Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Early Review of Fast Track (Buchanan-Renard, #12) by Julie Garwood


    Title: Fast Track
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Contemporary Romance
    Hardcover: 352 pages
    Publisher: Dutton Adult (July 29, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0525954457
    ISBN-13: 978-0525954453
    Author's Website: http://www.juliegarwood.com/
    Notes: I received and eARC via NetGalley


Cordelia Kane and her dad had always been close. It was as if he felt the need to be a super dad to make up for the loss of her mother when she was only two. While some would leave their child at home with a sitter, he took her to work and taught her the mechanics of what goes on under the hood of a car. By the age of 5 she had enough knowledge to give advice on what was wrong with a car.

Her father, while she was growing up, went from being just another mechanic under the hood to owning a million dollar company when he retired. Later, he helped out at the school where Cordelia taught, he himself teaching an automotive class, and becoming a favorite among the students. He earned the respect of all and even became the mentor to kids who would have otherwise made poor choices which would have landed them in trouble with the law. His funeral was packed with family, friends, and students alike.

Cordelia thought she knew all there was to know about her father, but just before he died he made a startling request that she not be like him--waiting for a love that would never be. His request revealed her mother hadn't died like he'd always told her, but had abandoned them shortly after she was born. The revelation sparked a curiosity about the woman who birthed her. What she never expected, was that by tracking her mother down, she'd be putting her own life in jeopardy.

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One of the things I love about Ms. Garwood's books is that many have a fairy tale type of charm about them. I love how we get a glimpse into Cordelia's childhood before we see the woman she grows up to become and how she and Aiden first met. It's something you rarely see in romances, but I think it gives us some added insight into the character and endears them to us.

When Cordelia hears her mother is alive, she wants to know more about her, which is only natural. Upon trying to track her down, however, she finds her mother doesn't exist. She used a false name to marry her father and on Cordelia's birth certificate. Her mother never wished to be found and had never intended for the marriage to Cordelia's father to last. Unlike most people, Cordelia isn't discouraged by this, if anything it spurs her on to meet the woman who could do such a thing to her husband and newborn baby. What she never expected, was that in doing so, she'd unleash a Pandora's box full of trouble on herself. Thankfully, she has good friends with great connections to help her out.

Aiden Madison is the man whom Cordelia has had a crush on since she was little. He'd always indulged his sister's best friend, but had never encouraged her. There was a sizable age difference between the two and he'd never really seen her as anything other as his little sister's friend. One night, however, changed all that when an accident paired with an unlocked door left him to find Cordelia wearing a skimpy nightgown paired with an open robe. That spurred a spontaneous kiss which opened his eyes to the woman she'd become. Aiden is the serious type who rarely smiles and tends to hide his emotions. He reminded me of the story a friend told me of how her and her husband came to be engaged. We'd been exchanging stories of how we'd met our husbands and how they'd proposed and her story made me laugh.They'd dated for a year or two when one day he told her he'd been offered a position out of state and was moving. She thought he was breaking up with her until he starting talking about where they'd live. That was her first clue he was assuming she'd be going with him. As she started to question things and wonder how to handle the situation it eventually came out he expected they'd get married. I'm not even sure if he actually proposed. He just assumed that through his actions she'd know what he was thinking. That's the kind of logic that Aiden seemed to display and I have to admit it made me giggle as I read.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses.There was suspense, drama, humor and, of course, a happy ending. I loved that in the end Cordelia's family got what they deserved. If only that always happened in real life. lol On the Lisarenee Romance Rating this one gets a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pocket Star E-Nights featuring HOW TO REPRIMAND YOUR ROCK STAR, ATTACK THE GEEK, and DRIVING MR. DEAD


This summer Seduced By A Book will be hosting excerpts and some giveaways for XOXO After Dark’s special Summer eBook program. Look for this feature every Monday during July and August. Today they're showcasing a wonderful book and two great novellas--HOW TO REPRIMAND YOUR ROCK STAR by Mina Vaughn, ATTACK THE GEEK by Michael R. Underwood, and DRIVING MR. DEAD by Molly Harper. These sound too good to miss.  SoGrab your e-reader and enjoy these and many more e-books this summer. Wherever you go, Pocket Star-E Nights are guaranteed to make your evenings shine!


HOW TO REPRIMAND YOUR ROCK STAR 
by Mina Vaughn

About the Book:
 In this fun and saucy romance novel, all-star college basketball player Thea dominates on the courts—and off—with a rock star who is determined to win her over.

Thea is a star basketball player at UConn on track to be Rookie of the Year. That is, if she can stay focused on the game. Lately that hasn’t been going so well, as her knee has been bothering her. But that’s not the only thing on her mind…

Ever since rock star Keaton Lowe surprised her in the girl’s locker room, Thea can’t stop thinking about him. On top of his status and enticing ways, he seems to know everything about her. But some of his actions cross the line, and Keaton needs to be punished. Will Thea keep her head in the game, or get distracted by her other favorite pastime—reprimanding her rock star?

EXCERPT:

The locker room welcomed me with the smell of freshly washed uniforms and leather workout equipment. The familiar scents tickled my nose and I envisioned my locker room back home. I remembered giving speeches to my team, rallying them against our foes. I felt like a general sometimes. Here, I just listened. Sure, I liked everyone, but I really wished I could just be myself. I rolled my stiff shoulders and decided that tape wasn’t all I needed—a long hot shower would do my body a world of good. And I didn’t want to let the guards have the satisfaction of getting me out of their hair so soon.

I dropped my clothes at the threshold of the locker room and the adjoining shower room. I was never weirded-out by the team showering together. It was what athletes did. When you’re there, making jokes under the steaming water, splashing and commiserating, it was almost better that you were naked. It showed your trust. The team saw you at your most vulnerable. I wanted them to know they could trust me, so, therefore, I let them see my boobs. Common sense. It did kind of make me sad that even though we’d been playing together since September, I couldn’t really call many of them my friends. Except for my roommate, Callie.

The weirdest thing was the only person I had met besides Callie that I really felt a connection to was the team’s landlord, whom they had nicknamed the Red Devil. Her real name is Scarlett. I had actually never spoken to her, but something about her drew me in. She was intimidating as hell—tall like us basketball folk, flaming-red curls that hung to her waist, and heels that could kill small animals that skittered into their path. The team hated her strict curfews and neat- freakery. I liked her. Powerful women were cool, and it pissed me off when they were labeled “bitches” just because they knew what they wanted. Plus, I liked that she owned a little new-age shop in town that, rumor has it, has a secret back room. So yeah, Scarlett was cool. Scary, but cool.

