nearly forgot about their windfall and most everything else for that matter.
And he was not the only one to take notice. Would-be suitors were not an uncommon issue. As a professional hazard, Victoria tended to attract male attention like iron filings to a lodestone and today was no exception.
It was a young fella. The excessively confident ones often were and Urbane frowned as this one fixed Madame Charmer in his sights. She inspired many emotions: infatuation, longing, lust. Urb was a thinking man, but after six months of living and working in close proximity, even he could not fully resist her allure. Watching others make the attempt for her affection, even knowing they were doomed to fail was not good for his heart.
Though entirely capable of rebuffing such attempts, it seemed Vic had not yet detected her latest admirer. As the young man drew closer, Urb realized too late that something was off. This fellow had none of the telltale signs of one about to ask for a date.
At the same time, another speaker fired a bombshell question directly at Roy.
Wes is an engineer by trade, a busybody by habit, and a lifelong Jersey boy.
Writing has been a hobby in one form or another since 2006 when he started drawing 3-panel comics. When he is not putting words down, he is picking them up; the “to-read” pile only seems to grow larger.
A fan of nature, he spends as much time outside as possible.
Attorney James Crosson is in the grips of despair, blaming himself for his
wife’s death. A widow hires him to pursue a wrongful death case on behalf of
her late husband who died in a seemingly ordinary car wreck. Crosson must
confront his own tragic loss and gambling debts as he unravels the plot
hatched by a deranged corporate tyrant who will stop at nothing to conceal
the truth, take down the lawyer, and preserve his empire. With Vegas goons
closing in and everything at stake, Crosson goes all in one last time with
no realistic chance of winning the case or surviving the evil arrayed
Welcome to the book tour for gritty crime thriller, Dark Obsessions by Marie Sutro! Read on for more details and a chance to win a great giveaway!
“…a taut and terrifying descent into madness and redemption…brilliant psychological thriller—pop culture entertainment at its absolute best…”
—Jon Land, USA Today Bestselling Author of Strong Cold Dead
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publication Date: April 26th, 2022
Reeling from the trauma of her last case, SFPD Detective Kate Barnes heads to the Olympic Peninsula hoping to heal the present by resolving the past. When the ravaged corpse of an unidentified teen is discovered, her search for personal peace takes a back seat to the quest for justice.
As Kate digs deeper, she discovers the victim was not the only one who had been taken against her will. Racing against the clock to rescue the remaining girls, she uncovers a complex series of ever-increasing horrors. In the darkest corners of Washington state, Kate Barnes will come face-to-face with an adversary so ruthless and powerful that it will take everything she has to save herself, let alone the girls.
DEPUTY JENNA WHEATON slammed the door of the patrol car shut. The sound bounced off the walls of the abandoned quarry, doubling and trebling before finally fading in the late afternoon stillness. Spinning on her heel, she cast a final warning glare at the two teenage passengers huddled in the backseat. Exhaling, she turned toward the abandoned warehouse which stood across from the edge of the vast mining pit.
The setting sun reflected off a narrow row of windows running above the structure’s main entrance, lighting the surrounding forest ablaze in a fiery glow. Averting her gaze, she strode toward the set of stairs leading up to the double door entry. Bits of gravel crunched softly under her boots as she walked, amplifying the overall sense of desolation.
Jenna’s shadow kept pace with her as she moved—exaggerating her lean, lanky, features topped off by a shoulder-length mop of blonde hair. Exuding the air of a woman not to be trifled with, she remained convinced she was on a fool’s errand. There was no way the old warehouse would yield the unimaginable find the teenagers had reported when they had burst through the doors of the sheriff’s office over an hour ago.
She had been finishing up a domestic violence report on the other side of town when the call had come in. The DV complaint had been a farce—an adolescent attempt to punish a parent for failing to buy a new cell phone.
Jenna had finally convinced the ill-mannered fifteen-year-old daughter to apologize to her overworked mother when her radio had come to life, recalling her to the station. Once there, two more teens had been dumped in her lap. There was every reason to believe the two wanna-be skater boys sitting in her patrol car were fueled by the same adolescent angst, wayward hormones, and abject stupidity.
Foregoing the rusted railings on either side of the stairs, she jogged up to the porch. The right-side door stood open; a broken chain dangled from the handle—the padlock still intact. Beyond the first few feet of the doorway, darkness pervaded.
She unholstered her flashlight and stepped up to the threshold, glad she had taken the time to lock the boys securely in the car. The last thing she needed was for the miscreants to pop up from behind and scare the shit out of her—just their way of passing a boring Friday afternoon.
Truth be told, she could not really blame them. Eagle’s Nest was high on nature but low on things to do. Other than the bowling alley downtown, there was little going on within the town limits. It was a reality she knew all too well.
