Rise By Moonlight by Nancy Gideon - Haunted Halloween Spooktacular



Confessions of a Halloween-aholic . . . 

It started with a simple carved pumpkin and a wobbly stroller along crowded and sometimes scary sidewalks when too young to make that dash to the doorway.

I LOVE Halloween! It’s been my favorite holiday since spreading that treasure trove of candy across the rug in search of that ONE piece we could have after trudging the usually rainy evening streets of our neighborhood in homemade costumes. The scent of crisp autumn air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the ding-dong of anticipation, the rustling of that caloric bounty hitting the bottom of the pillowcase – delightful! 

In later years, (when told we were “too old” to participate) the door bell ringing, the cries of “Trick-or-Treat!” and greedy bags thrust out in front of ghoulish or cartoonish faces brought back that rush of excitement. Then, when I became a home dweller with my own front porch, everything changed. I became a . . . Halloween-aholic. 

The symptoms weren’t easy to spot at first.  Just a string of pumpkin lights along a railing and a ceramic Jack-o-lantern’s flashing light for year one. In year two (thanks to Son working at a Halloween store with an employee discount!) came the first three buildings of Halloween Town (I should have known better after my addiction to my Christmas Village!) and a huge gauze-trailing Pumpkin Head stretching across the ceiling. The third and fourth year, my addiction ran wild.

Suddenly every available space in our street-facing dining room was covered with the macabre! Even huge faux spiders (my all-consuming phobia!) climbed the porch rails and window sills while eerie wails and moans from my now massive village filled the air! Every available space screamed of All Hollow’s Eve, from my workplace to the pets, and even my nails!  I was out of control!

When did I start storing more orange tubs than red and green in the basement?

This year should be epic!  When prices dropped at son’s place of employment, three carts full of horrific delights followed me home but never got displayed because – sigh, Michigan. Cold, bitter wind and rain ruined 2019. So, 2020, with or without Trick-or-Treaters, will begin with a groan and end in a howl from our front lawn graveyard, complete with tombstones, gates, and fog.  It’s going to be Spooktacular!

I’d better get more orange tubs!


Rise By Moonlight
By Moonlight
Book 15
Nancy Gideon

Genre: paranormal romance/ PNR
Date of Publication:  August 3, 2020
ASIN: B08DKGQV9G
Number of pages: 273
Word Count: 88,571

Cover Artist: Patricia Lazarus, Lazarus Art

Tagline: Max and Charlotte return for the explosive conclusion of the “By Moonlight” series . . . and the stakes have never been higher!

Book Description:

He’s the Promised One

A Mobster’s attack dog turned legitimate business powerhouse, Max Savoie is the reluctant leader of New Orleans’ shapeshifter clan. They’ve kept to anonymous shadows, working and living unnoticed by the human world until their new Shifter King’s past draws dangerous outsiders who threaten all.

She’s the Protector

A fiercely determined NOPD detective, Charlotte Caissie has sworn to defend her beloved city and her unborn child from both criminals and otherworldly factions at war. While standing boldly at the side of her mate/husband, secrets from the past return to shake the foundation of her beliefs.

They Have a Problem

Walking a marital tight rope between opposite worlds, Max and Cee Cee’s paths place truth and trust at odds when outside threats force enemies to become allies. The time to take a stand for their family and their future is at hand. Time to rise together for the survival of all they love!

Amazon      Nook     Kobo      iBook


Excerpt

Max hadn’t visited that dark portion of his past for a very long time. Why now? Because of the life his mate carried? Or were the dangerous shadows of unfinished business reaching out from a swampy grave, a reminder of things he’d rather forget?

A rocking chair’s familiar creak. He tensed and twisted anxiously in the throes of his dream. Icy fingers of caution and loss clutched his chest as eyes darted behind closed lids. Unable to deny his desire to look again upon the worn elegance of his mother’s features, he faced his dread the way he’d addressed his life, with a cautious, reluctant need to know the truth . . . of who and what he was.        

Shadows, like those long-ago secrets, hung thick, revealing little of the dark head bent over the child Marie Savoie held in arms both protective and comforting. Max wished she’d look up to feed time-starved memories, craving the gentle curve of her smile and loving warmth in her gaze. He settled for the steadying croon of a voice from the past.

“What is it, Max? Another bad dream? They can’t harm you.”