I made my way across the white tile floor, dodging cold puddles, and cranked my lucky showerhead number thirteen to a scorching blast. Every time I had picked this one, we won, so I never showered anywhere else. Except at home—my real home, that is. I stood under the scalding deluge and tipped my head up to feel the hot spray in my mouth. I had to
singe off the thin layer of failure from last night’s game. I grabbed a loofah and scrubbed my skin to a near polish. Rolling my shoulders, I took a squirt of the lavender-scented shampoo and worked it into my long curls.

Sighing, I let my naked back slouch against the cold tiles as I worked my scalp. My ex, Ty, had loved giving me massages. But that was all he wanted, touching. College was supposed to be a fantastic dating scene, but all I ever got were guys who wanted me for the wrong reasons. Boys who were lazy and easy. Not that I had an ideal guy in mind, but I just wanted to work for it. I wanted the hunt. Lamenting my permanently single status, I watched the last few soap bubbles drop from my hair to the floor. Absentmindedly, I turned and reached for my towel and found nothing. I glanced around the empty room. Always, without fail, I’d put my towel within arm’s reach of my lucky showerhead. How could I forget that today? I really was off my game on several levels. Padding wetly, dripping like a mermaid, I made my way toward the locker room’s entryway where my clothes sat.

Only, my clothes weren’t there either.

I took a tentative step into the locker room and turned toward my locker, where at least a practice uniform would be waiting for me. Or maybe I left my clothes there. Get your head together, Thea.

Every time I saw that locker, I’d chuckle. My obnoxious Greek last name was too long to fit on the nameplate, or my jersey for that matter, so instead of reading PAPASTATHOPOULOS, it just said PAPAS. That’s why the team had taken to calling me “Pops.”

But instead of seeing my truncated name or a pile of clothes, I saw a guy.

 Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:
 http://xoxoafterdark.com/2014/07/14/pocket-star-e-nights-reprimand-rock-star-mina-vaughn/?mcd=z_140721_RockVaughn_PSEN





ATTACK THE GEEK 
by Michael R. Underwood

About the Book:

A side-quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series—when D&D-style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasista and Geekomancer extraordinaire, is working her regular drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s bar-and-gaming salon when everything goes wrong. The assorted magic wielders of the city’s underground have come to test their battle skills via RPGs like D&D, V:TES, White Wolf, and the like. All the usuals are there: her ex-mentor Eastwood, Drake (the man-out-of-time adventurer), and, of course, Grognard himself (her boss and a brewer of beer that act as magic potions). However, it’s the presence of these and other “usuals” that makes all the trouble. For, a nemesis from Eastwood and Ree’s past decides to finally take her revenge not just on those two, but on every self-styled “hero” in the city who happens to have crossed her at one point or another. When wave after wave of monsters besiege Grogrnard’s store, if Ree & Co. are going to survive, they’re going to have to work together. And avoid the minotaur. That’s always a good rule of thumb.
  
 EXCERPT:
 The mass of gnomes looked like a beehive. They were stacked on top of one another, falling and scrambling over one another to get to the group.
                                               
Uncle Joe raised several cards over his head, tore them with a whoop, and a wave of fire pushed forward, enveloping the gnomes. They screamed and scuttled backward, and the group stepped forward into the sewer. Eastwood tossed out a handful of industrial-grade glow sticks, which filled the tunnel with yellow light.

Ree did her best Steve Ditko Spidey-fingers, unleashing a net of webbing that pinned a handful of gnomes to the far wall. She jumped forward and swung up, the blue blade strobing across her vision. She caught two of the gnomes, but several more leapt out of the way. As soon as her blade swung past, more of the miniature monsters scuttled forward. Their nails clicked on the concrete floor with the strange familiarity of her golden retriever, Booster, trying to get purchase in the linoleum kitchen back at her dad’s place.

She let loose another dose of webbing, then jumped and stuck to the ceiling, leaving her sword arm free to continue swinging.

Ree’s spider-shtick attracted a dozen of the gnomes’ attention as they tried to climb over one another to get to her. Even with their considerable ups, they fell short, putting them just in range of her lightsaber.

From her vantage point, she saw the rest of the group as they fought, each in their own style.

Out front, Grognard tore through the creatures, swinging the glaive-guisarme around as easily as a broom at closing time.
                                               
Talon covered Grognard’s back, following his movements and keeping the gnomes from sneaking through legs and flanking the group as they formed a semicircle out from the door. She fought with practiced efficiency, the longsword always striking and blocking at once as her hands moved in concert, levering the pommel around for maximum precision.
                                               
On the other side of the group, Eastwood fought with lightsaber and blaster in perfect harmony, managing not to chop his hand off even as he wove and dove through the crowd at a breakneck pace. He was a jerk sometimes, but he’d earned his Badass bona fides years ago. Gnomes jumped at him by the dozen, like they’d all decided he was the most delicious dish on the menu.
                                               
Drake stood back, picking his targets quickly but deliberately, squeezing off shots that thinned the herd rushing at Eastwood.
                                               
Wickham hugged the side of the door, taking shots where she could. She wasn’t comfortable in a fight, but she’d logged plenty of practice time somewhere—range or arcade—so her shots connected more often than not. Trouble was, her peashooter only seemed to stun the gnomes.
                                               
A musty wind hit her cheek, and Ree looked down to see that the gnomes clustered beneath her had started to get smart. Two gnomes held their hands together, boosting up the others. Ree wanted to know where they’d picked up cheerleading techniques, but that would have to wait. She flattened against the ceiling to avoid a tall gnome’s swipe, which fell just inches short.
                                               
The magical energy from Spider-Man was waning, as she’d only gotten a quick dose of the film. Rather than spending the energy on another burst of webbing, she cut the arm off the next gnome that got a boost. The gnome crashed into its accomplices, which would scatter them for a bit. Ree pulled out her phaser and zapped a few more, then turned and dropped one that had managed to Xenomorph its way along the ceiling, just a few feet from Wickham’s head.
                                               
The sizzling gnome fell to the sewer ledge in a heap at Wickham’s feet, and the model looked up to Ree, who saluted.
                                               
“That’s two you owe me,” Ree said with a grin, then turned back to her cheerleader gnomes. She picked off the two boosters, hoping that they were the bearded brains of the operation. If Wickham responded, the sound was lost in the din. Gloating was hard to do when you were dead, so she could wait.
                                               
