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Tuesday Tales: From the Word HIP

Badge for TT - very small (1)Welcome to March. I hope Mother Nature gets the message and changes her calendar soon, too. This week’s edition of Tuesday Tales centers around the word HIP.  Each week, Amazon bestselling authors offer you a glimpse of their works in progress based on a word or picture clue.  I continue with Hello Again, my paranormal/suspense/romance.  Enjoy!

SueParaCoverDraft5 (1)Lightning split the sky, thunder roared, and the ground shook. The spirit horse shied.

“Whoa, boy,” Bill said. “I don’t like this anymore than you do, but I’m afraid the girls may be in trouble, and we have to get to them before this storm hits. I’ve got a feeling we don’t have much time left.”

Using the binoculars he’d gotten from Emile, Bill stared at the horizon, and watched the plumes of gray-white smoke rise from three distinct places. The first one, on the far right, wasn’t near the farm. No doubt lightning had struck one of the big trees down by the creek. He’d noticed them when he’d headed that way to Sintaluta this morning. The other two were closer to the homestead, but it didn’t appear as if the house itself was on fire.

“Come on, boy, let’s go,” he said letting the binoculars drop down on their string and hang around his neck. “Shirley said I needed to be home by five and it’s almost that time now.”

Bill urged the horse forward and rode at top speed toward the small ranch, but almost flew over the top of the horse’s head when, five minutes later, the animal stopped abruptly and veered left, moving faster than he had before.

“Whoa,” Bill cried, trying to stop the stallion, but his actions had no effect. The horse raced northwest toward a structure Bill hadn’t noticed earlier. As they neared the edifice, he realized it was a stone and clapboard building with a carport attached to it. Its roof boasted an aerial and a satellite dish, both of which had been spared by yesterday’s tornadoes. The enclosed parking area was almost as large as the building itself. It wasn’t a new structure, and he had no idea what its purpose was, but, much to his dismay, the horse was moving steadily toward it and away from Shirley and Charley.

“I don’t know where the hell you think you’re going, but we can’t waste time here.”

He tried in vain to turn the horse away from his destination, but the animal was too strong, far stronger than any horse Bill had ever ridden, and there was no way it would be moved from its chosen course.

Galloping at top speed, it took the animal only a few minutes to reach the sanctuary of the overhang. As soon as the animal stopped, Bill jumped off its back prepared to run, walk, or crawl the distance to the farm, but the animal gripped his shirt in its teeth, refusing to let Bill go.

Before he could free himself, hail the size of golf balls pounded down on the roof. They were too far away to have reached Shirley’s house safely. He let out a shuddering breath. Had he and the animal been out in the open, they could’ve been seriously injured, possibly killed by either the hail or the almost constant lightning. He’d never seen a storm like this. It reminded him of an angry child tossing his toys around, not caring who or what got broken.

“Sorry, boy. I’m not used to riding an animal that gets his instructions farther up the food chain than I do. Thanks,” he said, moving deeper into the structure as soon as the horse released him.

He walked over to the small building. It must be some kind of observation post—maybe a meteorological station—set up by one of the nearby universities. The electrical wires on the far side leading to the building were hanging loose, attached to the poles, now on their sides, victims of yesterday’s storm. Without a power source, whatever data it was recording would be lost. If he could get inside, he might be able to find a shortwave radio or something, but judging by the size of the lock on the door, that wouldn’t be an easy task.

He moved to the back section of the carport where the horse stood calmly waiting for the storm to cease. The opening in the far wall faced Shirley’s farm. Right now, the hail was coming down too hard to allow him to see anything.

“I’m damn glad the spirits take such good care of you. Anybody out in that’s going to be damn sore. Shirley and Charley must be safely inside,” he said, continuing his one-sided conversation with the animal. “If the spirits told you this was coming, they must’ve told her.”

But he worried. He remembered the trouble Shirley had had with her breathing yesterday, and if the air was full of smoke, it might be hard on her again. If she’d managed to lock everything down, she’d probably be all right, but that was a lot of work for a woman her age, and with her damaged leg, Charley wouldn’t be much help.

After what seemed like an hour, but was probably no more than ten minutes, the hail stopped as abruptly as it had begun. Heavy rain fell, driven by a strong south wind. Bringing the binoculars up to his eyes once more, Bill looked out toward the farmhouse, surprised at how well he could see despite the rain. All the windows were shuttered and the heavy doors closed. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the shed standing as undamaged as it had been when he left. As long as the shed didn’t catch fire, the house would have power and running water. His gaze focused on the sty. Someone had set fire to its sod roof, and the flames had spread the old timber at the front of the building. It probably stunk to high heaven, but with the rain, that blaze would be out soon, and with the wind, there wouldn’t be any danger of smoke in the house.

