Friday, August 17, 2018

Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco (VBB, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT





Tail of the Dragon
by
Connie di Marco

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but now, Julia’s former boss and current client has asked for help. He has serious problems at his law firm. Three people have received death threats and the only common denominator between them is a case long settled -- the infamous Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s convinced a woman is behind the threats, perhaps even the widow of the man who died in that same fire, but no one wants to believe that astrology could provide a clue. Before Julia can help her client, two lawyers are dead and her own life is threatened. Can she unmask the killer before he (or she) takes another life?




Excerpt:
I settled into the office chair and flicked on the computer. Samantha, at the Chronicle, had sent forty-three AskZodia emails. I heaved a sigh. So many people asking for advice. I separated out the letters that asked no particular question and then separated the emails into male and female groups.

A few of the emails were quite intriguing. One woman wrote to ask about the dynamic between her brother, now deceased, and her mother. Her mother blamed herself for her son’s death and was torturing herself with guilt. I could tell by the brother’s chart, strong Uranus and Mars aspects, that there was absolutely nothing her mother could have done to control her son. The mother had done the best she could and needed to let go.

I clicked on another.

Dear Zodia ~

I’ve been happily married for twelve years. My wife is a wonderful woman and a loving wife and mother. For the past few months I’ve found myself attracted to another woman. I know I shouldn’t be, but I can’t help myself. It’s become an obsession and I don’t know what to do. I’ve never cheated on my wife but I find myself thinking about it all the time. I think this other woman is also attracted to me, but I’m not sure. I’m so confused, I don’t know what’s happening to me and I don’t know what to do.

~ Confused

Dear Confused ~

I’ll be very direct. It’s really not a choice between one woman or another. You are yearning. You are seeking an aspect of your own ‘anima’ or female self. Neptune is currently opposing your natal Venus and you, believe me, are most likely projecting all sorts of qualities on to this other person, most of which you would ultimately discover are not real.

We experience great yearnings with Neptune transits and tend to believe that the answer is ‘somewhere else.’ Under transits of Neptune, especially, it is not possible to see things clearly. You and your wife are quite compatible astrologically. It would be a shame to destroy your marriage for what may be no more than a passing wraith.

I recommend seeking professional help to discover what you are missing in your life and your love life. Often, the ‘other’ that you are attracted to turns out to be much like the person you are currently with. There is an excellent book on this very subject: ‘Love Triangles’ by Julia Bonatti, published by Stargazer Press. This might be a start in helping you sort out your feelings.

~ Zodia

Samantha would get a kick out of this response. Me, anonymously, plugging my own book, but I really did think it would be a help to this man.


Buy links:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound
Mysterious Galaxy


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About the Author:
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of MWA, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.



Website
Facebook: Zodiac mysteries page

Twitter (ask Zodia)




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GIVEAWAY


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Connie di Marco will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The tour dates can be found here

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Unforgettable Reads Blooming in Mary's Garden, Books by Mary Martinez (spotlight and GIVEAWAY)




Unforgettable Reads Blooming in Mary's Garden
Mary Martinez 

 

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Four Sisters  



It was the 60’s, she found love… but started a war.

Blurb:

The early sixties was a time of making love, not war. Kathleen finds love and starts a war with her family. Four Sisters is a story rich in the relationships of Kathleen Williams' life. Kathleen discovers her sexuality in the sixties. She's different from other girls her age and afraid her sisters, especially her closest sister, Deborah, will never understand. When Kathleen reveals her love for a woman, her worst fears are realized—she’s banished from her home and family. Forty odd years later, Kathleen is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Susan, her lifelong partner, encourages her to make peace with her family. Kathleen's journey, now, includes rebuilding her relationship with her sisters and parents, as well as the battle of her life. Her only chance for peace is to find acceptance.



Genre: Women’s Fiction

Website
Amazon Buy Link

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The Beckett Series:
 
The Becketts have a strong sense of family and honor. When one of their own is threatened, their bond is as strong as a badge of steel.  

