Thursday, June 24, 2021

Bake Believe by Cori Cooper #YA #Teen #Magic



Bake Believe
Book One
Cori Cooper

Genre: Teen/YA, Magic
Publisher: Immortal Works Publishing
Date of Publication: November 5, 2020
ISBN: 978-1953491978
ASIN: B08KWMX6BW
Number of pages: 282
Word Count: 78,959
Cover Artist: Immortal Works Art Team

Tagline: What happens when you combine Magic and Baking? Cat Anderson will tell you all about it.

Book Description: 

Cat Anderson doesn't want much out of life. Give her a circle of friends to giggle with, a few boys to flirt with, a cute outfit, and she is good to go! She especially could care less about food. 

But food, it turns out, is a very big deal.

In Cat's family there is a secret too fantastic to be real. Something happens when Cat bakes.

Something amazing.

Something impossible.

Can it be true? Or is it Bake Believe?


Excerpt: Frozen Waffles

Why am I still in bed?

It’s the last day of summer vacation! I can’t waste one more minute, second, or millisecond sleeping. This is going to be the most epically awesome day of all time! Like, so good that awesome looks at this day and wishes it was this epic. This might sound like a lot of pressure, but I’m ready. For weeks I’ve been keeping track of the summer stuff I love to do most, so I could pick out all the best things. Now, I have a mental list just waiting for me to get to it:

-Go to the pool.
-Use sun lightener on my hair.
-Work on my tan.
-Try something new at the Snack Shack.
-Meet three new boys.
-Give at least one of the boys my phone number.

I am determined to squeeze the most amount of fun out of every single second of this day. Obviously, I can’t get any of it done while I’m laying here like a slug! I have to get up and call Robyn.

I roll out of bed, no clue what time it is.  My stinking alarm clock has been tick-tick-ticking away the precious minutes of my last summer day, so I have been ignoring it with all of my might. Before I stand up, I smack the clock face down on the nightstand. I should have done that before. The irritating neon numbers, winking in my peripheral, were giving me a headache.
And headaches are not epically awesome.

I wonder, would Time stop if I use all my allowance to send it on a vacation to Hawaii? I can find a beachfront resort somewhere far away from me and Time can sit next to the ocean with a fruity little drink. I wouldn’t mind if Time decided to stay there for a couple weeks even. This could totally work. Even Time must need a break sometimes.

Or maybe not, since that darn clock is still going at it, just muffled now.

I plop my pillow down on my nightstand, to shush it even more, and I tiptoe to my bedroom door. As quietly as possible, I ease it open, so it doesn’t squeak. It does like to squeak sometimes, and I don’t want to wake anyone up in case it’s super early. For all that trying to ignore the clock’s tick-tocks, I didn’t actually look at the time.

I’ll just check when I get my phone.

Because of the family ‘no screens in bedrooms’ rule, my phone spends the night in a basket on the coffee table. Out of habit, I look both ways before I slip out of my room and into the hall. Not a creature is stirring. Even so, I prefer to sneak along the walls and slink around corners like I’m in some big deal spy movie. It’s just more fun that way. I serpentine down the stairs and army crawl across the living room. When I’m almost to the coffee table, I execute a super awesome somersault that leaves me on my back, staring up at the phone basket.

Nailed it.

I reach one arm into the basket and rummage around until I feel sequins. My phone! The most beautiful creation of turquoise and silver sparkles, I am very happy to have it in my hand.

I hold the phone above my head, over my face, while I text. My arms start to fall asleep instantly, but I ignore them, because this is super important.



About the Author:

Cori Cooper lives in the magical Arizona Mountains, which she’s pretty convinced is the setting for all the fairy tales. 

Besides writing stories, she adores hanging out with her family, playing board games, hiking and baking, baking, baking. Like Cat’s family, she’s positive Cinnamon Rolls fix everything.

You can connect with Cori on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website – Coristories.com. 