Moving the binoculars to check out the rest of the property, his blood ran cold. Near the road, about twenty feet from the house, were four large motorcycles. Heedless of the rain, Bill ran out of the carport to where he could get a better view. Four men cowered under the overhang at the front of the house, and from what he could see they didn’t look happy.

Increasing the magnification, Bill zeroed in on the men, two of whom were armed with pistols. A third was stabbing at the heavy wooden door with a hunting knife he probably kept in the sheath that hung from his belt and was tied to his thigh, just below his hip. No doubt the other man had a weapon of some kind, too. One of the men turned around, revealing the Madre Diablo logo on his jacket. Were these bikers the stone cold killers who’d murdered the Caron family? And if they were and they wanted to get inside, would they?

As he watched, the armed men fired another round at the door hinges. Bill snickered. He’d had a close look at those doors, and it would take more than a small caliber gun and a Bowie knife to break them.

Once thing was certain though. For the moment, the women were on their own. He couldn’t brazenly go down there by himself with nothing but his service weapon. He didn’t even have his vest—not that it had helped him the last time. At the moment, the odds weren’t good, and he didn’t see them improving any time soon. He needed a plan, a diversion, which might give him the element of surprise he’d need.

He scanned the property. The second plume of smoke he’d seen had come from the right side of the house where what was left of the garden had stood. With the rain coming down as it was, it was all but out. Scanning the house, Bill realized he couldn’t see the veranda. He blinked twice before he realized it had been closed off in such a way as to look like a wall as solid as the rest of the house.

Whoever had designed that was one smart son of a bitch. The women were safe as long as they stayed inside, and for the moment so was he. Sooner or later, he’d have to find a way to get down to the house. For the moment, he could hope that, once the rain let up, the boys would go and find another place to play.

“Mike, you said she was mine now, but I need you to look after her and Shirley just a little bit longer,” he said aloud, hoping the spirits heard him. “I’m counting on you keeping my women safe. As soon as I come up with a plan, I’ll help you out.”

I know–left you hanging once more, but… please drop by and visit all of this week’s  Tuesday Tales.

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Throwback Thursday: 2007

Good morning. I don’t know what the day is like where you are, but we are having another weird winter day. The temperature is 34F,or if you prefer 1C. Yesterday, we had snow, freezing rain, and rain. The school buses were canceled, schools themselves eventually closed, and I spent my time emptying water from the garbage cans we used to catch the overflow from the frozen eaves, in hopes of preventing water from backing up at the rear door and flooding the basment. Today, the buses are canceled again since freezing rain, rain, and snow are expected, but so far the drips are under control. Eight years ago, when this picture was taken, I’d have been thrilled to have another snow day; today, not so much.

Today’s ThrowbaHPIM0073ck Thursday photograph from 2007, shows my father’s beauties as he said when the picture was taken.Myself, on the left, my mother, Cecile,  in the center and my sister, Michelle, on the right. The interesting thing about this picture–other than the fact I still wear that black turtleneck and vest–is the fact we all look a like. I always thought my sister resembled my mother, but as I look at this picture, I see I do, too. We’re also all short–in fact, I look like the tallest when it used to be the other way around.

I had been toying with the idea of darkening my hair again, which is why I went searching through old pictures, and I’ve decided that wouldn’t be such a good idea. I think I’d better stick with the blonde shades I’ve been using. What do you think? new picture of me

It’s funny how, despite the superficial changes,  the years pass and yet we stay the same. My mother is still with us, my sister hasn’t changed, and me, well what can I say? In the eight years since this picture was taken, I’ve retired from teaching and gone on to become an Amazon bestselling author, hard at work today on my next novel.

Want to know more about me? Check out my website: http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/ Have a great Thrusday!

 

 

 

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Midweek Tease: All For Love

MWTease15Good morning and welcome to the last February Midweek Tease of 2016. Today, I thought I’d share a tease from one of my novels published last year. All For Love is a romance suspense that deals with a parent’s greatest fear, a threat to their child, one that’s been proven all too real with the murder of the child’s mother.It also puts a female character in the role of bodyguard for a change of pace.

Here’s the blurb: 

To overcome your fear, you must first face it.
Someone is out to destroy Greg Robertson and everyone he has ever loved. After an accident leaves his teenage daughter depressed and distraught, Greg will do anything to make her happy again, including hiring a bodyguard to protect her.