The Beckett Series Trailer: 






The Beckett Series Website


  



Disappear
The Beckett Series Book 1:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Amazon Buy Link


  




Innocent
The Beckett Series Book 2

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Amazon Buy Link 





   



Quiet
The Beckett Series Book 3


Genre: Romantic Suspense
Amazon Buy Link


   




Illusion
The Beckett Series Book 4

Genre: Romantic Suspense  
Amazon Buy Link



 



Profit
The Beckett Series Book 5

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Amazon Buy Link


   




Abandoned
The Beckett Series Book 6

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Amazon Buy Link

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Watching Jenny 

Hot on Jenny’s trail, Dan soon learns ‘Runner’ is not one of the usual suspects.

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Trailer

Website
Amazon Buy Link


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Classic Murder: Mr. Romance


Making a date with a billionaire can be murder.


Genre: Romantic Suspense

Trailer
Website
Amazon Buy Link


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Chick Magnet


He's recuperating from a devastating wreck. She's recuperating from a broken heart.

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Trailer
Web Site
Amazon Buy Link  
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Romance and Misconceptions

Twin sisters. Two Billionaire Boyfriends. One big Misunderstanding




Genre: Contemporary Romance
Trailer
Website
Amazon Buy Link


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Three Brides and A Dress


My journey is more of a zig zag than a top stitch along a straight seam as I search for the perfect bride who is my soul mate.


Genre: Women’s Fiction
Trailer
Website
Amazon Buy Link





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Mary's new covers were designed by LDMGraphics.com


 


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About the Author:  
Mary and her husband love to travel, especially to the Caribbean for relaxing, and Italy for the wine. And most recently she discovered she was Irish and Scottish, of course they had to visit Ireland and Scotland. Mary fell in love with both, but the green hills of Ireland felt like home. With the experience from the exotic places she has visited, she is able to fill her books with colorful descriptions of cities, painting a colorful backdrop for her characters. One of her favorite US destinations is New York/Brooklyn, where her beloved Beckett's live. When she visits, she can wander their neighborhoods, favorite parks, and visit their favorite pub, Putnum's. They are avid concert ‘Ho’s’! Yes, they pretty much want to do them all. They love outdoor amphitheaters the best and attend as many during the warmer months as possible.

Mary writes mostly romantic suspense, romance, women's fiction, and she has just begun to dabble in young adult mystery. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA). During her writing career she has been a conference coordinator, workshop presenter, and chapter president for the Utah Chapter of RWA.

In 2007 she was presented with the Utah RWA service award in acknowledgment and appreciation for outstanding service. Mary has also participated in numerous library panels on writing and co-presented a workshop on writing a series at the League of Utah Writers conference. Mary and her husband are also enthusiastic college football fans. They have season tickets to the UTES, University of Utah Football and they tailgate every game. They love tailgating so much, that they were married at a tailgating in 1999. GO UTES!

Mary's Social Media Links:  

Amazon Author Page
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram 

Goodreads
YouTube  

Pinterest
Mary’s Garden Blog
The After Work Cook


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 GIVEAWAY
Mary is giving away 2 $20 Amazon GC's and an ebook of Disappear during this tour. 
Mary's Cover designer, LDMGraphics.com is giving away one cover design for one lucky author. 
Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. 
Remember there is a chance for you to enter the giveaway every day. So join us all through the tour for fun posts, interviews, and prizes. You may find the locations to all the tour stops here. 




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Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Redemption of the Shrew by Barbara Monajem (Spotlight, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) RBC





The Redemption of the Shrew  
Scandalous Kisses Book 4  
by
Barbara Monajem

 

About The Redemption of the Shrew: Nothing is more painful than rejection—particularly when completely naked! Gloriana Warren doesn’t want to wait for marriage. Beneath her shrewish exterior is a kindhearted woman who uses her fortune for good. It doesn’t matter that the man she’s set her sights on claims impoverishment. She’s in love and determined to marry him. But her attempt at a moonlight seduction ends in disaster. French marquis Philippe de Bellechasse has had it up to his gorgeous dark eyes with being pursued by lusty ladies. His escape to England from the violence of the French Revolution took a toll on his finances as well. Gloriana may be gloriously naked, but he’s just not ready to submit to her seduction. But when a precious family artifact is stolen, Philippe must convince Gloriana he’s not the guilty party. He’ll steal it back for her, but on his terms. Gloriana, believing he despises her, has plans of her own. Working at odds is dangerous, but working together can be more so. Is Philippe willing to risk his heart again for a deliciously tempting shrew?