Release Day Blitz Ascension: Part One by B.C. Burgess #Fantasy #ParanormalRomance


Ascension: Part One 
The Mystic Series 
Book 9
B.C. Burgess 

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 
Publisher: Bandit Publishing 
Date of Publication: June 24, 2021 
ISBN: 978-1-946793-27-0
ASIN: B092TMV1H8
Number of pages: 302
Word Count: 98,594
Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations 

Tagline: Ever wish there were more sexy times in Twilight? Then you need to read the Mystic series!

Book Description: 

Layla

While chaos consumes Maganthia, deep below the city in the Dark Vault, terror consumes Layla. Ava's servants meet tonight, and the enemy has taken Quin, forcing Layla to choose. Will she find the strength to follow her fated path and protect the servants? Or will she follow the love of her life and let the world burn? 

Quin

Quin never took his eyes off Layla as he stood on the balcony of Heavens Hall, not until a hand came down on his head and his world went black. Now, everything he cares about is in jeopardy as Layla races the clock, but Quin remains at the mercy of the enemy, unconscious, useless and dying. 

The Enemy

For thousands of years, the Dark Guild strove to reclaim the realm of humanity for the Lord of the Underworld. Now their dedication has paid off. They've sabotaged the angel, procured the coordinates to the servants' meeting, collected the power in Ava's blood, and discovered the key to enter her tomb. Tonight, they raise hell.

Books2Read     BN     Amazon


Excerpt:

Right or wrong, Layla held their verdict on the edge of the executioner’s sword, and everyone who’d invaded the island would suffer the same fate. She didn’t have time to weigh their crimes – the murderers, voyeurs and brainwashed. Whatever part they’d played in the tragedies unfolding, they stood guilty on the brink of humanity’s destruction, and so they’d face her retribution. But before swinging the blade, Layla scanned the civilians for children, relieved to find none.

Not a shimmer of evidence exposed her as she planted her feet on the ancient cobblestone walkway. Then she raised her invisible palms and summoned her wall. She knew the magic worked as soon as she heard the outer guards’ shouts, which turned to screams the moment her deadly cloud caught up with its prey. They didn’t scream for long. The jet stream grew stronger as it contracted around the mountaintop like a savage rubber band, scorching people and plants alike.


About the Author:

B.C. Burgess is a small-town girl who was born and raised in Oklahoma. She has always dreamed big and tended to let her imagination run wild. She’s addicted to coffee and writing, and the combination is her idea of heaven.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807648.B_C_Burgess

https://www.instagram.com/bcburgessbooks/   

https://www.facebook.com/B.C.BurgessBooks/  





Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Mary, Everything by Cassandra Yorke #LitFic #LGBTQ+ #TimeTravelRomance


Mary, Everything
The Flapper Covenant Series 
Book One
Cassandra Yorke

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, LGBTQ+
Time Travel, Time Travel Romance
Date of Publication: March 30, 2020 
ISBN: 9780578680361
ASIN: B086HYTB3Q
Number of pages: 414
Word Count: 108,498
Cover Artist: Cassandra Yorke

Tagline: A gripping tale of best friends and romance, sorcery and survival, at the dawn of the Roaring 20s.

Author Commentary: This novel is a memoir wrapped in fiction. While it's a tale of time travel and sorcery, at its core are real events and real themes - haunted yearbooks in college archives, yearning for times long gone, battery and abuse, exile and homecoming. 

While I hope you enjoy it, I promise you will never read another story like it. It's from the heart, it's gritty and lurid - and below the action, it's real.

Book Description:

A young woman born in the wrong reality.

A destiny that will lead her into the past.

And a love so enduring it reaches across time - and existence itself - to bring her home.

Courtney is a lonely undergrad at secluded Braddock College in 2004, working a drowsy summer job in the Archives. Assigned to a new project, she becomes haunted by a college yearbook from the 1920s - filled with familiar faces and memories of times she never experienced. A chance encounter with a mysterious girl named Sadie - dressed in long-outdated clothes - alters her reality. But if you were never meant to be born, that reality can expel you like an infection - or kill you outright. While Courtney struggles against forces she cannot comprehend, a psychopathic stalker smells blood and closes in for the kill.