As much as he loved her, then and now, he’d never quite believed that assurance. Bad things existed beyond the rusty gate imprisoning his youthful curiosity within their overgrown yard for the first five years of his life. He knew because he was one of them, a child of the unnatural world. All he’d wanted was to find his place within it. But his mother had hidden that knowledge from him, just as she’d kept the outside away for as long as she could

“Mama, what’s wrong with me?” that small voice sobbed.

The rocker continued to complain as she stroked the child’s black hair. Her tender gesture failed to calm either boy or the man he’d become.

“Nothing’s wrong with you, Max. You’re perfect. They just don’t understand, so they fear you. That’s why you must be careful to never let them see the truth.”

“What truth?” he’d pleaded. “Mama, tell me!”

Low and soft, Max repeated from where he watched, decades away, “Mama, tell me.”

She brushed a kiss across the top of the child’s flushed brow then slowly straightened, turning toward Max Savoie, a surreal voyeur from the future she’d never see. Her gaze swam with tears like liquid silver before flaring bright, then hot.

Then red.

“Max,” she crooned, “you’re just like me.”


About the Author:

Nancy Gideon is the award-winning bestseller of over 70 romances ranging from historical, Regency, and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormal and horror, with a couple of produced screenplays and non-fiction writing books tossed into the mix. Newly retired from 20 years as a legal assistant, she feeds a Netflix addiction along with all things fur, fin, and fowl, and dotes on her grandguy. She’s also written under the pseudonyms Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West, and Lauren Giddings.











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Trick or Treat for Books



Stir up a little magic from our cauldron full of cocktails and desserts.
 
The authors of Bewitching Book Tours conjured a collection of delicious potions inspired by their books and characters. Grab your wand (or spoon) and cast one of these spellbinding recipes today.

Edited by Roxanne Rhoads featuring recipes from Bewitching Book Tours' Authors Sharon Bayliss, Ami Blackwelder, Cassandra Lawson, Susannah Sandlin, Cherrie Mack, Maggie Mundy, Suzanne Johnson, Katalina Leon, Kay Dee Royal, Sophie Avett, Elizabeth Loraine, G.L. Ross, T.W. Kirchner, and Roxanne Rhoads



The Genesis of Seven by Sara M Schaller #YAFantasy


The Genesis of Seven
The Empyrean Trilogy
Book One
Sara M Schaller

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Designs by Seraphim
Date of Publication: July 7, 2020
ISBN: 9781732516205 
ISBN: 9781732516212 
ISBN: 9781732516229 - ebook
Number of pages: 368
Word Count: 86,902
Cover Artist: Sara M Schaller

Tagline: In the beginning he was one of us.

Book Description:

Eighteen-year-old Jordan Conway has always wanted to help people, but helping seven archangels to achieve their divine duty was never quite what he had in mind…

When Jordan is entrusted by the head nun of his orphanage to deliver a mysterious backpack to a New York City address, he comes unexpectedly face-to-face with Archangel Gabriel. Their acquaintance fast uncovers a labyrinth of secrets that connect Jordan’s once-normal life to an ancient heavenly prophecy. Now, he must help Gabriel to reunite the archangels before evil forces grow too strong.

Soon, Jordan and Gabriel find themselves on a divine quest across the globe, while deep in the pits of Hell, Satan plots his return to earth. To gain control, however, Satan needs the powerful prophetic objects locked safe inside Jordan’s backpack—and the devil will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

With that notion threatening his only family and the safety of his newfound friends, Jordan must do whatever it takes to protect the ones he loves and help the archangels succeed. If that means sacrificing all he thought he knew to go to war with the devil himself? Bring it on.



