Wednesday, July 23, 2014



Lily Hinsdale spends her California days designing extravagant hotels for Utopia Resorts. Her nights are filled with the glitz and glamour of upscale parties. Until her grandmother dies and leaves Lily property in wretched Vermont. The woods mean only one thing to Lily—nightmares. When Utopia wants the land for development, Lily is forced to travel to a place she’d rather forget.
Rick Stannard makes maple syrup and builds barns in the peace and quiet of picturesque Vermont. Noisy New York City nearly killed him a few years back, and now he lives a calm, simple life with his coyote, Poe, and his beloved book collection. It’s the only way he’s guaranteed to wake up each morning.
When Lily marches her expensive boots onto Rick’s land and proposes turning it into a mega resort, the serenity of the woods is shattered. Lily always closes a deal. Rick never intends to sell. They’ll need to compromise, or someone else will do it for them. Someone who is not afraid of the woods or the city.
Or spilling a little blood.

First Chapter:

“Leave it, Poe. Quit fooling around.”

Rick Stannard wrestled his glove away from his coyote. She was forever burying, slobbering all over, or chewing holes in his good work gloves. Ever since he’d rescued the abandoned, starving pup from the woods at the edge of his property, he’d been living with the eccentricities of having an animal meant for the wild living in his cabin. He’d trained her. Knew she wouldn’t attack him while he slept, but now and then, her feral nature would flare up. Poe considered it playing, and most of the time so did Rick, but today he had to insert the taps on his maple trees and inspect the lines. The sap was about to run and that meant the Stannard Mountain Pure Vermont Maple Syrup Company—Rick’s company—was all systems green.

“C’mon, you beast. We don’t have all morning to waste. We’ve got work to do.” Rick gave a final tug that freed his glove from Poe’s jaws. He stumbled back, landing on his backside on the hickory floor of his small kitchen. “Brat.” He swiped Poe’s muzzle with his glove.

The coyote licked his hand and happily trotted beside Rick as he went into the garage to load his sled with the necessary tools. Clothed in his snow pants, thermal shirt, fleece jacket, knit hat, boots, and snowshoes, Rick was ready for a day out on his three-hundred acre property in the woods of Danton, Vermont. He’d upgraded his equipment, all gravity-fed lines, about three years back. The only assistance he accepted was from his aunt, Joy Stannard, and his cousins, Hope and Sage, who ran the bakery and book swap storefront of the business during the late winter and early spring months. Customers needed a cozy, friendly little shop from which to purchase their maple products. Rick didn’t do cozy or friendly, but Aunt Joy and his cousins excelled in both areas.

Leaving the sled outside, he pushed open the door to the storefront and let Poe scurry in first.

“Morning, Rick! I was thinking if we arranged the tables this way, it would allow for more interaction between customers, and if the customers interact more, this place could become the social center of Danton. It would mean more sales, more book swapping, more action. Sometimes this place can be such a tomb, but with the tables like this, maybe some hot, interesting guys will come in and whisk me away to—”

Rick held up two hands to stop Hope from continuing her verbal assault. Too much. Too early.

“Sorry.” Hope pushed in a chair at one of the tables she’d moved. “I forgot you aren’t a morning person.”

“Isn’t much of an afternoon or evening person either,” Sage, Hope’s sister, called from behind the pastry case where she had been vacuuming the shelves.

Rick shot her a glare to which she responded with a snarl that ended in a grin.

“What brings you amongst the people, Grouch?” Sage gathered her long, blond hair into a ponytail then leaned against the pastry case.

Rick pointed down to his winter attire. “What does it look like I’m going to do?”

“Sumo wrestle with Bigfoot?” Hope offered, making Sage chuckle.

“If you weren’t so busy turning this place into a dating club, you’d know what’s going on.” Rick pulled his glove off to scratch Poe between the ears as the coyote pushed her muzzle into his knee.

“I’m not turning it into a dating club, Rick.” Hope gestured to the tables arranged in a tight little formation that made him a little claustrophobic. “It looks better this way, doesn’t it?”

“It looked fine the old way.” Rick shrugged.

“How is it that you’re only six years older than me but seem as if you’re eighty-six years older?” Sage asked. “Change is good, old man.”

He knew Sage was only busting his chops, but it stung a little today. He didn’t know why, which made him feel exactly like an old man.