Sadie, now in 1921, races against the clock to save her friend, joined by some remarkable allies - an American combat sorceress and veteran of World War I, an enigmatic professor who specializes in piercing the veil between realities, and two young women who insist they’re Courtney’s oldest friends - one of them even claiming to be her truest love.

Time is running out for Courtney, and a terrifying wilderness - haunted by the dead from centuries past - may hold the key to her salvation. But none who enter have ever returned…

Cassandra Yorke's groundbreaking debut brings Magical Realism home to the Midwest in an explosive new style, blending midwestern gothic and historical fiction with a warm lesbian love story to create a riveting, deeply immersive epic you won't be able to put down. It's the world of Boardwalk Empire and Gatsby, with an urgent, immersive narrative about what it means to belong, what it means to be hated, what it means to be loved, and ultimately what it means to come home.



Excerpt

The crosswalk is the busiest place in town any time of the year, and even if Braddock has a fraction of the people in the summer, it’s still bustling. As I’m coming up, I spot a girl approaching from my left. She’s ghostly pale like me, with auburn hair cut in a short bob around her soft jawline. The most striking thing about her is her narrow, almond-shaped eyes. I’ve always thought chicks with eyes like that are really cute. They catch mine as I approach, and there’s a kind of click; two people in a crowd with matching energy. She greets me with a narrow, witty smile. I return hers in my usual unintentional way, soft and genuine and a little bit sad-looking without ever meaning to seem that way. And we stand there for a minute, waiting for the traffic to clear.

 “Say, is it gonna be dry like this all week?” she asks.

 “Um…” I wish I had a better answer ready. “I think so? I haven’t really checked the weather.”

“Why, I sure hope it is.” She stares back across the street at the shade of College Green. “Anything I hate is rain in the summer.”

 Roll my eyes in agreement. “Ugh, totally.”

I sneak a look at her. She’s wearing a brown bell-shaped hat, the kind that were popular in the 1920s. She’s wearing a 20s style dress, too: green, knee-length, with a round-cut neckline and loose cap sleeves. She’s even wearing old-fashioned brown stockings and brown heels. It catches my eye and I stare for a second or two; it’s a hot day for stockings, especially the old-fashioned silk kind like that. And her shoes are really retro, like old church grandma shoes. She must shop at that vintage thrift store all the way up at the far end of Court Street; it’s the only place around here where you could get clothes like that, unless she goes thrifting in Columbus.

She’s standing here next to me, watching the street, not self-conscious at all. Like she wears stuff like that every day without even thinking about it.

Then she looks at me, glances away, looks at me again a little longer. Her eyes linger on my top and on my legs, and she looks away again, blushing. I’ve always been a little bit empathic and I can feel curiosity in her glance. And…attraction?

Nah, that can’t be right - girls are never into me. Maybe I look too preppy, I don’t know. I’m a D&D nerd, raised on video games from the age of five, but because I wear an Abercrombie hoodie or Hollister shorts or flat iron my hair, people assign me a whole package of expectations - Courtney is a bitch, Courtney’s stuck-up, Courtney’s a backstabbing gossip, Courtney’s rich. Courtney is heterosexual...? Look, I’ll be honest with you, I’m gonna have a hard time living up to all of that. Maybe not the bitch thing - because yeah, I’m probably a bitch - but the rest of it?

Sorry, no can do.

The traffic finally stops from the other direction. I give her one last smile - which she returns warmly - and step onto the street. A few quick steps take me to the other sidewalk. I stop and look at my slender Fossil watch, making a pretense to turn in her direction again for one last look. She’s awfully cute, and I love her chic vintage style. I wonder if she’d think I was creepy if-

There’s nobody there. I glance around to see if she took off in another direction. Nothing. There are plenty of people around, walking dogs, wearing flip-flops, riding bikes. But no girls with vintage clothes.