“How you feeling, boss?” Ree asked, her voice echoing in the sewer over the sound of clanging metal, exertion, and snarling.
                                               
“They don’t seem to be running out of friends! Somebody pour on the AoE!” he called.
                                               
“On it!” Uncle Joe flipped through a card binder, then pulled out several cards, which he tore in half and then threw, Gambit-style. The card shreds flew true, exploding on impact. The blasts engulfed a dozen gnomes, but as the dust settled, more had filled the space, hopping over their charred compatriots.
                                               
“I didn’t think there were that many in the whole city!” Ree said.
                                               
“Recent surveys put their numbers at under a hundred. We’ve seen at least twice that,” Drake answered, his voice level even as his firing routine had become more harried. He stopped as one of the crystals in his aetheric rifle went dark, and cleared the gem, replacing it with a ruby red one that Ree knew as his flamethrower mode.
                                               
“Clear!” Drake called, and Talon cycled right, opening up a space. The inventor knelt forward and the rifle belched a cone of flame that took another cluster of the gnomes. The repeated blasts turned the sewer into a sauna, including the concrete she held on to with Spider-fu. It was either burn her ass off or lose the higher ground, so she dropped from the ceiling, cleaving through several gnomes as she landed.
                                               
When she hit the concrete pathway near the group, the sewer shook.
                                               
“Someone needs to lay off the lagers,” Wickham said.
                                               
“That wasn’t her,” Grognard said, looking down the tunnel.

A roar shook the walls of the sewer, making it very apparent that the gnomes were no longer the worst of their problems. If possible, the smell in the tunnel got worse.
                                               
That’s never a good sign. In her nine months of hero-ing, she’d noticed a clear correlation between “smells bad” and “likes to snack on humans and suck the marrow from their bones nom nom nom” types of creatures.
                                               
“Boss?” Ree asked, closing ranks with Drake between one of the adventurer’s bursts of flame. The gnomes on the roar side of the tunnel parted. Even worse sign.
                                               
Grognard buried the head of his blade in a gnome’s shoulder, the butt of the haft held down with his foot. Then he used the weapon like a lever, slamming four gnomes into the wall with one heave. “Anyone got a land mine?” he asked.
                                               
“Let me check!” Uncle Joe said, flipping through his binder. “I just had a big order for a Direct Damage deck, haven’t had a chance to restock.”
                                               
A second roar gave way to the sound of charging and splashing sewage. The gnomes on the far side vanished into the shadows.
                                               
On one hand, it gave them a breather. On the other hand . . . “Faster would be better!” Ree said, quoting her favorite space cowboy.
                                               
Eastwood holstered his blaster and leveled his Green Lantern ring at the right side of the tunnel. Ree pointed her blaster in the same direction. The group formed their best imitation of a pike formation, reinforcing their position in the direction of the oncoming . . .
                                               
. . . Minotaur.
                                               
Really? Just what I f****in’ need.
                                               
****Sensored  by Seduced By A Book to keep it family friendly.
  
Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:


DRIVING MR. DEAD by Molly Harper

About the Book:

A standalone novella introducing a new side of Half Moon Hollow—featuring a freewheeling courier and the stuffy vampire she has to transport.

Miranda Puckett has failed at every job she’s ever had. Her mother just wants her to come home, join the family law firm, and settle down with Jason, the perfect lawyer boyfriend. But when Jason turns out to be a lying cheater, Miranda seizes on a job that gets her out of town: long-distance vampire transportation. Her first assignment is to drive vampire Collin Sutherland from Washington to sleepy Half Moon Hollow without incident—no small feat for a woman whom trouble seems to follow like a faithful hound dog! And she has to do it without letting her passenger—the most persnickety, stuffy, devastatingly handsome vamp she’s ever met—drive her crazy. As she and Collin find disaster on the roads, they also find an undeniable spark between them. Could Miranda have found the perfect job and the perfect guy for her? 

EXCERPT:

 I was used to far more pleasant interactions with vampires. I’d worked as a waitress at a vampire bar called Bite for six months. The nonbreathing clients were a lot friendlier than those with pulses, and they left better tips. And in the days after I’d accepted the assignment, Iris, an old high-school classmate, had had me do a series of test runs, ferrying local cross-country to drive her friend Jane from Half-Moon Hollow to Nashville for a booksellers convention. Jane had been downright sweet, keeping me entertained on the brief drive through Tennessee with her absurd life story. None of these experiences had prepared me for Mr. Sutherland’s hostile, monosyllabic reception.

In his absence, I saw that the house was comfortable and quaint. The open floor plan gave visual access to nearly everything, including the spectacular view afforded by the back windows. Rough-hewn polished pine stairs led to a bedroom loft. Comfy-looking leather chairs the color of melting caramel flanked a river-stone fireplace. Bookshelves stocked with leather-bound editions stretched floor to ceiling on the opposite wall. There was no stuffy furniture, no
useless dust catchers beyond a red and gold military insignia framed and displayed on the  mantel. A lion devouring a snake.

A thump from above snapped me out of my decor ogling. I focused on the little pile of luggage near the foot of the stairs, and I slung a dark leather designer overnight bag onto my shoulder.
When I bent to pick up a sleek silver suitcase, there was a blur of motion, the force of which swept my wet hair over my eyes. I lurched to my feet, pulling the damp strands out of my face, just in time to find Mr. Sutherland snatching the case out of my hands.

You do not touch this case,” he said sternly, shoving a pristine white towel into my hands. He swept across the room to blot my puddle from the floor with a clean cloth. “I am responsible for transporting this case to Ophelia Lambert at midnight four nights from now—a deadline that your tardiness has put in jeopardy, I might add. Therefore, only I touch the case.”

“But—”

“Only I touch the case,” he said.

I was starting to suspect that he had unnatural feelings for that case.

I raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to be handcuffing it to your arm?”

“Very amusing, Miss Puckett,” he said, looking me up and down. “Of course, I’m forced to assume that you are the Miss Puckett described in Miss Scanlon’s correspondence, since you have not, in fact, introduced yourself to me.”

Something about the way his silky voice slid over my skin triggered my “authority figure” complex. And suddenly, I was having some very unwelcome, very naughty images of Mr. Sutherland and his hypothetical handcuffs.

“Oh, right, sorry. Hi, I’m Miranda Puckett. I’m the driver for Beeline.” I reached out my hand to shake, a hand that he pointedly ignored as he swept past me.