Olivia Cummings lost both her fiance and her cousin in a deadly avalanche. She has vowed never to set foot on a ski hill again. But now, working as a bodyguard with Marshall Security, Olivia must face her greatest fears to save Greg and his daughter.

Something about Olivia’s determination strikes a chord in Greg, but will she be the salvation he needs, or will he be her destruction?

ALL-FOR-LOVEKINDLE-NOOK (1)Your Tease:

The elevator lurched again, dragging her back. With each stop, the number of people in the elevator decreased, and she began to feel less confined. By the time they reached the sixth floor, there were only two people left—herself and a man. She’d started when he’d brushed against her earlier, but she hadn’t seen his face. Now, she looked up into hazel eyes staring at her as if she were the number one item on the dessert menu. She was waiting for him to lick his chops.

Normally, she’d ignore the man, but there was something about the way he was looking at her that both annoyed her and warmed her inside. He resembled the imaginary boyfriend she’d created to appease her parents and that increased her discomfort.

Get a grip, Livy.

No man had ever affected her this way—why him? Why now? Did he really look like her ideal man? Maybe, just a little around the eyes, but he was making her feel like a specimen on a microscope slide, and she resented it.

“Is there some reason why you’re staring at me like that?” She was exasperated by his perceived rudeness.

He chuckled, and Olivia’s heart jumped into her throat. The sound of his laughter was pleasant and eerily familiar.

His hazel eyes twinkled. “Is there a law in America against admiring an attractive woman?”

British. His voice sent goose bumps racing further along her flesh, annoying her. The heavy accent was similar to her father’s but far more pronounced. His appreciative gaze raked her up and down, and she felt heat rise in her cheeks. She despised her fair skin and its tendency to blush. Why did this man attract her when she’d sworn never to get involved with any man again? Seeing her nephew must have reset her biological clock. So much for having it under control.

She’d never thought a man could be beautiful, but this one was. He stared at her from behind black-framed glasses, and his full beard and mustache were as neatly trimmed as his hair, reminding her of Ben Affleck, one of her favorite actors

“Admiring is one thing, leering is another,” she said sharper than she’d intended. His actions discomforted her. ”

He grinned, and her stomach flip-flopped.

“Touché. My apologies, but I can’t be the first man who’s ever stared at you. I’ve seen many stunning women in my life, but none with hair like yours. It’s alive, on fire.”

Olivia frowned. He was hard to understand, but she knew he was talking about her hair, a sore spot with her, and knowing it was the reason for his behavior added insult to injury. She was about to say something when she caught sight of herself in the mirrored wall and winced.

No wonder he’s staring at me.

As usual, her hair had a mind of its own. Her long, curly, flame-red tresses bounced against the shoulders of her coat. Instead of sitting flat in some semblance of the style she’d put it in earlier in the day, the dry, indoor winter air had turned it into a mass of fly-away curls intent on going in whichever directions they preferred. She looked like Medusa, her wayward locks reminding her of snakes slithering around on her head like those on the gorgon. She tried to pat her head down with her right hand, but the static just made it worse.

I shouldn’t have worn that hat.

While some people said her hair was beautiful—to her it was still the wild, unruly, carrot-red mop she’d hated as a child—the one she’d been teased to tears about on more occasions than one. She’d tried cutting it short, but she’d found it even harder to manage that way. She should have dyed it some uncomplimentary shade of mouse brown, and she would have, if she hadn’t promised Tamara she’d never do such a thing.

“Is that its natural color?”

Exasperated, Olivia growled. “No, it’s usually sky-blue pink with orange polka dots.”

Instead of being offended, the man burst out laughing.

Aye. And a temper to match. Beautiful, Red.”

The use of her nickname further infuriated her. The doors swished open on the ninth floor, and Olivia darted out, almost hitting the mailroom attendant waiting to get on, barely holding onto her cup of coffee. The man in the elevator’s laughter followed her down the hall until the doors slid shut. She’d seen the look on his face when she’d dashed out. It was as if he knew she was running away and was amused by it. The gesture made her angrier. Now, she had to walk up to the tenth floor. This day was just getting better and better, but there was no way she could have stayed in the elevator with that man. If he’d said another word, she’d either have thrown the coffee at him or punched him. Why can’t I have an ordinary, uneventful day? Is that too much to ask for, Lord?

All For Love is available from most e-book sellers and is also available in paperback

http://www.amazon.com/All-Love-Susanne-Matthews-ebook/dp/B00VP3TO94 US residents can get a free sample of All For Love, too from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BLKYV5M

Now, please take a moment to visit the rest of this week’s teases.

