Release Blitz: GRAVE IMPORTANCE, An Anthology of Manipulation, Murder, Betrayal, Sex, Blackmail, and of course, Money always talks.!@BatesNatalie @sherilynnauthor @lesliehachtel @LTisdaleauthor @jvstanleyWB

Grave Importance BC

Grave Importance

Published December 1, 2018

Perfectly Poisoned Anthologies

Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

 

It’s 1870 in a rural setting on the outskirts of London. Famed surgeon Dr.
Benedict Morrow hosts an elite few surgical trainees at the renowned Morrow
Academy of Anatomy and Science.

Though the days of Burke and Hare are long gone, and body snatching and
grave robbing a seemingly thing of the past, the supply of high-quality fresh
cadavers is still lacking.

Each student of Dr. Morrow must procure a fresh corpse for their very own
study, or face expulsion from the prestigious academy.

 

These hand-chosen students are the best and brightest in the country. They
are also devious, conniving, and determined to do whatever they must to stay in
the academy and under the tutelage of Dr. Morrow. Even turn against each other
is necessary.

In the cards will be manipulation, murder, betrayal, sex, blackmail, and of
course, money always talks.

 

UNIVERSAL LINK: https://books2read.com/u/bMQWMA

 

GI Linnea teaser

ADVENTURES IN LIFE…AND DEATH

Natalie-Nicole Bates

Dr. Linnea Lyons has it all. She is beautiful, intelligent,
witty, and charming. All the things a young woman needs to get her way in 1870.
Tasked with procuring a cadaver for her surgical studies,
Linnea decides to use her womanly charms to get what she wants. A visit to the
morgue when only the Deputy Coroner, Dr. Cyril Rhodes is on duty, she asks him
to allow her to watch his embalming process.
Cyril is enthralled with the dark-haired beauty. After all,
it is a rarity to meet a female doctor, let alone one studying the art of
surgery.
Linnea senses the good doctor is a bit lonely and perhaps an
easy mark to get what she wants.
But will her ambition ultimately be her downfall?

Social media links
for Natalie-Nicole Bates

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/BatesNatalie

 
Amazon Author Central Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0071MP0DC
GI 3

An Unlikely Union – Sheri Lynn

 
The first year Dr. Benedict Morrow at the renowned Morrow
Academy of Anatomy and Science considers female students, Louisa Becker is
honored to be chosen. An ocean away from everything she has ever known and
thrust into a highly competitive, if not, demoralizing group of students is
arduous. It intensifies once Dr. Morrow tasks them with procuring their own
fresh corpse or face expulsion.
Residing in the home of a previous student of Dr. Morrow’s
and his teaching assistant, she suspects Edgar Walker guards sinister secrets
and she should fear him. Instead, she observes his skill and technique in class
and respects him. Intrigued and attracted to the withdrawn, brooding man she
watches him from a distance.
One evening following him into London, she witnesses him
commit a grisly crime. Louisa and Edgar forge an unconventional relationship
involving murder, seduction, lust, ambition, and mayhem.
Social Media Links for Sheri Lynn:
 
GI 4

BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW –

Jennie L. Morris

An immigrant, Fredrick Wolf has to succeed at Morrow Academy
of Anatomy and Science. Not only succeed, he has to prove to his peers that he
belongs, that he isn’t a poor local Dr. Morrow accepted out of pity.
Fredrick is willing to do anything to procure a prime
specimen for their special assignment. Calling upon his uncle, his partner in
crime since their move to England, Fredrick plans to use his uncle’s position
at the local gaol to select the perfect candidate.
But not all prisoners are the usual drunkards or petty
thieves. Some possess dark secrets, especially the man known in Clayton Bridge
as Eugene Wallaby. Biding his time, Eugene sees young Fredrick’s murderous plan
as a means of escape, but only if Eugene can survive the night.
Social Media Links for Jennie L. Morris:

Amazon: amazon.com/author/jennielmorris

 
 

The Tangled Web

Leslie Hachtel

 

No one wants to be successful as a surgeon more than
Scarlett Kensington and no one has as little conscience. She has met every
challenge with skill and talent and by out-thinking her detractors. And when
the great Dr. Morrow demands his students present a cadaver for class, whose
body will it be?
 
Social Media Links for Leslie Hachtel
Twitter: @lesliehachtel
Website: lesliehachtel.com

Bring me to life

Lauren Tisdale

 

Enzo Mason is a hustler and a thief by nature. After
stealing the most valuable thing he’s ever stolen, he thinks he’s finally on
the path to making a good life for himself. His confidence is tested when Dr.
Morrow reveals the newest challenge that will decide their fate in the surgical
program – procure your own cadaver for study or be dismissed from the Academy.
Will the help of a fellow classmate, who happens to be the most beautiful woman
he’s ever seen, be the one thing that helps him achieve his goals or will his
luck run out?
 
Jacqueline Kennison is a stunning newcomer to the Morrow
Academy of Anatomy and Science who has caught the eye of a fellow classmate,
Enzo. Jacqueline is determined to see her master plan through, even if it means
teaming up with Enzo. This choice leads to unforeseen dilemmas that she never
expected. Will Enzo be the one to aid in her own self-destruction or will he
surprise her by saving her from herself? 
 
Social Media Links for Lauren Tisdale:
@LTisdaleauthor on Twitter

Skeletons in the Closet

Marie Sterling

Doctor Elizabeth Chandler is top of her class at the Royal
College of Surgeons of England and has the world in her hand… until it comes
crashing down around her. With the sudden death of her beloved father and her
mother’s convalescence due to a carriage accident, Elizabeth abandons
everything to return to Clayton Bridge and help her family. Traditional
medicine has failed to bring her mother back to consciousness, so when she
hears of Doctor Benedict Morrow and some of the more unusual requirements of
his Academy of Anatomy and Science, this seems like the answer to her prayers.
Blackmail, deceit, and treachery are just a few of the lessons she will learn
along with her surgical studies.
Social Media link for Marie Sterling:
 

I Want Your Body

J.V. Stanley

Miranda O’Reily has been struggling with her grades. In a
profession where men are the superior sex, she has a lot to prove to not just
her peers or Doctor Benedict Morrow, but to herself. Coming from an
impoverished home, she was lucky to have an unknown benefactor paying for her
college. The mystery unravels as she tries to identify who this mysterious
wealthy individual is all while struggling to meet the intensity of the
curriculum.
Edward Thatcher, the last mortician she saw denied her a corpse because of her
gender. Infuriated, she vowed to get a body by any means necessary, even if it
meant murder.

 

Social Media Links for J.V. Stanley:
 Link to my group Horror
A Word To The Wise Bloghttps://writerzblock007.wordpress.com

 

GI PIC

Release Blitz: GRAVE IMPORTANCE, An Anthology of Manipulation, Murder, Betrayal, Sex, Blackmail, and of course, Money always talks.!@BatesNatalie @sherilynnauthor @lesliehachtel @LTisdaleauthor @jvstanleyWB

Grave Importance BC

Grave Importance

Published December 1, 2018

Perfectly Poisoned Anthologies

Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

 

It’s 1870 in a rural setting on the outskirts of London. Famed surgeon Dr.
Benedict Morrow hosts an elite few surgical trainees at the renowned Morrow
Academy of Anatomy and Science.

Though the days of Burke and Hare are long gone, and body snatching and
grave robbing a seemingly thing of the past, the supply of high-quality fresh
cadavers is still lacking.

Each student of Dr. Morrow must procure a fresh corpse for their very own
study, or face expulsion from the prestigious academy.

 

These hand-chosen students are the best and brightest in the country. They
are also devious, conniving, and determined to do whatever they must to stay in
the academy and under the tutelage of Dr. Morrow. Even turn against each other
is necessary.

In the cards will be manipulation, murder, betrayal, sex, blackmail, and of
course, money always talks.

 

UNIVERSAL LINK: https://books2read.com/u/bMQWMA

 

GI Linnea teaser

ADVENTURES IN LIFE…AND DEATH

Natalie-Nicole Bates

Dr. Linnea Lyons has it all. She is beautiful, intelligent,
witty, and charming. All the things a young woman needs to get her way in 1870.
Tasked with procuring a cadaver for her surgical studies,
Linnea decides to use her womanly charms to get what she wants. A visit to the
morgue when only the Deputy Coroner, Dr. Cyril Rhodes is on duty, she asks him
to allow her to watch his embalming process.
Cyril is enthralled with the dark-haired beauty. After all,
it is a rarity to meet a female doctor, let alone one studying the art of
surgery.
Linnea senses the good doctor is a bit lonely and perhaps an
easy mark to get what she wants.
But will her ambition ultimately be her downfall?

