Perrin deVesey knows pain. As a member of Crimson Rose, a secret club for men who love men, he’s taken the vow “to stand and shield.” Standing together during these perilous times is the only thing keeping their necks from the guillotine. Now their leader is using the club to rescue wrongly accused traitors. After losing a past lover to an unjust execution, the decision to support this treasonous cause is easy…until a devastatingly handsome Committee Officer complicates Perrin’s whole world.
Officer Henri Chevalier hates aristocrats. But the man he finds while investigating Crimson Rose is more than just wealthy and fancily clothed. He’s a rogue that could take him to the heart of the uprising and stop it before it starts. His plan to get close to Perrin and steal his secrets backfires, though, when Henri finds himself falling for the damned aristo and his dangerous smile. His heart is even more conflicted as he learns the truth behind their cause…and the truth his own people have been hiding.
Together they must make the choice—to stand and shield at any cost—and their love might be the deadliest weapon in all of France.
To celebrate the release of THE REVOLUTIONARY AND THE ROGUE by Blake Ferre, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by BookMojo on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 9/30/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
BLAKE FERRE writes LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Historical Romance Novels. A lover of the 18th Century, Blake can be found ogling over frock coats, embroidery, buttons, and velvet.
It isn’t every day an Earth woman is chosen to be a mail-order bride for a hulking hero of an extraterrestrial race.
Can an alien military commander and a human woman find true love together?
Burned by an ex, the last thing Evie wants is a husband, especially a seven-foot tall, green-skinned alien. But when she applies to the Extraterrestrial Matchmaking Service on a whim, she’s paired with Vork. He’s big and dangerous and he hits all her buttons. Passion sparks between, but does she dare trust this sexy alien with her heart?
As a career spacefleet commander, the last thing Vork has time for is a mate. But after a mix-up, he’s matched with a human female. He decides he’ll produce a child with her, then get back to his life in the stars. Until he touches Evie and a matebond flares on his palm.
When a rival warlord challenges Vork and Evie is the prize, Vork will have to decide. Give Evie up or battle to the death to claim her as his bride.
Vork is book 1 in the Mail-Order Brides of Crakair Series. This standalone, full-length story has plenty of on-the-page heat, hot aliens who look and act alien, a guaranteed happily ever after, no cheating, and no cliffhanger. Look for Bryk, book 2, and Jorg, book 3, on Amazon.
Sign up for Ava Ross’s newsletter and receive a FREE copy of AXIL, a novella-length story in the series to give you a taste of her steamy alien world. Download your FREE copy today!
About the Author
AVA ROSS fell for men with unusual features when she first watched Star Wars, where alien creatures have gone mainstream. She lives in New England with her husband (who is sadly not an alien, though he is still cute in his own way), her kids, and assorted pets, including a yorkie pup and three cats.
Who would you trust if the world was out to get you?
Losing Liv Sullivan in a Bureau operation gone bad turned ex-agent Ridge McCaffrey into a broken man. So when fate reunites him with the woman he thought was dead, he’ll risk anything to make her part of his life again.
Liv Sullivan returned to the States with two goals: end the FBI’s corrupt GenLink psychic intelligence program and reclaim the life it stole from her. But when the case against GenLink exposes a threat against Ridge’s son, the cost becomes too great. Refusing to destroy more lives, she leaves Ridge, and the chance to reclaim her identity, behind.
But as a new generation of GenL/ink closes in, once-trusted allies become enemies, and long-buried secrets threaten.
Can Liv and Ridge end GenLink before echoes of the past destroy their future?
Inherent Fate is the compelling third installment in the Blood Secrets psychological suspense series. For fast-paced, emotionally intense story lines that keep you up past your bedtime, and intricate plots laced with romance, this award-winning series is for you.
Ridge pulled my hands into his, his voice softening. “Colton is my son. And I will protect him with my life. But he needs a father who’s whole.” Ridge’s gaze held mine. “Don’t sign those papers. Don’t throw away what we have together.”
His skin sparked hope into me, the gentle pulses sending a throb of need through my core. He was right. Regardless of the secrets, the lies, there was a connection between us that I’d never understand. I swallowed. The anticipation in my lungs heavy and thick. I broke eye contact with Ridge as he made one final attempt.