Excerpt:



A clandestine meeting, particularly where nakedness is involved, is best arranged for a moonless night.

Or so Gloriana Warren told herself, for her mother would never have uttered such a scandalous dictum. Unfortunately, it was tonight or never. Tomorrow, the man she had sworn to love forever would leave Lancashire and return to London—without her. They wouldn’t be able to marry for years because of his stupid scruples about money.

Men and their tedious pride! She and the Marquis de Bellechasse loved one another. They shared the same lofty ideals. She had a substantial dowry. Marrying now made sense. Not only that, her mother would die happy.

So Gloriana was taking matters into her own hands. She had planned the upcoming encounter in glorious detail—every word, every gesture. As she emerged from the summerhouse to greet him, he would stand and stare at her, transfixed by her beauty.
“Darling Philippe,” she would say, reaching for him, offering herself without reserve. “Love is eternal. It cannot, must not be denied!”

“Ah, ma belle,” he would respond, his hand on his heart, his voice throbbing with desire. “I adore you. What a fool I was to think we could wait for years. Even another minute is too long. Tonight, I shall make you mine!”

She would fling herself into his waiting arms, swept away on the tide of his passion.

She wasn’t sure exactly how it would go after that, apart from plenty of kissing, but judging by her previous experience of Philippe’s kisses, it would be the most thrilling experience of her life.

She sneaked out the French doors, arms full of blankets, and glanced back up at Garrison House. Not a glimmer of candlelight showed in the windows. She hurried through the rose garden and skirted the lawn, keeping to the bushes and out of the moonlight. In the secret room under the summerhouse, she and her darling Philippe would be safe. Tomorrow they would announce their engagement to Mama. They would send for a special license and be married within a week.

Ten minutes later, she had set up a makeshift bed under the summerhouse and removed all her clothes. Shivering more from excitement than from the chilly night air, she waited for Philippe to arrive.