Social media links
for Natalie-Nicole Bates

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/BatesNatalie

 
Amazon Author Central Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0071MP0DC
GI 3

An Unlikely Union – Sheri Lynn

 
The first year Dr. Benedict Morrow at the renowned Morrow
Academy of Anatomy and Science considers female students, Louisa Becker is
honored to be chosen. An ocean away from everything she has ever known and
thrust into a highly competitive, if not, demoralizing group of students is
arduous. It intensifies once Dr. Morrow tasks them with procuring their own
fresh corpse or face expulsion.
Residing in the home of a previous student of Dr. Morrow’s
and his teaching assistant, she suspects Edgar Walker guards sinister secrets
and she should fear him. Instead, she observes his skill and technique in class
and respects him. Intrigued and attracted to the withdrawn, brooding man she
watches him from a distance.
One evening following him into London, she witnesses him
commit a grisly crime. Louisa and Edgar forge an unconventional relationship
involving murder, seduction, lust, ambition, and mayhem.
Social Media Links for Sheri Lynn:
 
GI 4

BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW –

Jennie L. Morris

An immigrant, Fredrick Wolf has to succeed at Morrow Academy
of Anatomy and Science. Not only succeed, he has to prove to his peers that he
belongs, that he isn’t a poor local Dr. Morrow accepted out of pity.
Fredrick is willing to do anything to procure a prime
specimen for their special assignment. Calling upon his uncle, his partner in
crime since their move to England, Fredrick plans to use his uncle’s position
at the local gaol to select the perfect candidate.
But not all prisoners are the usual drunkards or petty
thieves. Some possess dark secrets, especially the man known in Clayton Bridge
as Eugene Wallaby. Biding his time, Eugene sees young Fredrick’s murderous plan
as a means of escape, but only if Eugene can survive the night.
Social Media Links for Jennie L. Morris:

Amazon: amazon.com/author/jennielmorris

 
 

The Tangled Web

Leslie Hachtel

 

No one wants to be successful as a surgeon more than
Scarlett Kensington and no one has as little conscience. She has met every
challenge with skill and talent and by out-thinking her detractors. And when
the great Dr. Morrow demands his students present a cadaver for class, whose
body will it be?
 
Social Media Links for Leslie Hachtel
Twitter: @lesliehachtel
Website: lesliehachtel.com

Bring me to life

Lauren Tisdale

 

Enzo Mason is a hustler and a thief by nature. After
stealing the most valuable thing he’s ever stolen, he thinks he’s finally on
the path to making a good life for himself. His confidence is tested when Dr.
Morrow reveals the newest challenge that will decide their fate in the surgical
program – procure your own cadaver for study or be dismissed from the Academy.
Will the help of a fellow classmate, who happens to be the most beautiful woman
he’s ever seen, be the one thing that helps him achieve his goals or will his
luck run out?
 
Jacqueline Kennison is a stunning newcomer to the Morrow
Academy of Anatomy and Science who has caught the eye of a fellow classmate,
Enzo. Jacqueline is determined to see her master plan through, even if it means
teaming up with Enzo. This choice leads to unforeseen dilemmas that she never
expected. Will Enzo be the one to aid in her own self-destruction or will he
surprise her by saving her from herself? 
 
Social Media Links for Lauren Tisdale:
@LTisdaleauthor on Twitter

Skeletons in the Closet

Marie Sterling

Doctor Elizabeth Chandler is top of her class at the Royal
College of Surgeons of England and has the world in her hand… until it comes
crashing down around her. With the sudden death of her beloved father and her
mother’s convalescence due to a carriage accident, Elizabeth abandons
everything to return to Clayton Bridge and help her family. Traditional
medicine has failed to bring her mother back to consciousness, so when she
hears of Doctor Benedict Morrow and some of the more unusual requirements of
his Academy of Anatomy and Science, this seems like the answer to her prayers.
Blackmail, deceit, and treachery are just a few of the lessons she will learn
along with her surgical studies.
Social Media link for Marie Sterling:
 

I Want Your Body

J.V. Stanley

Miranda O’Reily has been struggling with her grades. In a
profession where men are the superior sex, she has a lot to prove to not just
her peers or Doctor Benedict Morrow, but to herself. Coming from an
impoverished home, she was lucky to have an unknown benefactor paying for her
college. The mystery unravels as she tries to identify who this mysterious
wealthy individual is all while struggling to meet the intensity of the
curriculum.
Edward Thatcher, the last mortician she saw denied her a corpse because of her
gender. Infuriated, she vowed to get a body by any means necessary, even if it
meant murder.

 

Social Media Links for J.V. Stanley:
 Link to my group Horror
A Word To The Wise Bloghttps://writerzblock007.wordpress.com

 

GI PIC

Book Blitz: DEATH AND DAMAGES, A Mystery and Thriller Collection From Included Stories from Several USA Today and NYT Bestselling Authors! @XpressoTours


Death & Damages: A Mystery and Thriller Collection
Publication date: November 27th 2018
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Danger lurks around every corner!

Courageous cops, adventurous agents, and daring detectives hunt for the answers to stop crimes by vicious killers.

But what if the damage is already done?

Inside these pages you’ll find 24 adventures full of captivating conundrums, hair-raising homicides, and suspenseful secrets from today’s USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning authors.

Become a private investigator yourself. Inspect plots of deadly assassins, cold-blooded killers, and bone-chilling suspense inside the pages of DEATH AND DAMAGES, an enthralling mystery and thriller boxed set.

Fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and John Grisham will devour these puzzling mysteries and gripping thrillers.

Pre-order today to secure this thrilling limited edition collection!

Included stories from several USA Today and NYT Bestselling authors.

Patricia Loofbourrow

Pauline Creeden

John Ling

Alexa Padgett

Siera London

Shereen Vedam

Deborah Shlian

Kelly Hashway

Maggie Carpenter

Tiana Laveen

Angela Sanders

Karen M. Bryson

Aime Austin

Lisa B. Thomas

Fiona Quinn

Kerry J. Donovan

Jane Blythe

Dan Alatorre

Muffy Wilson

Dariel Raye

Ja’Nese Dixon

Terry Keys

Bill Hargenrader

Judith Lucci

Maria Grazia Swan

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

SNEAK PEEKS:

Vengeance by John Ling

Maya Raines hated the idea of walking into a trap, but she decided to do it anyway. She was dressed in a Muslim robe — long and loose and rustling in the wind. Her face was covered by a veil. She carried a grocery bag as she moved along the sidewalk, being careful not to trip on the pockmarked concrete and scattered rubble. All around her, ominous black flags hung from the shopfronts and soared from the rooftops, declaring the rise of an Islamist caliphate. And just ahead, a roadblock had been set up, manned by jihadi fighters. A modified pickup truck — a technical — was parked on the intersection, with a machine gun mounted on its rear bed. Maya could hear Arabic being spoken in the distance. It sounded harsh and strident; completely different to the gentle melodic rhythm of the Malay language that she was used to. These men were foreign Sunnis. They had come from as far afield as Egypt and Libya, drawn to Malaysia by the promise of killing local Shiites. Maya felt the slow burn of anxiety in her stomach…

Facing the Past Excerpt by Alexa Padgett

“Hank. Thirteen hours. At dawn, Jonathan, gone for thirteen hours.”

Hank turned toward Nancy, his look hollow. Nothing moved across his face, through his eyes. He tilted his head, marginally interested as she swallowed then gasped for air. Hank closed his eyes. “I can’t see any better in the dark than they can,” he said. “You heard the detective say they brought in the dogs. A helicopter from Fort Worth. It’s a full-scale search, almost everyone in town was out looking till it got too dark.”

A faint hum. Louder, a thwap, thwap overhead, a blinding spotlight. Again.

“They could miss him from up there.”

“We’ve already missed him,” Hank shot back, eyes glinting in the semi-darkness.

Nancy shrank back, away from him.

He lowered his head nearly to his knees. Inhaled, exhaled. “My son.”

Cicadas hummed, pressing their bodies against the house. Nothing could hold them together. Not with Jonny missing.

A whippoorwill called. Hank stood there, between the foyer and the living room where Nancy huddled.

“What are we going to do?” she asked him.

Another pass from the helicopter. A dog barking.

Hank hesitated again before seeming to consciously lift his leg to step into the room.

He lay his hand on her shoulder, fingers against her collarbone, his face telling Nancy he was too used up to do more as darkness crowded out the faint porch light.

 

 

GIVEAWAY!

$25 Amazon gift card
eBook copy of Suicide Blonde by Karen M. Bryson
eBook copy of Forbidden Distraction by Siera London
eBook copy of Love Thy Sister by Maria Grazia Swan
eBook copy of VENGEANCE by John Ling
eBook copy of Facing the Past by Alexa Padgett

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PROMO Blitz: FRAUD AT SNOWFIELDS, A Children’s Christmas Fantasy by DANIEL KLOCK, So Take A PEEK FROM OUR HOLIDAY EXCERPT!@RABTBookTours

 photo Fraud at Snowfields_zps6tv5iiin.jpg

Children’s/Middle Grade Fantasy
Published: September 2013
 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree: This tells a reader that this book is well worth their time and money!
 