Amazon      BN     IndieBound


Excerpt:
“Run!” Sister Helen shouted.
Somehow, my body obliged. My legs carried me down the alleyway, past dumpsters and trashcans. At the street, I stopped briefly to figure out where to go next. I glanced at the paper and realized I had a bit of distance to cover. The address was near Central Park, but the orphanage was in the opposite direction. In fact, the orphanage wasn’t even in Manhattan. There wasn’t time to figure out a route though. At the sound of running footsteps, I looked over my shoulder and saw two men dressed in black fast approaching.
Without a second thought, I broke into a sprint and headed right.
I’d never been chased in my life and soon realized I was the worst person for it. I kept running straight for blocks. Not once did I try to evade my chasers. I was merely in flight mode, running forward without a thought of where I had to go. The backpack hit my shoulders every time I moved my legs, creating a rhythm my heartbeat began to mimic. I was scared senseless, had no idea what to do, and was weighed down by the duffel bag, which gave me a weird, galloping stride.
As I raced on, some unknown part of my brain took over and told my legs to veer left into an alleyway. My chasers passed by, unsuspecting, though they soon backtracked and followed. At that point, my run became a series of quick turns and dashes through side streets and alleys in an attempt to evade them.
Breathing hard, heaving the cursed bag, and almost tripping over my own feet, I came to a standstill in front of a chain-link fence. Did this seriously have to turn into some iconic movie chase? I groaned as I sized up my new enemy, wondering why I never took gym class seriously. Surely, completing the rope climb—something I’d never successfully achieved—would come in handy right about now.
At the last second I decided to backtrack, but the two chasers blocked my path. One was a big, burly man, and the other was the second guy from the subway, who was much taller and leaner than his accomplice.
Frustrated, I ran up to the fence and swung my duffel bag through the air. It landed surprisingly safe on the other side of the chain-link barrier. Without a moment’s hesitation, I ran and jumped at the tall gate, latching onto it with my hands. Flashbacks of the rope climb came to mind, and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. In a struggle, I scrambled up as my chasers approached.

By some miracle, I made it to the top, and I was preparing to swing my leg over and ring that fictitious bell when a hand gripped my ankle. When I looked down, a menacing skull tattoo met my gaze.

About the Author:

Sara M Schaller is a paralibrarian, publishing professional, and young adult author. She lives in Colorado with her mom, dad, brother, and four furry canine siblings. Sara loves the world of pop culture and the performing arts, so when she is not reading or writing, she is either watching movies and shows, attending conventions, or going out to see live performances. She likes to write stories for all ages in the fantasy genre, and her writing usually contains elements of speculative fiction and features a large cast of characters. Sara has a Bachelor’s degree in English, Art History, and Religious Studies from the University of Denver, and a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University. For five years, Sara worked as a graphic designer, and her creativity in design carries over into other areas of her life like writing. You can visit her online at www.saramschaller.com.








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Halloween Favorites with the Authors of Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle #PNR #paranormalromance


Halloween Favorites

Jeanne Adams: Hi and thanks for having us! I must confess there's just nothing I don't like about Halloween. I've been a fan of the season and the holiday forever. In fact, we usually have a massive Adams Family Halloween Party every year. Not this year, alas, but it will return! I love the spooky decor - from skeletons to ghosts to witches - and I adore popular fall foods too. Cider. Pumpkin pie. Hearty stews and filling soups. Mmmm-mmmm. I also love Trick or Treat. I love seeing the kids come to the door in their various costumes and enjoy giving out candy and seeing the kids' reaction to our annual yard display.

Morgan Brice: I love the decorations! In a normal year, we have a life size inflatable hearse driven by the headless horseman with a vampire rising out a coffin in the back, a 12-foot inflatable dragon with flapping wings, and a 7 foot dragon! (Oh, and I actually love candy corn, so that too!)

Nancy Northcott: I love the way people use their imaginations, both in devising costumes and in decorating their houses (and sometimes themselves). Our son always knew exactly what he wanted to be at Halloween. The challenge, which was always fun, was making that come true. His love of costuming carries over to cosplay at conventions with his buddies. One Halloween when he was in grade school, a woman answered her door in a Wonder Woman costume. As the kids turned away to go back down the walk, she called, "Watch out for the robot plane in the yard!" (For those who don't read Wonder Woman, she used to have an invisible robot plane.)

Caren Crane: My favorite thing about Halloween is, and has always been, the candy. I’m one of five kids and my mom was kind of a granola from way back. So, candy was never in our house and we all craved it like addicts in heavy withdrawal. Halloween was the one time of the year when we had tons of candy at our disposal. Of course, I always rationed mine and had it for weeks afterward, much to the chagrin of my less-disciplined siblings. 

Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle
Jeanne Adams, Morgan Brice, Caren Crane, Nancy Northcott

Publisher: Rickety Bookshelf Press

Genre: PNR, Paranormal Romantic Suspense

Date of Publication: 9/25/20

ASIN : B08JZJ69YN

Come to western England’s Welsh Marches and the wickedly, spookily fun Halloween Ball at Caynham Castle. Let the Earl of Caynham and his fiancĂ© welcome you into Halloween fun.