 

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Tuesday Tales: From the word MIXED

Badge for TT - very small (1)Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. If you are a new visitor, this is a closed blog hop where select Amazon bestselling authors offer you a look at their current works in process. Each scene is based on either a word or a picture cue. For most of us, we are working on the same bit of writing. I started this particular story back in June when I returned from my Alaskan cruise holiday.

My novel is called Hello Again and it’s a paranormal/romance/suspense. I had the cover designed early since these characters and I are going to be together for some time and I needed to fix them firmly in my mind. This week’s word prompt is MIXED.

Here we go!

SueParaCoverDraft5 (1)Charley paced the room, unable to relax. She’d never been a fan of small spaces, preferring to use the stairs to the elevator whenever she could. The battery-powered lantern bathed the room in a soft glow, but she couldn’t help worrying about what might be lurking in the corners or under the heavily laden shelving units. She gripped the dog tags hanging around her neck, searching for the comfort the gesture usually brought.

“Relax, girl,” Shirley said. “You’re wearing me out just watching you.” She’d settled herself into one of the folding chairs with rockers attached to its legs, and moved back and forth gently.

Angry voices shouted outside, the words muffled, but Charley shivered at the violence in them.

“What are they doing out there?” she asked wringing her hands nervously.

“My guess is they’re fighting amongst themselves trying to figure out how to get inside,” Shirley chuckled and then coughed.

Charley frowned. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, and she wondered about the air quality down here.

“I’m surprised we can still hear them,” she said.

“The sound’s coming through the vent.” Shirley indicated a grill high up on the wall that Charley hadn’t noticed.

“Where does that come out?” she asked. “Is the opening large enough for them to crawl through?”

“It comes out on the other side of the garden, but unless they’re the size of prairie dogs, they aren’t getting in here that way,” she chuckled.

“What if they block it off?”

“For Pete’s sake, Charley, stop worrying. The opening is hidden by the pipes for the septic system, and unless they plan to come in through the toilets, they aren’t likely to consider that as a way in,” Shirley ended and coughed again.

This time the spasm was longer, and Charley handed her a bottle of water. Shirley drank deeply.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“I’m fine—a little tired, worked hard today—and the humidity out there earlier plays havoc with my breathing.”

“Is that why you decided to hide instead of using the rifle to scare them off like you did last time?”

“It wouldn’t have worked again. The first time they were here, I had surprise on my side, and they didn’t know I was an old woman. Now, they do. These men have killed recently, and once the bloodlust takes over, they won’t scare as easily as they did before.”

Charley’s stomach clenched. “Killed? As in people? How do you know that?”

“The spirits told me. That’s why we needed to come down here. If they get their hands on you…”

Gulping, terrified by the image of being gang raped or worse, Charley nodded.

“They’ll be dealt with when the time is right. For now, we must be patient and wait.”

“I’ve never been very patient,” Charley admitted nervously, the idea of gang brutality weakening her.

Gunfire split the air, and she yelped

“What was that?”

“Most likely they’re shooting at the doors and windows trying to shatter the wood so they can open them and get inside. They’re probably hoping to frighten us at the same time.”

“Well, it’s working,” Charley mumbled, trying hard not to panic.

Shirley shrugged. “They won’t succeed, wi’cin. I promise you that.” She shook her head. “I’ll have to get those holes patched before winter comes.”

Silence filled the root cellar, and despite her mixed feelings about the situation, Charley tried to relax and opened the other lawn chair, prepared to sit and wait as Shirley had told her to. She was down no more than a minute when a loud boom shook the earth, loosening the dirt in the floor joists, and raining dust down on them.

“What was that? An explosion?” she shrieked.

“Thunder.”

“That was thunder?”

“Yes, lightning probably hit one of the willows down by the creek,” Shirley answered matter-of-factly. “The storm will be here shortly.”

Unable to sit still, Charley limped back and forth, convinced the root cellar was shrinking with each circuit she made. It was warm down here, and despite knowing her fear was illogical since the space was vented, her concern about the air quality increased.

Thunder boomed again and again, the rumbles getting closer and closer together. How long had they been down here? Fifteen minutes? Thirty? More? Was the pipe large enough to account for the carbon dioxide exchange? The light from the lantern seemed dimmer, too. If it went out, being down here in the dark would be like being buried alive. Her heartbeat increased and her chest tightened uncomfortably.