Finalist “The Wishing Shelf Book Awards”
Only a short time after a strange nightmare about Bluer orcs (what the heck are they?) Will again feels like he is caught in a dream—but this time the best dream he has ever had. For Mr Chevalier visits him at his parents’ house to invite him to join the White Christmas Organisation—the secret organisation that handles the production and delivery of the Christmas presents and that is headed by Father Christmas himself. Will had always been a firm believer in the magic of Christmas and now he is on his way to be part of it all as he begins his job training at Snowfields. And—while traveling with the amazing cloud-based delivery system—he has no idea what other wonders he is going to see or what he is getting himself into…
For just as he is having the time of his life with his new friends at his new school with amazing subjects as well as hard hands-on training, he is caught up in the biggest conspiracy Snowfields has seen in decades.
Praise for Fraud at Snowfields:
“The excitement and magic seem to just jump off the pages as you are reading. This is one book that will become a tradition at my home at Christmas!” (Reviewer on Amazon)
 
 
 
“Daniel Klock has created a holiday classic, sure to be passed down from one generation to another.” (Reviewer on Amazon)
 photo Fraud at Snowfields girl holding print copy_zps5a7bsr4r.jpg

EXCERPT:

They hurried on towards the lawn at the back of the school, their red Christmas robes flowing behind them. On the platform just outside, they stumbled to a sudden halt. And stared. The lawn was full of sleighs. All of them were brightly and festively decorated with red ribbons, ties, golden and silver bells, and fir garlands. Four proud reindeer were hitched in front of each sleigh. They were also outfitted most festively with shiny, brown tack with silver bells and red ribbons. Even their antlers were polished and almost gleaming with an inner light.
Students and teachers scurried across the lawn, loading sleighs and getting ready to leave. Will and Annabel watched, spellbound, as a sleigh took off just a few feet away from them.
‘Can you see Contractus anywhere?’ Annabel asked after the sleigh had gone.
‘Hmm.’ Will scanned the area. ‘No, there’s too much bustle out there.’
‘What now?’
‘Well, Miss Dustfall said to wait by the sleigh. Contractus will find us there.’
‘Yes, he will indeed,’ said a deep voice right behind them, making them jump.
‘Hello, Annabel. Hi Will,’ said Contractus as they turned around. ‘Sorry I’m late, but I had to pick up our flight plan on the way here, and there were quite a few others there who wanted the same. However, I’m here now, and’—he rubbed his hands together—‘I’m happy that I have the pleasure of working with you two today.’ He grinned. ‘I have to admit that even I, even after all these years I’ve been here, get excited on Christmas Eve. After all, this is what we work for all year long! So let’s get started. We’ve been allocated one of the toughest areas. There’ll be loads of work waiting for us already. Follow me!’
And he led them onto the lawn, finding his way around the parked sleighs and through the chaos of students and teachers hurrying everywhere. Will and Annabel hurried after him, trying not to bump into other people. Contractus led them to one of the beautifully-decorated sleighs. He helped them up onto the rear seat and then jumped up onto the driver’s seat. He shook the reins, and the reindeer took a few quick steps forwards. Will and Annabel gripped the railings beside their seat tightly. Then the sleigh smoothly lifted off the ground. It quickly gained height, and Contractus flew a wide circle, passing over the school and then over the village of Snowfields. The sleigh glided through the air easily, so Will loosened his grip on the railing. But then he had expected that Contractus would be a good pilot.
He looked over the side of the sleigh and saw the school and the village getting tinier and tinier as they spiralled upwards. Suddenly Will felt a jolt, and an urgent-maintenance sleigh from Cloudy’s overtook them at high speed. It went by so closely their sleigh was hit by the slipstream.
‘Oi,’ Contractus shouted after it. ‘Watch it!’
But it was already far ahead of them, heading as fast as it could to wherever the problem was.
Rising higher and higher, he guided the sleigh in a helix so they were soon as high as the mountains surrounding the village. Above the mountains was a huge circle of clouds. Contractus flew the sleigh along the face of the clouds until they reached a wide tunnel that led through them. It did not take long to fly through, and they passed two other sleighs that were flying back towards Snowfields. The other drivers waved at them cheerfully. Soon they had cleared the tunnel, and Will could see the snow-covered countryside far below.
‘Where are we going?’ he asked.
‘In front of you is a small screen, the grey rectangle. If you tap on it, you’ll see a map,’ replied Contractus.
Will looked in front of him, at the back of Contractus’s seat. There was a grey, smooth, and rectangular surface there. When he tapped a finger on it, it lit up, and he saw a map just like on a tablet computer. The map showed a part of the country. He could see lakes, rivers, hills, villages, and towns. Part of it was enclosed by a red line.
‘Can you see it?’ asked Contractus, looking back over his shoulder.
‘Yes, I can see it. The area inside the red border is ours?’
‘That’s right.’
‘It looks rather small,’ said Will dubiously.
Contractus laughed. ‘Remember what I’ve told you before! That sector is the worst, for there are so many areas in there where Cloudy’s coverage is just terrible. We’ll have enough to do for sure. Well, hold on, it will take us a while to reach the sector!’
They flew high above the snow-covered countryside. Will enjoyed the flight greatly, taking in all the sights. He enjoyed the cool air on his face and, he realised with a start, also the company of Annabel sitting so close beside him. He sneaked a stealthy look at her from time to time, and—to his relief—she also seemed to enjoy being close to him, though he turned slightly red at this thought. He decided he’d better concentrate on the countryside again.
Finally Will felt that they were losing altitude. Suddenly there was a chime, and the screen in front of him lit up. In the corner of the map, a small, red square had appeared and was flashing.
‘Oh, great,’ said Contractus, who had heard the chime as well. ‘The first call, and we’re not even there yet. Will, if you’d please have a look at the message?’
‘Sure. Er, how do I look at it?’
‘Just press on the red square, and the message will pop up.’
‘Okay.’
Will pressed a finger onto the red square in the corner of the screen. Promptly a window opened on top of the map.
‘It says here: “Job 01, Area F8, Code blue-3. Please confirm.” That’s all,’ Will told Contractus. Annabel had been reading the message as well and nodded.
‘Okay,’ replied Contractus. ‘I assume you recall what a “blue-3” is?’
‘Sure,’ said Annabel. ‘A failed delivery, but quite near the target, in a perimeter of five to ten yards around it.’
Will nodded as he recalled the lectures that had so bored him in the autumn, but now he could see how important they had been.
‘Good!’ replied Contractus. ‘That’s correct. A blue-3 should mean little trouble for us, as it’s so close to the target. So let’s go there. If you’d please confirm the job, Will? Just press the confirmation button.’
Will pressed the button marked ‘confirmation’. The window closed, and a red, flashing dot appeared on the map. On the side of the screen, a small window opened in which Will could still see the job description.
‘You should now see a flashing dot on the screen. That’s our goal,’ said Contractus.
‘Yes, we can see it,’ replied Will.
‘Okay, then let’s go,’ said Contractus, and steered the sleigh into a tight turn to the left. ‘I guess it’ll take us ten minutes to get there,’ he told Will and Annabel after a glance at his own screen.
They flew on over the snow-covered landscape. Will could see them nearing their goal as the blue dot on the screen, representing their sleigh, was getting close to the red flashing dot. Contractus angled the sleigh gently downwards. He turned slightly round to Will and Annabel.
‘Okay, you two. I’ll activate full screens and security measures for now, as it’s still broad daylight and there’s no sense in letting Father Christmas appear at this time of the day. His domain is the night. So the two of you will also need full coverage.’
‘Sure,’ replied Annabel, and pulled out her wand. She turned to Will. ‘Do you want me to cover you?’
Will grinned. ‘Please. You’re much better at this than I am.’
Annabel grinned too. ‘Oooh, you finally recognise that, do you?’
She pointed her wand at Will and performed the complicated pattern of the cover spell. She looked at Will critically, then nodded to herself in satisfaction. She pointed the wand at herself and repeated the spell. Then she frowned.
‘You know, it always seems harder to spell yourself than to spell others. Somehow it’s easier to make the movements with the wand when you’re pointing it at somebody else. It’s rather different, like the wrong way round, or like doing it in front of a mirror, when you have to point it at yourself.’
Will saw Contractus nod absently to himself as Annabel said this, as he was concentrating on lowering the sleigh and reducing the speed. Then Will saw Contractus take out his own wand, point it at the sleigh and the reindeer, and perform the necessary spells to hide them all from visibility or other forms of detection. Even any sounds they might have made would be covered from ordinary people—ordinary like Will had been not even a year earlier, he reflected wistfully. But only for a moment. Then he looked back at the screen and saw that they had nearly reached their destination, for the red and blue dots were almost overlapping. Contractus flew lower and lower until they were just above the houses. Finally he circled above a certain house, and Will saw on the display that they had reached their goal.
‘Can you see—’ began Contractus, but just then Annabel called: ‘There! Over there, next to the tree.’ And she pointed to a jumbled heap lying in the snow beside a large beech tree.
Contractus looked where Annabel was pointing, then he nodded and grinned.
‘Right you are. That mess looks like the misplaced items.’
He turned the sleigh round and headed straight towards the untidy mound. As they got closer, Will could see it was indeed a pile of presents wrapped in bright and colourful wrapping paper. Contractus stopped the sleigh right beside them.
‘Now, I know you’ve trained for this thoroughly, but this is your first time in the field, so I’ll do this the first time and you can watch once more how the situation is handled.’ He grinned. ‘Don’t worry, the next job will be yours. Just stay on the sleigh for now.’
He jumped off and went to the pile of presents. He looked at them critically. Will could see that some snow had already settled onto them. Contractus took out his wand and pointed it at the packages. When he performed the spell, the snow vanished, revealing undisturbed parcels that looked as if they had just left the stores at Snowfields. Contractus looked pleased. Then he began to walk around them while holding his wand close to the ground, pointing straight downwards, drawing a fine line of Bluerin in the snow and completing the circle when he reached the starting point. He looked over to Annabel and Will, to make sure they were watching him. Then he turned back to the presents, raised his wand and pointed it straight at them. He swung his wand in the complicated pattern of the final transfer spell—the spell which Will remembered all too well from the summer, as it had taken him ages to learn it. The pile started to glow, then it shimmered and seemed to shrink, and then it was gone. Contractus swung his wand a last time at the impression left in the snow. And where just a moment earlier a huge pile of presents had been lying, there now was just an unbroken and untouched layer of snow that looked exactly like the snow around it—just as if there had never been anything lying there at all.
Annabel nudged Will, grinned mischievously, and started to clap her hands. Will suppressed a laugh and joined her. Contractus looked at them in surprise, but only for a second; then he recovered and ripped off a gracious, majestic bow, twirling his wand through the air like a cowboy would do with his colt. Annabel and Will laughed. Contractus grinned, walked back to the sleigh, and climbed onto his seat again.
‘Okay then, that was one of the easy ones! You’ll do the next one. Are there any new assignments yet, Will?’
Will looked quickly at the display, feeling slightly guilty that he had not checked already, but then he thought that Contractus had told them to watch him closely—and not the screen. But there was no new red square waiting.
‘No, Mr Contractus, there isn’t one yet.’
‘Okay. We still have to confirm the completion of the first job. You can still see it in the window at the side of the screen, right?’
‘Yes.’
‘Just tap on that window.’
‘I’ve done that.’
‘Now the window is larger again, and in the centre of the screen.’
‘Yes.’
‘Good. To confirm that the job is done, just tap on the button “job done”.’