“Please.” It was more breath than word, overpowered by the nervous shifts and quiet comments of Michelle and Lombardi as they whispered to each other in the background. Ridge skimmed his thumbs over the backs of my hands, his voice a quiet whisper. “I know you can feel this, Liv. Don’t give up on us. Don’t walk away.”
I closed my eyes. I couldn’t let my own personal desires get in the way of this decision. I couldn’t risk a little boy’s life for a relationship that any outsider would claim had been doomed from the start.
“This can’t be about us,” I said.
“It already is about us,” Ridge said. “It always has been. You fought your way back here. You came to my hotel room. I don’t give a shit about Sowards’ last ditch effort or his threats. This is about you and me and building a life for ourselves without GenLink ruling our every decision. This is your chance to choose your own path, Liv. You came back here to be free. And you’re so close. Don’t let fear stop you now.”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of INHERENT FATE by Alicia Anthony, we’re giving away a paperback set of Inherent Truth and Inherent Lies, the first two books in the Blood Secrets series, to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback set of Inherent Truth and Inherent Lies by Alicia Anthony. This giveaway is administered by BookMojo on behalf of Alicia Anthony. Giveaway ends 8/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
ALICIA ANTHONY‘s first novels were illegible scribbles on the back of her truck driver father’s logbook trip tickets. Having graduated from scribbles to laptop, she now pens novels of psychological suspense in the quiet of the wee morning hours. A full-time elementary school Literacy Specialist, Alicia hopes to pass on her passion for books and writing to the students she teaches.
A two time Golden Heart® finalist and Silver Quill Award winner, Alicia finds her inspiration in exploring the dark, dusty corners of the human experience. Alicia is a graduate of Spalding University’s School of Creative & Professional Writing (MFA), Ashland University (M.Ed.) and THE Ohio State University (BA). Go Bucks! She lives in rural south-central Ohio with her amazingly patient and supportive husband, incredibly understanding teenage daughter, two dogs, three horses, a plethora of both visiting and resident barn cats, and some feral raccoons who have worn out their welcome.
When she’s not writing or teaching, Alicia loves to travel and experience new places. Connect with her online at http://www.AliciaAnthonyBooks.com. She’d love to hear from you!
Highlander Laird Evan MacNeil cannot believe Mistress Katie Sterling just shows up at the MacDuff castle with this faded piece of parchment laying claim to the lands he just legally inherited. Not that he really wants to be here in the lowlands, but he has responsibilities to his clan and the exasperating Katie has uprooted the remnants of her father’s clan and moved them across the country to live here. There’s no way he can leave to go back home now.
Katie has nowhere else to go and she refuses to bow down to the arrogant yet undeniably handsome Highlander. She’s had enough with men trying to control her and she is quite capable of handling herself.
Now that Evan must spar with a beautiful lass for the rights to the lands, he will fight to the end. This battle is nothing like the ones his ancestors fought with crossbows and boiling oil. They never wanted to bed the enemy.
“Stop grinning like a loon, brother. The lass is still a stranger to us, and we need to watch ourselves around her.”
“What?” Alasdair had the nerve to laugh. “If ever there was an uncomplicated lass, it’s that one.” He motioned with his thumb toward the ceiling.
“And what do ye ken of complicated lasses? Most of yer bed partners have no more brains than that goat.” He waved his cup in the direction of the animal standing in the library doorway. He dropped his coffee cup and jumped up “What the hell is that?”
Alasdair turned in his chair. “I think ye already said it. Appears to be a goat.”
The animal stared at him, then ambled into the room. “What the blasted hell is a goat doing in the house?”
“Oh, so sorry, my laird.” Meggie rushed in after the animal. “I’ll take him outside.”
“Is he one of the tenant’s goats?” Evan asked as the animal walked farther into the room, looking around like he owned the place.
Meggie grabbed the animal around the neck. “Nay. He is Agnes’s pet goat, Myrtle.”
“The wee lass?” He thought he remembered her name as Agnes.
“Aye.” She tugged. The animal refused to move.
“Her pet goat?” he repeated.
“Aye. She keeps him in her cottage, and he sleeps alongside her.” She walked around the goat and attempted to push him forward.