Shirley sat in her rocking lawn chair, moving back and forth, chanting softly, and Charley was loathe to disturb what seemed to be her prayers. If the elderly seer was communicating with the spirits, she hoped to hell she was asking for help because they certainly needed it. She was on the verge of doing some praying of her own, something she’d rarely done since Mike’s death, still angry at God for letting it happen in the first place. She took a deep breath, hoping to calm herself, and coughed.

Smoke?

“Do you smell that?” she asked, worry now bordering on panic. Below ground as they were, if the house was on fire, then they’d die either from suffocation or from the heat of the fire burning above them and then through the floor. They were trapped like rats. Coming down here had not been the safest, wisest thing to do. What had Shirley and her spirits been thinking?

“Shirley, did you hear me? I smell smoke,” she spoke again when woman didn’t respond.

“I know. So do I. They’ve turned all the animals loose and set fire to the sty.”

Charley gasped. “What if they set fire to the house?”

“They won’t do that, but they are trying to smoke us out,” she said, coughing heavily once more. “I told you, nothing is going to happen to you. The spirits will protect you.”

But they won’t protect her, Charlie realized. She thought of what Shirley had said about leaving and not coming back, and the fear for her own safety vanished.

She pulled out the small flashlight and turned it on, scanning the shelves and corners, looking for something to cover their noses. Once they started inhaling more smoke, they wouldn’t be able to get enough oxygen to survive. Her own lungs worked well, but Shirley’s were strained. Smoke put out too much carbon monoxide which inhibited the body’s ability to filter the oxygen out of the air and release its own carbon dioxide. If the smoke were heavy enough, they might pass out or worse.

The thought of dying like this terrified her. She’d survived the tornadoes only to end up in this mess. It wasn’t right. A few days ago, she might’ve been happy to just lie down and die, but not now. Her fury at the injustice of it all calmed her.

“We can’t stay in here,” she said, limping over to the shelf on the far wall where she found a pile of old, clean rags. These could be used to cover their mouths and noses, and if they wet them, it would help too, but for how long. “We have to get out before we run out of air.”

Shirley shook her head. “Leaving now is out of the question.” Her words, slow and measured, increased Charley’s fear. “The smoke is much heavier above us.”

“But we’ll die in here. The spirits are wrong.”

Shirley coughed several times before the spasm subsided.

“Of course they aren’t. Think, Charley. What does smoke do?”

“It rises,” she said after a few moments. “But obviously some of it is coming in here.”

“Yes, from that ventilation pipe over there. “Wet the cloths and use them to cover the grid. Once the fire takes hold, the smoke won’t hover at ground level, and we’ll be fine.”

“But won’t that cut off our oxygen as well?”

“No, child. This room isn’t airtight. We’ll be fine. Bill’s on his way. He’ll be here soon.”

A new fear filled her. What could one man do against killers?

With a great deal of difficulty, Charley managed to climb on the worktable and block off the vent with the wet cloths. Despite her fears, the smoke hadn’t gotten any thicker, but it had a decidedly unpleasant aroma to it. Shirley’s breathing seemed more labored than before. She handed the elderly woman the bottle of water.

“Here, have a another drink,” she coaxed.

Shirley obeyed. “You’ve got a good soul, Charley. That’s why the spirits want to see you happy again. We’ll both be fine. Don’t worry. I’m just going to close my eyes and rest. It’s been a long day.”

Panic filled Charley. If Shirley died, what would she do?

I know–did it to you again, but … please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales.

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Midweek Tease: The Price of Honor

MWTease15Hello again. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Midweek tease, a place where a number of gifted authors share a snippet from a published book or a wip. With Valentine’s Day over, the next activity we have to look forward to is St. Patrick’s Day. Until then, it’s business as usual.

Thanks to Angelica Dawson, the tease continues into 2016. This morning, I thought I’d share a snippet from one of my older books, a Canadian historical romance set in 1668. The story begins in France and ends in what is today Montreal.

The Blurb:

What price is a woman willing to pay to restore a man’s honor?

When her husband is falsely accused of treason and murdered, Isabelle de Caen vows to find those responsible and see justice done. Of royal descent, Isabelle is stunned when the king orders her hasty marriage to one of his favorites, a man she detests. To save herself from a fate too awful to contemplate, she disobeys the king’s edict and commits treason of her own to find the truth.

Childhood friend, Guy Poirier, an aristocrat in New France, has always loved Isabelle. When he discovers her hiding in his cabin aboard ship, he agrees to hide her from her fiancé and help her clear her husband’s name. It doesn’t take them long to realize there’s more at stake here than her husband’s murder. With the fate of the colony in their hands, can Isabelle and Guy prevent a war and find love in the new world?

