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VBT – Wheels Up

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About the Author

Jeanine Kitchel, a former journalist, escaped her hectic nine-to-five life in San Francisco, bought land, and built a house in a fishing village on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Shortly after settling in she opened a bookstore. By this time she had become a serious Mayaphile and her love of the Maya culture led her and her husband to nearby pyramid sites throughout southern Mexico and farther away to sites in Central America. In the bookstore she entertained a steady stream of customers with their own Maya tales to tell—from archeologists and explorers to tour guides and local experts. At the request of  a publisher friend, she began writing travel articles about her adopted homeland for websites and newspapers. Her travel memoir, Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya, and Maya 2012 Revealed: Demystifying the Prophecy, are available on Amazon. She has since branched into writing fiction and her debut novel, Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival, launched May 2018.

Jeanine Kitchel

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About the Book

Title: WHEELS UP: A NOVEL OF DRUGS, CARTELS, AND SURVIVAL
Author: Jeanine Kitchel
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 294
Genre: Thriller

Wheels Up

BOOK BLURB

Layla always wanted to run the family business. But is she willing to kill for it?
When her notorious drug lord uncle is recaptured, Layla Navarro catapults to the top of Mexico’s most powerful cartel. Groomed as his successor, Layla knows where the bodies are buried. But not all the enemies. She strikes her first deal to prove her mettle by accepting an offer to move two tons of cocaine from Colombia to Cancun by jet. Things go sideways during a stopover in Guatemala whe Layla unexpectedly uncovers a human trafficking ring. Plagued by self-doubt, she must fight off gangsters, outsmart corrupt officials, and navigate the minefield of Mexican machismo. Even worse, she realizes she’s become a target for every rival cartel seeking to undermine her new standing. From her lush base in the tropics, she’s determined to retain her dominant position in Mexico’s criminal world. If she can stay alive.