Evan looked over at Alasdair. “He sleeps alongside her in her cottage.”
His fool brother was laughing so hard, he couldn’t speak. This day was certainly not going the way he’d planned. First, Stirling clan members had arrived before he expected them, the interviews he and Mistress Stirling were conducting had been cut short, and now there was a sick lass upstairs, and her pet goat was munching on one of his books. “God’s toes!”
Evan glared at a red-faced Meggie. “Get the blasted animal out of here and outside. Find MacDuff and have him put the thing somewhere.”
As Meggie tugged and, in turn, pushed on the animal, who had decided he wanted to stay right where he was, Mistress Stirling hustled into the room. “Oh, there he is.”
Evan scowled at her. “Mistress, ye new arrival brought a pet goat with them.”
“Aye. I ken. Wee Agnes wants him to join her upstairs.”
“Upstairs? Where the bedchambers are?” He hadn’t realized how loud his voice had become until Meggie—still pulling on the goat—and Mistress Stirling both cringed.
“’Twill calm the lass down,” Mistress Stirling was brave enough to mumble, avoiding his eyes.
“Let the bairn have her pet, Brother,” Alasdair added, wiping the tears from his eyes. “If it makes her feel better, it cannot cause harm.”
“Cause harm? The thing was eating one of my books.” He picked up the tome and waved it at the group who all stood staring at him, expressions from uneasiness to laughter on their faces. He rubbed his eyes with his fists. “Verra well. Let the lass have her animal.” He pointed a finger at Mistress Stirling. “The minute the wee one falls asleep, I want that animal out of the castle and to the barn, where it will stay. Do ye understand?”
“Aye.” Mistress Stirling said something in the goat’s ear, and the blasted animal walked alongside her as easy as ye please. Evan glared at his brother, who choked on his laugh.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of A SCOT TO WED by Callie Hutton, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 7/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
CALLIE HUTTON, USA Today bestselling author writes both Western Historical and Regency romance with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs, two adult children, a daughter-in-law, twin grandsons and her top cheerleader husband (although thankfully not all in the same home!). Living in the Midwest provides plenty of opportunities for Callie do pursue her interests: researching history, meeting readers, spending time with her adorable two year old twin grandsons, and discovering new adventures. Callie loves to hear from readers and welcomes the opportunity to become friends, both in person or virtually.
Reeling from barely surviving her last relationship, Taylor Grayson is trying to put her life back together. However, every step forward means facing her past—decisions, mistakes, and relationships, and the perfect life she thought she was building suddenly doesn’t seem so perfect anymore. Can Taylor rebuild and maybe even find a new path in life with the help of her very best friend, Greg Everett, or are past mistakes simply too much to ever really overcome?
Greg Everett only wants what’s best for those he loves including Taylor Grayson. Although he’s always secretly hoped that she would see him as more than a friend, he’s known Taylor too long to believe she might ever see him the way he sees her. Besides, what Taylor needs most right now is a friend, and Greg knows better than anybody that hoping for anything else with Taylor is just Making Believe…
Come along with these friends on this crazy ride called life.
Be inspired. Laugh a few laughs. Cry a few tears.
One thing’s for sure, you will never forget this emotionally-charged roller coaster ride filled with life, hopes, dreams, imagination, and most especially love.
MAKING BELIEVE, Book 8 in The Imagination Series by USAToday Best-Selling Christian author, Staci Stallings, is fraught with the trials and turmoil of young love. The Imagination Series will give Christian romance readers the emotional ride of a lifetime. These young adults trying to figure out life and love, friendship and romance, will have you cheering, laughing, and crying as they traverse the challenges of being friends and maybe becoming even more.
About the Book
Making Believe by Staci Stallings
To celebrate the release of MAKING BELIEVE by Staci Stallings, we’re giving away a paperback copy of To Protect & Serve by Staci Stallings to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of To Protect & Serve by Staci Stallings. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Staci Stallings. Giveaway ends 4/30/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
USA Today Best Selling Author, STACI STALLINGS is a stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side. She has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. So, sit back, grab your Kindle & something to drink, and settle in for some of the BEST stories in all of Christian Romance…
My name is Synthia Rowley, and I still suck at saving the world.