Shocked by his rudeness, I merely followed in his wake, muttering to myself. “Nice to meet you, too. Oh, yes, I’m sure we’re going to end up lifelong friends after this road trip. We’re off to such a great start. Feel like I’ve known you my whole life,” I grumbled, toting the bags to the car while he checked and rechecked the locks on his front door. “And I’m talking to myself again. Super.”

I stared at the warm, dry house with longing. A kinder client might have offered me use of the restroom or even coffee. But I was hardly in a position to ask for perks.

To add insult to injury, my tardiness and the weather ruined my plans to introduce Mr. Sutherland to the fabulous features of the Batmobile, which I’d thoroughly rehearsed with a very patient Jane. A decommissioned Council vehicle that Iris had purchased for a song at auction, the Batmobile was built for comfort and safety. While it looked like a mild-mannered SUV from the outside, the Batmobile boasted a light-tight cubby that took up most of the
rear compartment’s floorboard, like a compact coffin, allowing the passenger to ride comfortably while I drove us in full sun. Tucked between the front seats sat a cunning little cooler/warmer for blood. It worked a bit like a bottle steamer, using hot water on a timed switch to bring the blood to an even 98.6. The windows were tinted with SPF 500 film so that he would be safe inside the cab if necessary.

I’d become familiar with those features on the three- (OK, four-) day drive to pick up Mr. Sutherland. I’d planned to make him familiar with them before we started the drive back to Half-Moon Hollow so he could deliver a parcel to an official with the World Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead. But clearly, Mr. Sutherland preferred that we just get on the road. I couldn’t blame him, I supposed. We absolutely, positively had to be back on time, or
Mr. Sutherland would not be paid . . . which meant that Iris would not be paid . . . which meant that I would not be paid . . . which would be upsetting.

Using the boatload of upper-body strength it took to close the rear door, I slammed it down. I noticed a pale flash out of the corner of my eye at the last minute. The gate came crashing down on Mr. Sutherland’s fingers with a sickening crunch.

This was a hallucination. I could not be looking at a vampire’s hand caught in a car door, crushed like something out of an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. I clapped my hands over my mouth and let out a horrified shriek.

“Open the bloody gate!” he roared.

I scrambled for the key fob and clicked it, popping the door open. Mr. Sutherland groaned and flexed his mangled fingers, bent at bizarre angles, obviously broken in several places. Sure, they would fix themselves rapidly with his vampire healing, but it would hurt like a bitch.

“I’m sorry!” I cried, rushing forward to help him. He hissed like a cat and turned his back on me. “Shit! I’m so sorry!”

“Language, Miss Puckett,” he growled over his shoulder. “Did you not see that my hand was in the way?” He grunted as his fingers stretched and snapped back into their proper places.

“Not until the last minute,” I said. “Why didn’t you move your hand when you saw I was closing the door?”

“I thought you would stop the door,” he shot back.

“How was I supposed to do that? I don’t have vampire reflexes!”

“From now on, I will keep your limitations in mind,” he seethed, and pivoted on his heel toward the car door.

Link continuing the excerpt to XOXO After Dark:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Every Which Way But Dead (The Hollows, #3) by Kim Harrison


Title: Every Which Way But Dead (The Hollows, Book 3)
Classification: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Hollows
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: 501 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (June 28, 2005)
ISBN-10: 006057299X
ISBN-13: 978-0060572990
Author's Website: http://kimharrison.net/
Notes: I own it.


Life will probably never be easy for Rachel Morgan. After putting Piscary behind bars, she's earned a reputation of being the area's big bad witch. With Cincinatti's biggest supernatural crime lord, Piscary, temporarily out of the picture, things are heating up. A turf war is ensuing for the area's coveted Brimstone and gambling trades. Kisten is struggling to keep Piscary's holdings secure while Saladan makes a play to take them over. Trent Kalamack's secondary brimstone business is also being threatened by Saladan. He's positive Saladan is behind all the batches of bad brimstone that have been plaguing the area of late. He's attempting to get it off the street. Both Trent and Kisten will need Rachel to help intimidate the competition and keep him at bay.

Rachel, however, is having problems of her own. Since accidentally making Nick her familiar, he's been avoiding her and it looks like their relationship might not survive. Worse, in order to get Piscary locked up she had to make a deal with the devil, er, demon, and agreed to become Al's familiar. Now she's attempting to elude Al to prevent him from taking her into the Ever After and making her his permanent slave. Can she out wit the demon and save herself from a fate some say is worse than death?


In the previous two books we've gotten to know Rachel and her crew, but now we really start to get a sense of each of the character's vulnerabilities. They remind me a touch of the Island of Misfit Toys where a group bands together who don't truly feel they fit in with what is expected of them and are trying to find a place where they do. Rachel seems to be the glue that binds this group together, but she's not invulnerable either. In the last book Piscary insinuated Rachel was afraid of desire. I don't believe that is totally accurate. Someone in this book suggests she's afraid of herself. I'm thinking it's a combination of the two. Rachel is a powerful witch and some people (like Nick) find that intimidating and a bit scary. She needs people around her that won't envy her her powers and are secure enough in their own that her strength and power don't scare them. While the same traits in a man would earn him admiration, esteem, and respect, those same traits in a woman tend to have the opposite affect on some individuals. When Nick starts to pull away from Rachel, he pulls up all those insecurities Rachel has acquired over the years.

Kisten, surprisingly, identifies Rachel's vulnerability and we get to see him do what he does best--seduce Rachel. I can't help but feel that Ivy may have been a little too free with her tongue in regards to what she told him about Rachel. He and Rachel had spent so little time in one another's company prior to that, that it's the only way I can see how he could have figured out which of her buttons to push. This is where the relationship, so many have commented, on begins. What makes Rachel so appealing and admirable is that she doesn't compromise herself in anyway to conform to what society or any other individual feels she should be. She stays true to herself, and you can either accept her or not. Kisten is willing to accept her just the way she is, or so he says. I have to admit, after reading this book I'm not in the Kisten fan club at the moment. I'll be curious to see this relationship develops and am curious if my opinion of him will change? There were so many things that he did in this book that I had objections to. Granted, the chemistry between these two was flammable, but I'm not convinced he'd make good boyfriend material. I also have a question about what's up with the anklets that both Ivy and another woman have acquired from Kisten? Does it have some significance? It struck me as rather odd.