Will pressed the button. The window with the job description turned from red to blue, and a ‘done’ mark appeared in front of the description, together with the current time.
‘Now you can close that window. Press on the small red circle in the top right corner.’
Will did just that. The blue window vanished.
‘Okay,’ Contractus said, and shook the reins. The reindeer started into a trot, and soon the sleigh lifted from the ground. Contractus guided them upwards again.
‘We’ll go back a way, more into the centre of our area, so we can respond more quickly to the next call,’ he said back over his shoulder to Will and Annabel.
They had only been in the air for a minute or two when Will heard the chime again. He immediately looked back at the screen. Once again a small, flashing red square had appeared in the corner of the map. Will pressed his finger onto it, and the description window opened up.
‘What does it say, Will?’ asked Contractus from his front seat.
‘It says “Job 02, Area A3, Code green-1. Please confirm”,’ Will replied.
‘Ah, it would have been too easy if it were nearby, now wouldn’t it,’ Contractus mumbled, more to himself than to Will and Annabel. ‘Go ahead then and confirm it, Will.’
‘Done, sir.’
Contractus shook the reins once more, and the reindeer made a wide curve towards the north-west. Will followed their course on the screen, where the blue dot represented their current position and the red one showed their goal.
‘What kind of job is this?’ asked Contractus. ‘I’m sure you can tell me, Annabel.’
While Will was trying to remember, Annabel answered seemingly without having to think about it at all. ‘A green-1 is a minor misplacement in the correct room, for example the presents might be in the corner opposite the tree.’
‘Right you are, well done!’
They passed over the snow-covered houses, dazzling in the bright sunlight. Will traced their path on the screen, trying to get a feel for the distances. He thought the area to which they had been assigned was in fact rather large, especially as Contractus had said this was one of the areas with the most work. But then he did not really mind, for this was what he had worked for all year long. He grinned.
‘What are you grinning about?’ asked Annabel, looking sideways at him.
‘Oh, I’m just enjoying this—the fact that we’re finally helping with the delivery of the presents. Aren’t you?’ he asked back.
‘Sure. But remember,’ she added, ‘we’ll have to deal with this one on our own.’
‘Well,’ replied Will, ‘that’s what we have been training for, isn’t it? And’—he grinned mischievously—‘I’m sure you’ll manage it perfectly!’
‘Oh now, none of that! We’ll do this together!’ Annabel replied firmly.
‘Sure.’ Will grinned. ‘You’ll do, and I’ll make sure you’re doing it right.’
Annabel poked him in the ribs—hard.
‘Ooof! That was a joke,’ Will said.
‘It better have been!’ snapped Annabel, but she grinned all the same.
Contractus finally guided the sleigh towards the ground. He took out his wand and spelled the sleigh, the reindeer and himself again, making them invisible. Annabel followed his lead and pointed her wand at Will and then at herself, hiding them both. Contractus took the sleigh farther down and constantly corrected its course as directed by the map on the screen in front of him. Finally he reached the front of the house that was their goal. The sleigh touched down on the snow-covered lawn with hardly a bump, and came to a halt.
Contractus turned around to Annabel and Will. ‘Now it’s your turn! It should really be no problem for you. As you said before, you’ve been preparing for this moment during the last months. I’ll accompany you for now. But I’ll stay in the background—you’ll do the job! Of course, if you should run into problems you can’t cope with or other difficulties, I’ll help you. Don’t worry, you’ll just do fine.’ He smiled at them encouragingly. ‘Let’s go for it!’
‘Yes!’ Annabel exclaimed, and punched the air. Will looked at her in surprise.
‘Well, let’s go,’ she said to him pertly. ‘What are you waiting for?’ She grinned at him brightly.
‘But…you…’ Will did not know what to say.
Annabel grinned at him even more brightly. ‘Yes? Was there something?’ she asked him sweetly.
Will sighed. ‘Nothing.’ Girls, he thought, and refrained from shaking his head as this would certainly do him no good. He slid down from the bench and stood beside the sleigh. ‘Let’s go.’
‘Of course. I was only waiting for you,’ Annabel replied loftily and stepped down from the sleigh gracefully. They walked towards the house with Contractus following closely. Annabel stopped after a few yards.
‘Door? Window? Chimney? How do we get in? What do you think?’ she asked Will, not pertly or teasingly anymore, but all business.
‘Hmm,’ Will said. ‘I think we should just use the door. It’s the easiest way, and we are covered anyway. And as it’s broad daylight, we’re not supposed to be seen or to act like Father Christmas at the moment, so there’s no need to use the chimney.’
‘Yes,’ said Annabel, ‘I’m thinking the same.’
Behind them Contractus nodded.
‘Okay then,’ said Will. ‘You want to do the spells? You’re better at them than I am.’
Annabel smiled, this time just pleased. ‘Of course. Are you ready? Let’s go on in then.’
She walked towards the front door of the house, stopped in front of it and raised her wand. Will stood at her side and waited. Just at that moment, a cat came round the far corner of the house and froze as it saw them.
Saw? Will thought. But they were covered by the spell! He looked closely at the cat and had the feeling that it looked right back at him. Alarmed, Will looked back at Contractus and said, ‘I don’t think the spells are working. It looks as if the cat can see us!’
Contractus replied, ‘Yes, as a matter of fact, cats can see straight through our hiding spells. Nobody knows why, that’s just how it is. But it really is nothing to worry about. Normally they just leave us alone. And if not, well, we have spells to deal with them. You’ll learn them in time.’
‘Is it just cats, or can other animals see us as well?’ asked Will.
‘No,’ replied Contractus. ‘Somehow it’s only cats. And snow leopards—but it’s not too likely you’ll run into one in this area,’ he added dryly.
Meanwhile the cat had taken a good look at them, decided they were not interesting at all, and gone on its way. They turned their attention back to the door. Annabel gestured with her wand and spelled the door with the secrecy spell they had learned for this. It effectively hid them from sight when entering the house by projecting the image of a closed door while they opened it and went through. The only thing that could happen was if anybody was standing close to the door, they might feel a draft from the air that passed through. But that should not have been a serious problem.
Annabel finished the spell, and to their eyes the door began to glow faintly blue around the frame. Contractus looked at it for a moment, then nodded with satisfaction and smiled at Annabel.
‘Well done! Let’s go inside.’
So Will stepped forwards and opened the door gingerly. There was nobody to be seen. The others followed him, and then they were standing in a dimly lit hallway with traditional Christmas decorations.
‘And where do we go now?’ asked Annabel. ‘Should we just try every door and hope one is the living-room?’
Contractus chuckled and reached into his pocket. ‘No, no. That would be rather tedious, and would also rather increase the risk of discovery or mistakes. We’ve got these mobile screens on which our position and the goal are marked. They’re just like the screens on the sleigh. See?’
He held up the device he had taken out of his pocket, and showed it to them. And indeed it was a mobile version of the screen they had used on the sleigh. It showed a floor plan of the building they were standing in—not with many details, but Will could make out the walls, the doors, and a staircase, though no furniture or windows. Again there were the blue and red dots for their orientation on the screen.
From the visible contours Will drew the conclusion that the blue dot, which represented their position, indeed showed them standing in the hallway, for the outline on the screen had the same oblong proportions. The flashing red dot seemed to be in the room on their left. And right enough, as Will looked up he could see a door to his left. He pointed at it and looked at Mr Contractus.
‘So we have to go in there,’ Will whispered.
Beside him Annabel nodded, for she had also been studying the image on the screen.
‘Yes, but you don’t have to whisper. With the spells we can’t be heard,’ replied Contractus. ‘If you perform the spell, then we can go in there.’
Annabel did not need to be told twice. She quickly drew her wand, pointed it at the door, and again performed the spell that would cover the opening of the door. When the frame began to glow faintly blue, Mr Contractus nodded approvingly, opened the door cautiously, and went into the room that lay behind it. Luckily there was nobody in there. It would not have mattered anyway, for they were covered by the hiding spell, but Will was still relieved that they did not encounter anyone, because he was nervous enough as it was, being on his first field deployment. And doing the job unseen while other people were moving around in their own home was something he was not looking forward to.
The living room was neat and orderly. Nothing was lying around, and it was nicely prepared with Christmas decorations. And, of course, there was a large Christmas tree standing in one corner, colourfully but not gaudily decorated. Will liked it. But he was there to do a job and not to enjoy himself. He looked around the room and saw the pile of presents that were scattered in one corner. Contractus and Annabel were already standing in front of them, surveying the mess. Will joined them and saw roughly a dozen presents all jumbled together.
Mr Contractus cleared his throat. ‘Well, you’ve got two options now. You can either just carry the presents over to the tree, or you could use the spells you’ve learned for this.’
‘I think we should just carry the presents over there. That will be much easier and quicker than using the spells,’ replied Will. He saw that Annabel was nodding her agreement beside him.
‘Good. That’s what I’d do. Just remember that when you pick the presents up, they will disappear behind your covering spell. But there’s nobody here who’d see them disappear and then reappear again, so you can do it this way. There’s no need to waste time and energy with the spells. You’ll need them soon enough anyway.’
And he just bent down, picked up two presents, carried them over to the Christmas tree, and placed them underneath. Will and Annabel quickly followed his example, and after a few passes to and fro, all the presents were lying underneath the tree. Mr Contractus rearranged the presents with a few quick and precise movements that told of years of practise. Then he nodded, satisfied.
‘Okay, well done. We’ve finished here. Let’s get back to the sleigh.’ And he led them out of the living room, carefully checking that the spell was still covering the door before he opened it. They passed through the hallway and reached the sleigh without incident. They climbed up and settled into their seats.
Mr Contractus turned back to Will and Annabel. ‘Well done, you two. I’m quite pleased. It was just as I would have done it. Now all that’s left to do is close the job in the distribution system.’ He turned back round and looked at his screen. ‘Oh, I see we’ve got two new jobs waiting already.’
This time Annabel leaned forwards and operated the screen. She closed the current job and opened the next one.
‘“Job 03, Area B3, Code yellow-2”,’ she read aloud.
‘Good. That’s not far from here. Off we go.’
And they took off again.
Contractus turned partly round to them again and said, ‘As you know a yellow-2 is a bit more challenging, so I’ll handle it, especially since we already have another job waiting and have to hurry. But you can help, of course.’
‘Okay,’ replied Will and Annabel in unison, and Will certainly did not mind. He was happy just to watch and learn how to handle the different jobs. Because, he realised, even if they had trained and practised at school, being out there and doing the job for real was quite a bit different.
Soon they had reached their destination and Will could see the problem. Just as the code implied, the presents were all scattered around at the far back of the garden of the house. One was even up a tree; another one was stuck in the branches of a bush. Contractus hurriedly performed the cover spell on the sleigh and on himself, then jumped down from the sleigh as soon as it had slid to a stop. He hurried over to the scattered parcels, closely followed by Will and Annabel, covered once more by Annabel’s spell.
When they reached the presents, Contractus took out his wand, swept it around in a wide circle to include all the packages, and performed the rather complicated spell that would relocate them to the inside of the house, directly underneath the Christmas tree. Will was impressed by the ease and grace with which Contractus performed the spell. Annabel—and Sabrina of course—could probably have matched it, but Will could still well remember his first tries with the spells in the training area at school. He certainly had not managed to relocate the presents, but had ended up with them scattered even more about the place than when he had started.