“I don’t care what you do with the tables, Hope, as long as there are tables and they’re clean.” Rick headed for the door. “Where’s Aunt Joy?” And why do I want her around? Because Hope and Sage are picking on me? Foolish.

“She went into town to buy some fabric. Don’t freak out, Rick.” Hope grabbed his biceps and opened her brown eyes real wide as she stood on tiptoes in a useless attempt to look him in the eye. “She wants to make new curtains for these windows. Now I realize she didn’t clear it with you first, O Master of Keeping the Status Quo, but I don’t think a curtain change will destroy the world as we know it.”

Rick growled at Hope, and she laughed along with Sage. Even Poe let out a few short barks that sounded like chuckling.

“Whose side are you on, mutt?” He nudged Poe with his knee, and the coyote let out a whimper of apology.

“You headed out now?” Sage asked.


“Take this.” Sage placed a thermos on top of the pastry case and slid it toward him. “Minestrone like no other, Cuz.”

For all her poking fun, Sage took care of him just as Aunt Joy and Hope did. They were his family, all he had. All he needed. 

“Thanks.” He took the thermos and held it out of Poe’s reach as the coyote tried to climb up his leg for it. “Down. No meat in this one.” He tapped her on the nose, and Poe sank to all fours. Even if the soup did have meat in it, he wasn’t sharing. Everything Sage made tasted like heaven. That was what made her a fantastic caterer when it wasn’t sugaring season. She was busy cooking all times of the year. And her cookies? Off the charts tasty.

“I’ve got some website updates I’ve been working on.” Hope gestured to her laptop on one of the tables she’d moved. She handled all their online sales, promotional materials, and website. She was awesome at it too, which was good because Rick didn’t want to handle that stuff. Lots of people didn’t want to handle that stuff, so Hope was busy with that work in the off season.

“Okay,” Rick said. “Make them happen. I’m sure it’s all good.”

Hope patted his cheek. “I love that I have you trained to believe I’m always right.”

“Except when you move my tables.”   

Hope stuck her tongue out at him then said, “Don’t get lost out there.”

“Have I ever?” Rick zipped the front of his fleece coat.

“No,” Sage said, “but we can dream.” She smiled sweetly and turned on the vacuum again.

He could still hear his cousins’ laughter as he left the store with Poe on his heels. He put on his hat and picked up the cable attached to his sled. A day out in the tranquility of the woods stretched before him, and he couldn’t think of a more perfect way to spend his time. The morning sky was clear, and a fresh snow had fallen last night making his property seem like uncharted territory, free from any indications of civilization.

On a whistle, Rick and Poe headed out. His snowshoes cut a trail across the blank white page of his land, and he fell into the easy rhythm of his work. He moved at a steady pace, covering more ground than he’d expected. The terrain was a bit hilly in this section of the sugar bush, but he pushed onward. He chewed up some of his time watching a moose and her calf at the edge of the still frozen Cassie’s Pond. The cow’s ears constantly twitched as she listened for signs of danger. The baby huddled beside her, its thick brown coat lightly dusted with snow.

When a hawk cried overhead, the cow nudged her baby and the two wandered deeper into the woods. Woods that weren’t a part of Rick’s property, but were tapped by him. When he’d first started his syrup business on his land, he’d cut a deal with his neighbor to lease and tap her trees. She received a specified amount of money per tap for the intrusion, which she didn’t seem to mind, and Rick always supplied her with free syrup every year. She was a great neighbor. Not around much and as respectful of his privacy as he was of hers. A marvelous business arrangement if such a concept existed. Someday Rick hoped to own her land when she was ready to sell it and double his empire without having to go all big city and corporate.

He continued inserting spiles until the sun faded and hunger knocked on the walls of his stomach. He’d install the taps on his neighbor’s trees tomorrow and spend tonight going through three boxes of donated books back at his cabin for the book swap. The bonus was he got first dibs on anything of interest in the donations, and he’d made some good finds in the past. An early edition Kafka. A leather-bound collection of Shakespeare plays. An autographed Jane Austen. Those finds were now displayed on the floor to ceiling bookcases that lined three of Rick’s living room walls.