Lovers from Cape May, New Jersey, take a Halloween holiday at the magnificent Caynham Castle in Secrets and Ciphers. As their love and trust deepens, they also stumble across and solve a 700 year old mystery! Enjoy this M/M Romance with Morgan Brice’s Erik and Ben from Treasure Trail.

Follow an archeologist witch from Idaho as she tangles with a sexy photographer from the witchiest town in America, Jeanne Adams’s Haven Harbor, Massachusetts. In Trouble Under the Tower, they discover a hidden chapel, fend off thieves, and help put a dark entity to rest. Somewhere in all that trouble, love sneaks in!

In Mr. Never Again, spies from Nancy Northcott’s Arachnid Agency come to Caynham Castle to guard a weapons designer and her family. When her son goes missing, her loyalty may be at risk. Hunting for him offers Blaine and Dana a second chance at love if they’re brave enough to take it.

In Caren Crane’s tale, Murky Waters, a landscape architect from Massachusetts finds much more than he expects, both in a floral designer from his friend’s shop, and in the woods south of Caynham Castle. Discovery of an evil waterborne spirit threatens the new love he has found, unless his lover figures out how to set him free.

Four spooky, witchy, spirit-filled stories set against the stunning background of Caynham Castle’s epic Halloween Ball and Bonfire Night!

 Amazon

 

Excerpt Secrets and Ciphers by Morgan Brice:

“So when you said ‘castle,’ you really meant—holy shit! That’s a friggin’ castle!” Ben Nolan’s eyes went wide as the hired car pulled into the parking area at Caynham Castle.

Erik Mitchell laughed. “What did you think I meant?”

Ben shook his head, still staring at the large stone building partially hidden within the inner bailey walls. “I thought you meant like Biltmore. Or San Simeon out in California. You know—a big, fancy house built by a gazillionaire. But this is an actual castle!”

“Parts of it date back to the eleven hundreds,” Erik replied, nudging Ben to get him to open his door so their driver could retrieve their luggage. “The fortifications were meant to withstand warfare. It’s been continually inhabited by the Mortimer family for nine hundred years.”

“Wait until I tell my sister-in-law. She thinks it’s extra special that she lives in the same house her grandparents built.”

Erik paid the driver, and then he and Ben stepped to the side of the lot, awaiting the golf cart that would take them closer to the entrance. Caynham Castle had been converted to a hotel back in the 1930s, combining history, fine food, exceptional comfort, and aristocratic flair for those who yearned for a memorable destination.

“For the U.S., that’s an accomplishment,” Erik said with a shrug. “Different places, different times.”

“And you’re friends with the guy who owns it? The duke?”

“Earl,” Erik replied distractedly, checking his text messages to assure that they were in the right place to catch their ride.

“Oh, earl. My bad.” Ben rolled his eyes.

“And I’d say we’re more friendly colleagues than drinking buddies,” Erik answered. “He was the patron of the task force I served on around a fraud investigation in a major museum. We hit it off. He’s very down-to-earth. You’ll like him.”

“Are you on his Christmas card list?”

Erik gave him a weird look. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“I get a holiday card from my mailman too. It’s a polite fiction. Doesn’t make us besties.”

“So you do get a card from the earl?” Ben pressed.

Erik sighed and gave him a look of fond exasperation. “Yes. Are you happy now? It’s a very fancy card with foil stamping and laser die-cuts, and the signature is printed on the card. In case you were keeping track.”

“My dad always got a Christmas card from Earl Denning, the guy who ran the lawnmower repair shop near our house in Newark,” Ben said. “Not quite the same thing.”

Erik laid a hand on Ben’s shoulder as if he could guess what was bothering him. “Relax. I never thought you’d feel uncomfortable. I just wanted to spoil you a little.” He gave Ben a coaxing look that usually melted any hesitation.

“I’ve been to fancy places, just not quite this fancy,” Ben admitted, wondering if any of the clothing he had brought with him would be suitable. Well, at least there’s the tux Erik had me get for Jaxon’s big gala. But I don’t think I can wear that all week.

“Think of it as a museum,” Erik cajoled. “And remember what I told you about the food and the cake at the castle tea shop.”

Ben smiled, forcing his insecurities to the back of his mind. Erik had planned this trip to give them both some much-needed time off together, and Ben didn’t want to dim that glow.

“I’m looking forward to all of it,” he assured Erik. “The castle part just took me by surprise.”