She’s gone. It’s like she was never there.

But she totally was there! I talked to her!

Unless I’m finally losing it?

I rub an eye with the heel of my hand, not really caring that I just stamped dry mascara on my skin. Maybe I need to get out more. Maybe I need friends. I stand on the busy sidewalk for a moment, completely disoriented, before remembering that I was looking for a place to sit down and eat my salad. But even as I make my way onto College Green and up toward the Civil War statue, looking for a place to sit, I can’t get that girl out of my head. Not just because she was cute. Something about her, that weird click when we saw each other.

Eh, maybe I’ll see her again. I shove a straw through the lid of my drink. Nobody just vanishes.

I wish you could just disappear.

Though I guess if you wanted to disappear, this would be the place to do it. Outside the city limits, the nights are dark and old, and people who vanish are never seen again.



About the Author:

Cassandra's life was changed forever when she was taken captive by a haunted college yearbook as an Ohio University senior in the summer of 2004. Ten years later, she started work on Mary, Everything to make sense of the experience. Bathed in summer sunlight and crafted from early 2000s punk rock, Cassandra's goal is more than just telling a story - she wants to take you captive, too.

She lives in central Ohio with her wife, house rabbits, and video games.

And of course, her own ghostly memories.










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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Wintersfall Gen-Heirs: The Guardians of Sziveria Book One by Sarah Westill #Fantasy #PNR

 Falling in love was never part of the plan...




Wintersfall
Gen-Heirs: The Guardians of Sziveria
Book One
Sarah Westill

ASIN: ‎B091G1HQYV
Publisher: ‎ ISL Media
Publication date : ‎ June 3, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

When a professional assassin’s daughter goes searching for her mother and sister’s killer, she never expected to fall in love…

With her inherited ability to handle a gun and know exactly how to use it, Katria is a valuable tool for the Sziverian government. In exchange for a deeper investigation of their deaths, she agrees to work for the First Intelligence Office.

Haunted by a dark family history, Sean Blackbain escapes the whispers by leading an Intel Guardian team.

All he wanted was to disappear.

Then a botched assignment sends the team home. Sean and Katria learn the contracts they signed three years ago were for more than work. They’re married. Away from dark alley danger and secret missions, they find themselves thrust into the glitz and deception of the ranked Guardian society.

As a Sympath, Sean can feel and absorb people’s emotional states, including the desire his new wife can’t hide. Fighting against their attraction is useless, and he quickly discovers he’ll do anything to keep her safe. Which turns out to be more difficult than he ever anticipated. The more Katria digs into the murders, the more danger seems to find her…


#Fantasy #PNR #ParanormalRomance #GenHeirs #TheGuardiansofSziveria #SarahWestill #WhatToRead #SummerReads #NewRelease #NewBook

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

A Prophecy of Wings by Jane McGarry #YAFantasy #FairyTaleRetelling


A Prophecy of Wings
Jane McGarry

Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling
Publisher: JM Books
Date of Publication:  May 18, 2021
ISBN ebook: 978-1-7365884-0-6 
ISBN print: 978-1-7365884-1-3
ASIN: B093Y21CCZ
Number of pages: 382 
Word Count: 71,000

Cover Artist: Graphics by Mulan Jiang

Tagline: Two Fairies: One Destiny 

Book Description:  

A betrayal, a prophecy, a kingdom in the balance. Sixteen years ago the evil Dahlia overthrew the kingdom of Roshall Grove, the heart of the Fairy World. A prophecy foreseen by Edwina, a powerful enchantress, remains the only hope to topple her iron-fisted rule. Now, Lina, a simple peasant girl, learns her future is linked to this prophecy. Edwina brings Lina to the Fairy World to fulfill her destiny—conquering Queen Dahlia. 