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Book Excerpt

Chapter 1
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Present Day
The Gulfstream jet, loaded with two tons of Colombian cocaine, careened over dense Yucatan jungle as Layla stared out the compact window, horrified. If they weren’t running on empty and destined to crash, it might have looked lush to her, even beautiful.
Without fuel, the engines starved into silence, she heard only the whooshing sound of the aluminum plane as it cruised over mangrove swamps and fast-approaching mahogany trees. All thoughts of her hasty departure from Guatemala to escape Don Guillermo’s wrath had vanished along with any hopes of safely landing in Cancun. They were going down.
Layla gripped the armrests, dropped her head between her knees, and prepared for the worst.
#
Three weeks earlier, Layla was sitting at the crowded bar in Bucanero’s Cantina in Ensenada, on Mexico’s west coast, while she waited for Clay Lasalle, Canada’s biggest pot dealer, to show up. Carlos, her bodyguard and sometime lover, was with her, but rather than relieving the stress, his overbearing presence just added to the pressure.
With the recent recapture and imprisonment of El Patrón, her notorious uncle, Layla had catapulted to the top of the Culiacan Cartel as his replacement. Now she was facing her first deal without her uncle’s guiding hand. To calm her jitters she resorted to the one thing that never failed her: tequila shots.
“Don Julio, por favor!” Layla called to the paunchy bartender over the clamor of the rowdy, alcohol-fueled crowd—mostly tourists in shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Above the polished mahogany bar a framed poster-sized photo showed a nude blonde being ushered out of the century-old watering hole by two Mexican policia. Of course it’s a gringa, Layla thought, Mexicans treaded more carefully in shark-infested waters. She waved a two-hundred-peso note as the bartender passed by with a tray of margaritas.
“Momentito!” he promised.
Carlos stepped away just as she downed her second shot. Though he’d given her his “cuidado” or “be careful” look before heading to the restroom, she ignored it. When a handsome gringo sat next to her and started talking, she was all in.
By the time Carlos returned, Layla was too busy chatting with her neighbor to worry about her bodyguard’s glare. Carlos hated outsiders as much as seeing her drink, but she needed to chill. Tequila shots and flirting were a mindless diversion. The agave centered her, allowing her to distract herself without losing her edge before the meeting.
“You’re from Chicago?” she asked. “I’ve been there.”
The man gazed at the dark-haired Latina by his side. “What did you think?”
She gave a dismissive shrug. “Too cold.” Her intelligent almond-shaped eyes were the color of charcoal. “I prefer Mexico.” A sardonic smile highlighted her cheekbones, making her face even more appealing.
Layla turned back toward her bodyguard and focused on the shot glass the bartender placed in front of her. Poor Carlos. Coming to Baja always rattled him. It wasn’t only the jaw-breaking drive from Culiacan on dodgy Mexican roads. It was Ensenada—far from the safety of Sinaloa, well out of their comfort zone. But for Layla, Bucanero’s Cantina qualified as northern Baja’s one saving grace. The dive bar brought back memories of her wild, reckless early years. At thirty-five, Layla still had plenty of the right stuff. Her five-foot-six frame seemed mostly legs and Carlos’s rare compliments always focused on her tiny waist. She emphasized her striking physique by wearing low-cut tops but her most notable feature was the cascade of curly dark hair that spilled over her shoulders.
She downed her last tequila shot, scooted off the wooden bar stool a step ahead of Carlos and moved towards the empty dining room. The cantina was not the best place for a meeting, but it suited their needs: an easy landmark near the border with a back room for business. Layla slipped into the barely lit room, accepted a menu from the waiter, and handed him a two-hundred-peso note.
“Our associate arrives soon. We need privacy. Close the restaurant,” she ordered. “Your manager knows.”
He nodded, pocketed the bill, and turned towards the kitchen.
Layla walked across the worn wooden floor to a corner table in the back. She took a deep breath to steady herself before sitting down. Things would escalate into a full-scale argument once Carlos reached the table. She could already hear him scolding, “Bosses keep to themselves, especially in public.”
When Carlos had a bad day, everyone had a bad day. He could easily vie for title of most miserable man on the planet. Too bad the sex was so good. Hijole! He had the body of a male model but two sizes larger, with café au lait skin. So handsome, but so disagreeable. Granted she shouldn’t have given that gringo the time of day, but tequila made her bold.
Layla opened the menu, waiting for her bodyguard’s interrogation to begin.
Carlos banged a cheap wooden chair against the table before sitting down. “What the hell do you care about Chicago? It’s not Madrid, not even Barcelona! That guy was boring! Are you so starved for conversation you have to talk to a gringo?”
Layla silently perused the bill of fare.
“I’ve had it,” he said, his voice rising. “I’m tired of my life. Am I just your bodyguard and nothing more? Everyone, everyone, told me to keep it strictly business, even your uncle. But I didn’t listen. I thought it would be that one drunken one night stand, and now I’m fucking chained to you because of this goddamn job!”
His powerful hands clenched into fists as he rubbed them over his knees. “If only I could’ve left you in Guadalajara. But I’d have never made it out of the city before taking a bullet from your uncle.”
That was accurate: You didn’t quit the cartel, the cartel quit you. She looked at the menu, avoiding eye contact, glad the waiter hadn’t yet returned. “Should we order?”
He glared at her. “Are you acting like this conversation isn’t happening? Do you want me to walk out of here, meeting or no meeting?”
Best not to test him. He’d do it, and then she’d be without a bodyguard. The drone of his voice, the bullying, started to sink in. Chinga! She had no trouble working the cartel mob, but Carlos ran her. He was as overbearing as her two brothers. Reynoldo who should have been running the cartel had died trying, and Martín, her other brother, wasn’t up to the task. Now with one brother and two cousins dead, Layla found herself atop the Culiacan Cartel.
She looked up and said in as soothing a tone as possible, “Carlos, let’s not fight, okay? We’re here for business. I need you with me. You’re not only the man who protects me. I love you.”
She did love him, though his bad attitude and barking complaints—usually aimed at her—were tiresome. He shifted his perfectly-proportioned body forward, staring at her with eyes she’d been lost in a hundred times. He surprised her by grabbing her hand, a little harder than necessary. They never touched in public.
“After this meeting, we’ll talk about you and me.” He scowled. “I don’t know why you drink so much—and with strangers.”
These macho men! “Okay, okay. I’ll let up on the shots. One last Pacifico while we wait.”
The waiter came and they ordered. She checked her watch, 10 p.m. Lasalle would be showing up soon. She’d met him once before in Miami and sparks had flown—there was no denying they had chemistry.
Layla changed topics. “So, what does he want?”
“Chinga! Who cares?”
She backpedaled. “Carlos…”
He gave her a cold look but couldn’t hold back his opinion. “Routes for coke or pot.”
The meal went smoothly. Layla pushed an enchilada around her plate and watched Carlos demolish an order of chilaquiles, three tamales, and a couple chicken enchiladas. As he piled it in, a rare calm settled over him. He was well into his second beer when Clay walked into the restaurant. Layla saw him first, but Carlos looked up the moment Clay crossed the threshold. As a bodyguard, Carlos’s instincts were flawless.
The thirty-something Canadian smuggler was six feet two, a looker with brown shaggy hair and an easy smile. Though his frame was solid, almost hefty, he moved like a cat. Spotting Layla, he gave a nod as his long strides brought him across the room.
He let his knuckles graze the table as he flashed her a warm smile. “Layla, it’s been a long time. Good to see you again. And this is…”
“Carlos.”
“Carlos, hola. Clay.” The Canadian extended a hand.
Carlos rose from the booth. “A pleasure.” He spoke in Spanish. “I’ll be close by,” he said to Layla.
“Have a seat.” Layla slid over to allow room for Clay. Not much had changed about the northern grower since she last saw him—still that laidback air even though he controlled the lion’s share of Canada’s pot sales.
“Something to eat?” Layla continued in English, though she knew Clay spoke passable Spanish.
He shook his head. “Just a Pacifico.” She gestured toward her beer and the hovering waiter sprung into action.
“Long drive?”
“Not bad. Been waiting long?” Clay asked.
“No.”
They silently watched the waiter set down the bottle of beer and retreat from the room.
“Salud,” said Clay, raising his bottle. “Layla, I’m glad you could meet with me. I’ll get right to the point. I want a partner to move a couple tons of coke to Cancun by air—a regular run. I heard you lost a yacht recently, so a partnership could work out well for both of us.”
How did Lasalle know about the navy seizing their yacht?
“Cocaine…”
“Boats are fine, but flying’s faster and we can carry more. Plus I’m dealing directly with FARC. Gotta hand it to ’em. For a guerrilla army in the Colombian jungle, they know how to run those cocaine fincas. And we can get better prices from them than anyone’s gotten before.”
He took a swig of beer.
“Interesting,” she said without emotion. “How will you manage those good prices?”
“A combined order with you.” He paused and waited for her reaction.
She said nothing.
“The airport manager’s on board,” he said, “Already allowed some of my flights through.”
She leaned back against the worn naugahyde booth, settling into the game of cat and mouse. “What kind of planes?”
“A Gulfstream and a DC-9.”
Layla raised an eyebrow. “Who owns them?”
“A couple guys in Lauderdale run a shield for drug planes by providing American registration to the cartels. It’s complicated—big money down, more than what the plane’s worth. In return these guys maintain the plane registration, and hire Vietnam vets to do the cartel runs.”
She nodded.
“If the plane’s seized, the pilots deny responsibility. These hooked-up guys can reclaim the plane because their corporation holds the lien,” Clay said.
Layla slid forward, placed her elbows on the table and picked at the label on the empty beer bottle in front of her. “How can they do that? Someone must hold the original papers.”
“They disguise ownership by sheep-dipping it—you know, a fake identity—and pass it on to straw owners. It’s a slick process, an old scheme used by the CIA.”
“The CIA? Come on, Clay,” she said with a slight frown. Do I look naïve? She flipped her dark hair over one shoulder. Clay’s gaze shifted to Layla’s long elegant neck.
He caught himself, looked away, and readjusted his long legs under the table before speaking. “These vets couriered traffickers from Colombia to Miami for the CIA. Talk about walking the line. They did time for trafficking, but they’re back, and they’re hotshot pilots.”
“Your shipments came in with no problem?” Layla asked.
“Like I said, I have connections, and the players, they’ve worked it out.”
“Does that include the Gulf Cartel?”
He nodded.
“Hmm. I’ve got to think things through,” Layla said. “When’s your next run?”
“Got a few details to sort out. I hear you’re growing the European market—this’ll get you a lot closer to that trip across the pond.”
Layla gave him a cool smile. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you were spying on me.”
“Layla,” Clay said with a chuckle. “I’m just trying to keep up with you.”
She looked at him a second too long before she continued. “Can I get back to you?”
“Sure.” Clay finished off his beer. “Let me know where and when.”
#
Layla and Carlos left Ensenada immediately after the meeting, heading out on the road to Culiacan. Carlos high-powered the black SUV through the moonless night while Layla closed her eyes and imagined the impact of bringing in new business on her own. In a four hundred billion dollar global industry, she could begin to stake out her territory.
“By working with us, FARC will see Clay as a real player,” she confided to Carlos.
“Basta! Always business!” Carlos said, still in a huff.
Layla composed herself before responding. “Yes, it is. Business that allows you to drive a new Escalade, wear expensive suits and five thousand peso boots, and drink Don Julio and Dom Perignon. Let me remind you: My uncle’s in prison and he’s left me in charge. Get used to it!”
She leaned against the window, pulling as far away from Carlos as possible. Always fighting. She turned her attention to the darkness outside. It was a lonely two-lane road, not used much even in the daytime. Though she couldn’t make out the mountains that surrounded them she knew they were there.
They rode in silence, absorbed in separate thoughts. Carlos concentrated on dodging potholes. Layla contemplated moving powder with Clay.
The rules were changing and in this game they all had to stay ahead of the curve. She was anxious to run the idea by El Patrón. But they had a long drive ahead.