Meanwhile the presents had disappeared, and there was no trace of them left in the snow. Contractus looked pleased, and led Will and Annabel over to the house. There he waved his wand again in the pattern of a complicated spell that Will did not know, and part of the wall in front of them turned transparent, so they were looking directly at the Christmas tree inside the living room and could see that the presents were arranged neatly underneath it.
‘Wow,’ Annabel said. ‘That’s a fabulous spell. I’d like to learn that one!’
Contractus smiled. ‘Yes, it can be very helpful indeed. But it’s quite complicated, and unfortunately has much potential for misuse, so I’m afraid it will be some time before you’ll learn it.’
‘Oh.’ Annabel looked rather disappointed.
‘Let’s go back. We’re done here, and we already have the next job waiting.’
Will was the first to climb back onto the sleigh. He quickly closed the current job and opened the next one.
‘The next job is in Area F7, and again a blue-3,’ he told the others.
‘Okay, let’s go,’ said Contractus, and shook the reins. They took off and rose into the air again. Soon they had reached their next destination. This job was similar to their first one, and they encountered no problems. After they had finished, there was no new job waiting for them.
‘Good. A break is most welcome,’ said Contractus. He flew them back into the centre of their area. He landed the sleigh on a small, remote hill where they could rest without the risk of being seen. They rested for perhaps fifteen minutes, and Will and Annabel used part of the time for an impromptu snowball fight that left them both panting and slightly wet. Then Contractus called them back to the sleigh.
‘Hurry up. We’ve got an urgent red-5! We’ve got to leave immediately.’
Will and Annabel ran back to the sleigh and quickly climbed up onto their seat. Contractus took off as soon as they were settled.
Will looked at Annabel. ‘Red means someone has discovered the presents that have been delivered to the wrong location. But what does five mean?’
‘The same as with the other codes: the wrong location is another building within five hundred to a thousand yards of the intended destination.’
‘Oh, I know that, but I thought it had a different meaning with a code red.’
‘No, it hasn’t. You thought wrong there,’ Annabel replied snootily.
Will let it pass. They were flying over the countryside at high speed, and Contractus still urged the reindeer to go faster. Then he took the sleigh downwards so rapidly Will could feel his stomach protesting. Soon they had landed on the lawn in front of the house that was marked with the red dot on the screen. Contractus hastily performed the covering spells on himself, the sleigh, and the reindeer, and covered Will and Annabel far faster than they would have been able to.
Contractus jumped down from the sleigh as soon as it touched the ground, with Will and Annabel right at his heels, and jogged over to the house, pulling his wand out while running. He stopped right in front of the main entrance and quickly spelled it. He glanced at his hand-held screen, then quickly opened the door and walked inside with Will and Annabel close behind. Contractus passed through the hall and went up the stairs. At the top he glanced at his screen again, then backed up against a wall as a door opened and a boy about the age of twelve came out. The boy went past Contractus and then Will and Annabel, who had pressed themselves against another door, without taking any notice of them, and skipped down the stairs. When he was gone, Will took a deep breath, realising he had been holding it while the boy had walked past them.
But the spell had worked! There was no indication that the boy had noticed anything unusual at all. Will felt quite relieved now that he had experienced this for the first time. There was quite a difference between being told that the spell worked and actually seeing it work so well.
Contractus directed a short spell at his hand-held screen, glanced at it again, then waved his wand at the door of the room from which the boy had come and performed the secrecy spell on it. Then he opened it, motioned for Annabel and Will to follow him, and went in. When Will entered he could see it was the typical room of a teenager, with lots of posters stuck on the walls, clothes lying around everywhere, magazines scattered around—all in all the usual mess of a growing boy. He had to think briefly about his own bedroom at home; he felt slightly guilty, but quickly decided his had not been too bad—and he certainly had never made such a mess, had he?
But then Annabel quietly said, ‘There.’ And she pointed towards a corner in which several presents had been discarded.
Contractus checked his screen again and said, ‘There should be seven presents there.’ He stepped over to the heap, picked up a parcel, and handed it to Annabel. Then he picked up the next one and also passed it back. ‘One, two, three…seven. Good, they’re all here. The boy must have found them outside and brought them home.’ He turned back to Annabel and Will. ‘Okay, we’re finished here. Let’s take them to the house next door, where they belong.’
‘Er, Mr Contractus?’ asked Will. ‘Wouldn’t it be faster and easier to move them there with a spell?’
‘Hmm,’ replied Contractus. ‘You might be right. It definitely would be faster. Okay then, put the parcels down here on the floor.’ Annabel and Will placed the presents where he had pointed. Contractus pulled out his wand again, waved it at the parcels, and performed the transfer spell. They shimmered blue for a brief moment, then they were gone. Contractus aimed his wand at his screen again, performed a brief spell, and nodded in satisfaction.
‘All good, all done. They are exactly where they belong. Let’s get out of here,’ he told Annabel and Will, and led them from the room. ‘On our way out, we still have to spell the boy and modify his memory so he doesn’t remember the presents. Otherwise it would be very awkward, and he would be wondering what happened here.’
‘Sure,’ Will replied.
They walked down the stairs. Then Contractus checked his screen and pointed at another door, performing the hiding spell once again. He went inside the room. Annabel and Will followed, and Will saw they were in the kitchen of the house. There was the boy they had seen upstairs, standing by the open fridge and rummaging through its contents. Mr Contractus looked at Annabel and Will, then raised his wand, pointed it at the boy, and waved it in the complicated pattern that Will recognised as the mind-modifying spell. The spell had been demonstrated to them, but they had not been taught how to perform it yet.
The boy froze for a second, looked around in disorientation, then shook his head and started rummaging in the fridge again. Contractus nodded, winked at Will and Annabel, and led them out of the kitchen, through the hall, out through the main entrance, and back to the sleigh.
When they were climbing up into the sleigh, Will finally asked the question he had wanted to ask for some time: ‘Mr Contractus? Inside the house you spelled your hand-held screen several times. What did you do to it?’
‘Oh, nothing special. I checked what people were in the house and where they were located. The other time I ascertained that the presents were in the right place. And then I used a spell to find the boy. You know, this hand-held is really a great tool if you know how to use it.’ He grinned at them. ‘And you can look forward to it. You two will receive your personal screens next year at school, and then you’ll start learning all the tricks and spells.’
Will was stunned. ‘Oh, that’s fantastic!’
Even Annabel looked amazed.
Contractus laughed. ‘Yes, it’ll be great, you’ll see. I can’t even imagine anymore how we were able to manage without them. Well, I see we don’t have a new job waiting at the moment, so we’d best go back to a more central position,’ said Contractus, and gathered the reins in his hands.
Then suddenly a loud and piercing whistling noise made Will and Annabel jump.
‘Oh no,’ groaned Contractus, ‘what now?’ He let go of the reins and touched his screen. Thankfully the piercing noise ended. Will and Annabel also looked at their screen. A large, red-bordered rectangle had appeared and flashed quickly. Inside of the rectangle, Will could read in large, red letters: ‘2-black-black—All Units Respond Immediately!’
‘Oh dear!’ said Contractus. ‘That one’s really bad.’
He pressed the confirmation button, swiftly picked up the reins, and jerked them abruptly. He barked a quick ‘hold tight!’ back at Will and Annabel, who did not really know what was happening, and took off at high speed. Only when they were high up in the air, moving fast, did he turn around to Will and Annabel, who were hanging on to their seats, rather bewildered by this sudden take-off.
‘Sorry to frighten you. I don’t suppose you know what a double black is, do you?’ he asked. They both shook their heads, and Will was a bit surprised that even Annabel did not know. ‘A double black is the worst that can happen on this particular day,’ explained Contractus. ‘It’s a complete failure of Cloudy’s Transportation network with a total disruption of the present distribution! I’ve never experienced that before, although there have been simulations and plans for this case. We’ve got to leave here immediately and head for the nearest distribution hub of Cloudy’s.’ He urged the reindeer on even faster.
Annabel clung to the railing of the sleigh. ‘But wouldn’t it be faster if we used the transfer system—you know, like via street lanterns?’
‘Yes, normally it would,’ replied Contractus, ‘but with a double black, that system is also down.’
‘Oh.’
‘Yes, that sums it up pretty well,’ replied Contractus dryly.
‘But what about our work? What about the wrongly delivered presents? Are we going to leave them just lying about?’ asked Will.
‘They are not so important right now. The double black comes first. We’ll have to take care of the presents after this is sorted out,’ answered Contractus.
‘And the code-red jobs?’ pressed Will. ‘I thought they must be dealt with at once, before anyone messes about with the presents.’
‘Yes,’ answered Contractus, ‘they do need to be taken care of immediately. And for this reason not everybody gets called back, so one of the teams located in the adjacent areas is going to cover our area for the code red jobs.’
‘Ah, I see,’ replied Will.
By then they were high above the ground and nearing the clouds. Will looked at the screen in front of him. He saw that Contractus had entered their destination, and that they were getting closer fast. That was fine, for he had looked down a moment earlier, which had not been a terribly good idea, as his stomach was telling him quite pointedly. An enormous cloud loomed right in front of them.
Contractus turned slightly back to Will and Annabel. ‘We’re getting near to Cloudy’s regional hub, but we have to pass through some clouds to get there. I’m afraid it might get a bit wet. Sorry.’
And he flew the sleigh right into the huge white cloud. Will held his breath and closed his eyes, as he did not quite know what to expect. But all he could feel was a slight cold mist on his face, so he opened his eyes carefully and saw—nothing. Only white fog that was wet on his face. It was so thick he could not even see Contractus on the seat before him, or Annabel at his side. He could only make out vague shapes.
‘We’ll soon be there, no need to worry,’ Contractus called back to them, his voice slightly muffled by the fog.
Suddenly the mist parted, and they were flying into a large, open area that looked like a hangar. And in fact that was what it was: a hangar for sleighs, with a roof and walls made out of cloud. As Contractus flew their sleigh in, Will could make out about a dozen sleighs already standing there. Students and teachers hurried from them over to the main entrance on the far side of the hangar.
Contractus landed the sleigh quickly but smoothly in a free space near one of the walls. He grabbed his hand-held screen and turned around to Will and Annabel. ‘Let’s get inside quickly and see what’s going on here!’
He jumped down from the sleigh and hurried over to the entrance where the others had already disappeared. Will and Annabel followed right behind him. While they were running across the hangar, Will could see a few other students and teachers he knew from the school, but none of his immediate friends or classmates. They passed through the entrance and hurried down a corridor. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all made out of cloud. To Will it looked exactly like the facility he had passed through on his way to Snowfields less than a year earlier.
Contractus called to another teacher: ‘Inventus! Do you know what’s happening?’
‘Not any more than you. We just received the double black and left immediately. Now we’re here.’
Author Bio:
Written by a young trauma surgeon during his time outside of the emergency room. And – against all odds – it is not bloody in the least, but full of the magic of Christmas.
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Release Blast: LUFFS,A Transcendence Novella From USA Today Bestselling Author SHAY SAVAGE is Available Now!@savage7289 @TheNextStepPR