“Because I totally tricked you into coming to a castle by telling you we were coming to a castle,” Erik said, but Ben could see his partner’s worried frown had eased.

“Yeah. You’re sneaky like that,” Ben teased.

About Morgan Brice:

Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions. Characters from her Gail books make frequent appearances in secondary roles in her Morgan books, and vice versa.

On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs.

Series include Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow. Watch for more in these series, plus new series coming soon!

Facebook Group:  www.Facebook.com/groups/WorldsOfMorganBrice

Pinterest www.Pinterest.com/Gzmartin

Twitter: @MorganBriceBook

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Read a copy of my Badlands short story Restless Nights here for free: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/js6x0fq8

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Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/morganbriceauthor/

Amazon profile: https://www.amazon.com/Morgan-Brice/e/B07CKVZSR1

ExcerptTrouble Under the Tower by Jeanne Adams:

“Good afternoon, sir.” The desk clerk greeted him with a broad smile. The warmly lit area boasted stone walls, rich wood and a softly burning fire. It was also gaily decorated for Halloween with carved pumpkins and a dish of candy on the desk. “Checking in?”

“Yes, thank you.” The dark-haired woman smiled as he gave his name. “Alden McDonald.

“Oh! A double welcome then as you’re here as the guest of the earl and Dr. Alden.” Obviously connecting the names, she frowned. “Are you related?”

He grinned. In Haven Harbor, most of the families were intertwined in one generation or another. “A very long time ago, someone married someone. My family resurrected the name.”

The Alden name kept hanging around in most Haven Harbor families.

“I didn’t think people celebrated Halloween this much in England. I thought that was an American thing.” He gestured toward the ghost.

The receptionist grinned. “It’s catching on over here a bit more. You may already know, we’re hosting a 1920s themed Halloween Ball for charity..”

Ah. That explained it.

“Welcome to Caynham Castle, Dr. McDonald. Do let us know if there’s anything you need. Patrick will drive you up to your room in the castle proper.”

Nodding, he retraced his steps to the waiting golf cart. “Tell me about the towers,” he said to Patrick as he gave the young man his room number.

Patrick grinned. “Which ones? The one you’ll be staying in? The one the ghost of Lady Alice Neville’s daughter haunts? The one with the bar?”

“All of them.”

He listened in delight as Patrick pointed out Caynham Tower. Secret passages and hidden doors. What was not to love about that, especially this near Halloween?

“Now the tower you’re staying in, sir,,,” Patrick pointed at the bulk of the main building after they came out from under the second curtain wall archway into the inner ward. “That one’s the Challenge Tower. Some say they hear the ring of swords on the landing as you go up the stairs.”

Swords?

“Yes, indeed. See, the sixth earl caught his daughter’s suitor in her room.” Patrick wiggled his eyebrows to give extra meaning to the statement. “The earl challenged the guy to a duel. They battled up and down the hall. You can still see the sword marks.”

“Did the earl kill the suitor?”

“Nah.” Patrick’s youthful enthusiasm was infectious. “The man kept saying he wanted to marry the daughter––so the earl disarmed him and ordered the young scallywag brought to the library.” Patrick used a growly voice to mimic the sixth earl’s demand. “They wrote up the marriage documents then and there.

Laughing, Alden got out of the cart and headed into the main castle building. Patrick would follow with his luggage, so he headed up a set of stone steps with a thick glossy wooden railing.

He paused on the second landing and opened his magical senses. As if summoned, the faintest clash of swords rang in his ears and he felt the rush of cold that indicated ghosts were afoot.

Once settled in the room, Alden took time enough to wash up and change into jeans. Slipping on his well-broken-in hiking boots, he headed out for a meal.

 

Sebelle trotted up the stairs, heading for her room. It had taken every ounce of control she had to stop work for the day on the archeological site under Caynham Tower.

When they’d cleared the floor of the hidden rooms, they’d found a trap door in the floor.

A. Trap. Door.

Who knew what they would find beneath it?

A trap door!” she exulted dancing over the expansive landing. She bounced up the stairs, only looking up at the last minute when she sensed something.

“Whoa!” The absentminded guy in the tweed jacket took a step down into her path. He was looking at the tapestry on the opposite wall.

“What? Oh, sorry,” he exclaimed, catching the railing to steady himself. His hand brushed hers and she felt a warm glow.

Uh-oh. He had magic.