Guest Post

Why I Decided to Write Fiction

I write about Mexico, the Maya and the Yucatán. I’ve always loved Mexico. It was my home for 15 years and once I moved there and opened my bookstore, there were just too many untold stories that needed telling.

At first I was cajoled into writing by a publisher who wandered into the shop one day and started quizzing me on various pyramid sites and eventually got around to asking how I ended up there, pretty much the middle of nowhere—a fishing village on the Mexican Caribbean coast. He asked me to write an occasional column about Mexico life for his publication and I obliged. As a former journalist with two non-fiction books under my belt, travel articles were an easy assignment.

But after my last book, I realized I could reach a wider audience by writing fiction, and still discuss big ticket issues. Now, in 2018, I’ve watched the creeping dominance of Mexico cartels for more than a decade. Living in Mexico gave me an insider’s view to the damage being done and the effect the cartels have on every level of society.

Speaking and reading the language is an immense benefit. If I missed a bit of gossip, Mexican papers provided the back story—they’re newsy but a strange combination of fluff and gore. During my early years in Mexico, locals feared the Russian mafia. That idea may seem quaint, but it was a real thing. That worry fell to the wayside when cartels entered the picture. Primarily centered inland or on the west coast, Cancun’s treasure trove of tourist dollars beckoned. Though relatively safe—as are all major Mexican tourist destinations— a sleeping giant lies nearby. How could I not write about it?
—Jeanine Kitchel, author Wheels Up—A Novel of Cartels, Drugs and Survival

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Book Blast – Scornful Scones

About the Author

Mildred Abbott copy

Reading the Cozy Corgi series is pretty much all you need to know about Mildred. In real life, she’s obsessed with everything she writes about: Corgis, Books, Cozy Mountain Towns, and Baked Goods.  She’s not obsessed with murder, however. At least not at her own hands (nor paid for… no contract killing here). But since childhood, starting with Nancy Drew, trying to figure out who-dun-it has played a formative role in her personality.  Having Fred and Watson stroll into her mind was a touch of kismet.

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About the Book:

Scornful Scones

Title: SCORNFUL SCONES
Author: Mildred Abbott
Publisher: Wings of Ink Publications, LLC
Pages: 300
Genre: Cozy Mystery

BOOK BLURB:

With summer approaching, Estes Park is abuzz with flowers, baking, tourists, and… murder. 

Tourist season is about to begin, and the lovely weather has Winifred Page and her corgi sidekick, Watson, leaving the comfort of the Cozy Corgi Bookshop and Bakery to reluctantly attend a celebration at the Black Bear Roaster coffee shop. But a chill of uncertainty settles over Fred when a choking death doesn’t seem so accidental—despite the dry, hazardous scones.

As Fred and Police Sergeant Branson Wexler rekindle a possible romance, Fred shares her suspicions. But is she seeing murder at every turn? Learning to trust her gut feelings, Fred risks the ire of the coffee shop owner to investigate not one, but two, deaths.

As suspects and motives abound, old resentments are uncovered, and Fred and Watson build new friendships even as they follow the crumbs to find clues to a killer.   

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Book Excerpt:

A piercing scream shattered the peaceful ambience of the bookshop. We’d closed the store ten minutes before, and I’d stolen a moment to curl up and read on the Victorian divan. At the sound, I let out a yelp and flung the book from me. Luckily it landed a few feet from the fireplace.

A clatter of claws came from the other room.

I looked over to find Watson scrambling to a standing position as quickly as his little corgi legs would allow. He glared at me as if I was the one who’d disrupted his nap in the sunshine.

Before I could make sense of a scream coming from the bookshop—it had to have come from there, as loud and clear as it had been—there was a pounding above my head followed by a squeal.

Katie?

Must be. Though I’d never heard my best friend and business partner make such a sound before.

Leaving the book on the floor of the mystery room, I hurried to the main portion of the bookshop and rushed up the stairs to the bakery two at a time, having to hike my pea-green broomstick skirt slightly to keep from tripping.

Nails still clicking on the hardwood floor, despite his slow start, Watson passed me on the staircase and entered the Cozy Corgi bakery a few strides ahead of me.

I found Katie instantly, standing behind the marble-topped bakery counter, and the mystery of the pounding was solved as she clenched her fists over her chest, performed a little jig, and let out another squeal.