Kisten is also the one who identifies what makes Ivy tick. While we already knew that she doesn't like being a vampire, Kisten surprisingly reveals that to vampires, "Trust is a feeling we don't get very often, Rachel. Living vampires lust after it almost as much as blood. That's why Ivy is ready to kill anyone who threatens your friendship with her." Yet another insight into Ivy's mindset as well as vampires in general. I have to give Kisten credit, he's got balls to pursue Rachel when Ivy's so territorial about her.

Jenks also reveals his soft spot. Pixies are at the bottom of the supernatural totem pole. I've found this rather odd, because in book one we clearly see Jenks and his crew fight off assassin fairies rather easily. You'd think fairies would rank less, but for whatever reason it's pixies. I think Jenks was drawn to Rachel because she's always treated him with respect and as an equal. In his book, that goes a long way. In Dead Witch Walking, we saw how touched Jenks was when Rachel offered him and his family the garden to live in. To him that was everything. It gave his family security and a better chance at surviving. When Rachel keeps Trent's species a secret from him, it brings those old feelings of being inferior. Jenks, as Ivy states, "has and ego the size of the Grand Canyon." and Rachel not trusting him with the secret hurt him more than anything else could. While I feel he overreacts to the news, I loved how telling it was.

This book was filled to the brim with action and new characters. David Hue, an insurance adjuster makes his debut, and due to being in the wrong place (Rachel's) at the wrong time, he ends up becoming an ally and friend. Ceri, an elf who's been at Al's mercy for a thousand years, makes her appearance as well. Let me just say, I'm baffled that Rachel would put her in the protective custody of someone she (Rachel) knew so little about. This was by far one of the oddest things I've found thus far in the series. Newt, a female demon, also makes her first appearance and she is crazy scary, but hints that she knows things about Rachel. I look forward to finding out more about the only female demon alive.

I gave this one 4 1/2 our of 5 roses. I'm not sold on Kisten, but I'm keeping an open mind. I love how Rachel is acquiring good friends as the series progresses. I think the friendship between Rachel, Jenks, and Ivy will become stronger and more secure in the future even if at the moment Jenks is still mad at Rachel. I think his anger dissapate and he'll come to his senses. Ivy and Rachel's relationship seemed to take a big step in the right direction where Rachel and outside male relationships are concerned. I don't think she ever saw Nick as a threat, but her acceptance of Rachel's relationship with Kisten seems to indicate she's come to terms with it. At times this friendship has seemed a bit risky, but risk seems to be Rachel's middle name.  On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.


Order of the series:

And coming September 9th, 2014:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cover Reveal of Letting Go (Thatch, #1) by Molly McAdams



About Letting Go 
(On sale November 4, 2014)

When Grey and Ben fell in love at thirteen, they believed they’d be together forever. They never dreamed that three days before their wedding, twenty-year-old Ben would suddenly die from an unknown heart condition, destroying his would-be-bride’s world. Grey would have spent the next two years simply going through the motions if it hadn’t been for their best friend, Jagger. He’s the only one who understands her pain ... the only one who knows what it’s like to force yourself to keep moving when your dreams are shattered.

While everyone else worries over Grey’s fragility, Jagger is the only one who sees her strength, and vows to always be there for her-even if it’s only as her best friend. As much as he wants Grey, he knows her heart will always be with Ben. But when Grey finds out that Jagger has loved her since before he even knew what love was, it might prove to be too much for her to handle.

Grey soon realizes their chemistry is undeniable, and they learn that admitting their feelings for each other means they’ve got to face the past. Is being together what Ben would have wanted . . . or a betrayal of his memory that will eventually destroy them both?



Wow! After reading the description, I so want to get my hands on this one.

What does Molly McAdams have to say about the book and its cover?


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows, #2) by Kim Harrison




"I got a break this morning, and you're the only one I could call to capitalize on it."

A serial killer dubbed the "Witch Hunter" has made Cincinnati his latest hunting ground. Captain Edden of the FIB has asked Rachel for her help after Sara Jane, Trent Kalamack's secretary, reports her boyfriend, who fits the profile of serial killer's victims, as missing. The killer is targeting experienced ley line witches whom rumor has it may have dabbled in the black arts and simply lost control. Rachel isn't buying into that rumor, but has no idea why the witches are being targeted. Edden believes Dr. Enders, who teaches ley line magic at the local university may be their culprit and asks Rachel to pose as a student in her class thereby making herself a potential target. After Edden helped her pay the IS off so they'd leave her alone, she owes him big and feels she can't say no. When she finds he wants her to additionally help his son, Glenn, learn the ropes, she's even less happy with the situation then before.
One of the things I love about this series are the details Ms. Harrison infuses into to each of her stories. She paints such a vivid picture with her words that you can easily visualize it. She also manages to capture the dangerous politically charged atmosphere that an intermingling of different species would create. She does such a good job that if you go back and reread them for a second time, you're pretty much guaranteed to notice details you missed in your first read of them. She describes the Hollows as looking, "like everywhere else--until you noticed the runes scratched in the hop-scotch grid, and that the basketball hoop was a third again taller than NBA regulation" and "The dangerous reality of the Hollows remains carefully hidden. We know if we color too far out of humanity's self imposed lines, old fears will resurface and they will strike out at us." and  this is one that my friend and co-mod Sara pointed out that I wouldn't have otherwise have noticed, "..crushing them against the side of the pot with a clockwise--never withershins--motion. I was a white witch, after all."

The series has all the rough edges and angst you expect from an urban fantasy series teamed with humor and lovable characters all wrapped in a delightfully fun and witty package. If I had to describe Rachel to someone, I'd say picture a younger version of Samantha Stevens (from Bewitched) before she met Darrin. Take away the respectable clothing and the air of confidence. Add in a dash of vulnerability with a wish to find her place in the world. Mix in an inner strength most would envy, and you've got the making of a red headed Rachel Mariana Morgan. She tries to make the right decisions, but sometimes none of the choices have the desired outcome so she's forced to choose the best among them. In this book, I love that she's so blinded by her hate of Trent that she has a hard time realizing not every bad thing that happens in the Hollows is his fault. She has a habit of letting her emotions get the best of her, but she's the type who learns from her mistakes, admits to them, and grows a little with each book.