Separated from the enchantress by agents of the dark queen, Lina begins a perilous journey to join the Resistors, who await her return to mount their attack. Thrust into this strange world, Lina must navigate relations with a host of different fairies and animals, never knowing who seeks to help or to thwart her. Finally reunited with the Resistors, Lina must find the strength to lead her people and fulfill the prophecy. Meanwhile, Dahlia prepares for the battle, which will ultimately decide the survival of her reign, while reflecting on the path that brought her and her foe to this moment of reckoning. 

A fairy tale with an ending twist, A Prophecy of Wings is loosely based on Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen and examines the ideas of predestined fates and the subsequent, sometimes unforeseen, consequences. 

Amazon      BN      Kobo      Apple

Excerpt - Prologue:

The pains came more frequently now. Even with the help of Edwina, it was a struggle to run. In the cramped darkness of the tunnel, she tried to maintain her footing, an impossible task with the burgeoning weight of her belly. Time was of the essence. They must not be caught, but the spasms were nearly unbearable.

“I can't go on,” she gasped, a sharp pang taking her breath away.

“Just a little bit further, Your Highness,” the enchantress coaxed.

Every step down the seemingly endless passageway was sheer torment. Queen Ivy willed herself to continue. She was the last hope for her people, and she must not fail.

Edwina stopped so abruptly; the queen stumbled into her back. The enchantress pulled the weakened monarch through a narrow gap in the wall. They crossed the threshold of a doorway into the depths underneath the forest. A tangle of tree roots filled the cavern, their sinuous forms dwarfing the fairies. A robust scent infused the air with bark, stone, and earth.

Queen Ivy, a Volant used to the skies, reeled at the unfamiliar smells and fell to her knees.

The enchantress, more experienced with Groundling habitats, remained unaffected and surveyed the area. She assisted the queen in a nook hidden between the sides of two large tree roots, which soared overhead out of sight to meet the tree's trunk somewhere way above.

“Wait here,” she instructed, a moot directive to her incapacitated companion.

While Edwina disappeared the way they came, Ivy settled down her awkward frame. How had it come to this? The past few months had turned her world upside down. Having one's sister hunt you like prey was horrifying enough, but targeting her baby for death rocked her to her very core. Instinctively, her hand flew to her stomach, the muscles again tightening with the tremors of labor.

Her friend returned, hair disheveled, wings drooping, and announced, “As far as I can tell, we may have lost them in the maze of tunnels. I have used cloaking measures along the way and put a spell on the door to keep others out. But your sister's powers are strong. If she were to find us…”

“She will find us. It is only a matter of time,” the queen declared. Dahlia learned enough in dark magic to track even a covered trail.

“Well, it is time for this baby, so here must do.”
Queen Ivy sighed, resigned to the situation. When she discovered she was with child all those months ago, she had not envisioned giving birth in a dark hole underground. The enchantress spread a blanket on the earth for the queen to lie down. She checked the progress of the baby and nodded.  

“It is time. You need to push.”

Above all, the baby must survive. Otherwise, the prophecy would remain unfulfilled, and the kingdom would never be restored. The monarch braced herself against one sturdy root; the surface felt surprisingly warm and smooth. Under the calm direction of her lifelong friend, she delivered the child.

Edwina laid the baby girl into her arms. Ivy admired the feathery blond hair and the round little nose. Tears welled in her eyes at the sheer perfection of the infant. The enchantress finished tending to the mother and turned her attention to the newborn. After a quick examination, she ripped a length of fabric off Ivy's skirt to wrap her. “You could not have asked for a healthier daughter. Now, what shall her name be?”

“Her name?” the queen pondered. "I’ve not thought of one. All I have thought of is her safety.”

Before Edwina responded, they heard it—the rattle of armor. Soldier’s footsteps approached, their faint clinking unmistakable. Both women froze in terror.

“She has found us,” Ivy whispered in dread, her arms tightening around the baby.

“Perhaps not. Perhaps it is King Theros on his way to tell us he defeated Dahlia.”

The footsteps grew louder.

“No,” the queen affirmed. “It is my sister. I feel her presence. You must take the baby to the other world and keep her safe until the time is right. Dahlia cannot follow you there.”