Okay, apparently she wasn’t in danger of dying. Although, perhaps she was possessed.

Katie caught me watching, and though a blush rose to her round cheeks, she didn’t seem able to stop from giving another excited jig. With her brown curly hair bouncing around her face, she was like a little kid walking in on a surprise birthday party.

I cast a quick glance around the bakery. Atypically, the randomly arranged antique tables, rustic chairs, and overstuffed couches were unoccupied in front of the wall of windows overlooking the downtown of Estes Park. Oh, right, not that atypical, I had to remind myself; we’d closed the shop in the middle of the day.

“I’d accuse you of trying to scare away the customers, if we had any. I know we’ve been slammed and it’s nice to have a break, but I’m pretty sure people probably heard you on the street.”

“Good!” Katie squealed a third time. She literally seemed like she might be on the verge of a seizure. “I want them all to hear. And after this, we’ll have a whole new definition to the word slammed. We’re going to be so packed they’ll be lining up all the way down the block.” Another squeal.

“Katie.” I crossed the bakery and took her hand over the counter. “You screamed like you just discovered zombies were real, and now you’ve squealed four times.” I cocked an eyebrow at her but wasn’t quite able to hold back the grin. “Who are you and what have you done to my best friend?”

She whipped her hand free, grasped the laptop, and spun it in my direction. “Check this out!”

Other Books in the Series:

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Spotlight – Linked

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About the Author

Judy Serrano

Judy Serrano holds a Master of Arts in English from Texas A&M University, Commerce. She is the owner of Make Cents Editing Service, and was an adjunct professor at a local college. Currently she teaches high school English and is a freelance writer for certain on-line publications. Judy also writes romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. She is the author of The Easter’s Lilly Series,The Linked Seriesand Ivy Vines, Visions.

Although originally from New York, Judy resides in Texas with her husband, four boys, four dogs and now two cats. She sings and plays guitar when she has time and enjoys singing with her very musical family in church when she is able.

Her latest book is the paranormal romance, LINKED.

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About the Book

Title: LINKED
Author: Judy Serrano
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 265
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Linked

BOOK BLURB:

Daphne Foster is a substitute teacher stuck in an English class, waiting for that dreaded parent-teacher conference. With much preparation and anxiety, she encounters the unforgettable Charlie Cross. His charm and good looks, win her over but rumors of his involvement with organized crime make his continued disappearances disturbing. In walks Heathcliff Vanderpool, creating a love triangle of unusual sorts. Unknown to Daphne, Heathcliff and Charlie are old friends: Older than she could have imagined. With Charlie away on business, Daphne and Heathcliff discover a passion between them lying beneath the surface. As their souls link, pulling away from Charlie becomes next to impossible. Will his involvement in organized crime consume them both before she’s able to get free? When you become “linked,” the choice may not be your own.

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Book Excerpt

The blood was pulsating through my veins and when I looked down, my hands were shaking. All that schooling and relentless training still did not prepare me for what was coming next. What would I say, and how would they react? All the uncertainty was driving me mad. Sometimes I doubted my very own motives. I took this job out of necessity, not out of a passion for my craft, and with every passing day, I grew just a little more disheartened.

I am a substitute teacher and this is my very first parent-teacher conference. Sometimes the meager pay that I bring home for this incredulous journey hardly seems worth it. I earned my degree, got my certification, and couldn’t find a job as a teacher. So, the principal promised me a teaching position if I would just do this one last thing… be a long-term sub for a high school English class. This has not been my finest hour. The teacher I replaced had already made a mess of things and the students were failing left and right. One of the moms called and demanded to know why her little Michael was failing. Maybe if he did his homework… is of course what I wanted to say, but now I have to face her and tell her why little Michael is my least favorite student in the class.

I got all my papers together and sat back down at my desk when Michael walked through my door. “Michael,” I started. “What are you doing here?”

Just then a very handsome man walked in behind him. He was about 5ft. 10, blond and blue-eyed, wearing faded jeans and a button-down, powder blue sports shirt. When he smiled, my knees went weak and I’m sure my face flushed. “I’m Charles Cross,” he said, putting out his hand to shake mine. “My friends call me Charlie.” He smiled. “You look surprised. We do have an appointment today, don’t we? I hope I didn’t get the date wrong.”

“I’m sorry, I was expecting Michael’s mother,” I told him. “And yes, we have an appointment. I’m Daphne Foster.”

“She was unavailable,” he continued. “So now I guess you’re stuck with me.” He pushed Michael ahead of him so that he would move farther into the room. I’m sure my face was still red.

“I don’t mind,” I told him. Little did he know that my insides were doing somersaults. “Please, sit down.” I motioned to the two chairs that I had strategically positioned in front of my desk.

“I understand that you’re not even really a teacher,” was his icebreaker.

“I’m certified,” I replied, trying not to sound too defensive. “I have just been unable to find a full-time position. But I assure you, Mr. Cross, I am more than qualified to teach your son’s class.”

“Good to know,” he answered, sitting back and starting to relax. “Michael is generally a good student,” he continued. “But he appears to be carrying a 60 in your class. Tell me what you think the problem is so that I can help him fix it.”

Michael was staring down at the floor with his baseball cap on backwards. I’m sure if he was standing up, we’d both be able to see his boxer shorts, peeking out beneath his sagging pants. “For starters,” I bravely began, “he can lose the baseball cap.” Michael sneered at me. “He’s not allowed to have it on during school hours, yet he always walks through the door with it on his head. This is a continuous waste of my valuable time, since we seem to need to argue about its importance, daily.” Charlie laughed, which frustrated me a bit. “He hasn’t turned in one homework assignment since I’ve been here, and he is very disruptive during class.”

“Well, Miss Foster,” he responded in a condescending tone, “sounds to me like you have a problem with my son.”

“Mr. Cross,” I replied, trying to conceal the agitation in my voice, “you are the one with the problem.” He sat up, giving me his full attention. I must admit that I began to feel my blood pressure rise. “I suggest that you get a handle on this boy before I fail him and do not underestimate me, because I will do it.”