Divorced at thirty-eight, with a nine-year-old son in tow, Jenna had ached for a change from the predictability of life in small-town America. She had been about to accept a position with the Seattle PD when a sudden heart attack had prompted Sheriff Selby to retire early. With no local candidates for the position, the town had been forced to look elsewhere.
After three months, they had found a unanimous favorite. Far more handsome than any of the local singles, Sheriff Luchasetti, who was only a few years older than Jenna, had immediately infected her with some form of Disney-esque brain fever. Abandoning her senses, she had turned down the Seattle offer.
In hindsight, it had been a ridiculous move. After a few months of intense flirting on her part, Tony had made his disinterest clear by turning down Jenna’s invite for a nightcap at her place. He had claimed he could not risk his new position by fraternizing with a deputy. But Jenna knew better. Any man who made it to forty-four without signing a marriage license or siring a child had no sincere interest in either one.
Swallowing past the year-old frustration, she stepped over the threshold into the cavernous space. Her right hand settled on the butt of her Glock as she entered, evidence of good training and experience rather than anticipation of actual trouble.
The beam from her flashlight was not strong enough to reach the back of the building, but she moved ahead anyway. Had she even partially believed the boys’ outlandish story about finding a dead body in the concrete pit up ahead, she may have proceeded with more caution.
She had only made it about five feet before a vile stench—reminiscent of a cross between motor oil and animal fat—hit her like a semi. Steeling herself against the aroma, Jenna focused on the goal ahead. If the boys had seen something, it was certainly nothing more than a sick animal that had sought refuge here in its final moments.
As she continued, the rubber soles of her shoes squeaked softly against the dusty concrete. Arriving at the fifteen-foot-square opening in the floor, Jenna pointed her flashlight down. Her eyes tracked the circle of visibility as it traveled down the opposite wall of the shaft.
A moment later, the light revealed a pale arm. As it swept over a mutilated breast, then worked its way across the rest of the slender human form, the deputy staggered backward. Her right hand clawed at her shoulder, grasping for the radio affixed to her uniform. When her fingers finally closed around the device, it took an entire minute before she was confident she could speak without shrieking.
First, let me say I’ve never read this author before, and jumped into the series with book 2. While I didn’t exactly feel lost, I think I would have understood the character better (and been able to immerse myself in the story more from the beginning) had I read the first installment to the Kate Barnes series.
The writing was well done, and the story itself kept me entertained. I liked that Kate wasn’t perfect. She had her flaws, which made her seem more real. The story wasn’t predictable and kept me guessing.
If you enjoy psychological thrillers, and want a gripping read that will pull you in, then you can’t go wrong with Dark Obsessions.
*Disclaimer: I received an ARC from R&R Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.
About the Author
Marie Sutro is an award-winning and bestselling crime fiction author. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime whose writing has been inspired by the combined service of her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father in the San Francisco Police Department.
Her bestselling debut novel, Dark Associations, was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best New Voice in Fiction. A proponent for literacy, she volunteers with California Library Literacy Services, helping adults learn to read and write.
She resides in Northern California and is currently at work on the next Kate Barnes story. To learn more about Marie, visit her website at mariesutro.com.
Forensic accountant Kat Munro puts her traumatic past behind her and begins dating journalist Connor O’Malley, whose investigations into online crime attract the wrong kind of attention. When a colleague’s teenage son goes missing, and his friend’s body is discovered, Kat finds herself working with DS Adam Jackson again.
The murder enquiry leads Adam to an exclusive London school where allegations of drugs, gaming fraud and child pornography abound. As he gets deeper into the investigation, Adam is forced to face issues in his private life while suppressing his feelings for Kat.
The faceless hackers become desperate, and Connor is found drugged with his research missing. Can Kat and Adam put the past behind them to solve a series of seemingly unrelated incidents before someone else becomes the victim of an elusive cyber-crime network?
Other Books in the Kat Munro Thriller series:
A Kat Munro Thriller, Book 1
Financial Crime Thriller
Published: December 2020
Publisher: Paperback Writer’s Publishing
Can a conspiracy be uncovered before the Death Count rises?
Forensic accountant Kat Munro fights corporate fraud during the day and kickboxes her demons at night while trying to ignore the nightmares that have plagued her since a car accident changed her life forever.
DS Adam Jackson is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a friend two years ago.
When the partner of a successful London Investment fund dies in suspicious circumstances, Kat joins forces with Adam to investigate the firm. As they gather evidence of a crime with implications beyond the City, they find that events in their pasts are on a collision course; one which will ultimately put them both in serious danger.
Fast-paced and entertaining, Death Count takes a deadly dip into the world of financial crime.
Marshall Tyler stamped his feet to keep warm and tossed his blond curls out of his eyes. It was supposed to be spring in London, but there wasn’t much evidence of that yet. He couldn’t wait for summer when school would finally be done. He would decamp to his parents’ holiday home on the French Riviera for the holidays, where he’d spend each day working out at the gym, working on his tan, and chasing any number of beautiful girls who flocked to the region.