I confess, the serial killings are pretty gruesome in this one, but we don't witness the killer doing any of them. We just get some second hand accounts of some pretty disturbing murders that I wouldn't wish on even my worst enemy. The mystery of who is committing the murders, and how and why, took me by surprise and kept me glued to the pages. My first time through this story I read it cover to cover in one sitting, and after getting a good night's sleep, immediately picked up the next book, Every Which Way but Dead, in the morning and devoured it as well.

I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. It's filled with action, suspense, humor and phenomenal world building, I'm kicking myself for not trying this series sooner. An enchanting and extremely addictive series that I highly recommend. I've been bewitched by a book.


Order of the series:

And coming September 9th, 2014:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pocket Star E-Nights featuring APPREHENDED, TRIED, and CONVICTED all three by Jan Burke


This summer Seduced By A Book will be hosting excerpts and some giveaways for XOXO After Dark’s special Summer eBook program. Look for this feature every Monday during July and August. Today they're showcasing a series of short stories written by Jan Burke. If you're having trouble finding time to spend reading this Summer, you may wish to consider feeding your need to read with one or more of the following short stories Ms. Burke has to offer:

About the Author:
Jan Burke
Picture courtesy of Sheri McKinley Photography
Check out her blog http://janburke.blogspot.com/

Jan Burke’s fourteenth book, Disturbance, is the latest entry in the Irene Kelly series and a sequel to Bones, which won the Edgar for Best Novel. Her novels include Flight, Nine, and Bloodlines. She also wrote The Messenger, a supernatural thriller. 

Her books have been on the USA Today and NY Times bestseller lists, published internationally, and optioned for film and television. She is also an award-winning short story writer. She has been the GoH at crime fiction conventions. 

A forensic science advocate, she founded the nonprofit Crime Lab Project. She cohosts “Crime and Science Radio” with D.P. Lyle, M.D.


Apprehended
From the New York Times bestselling suspense author Jan Burke comes a brand-new e-short story with the added bonus of three short stories from the Eighteen anthology.

Apprehended is a mini-anthology containing a brand new short story from Jan Burke: "The Unacknowledged," which features the fan-favorite investigative reporter Irene Kelly, back in her journalism school days. Also included are three short stories from the previously published Eighteen: "Why Tonight," "A Fine Set of Teeth," and "A Man of My Stature."

Praise for Eighteen:
"Astonishing…wry…these stories are sure to delight." —New York Times bestselling author Jeffrey Deaver

"A delightful collection of page-turners. At turns chilling, funny, poignant—and always insightful. With these stories, Jan Burke’s at the top of her game." —New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman




EXCERPT from Apprehended:

I made sure we were alone. That was actually the hardest part. After realizing that no restaurant in the city would be free of people who might know Donna, I ended up inviting her over for dinner on a night when I knew Lydia had an evening class. Until two months earlier, Lydia and I had shared the place with another roommate, but she had married over the summer. We had been putting off finding another renter, but tonight I was glad for the lack of a potential eavesdropper, enjoying the emptiness and quiet that usually had me thinking that I was going to have to move back home again.

Donna and I made small talk until after I cleared the dishes. She seemed a little down. All the same, she was an easy person to talk to. I was fighting some very cynical thinking about that as I pulled out some photocopies I had made.

I had thought of going all Perry Mason on her ass, cross-examining her until she wept and admitted her crimes. I couldn’t do it. The truth is, I liked her.

“I had a special assignment given to me this week,” I said. “Do you know who Jack Corrigan is?”

She shook her head. My tone must have hardened, or my look, or—somehow I tipped her off that the nature of our little dinner party was about to change.

“Well, I suppose that doesn’t matter. I have a feeling that you do know who Cassie Chadwick was.”

She, who blushed so easily, turned pale. She looked at me with such desperation that, for a full minute, I wasn’t sure if she was going to cry, run away, or punch me. But she just nodded yes and looked down at her hands.

“If she hadn’t harmed so many people,” I said, “I could almost admire her cunning, not to mention her nerve. After running a number of other scams, she marries a naive doctor from Cleveland, just happens to convince him that they should visit New York at the same time a man from home is there—a man who is a high-society gossip in Cleveland. She asks that man to give her a carriage ride, and has him wait for her outside the home of Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy, confirmed bachelor. She goes into the house, comes out thirty minutes later, and—this part really interested me—trips as she’s getting into the carriage. Drops a promissory note for two million dollars—a note that appears to be signed by Andrew Carnegie, whom she blushingly claims is her father.”

She stayed silent.

“Too bad promissory notes aren’t what they used to be. Planning to borrow millions based on phony documents, and cause a bank or two to fail?”

“No.”

“I didn’t think so.” I let the silence stretch for a time, then said, “Who told you about Cassie Chadwick?”

“Aunt Lou, my great aunt. She grew up hearing stories about her. Aunt Lou claimed to ‘admire her brass’ as she put it. Aunt Lou doesn’t think women ever get a fair shake in this world.”

“Is Donna Vynes your real name?”

“My married name, yes.” She was tracing patterns on the tablecloth with one of her perfect fingers, still not making eye contact.

“So you’re really a war widow?”

The finger stopped moving. She looked up at me. “Oh yes. And my mother is dead. John, my husband, sent home all of his pay—a little over a hundred and fifty dollars a month at first. It was up to about four hundred when he was killed. Just about everything he saved for us got spent on my mother’s medical needs. But John also bought some life insurance through the service. So I had ten thousand from that.”

“That’s where the seven thousand comes from?”

“Yes.” She sighed. “There was this neighbor of Aunt Lou’s in Cleveland. Her daughter was about my age. Despite all my other faults, I’m not like Eldon, so I won’t name her, if you don’t mind. Anyway, at the end of last semester, she dropped out of school here. Looking back on it now, I think she was just really homesick.

“But what she told me was . . . well, once we got to know each other, she said the reason she left was because Eldon Naff slept with her and then told the world about it. She said she had been working as an assistant for Mr. Langworthy, or rather to someone on his staff. She said it was Mr. Langworthy who fired her, mostly based on Eldon’s gossip. I don’t know if that’s true, but I learned a lot about Mr. Langworthy from her. Including the fact that in early September, he was going on a Mediterranean cruise.

“And I couldn’t help thinking about Mr. Carnegie and Mrs. Chadwick. Especially because I never knew my dad. My mother always said my father died while she was pregnant with me, but I think she was lying. Aunt Lou all but confirmed that my parents weren’t married. So I am illegitimate, just not the child of a rich man.”

After a long silence, she said, “God, I don’t know how you did it, but I’m glad you figured it out. It’s a relief.”

 Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:





Tried

With a brand-new short story featuring Tyler Hawthorne from The Messenger, plus three stories from Eighteen, this is the third of six e-short story collections from New York Times bestselling suspense author Jan Burke.















 EXCERPT from Tried:

 At this hour, although two other attendants roamed another part of the cemetery, Tyler and Shade were alone in this section of the hilly grounds. Suddenly Shade stiffened. His ears pitched forward and his hackles rose. He gave a low, soft growl.

Tyler came to a halt. Shade protected him, but the dog seldom growled at living beings.

In the next moment, the air was filled with what he at first took to be bats, then saw were small birds, of a type Tyler had never seen so far inland. “Mother Carey’s chickens,” he said, using the sailors’ name for them. Storm petrels. “What are they doing here?”

The birds fluttered above him, then a half dozen dropped to the ground before Shade in a small cluster. The scent of the sea rose strongly all about him, as if someone had transported him to the deck of a ship.

Shade stared hard at them as they cheeped frantically, then the dog relaxed into a sitting position.

The other petrels flew away. No sooner had they gone than the six before him were transformed into the ghostly figures of men.

They were forlorn creatures, gray-faced and looking exactly as what they must be, drowned men. Their uniforms proclaimed two as officers, the other four as sailors, all but one of the British navy.

Shade’s demeanor told him that these ghosts—unlike some others—would be no threat to him.

“May I be of help to you?” Tyler asked.

“Captain Hawthorne?” the senior officer asked.

“I believe the rank belongs more rightly to you,” Tyler said. “I was a captain in the British army many years ago, but I sold out after Waterloo.”

“Yes, sir,” the captain said, “I understand. If I may introduce myself to you, I am Captain Redding, formerly of the Royal Navy. Lost at sea in about your—your original time, sir.”

They exchanged bows.

“You are a Messenger?” Captain Redding asked.

“Yes.”

“We are all men who drowned at sea. Many of those in the flock you called ‘Mother Carey’s chickens’ are indeed just that. We come from many nations, taken by that sea witch Mother Carey, yet death has made us all birds of a feather. Little birds tell other little birds news of those such as yourself, and speak of Shade as well.”

The dog gave a slight wag of his tail in acknowledgment.

The captain went on. “The midshipman we bring to you is an American. Hails from here in Buffalo. We approach you on his behalf.” He turned to the man. “Step forward, Midshipman Bailey, and tell the captain your story, for we’ve not much time left.”

“Aye, sir.” The midshipman gave Tyler a small bow. “Thank you, sir. If you would be so kind to visit my sister, who lies dying not far from here. In the asylum, sir. The good one. We’ve all of us in her family done her a grave injustice.” He looked down at his feet. “Many injustices.”

“When were you lost at sea?” Tyler asked gently.

“Eight years ago, sir, in ’63. In the War Between the States. Would have done more for my country if Zeb Nador hadn’t pushed me overboard in a storm.”

“Do you ask me to seek justice for you?”

“Not necessary for me, Nador’s in the county jail here and will face trial for murdering someone else. He’ll hang as well for that one as for what he did to me.”

Tyler was about to try to say something to comfort him, unsure what that might be, when one of the other men whispered, “Hurry!”

Midshipman Bailey nodded, then said, “Will you go to her, sir? Her name is Susannah. She needs you tonight. And if you’d tell her Andrew sent you to her, and that she was always the best of his sisters, and that he sees things clearer now, and hopes to one day rest at her side—”

“Hurry!” the captain ordered.

“Well, sir, I’d take it as a great kindness.”

“I would be honored to do so, Midshipman Bailey.”

“Thank you!” he said, and had no sooner whispered these words than all six men again transformed into small birds and rose from the ground. They circled in the air above him, where they were joined again by the larger flock. He had thought they would begin their long journey back to the sea, but they surprised him by surrounding him and the dog.

Quite clearly, he heard hundreds of voices whisper to him at once, “Storm’s coming!”

And they were gone.

Shade immediately headed toward the nearest gate at a brisk trot. He glanced back at Tyler in impatience. Tyler hurried to catch up.

“There is more than one asylum, you know. The closest is still under construction, which leaves Providence Lunatic Asylum and the Erie County Almshouse—”

It wasn’t hard to read the next look he received.

“I apologize. Yes, Sister Rosaline Brown’s would be the ‘good one.’ And of course you will know the way and of course you will be admitted, although large black dogs, as a rule . . .”

Shade wagged his tail.

Providence Lunatic Asylum was operated by the Sisters of Charity, who had previously established a hospital in Buffalo. They had arrived in the city just in time to deal with the early cholera epidemics and were considered heroes by many. In 1860, horrified by conditions in the Erie County Almshouse and Insane Asylum, Sister Rosaline Brown started the asylum, which attempted a more humane treatment of the insane.

The dog paused at the small building closest to the cemetery’s main gate. Tyler understood what he was meant to do. Hailing the man who was keeping watch, Tyler said, “A severe storm is coming. Please call the other men in.”

“Storm?” the man said, bewildered.

“Yes, it’s calm now, but I just saw a flock of storm petrels. Sea birds. The only reason they’d be this far inland is if a hurricane had blown them here.”

He bid the man a quick good night and wondered if he would heed the warning.

In the next moment the wind came up, and trees began to rustle and sway. Shade leaped into the gig Tyler had left tied at the gate. Tyler glanced over his shoulder and saw the watchman gather a large lantern, and soon heard him calling out to the others.

Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:
 http://xoxoafterdark.com/2014/07/08/pocketstarenights-tried-jan-burke/?mcd=z_140714_Burke2_PSEN



Convicted

From New York Times bestselling suspense author Jan Burke comes the fourth of six e-short story collections.

Convicted is a mini-anthology containing a brand-new short story, “The Anchorwoman” featuring a young Irene Kelly, plus three stories from the highly acclaimed Eighteen print anthology: “Revised Endings, “Devotion,” and “The Muse.” Jeffery Deaver, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Kill Room, praised Eighteen as “Astonishing…wry…these stories are sure to delight.” And New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman says, “A delightful collection of page-turners. At turns chilling, funny, poignant—and always insightful. With these stories, Jan Burke’s at the top of her game.”
 






EXCERPT from Convicted:

“So at ten o’clock on Wednesday, five clowns—probably males—jumped out of a moving van parked in the alley behind your house and started singing ‘Oklahoma!’—do I have it right so far?”

“Yes.”

“Did they seem to be looking up at you, singing it to you?”