Anticipating the buzz he always got when surrounded by books, he pulled his sled around to head home, but as he turned he dropped the rope attached to the sled. He was on enough of a hill that the sled immediately slid away from him. Not wanting to have to chase the sled and his tools all the way to the bottom, Rick ran after it in his snowshoes.

No easy feat.

He started off all right until the tip of his left snowshoe got caught under a fallen branch hidden below the snow. His ankle made an unnatural grinding sound as his foot stayed wedged in one direction and his body fell the opposite way. He let out a howl of pain that had Poe darting over to sniff his face.

“Back, Poe.” Rick pushed the coyote out of his space, but she circled around him, sniffing and whimpering.

The hurt in his ankle was a slow burning that got hotter as he tried to release his boot from the snowshoe. Every movement sent ripples of fire up his entire left leg. After too many minutes of struggling, he finally managed to unfasten the straps. His foot spilled off the snowshoe and when it landed in the snow, he hurled a shout into the arm of his fleece jacket. The muffled agony further agitated Poe who began howling. A few dogs replied, and Rick suddenly felt very Stephen King.

Not a great feeling.

Knowing it would be dark soon, he tried to stand. That went okay until he put his weight on his left foot and crumpled right back down to the ground.

Dammit. I don’t need this now.

He grumbled under his breath as Poe ran a little ahead of their position and then galloped back to him. When she came close enough to sniff him again, he grabbed her. Pointing her toward the sled resting at the bottom of the hill, he said, “Go get it. Get it, Poe.”

Poe barked once and shot down the hill toward the sled. She dug in the snow a bit and touched her nose to the ground. When she raised her head, the rope was in her teeth. She bounded back up the hill with the sled gliding along behind her, and Rick cursed over his stupidity.

What good is having a coyote if I don’t know how to use her?

Poe continued past him with the sled until it rested on level land. The coyote stood by the sled and barked at him as if to say, “C’mon. Let’s go.”

“Would love to, Poe.” As much as he didn’t want to, Rick untied his boot and slid it off with a few grunts of pain. He removed his thermal sock and glanced at the instant swelling in his ankle. That was the last thing he saw.  

When he opened his eyes again, the snow-covered canopy of trees had been replaced by the tongue-and-groove pine ceiling of his living room. He was still in the jeans he’d worn during the day and his thermal shirt, but a flannel blanket had been thrown over him. Good thing too, because he was freezing.

And maybe a little dizzy. Definitely tired as all hell.

“You awake, sugar?” Aunt Joy came in from the kitchen.

He attempted to sit up, but found he didn’t have the strength.

“Easy, Rick. Take it slow.” Aunt Joy stood over him with a smile on her face he knew was forced.

“How’d I get back here?”

“When nine o’clock rolled around and we didn’t see this face,” she bent to pat his cheek, “we knew something not good had happened.”

Aunt Joy helped him wiggle up to a sitting position on the couch, and a plastic air cast spanning up to his calf stared back at him from the armrest on the other end. Rick let out a groan and flopped his head onto the back of the couch.

“Yeah, it’s severely sprained. Doctor Reslin made a special house call so we didn’t have to take you to the h-o-s-p-i-t-a-l.” Aunt Joy whispered the letters, and despite his situation, Rick appreciated the woman’s tenderness. She knew better than anybody how much he hated hospitals.

“The police found you in the snow, one shoe on, one shoe off, and out cold in more ways than one.” Aunt Joy sat on the edge of the old chest Rick used as a coffee table and rested her chin in her hands. “Gave an old lady a good scare, sugar. I don’t like when you do that.”

He pulled his gaze from the cast and looked at Aunt Joy’s face. Her brown eyes were watery, her nose a little red. He reached his hand over and tugged one of hers out from beneath her chin. Giving it a squeeze, he said, “I’m sorry, Aunt Joy. I tripped. It was stupid.”

“It was an accident. Could happen to anyone.” She placed her other hand atop his. “Just glad you’re okay. You’re a miserable hermit most of the time, but I kind of love you, you know?”

“I love you too.”

“Of course you do. Nobody takes better care of you than me.” Aunt Joy patted his cheek again and stood. “Okay, here’s the scoop. Cast for a few weeks. Stay off the ankle for the rest of this week and keep it elevated, then Doc left you a cane so you can hobble around.”

Rick opened his mouth to protest, but Aunt Joy waved him off. “I know. I know. ‘Aunt Joy, how am I supposed to stay off my feet when there’s so much to do?’ Listen, kid, this is the way the cards got dealt this hand. Roll with it.”