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Once upon a time, you fell in love with a caveman.

His needs were basic, his ambitions primal, his love fierce.

Now, fall in love with Ehd all over again…through Beh’s eyes.

Luffs—Shay Savage’s holiday gift to Transcendence fans everywhere!

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Shay Savage is an independent author from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her family and a variety of household pets.  She is an accomplished public speaker and holds the rank of Distinguished Toastmaster from Toastmasters International. Her hobbies include off-roading in her big, yellow Jeep, science fiction in all forms, and soccer.  Savage holds a degree in psychology, and she brings a lot of that knowledge into the characters within her stories.

From the author: “It’s my job to make you FEEL.  That doesn’t always mean you’ll feel good, but I want my readers to be connected enough to my characters to care.”

Savage’s books many books span a wide variety of topics and sub-genres with deeply flawed characters.  From cavemen to addicts to hitmen, you’ll find yourself falling for these seemingly irredeemable characters!

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His world was water and rhythm.  Hard work and drive kept Royal O’Connell one step ahead of his competition. His spot on the swim team, keeping his scholarship, was the only plan that mattered.

His world was ebony and ivory. Natural talent and ambition set Camden Morgan apart from the other music majors. His dedication scoring him a full ride.

Normally, their paths would have never crossed….

But when Royal meets his best friend’s new roommate, his big plan and Camden’s controlled environment faces a variable that could destroy it all.   

Attraction.  

The world they live in had no room for error. That undeniable pull between them was dangerous and neither one of them could’ve prepared for the choice they’d have to make.

Love isn’t always an easy road and, when everything they’ve worked for is on the line, they’ll have to decide if being together is worth the risk.   

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Amanda lives in Utah with her family where she moonlights as a nurse on the weekends.

If she’s not busy with her three munchkins, you’ll find her buried in a book or behind the keyboard where she explores the human experience through the written word.

She’s obsessed with all things Austen and Oreos, and loves to connect with readers!

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Book Blitz: FALSE MEMORY ( False Memory #1 ) by USA Today Bestselling Author MELI RAINE is Now LIVE!@meliraineauthor @XpressoTours


False Memory
Meli Raine
(False Memory, #1)
Publication date: November 15th 2018
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

It all started with the bereavement flowers with my name on them.

Not the best way to wake up, right? I work in a flower shop. I know a funeral arrangement when I see one.

I know a killer when I see one, too. And one is standing in my hospital room right now, straight behind the man who saved my life.

I can’t tell anyone the truth, because that’s the fastest way to really die. So I do the next best thing. I “lose” my memory.

I fake my amnesia.

Pretending not to remember a brutal attempted murder has its perks. The killer is backing down, spending less time around me, loosening the noose.

The less I claim to recall, the more my rescuer, Duff, works to help me “remember.” I hate lying to him.

But he doesn’t understand that my memory is dangerous. To me. And to him.

Fooling everyone isn’t easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Except it’s starting to look like I’ve been fooling myself.

In more ways than one.

Read Book 1 in the newest series from USA Today bestselling author Meli Raine.

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Author Bio:

Meli Raine writes romantic suspense with hot bikers, intense undercover DEA agents, bad boys turned good, and Special Ops heroes — and the women who love them. Meli rode her first motorcycle when she was five years old, but she played in the ocean long before that. She lives in New England with her family.

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THE AUSTEN BOXED Set from STACI HART, featuring three bestselling novels and a bonus epilogue novella, is available now!

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WASTED WORDS—inspired by Jane Austen’s EMMA
Some universal truths refuse to be ignored.