I’m in a race against time, searching for my missing mates, my Enforcer and my Omega. Without them I won’t be able to form my Court and become a true Hyena Queen, giving me the power and protection I so desperately need to keep my friends and family safe.
Terrorism, wars, and brutal atrocities are on the rise across the globe. The world is becoming darker by the day as the veil between our reality and the chaos dimension fails, allowing abominations to cross over. Abominations filled with an endless hunger for human flesh and spirit. Now children have started to go missing in my hometown and the Goddess has tasked me with finding them.
If I’m their best hope, we’re all in serious trouble.
Cormac Flynn, a raven shapeshifter, is ancient, Celtic, and cursed.
Arianne Leone, a mountain lion shapeshifter, owns an art gallery in Deep Ellum, a popular tourist attraction and haven for musicians for decades.
Together, they are charged with guarding the one who bears the Hermit’s Stone, an ancient artifact that has held worlds together—and kept them separate—for eons.
Possession of the stone falls to Ari’s friend and art student, nineteen-year-old Nico Garcia. When Nico’s parents are killed in an attempt to destroy him, Ari and Mac must set aside their differences and work together, protecting Nico at all costs…
Fierce winds screamed across the sand, blowing spray off the Atlantic and drenching anyone foolish enough to tread the beaches during such a storm.
Locals blamed the winds for nightmares and other unnatural occurrences, while oscillating stones in the area rocked and rumbled, giving life to ancient tales.
Had anyone from the nearby village of Mordomo ventured out, perhaps they would recall their encounter with the et Inpaenitens, thinking they’d met the Santa Compaña instead.
This night, these spirits were especially agitated.
It is gone.
Those words passed silently from one to another, as they found themselves able to break formation.
Then our chance to destroy it has come, whispered throughout the company.
First, we must find it. Belhar, eldest, strongest, and the one who’d enthralled his companions, insisted. No matter where it travels. It holds us only while it is here.
Might we travel then, to find it?
Only the strongest among us, Belhar admonished. I will choose who may go, and who must stay. Remember, your duty is to open the gate, should the opportunity arise.
The winds whipped into a higher-pitched scream as the et Inpaenitens resolved to act accordingly and free themselves forever.
Dispersing completely for the first time in centuries, they left no footprints behind for the winds to erase.
May, the Following Year
Arianne Leone looked up from her painting when the bell over her art gallery door jangled, announcing a visitor. She’d bent low to paint the red and yellow colors of the Indian Blanket wildflowers found in Palo Duro Canyon.
Paintings of the canyon were some of her best sellers, so she straightened her spine and stepped back to survey her work. The focus of the painting was a well-known rock formation, called the Lighthouse.
“Ari, it’s me,” Nico Garcia called from the front of the gallery.
“I’m back here,” she replied.
“Oh, that’s really good,” Nico breathed a sigh as he caught sight of her latest work. “I wish my final project was half as good.”
“It was great—you’ll get an A.”
“Thanks for letting me work on it here—that made a lot of difference. Too many distractions at home,” he admitted. “College is harder than I thought.”
“At least the semester’s over—when will your grades be out?”
“Maybe next week,” Nico shrugged. He was worried, Ari could tell.
“You’ll do fine,” she reassured him. “I just know it.”
“The raven came back again yesterday,” Nico said.
“Because you’re feeding him,” Ari teased. “Did you ever figure out what the red patch is under his beak?”
“I still can’t tell, and I can’t really ask him, can I? He does like tamales, though.”
“You working the night shift?” Ari asked.
Nico’s parents owned Blue Taco, the Mexican restaurant across the street from Ari’s gallery. It was a popular restaurant for standard Tex-Mex as well as authentic regional Mexican dishes offered as daily specials.
“Yeah. Gotta go in at six,” Nico answered Ari’s question. “Thought I’d come early and see you, first.”
“Want to use the studio during the summer?”
“Yes.” By the breathless tone of his voice and the way his dark eyes lit up, Ari understood Nico’s true purpose in paying her a visit.
“You’re welcome to use it anytime. I’ll get you a key so you can come and go.”
“All right,” Nico’s enthusiasm spread with his grin.
“I may come to the restaurant for dinner tonight—all this talk of tamales is making me hungry.”
“We can go together—you know Papa will not let you pay.”