She made it sound like no big deal. No big deal that he was reduced to the functioning level of an infant during a key time for his syrup business.

“It doesn’t hurt that much,” Rick said.

“That’s because you’ve got these in you.” Aunt Joy reached to an end table by the couch and shook an orange bottle of prescription pills. “Wonder drugs. Once they wear off, you’ll be writhing in pain.” She leaned in close to his ear. “Here’s a tip, sugar. Don’t let them wear off.”





Excerpt #1:


As he continued stacking books, Poe padded to the door and woofed once at it.

“No customers today, Poe. Not yet.” 

She barked again at the door and as she sat by it, a soft knock echoed in the store. Rick put down the books he had in his lap and limped to the nearest window. A Jeep he didn’t recognize was in front of the store along with footprints in the remaining patch of snow. The knock came again, but he couldn’t see who was at the door. He contemplated not answering as he often did when the phone rang, but figured it wouldn’t waste much time to explain the store wasn’t open yet.

He ambled to the door, resting his hand on the tables as he passed by without the cane. As he neared the door, another knock sounded.

“Okay, okay,” he said. “I’m coming.” He cursed his slowness and hoped he’d be rid of the cast soon. Not likely, judging by the ache, but a man could hope.

He reached the door and pulled it open. What was standing on the other side of it made him forget his own name.

A woman. Not much shorter than him with reddish-blond hair that brushed her shoulders and curled about a face meant for makeup commercials. Her skin had a wonderful glow he’d never seen on any native Vermonter, and her eyes were blue-green jewels. Slim, black jeans spanned down two long, shapely legs and disappeared into brown, knee-high leather boots that belonged on a runway not on his partly muddy, partly snowy doorstep. The rust-colored dress coat that hung to her thighs also seemed out of place in this setting, but not out of place on her. The woman was perfection in that coat, and the cream-colored scarf she had looped around her neck fascinated Rick.

Poe barked and the woman jumped. “Is that a coyote?” Her voice, soft yet assertive, matched her delicate mouth and intense eyes, but she looked as if she were ready to run for her vehicle.

“Yeah, but she won’t hurt you. She’s been raised to think she’s a big hamster.” What is this woman doing here? Then the pieces fell into place in his mind. “You’re one of Hope or Sage’s friends, right?” That had to be it, but he didn’t remember ever seeing this one. He didn’t think he could forget her if he had seen her. God, she was tall.

“No,” she said. “I don’t know Hope or Sage. I’m looking for whoever signed this.” She pulled an envelope out of her shoulder bag and rifled through it. While keeping a wary eye on Poe, she handed Rick one of the documents, and he scanned it quickly.

“You’re looking for me then.” Why did that make something in his stomach tighten?

“You’re the neighbor? You knew Gail Hinsdale?” A section of snow slid off the roof and landed in a pile about a foot away from the woman. She stumbled back and threw a glance all around her, almost dropping the envelope in the process.

“Come in,” Rick said, though he hadn’t remembered consciously deciding to invite her inside.

“Thank you.” She knocked the mud and snow off her boots and squeezed past him into the store. She smelled like grapefruit and coconut and sunshine. Like something far too exotic to be here with him. “Could you…” She motioned to Poe and made a shooing gesture with her gloved hand.

“Sure. C’mon, Poe.” Rick smacked his thigh and shuffled toward the kitchen behind the pastry case. He pushed open the door and guided Poe in. She whimpered on the other side when she realized he’d locked the door.

Poor girl. Rick felt like a big, fat meany.

“I appreciate that. Wild animals unsettle me.” The woman pulled off her leather gloves to reveal long, slim fingers with nails polished a deep crimson.

“She’s not wild,” Rick said. 

“Right. Tell that to her teeth.” The woman dropped the envelope on one of the tables and unlooped the scarf to expose a slender neck. She turned in a tight circle to survey the store. What was she thinking? She obviously came from a place where the stores didn’t look like his.

“You knew Gail Hinsdale?” She leveled her gaze on Rick, then flicked a glance down to his ankle. “Do you want to sit down?”

“I think I’m supposed to ask you that.” He indicated the chair across from the one he currently had a death grip on.