“Miss Foster, do you know who I am?” he asked. Michael smiled at this point and looked me square in the eyes.

“I don’t care if you’re Obama’s long lost son. He doesn’t do his work, he fails… pretty simple, really.”

He stood up and motioned for his son to stand. “I suspect that you will change your mind.”

I stood up at that point and put out my hand. “Thank you for coming in to see me, Mr. Cross… Michael.”

“Daphne.” My name glided off his tongue like music. “Such a beautiful name.” He shook my hand. “The pleasure was all mine.”

Book Blast – Sunset Beach

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About the Author

Christine Donovan

Christine Donovan is an International Bestselling Author who writes romance that touches the heart, soothes the soul and feeds the mind. She is a PAN Member of RWA and belongs to Novelist, Inc. and Rhode Island Romance Writers.

She lives on the Southeast Coast of Massachusetts with her husband, four sons, four cats and one spoiled golden retriever. As well as writing contemporary romance, she also writes historical and paranormal. All her books have some degree of suspense. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting or gardening. She loves to tackle DIY projects. 

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About the Book:

Title: SUNSET BEACH
Author: Christine Donovan
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 328
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Sunset Beach

BOOK BLURB:

Until Sarah Kennedy is 17 she spends her summers at Sunset Beach with a close-knit group of friends. They are young, carefree, and just a tad wild—as teenagers tend to be. They share secrets, love, and a deep connection. But that final summer life as the friends know it begins to unravel. Domestic violence plagues one family, one of their group becomes a criminal. Sarah severs all ties with her friends and disappears.

Fifteen years after the summer that changed Sarah’s life forever, she receives a letter about a reunion. Can she bury her fears, curb her anxiety enough to attend and finally unearth who attacked her and changed the trajectory of her life forever? She also hopes to reconnect with the one man she gave her heart and soul too—Jake Ferroli. She wonders if his life faired any better than hers after his family tragedy and his downfall into drugs and alcohol.

Sarah locks down her demons and rents a cottage for the summer. To her surprise Jake is still single and they slowly reconnect. But so does her attacker. He is good at eluding the police. Somehow he has gone on attacking women for fifteen years without so much as being a suspect. Pictures, letters, and threats against Sarah now come on a daily basis. Jake and Sarah hire a private detective and as they get closer and closer to revealing the identity of the perpetrator, he strikes. Can Jake rescue Sarah before their so-called friend rapes her, or even worse, kills her as he did to his last victim?

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Book Excerpt

When he stepped close to her, he could sense rather than see her retreat. Her eyes darted toward the door then back to him, suddenly full of panic. Why? It tore at his heart to know someone or something traumatized her.

“Why don’t you take a seat and relax.” He reached out to touch her arm and she all but flinched. It appeared ever so quickly, but he noticed it. On an exhale, he let his arm fall, frowned at her behavior, and sat down. She slid into the chair opposite him.

“So, tell me why you’re so jumpy? Is it me, or are you always like this?” God, please don’t let it be me.

She shot him a look of disbelief. “I’m not jumpy.”

Clearing his throat, he said, “If you say so.”

“Have you kept in touch with everyone?”

The desperation he witnessed flash in her eyes nearly broke his heart. “Yeah, I have. You know about Drew and Alyssa. Tom’s a doctor. He works at Mass General and he’s still single. Dylan lives in his mother’s old house. He’s a local cop here. Had a nasty divorce a few years back, but I don’t know all the details. I believe he has one kid, a daughter. Mitch is a detective with the Boston Police Department. He married a fellow police officer and they have two kids. Heather married some guy last year, I haven’t met him. Tracy’s single and I think she’s the only one not coming.”

“I had no idea what became of anyone.” Tears pooled in her eyes. “Except Charlotte.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “You took me by surprise when I saw you pull up today.”

Exhaling, he said, “Likewise. I didn’t expect you to come after fifteen years of silence.” He ran his hands threw his hair and asked, “Why did you come?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was time.”

She had a strange, vacant look on her face, so Jake decided to drop the subject. He would push for more answers later. And he wanted answers. Something had been eating a hole in his heart all these years, and he wanted to know why.

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VBT – Conch Shell Confessions

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About the Author

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Dax Marie was five or so, when the man that she would otherwise call, “father” gave Dax her issues. What’s the medical terminology for that? Oh, Daddy Issues! For nearly the whole of her life she has tried to deny this grave medical condition and up until about seven years ago, she was doing alright. By no means was she swimming through the world with ease, but she did like a’ight (that’s hood talk for alright).

It was not until sometime in high school when she discovered her self-diagnosed condition. Sigmund Freud (you may have heard of him, he’s like a coke-head genius) told Dax (in a text book) that she has Penis Envy. Poor thing, she was absolutely flabbergasted!

“Me, Dax Marie? Associated with male genitalia?” she thought to herself.

So, it was then and there, her junior year of high school that she knew what

she was destined for…MEN.

Dax’s latest book is the memoir, Conch Shell Confessions.

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About the Book

Title: CONCH SHELL CONFESSIONS
Author: Dax Marie
Publisher: Author House
Pages: 202
Genre: Memoir

Conch Shell Confessions

BOOK BLURB:

This is a book about love: hunting it, chasing it, losing it, tripping, and falling into it.

And yes, it’s a book about sex: hunting it, chasing it, losing it, tripping from it, and falling onto…ahem…it.

But more than anything, it’s a book about self-discovery, navigating the learning curve of adulting, and learning the kind of tough lessons that only come when you have to pick yourself off the floor, block a guy’s phone number (for the second time), and clean some curious stains off your dress.

I dove headfirst into love and sex, and for better or worse, they have taught me that sometimes you just need to try the world on for size to really understand what it is you want and learn who you are. So here’s my experience in the world of men.

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Book Excerpt

Epigraph

Because lord knows I need one.

    Ladies, this is a book about men (or maybe they could be more accurately defined as boys…little boys). So, if you have ever found yourself with the wrong guy (or guys as I have mistakenly done), I am so sorry. If you have ever had to deal with heartbreak, frustration, or immaturity due to boy-kind, I would like to apologize for their actions, too, because lord knows they never will. Can I do that? Just apologize for the inferior gender like that? Oh well, I’m going to anyway.