Susanne Ebook coverYour tease:

 

“What in God’s name?” Guy stared at the boots poking out from under his bed and gave a hard yank.  He flipped the body over and straddled it. “What have we here? A stowaway? I hear Captain Étier feeds them to the leviathans at sea.” He eyed the boy he’d pulled out from under his bed.

The clothes were familiar, and something about the lad tickled his memory. Ah yes! Now he had it, the street urchin who’d helped last night; obviously, the boy had wanted more than food. Perhaps after he gave the lad a good scare, he’d persuade the captain to allow him to take the young man on as an engagé. It would be a treat for his mother to have a servant of her own, and the colony could always use another willing worker.

Last night, after dinner, Guy had sat with the captain and, for the first time in many years, he’d gotten well and truly drunk. When he’d stumbled into bed, he’d dreamed of Isabelle—her fiery red hair falling in curls the way it had yesterday under that quirky feathered hat, her green cat’s eyes so warm and friendly, her gentle curves, and especially the way she’d felt in his arms. He’d remembered the touch of her lips, and the glory of their parting kiss. His imagination had added to his dream, and acute discomfort had awakened him just before dawn. He’d taken a walk on the stern deck to cool his ardor. The feeling came back in force sitting atop the boy as he was.

What the hell’s wrong with me?

He stared at the hair-covered face and hoped he didn’t talk in his sleep. Strangely even now, his mind played tricks on him; he could swear the scent of roses perfumed the air along with the aroma of horses and the sea. “Damn! What are you doing here, boy? You’re the lad from the dock last night, aren’t you? You’re the reason my ship’s been delayed. What have you done? I saw soldiers approaching the ship now. Are they searching for you? Answer me!” He grabbed the hair covering the boy’s face and roughly pulled it up, yanking forcefully on its roots.

“Ow!” yelled the scamp.

Guy let go of the hair as if it burned him. “Isabelle!” he gasped. There was no doubt it was her. He’d recognize those eyes anywhere.

“Yes, you great oaf. Get off me! By the way, you snore.” She pushed on his chest.

You can get The Price of Honor from any Amazon retailer.

http://www.amazon.com/Price-Honor-Susanne-Matthews-ebook/dp/B00PWUB52A

Now please take time to visit the other midweek teasers.

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Tuesday Tales: From a word, BEAT

Badge for TT - very small (1)Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. Each week, a group of dedicated bloggers add a section to their wip using either a word or a picture for inspiration. This week, the word is BEAT. This post is a little longer than usual, but I promise it won’t disappoint.

For those of you following the story called, Hello Again, a paranormal/romance /suspense, Bill has left Shirley and Charley to go into the reservation’s town and see what he can learn about the triple tornado that devastated the area the previous day. He’s made it to Sintulata, and has spent most of the day helping the chief and his people.

Here’s today’s tale:

SueParaCoverDraft5 (1)Bill and a few of the boys at the station had always referred to mobile home parks as “tornado magnets” and once again, they’d lived up to their name—the homes here either can-openered or tossed around like Matchbox toys. Some could be repaired and reset on their pilings; others would have to be replaced, but Mother Nature wouldn’t beat the owners down. No, they’d pull up their socks and put their lives in order once more. Prairie dwellers were a hardy, resilient bunch.

The biggest problem and the one that would take a while to sort out involved the infrastructure—roads, rail, and communication networks, all seriously damaged or destroyed. It would take weeks to get everything back to normal.

“Thank you for your help,” Emile said, looking every one of his seventy-five years. “We will get through this. Most of the men have returned from checking the outlying farms. So far, we’ve lost a lot of animals, but no people.”

“That’s good news.”

Bill had just finished speaking when a Honda motorcycle roared to a stop no more than ten feet from them.

“That’s my grandson, Leo. I sent him north.”

The young man, around eighteen years old, pulled off his helmet. He was pale, far whiter than he should be considering the heat of the day and the exhilaration of the bike ride.

The teenager hurried over to them, tears streaming down his face.

“What’s wrong, Leo?” Emile asked.

“Grandfather, it’s awful. I just came from the Caron farm. They’re all dead.”

“Who’s dead?” Bill interrupted.

“Francis, his wife, Aimée, and Jim. It’s like something out of the Zombie Apocalypse. They’re just lying there—the birds…”

The boy shook uncontrollably, the image he recalled too disturbing to put into words. It was amazing he’d managed to drive his bike back to town.