The soldier’s armor rang loudly in their ears. They came to a halt right outside the doorway.

“Come then,” the enchantress conceded, holding out a hand to help her friend rise.

“No. I must stay and try to defeat Dahlia. Take her.” She thrust the infant into Edwina’s arms. “Go now.”

Loud hammering filled the air with the enemy’s attempt to break the door down.

“But My Queen, she will show you no mercy. I will not leave you here to die.”

Queen Ivy leaned forward and placed her hands on her friend’s, which cradled the child. She slipped the crystal-bound amulet inside the swaddling. “Yes, Edwina, you must. I command it. Take her now and keep her safe.”

The enchantress desperately tried to think of another way. Axes and spears crashed upon the door, weakening her spell with every stroke. Sadly, she stepped back and conjured the words to transport her between the worlds, a power only she possessed in the entire kingdom.  

The new mother watched the toss of the seeds, and Edwina’s frantically whispered spell. A cloud of dust encircled her friend and her baby. Too weak to even stand, she blinked through her tears. Just before the two vanished, she said, “Lina. I want her to be named Lina.”

Edwina nodded, the final wish heard, and with a poof, they were gone.

The door finally gave way, a multitude of soldiers pouring in, their armor dark as night. Queen Ivy turned to see her sister step through the broken threshold. Dahlia scrutinized the scene, the queen’s deflated belly and the cloud of dust on the ground. Her eyes narrowed in malice. The baby was beyond her reach—for now. She met Queen Ivy’s eyes and despised the look of triumph in them.

“Kill her,” Dahlia ordered.

The queen whispered one last anguished prayer for her daughter before an arrow pierced her heart.


About the Author: 

Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Creating her own stories developed out of this love. To date she has published the Not Every Girl trilogy, a YA Fantasy Adventure. Her latest novel, A Prophecy of Wings, is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Thumbelina. She lives in New Jersey with my husband, two sons and two extremely spoiled cats. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with a good book and said cats. 














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Tuesday, June 01, 2021

David-Matthew Barnes Top Ten Favorite Horror Films


...in no particular order because I love them all.

Bride of Frankenstein(1935)

One of the best sequels ever made (and even better than Frankenstein, in my opinion), owed to Elsa Lanchester's brilliant performance in the title role and James Whale's masterful direction.

Black Christmas(1974)

One of the first slasher films, this creepy tale set in a sorority house influenced many similar movies to follow.

The Changeling(1980)

Truly one of the best ghost stories made for the screen, this film is a horror masterpiece.

Curtains (1983)

This Canadian slasher flick features one the scariest ice skating sequences ever.

The Fury(1978)

This was the first horror film I saw as a child and it's impact on me has been lifelong. Amy Irving's final moment of revenge makes this great movie well worth the watch.

Halloween(1978)

My all-time favorite horror film and not because the first time I saw it I was 13 and babysitting on Halloween. John Carpenter's classic has the perfect ingredients for the making of an iconic film, including the terrifying score.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1978)

This edge-of-your-seat horror flick about humans being taken over by alien duplicates is a fun classic, with a super scary final scene.

Poltergeist(1982)

This movie feels like a thrill ride - and what an awesome ride it is. From menacing toy clowns to corpses in the swimming pool to malevolent trees intent on devouring child, this suburban ghost story will make you never want to watch television again.

Psycho(1960)

One of the best film adaptations of a novel, this iconic film (including that unforgettable shower scene) is still terrifying audiences, all thanks to one of the best horror villains ever created, Norman Bates.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974)

One of the scariest films ever made, this low-budget indie flick set a new standard for horror films and influenced many great films in later years.

 


Mind Fields 
David-Matthew Barnes

Genre: New Adult, M/M Romance, 
            Suspense Thriller
Publisher: Blue Dasher Press 
Date of Publication: May 18, 2021 
Word Count: 48,500
Cover Artist: Darn Good Covers

Book Description: 

Sometimes love can blow you away. 