He took another look at his watch, a gift from his mother, an expensive Girard-Perregaux timepiece similar to the one footballer Cristiano Ronaldo favoured. They were late. He’d give them another five minutes, and then he’d return to school and apologise to his mate Harry. Maybe he shouldn’t have gone behind his back to arrange this meeting, but Marshall loved the thrill of what they’d done. Harry wanted to take it slow, but Marshall had seen the opportunity when it presented itself. Despite Harry’s objections, he’d gone ahead and submitted the proposal anyway. Perhaps he was going to be a shrewd businessman like his father after all.
There was a rustle in the weeds near the abandoned building where he’d been instructed to wait. He spun around and caught a glimpse of the mangy red tail of an urban fox disappearing into the undergrowth. The single-level brick structure and surrounding security fence were marked with ‘Keep Out’ signs, overlaid with meaningless graffiti. Plastic bags, food containers and all manner of rubbish had blown into a pile against the wire fence at one end of the site. The lights on the estate lining the streets leading to the old substation had flickered on during the time he’d been waiting, and dusk now blanketed the city.
He looked around at the growing shadows, and a shiver ran down his spine. He couldn’t wait to leave this dodgy part of London behind him. He couldn’t believe, out of all the places where he could have completed his schooling, that his parents had sent him to a boarding school in the East End. It had been his father’s way of providing some counterbalance to the opulent lifestyle Marshall had been born into.
They weren’t coming. Marshall felt the emptiness of disappointment twist his stomach. He took one more look about him, turned his collar up and ducked back through a hole in the broken fence. When he straightened, two men were standing in front of him.
He jumped and took a step back, crashing into the fence. One of the men laughed, a harsh chesty sound. Marshall couldn’t make out much of their features in the gloom, except that they were both broad-shouldered, with knitted beanies pulled down over their ears.
“Tyler?” the first one asked.
“You’re just a kid.” The second man sounded surprised.
Marshall nodded and swallowed, feeling a sudden dryness in his throat.
“Let’s talk around the back, where we won’t be overheard,” the first man said.
Marshall hesitated, unsure whether he wanted to be out of sight of the flats. Still, it didn’t seem to be a suggestion, so he ducked back through the hole in the fence and waited while the two men followed. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that he was the one in charge; he had the thing they wanted. Squaring his shoulders, he led them around the edge of the substation into an overgrown yard that led down to the railway siding.
“Do you have it?”
The two men stood blocking his exit.
“Has the money been transferred?” Marshall asked. He heard the slight tremor in his voice and hoped that the men didn’t.
Marshall took out his phone and tapped on the app for the bank account. The balance was unchanged from when he’d looked earlier. “It’s not there,” he said. “I can’t give it to you until I’ve been paid.”
The second man stepped forward and knocked the phone from Marshall’s hand. The screen shattered as it landed at his feet.
“You didn’t really think we’d pay your blackmail, did you?” the first man sneered. “Now give it here.”
Marshall felt a frisson of fear. He opened his mouth to call for help, but the men laughed.
“No one will hear you, and if they do, no one will come to your aid, not around these parts.”
Marshall took a step backwards, but the first man grabbed him while the second man landed a solid punch to his abdomen, followed by one to his jaw. Marshall’s head dropped to one side, and he struggled to draw in a breath.
“Stop, I don’t have it on me,” he rasped. “But I can get it for you.”
The man hit him once more, and Marshall felt pain radiate from the centre of his face. Blood gushed from his nose, spilling down the front of his jacket.
“We’ll wait here, and you go and get it,” the first man said, releasing him and pushing him towards the building. “You have thirty minutes.”
“And we’ll keep that fancy watch as collateral to make sure you come back.” The second man reached for his arm, releasing the clasp on the strap and slipping the watch from Marshall’s wrist. He held it up to his face for a closer look. “Very nice.”
“No,” Marshall said, making a grab for the watch. The man pulled away as Marshall’s fingers grazed the back of his hand. “That was a present from my mother.”
“You know what you need to do if you want it and your phone back.”
About the Author
SL Beaumont is the author of the award-winning novel Shadow of Doubt, the Kat Munro Thriller series and the Amazon best-selling series, The Carlswick Mysteries.
She lives in beautiful New Zealand, which is only problematic when the travel-bug bites (which it does fairly often)! Her passion for travel has seen her take many long haul flights to various parts of the world. Her love of history helps determine the destination and the places she visits are a constant source of inspiration for her.
Prior to becoming an author, SL Beaumont worked in banking in London and New York.
Shadow of Doubt won the 2020 Indie Reader Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Award and was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. Death Count was a semi-finalist for both the 2021 Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Fiction Prize.