    The dating struggle is real, and I feel your pain. Know that you don’t stand alone in your dating of dipshits and DEFINITELY know that I understand (and that it’s okay) if sometimes you’re the dipshit because of the men you choose for yourself. As some cliché somewhere once said, you live and you learn. So let’s start making our way towards finding ourselves and learning about love. Oh, the happy struggles of vagina-hood.

    Some of you men out there might be worried that you’re going to show up in these pages. Some of you will be right––but not to worry my sweet boys, I have changed your names to ones that I find more befitting of you. So if you don’t like it, I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have been so deserving of such colorful nicknames.

Guest Post – Dax Marie

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Dax Marie & The Disappearing Tampon

Oh me, oh my, I think I’ve lost something between my thighs.

You should take out your tampon, gurgled my last two unsaturated braincells.

Ri Ri almost hits the nail on the head, “White girl wasted on that brown liquor.” Only Don Julio and I are besties and he would never do me dirty, despite the glorious fountain of puke I’ve been. Ehh, but I barely remember those countless times so they hardly count. I mean, I guess RiRi’s “white girl wasted on that brown liquor” pegs me with the rye whiskey and rum but even then, I just blackout; get cut on random glass in the backseat of the Uber; shove my gushing bloody finger in the bouncer’s face; somehow am still able to talk my way into the dive bar; spill my drink on the dance floor only to slip on my own spilled drink seconds later; get ditched by everyone in my party (probably because my dance moves were so sick); realize I’m about to be too drunk and decide to call Uber but then start to cry when I realize that I don’t remember how to operate Uber; and then when I finally find my babysitter—I mean boyfriend, we leave and I find kitties (not pussies) to pet. But even then, I consider myself to be sexually responsible on the brown liquor. Yes, you can be sexually irresponsible when you’re in a monogamous relationship…protection, anyone?

Vodka on the other hand is a CLEAR liquor and that bitch makes me a sex-crazed psychopath. Confused? Yeah so was I. Here, let me backtrack…

I’m at the stage in my life where everyone I know is getting married, having babies, buying houses, embracing their inner weekend warrior, and paying for their own health insurance…you know, they’re adults and I’m not there yet but I pretend to be. I mean, my boyfriend is, but I’m still playing fake-it-till-I-make-it as a writer. Even my friends that aren’t doing all of these expected adult things, they do other adult things like, invite you and your significant other over for a dinner party with all of their other mature adult friends. That’s A LOT of adulting…

Here’s what I’ve only recently discovered about being a couple who adults together: There may actually only be ONE adult in the couple. How do you know if you’re the mature adult in the couple? Well, you’re definitely not the mature adult in the couple when you frequently, by which I mean never know your limit. Hi, that’s me! You’re also not the mature adult when you keep pounding pulpy grapefruit infused vodka shots because you can’t taste the alcohol. Despite the fact that vodka always makes you gag. Oh, wow, also me!

Grapefruit, I can dig it. Vodka, not my jam. But grapefruit infused vodka…maybe I misjudged vodka? Fast-forward through a glass of rosé, shrimp tacos, three or four vodka grapefruit concoctions speckled throughout the evening, a forgotten car ride home, all the way to my bedroom seven hours later, What the fuck? Where’re my clothes?

I slid my hands down my body to my underwear—Oh my god, my tampon! I jumped out of bed, frantically running to the bathroom…no tampon. Fuck me.

“Hey…hey,” I whisper to my slumbering boyfriend.

No response.

“HEY!” I gently (violently) nudge him.

“What?” He moans as he rolls over to face me.

“What do you mean what? What happened? Where’s my tampon?”

“What tampon? You nearly attacked me to have sex.”

My stomach sank to my big butt. We had sex?

He continued, “You ran into the room when we got home and then you came running out to the living room with nothing but your underwear and your pink blanket draped around you.”

“No I didn’t.” I retorted as if I could actually remember what the fuck had happened.

“Yeah, you did and then you grabbed me off of the couch, took me to the room, and pushed me down on the bed.”

Wow, aren’t you a lucky man—but seriously, where the fuck is your tampon, you idiot!

“Baby, you were super aggressive last night. You jumped my bones and then passed the fuck out.”

“Okay, but where’s my tampon?”

“What?! You were on your period?”

“I was…I think my uterus ate my tampon…Or you shoved it way up in me.”

“That’s not on me, how was I supposed to know?”

“I’m going to get toxic shock syndrome,” said the hypochondriac me.

“What the hell is that?”

I rolled my eyes and rolled back to sleep. I’d go fishing in the morning.

Two hours later, it was showtime, time for me to go searching for something that I wasn’t too sure I had lost. Nothing. A couple more hours and I’m imagining cramps. Oh shit, here comes the TSS. I check again. Nothing. Some more hours pass. I feel feverish. Check again and again nothing but slippery uterus. Debated calling out of work to take myself to the ER but the ridiculous medical bill coupled with the cognizance of my overactive and imaginative hypochondriac imagination told me to spare my mula and myself.

For three whole days I fished for that allusive vagina plug. Morning, afternoon and night, every search and rescue mission leaving me empty-handed. So eventually, I gave up. If this non-existent tampon wanted to be embedded in my uterus, then who was I to deny it? It was my fault in the first place…or maybe vodka’s fault?

Two weeks later, it’s still missing and I am still without Toxic Shock Syndrome. Moral of the story? Vodka makes me a sex-crazed psychopath who “loses” tampons inside of her. Although, I’m still not too sure if there was ever a tampon in there to begin with. I guess I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

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VBT – Nurse to the Marquess

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About the Author

Katy Walters

USA Today Best-Selling author, Katy Walters e.books, and paperbacks are purchased and read in their thousands on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Katy lives in the midst of Regency towns on the South Coast of England. Her main interests are historical; contemporary suspense romance, and time travel. She is equally drawn to the paranormal based on mythology and the Dark Ages.