She hesitated, then said, “I’m not sure. They glanced in my direction every now and then, but they didn’t stand still and serenade me. They moved around, danced, and did high kicks and cartwheels.”

“Then what happened?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“They climbed back into the van and drove off.”

“Were they all in the cab, or were some riding in the back?”

“Two in the back.”

Illegal and dangerous.

“Did you see anything in the van itself? Furniture?”

“I didn’t get a good look at the back. The angle was wrong.”

I looked at my notes. What hadn’t I asked?

“What about the van itself—Bekins? Allied? North American?—what moving company?”

She was shaking her head before I finished. “Not a moving company. It was a rented van. Las Piernas Rentals.”

“Well—that’s a lucky break.”

“Why?”

“Local rental company with three locations, all within town. If it had been one of the nationals, the truck could have come from anywhere. License-plate number?”

“No, again, I couldn’t see it from that angle.”

“How big was the van?”

“Big. I don’t know.”

I tried to come up with vehicles to compare it with, which didn’t work with her, but when I got her to say how much of the Mickelsons’ house the van had blocked, I had a reasonable idea. Another idea struck me.

“Did you see a number on it? Most rental companies paint numbers on their trucks, to keep track of which ones they’re renting, I suppose.”

“I looked for one, but it had a big piece of paper taped over it—like butcher paper, maybe?”

I hesitated, telling myself that I needed to separate latenineteenth- century fiction from the present problem. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

“Cokie, are there any banks or businesses on the other side of the alley?”

“There’s a row of homes, that’s all.”

“Anybody doing any kind of business out of a house that you know of?”

“No.”

“I mean any kind of business. Any pot growers? Drug dealers?”

“No! We did have a problem when Auggie and Andrea Sands lived at the end of the cul-de-sac, but their mom kicked them out. That was about three years ago.”

“She kicked them out for selling drugs?” Lydia asked.

We had known the Sands twins in high school. Always in trouble.

“Kicked Auggie out for selling drugs, and Andrea for banging her boyfriend in the living room. Their mom came home early with a friend from work. Guess that was the last straw.”

“How did their mom find out that Auggie was dealing?”

“One of the neighbors told her.”

“You?”

“No. I didn’t want to mess with those people.”

“Do Andrea and Auggie know you weren’t the one?”

She frowned. “They should. They have no reason to think I would tell on them.”

I exchanged a glance with Lydia and moved on.

“Anyone in the neighborhood angry with you?”

“You think singing clowns is a sign of aggression?”

“A possibility, anyway.”

She smiled. “I’m so glad you see it that way. My parents think it was something fun, as if I have a secret admirer. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. It seemed to me that someone wanted . . . well, to ridicule me.”

I bent my head over my notes and hoped my hair hid my blush. I certainly felt ashamed of my meaner thoughts about her.

“It seems crazy to think that,” she went on, “but . . . it didn’t make me happy, it made me feel as if I had been targeted, and someone went to a lot of trouble to do it. I’m a little scared by that. But I can’t think of anyone who would feel that mad at me. I get along with my neighbors. I’m one of the last young people still living on our street, and I try to help my older neighbors. I visit them. I run errands for them.”

A passage in “The Red-Headed League” came to mind:

“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious
it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are
really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to
identify.”

Easy for him to say. But was there some commonplace crime hiding beneath all that clown makeup?

“Cokie, what would you normally be doing on a Wednesday morning at about that time?”

“Normally, I’d be playing canasta with the widows.”

“I hate to admit it, but I don’t understand.”

“You know, the card game.”

“Yes, I even know how to play it. Who are the widows?”

“Oh. Three of my neighbors. One day Mrs. Redmond—she’s across the street and one house down—mentioned to me how much she loved the canasta parties that used to be held on the
street. I talked to a couple of people about it, and long story short, we started playing canasta at her house on Wednesday mornings.”

“Who are the other players?”

“Just two, Mrs. Harding and Mrs. Lumfort.”

“Who knows that you do this?”

“Everyone on our street.”

“So because of the clowns, you arrived late?”

“No, we didn’t have a game that day. Mrs. Harding was . . . out of town. Mrs. Lumfort had a doctor’s appointment. Mrs. Redmond’s beautician had asked her to move her hair appointment to that morning, so because it was just going to be the two of us, she asked me if I’d mind just canceling. I told her it wasn’t a problem.”

“You hesitated about Mrs. Harding. What was going on with her?”

“Nothing. She went to a lawyer’s appointment with one of her granddaughters. Kayla just moved in with her.”

That name was vaguely familiar. Why did I know it?

“Kayla Harding?” Lydia asked. “My brother Gio used to date her.”

Gio was five years older than Lydia, and the list of girls he dated in high school was only slightly shorter than the list of female students in his graduating class. The fact that he hadn’t been burned in effigy years ago spoke to his abundant charm. Lydia claimed he genuinely cared about all of them, which seemed unlikely.

“Kayla ended up in prison, didn’t she?” Lydia went on. “Stole a car.”

“Yes,” Cokie said, “but she’s been out for a couple of weeks now.”

“Friend of yours?” I asked.

“No. I know her sister better than I know her.”

“Mindy,” Lydia said. “She’s our age.”

“Yes. I’m not close friends with Mindy, either. I just see her when she visits her grandmother.”

“Kind of a Goody-Two-Shoes, isn’t she?” I said.

“That can happen when you’re trying to show the world you aren’t like your troublemaking sister, right?” Lydia said.

Cokie and I shrugged.

“Think of your sister, Barbara,” Lydia said to me.

“I’d rather not,” I said.

“Mindy is Kayla’s half sister,” the ever-informative Cokie said. “Their father is on his third marriage. Widowed once, divorced once, and the third seems to be the charm. So Mindy
just claims that she’s ‘only’ a half sister when she gets annoyed at Kayla.”

“Told you she was a bitch,” I said.

“Not exactly,” Lydia said.

“Yeah, well . . .” I glanced at my watch. “We’ve got a couple of hours to try to find the Las Piernas Rentals location that rented out the van.”

I used the Yellow Pages in the phone book to get the three addresses and phone numbers of the rental places, then opened the Thomas Guide, a book of detailed maps of Los Angeles County that only a fool would try to live without. A lost fool.

Cokie readily agreed to come along with me, but Lydia, thinking of the discomfort associated with being the third person in a Karmann Ghia, opted out.

Link continuing the excerpt to XOXOAfterDark:


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