In the thin light of the moon, the woman’s limp body hangs from the iron fence amongst the redwoods. Looped over the railings is the little gold locket her mother gave her when she turned sixteen. The picture of the girl inside smiles out at a future she’ll never see…
As day breaks over the fairground, Detective Katie Scott forces herself to take in another disturbing scene in front of her. A woman, the same age as her, found slumped in the carriage of the Ferris wheel, red lipstick dragged across her lips, her throat cut.
Katie doesn’t want to believe that the serial killer picking off women across the state has found their way to the small town of Pine Valley, California, but when her team finds a gold engagement ring hanging nearby, it’s a terrifying, but undeniable fact.
With a twisted killer on her doorstep, Katie knows if she doesn’t act fast, she’ll find more women left out in the cold like broken dolls. Her team hit dead end after dead end, but only she can see the vital link between the victims: a connection with Katie herself.
Katie has spent years pushing traumatic memories of her years in the military far out of reach, but she must confront them now or more innocent women will die. But as the killer circles closer and closer to Katie, what if the only answer is to give him what he wants? There must be another way…
Warning – This absolutely unputdownable thriller will keep you up all night! Fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh better hold on tight for a nail-biting rollercoaster ride!
5 Stars! “This is the first book in the series I have read – and I want more! Suspense up to the end, characters I enjoyed, and K9 units. Loved it!” – NetGalley
5 Stars! “As always this Jennifer Chase thriller just cries out to be read in one sitting. Here we see Katie get tangled up with a serial killer although it takes time before anyone takes her seriously. Great characters and a great story, I loved this book.” – NetGalley
The front door stood ajar. It bumped gently against the jamb in rhythm with the evening breeze. The screen remained wide open and was bent precariously around the aluminum frame. Pieces of broken glass from a shattered light bulb above had scattered across the porch, leaving behind a shadowy darkness draped across the front of the small house.
The neighborhood remained quiet; the light blue one-story cottage eerily so. No outside illumination or motion lights flooded the front area. The blooming
climbing vines and perfectly manicured bushes were eclipsed by the darkness.
A small, dark vehicle pulled into the driveway. Waiting a moment before turning
off the engine, a woman pushed open the car door and stepped out. The young
redhead was dressed for the evening, in a sparkly blouse and tight black pants.
Wavering a moment in her spiked sandals, she looked at the house in
curiosity—and then in disappointment. Quickly grabbing a warm jacket from
inside the car and slipping it on, she walked up the driveway.
“Jeanine, where are you?” she whispered and headed to the front door, ignoring the
shattered light bulb on the step crunching under her feet. She knocked on the
door. “Jeanine,” she said, more loudly, leaning closer to the opening. “We
waited for you… you missed a great party.”
The front door pushed open, revealing a darkened interior.
The woman hesitated but seemed to be pulled by an unknown force. She stepped over
the threshold, not bothering to close the door, and moved through the living room. Confused by the darkness, she turned on a lamp sitting on a small table. The room lit up instantly. Everything seemed in place. The oversized beige couches with brightly colored throw pillows, the dark mahogany coffee table with neatly stacked magazines and books precisely centered appeared usual for Jeanine’s house. It was always neat and organized.
“Jeanine?” the woman said again. “Are you here?”
The woman walked around and checked the kitchen and small bedroom, but there wasn’t
any sign of her friend. She eyed a piece of paper on the counter and decided to leave a quick note, scratching out that she had stopped by and asking Jeanine to call her when she got the message.
She suddenly noticed a strange high-pitched whistling noise coming from the other
side of the living room. Curious, the woman moved closer to the sound. The back
sliding door was slightly open. The crack was enough for the wind to invade and
make a strange noise.
Her foot touched something. A tall turquoise vase that had been sitting on a shelf
nearby was now lying on the carpet. It seemed strange to her that it had been
knocked over. She bent down and picked up the vase, replacing it on the shelf.
She retrieved her cell phone from her pocket and tried calling Jeanine again. It
rang numerous times and then went to voicemail where Jeanine’s upbeat voice
said, “Hi, sorry I missed your call but please don’t hang up. Leave a message and I’ll get right back to you.”
The greeting was followed by a quick beep.
“Jeanine, it’s Mandy again and now I’m standing in your living room. Where are you, girl? Everyone was asking about you tonight. Hey, and you left your front door open.
Call me.” She ended the call.
Mandy was about to head back to the front door to leave, but something stopped her—it
didn’t feel right—and instead, she stood at the sliding door staring out into the large backyard where dense rows of pine trees and acacia bushes huddled around the house’s boundary. During the day, the property appeared green and lush, but now it looked gloomy and foreboding.
Mandy flipped on the outside light, but it only lit up the patio areas directly
outside the house, and the extended wooded region still looked dark.