She slid the chair out and sat on it, but just on the edge, not like she meant to stay for any length of time. This saddened Rick, because for the first time in his life, he didn’t have the urge to get rid of company.

He eased onto the opposite chair, and the muscles in his entire body relaxed as the pressure was taken off his ankle. The woman noticed.

“What happened there?” She peeked under the table.

“Snowshoeing incident.” He shrugged, determined not to explain any further though the woman waited a moment as if he might. “How is Gail? I haven’t seen her in a little while.”

The woman’s lips twisted down at the corners, and Rick had this ridiculous urge to scoot over to her side of the table and… and do something.

“Gail died.” Those piercing blue-green eyes grew watery. “My grandmother is gone.”

“I’m so sorry,” Rick said. “She was real generous with allowing me to tap her trees. Nearly doubled my productivity.” He had reaped nothing but benefits from his arrangement with Gail Hinsdale. One of the smartest, healthiest business moves he’d ever made. 

“She left me the property.” The woman extended her hand. “I’m Lily Hinsdale.”

Taking her hand in his and noting how cold her fingers were, he said, “Rick Stannard.” He looked at the envelope again. “Are you thinking of moving to the property?”

At this, Lily let out a loud laugh. “Moving to Vermont? Are you serious? I don’t want to be here right now, never mind live here.” She brushed her hair out of her face with a shaky finger.

“What’s wrong with Vermont?” Rick asked. It was the perfect place as far as he was concerned.

“Umm, everything.” Lily stretched her magnificent legs out to the side of the table and peered down at her boots. Cringing, she knocked her heels together letting caked mud drop to the floor. “Vermont is no California.”




Excerpt #2:


With a stop to check a few taps, he confirmed the sap wasn’t running yet, but it would be. He could feel it in the air. The woods were beginning to smell like the woods again after being asleep under the snow for months. This was truly his favorite time of the year. This in-between time, when one season surrendered to the next. When the trees shared their natural goodness with him so he could make a living on the land he loved.

When… an ugly cream-colored Jeep was parked in front of his store.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” He shuffled as fast as he could with Poe jogging along beside him.

He swung open the door and marched in to find Aunt Joy, Hope, and Sage sitting at a table. With her. Their laughter filled the empty store and burrowed right underneath his skin.

“What are you doing?” he roared.

All four women jumped in their seats, and Rick had to contain his satisfaction. He hooked the cane on the nearest chair and limped over to them. Pointing a finger at Lily, he said, “You. Get out. Now.”

“Rick,” Aunt Joy said. “Where have your manners gone?”

My manners? Are you kidding me?” He lasered a glare at Lily. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but you’re not welcome here.”

“That’s it,” Sage said to Hope. “He’s finally lost all of his social skills.”

“Shut up, Sage.”

Sage shrank back in her seat, and Rick clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t usually snap at his cousins like that. This… this outsider was turning him into a monster.

“Did she tell you what she’s doing here?” He gestured to Lily. Why does she have to be wearing a low-cut, black sweater that hugs her amazing body? He shook his head and looked back to Sage.

“She’s staying at Gail’s house,” Hope said. “Gail passed away. She was Lily’s grandmother.” Hope rested a hand on Lily’s and gave her a compassionate look.

“So maybe you could try to act like a human, Rick,” Sage said, “and be nice to the girl who just lost her grandmother, huh?” She shook her feathery blond hair out of her face.

“I’m not going to be nice to her,” he said. “She’s leaving.” He slid Lily’s purse off the back of the chair and made a move to grab her by the bicep.

“Rick, you will not lay a hand on our guest.” Aunt Joy’s tone froze his hand just shy of Lily.

“It’s okay, Joy,” Lily said.

Joy? First name basis. So nice we’re all chums here.

Rick tossed Lily’s purse onto the table where it landed like a bag of rocks. It upended the saucer Lily’s teacup rested on and sent the tea into her lap. She popped up from her seat as did Aunt Joy, Hope, and Sage.

“Rick!” his aunt and cousins said together.

He tried to feel triumphant over the dark, wet stain on Lily’s light blue jeans, but he couldn’t get past the way the denim molded to her thighs and tapered down her legs. Amazingly long legs. She was so much taller than his aunt and his cousins. They were mere dolls next to her.