When struggling college student Adam Parsh accepts a tutoring position, he is lured into the unknown world of a wealthy family. 

Fighting off the sexual advances of Dario Vassalo, a Greek tycoon and patriarch, Adam finds himself the object of the dangerous desires of one of the most powerful men in the world—his married employer.Torn between his attraction to Dario and his deepening love for his best friend, Victor Maldonado, Adam is forced to choose between right and wrong. 

Surrounded by lust, glamour, and greed, Adam uncovers dark secrets strong enough to destroy many lives, including his own.

Excerpt

Although the schedule at the Ravenswood Metra station said the commute was only 54 minutes, the ride felt much longer. Adam was seated with a window view, heading north on the Union Pacific line towards Great Lakes, to the wealthy shore side suburb of Lake Bluff, a place he’d only read about and heard others mention.

It was early but Adam had made a point of buying a large cup of coffee at 7-Eleven before jumping on the commuter train. The coffee warmed a chill inside of him he hadn’t been able to shake since waking up.

While Stacey was still passed out, Adam had stumbled around the tiny apartment, half asleep and full of lingering concerns. He showered, got dressed, ate a bowl of instant oatmeal, and headed to the train station. He checked his phone more times than usual. No voice mail or text from Victor.

Maybe I should’ve let him stay last night. I could’ve woken up in his arms, next to his warm body. We could’ve made love for hours.

Adam barely took notice of the sights as the train continued on its snow-filled journey to the North Shore. Instead, he sipped his coffee, listened to overly sentimental love songs on his iPod, and tried to imagine what life would be like if he and Victor made a commitment to each other. He knew, more than ever, that’s what he wanted. Being with Victor made sense. Like so many people had said before, they made a great pair.

Questions and fears heightened Adam’s anxiety, racing through his mind at the same speed of the train. Were they too young to be so serious? To be exclusive? What if Victor decided he was bored and restless and wanted to date other people? What if he was tempted and unfaithful? That would leave Adam hurt and damaged beyond repair.

His phone buzzed.

Finally.

False alarm. It was Stacey. I can’t wear my new shoes today because it’s snowing outside. I hate February. But I love you. Where you be?

He texted back. On a train heading north.

She responded within seconds. I hope you’re not running away from home just because the rent is due.

He smiled and texted back. Job interview. Wish me luck. Otherwise it’s noodles and tap water for us until March.

The train was nearly empty now. A young woman wearing a red knitted scarf and matching cap was sitting a few seats away. A business man in a gray suit was reading a newspaper he’d folded in half. He was balancing a leather briefcase on his lap. His black-framed reading glasses looked as if they’d slip off the tip of his nose at any second.

I wonder what their lives are like. Is she in love with someone she can’t have? Is he unhappy in his marriage? Are they terrified of dying alone someday?

Adam glanced down at the pleated slacks, button-up Oxford, black pea coat, and Italian leather shoes he was wearing. He was dressed like a preppy boarding school student. He felt like an impostor. He’d assumed someone else’s identity in Chicago and was now on his way to fool a rich family into believing he was one of them.

They’ll see right through me.

Adam wondered why Dario Vassalo had extended the invitation to him. Given they’d only spent a few minutes together in Becca’s new office and their conversation had been brief, Adam tried to figure out what it was he’d said or done to inspire the wealthy man to consider him for the tutoring position. Was he replacing someone who’d been fired or quit? Were ulterior motives at work? Was the position created just for Adam as a way for Dario to see him again?

Adam shook his head, silently dismissing his absurd theories. Yet, in the back of his mind, he knew there was a thread of truth to them. He’d felt an instant heat for Dario. It was powerful and intense. He was almost certain the attraction was mutual.

Get that ridiculous idea right out of your head. He’s a married man. You have Victor now. And, you love him. You need the job. If you have to flirt a little to get it and keep it, you’re only doing what needs to be done. You can make this situation work for you until graduation.

Even if the train ride is forever and these stupid shoes are already killing your feet.