Tonight would be the most perfect night of her life.

~~~

The Marquis de Bellechasse left his horse in a convenient copse and made his careful way forward, pausing at the edge of the trees. Garrison House was reassuringly dark, but moonlight reflected off the ripples on the lake. The summerhouse gleamed white on its little knoll, exposed on all sides. He paused, listening. No sound disturbed the darkness except a nightjar complaining from a nearby oak. He hoped and prayed no one else was up and about tonight. He couldn’t afford to get caught with Gloriana Warren, but nor could he bring himself to ignore her passionate plea to see him once more before they parted.
He loved her—to the point of folly, judging by his current behavior. He had already said farewell, and yet here he was, trespassing on her brother’s estate at midnight to say it again. He dreaded her inevitable tears.

The door to the summerhouse stood wide open, which meant Gloriana was here already. Fine. Best to get it over with now. He took a deep breath and set out across the lawn.
He had almost reached the doorway when she came into view, rising from out of nowhere, her face pale, her hair loose around her bare shoulders. He halted, staring, his heart thundering. She continued to rise, her breasts round and luscious in the light of the moon. His eyes slid helplessly down the curve of her hips to the darker patch at the apex of her thighs . . .

Mordieu. He shook his head and began to back away. “No, chérie. We must not do this.”

She set her feet on the floor—she must have emerged from a trapdoor—and beckoned with those sweet arms, smiled with those lush lips. “Philippe, my darling, please come to me. I love you so much.”

“No, ma belle, I cannot.”

“But love—” She faltered, then continued toward him, arms wide. “Love is eternal. It must not be denied.”

Sacrebleu, she was declaiming like a shoddy actress on the stage. The thought revolted him. Surely his idealistic Gloriana could not cheapen herself so. Anguished, he put up his hands to fend her off. “It is not possible, Gloriana. Not yet. It would not be right.”

She hurried forward, her breasts jiggling enticingly. “Truly, we mustn’t delay. My mother may not have long to live, and seeing me married well is her dearest wish.”

He didn’t care in the least about old Lady Garrison, who was the worst sort of snob. He shook his head. “No. To wait is best.”

“Philippe, I cannot wait. I need you now.” She reached for him, her nakedness inches away.

He gritted his teeth and took another step backwards. His imbecile cock was reacting to her, but he had long ago gained control over its demands. “I am sorry, but I must go.” He turned away.

She wailed, a sharp, keening sound, and immediately a shout came from nearby. Her brother? No, he was in London. A gamekeeper?

Whoever the man might be, he was lurking here on purpose. So much for love, Philippe thought. Gloriana was just another lust-crazed woman trying to trap him into marriage. He turned and ran. Pursued by shouts and then shots, he reached his horse and galloped away.


  Amazon Buy Link




 
 


About the Author:
Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young, then moved on to paranormal mysteries and Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa).

  Barbara loves to cook, especially soups. She used to have two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. Asparagus pudding proved to be pretty horrible, and she is too fumble-fingered to make socks. Now she just sticks with writing books. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.


 Social Links: 



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GIVEAWAY
 



Barbara has some wonderful prizes to giveaway during the tour. Please be sure to enter with the Rafflecopter below.

There is an opportunity every day to enter for your chance to win one of the fabulous prizes. So join us for a fun blog tour journey and be sure to enter every day for your chance to win.

You may find all the blog tour locations here.




a Rafflecopter giveaway








 

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Match for the Marquess by Lillian Marek (VBB, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT






A Match for the Marquess

by

Lillian Marek


Decisions, decisions…

Should Lady Anne Milhaven marry the wealthy and handsome young marquess, or should she resign herself to living out her life in poverty and disgrace, exiled from the world she was born to?

Should Philip Tremaine, the new Marquess of Penworth, redeem his honor and marry the proud and beautiful earl’s daughter whom he has unintentionally compromised, or should he prove himself as dissolute as his contemptible family?

They are not fools, but marriage is only the beginning. Now can they learn to work together and thwart the vile plots of their scheming relatives?

A Match for the Marquess is the prequel to the Victorian Adventures series.

Excerpt:

Lady Hadlow arrived first. The feline smile she turned on Anne was clearly not intended in friendship.

“My dear child,” she said, “you must be quite overwhelmed with all that is happening. It hardly seems right for such a little innocent to be married off to a man of such wide experience as Penworth. Do feel free to ask if you have any questions about how to please a man.”

Anne started to freeze up so she could allow the comments to slide past without touching her, the technique she had perfected while coping with the Craddocks. Then she realized that she did not have to retreat. Thanks to Penworth, she now had a place of her own, a standing quite as secure as that of Lady Hadlow.