“He needs to let me pay,” she said. “He has to cover his bills, just like everybody else.”
“The restaurant is doing really well,” Nico argued. “Besides, you let me paint here.”
“I’m still paying for my dinner. I’m just letting a friend paint in my studio—there are no strings attached. I remember art school, and how much it would have helped me to have an artist’s space to do my work. Instead, I had two roommates who couldn’t stop talking about guys and getting drunk.”
“Mama keeps asking me about a girlfriend. I have girl friends, but those are two separate words for now.”
“I hear that.” Ari and Nico bumped fists. “Want a soda or some water?”
“Water. It’s hot outside.” Nico followed Ari to the small fridge she kept in her workspace. “Something weird happened last night, though. Papa thought it was a burglar outside. The police came, but they didn’t find anything.”
“They may have been scared off. Don’t let your guard down,” Ari warned. “People seem to get crazier during the summer heat.”
“Gonna paint some more after dinner?”
“I think I’ll go home. This is almost finished, and I have a crick in my back from bending down to do the flowers.”
“Is it already sold?”
“Yeah. Somebody in Virginia wants it.”
“Cha-ching,” Nico laughed.
“Hey, that’s rent,” Ari poked his shoulder. “Do not diss the rent.”
Ari found herself flinging her arms around Nico as a deafening explosion sent them flying across her studio. Time slowed as she reflexively covered him as well as she could before their bodies hit the concrete floor.
Across the street, fire and screams erupted; Blue Taco had been reduced to little more than rubble. The bomb that leveled the restaurant had shaken the gallery and blown out its plate glass windows.
Ari came to her senses first, lifting her head—and her weight off Nico. Her back felt as if it were on fire. “Nico?” she whispered desperately. His eyes were closed and his hair was covered in dust and debris that continued to fall around them.
She’d covered the rest of him, so his clothing was relatively clean. “Nico?” Ari stretched out a shaking hand; temporarily deaf, she couldn’t hear his breaths or his heartbeat, and she didn’t trust her eyes to tell her whether Nico was alive. Touch was the only sense she had left.
There—a pulse. Ari found herself wiping tears away. Reaching for her cell phone in a back pocket, Ari groaned in pain. Her back felt as if a thousand needles were stabbing her relentlessly.
“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?” the voice on the other end of her call answered.
“Explosion. Injury. Seven-nine-nine Durrance Street in Deep Ellum.”
“We have several units on the way to that area. Stay on the phone; someone will arrive soon.”
Nico escaped with minor injuries. A paramedic was forced to pick glass and splinters from Ari’s back once the dust settled and first responders arrived.
Everyone inside the restaurant perished.
“He’s nineteen and his parents just died,” Ari hissed at Detective Norm Little, who’d arrived to ask questions. She’d disliked him on sight, and when he asked if Nico were in the country legally, she almost slapped him.
Another detective joined the first; Ari wanted to snarl at him before he opened his mouth. “Norm,” Lance Elliott frowned at Detective Little, “I think you’re needed outside.”
“But,” Little began to argue.
“Out. Side.” Detective Elliott jerked his head toward the open space that used to be a door into Ari’s gallery.
Ari studied Detective Elliott with a critical eye. Forties, a little bit of gray, no paunch, single or divorced, she decided. Elliott didn’t budge when it looked as if Detective Little wanted to argue again. She watched with satisfaction as Little turned and walked stiffly toward the entrance.
Once Little left the scene, Lance visibly relaxed. “Sorry about that,” he apologized to Ari. “I’ll take it from here. I don’t suppose you have a security camera outside?”
“Yeah. I can send you whatever it captured—before things blew up.”
“Can we do that now? How’s the kid?” Lance’s voice had gone soft when he asked about Nico, causing Ari to lift an eyebrow.
Bad cop, good cop, she thought to herself, before leading Lance to the back, where Nico shivered on Ari’s sofa.
Shock, Ari pulled in a weary breath. “Nico, I have a blanket. I’ll get it for you.” Detective Elliott could wait—Nico was more important.
“The back of your shirt is bloody,” Lance Elliott called after her.
“Damn. And I just changed shirts,” she cursed.
Lance hated this part of his job. “I’m sorry, Nico,” he handed Nico’s driver’s license back to him. “But we have to find out who did this. Right now, you’re the best source of information we’ve got.”