Peanut butter and jelly are a match made in heaven. Spaghetti and meatballs are best friends forever. And guys like Tyler Knight don’t go for girls like Cam Emerson. She knew from the second she met him that he didn’t belong on her bookshelf, the six-foot-six ex-tight end with a face so all-American, it could have sold apple pie. But he doesn’t see the lines she’s drawn between them, as much as she insists that they’re there. Deep down he knows that despite their differences, they’re a match well made.

A THOUSAND LETTERS—inspired by Jane Austen’s PERSUASION
Sometimes your life is split by a single decision.

I’ve spent every day of the last seven years regretting mine: he left, and I didn’t follow. A thousand letters went unanswered, my words like petals in the wind, spinning away into nothing, taking me with them. One regretted decision sent him away. One painful journey brought him back to me. I only wish I could keep him.

LIVING OUT LOUD—inspired by Jane Austen’s SENSE & SENSIBILITY
The second Annie Daschle tumbles into my arms, I’m a goner.

When she asks if we’re hiring at Wasted Words, I can only say yes, even though we aren’t—it’s that early on that I realize I can’t say no to her. Not when she asks me to show her around New York, even though I already know I should stay away. Not when she asks if we’re friends because I want her so much more than that. But she isn’t mine, and she never can be. Within a few staggering heartbeats, Annie and I are caught in the middle of something we can’t find our way out of, with no clear answers and no rules. And the moment she’s in my arms again, I realize she can’t control her heart. Not the decisions it makes.Not the moment it stops.

WASTED WORDS NOVELLA—Cam is back at it, and despite everyone’s warnings, she’s determined to make one more match or go into labor trying.

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KATY EVAN’S MUSE Audiobook is LIVE with A Different Cover!@authorkatyevans

We are so excited the MUSE audiobook is LIVE!!! Katy went with a different cover. One that gives it the feel of a “movie” – and we ADORE IT! What do you guys think?!

 

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Not much can happen in 24 hours – unless you’ve just met your soulmate…

He is drop-dead gorgeous – a superhero on the big screen.

I’m simply a writer – who lost her mojo, and just missed her flight.

Worst day of my life. Or so I thought….

Because being stuck with Noah for 24 hours was…extraordinary.

He made me laugh. Made me want. Fired me up.

Inspired me.

And it was so much more than that.

He was so much more than that.

In 24 hours, I not only found my muse.

I fell in love….

This book is a complete standalone and no previous listening is necessary to enjoy.

Release Tour + Excerpt: DOC MARSHALL, SKULLS – The Early Years #1 by JESSIE COOKE is Now Available!

Title: Doc Marshall: SKULLS – The Early Years #1

Author: Jessie Cooke

Genre: MC Romance

Release Date: October 26, 2018

 

 
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Every man and woman that lives on earth makes their mark on it while they’re here. But some people leave an indentation…and Doc Marshall and his old lady Dallas were two of those people.

 

Doc Marshall’s beginnings were not humble. He was born with advantages that other people only wished for. But Doc didn’t want the “things” that his father, a surgeon, worked so hard to give him. What Doc wanted was for his father to notice him. He wanted his father to realize that he was different, special even. By the time Doc was a teenager however, he’d given up on that…and he had realized that Landon Marshall’s ambivalence toward him had actually been a blessing, because it left him determined to leave his own mark, his own legacy…people would remember his name someday, and not because he was Landon Marshall’s son.
Doc joined the army before he was old enough to vote. He saw unspeakable things in the jungles of Vietnam, and he used what he saw, and what he learned to prepare himself for what he wanted. Doc came back from the jungle with his sights set on becoming the president of a powerful MC…the Southside Skulls. He used his intelligence, his grit, and his focus, to make that happen quickly. By the time he was twenty-five…everyone knew his name. He was sitting on top of the world and it was his for the taking…then in walked Dallas Paxton, just to shake things up.
Dallas grew up in the times of free-living and free-love. She was a hippie in almost every sense of the word. She loved hard and passionately, without holding back. Something about the MC president with the incredible blue eyes, crawled under her skin and burrowed in deep…and before their story was over, Dallas wouldn’t be the same carefree, earth-loving, peace and love girl that she was before.
Doc Marshall didn’t make a lot of mistakes, but usually when he did, they were monumental. People might even whisper about them behind his back…but there was only one person on earth who had the balls to say it to his face, and that was Dallas. They loved passionately, they fought passionately, they lived passionately. They built an empire together, one they would leave for their son, Dax.
This is their story. The beginning and the middle. The question that begs to be answered is…who will remain standing in the end?
Join Doc, Dallas, the early Southside Skulls and their offspring for a wild, tumultuous, passionate ride that will leave you breathless…and aching for more.
 
* * *
Book 1 in the SKULLS – The Early Years MC Series. 
This is a Standalone Romance Novel but characters from this story, will appear in future books in the series and many have appeared in the previous series of Southside Skulls and Westside Skulls.
No cliffhanger. 
Intended for Mature Readers.
 
* * *
Skulls – The Early Years MC Series is about members of the MC club, their friends and associates.

 

 

 
1973

The jungle was silent, and then in an instant, it wasn’t. The sharp crack of a rifle, the cry of the wounded, and the sounds of the platoon hitting the jungle floor disrupted it…but only for a second. And then once more, there was silence. The entire platoon lay silently in the dirt, even the sounds of their breathing muted as they waited for a sound or a movement that would point them in the direction of the enemy. Every man in the platoon, that is, but one. That one man was slithering on his belly like a snake in the grass, dressed in green camo like the rest of them with a zippered green pack strapped to his back. The bag was a foot and a half long, a foot wide, and six inches deep. It was fully loaded that day and if put on a scale would weigh in at about thirty pounds. Strapped to the outside of the pack were five extra canteens of water for him to use to treat heat exhaustion in the summer and fever and chills in the winter. Inside was everything he might need to tend to the wounded.

 

The gunfire started back up just seconds before he reached the wounded man, but that didn’t stop him. When he reached the soldier, flat on his back on the jungle floor, he immediately shrugged off his pack and went to work. The first thing he did was pull out his field scissors and cut away the soldier’s pants to expose the gaping wound in his leg. Next came a pressure bandage and then a field IV. It was standard treatment for a gunshot wound that wasn’t immediately life-threatening. The solution in the IV would last about thirty minutes…just enough time for the Medevac to fly in, scoop up the injured, and fly them out to the nearest field hospital.

 

He spent another three hours that day, patching holes to stop the bleeding, starting IVs to replace the lost blood volume and in two sad cases, doing what he could to make the dying man comfortable until he was lucky enough to pass on. It was a lot of pressure for a nineteen-year-old man…some would say too much. When he wasn’t in the jungle he was working sick call, up at five a.m. handing out ibuprofen and malaria pills, checking on old wounds that had been surgically repaired or stitched up by Doc himself, handing out penicillin for the STDs a lot of the GIs brought back from Saigon when they went on leave, and sometimes just being the sounding board for a traumatized soldier who only needed someone to listen. Some days Doc heard about things that he’d never seen, and others he saw things that he’d never heard of. It was overwhelming at times…but quitting was not an option.

 

The teenaged boy who ran away from home at the age of sixteen looking to leave his mark on the world hadn’t found what he craved in Boston. He didn’t find it at boot camp either. Strangely enough it had been hiding deep in the jungles of a foreign country. There, Adonis “Doc” Marshall had found the one thing he had been born feeling like he deserved…respect…and he made himself a promise while he was in Vietnam and that no matter what happened, if and when he got back to Boston, he was never going to settle for anything less.
May, 1975

 

“Son of a bitch!” Dr. Landon Marshall sat on the front porch of his comfortable, upper-class home in West Roxbury, drinking his iced tea and reading his paper. The mild spring morning was all so quiet and the neighborhood was peaceful, at least until the sound of a Harley Davidson motor split it wide open and Landon Marshall got to his feet to see what was going on. The neighborhood where they lived was made up of doctors and lawyers and corporate executives…the 1% they liked to call themselves…the upper 1%. Landon Marshall didn’t think of himself as a snob, but if he had to choose a group, of course he’d choose the group on top…wouldn’t everyone? It wasn’t as if he hadn’t worked for it his entire life. Dr. Marshall was a newly retired surgeon. He had spent three decades of his own life saving others, and now he was finally going to be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of all that labor. But he’d like to do it in peace, and when he saw that the Harley Davidson was pulling into his driveway, he was already prepared for what he was going to say to the bearded man sitting on the bike. He headed toward the steps just as the loud engine shut off, but something stopped him dead in his tracks and his next curse was:

 

“Well, I’ll be a sonofabitch.”

 

“What in the world was that noise and what are you cussing about?” His wife, Rose, stepped out onto the porch too. She only had to glance at the man on the back of the bike to know. It must be a mother’s instinct. Landon thought, because the man sitting in their driveway looked almost nothing like the boy who had left home five years earlier, tearing his mother’s heart out as he went. Rose dropped straight down to her knees on the porch and clutched at her chest. Her husband thought she was having a heart attack and his first thought was that it figured. He’d always known that boy was going to be the death of one of them; he had just always figured it would be him.