“What happened?” the old man said, deflating in size and stature with each word. “Were they caught outside in the tornado or did that ramshackle house collapse on them? I told Francis it wasn’t safe after that last storm.”

“Neither. It’s horrible,” the boy said, his face growing paler at the memory, and Bill’s stomach clenched. “They were lined up in front of the house—someone shot them. There’s a gun lying there near Jim’s hand. I didn’t touch it, I swear.” His words came out quickly, all jumbled together, barely recognizable. “The house and barn are gone—burned to the ground.”

“Son of a bitch,” Bill swore before he could stop himself.

Murder-suicide; just what I don’t need right now.

“Where’s the Caron place?” he asked, eying the clouds, thoughts of Charley and Shirley flashing through his mind, but he pushed them away. There was a crime scene to secure, and he’d better get it done before whatever was moving toward them arrived. At the very least, he needed to lock up that weapon.

“The Caron’s live up on the northern edge of the reserve, maybe twenty miles north of Shirley’s place,” Emile answered.

He turned to the boy. “Leo, how’s the road between here and there?”

“Torn up in a couple of places, but you can get by with an ATV.”

“Can you come back with us?” the old man asked.

The teen looked less than thrilled at the prospect, but nodded.

“Good. Hook up the gator to my ATV and we’ll all go. We need to bring the bodies back. We can’t let the coyotes get at them,” Emile said his voice strong, belying the devastation he’d felt at the news. He was the chief and these were his people. They needed him strong.

Bill had always admired the old man, but now he’d shown himself more than worthy of that respect.

Ten minutes later, Bill sat in the passenger seat while Emile drove the ATV, Leo leading the way on his motorcycle. Here and there they skirted sections of the road, but within half an hour, they pulled into the farm yard whose buildings were smoldering ruins. The fact that there was absolutely no sign of tornado damage bothered Bill. Someone had deliberately torched the barn and the house.

“Stay back here,” Bill said to Leo, the buzz of the blowflies  loud, still recognizable over the angry call of the carrion birds scattered by their arrival, indicating this would be a far from pleasant sight.

Bill led the way to the bodies already bloating in the heat. Each one was face down in the dirt. No doubt they’d been kneeling, probably praying and begging for mercy.

Mr. and Mrs. Caron had taken a bullet in the back of the head, up close, but what startled Bill was the fact that the third body had as well. Not the usual placement of a self-inflicted gunshot. You had to be a serious contortionist to pull off something like that.

Using his phone, he snapped a picture and then reached for the gun in the dirt, surprised to find it wasn’t even a real weapon but a first class replica of an old Smith and Wesson.

What the hell happened here?

He turned to Emile, his gut churning. “There’s no suicide here. These people were murdered. What can you tell me about them?”

Emile looked down at the bodies and shook his head. “The boy’s been troubled for some time. Went into the city to find work—found drugs instead. His father and uncles went to get him only a few weeks ago. There was quite a scene, but the boy’s only sixteen, still a minor.”

“Was he selling?”

The elderly man shrugged. “There were rumors, but no one could prove anything.”

“Okay.” Bill walked around the front yard, stopping when he spotted what appeared to be motorcycle tire tracks in the dirt.

“Leo, did you drive up here?”

He was certain he knew the answer, but needed to check.

“No, sir,” the boy’s voice was barely a whisper.

Damn!

Bill snapped several pictures of the tracks and the crime scene before helping Emile put the bodies into the bags.

Leo stood over to the side, his stomach not at all ready for what he was seeing. The poor kid would probably have nightmares for months.

“What do you think happened?” Emile asked as they placed the last body in the gator.

“This was an execution—probably the parents first and then the young man. They might’ve been looking for drugs or money, but considering they burned everything to the ground, I’d say they were pissed because they didn’t have whatever they wanted.”

“Do you think it could be that motorcycle gang that bothered Shirley?”

He nodded, “But I hope to hell I’m wrong.”

Emile pursed his lips and shook his head. They boarded the ATV and headed back to Sintulata. By the time they arrived, lightening was visible in the distance. After placing the bodies in the hospital’s basement morgue, an area two floors down that, while it had no power, would stay dry despite the impending storm, Bill saddled the spirit horse.

“Why don’t you stay the night?” Emile asked. “You’ll never make it back to Shirley’s before the storm hits.

“I know,” Bill answered, “but I have to try. If those guys are the same ones, they’ve got a bone to pick with her. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to those two women. I’ll be back tomorrow. We’ll get the rest of your injured sent to Regina, and I’ll have a forensic team sent out to look at the Caron place.”