She pulled open the sliding door and the wind whipped through the house. It chilled
her. Goosebumps scuttled up her arms. Worry now set in and she didn’t know what
to do. Redialing Jeanine’s number, Mandy listened to it sound again and in unison heard the faint, far-off ringing of a phone somewhere in the distance.
She stepped outside, trying to decipher where the ringing was coming from. “Jeanine?” she said, noticing that one of the outside chairs had been toppled over and lay precariously on its side.
Moving off the stone patio and pulling her jacket more tightly around her, Mandy
slowly trudged toward the trees, a bit wobbly in her shoes. She turned on the flashlight mode on her cell phone and moved forward.
She dialed Jeanine again. This time, she heard the distinct ringing of the cell
phone coming from the trees—low at first and then it rang louder.
“Jeanine,” she said, with barely a whisper. Her voice sounded oddly distant.
Looking down, she saw where there were crushed weeds and small broken branches as if
someone had walked back and forth recently. Still, she kept moving forward, into the trees, swinging her cell phone back and forth which only illuminated a tiny patch of ground in front of her, creating dense shadows outside its beam.
Her pulse quickened.
Something fluttering on a bush caught her eye. She leaned closer, focusing. As she moved the cell light beam nearer, it revealed a piece of white fabric with a mother-of-pearl button still attached.
It wasn’t the fact that she had seen Jeanine wear that pretty white blouse on so
many occasions, it was the droplets of crimson spattered across the fabric that shoved a spear of fear into her gut.
Thoughts of dread and horror-filled scenarios ran through Mandy’s mind. Urgently, she
pushed the redial button on her phone again.
The sound of Jeanine’s ringtone rang in the darkness. This time it kept ringing and
there was no cheerful message.
Mandy walked further into the dark realm of the trees, still hoping that there was a
logical explanation. Stepping over old branches with loud crunching noises and sidestepping bushes just before reaching the back fence of the property, she managed to make her way to the sound of the ringing phone.
Everything went quiet.
Mandy stood a foot from the phone lying on the ground. It mesmerized her. She slowly
bent down to pick it up. With a startled gasp, she stepped back, dropping the phone as she stared at her hand. It was covered in blood.
In a frenzied panic, Mandy ran past the phone and continued along the low wrought-iron fence. The flashlight feature dimmed and she couldn’t see where she was going. Slowing her pace, she glimpsed something white and moving slightly.
“Jeanine? What’s going on?” She spoke in a strained whisper.
Trying to catch her breath and calm her hammering pulse, Mandy approached. Her cell
phone flashlight surged and shone brightly on the blood-soaked white silk blouse, now shredded from Jeanine’s right shoulder. She reeled back at the sight of her friend.
Mandy couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horror. Her throat constricted as her
breath trapped in her chest. She staggered backwards, taking in the entire scene—unable to turn her focus away.
Her friend’s upper body was impaled on the iron fence penetrating from her back
through her ribs, and her throat was slit open. Her head flopped down, lifeless eyes trained on the ground. Her long brown hair fell forward, some strands sticking to the blood seeping from her chest. Her arms hung at her sides, legs crooked, like a marionette waiting for someone to pull the strings. Blood still dripped from her body, sliding down her arms to her fingertips before collecting on the ground—the wet crimson almost matching her fingernail polish.
The body was shoeless and Jeanine’s feet were dirty and bloody—as if she had been running through the woods barefoot.
It was the sight of Jeanine’s face that made her sob in terror. Caked in grotesque makeup, making her look like a caricature of herself—a hideous broken doll. Red lipstick drawn heavy around her lips, dark purples for blush on her cheeks, and dark blues for eye shadow made her look like a circus clown instead of her friend.
Beside Jeanine’s body, a necklace hung on the fence. It was a small locket that she
always wore, which her mother had given her when she turned sixteen.
Mandy mouthed the word “Jeanine” but no sound escaped her lips. Realizing she still had her cell phone in her hand, she tried to dial 911 but fumbled a few times with the buttons before she heard the words, “Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”
Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers. You can visit her website at www.authorjenniferchase.com or connect with her onTwitter, GoodreadsandFacebook.
In the aftermath of his father’s funeral, Dom Wesa, the new Alpha of Luxor City’s Central Empire, stumbles upon an Omega in desperate need of help. The Omega, Lin Vasiliev, wakes to find he’s been taken into Dom’s home to be rehabilitated. Dom thinks the young addict may have information about the illicit drug trade going on in his Empire. He gets Lin sober to question him only to discover that Lin is new in town and ignorant of Luxor’s laws.
Dom and Lin are both suspicious of each other at first for their own reasons, but as that wariness wears away a deep attraction develops between them. Dom dotes on Lin, leaving the once stone-broke Omega bathed in finery he never could have imagined. They start planning for Lin’s upcoming heat, when they will be driven together by their kindling bond and strong compatibility as an Alpha and Omega pair. However, in the midst of their swelling romance, Luxor’s most notorious Alpha reappears sparking a gang war that threatens to turn the entire city into a battleground.