 

“Rose. Honey, are you okay? Can you breathe?” She looked up at Landon and he saw that she was breathing just fine, but tears stained her cheeks and her bright blue eyes quickly focused back on the man who was now coming toward them.

 

“Adonis? Oh my God! It is you.” That was when Landon Marshall looked up at his wayward son. Even after five years, the smug look the boy seemed to carry permanently on his face annoyed him. Landon didn’t know if that was proof that he was a bad father, or proof that Adonis was truly the narcissist that Landon had always feared he was.

 

Adonis Marshall grew up with everything any kid could want…and Landon was sure that’s where they had gone wrong. They’d given their son so much, everything, and eventually Adonis hadn’t appreciated any of it…instead, he grew to believe he deserved it. Landon wasn’t home a lot when the boy was growing up, and some of his indulgences had been to assuage his own guilt. It was only when Adonis was almost seventeen that Landon started to worry that maybe the boy had a personality disorder, something that no amount of Rose’s babying him or Landon’s handing him money was going to fix. When Landon told his son that it was time for him to get a job and stop relying so much on his parents for every little thing, Adonis had just simply packed up his things in Landon’s old rucksack and taken off on the 1971 Harley Davidson that the surgeon and his wife had given the boy for his sixteenth birthday. That was five years earlier and this was the first time they’d seen or heard from him since. Landon didn’t know whether to hug the boy…who was most definitely a man now…or kick his ass for what his disappearance had done to his mother.

 

Adonis dropped the bag he was holding…the same green rucksack that he’d taken from his father the night he disappeared. He took the porch steps two at a time and helped his mother to her feet. As soon as she was on them, she flung herself into his arms and began to sob as she clutched onto him.

 

Landon took the time that Rose was coddling her “baby” to study his son. His golden blond hair was long now, down past his shoulders, and pulled back into a ponytail and held in place with an elastic band. Those same deep blue eyes that had attracted Landon to his wife when she was just a girl looked out of his son’s hairy face. He had a long beard and a mustache and although his body was covered with an old army jacket, jeans, and boots, it was easy to see that he’d put on a lot of weight since they’d last seen their skinny teenaged boy. Adonis was even about four inches taller than he had been when he left, and he towered over his mother. He and his father would have been eye to eye, if not for Doctor Landon Marshall’s recently broken hip and the cane he stooped over to hold onto.

 

Rose pulled back and looked up at her son’s face. “I can’t believe you’re here. Sometimes I wondered if I’d ever see you again. Are you really here?”

 

The young man lost his smirk for just a few seconds as he smiled down at his mother. If there was anyone on earth that Landon believed his son really loved, it was Rose. He at least had to give him that, he supposed. “I’m really here, Ma.” She grabbed him again, pressing her face into his chest as she hugged him. While she mother-handled him, Adonis spoke to his father at last, “Hello, sir.”

 

Dr. Marshall never told his son to call him sir…but Adonis always had. Landon spent his first ten years as a doctor in the army and retired as a general. But when Adonis said “sir” it was not with the respect that term would normally carry. He said it snidely, even when he was a kid…in a way that betrayed his opinions of his father in just that one little word.

 

“Adonis,” Landon said, wondering where they went from there. After a pause he said, “That jacket army issue?”

 

“Yes, sir. Just off the boat. Shipped out of Vietnam the day after Saigon fell.” Rose burst into tears again. Landon knew his wife was thinking about their son being over there in the jungle, risking his life every day…and they hadn’t even known.

 

Finally pulling herself together Rose stood up straight, took him by the arm, and said, “Come on in, you have to be starving.” Landon had so many questions, but he knew his wife well enough to know she wouldn’t tolerate his asking them until her “baby” was fed. Rose’s soft spot for Adonis couldn’t be broken, not even by five years of estrangement.

 

Landon and Rose had been married for twenty years before Adonis was conceived. They’d been told they would never be able to have a child of their own. Then suddenly at the age of 45, Rose woke up pregnant…and Adonis had been her “miracle baby” every day since. Landon knew her indulgences were a big reason that Adonis had turned out so ungrateful…but he didn’t fault her for it. As far as he was concerned, the sun rose and set on his wife…but the boy he’d always had a problem with. Already annoyed, he followed Rose and Adonis inside and almost ran into his son when he stopped in the center of the foyer and looked around.

 

“Haven’t changed a thing,” he said.

 

“I didn’t touch your room either,” Rose said with a huge smile taking over her face. “I knew you’d come back. Oh, Adonis!” She grabbed him again Adonis let her hug him as tightly as she needed to and waited for her to be the one to let go. “I’m sorry. I’m just overwhelmed,” she said. “Come on. I’ve got a roast and potatoes in the cooker.” Landon grumbled something about asking for roast and potatoes for lunch only an hour earlier and being told he couldn’t touch it because it was for dinner. But as usual when Adonis was in the room, Landon was invisible.

 

Adonis dropped the stolen rucksack on the floor and Landon knew that to still be angry over it five years later was petty…but he also knew it wasn’t the sack that ate away at him. It was Adonis and the way that for his entire life, he’d just taken whatever he wanted. He had always acted like the world owed him something, and that infuriated his father. For a long time after Adonis left, Rose blamed her husband for being too hard on the boy and pushing him out the door. She probably still did blame him, but thankfully she had at least come around to not reminding him every day. 

 

Adonis stripped off the army jacket and underneath it was a green t-shirt. He was also wearing a pair of camouflage pants and black, steel-toed boots. But what caught Landon’s attention was the tattoo on his son’s neck. It said, “Doc.” Adonis sat and while his mother fussed over him, Landon looked over the tattoos on his son’s arms. On one side was an American eagle with an American flag behind it. On the other was a snake that started at his wrist and disappeared underneath the sleeve of his t-shirt to where it became the medical symbol for doctor.

 

Once his wife finally had the boy set up with his plate and a big glass of tea, she sat down to watch him eat. Her eyes filled with tears every time she looked at him, but Landon saw the change in them when she spotted the tattoo on his neck. Rose and Landon both had always hoped Adonis would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. Adonis had expressed zero interest in that growing up, however. In fact, he never wanted any part of anything that even resembled his father. It was too bad, because Adonis Marshall was smarter than his father ever hoped to be. The boy never studied, but somehow made straight “A’s” through school. They talked him into IQ testing when he was fourteen and he tested at 142…genius level.

 

“Adonis, what does that tattoo mean?” Rose asked. Landon was surprised that she wasn’t freaked out by the idea of someone permanently scarring her “baby.” Maybe she’d move on to that, but for now he was curious too, but hadn’t wanted to ask.

 

“I was a medic in the army,” he said, leaving it at that. No one said much until he finished and once he drained his glass of tea and convinced his mother he didn’t want more food Landon said:

 

“So, are we going to talk about you taking off and breaking your mother’s heart when you were sixteen?”

 

“Landon!” Rose scolded.

 

“It’s okay, Ma,” Adonis said, not taking his blue eyes off his father’s face as he said, “I guess the only way to explain it was that I just got tired…of everything. Leaving was the wrong way to deal with it, I guess…but back then I just didn’t know what else to do.”

 

“You were tired?” Landon said, feeling the anger rise up inside of him. “Tired of what, exactly? Were you tired of being waited on hand and foot by your mama? Having everything you wanted and needed handed to you and not having to work for it? Is that what made you so tired that you had to run away?”

 

“Landon, stop!” The men kept their eyes on each other and ignored Rose’s pleas.

 

“I notice you weren’t too tired to take that new motorcycle I’d just bought you when you left. And you weren’t too tired to take the money out of your college fund, were you? And that rucksack! That’s the only thing I had left from my time in the service, and you just took it, like you had a right to. Then you waltz back in here five years later, again, like you have a right to. You think being a medic and tattooing ‘Doc’ on your neck is going to impress us to the point that we’ll forget everything else you did? You broke your mother’s heart.”

 

“Please stop!” Rose’s face was covered in tears, but Landon could only see her out of the corner of his eye. He still hadn’t taken his eyes off his son.

 

“You finished?” was what Adonis said when he finally spoke. When Landon was quiet for a few beats Adonis went on, “You don’t have to worry…sir.” His voice was low, deep, and thick. For the first time in his life, Landon was almost frightened of his own son. “I don’t plan on staying around here,” Adonis said. “I came home to see my mother and as soon as Grant’s got his shit together, we’ll be going into business together on the Southside.”

 

Landon raised an eyebrow. “You’re going into business on the Southside? What kind of business are you going into over there? Drug dealing? Pimping? Car theft? Burglary…?”

 

Adonis shoved his chair back from the table. Rose was crying, Landon stood up so as not to give his son the advantage of looking down on him, and with a steely look in his deep blue eyes, Adonis looked into Landon’s green ones and said, “All of the above. You know how much you like being in that 1%, old man? Well, guess what? I’m going to own my 1%. I’m going to own this whole fucking city one day. After you’re gone nobody’s going to remember your name, but when I’m dead my legacy is going to live for fucking ever.” With that, Adonis Marshall bent down and kissed his mother on the cheek and leaving the rucksack on the floor, he turned his back on his parents and walked out of his family home for the very last time.

 

 

 

Jessie Cooke writes hot romance novels about tough guys, bad boys, bikers, fighters and lovers and the women of strong character who tame them.

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