“No, I should have taken the other side. My mind was elsewhere…” She stopped. He was perfectly still, his brow furrowed.

“You’re Dr. Sebelle Turturro. The head archeologist for the Caynham Tower project.”

Yes.” She braced herself. He could be a reporter. Most guests were unaware of the study. Absolutely no one but her team knew about the trap door.

“Fascinating stuff. Hidden passages. Leaping ghosts. Secret rooms.” He stopped, his gaze unfocused. “You’re…”

Oh, no. This could be a mansplaining moment––a losing proposition––or questions about her visibly multiracial heritage––black, Polynesian and white––her gender, or her curvy body, or some other obtrusively asinine thing. Knowing about magic, and having enough for a spark, frequently turned men into assholes.

“I’m?” she finally asked, because she had to break the tension.

“The Dr. Turturro who wrote the paper on the disappearance of the Etruscan.”

Surprised––shocked, really––she smiled. “You read it? She wracked her brain for who he might be. Her study team was already assembled.

“Dr. Alden McDonald. Your photographer.” He extended his hand and they both gasped at the magical current that ran through the connection. “And a fellow practitioner, I take it?”

Their hands still joined, she gave a cautious nod. Hard to argue you weren’t into the woo-woo and witchy when you met someone who made your hand spark like a live wire.

“I generally don’t admit it.”

“I get that.” Alden opened his mouth to say more, but instead he cocked his head. “Do you hear it?”

She stilled her surprise at his easy acceptance, and listened.

Harsh, panting breaths. The ring of steel on steel. A thump. A gasp of pain or surprise.

“What the hell?” She broke their connection and pivoted. The noise from the landing. faded. Only a ripple of the tapestry gave a hint of something mysterious.


About Jeanne Adams:

Jeanne Adams writes award-winning romantic suspense, paranormal and urban fantasies, as well as space opera that’s been compared to the works of Robert Heinlein and Jack McDevitt. She’s also a sought-after speaker, teaching classes on body disposal for writers, worldbuilding and collaboration, plotting for pantzers and how to write a fight scene that works!

Jeanne lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two growing sons, as well as three dogs – two Labs and an Irish Water Spaniel. Don’t tell, but she’s prone to adopting more dogs when her husband isn’t looking.

Featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, and other publications, her books have been consistently hailed as “One of the best Suspense Books of the Year!” by Romantic Times and “Stunningly realistic space adventure” by Amazon reviewers.

You can find her books on all major platforms, and connect with her on the web at:

www.JeanneAdams.com

Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeanneAdams  

Facebook www.Facebook.com/JeanneAdamsAuthor

Excerpt Mr. Never Again by Nancy Northcott:

Even a babysitting assignment could go horribly wrong. Especially when you were watching an engineer to be sure she didn’t illegally sell a government-backed weapons system. In the wrong hands, well…World War III, anyone?

Even so, there would be tiny moments to enjoy the perks of the situation. Like several days staying in an actual castle, The Caynham Castle Hotel, on the boss’s dime.

Dana Gresham swung her rented sedan around a curve, and the town of Caynham-on-Ledwyche came into view. A few minutes later, she was driving through a charming mixture of half-timbered, medieval buildings interspersed with Tudor brick, Georgian stone and more modern styles. If she didn’t get to see more of it while on duty, she would stay a day or so after and explore.

There was only one fly in the ointment, and she absolutely would not think about him until she had to. Which would be when she checked into the hotel in approximately ten minutes and informed him she was here. Until then, no harm in admiring the quaint little town.  Or the castle now looming above the trees ahead on her right.

Her cell phone buzzed, the tone a signal that the call came from her employer, the multinational, covert agency known as Arachnid, or from another employee. The car’s dash display read, Harris, and Dana grimaced. She’d jinxed herself by thinking about him.

Pressing the button on the steering wheel, she took the call. “Gresham.”

She turned left on Caynham Castle Road. The castle drive lay a little way ahead on her right.

“What’s your ETA?” Blaine Harris’s deep voice still sent ripples through her, and wasn’t that aggravating? Dana grimaced. She needed to get her hormones under better control.

It wasn’t like him to be so abrupt, though. Frowning, she replied, “About ten minutes. I just drove through town. Why?”

“Vidhur Mahajan has gone missing.”

The ten-year-old son of their subject. Personal considerations dropped away, and Dana mentally summoned an area map. “How long ago?”