“Nothing is different,” Nico stuttered his reply. Ari had draped a blanket over Nico’s shoulders, but the kid was still shivering.
“I have a note here that says your father called Plano PD last night,” he said, trying to keep his voice even.
“We thought it was a burglar—Mama heard somebody running beside the house, so Papa called the police. They didn’t find anything. I’m not sure they looked very hard.”
“He told me the same thing earlier—that they had to call the police,” Ari spoke up.
“I’ll send somebody out to check again.” Pulling his phone from a pocket, Lance excused himself and walked toward the gallery door to place a call.
“I’ll call Plano PD,” Captain Belwether told Lance over the phone. “Can’t hurt to check. Now, what’s this beef between you and Norm?”
Lance forced himself not to curse. “The kid just lost both parents,” he growled a reply. “Norm decided to air his racism and asked if the kid was here legally.”
“Of course he did,” Belwether sounded grim. “I’ll expect you to file a report on the incident when you get back to the station.”
“I’m sure Norm already has his complaint written about me overstepping my authority,” Lance grumbled.
“I’ll talk to him when he gets back. We don’t need this blowing up on the news—that we’re this cold-hearted.”
“Except Norm is exactly that.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. He’s close to retirement. He and I will have a talk and he’ll choose his words more wisely next time.”
“Right. I may have camera footage from a security camera across the street. I’ll let you know if there’s anything useful.”
“Body count is at twenty-nine and expected to go higher,” Belwether said.
“Damn. Look, I need to go. I don’t know how long the kid can hold up, and I still have questions to ask.” After ending the call, Lance walked back to the studio behind the gallery. His phone rang again before he reached his destination.
“House in Plano just destroyed,” Belwether barked. “Homes on both sides damaged. We have to get the kid someplace safe. Somebody’s after the whole family.”
“I’ll bring him to the station. We can go from there,” Lance studied Ari and Nico, who were now huddled together on the sofa. Ari’s arms were around Nico, as if she knew something else had gone wrong already.
Ari followed the detective to his car; Nico walked beside her, still wrapped in the blanket she’d given him. At first, Lance intended to take Nico to the police station, but Nico refused to go without Ari, as if she were his only remaining lifeline in a world gone off the rails.
“We’ll get through this, Nico,” she spoke softly to him as Lance opened the back door of his vehicle. Ari stifled a scream when a raven, bearing a small patch of red feathers at his throat, landed on top of the car with a concerned kraw!
“Don’t,” Nico begged as Lance waved an arm to shoo the bird away. “He’s my friend.”
“We can’t take him with us,” Lance began.
“Come. With. Nico,” the bird croaked, sending a shiver through Lance. Ari gasped softly but didn’t say anything.
“He said my name,” Nico turned to Ari, his eyes wide. “He’s my friend,” he turned back to Lance.
“Right. Get in the car. Bird, if you’re coming, get in and don’t make a mess.” Lance only said what he did for Nico’s benefit—no way would that bird get in the car.
Except he did, lifting off the car’s roof and flapping to Nico’s shoulder.
“Damn,” Ari breathed. “Nico, get in the car. We should go.”
“Go now,” the bird insisted.
“Right,” Lance repeated and slid into the driver’s seat.
“I’ve hauled a lot of things in my car, but I don’t think I’ve ever driven a raven across town,” Detective Elliott shook his head as he stopped the car at a red light. Ari sat up front with him; Nico and the unnamed raven were in the backseat.
“I’ve never seen a raven with red feathers under his chin,” Ari sighed. “No idea about this one, or why he showed up now. Nico’s been feeding him tamales behind the restaurant, but I’ve never seen a wild bird settle for riding in a car, even if it is with the guy who keeps him in Mexican food.”
“I can’t figure that out, either, but then nothing about this case makes sense. Why not include a raven who likes tamales and can talk?”
“Most people would freak out,” Ari pointed out. “About a talking raven.”
“I think I’m past that now.” Lance moved the car forward when the light turned green. “I can’t wait to see what happens when we take the bird into the station.”
“I-umm right heere,” the Raven squawked, making both jerk in their seats.