After studying at various universities Katy was awarded a B.A Hons (psych) B.A.(Soc.) B.A. Eng Lit & Creative Writing and an M.A. She was also awarded a Doctor of Science (Hon) for research into pain control. She pursued a fulfilling career as a research psychologist and psychotherapist and gained a fellowship in hypnotherapy. She now enjoys writing over several genres. At present Katy is working on a novel based on psychology and hypnosis.

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About the Book:

Title: NURSE TO THE MARQUESS
Author: Katy Walters
Publisher: Celtic Circle Publishing
Pages: 181
Genre: Regency Suspense/Romance

Nurse to the Marquess

BOOK BLURB:

Under pressure from her aunt, Lady Rosamond Whitney agrees to attend the Little Season in support of her widowed friend Lady Harriett Templeton. 

Still mourning for her young husband, Lady Harriett also has no desire to marry again. Yet they both give in to their beloved aunt who fears for their future if they do not meet worthy husbands. 

After visiting the modiste who is preparing their ball gowns and riding habits for the Little Season, they go to a local coffee house, unaware of the danger ahead. 
Enter the Lord Sebastian, 6th Marquess of Delmoor, once a renowned rakehell and hero of the Battle of Waterloo suffering from war wounds that make it highly unlikely he will win the love of a woman. His friend, Lord Charles Roberts, 10th Viscount Morhampton intent of finding a bride, begs Sebastian’s support as he attends the Little Season. 

On their way, to Bath, they stop for coffee at the local coffee house little realizing they would be fighting a rapacious group of drunken dandiprats intent on dishonouring Lady Rosamond and Lady Harriett.

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Book Excerpt

Chapter 1

‘Cassie, you’re badgering me again.’

‘Dearest, I’m only thinking of you. The Little Season is upon us. We’ve put it off too long.’ Her Grace, the Duchess of Taunton, stood in front of a baronial stone hearth, the carved features of leaping gargoyles menacing in the flickering firelight. ‘There will be such splendid balls. So many suiters will attend looking for a suitable wife.’

‘I’m happy as I am.’ Defiantly, Rosamond crossed her arms across her chest. ‘Tis not a joking matter Cassie,’ she muttered, seeing her sister bite back a smile.

‘Look, it‘s only a few balls and soirees.’

‘But it’s all so belittling – a sham. The truth is, we’re not going there to enjoy the dancing, we’re parading ourselves, like stuffed dolls on a shelf.’

‘If you want to marry, you’ll have to attend more social events.’

‘Cassie, I don’t want to wed – not yet. I’m so caught up with the horses. Really.’

‘Time is running out Rose. Look, you’re now one and twenty and you haven’t attended a season. Don’t let your chances slip away.

‘Cassie, I told you I’m not interested. I have too much to do.’

Tutting, the Duchess crossed to her side, as she spoke. ‘You’re still young and beautiful – please think about it. Surely you don’t want to live your life alone? Any suiter would go on his knees for your hand. Just think you could meet the man of your dreams, and be wed at Christmas. Oh yes, imagine – a Christmas wedding. Don’t throw it away.’ She patted her sister on the arm and sitting down on the chaise longue picked up her embroidery.’

Rose beetled her brows. ‘I cringe at the thought of it. Endless boring hours doing those country dances. Don’t laugh.’ She scowled at her sister. They’re trying to ban the waltz, honestly the only dance where you can have some fun. ‘Nay, I’m not waiting for a titled runt.’

‘I would not describe the men as—’

‘I will know the man for me at first glance, and it won’t be in an Assembly Room. I want a hot-blooded gallant, not some bacon brained twit, mincing to the minuet.’

‘Come on Rose, what novel are you reading? You have to have presence, be seen to —’

‘I’ll wait.’

‘So you want to wait for some unknown beau who might happen to come along?

‘Yes, if you put it that way.’ Rose frowned, trying to look interested in the builders working in the castle bailey.

‘I know, but it rarely happens – ouch, darn it.’ Cassie sucked on her finger. ‘I’ve pricked my finger on the needle.

‘Hmm, maybe you’ll stop needling me.’ Rose could not suppress a grin, and pulled out her handkerchief from her pocket. ‘Here, use this.’

Cassie hissed, ‘funny, you’re very quick today. But don’t change the subject Rose; you do need to think very seriously on what you could be throwing away. Next season you will be two and twenty and….’ she let her words trail away.

‘And I’ll be too old; I’ll become an ape leader, cooing after my nieces and nephews.’

‘Rose it’s not a joking matter. Even one year in your age makes all the difference. Men are looking for a wife, the future mother of their heirs.’

‘Oh Lord, don’t Cassie, now I’m a brood mare.’

Cassie bent her head wrapping the handkerchief around her finger. ‘It’s life dearest, life, and I want you to have one with the man you love. Darn it, will you tie this up for me please.’

Bending, Rose tied the handkerchief in a knot. ‘Honestly Cassie … I really hate those assembly rooms, queuing up and writing their name on my dance card when I don’t even like them.’

‘Well … look, why don’t you just try? Attend a couple of the dances. The Assembly Rooms at Bath are spacious, with beautiful crystal chandeliers, a huge ballroom. I’ve heard they have so much fun there. And there’s a scrumptious buffet. It’s not at all like the preening pomp and lifted noses of the Big Season.’

Rose chuckled. ‘If a man twinkle toed his way across the room to me, I’d run. Honestly Cassie, they’re all so effeminate, waving fingertips, pointing toes and—’

Putting the embroidery aside, Cassie looked earnestly at her sister. ‘The right beau may just attend this time, you never know.’

‘The right beau?’ Rose tossed her head. ‘A man who spends his time at dances, and soirees? I have no time for dandies.’

‘Don’t exaggerate. They’ll be lots of handsome men attending, It’s the only way for them to find a wife really.’

‘Hmm like cats feeding on mice.’

This could be your season for love.’

‘I abhor the Assemblies Cassie; I can’t imagine sitting on wallflower row, all fluff and feathers twiddling a stupid fan. Many girls sit there all evening praying some male will ask them to dance. How debasing. No, I will not attend.’

‘I shall let the dowager loose on you.’ Cassie smiled, raising her eyebrows.