He mounted the horse and turned west, giving the animal its head.

As if it knew how important haste was, the horse flew over the field.

Thirty minutes later, a good fifteen minutes from Shirley’s house, Bill stared in horror at the horizon ahead of him. Lightening lit the sky and thunder shook the earth, but it was the plumes of smoke in the distance that stilled his heart and stole his breath.

I know–hell of a place to stop, but … please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales.

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Valentine’s Day Blog Tour

Welcome to this year’s Trans Canada RomanceTransCRW ValentineBlogTour2016 Writers Valentine Blog Hop.  It is a pleasure to be part of this year’s blog tour because it allows me to meet new people and allows those of you who follow my blog to meet new authors as well.

Will you be doing something special with a loved one this weekend or will you be one of the thousands of people who face the holiday alone?

In the past six months, I’ve been to five funerals, not really such a high number when you consider my age, but I realize that for the three spouses left behind–two were previously widowed–this is their first Valentine’s Day without the love of their lives. Holidays always make the loss of a loved one worse, and this holiday, the one reserved for couples, has to be the most painful holiday of all.

As I write this, I’m reminded that the pain of loneliness around this holiday starts early. In the lower grades, teachers send home the list of children’s names so each classmate gets valentines, but somehow there’s always someone with fewer cards than others, and once the ages rise, there are some who get very few if any valentines. The pain of peer rejection, such as it is, runs deep.

I’m reminded of the scene in Jim Carrey’s version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Was there anything sadder than the young grinch and the teasing and rejection he got wwhen he presented his valentine to Martha May Whovier, played by Christine Baranski? Or the pain he put himself through for her when he attempted to shave? Sometimes love hurts, and lost love hurts most.

In the last forty-four years, I’ve never spent a Valentine’s Day that wasn’t celebrated in some way–usually flowers and an expensive dinner– with my husband, the love of my life. This year, while I’m enjoying our meal, I’ll say a prayer of thanks that I’m not one of the many lonely this year and pray I never am.

Comment on this post for your chance to win an e-copy of my short story, There’s Always Tomorrow which appeared in last year’s Food of Love anthology.

This year’s stort, Forever and Always, is part of the Adventures in Love anthology from Solstice Publishing, available from Amazon

About Forever and Always:

All Brandi has ever known is ballet. From her earliest years, her time was spent honing her skills, vying to be the best, setting aside everything else that mattered in life to make it to the stage. Then, at the top of her career, she lost her dancing partner and her ability to dance to a drunk driver in an ice storm.

She’s strong, she’s tough, she’ll recover from this, but will she? She’s always lived for the dance. She is a ballerina, but once a dancer can’t dance, what’s left? Who’s left?

Finding herself won’t be easy and she may need help from others including the man she’s loved almost as long as she’s love the dance, but will she let them in?

Find this novella in:

Adventures in Love

http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Love-Schenna-ebook/dp/B01BH2F7E8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1454888416&sr=8-2&keywords=Adventures+in+Love

From a western gal in pursuit of the local sheriff to a single mom running a cooking show with her small children, romance blossoms in many situations. These wonderful stories prove that love is for all ages.

A.A. Schenna, Alex Pilalis, Donna Alice Patton, EB Sullivan, Heidi Renee Mason, Johnny Gunn, Susan Lynn Solomon, Mark Newhouse, and Susanne Matthews delight romantics on this special holiday with their tales of love.

Now, please drop by and visit thre rest of this year’s Valentine Blog Tour.

Darlene Fredette – http://www.findingthewritewords.blogspot.ca/

Gini Rifkin – http://ginirifkin.blogspot.com/

Daryl Devore – http://myeroticnotions.blogspot.com

Victoria Adams – http://victoriaadams.blogspot.com

Casi McLean – http://casimclean.com/fun-4-fans/

Stacy Dawn – www.writerknapsack.blogspot.com

Denyse Bridger – www.fantasypages.ca

Linda Carroll-Bradd – http://blog.lindacarroll-bradd.com/

Krista Ames – http://www.kristaames.com/

Zrinka Jelic – http://forromanceloversonly. blogspot.ca/

Denyse Bridger http://linkli.st/DenyseBridger/1u2Sr

BONUS ROUND!!!!

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Since it’s a special week, a time for lovers, I’m pleased to invite you to drop by and visit April Erwin’s Valentines Day Super Romance Giveaway which is active all of this week. Make sure you check it out. April has three wonderful prizes you can win.

http://www.projectinga.blogspot.ca/