Ari and Nico were led to Lance’s office, where Lance offered them drinks and a place to sit. Ari watched as Lance considered his questions carefully.
“Nico, I know this is hard, but can you tell me whether your parents have acted different lately—anything out of the ordinary?” Lance asked.
Nico was seated on Lance’s desk chair while the raven clung to its high back, hovering above Nico’s right shoulder. The detective leaned casually against the desk to ask his questions, attempting to put Nico at ease while they talked.
“No. Everything was the same,” Nico denied. “School ended last Friday, so I was scheduled to work full evening shifts since then. I usually work weekends when I’m in school unless I have a project to finish and need the time.”
One of Nico’s feet bounced beneath him, making his entire leg shake—a sign of anxiety. He was doing his best to hold it together, when he’d become an orphan in the time it took to blink. Ari understood his fear and confusion.
“Have they taken any unusual trips? Been somewhere they wouldn’t normally go?”
“They took a trip to Spain last September. Ever since Mama had us take a family DNA test and she found out she had connections to Garcias in Spain, well, she wanted to go. Papa took her.”
“What part of Spain?” Lance scribbled on his yellow notepad.
“Well, they went to Madrid, of course. Went to see lots of things. Ended up at Santiago de Compostela, before going back to Madrid and flying home. Mama had pictures on her phone. She sent me some of them.”
“Actual connections—as in relatives?” Lance lifted an eyebrow. He was following a trail Ari hadn’t yet considered.
“Distant cousins,” Nico’s shaking leg ramped up a notch. “They didn’t meet any of them—Mama only wanted to see where our Spanish ancestors came from.”
“You’re saying it was just a tourist trip, then?”
“Yes. They had fun. Came back tired and full of stories.” Nico choked on his words. Ari jerked her purse open to dig for tissues—she had some, somewhere. Nico drew his sleeve across his face, eliminating the need. The raven croaked softly and began preening Nico’s hair.
Nico sniffled and then chuckled at the attention he was getting.
“Was there anything they brought home besides pictures? Did they have an itinerary—anything on a computer?” Lance asked as the raven inspected his work, then preened more hair, giving Nico a nice lift to his bangs.
“If they did, it’s on Papa’s computer at home. Mama uses her phone. She hates the computer.”
“Nico, we can’t get to that computer,” Lance said.
“Why not?” Nico raised reddened eyes to the detective.
“I didn’t want to break the news like this, but your house was destroyed not long ago. Looks like that call to the police last night should have been investigated better. Do you have anything we can use on your phone? By the way, you shouldn’t answer it if anyone calls. We think someone may be looking for you, too.”
“Here’s my phone,” Nico pulled it from his pocket. “Why would anybody want to kill us? We didn’t do anything.”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Is there anything on here that you don’t want us to see? I’ll have somebody look through those pictures your mother sent.”
“No.” Nico shrugged helplessly. “I’ll give you my password so you won’t have to break into it.”
“Lance, a word?” Ari’s head jerked around as someone appeared in the doorway.
“I’ll be right back,” Lance said, straightening and walking swiftly from the office.
“Norm’s dead.” Belwether didn’t waste any time giving Lance the bad news. “Went to ask questions at a business across the alley from the restaurant. He was killed inside, along with both store employees. Their security system was ripped out and stolen. I’ve got uniforms all over the place, and forensics checking for evidence.”
“We need to look at the recordings Ari Leone sent to my phone,” Lance growled. “Damn. Norm wasn’t a friend by any stretch, but this really pisses me off.”
“We’ve blocked off half the street, and that won’t go well with tourists and visitors in Deep Ellum tonight.”
“Maybe it’s for the best—we don’t need a crowd getting killed if these assholes are still around.”
“I was hoping they’d died in the restaurant. Unless there are two teams, they hit the house after the restaurant.”
“Yeah, or maybe they planted those bombs at the house last night and detonated remotely.”
“I think the Plano cops are getting questioned about their visit to the house last night,” Belwether grimaced. “If there were any evidence to find, it’s probably obliterated by now. Bomb squad is investigating. I asked for cooperation from the Plano PD. They couldn’t say yes fast enough. Get Mona on those security recordings ASAP,” Belwether added. “I want to know who or what went into that restaurant and killed thirty-four people.”