She offered a smile as sincere as Lady Hadlow’s. “Oh thank you so much, Lady Hadlow. Not every older woman is generous enough to offer the fruits of her experience to the next generation. I am sure we could all profit”—here she gestured at her new friends, who were listening avidly to the exchange—“from the lessons of your many years in…society.” She lifted her hand to her breast so that her betrothal ring glittered in the candlelight.

Lady Hadlow had not been expecting any riposte, and since she was staring, mesmerized, at the ring, it took a few moments for the import of Anne’s words to sink in. Her eyes widened, and her fingers curled. “Next generation! Why you little chit…”



Buy links

Amazon
https://books2read.com/u/4AYwBe

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About the Author: When she retired after too many years in journalism, Lillian Marek felt a longing for happy endings and stories where the good guys win and the bad guys get their just deserts. Having exhausted her libraryís supply of non-gory mystery stories, she started reading romance novels, especially historical romance. This was so much fun that she thought sheíd like to try her hand at writing one. So she took her computer keyboard in hand, slipped back into the 19th century, and began.

She was right - writing romance novels is as much fun as reading them.

Website
Facebook
Twitter


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GIVEAWAY


a Rafflecopter giveaway


The tour dates can be found here





Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sophie Washington: Hurricane by Tonya Duncan Ellis (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT






by Tonya Duncan Ellis

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GENRE: Children's

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BLURB:

#Sophie Strong

A hurricane’s coming, and eleven-year-old Sophie Washington’s typical middle school life in the Houston, Texas suburbs is about to make a major change. One day she’s teasing her little brother, Cole, dodging classmate Nathan Jones’ wayward science lab frog and complaining about “braggamuffin” cheerleader Valentina Martinez, and the next, she and her family are fleeing for their lives to avoid dangerous flood waters. Finding a place to stay isn’t easy during the disaster, and the Washington’s get some surprise visitors when they finally do locate shelter. To add to the trouble, three members of the Washington family go missing during the storm, and new friends lose their home. In the middle of it all, Sophie learns to be grateful for what she has and that she is stronger than she ever imagined.

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EXCERPT

“Let me see those pictures,” I shove my way into the group, and all my friends are bent over their phones, laughing at the photos Valentina took of me and Nathan.

We’re tangled up on the checkered school floor like a Twister game gone wrong. My mouth is open in a scream, and Nathan’s eyes are bulged out.  The most embarrassing is the shot of the frog leaping over our heads.

“Nathan wishes he could jump that high on the basketball court,” jokes Toby Johnson.

“It looks like Mr. Toad and Sophie are smooching,” giggles Valentina, her brown eyes twinkling. “Like mi abuela always says, Sophie, you need to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince.”

I want to slap her but don’t say anything. At least she put the pictures on SnapShot so they should be gone by tomorrow.

“Very funny, Valentina,” says Nathan. “If anyone happens to see Mr. Toad, please let me know because I need him to finish my science project.”

“Sure thing, bro,” Toby gives him a fist bump.

“I’m sorry for laughing, Sophie,” says Chloe. “I’m glad you guys weren’t hurt.”

“We’re fine,” I say, as I wring more water from my plaits. 
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Tonya Duncan Ellis was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She loves reading so much that as a child she took books with her everywhere. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper when she was a teen. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer. 

She's an Amazon bestselling and award-winning author of the Sophie Washington children's book series, geared towards readers ages 8 to 12. The books recount adventures of Houston, TX preteen Sophie Washington and her diverse group of friends. Each funny and heartwarming story teaches lessons about friendship, responsibility, truthfulness and perseverance. 

Books in the series include Queen of the Bee, The Snitch, Things You Didn't Know About Sophie, The Gamer, Hurricane and Mission Costa Rica (Due to be released June 2018). When she's not writing, Tonya enjoys reading, biking, swimming, travel and spending time with her husband and three children. She lives in Houston, TX.












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GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The tour dates can be found here



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My review:



4.25 out of 5 stars

Sophie Washington: Hurricane by Tonya Duncan Ellis continues the adventures of Sophie and the rest of her family as they cope with everyday life near Houston, Texas. Not only does Sophie have to deal with her jealousy of a girl named Valentina who is coaxing away Sophie’s friends, but a natural disaster causes all kinds of challenges. Every day is an adventure.