There had never been fewer tears shed at a funeral.
It was strange. Crowds had wailed at funerals for worse men, but not a single soul in Luxor City wept for Malik Wesa, a business magnate who’d left behind a wife and two sons. They just stood there, all of them staring straight ahead with cold black eyes as the funeral director rolled the old man’s coffin into the crematory. Visible through a tiny char-stained window, the man who’d once been their leader burned down to ash and bone until there was nothing left of him but dust.
Shaking the image from his mind, Dom Wesa walked out through a wrought-iron fence and left the inner-city funeral home. He buried his hands deep in the pockets of his overcoat and made his way back across the busy city streets toward his office on the east side of town.
A chill rolled off the water near the docks as the year moved into fall. Dom originally drove to the funeral home with the rest of the family, but he couldn’t bear to spend another second with them even if it meant enduring the icy wind.
When a family member dies, all too often they are given a whole new life story. This was a universal truth Dom struggled to wrap his head around. There weren’t any tears at his father’s funeral, but there were enough artificial words of kindness to make him grit his teeth and bite his tongue until his eyes watered.
They all loved to mention how hard things would be for Dom with his father gone; how much weight would now fall on his shoulders.
Dom wanted to laugh. He’d been running this town without his old man’s help for ages. The death of the man he had stopped calling father a long time ago wouldn’t change a thing in his day-to-day life; it just made his position more official. Dom was now the eldest Alpha of the Wesa family, one of the great crime families in Luxor City, the capital of New America.
Decades back, when the government’s power over New America first started to crumble, the gangs of Luxor City went to war, fighting for control over the expansive city’s lucrative ports. As Dom walked through the streets, he passed the remnants of that conflict in the form of bullet holes etched into brick walls that lined the sidewalks and boulevards. Luxor hadn’t always been a haven of prosperity. These wounds were stark reminders that they should not let war tear their city apart again. They’d been preserved during reconstruction.
After years of brutality and gangland warfare, the dust finally settled over the metropolitan battleground. Only three factions were left in a city divided by chaos. They brokered a peace treaty, a deal that divided Luxor into three Empires, each ruled firmly by the Alpha heads of the surviving crime families: Wesa in the Center, Faraji in the North, and Sun in the South.
Dom Wesa was the sole Alpha heir to the Central Empire, a great strip of land stretching from the high-rises along the city’s eastern ports all the way to the cliffs on the western coast. Their portion of city was the smallest, but the Center also included the West Island, the final stretch of green pasture and woodland in Luxor, a place where only the wealthiest families could afford acreage.
Sila Wesa, the family’s Omega matriarch, still maintained an estate there. She would probably return home once the ladder-climbing mourners all left her in peace. As an Omega, she was expected to stay home and mourn her Alpha’s death for at least a year. Dom hated thinking of her returning to that vast hollow estate, but she wouldn’t be alone. She had his younger brother, Atsadi, with her.
Maybe they could be happy there now, but Dom couldn’t stand the place.
He made his way to his portside office, the private sanctuary where he conducted the family business, far removed from his father’s offices across from the luxury hotels and nightclubs downtown. It was an old-fashioned Deco-style building, relatively small compared to Luxor’s expansive high-rises, but taller than the nearby brownstone residences lining the old dock’s edge.
Dom entered through the public hall and took the stairs to his office instead of his private elevator. He couldn’t stand still, not even for a minute, not until he got a drink in him.
His office took up most of the fifth floor. A large window lined the street-facing wall, giving him a view of his docks and businesses as well as the swaying blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean.
Ships pulled in and out, always coming and going. The ports were the center of all business in Luxor. They had been around since the city’s foundation and wrapped around the entire coastline, enclosing Luxor in a circle of docks extending out into the water like a sea urchin’s spikes. It was a well-known fact that he who controlled the ports, controlled the trade, and he who controlled the trade, controlled the city.
Dom was fond of the old portside architecture. He had always been keen on the brutalist, Deco styles of ancient cities. He even decorated his office to match with polished wood and geometric patterns of gold emblazoned on black surfaces.
Inside the familiar space he’d made his own, he poured himself a glass of whisky from a decanter on his side table. He took a good long swig before taking a seat in the plush leather chair behind his mahogany desk.
Sighing heavily, he closed his eyes until a quiet thud on his desk drew them open again.
A thin newssheet folded down the middle sat in the center of his desk. Images flashed across its holographic surface. Dom recognized himself, his brother, and his mother in more than one. Fucking paparazzi.
The Luxor City Times headline read: Death of Malik Wesa leaves Central Empire in hands of son, Dominik.
Dom stared at the paper with a deadpan expression. Unblinking, he took another sip of his drink.
“Somehow I figured you’d be back in the office today.”