Adam finished his coffee. He looked out the window at the passing neighborhoods, wondering what was happening inside the houses and apartments within eye line of the tracks. Was someone brewing coffee, cracking open eggs, pouring pancake batter over a buttered grill? Was a child running late for school, worried they were going to miss the bus? Did someone decide to call in sick for the day, add another log to the fire, and curl back into bed with a good book and a cup of peppermint tea? Maybe a car wouldn’t start. An alarm didn’t go off. A husband didn’t come home.  

The train pulled into the quaint, historic Lake Bluff station. Adam said a silent prayer, stood, and exited. Outside, the biting morning air was even colder than it had been in the city. There was a thin mist, floating and mingling with the falling snow flurries like a tentative ghost trying to decide whether or not to make an appearance.

Adam slid both hands into the pocket of his pea coat, cursing himself for not remembering to wear gloves or a scarf. He moved around the crowd of Chicago-bound commuters waiting to board a southbound train and made his way to the front of the train station.

Adam checked his phone and reread the instructions his mother had texted him.

A cab will be waiting for you at the station. Don’t be late.

On the train, Adam worried there’d be too many taxis to figure out which one was for him. He was relieved when there was only one idling at the curb.

There was an older woman standing next to the cab. She was short and squat. She was wearing a purple windbreaker, powder blue polyester slacks, and a pair of blinding white sneakers. The strange ensemble was completed with a white visor she wore low, just above her eyes. Her hair was short and tightly permed. It had an Easter blue tint to it.

She looks like an over groomed, mean poodle.

She glanced him up and down, cracked a sunflower seed between her front teeth, and spit the shell out on the sidewalk. “You Adam?” she asked. Her voice was nicotine stained and coated with a thick New York accent. At once, she gave off a strong vibe that even though she was short and could’ve been someone’s grandmother, she was tough and shouldn’t be messed with.

Adam was hesitant with his answer. “Yes. That’s me.”

“Name’s Myrtle,” she said.

“Myrtle?” Adam repeated, trying to hide his amusement.

No one is really named Myrtle, are they?

“Myrtle Brubaker,” she said. “You heard of me before?”

Adam couldn’t tell if she was joking. Was she a gangster or a cab driver?

Myrtle Brubaker had been through some hard times. It showed on her face. She looked weathered like someone had left her outside for too long in the snow. Beneath her haggard appearance and red, blotchy cheeks there was just a sliver of the attractive young girl she probably once was. Yet, it was clear Myrtle had never been a debutante. Adam imagined she spent her nights on a bar stool, shooting the breeze, chain-smoking, and killing off a bottle of bourbon. Or two.

“Get in,” she instructed. “You don’t wanna keep the missus waiting. She’s got a busy schedule.”

Adam complied. He slid into the backseat of the cab. It was like sitting in a closed box of sweet-smelling cigars. He rubbed his eyes, coughed a little, and asked, “What does she do?”

Myrtle found his eyes in the rearview mirror. “Who?”

“The missus,” he said, already speaking Myrtle’s language. “Mr. Vassalo’s wife.”

“Name’s Evangelina.”

“That’s pretty,” he said.

“Doesn’t even do her justice, if you ask me. She’s a knock out. You’d think her husband would pay more attention to her, but whadda I know?”

Adam grinned. “You seem to know a lot, Myrtle.”

“I love three things in this world,” she said.

“Is one of them bourbon?” Adam guessed.

            “As a matter of fact it is,” she said. “I love bourbon, a good horse race, and Nancy Sinatra.”


About the Author:

David-Matthew Barnes is an award-winning author, playwright, poet, and screenwriter. He writes in multiple genres, primarily young adult, romance, thriller, and horror. He is the bestselling author of twelve novels, five produced screenplays, three collections of poetry, seven short stories, and more than sixty stage plays. He graduated with honors from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and English. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. He attended the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA. David-Matthew divides his time between Denver and Los Angeles. He is represented by Hoop Earrings Entertainment.






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