I love this series of children’s books because it features a personable young heroine who is realistic. Sophie is an All-American little girl, coping with peer pressure, trying to find her way through school, dealing with a precocious little brother, but no matter what, she has her family unit to depend on. I love watching her deal with everyday things, experiencing the normal feelings when she thinks someone else is getting something she feels should be hers…whether it is her brother or her friends getting focused on something that excludes her. The best thing about these books is joining her on her journey of discovery, whether that is finding out that something scary is improved by being able to depend on her parents’ strength or learning that a classmate has her own challenges to overcome. It’s so much fun watching Sophie grow and I look forward to many more of her adventures.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

He is Mine by Mel Gough (Cover reveal) ADULT title GBP






by
Mel Gough
ADULT title


Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh, Black Jazz Design

Genre/s: M/M psychological romance (with M/F elements)

Release Date: September 7, 2018



Blurb

For you, it was just a fling. For me, so much more…

NYPD detective Brad Moretti’s life is in tatters. A relationship destroyed by his boyfriend’s bipolar disorder has left him feeling guilty, inadequate and emotionally scarred.

Vivienne Aubert seems to have it all – a Hollywood career, supermodel looks, and a director husband about to make it big. And yet, a one-night-stand with rising superstar Damien Thomas makes Viv wonder if she hasn’t settled for second-best. Used to getting her way, she embarks on a ruthless quest to make Damien hers.

Unaware of Viv’s fatal attraction, Damien returns to New York, where a chance encounter with Brad sparks a prompt and rapidly growing affinity between the two men – which Viv is determined to terminate.

Can Brad head off her delusional desires before she destroys his newfound happiness, or will he fail to protect yet another lover?


Excerpt

(also available on Mel Gough's website)



Chapter 1

Brad stretches and rubs his eyes. He squints up at the ceiling; the first rays of morning light just start to creep along the plaster above his head. He sighs. This is his weekend off; his next shift isn’t until Monday. But he’s an early riser by design more than by desire. As if the day can’t start without you, Aiden used to mock him.

Aiden. Like every morning these last two weeks, Brad stretches his arm across the mattress, finding the sheets cold and undisturbed. He can see the empty pillow from the corner of his eye without moving his head. An equally empty spot in his heart aches in response.

Nothing has changed in the last eight hours. It still hurts. That fact established, Brad rolls out of bed. As he pads into the bathroom, he thinks about his very short To Do list for the day. A couple of phone calls to return, gym, then lunch. He promised to meet Maria, his friend since his high school days in Baltimore, at their favorite sushi place. While he pees, Brad contemplates whether to cancel that date. But he’s made excuses to Maria for two weeks; unless he meets her soon of his own free will she’ll send a search party. Going to Hibino will be less painful than another week of ignoring her texts and calls.

Brad steps over to the sink to brush his teeth. He hates to drink coffee before his mouth is clean, so he always makes time for two rounds with the electric toothbrush. Aiden used to roll his eyes at what he considers a waste of toothpaste.

As he moves the oscillating bristles from one side to the other, Brad studies his face in the mirror. His spirits plummet. Even after a good night’s sleep there are dark circles under his chronic fatigue-dulled brown eyes, and his skin is sallow. Ever since Aiden walked out on him, each good night’s sleep is followed by two or three with hardly any. And it’s no use kidding himself. The last few weeks, he feels much older than thirty-seven, and the lack of sleep shows.

Not that his face would ever have won a beauty contest. His jaw is too square, and his brows are too full. Combined with the crooked nose, broken in a bar brawl during his first year on the beat in Baltimore and never properly set, he looks like the worst cliché of an Italian gangster. On better days, he tries to cultivate the image of sophisticated athlete, but lately that doesn’t even convince him.

Grimacing at his reflection, Brad spits out the toothpaste and rinses his mouth. With wet hands, he brushes over his short dark hair to flatten it into a semblance of order. On his way back into the bedroom he grimaces again.

What he sees hanging over the bed is another reminder of Aiden, the biggest and most obnoxious of them all. The huge canvas was a sore spot between them from the moment Aiden bought it from his friend three years ago. “Kyle’s the next Jackson Pollock,” he’d enthused, his eyes bright with what Brad hadn’t yet clocked as maniacal exuberance. “In five years, this will be worth a fortune!”

All Brad has ever seen there on his wall is ten feet by five feet of blotches and untidy scrawls. He just doesn’t get it. As he leaves the bedroom and descends the stairs, he makes up his mind. That wannabe Picasso needs to go.