“How high will the death toll climb?” Lance asked, after wincing at the updated number.
“Restaurant had a max capacity of ninety-five, plus staff and owners. I doubt it was full, but it could be close.”
“I think I want to have a conversation with the Plano officers who went to Nico’s house last night.”
“So do I. We can have a sit-down later. How’s the kid?”
“Not the best. Still in shock, but that could crack any minute. He doesn’t have any family in the States and doesn’t want to go anywhere without Ms. Leone.”
“Is she willing to stay with him—at least temporarily?”
“That’s the feeling I get. There’s something else, too.”
“A talking raven, who refuses to leave the kid’s side.”
“This isn’t the time for jokes, Lance.”
“I’m not joking. Didn’t you notice the bird on the back of my chair when you pulled me away?”
“Wasn’t looking for one. Damn, must be slipping,” Belwether mumbled.
“Come back with me. See for yourself.”
“I think I will.”
Belwether followed Lance back to his office. Just as he’d said, the raven perched on the back of Lance’s chair while Nico, arms crossed tightly over his chest and head down, studied his shoes.
Work shoes, Lance realized. Black leather athletic shoes, suitable for employment in a restaurant. The rest of Nico’s clothing was black, too, with the Blue Taco emblem on the left shoulder of his black polo.
Everything else the kid owned had been blown apart. All he had was his phone and a backpack he’d carried to the gallery before going to work.
“I’ll be damned,” Belwether whispered, jerking Lance away from his thoughts. Belwether was looking at the bird instead of the kid. “Does he have a name?” Belwether stepped into Lance’s office to ask Nico. Lance, wearing a frown, followed him in.
“I don’t know.” Nico’s arms tightened around himself.
“Mac,” the raven croaked.
“Your name is Mac?” Belwether sounded incredulous.
“Cor-mac. Flynn. Call. Me. Mac.” There was a frown in the raven’s croak, since his beak couldn’t transform to convey the message.
“Fucking hell,” Belwether swore softly.
“I think you should ask your questions later,” Ari stood abruptly. “Nico’s had enough for the day.”
“What. She. Said,” the raven agreed.
“We can put Nico in a safe house with guards,” Lance suggested.
“He can come home with me, Detective.” Lance understood that Ari didn’t like Belwether’s intrusion nor his words. She was right, though. Nico looked as if he were barely hanging on.
“Take them to her place,” Belwether snapped at Lance. “Ms. Leone, don’t leave town. I’ll have a unit outside for your protection tonight. Tomorrow, Detective Elliott will call and set up another interview.”
“Thanks for all the warmth and hospitality,” Ari’s eyes and voice had gone so cold Lance wanted to shiver. “We’ll be fine.”
Nico was up and out of the chair fast. Mac flapped to his shoulder and held on. Ari swept out of the office first, followed by Nico.
“What. She. Said,” the raven repeated on the way out.
Ari fumed while Lance drove her and Nico to her house in North Dallas. She knew Lance kept looking her way, hoping to find a way to apologize for the Captain’s gaffe, but she refused to allow an opening.
Besides, it didn’t take a genius—just someone with sensitive hearing—to know Nico was holding back tears while he stroked Mac’s feathers in the back seat. The occasional sniff let her know exactly how things were.
“I’ll call tomorrow,” Lance said as he saw them to Ari’s back door. He waited while she unlocked it and turned off the alarm.
“Thank you, Detective,” Ari said before shutting the door in his face. She was grateful to be stronger than she looked as Nico fell into her arms and sobbed. Mac hopped to a nearby kitchen counter and spoke soft mumblings only a raven might understand.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the tour for RAVEN RED by Connie Suttle, we’re giving away a paperback copy of the book to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Raven Red by Connie Suttle. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Connie Suttle. Giveaway ends 3/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
CONNIE SUTTLE is the author of the Blood Destiny series, the Legend of the Ir’Indicti series, the High Demon Series, the God Wars series and the Saa Thalarr series. Other titles are scheduled for release very soon.
Connie earned her MFA from the University of Oklahoma and has taught courses at the university level. Reading (and writing) have been a constant throughout her life.
The author lives in Oklahoma with her patient, long-suffering husband and three cats. Obviously, the cats are not so long-suffering and are certainly not patient.