“Nobody’s sure. Apparently, he wanders off every once in a while. The family was in the group touring the castle garden and beehives—lots of shifting positions to see things, a bunch of kids along, and everybody feeling safe on the Earl of Caynham’s private land. With his private bees.”

That dry tone hinted that he found Caynham-on-Ledwyche’s bee products industry baffling. She swung into the car park for a church and stopped.

“When they returned to the hotel,” he continued, “they realized Vidhur and this other kid had taken a powder. The family seems more exasperated than worried.”

The family being Dr. Kara Mahajan, her widowed sister, Bhavna Chaudry, and Vidhur’s fourteen-year-old sister, Aaliyah.

“She feels safe here,” he added. “Even the kid wandering off doesn’t especially worry either her because he likes to do that. She encourages it as fostering his independence.”

“Yeah, well, there are limits.” As the eldest of five, having been responsible for the younger ones while her widowed dad worked two jobs to keep food on the table, Dana wasn’t exactly lacking experience with kids.

“Maybe they just wandered off, but how do we know?” she asked. “Could the group who want to buy his mom’s weapons system be looking for a little insurance? We know they want to buy, but nothing we’ve seen gives me a strong feeling she wants to sell.”

“Wouldn’t you at least think about it in her shoes?”

“Probably. Wouldn’t you?”

Mahajan’s husband had been tortured and murdered by Pakistani intelligence. If she carried a grudge, nobody could blame her. Acting on it by selling India a weapons system underwritten by the British government, however, would take that too far.

“But if she doesn’t want to sell,” Dana continued, “what better leverage than one of her kids?” If that was the case, this assignment had just become a clusterfuck.

“Yeah. So we need to find that kid asap. If we can’t, well…”

“I know. I’m at the church. Where should I go from here?”

“Officers from MI5 masquerading as local detectives are questioning the family while the rest of their team fanned out to search,” Blaine said.

The Security Service had point on this with Arachnid, meaning Dana and Blaine, as backup.  The British government thought no one would suspect two Americans of working with them.

“I’m on the path to Saxon Hundred, northwest of Caynham-on-Ledwyche,” he informed her.

“Because Vidhur Mahajan’s into gaming and there’s a game store there.”

“Got it in one. Meanwhile, you swing through Caynham and see if you spot them. One more set of eyes always helps.”

“On it. Keep me posted.”

“Back atcha.”

Blaine wasn’t one for phone etiquette, so the sudden absence of sound was her only cue that they were done.

Heading back onto Caynham Castle Road, Dana frowned at the picturesque buildings. What in this quaint town would draw a ten-year-old interested in robotics and gaming?

Was searching in the town a waste of precious time?

If someone had snatched the boys, any useful information lay back at the castle.

About Nancy Northcott:

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the romance and high stakes (and sometimes the magic) she loves in the books she writes.

She’s the author of the Light Mage Wars paranormal romances, the Lethal Webs and Arachnid Files romantic suspense series, and the historical fantasy trilogy The Boar King’s Honor. With author Jeanne Adams, she co-writes the Outcast Station space opera mystery series.

www.nancynorthcott.com

Twitter: @NancyNorthcott

Facebook:  https://facebook.com/nancynorthcottauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3468806.Nancy_Northcott

Excerpt Murky Waters by Caren Crane:

Jason Wetherell eyed the limestone castle walls with a weary, appreciative gaze. As a landscape architect, he appreciated how Caynham Castle rose in stately elegance from its environs on the hill. As a traveler, he was grateful for the staff that opened the door of his airport transport, pulled his luggage from the trunk and escorted him to a waiting golf cart.

“Welcome to Castle Caynham, Mr. Wetherell,” the smiling porter said. Though the fact that he knew to expect Jason at this time was a surprise. “Ben will see you to Reception and they’ll get you checked right in.”

He gave the man a baffled nod and folded himself into the golf cart. The young man wasted no time getting him through the imposing stone archways and down the passage to set of very modern-looking entry doors. He saw signs directing guests to Reception on the driver’s side and a busy-looking gift shop on his own side.

“I’ll stay with your bags until you get checked in, sir,” Ben said. “The Reception desk is right through those doors.”