Dom’s gaze shifted in the direction of the voice.
His right-hand woman, Isa Saqui, stood over his desk smirking down at him.
Isa had been Dom’s eyes and ears ever since terminal illness took his old man out of power and put Dom in charge. She was an Alpha, a member of the dominant sex, like everyone in his inner circle. Isa stood tall, a muscular and imposing woman with angular bone structure casting dramatic shadows over her olive skin. Her long hair was tied in an intricate brunette braid that fell over one shoulder.
Dom turned away from her and picked up the newssheet. Without giving it another glance, he tossed it back across the desk toward her.
“The headline is hilarious,” he muttered before taking another drink.
Isa chuckled as she snatched the thin device back up.
“Isn’t it?” she said as she examined the article. “I mean, it’s not even news. Your old man hadn’t been running shit for years.”
It was true. Even before his father’s illness, Dom had been in charge, but Malik’s stint in the hospital had truly put him in power. In under a year, he’d earned the city’s respect and made vast alterations throughout the Central Empire to counter his father’s ineffective rule. Dom had always been in control; nothing would change now Malik Wesa was gone.
“We shouldn’t speak ill of the dead,” Dom said, smiling around the rim of his glass.
“Then let’s talk business.” Isa grinned like a shark. “Because I haven’t got anything good to say about the old bastard. How was his funeral, by the way?”
Dom simply shrugged in response. “Let’s talk business.”
With another snort of a laugh, Isa pulled out her phone and started going over a list of the day’s imports. The ships had come in on time, and their guys on the docks were already warehousing their “product,” storing it until it could be shipped throughout Luxor.
“So, we finally received those luxury cars we’ve been waiting for, two weeks late, but that’s the Southern trade route for you. Same shipment had a few crates of unprocessed opium—”
Dom cut in with gritted teeth, “Make sure that goes straight to the labs. Apart from heat suppressants, I don’t want to see that shit on my streets.”
“Already done.” Isa hardly even glanced up from her phone. “The independent Omegas of Luxor are already thanking you. You truly are a hero, Dom, providing them with suppressants and saving them from their dreaded heats. Less mating means more working. Off your backs and on your feet. That can be your campaign slogan.”
Dom eyed Isa, trying to gauge her level of sarcasm before gesturing for her to carry on with a short huff of amusement.
“Firearms from the mainland,” Isa said before listing off the models and manufacturers. “About half of this shipment is being sold to the Sun family in the south. They’ve got an underground trade problem on their hands.”
In the south of Luxor City, the Sun family controlled the majority of the city’s ports, but only imported from the Second Continent, across the western seas. This made them an excellent trading partner for Dom whose eastern ports shipped to and from New America. Whenever the Southern Empire wanted products from the New American mainland, Dom was their man, and when he needed Second Continent shipments, he knew just who to ask.
“All right.” Dom stood from his chair, rubbing his hands together. “The agent from the Sun family will want to see the guns before we truck them over. I’ll call—” Dom stopped abruptly when a terse shout erupted from the streets below, loud enough to resonate through the glass window and into his fifth-floor office.
“What the hell was that?” Isa asked with a furrowed brow.
Dom walked over to glare out of the window. They were right above the lobby, so a glance down offered a clear view of the ground below.
Across the street, a young man stumbled along the sidewalk. Even from the distance, Dom could tell there was something off about him. He swayed with each step, unable to keep to a straight line and using one hand to balance himself against the wall of the opposite building to keep from falling over.
He disappeared into an alleyway, followed closely by another man. This much larger man was the one shouting furiously as he marched into the narrow passage after the boy.
Dom turned from the window and grabbed his coat. Without a backward glance, he stormed out of his office.
“Dom? Hey! What the hell was that?” Isa repeated as he passed. She tried calling after him again, but he was already out of the door.
Sasha Hope is a lover of story, art and design based in Canada. As a writer and an artist, she enjoys having the opportunity to create new characters and build new worlds for readers to explore. Having studied linguistics and a myriad of languages from a young age, she is passionate about including characters of different backgrounds in her work. Whether the setting is fantasy or reality, she believes that a diverse cast with diverse languages and cultures is a wonderful thing.
Crafting stories that embrace MM romance and erotica is her modus operandi. When she is not creating new worlds she is travelling this one looking for inspiration or enjoying her career in the videogame industry.
I’ve always been fascinated by dark psychological thrillers that mess with your mind and keep you on the edge of your seat. I toyed with the genre writing my debut novel Wild Hearted, but labeled it a crime drama. Its sequel, Carnivora, evolved over six years to become a full-blown hold-your-breath thriller that deals with grave issues such as kidnapping, child sex trafficking, and self-harm.