Rose lifted her hands in defense. ‘You wouldn’t? Not the dragon; you wouldn’t?’

‘Alright, but it’s six months since Harriett’s period of mourning ended. The dear dowager told me, she’s now discarded her black gloves. It’s time Harriett entered the society again. Your sister-in-law needs you. She dreads attending the Assemblies. Truly she needs you. You know how she suffered.’

‘Now it’s emotional blackmail.’

‘Pray relent, if not for her, then for your own sweet sake. At this rate, you’ll never experience a man’s touch, his passion, his love. I don’t like to repeat this but you may not have another chance. Most young women wed at seventeen and mothers with two children at your age.’

‘But you were four and twenty before you met Max, and you didn’t attend one formal ball or assembly, yet you urge me to sell myself on the Marriage Mart?

Exasperated, but amused, Cassandra rose to her feet and walked over to the fire warming her hands over the glowing embers of the logs. Today would be quite busy with groups of tourists arriving to view the castle and the ongoing rebuild. ‘Rose, the dowager is forcing our gentle Harriett to attend, but I will not do that to you. I just ask that you try, if only for two weeks.’

‘Oh … alright – but just a week.’ Rose stood up; her mouth set defiantly.

Cassandra drew a breath of relief. Privately, she too did not agree with the Marriage Mart; of young women literally posing to catch a future husband. However, pray God, there would be a man to meet Rose’s expectations. She was a head turner, with her amber eyes, an abundance of golden hair and cream complexion. However, to Cassandra’s despair, the girl preferred mucking out the stables to tiaras and dances. It would be a lonely life for her, a spinster doting on her siblings’ infants. In time, she would regret it.

VBT – The Banished Lands

About the Author

Me

Benjamin Mester is native of San Diego but can often be found wandering the woods of northern Minnesota.  He fell in love with language at an early age – the eloquence of poetry or the grandeur of an epic story. Fantasy is his favorite genre, crafting new and magical places of heroism and adventure.  When he isn’t writing, he’s often taking long walks through nature or wondering about his place in the wide world.

Benjamin is the author of The Banished Lands series.

You can visit him on Goodreads.

About the Book:

The Banished Lands

Title: THE BANISHED LANDS (BOOK ONE)
Author: Benjamin Mester
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy

BOOK BLURB:

A kingdom in danger. A prophecy that will change everything. But will they understand it in time? The old world is gone, and barely even histories remain. But something from that time is returning. The closing lines of a farewell poem, written centuries ago by the last great king of the age to his slain wife, might be more than just a poem:

The world and all its light shall fade,
I’ll stay with her beneath the shade
And wait until the world’s remade…

Join us in this epic fantasy adventure as three friends plunge into the great mystery of their age, twelve centuries in the making. A mysterious fog blankets the forest just outside the sleepy town of Suriya. A dark plot unfolds as Durian and his friends discover ties between a strange wanderer and the warlike barbarian kingdom far to the north. Are the mysterious things happening in the forest a prelude to invasion? What happens next will propel Durian and his curious friends into the middle of the oldest riddle in the history of their kingdom, a dozen centuries old.

The Banished Lands series

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Book Excerpt:

Dismissing hours as they pass

Soft upon the windswept grass.

The hopes of men have come to naught.

Nothing fair for eyes or thought.

For Sheyla lies on golden plain,

Of Cavanah, the fairest slain;

Who met her last and final day

When all was brought to disarray.

Of gladful things now nevermore –

Now bitter wind, now salty shore.

The peaceful world bound to unrest

And darkness looming in the west.

The world and all its light shall fade.

I’ll stay with her beneath the shade

And wait until the world’s remade…

Suriya

The town of Suriya awoke in usual fashion, with thin bands of smoke appearing one by one over the scattered chimney tops, rising to a dawn still flecked with starlight.  Few were stirring this early hour, in this small town in the corner of the kingdom, at the edge of the known world. An autumn wind picked up, pulling at the gray smoke and signaling the discovery of each hidden crevice in the stone cottages with a shriek of cold.

Durian woke to the whistling wind, but his mind was still full of the dream of a woman lying slain in a field.  He thought she was only sleeping, but something kept him from drawing near her. A rider approached, dismounted, and took her into his arms.  The figure pressed her head against his chest, and even from a distance his despair was evident. Then carrying her to his horse, they rode for the horizon.  He’d had this dream once before, and every detail was the same: the woman, the rider, the lingering stab of loss when he woke.

Sleep had almost found him when he snapped back awake – a promise to his best friend, Baron, in mind.  Groaning, Durian pushed himself from bed. Baron was competing in the Sea Games this morning. Though why was beyond him. This was the worst time of year as far as Durian was concerned, with no reprieve from the roving wind that swept up from the south.  With winter at least came snow, piled like a warm blanket against the drafty cottages. But the first heavy snows hadn’t yet fallen and the wind moved as it willed.

Durian ambled to his fireplace and blew slow, hopeful breaths.  But clouds of ash were all that greeted him in return. Reaching for the woodpile beside him, he seized some kindling but hesitated, knowing he’d soon be leaving.  Thob Forest, a two day’s walk westbound, was Suriya’s only source for timber. Abundant as trees were, strange things had been happening there that were keeping the woodsmen at bay.

It brought images of the dream back to mind.  The first time he’d had the dream was just before things in the forest started changing.  Every morning for the last three months, a fog had gathered, remaining throughout the day.  And in the mist were faint hints of perfume and smoke. None knew what caused it.

He glanced to the book lying idle on the mantle, one he’d rummaged through his room to find when the fog first arrived.  Titled Tales of the Prosperous Age, among its grand histories and stories, it contained the farewell poem of King Euthor to his wife, Sheyla – a poem that always touched him.  He’d been struck then, how similar his dream was to the poem and how vivid the images were. It felt connected to the happenings of the forest, but he didn’t know how that could be.

He took the book in hand, remembering fondly how the stories had consumed his imagination as a boy.  All he had wanted then was to go to the capital city, Eulsiphion; wander the great hall and visit the archives to learn whatever he could of the old world.  

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