Jason figured he probably should have done some research on Castle Caynham before he got here, but he trip had come up so suddenly he hadn’t. He’d been waiting for an opportunity like the one the Mortimers had in mind for the Caynham property for a long time. His whole career, really. When his old college roommate, Tom Greenbury, called to tell him what the Earl of Caynham had in mind, Jason felt like it was the chance of a lifetime. Even if it meant he had to attend a costume gala happening on Halloween, of all things.

Jason approached the substantial desk and the smiling receptionist, whose name tag read Angela. “Jason Wetherell, checking in,” he said with a smile. “Or did you know that already?”

“Actually, I did know that, Mr. Wetherell,” she said with a smile of her own. “Lord Mortimer gave us your itinerary, so we were tracking your progress. I know there were delays leaving Boston, but we’re glad you’re with us now.”

That explained the personal attention, at least. Jason found it disconcerting to be the center of attention, but he understood the Earl’s interest in his arrival. He was anxious to meet the man. He’d never met anyone with a title before. Then again, he’d never taken on a project with the scope of what the Earl wanted, either.

“You’ll be staying in the Challenge Tower, Mr. Wetherell, which is to the left of the Great Hall,” Angela said, marking his room’s location on a handy map of the Castle. “As you can see, you’re on the top floor of guest rooms, so you’ll have a splendid view of the grounds.”

“Very good,” he said, not knowing enough about the area to appreciate what the view should be. “Who do I need to see about when I’ll be meeting with Lord Mortimer?”

“Ms. Wellbern, Lord Mortimer’s assistant, has left information for you regarding your meeting,” Angela said. “It won’t be until tomorrow, though, so you’ll have today to rest and familiarize yourself with the Castle. And with Caynham-on-Ledwyche, if you’re feeling like going into the town.”

“I think I’ll try to get settled in first and get my bearings,” Jason said, taking the slim folder of information she handed him and tucking it into the inner pocket of his coat. He hadn’t been sure he would need the overcoat, but brought it from an abundance of New England caution. He was glad he had. Not only was the sky gray and threatening more rain, but there was a distinct chill in the air outside. It reminded him of home.

He shook his head and headed back out to the golf cart, not wanting to ruin his first day here with memories and regrets about his home and family. Ben was waiting on him, just as he had promised.

“So where are we headed, Mr. Wetherell?”

“The Challenge Tower, apparently,” Jason said. “I’ll admit to being curious about that name. I’m sure there is a story attached to it.”

“Indeed there is, sir,” Ben said, navigating carefully through the light foot and golf cart traffic to a broad path leading toward a formidable-looking set of towers set into a looming walled fortress.

Jason was a bit floored by the sheer scale of the place, not to mention the impressively-maintained stonework. It had to take a full-time crew just to keep up the point work. Amazing.

“Back in the late 17th century,” Ben said, driving slowly and carefully, “the 6th Earl challenged his daughter's lover to a duel on a landing of the staircase in the Tower. They battled long and hard, up and down the stairs. The young man kept telling the Earl all through the duel that he loved the girl and wanted to marry her, but the Earl wasn’t swayed. The Earl won the duel, but he didn't kill the young man. He was so impressed with his sword work that he had the man bandaged and brought to his library. The men had some brandy and the Earl agreed to the marriage. Ever since then, that tower has been the Challenge Tower.”

“That’s quite a story,” Jason said, amused. “Any grain of truth in it?”

Ben threw him a surprised look. “Of course. You can see the cuts their duel left in the stone for yourself.”

Jason shook his head, astonished that a place with that sort of history was still standing and occupied. At times like this he realized how young America was, even the old parts, like his hometown in Massachusetts.

He was glad to be here and for this chance to do the work he’d dreamed of since he decided to study landscape architecture. But finding project suited to his degree in cultural landscape studies and design was apparently a challenge. He huffed a laugh to himself at the irony of staying in the Challenge Tower.

 

About Caren Crane:

Caren Crane began writing warm, witty contemporary romance and women's fiction to save herself from the drudgery of life in the office. An electrical engineer by training, she longed to create worlds where things were any color except cube-wall gray. She still works in a cubicle, but gets to hang out with witty, fabulous people whenever she's writing, which greatly encourages butt-in-chair time.

Caren lives in North Carolina with her wonderful husband. She has three fiercely intelligent, gorgeous grown children, having neatly side-stepped her mother’s threat that she would have children Just Like Her. 

You can find info and excerpts at: 

https://www.carencrane.com/

https://www.facebook.com/CarenCraneAuthor

https://twitter.com/carencrane1