Over coffee, Brad’s mood improves. Out of the kitchen window it looks to be a brilliant, warm day, much nicer than they have any right to expect in mid-March. Sipping his strong, black coffee, Brad decides he will meet Maria. She’s his closest friend, and she deserves to hear his sorry tale, as much as he can bring himself to share. She’s a good listener, even if she has a way of twisting his arm into revealing much more than he intends.

He also decides not to skip breakfast, which has become another bad habit. If he doesn’t eat something now he’ll be ravenous and irritable long before lunchtime. His mood swings are bad enough.

After a bowl of fruit, cereal, and yogurt, Brad gets dressed in his workout clothes. The gym is a five-minute walk from his brownstone on Garfield Place he’d never be able to afford on his salary. When his batty Aunt Hedda died six years ago, Brad inherited her house and a small life insurance settlement, enough to foot the renovations and ensure he’ll get a more comfortable retirement than a career with the NYPD can provide.

After a strenuous workout at the gym, he would usually exchange a few words with the other regulars in the locker room while getting dressed, but ever since Aiden left, words don’t come so easily. And Brad needs to conserve the ones he does have for Maria, who won’t let him off the hook until she has as much detail about the breakup as possible.

Back home, Brad sends a few texts to friends who have left frantic and worried messages these last two weeks, apologizing and promising to call soon. He returns a call to his dentist, who wants to reschedule an appointment, puts in a load of laundry, and straightens up a bit before acknowledging that he’s all out of excuses for putting off one more call. Standing in the kitchen, he dials Aiden’s number from memory.

Brad expects the call to go to voicemail, but to his surprise Aiden picks up on the fourth ring.

“Brad.” Even on the one word, Brad can hear the coldness.

A flustered silence follows. Brad hasn’t prepared for anything other than leaving a brief voicemail message. He casts around for some niceties. “Hey, uh… hi, Aiden. You okay?”

“Since when do you care?”

“’Course I do…” Brad’s legs feel shaky. He hadn’t expected Aiden to be so hostile. He pushes himself away from the kitchen counter and goes into the living room, where he drops onto the sofa.

“What do you want?” Aiden asks. The man Brad met five years ago, who could easily fill their whole day with chitchat, is gone. Brad should’ve realized it, but it still hurts. And he deserves Aiden’s hatred.

“I, err…” Brad clears his throat. “That painting in the bedroom… I was wondering…”

“You want to be rid of it.” Aiden knows him well. Brad can hear his breathing get heavy and fast, and his heart aches. He’s hurt Aiden yet again.

Maybe he can take it back. But before Brad can backpedal, Aiden speaks again. “No problem. You home tonight?”

“Yeah.” The thought of seeing Aiden gives Brad a knot of dread in the pit of his stomach.

“I’ll have someone pick it up then. Six okay?”

Aiden’s voice is emotionless. Brad’s stomach drops. Aiden won’t come himself. He can’t decide if that’s worse than seeing him.

Being excluded from Aiden’s hurt is new, and it stings. They know each other’s emotional life intimately, and Aiden’s refusal to show his anger and pain shakes Brad. It hits home: There’s really no way back.

“Sure…”

“Was there something else?” Aiden sounds impatient. He wants this conversation to end. Brad rubs his face.

“No, I… no, there wasn’t.”

“Good.” Aiden’s relief is palpable.

“Bye,” Brad says, but the line is dead before he gets the word out. He drops the phone into his lap. What did he expect? Aiden never wants to see him again, and Brad can’t blame him. But it hurts. Unbidden, the last words he said to Aiden’s face return for him to dwell on once again. You destroyed us, and I don’t have the energy to put us back together again. Not anymore.

He rubs his face and gives himself a shake. Then he looks around the room. It’s not just the painting; Aiden is still everywhere in the house. The green wall paint, the strange, antique-shop floor lamps, the sofa cushions — all were chosen by Aiden and paid for by Brad. He’ll have to at least get rid of the lamps and the cushions.

With a sigh, Brad gets up to change for his lunch date. Maybe Maria will agree to help him redecorate the house.


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About the Author



 
Mel was born in Germany, where she spent the first twenty-six years of her life (with a one-year stint in Los Angeles). She has always been fascinated by cultures and human interaction, and got a Masters in Social Anthropology. After finishing university she moved to London, where she has now lived for ten years.

If you were to ask her parents what Mel enjoyed the most since the age of six, they would undoubtedly say “Reading!” She would take fifteen books on a three-week beach holiday, and then read all her mom’s books once she’d devoured her own midway through week two.

Back home in her mom’s attic there’s a box full of journals with stories Mel wrote when she was in her early teens. None of the stories are finished, or any good. She has told herself bedtime stories as far back as she can remember.

In her day job, Mel works as PA and office manager. No other city is quite like London, and Mel loves her city. The hustle and bustle still amaze and thrill her even after all these years. When not reading, writing or going to the theater, Mel spends her time with her long-time boyfriend, discussing science or poking fun at each other.

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