Telling five parallel stories with as many voices, it gives you the perspectives of a police informant, a hunted gangster, a mad avenger, an inconsolable girlfriend, and a psychotic kidnapper. I pull no punches weaving these stories, so be prepared for a dark, gritty, and graphic read – a little dirty on the erotic side – that I hope will play with your strings and stick with you for a long time.
Please note that this is part 1 of Carnivora and I am currently working on parts 2 and 3, so if those cliffhangers at the end are killing you, be patient. The continuation is right around the corner!
Fight evil with evil.
Crime lord Tomor is serving a life sentence behind bars. Without warning, he’s abducted by mysterious men. A sick manhunt is on, with people around him dying like flies. He will need all his street flair and gangster skills to prevent his loved ones from ending up on the death list.
Luz grieves the loss of her lover while striving to take care of their baby. The last thing she needs is to fall for the new neighbor.
A year after he betrayed his adoptive father and sent him to jail, David is slowly rebuilding his life. Then everything falls apart again: he learns that Tomor has escaped, and his police connections lead him to a child sex trafficking ring involving cold, powerful men.
The cops are in over their heads with “Project Carnivora” … Perhaps the only one who can help bust the pedophile predators is an equally vicious devil: Tomor, the country’s most hunted criminal.
See photos that inspired me to write the book onPinterest
“Time to change your bandage again,” the nurse mutters, voice cool, and pulls my orange-colored sleeve up to the elbow.
She unrolls the long strip of bandage from my wrist and tugs at one corner of the gauze plastered on my wound. It sticks as if glued to the freshly grown skin, and instead of removing the gauze carefully, she tears if off hard, discharging pain through my arm, wrist-to-shoulder.
I open my eyes and lift my head off the pillow. “What the fuck are ya doing, trying to reopen the wound or something?”
“Like you care.” She stops pulling and glares, gauze between her fingers. “I can see who you are inside. You’re playing tough, aren’t you, bad guy? But you can’t fool me.”
“Shut up.” I lay down again, huffing, and stare at the white ceiling above me with its rows of long neon lights.
“You’re a good man.”
I glance back. “I said, shut the fuck up.”
Her eyes shine. She rips off the remaining gauze, ignoring my grunt of pain, and throws it in a bin. “Look.”
“Look at it,” she insists, voice low and demanding.
No. I know what I’ve done, and I can imagine what it looks like. A six centimeter-long deep, reddish, scratched-up ridge along my artery. Layers of skin, fat, meat, and whatnot must be visible and sweating a pinkish liquid from the reborn pores. I don’t need to see it.
I guess the girl wants me to be so horrified, I’ll never attempt suicide again. That’s right. She wants to shock me into acceptance.
You gotta be fucking kidding me, little thing.
She shakes her head. “I don’t understand why they gave you the life sentence.”
“You mean they shoulda given me the chair?”
Instead of responding to my sarcasm, she pivots to look up at the clock and widens her eyes as if realizing she forgot an appointment. Face tense, she returns to her work, applies some cool, gel-like liquid on the wound, and bandages it with quick routine moves.
What’s up with her? In my three days in this woman’s company, I’ve noted the things that make her tick. Maybe she’s upset because I’m leaving the infirmary soon. Earlier, she said she didn’t know when I’d be ready to go back to my cell. She probably knows now, but doesn’t want to tell me.
The door opens. She jumps.
A uniformed guard pokes his head in, checks the small room, and exits.
She seems frozen in place, features tense. Staring ahead and taking deep breaths as if trying to regain composure.
I cock my head a little. “What’s going on? They gonna transfer me?”
She visibly swallows and fixes her gaze on some point on the wall.
I snicker. “Are you sad ‘cause I’m leaving?”
Ha, I can be so ugly, when the girl clearly likes me.
As she sits there avoiding me, I take the time to check out her tits, and drink in the amazing sight of their pressing against her green blouse with each breath. She doesn’t have a name tag. Come to think of it, none of the personnel do. Evidently, so the inmates can’t identify their ‘caretakers’, and should they by some miracle leave the premises, track them down.
I nod to her blouse. “What’s your name?”
She twists back to me, brows raised, before shaking her head. “I can’t tell you that.”
“C’mon, I’ll never see you again.” I grin, then add with an ironic snicker, teasing her, “They’ll never let me slash my wrists, or hang myself.”
She looks away and busies herself collecting the medical stuff, throwing a quick, almost invisible glance to the door. What the hell is making her so nervous?
Coldness fills my chest. Something’s up.
“Come on, Babe,” I coax with my most gentle, sensual voice, wanting to buy time. “Tell me your name.”
“Why?” she whispers, fidgeting with the roll of bandage.
“’Cause I want a name to your pretty face when I jack off in my cell.”
About the author
Lea Bronsen likes her reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strives to give her own stories the same intensity. After a deep dive on the unforgiving world of gangsters with her debut novel Wild Hearted, she divides her writing time between romantic suspenses, dark erotic romances, and crime thrillers.