“Get some towels, Hope,” Aunt Joy said as she handed Lily some napkins in the meantime. “I’m sorry about my nephew.” She turned to Rick. “What’s your problem? This is Robert Hinsdale’s daughter. Robert Hinsdale, the actor. The one I adore,” she said through clenched teeth. “I know you don’t do people very well, but I’ve never seen you be this rude.”

“Tell them.” Rick stared at Lily, and she swallowed as if she had trouble doing so. He’d interrupted her game, her attempt to win over his family then dive in for the kill.

“Tell us what?” Sage asked.

“This is not Miss Hinsdale’s first trip in here, is it?” He pulled another chair over and sat. He would have loved to remain standing to appear more imposing, but his ankle was screaming from walking so fast to the store. Plus, his foot was soaked with mud.

“I stopped in yesterday.” Lily took a towel from Hope and dabbed at the stain on her jeans. “To make a deal with Mr. Stannard.”

“What kind of a deal?” Aunt Joy sounded suspicious now. Good.

“Well, I was getting around to telling you before the Abominable Snowman came in.” She shot Rick a glare. “I work for Utopia Resorts and—”

“Those fancy hotels with the themes?” Sage asked.

“So not everyone is a recluse up here, I see.” Lily nodded at Sage. “Yes, I design those resorts.”

“Oh, my God,” Hope said. “Sage and I have been saving a little money every year with the wild notion of visiting one of those resorts sometime.”

“You have?” Lily and Rick said at the same time. Lily with encouragement, Rick with disdain.

“Well, sure,” Sage said. “They’re beautiful hotels and who wouldn’t want to escape this.” She threw her hands out indicating everything around her. “I mean, I love it here and all, but it is a bit monotonous.”

“And quiet,” Hope added. “So quiet.”

“I’ve noticed the quiet.” Lily folded the towel and placed it on the table. “California is not like this at all.”

“No, it isn’t,” Rick said. “And I’m not going to let you turn Vermont into another California. One is all we need.”

“I never said I wanted to recreate California here,” Lily said, a laughing edge to her voice that irritated Rick. “If you’d let me finish my discussion yesterday, you would have seen that Utopia wants to keep this resort natural, outdoorsy.”

“And get rid of my home, my business, my woods.” Rick shook his head. “Not going to happen. I don’t want to live next door to a fancy resort either. No one around here does.”

“I’m sorry about your grandmother,” Aunt Joy finally said, “but I have to agree with my nephew. This is no place for a mega-resort.”

Finally. Someone is making some sense. Rick nodded at Aunt Joy, and she patted his hand.

Lily reached into her bag and pulled out a small laptop. “Let me show you some of the designs I’ve drawn up.”

“We’re not interested, Miss Hinsdale,” Rick said. But why was he interested in the way her strawberry curls fell around her neck? In the small freckle below her right eye?


Christine DePetrillo tried not being a writer. She attempted to ignore the voices in her head, but they would not stop. The only way she could achieve peace and quiet was to write the stories the voices demanded. Today, she writes tales meant to make you laugh, maybe make you sweat, and definitely make you believe in the power of love.
She lives in Rhode Island and occasionally Vermont with her husband, two cats, and a big, black German Shepherd who guards her fiercely against all evils.  


TWITTER: at @cdepetrillo --on the 4th and 14th of every month


Monday, July 21, 2014

Forager by Peter R. Stone

 By Peter R. Stone
Eighteen-year-old Ethan Jones lives in Newhome, a town built upon the decaying ruins of post-apocalyptic Melbourne, ruins haunted by the ferocious Skel, a nomadic tribe of degenerate savages.

The Skel are ramping up their attacks on Newhome's foraging teams and infesting Melbourne's ruins in ever greater numbers. Is this part of a larger plan that could spell the town's doom?

Meanwhile, the last thing Ethan expects when he and his companions rescue a two-car convoy from the Skel is a Japanese teenage girl with an outlandish dress-sense, who after they take her back to Newhome, goes to great lengths to ingratiate herself into his life. But is it in gratitude for saving her life or is she seeking something more?

And what a quandry she places him in, for he knows the rules, that no man is permitted to be alone with an unmarried woman. But how can he drive such a gentle soul away when she touchs his heart so deeply, even though she clearly carries the pain of a broken heart.

At the same time, Newhome's police force, the Custodians, are suspicious of Ethan's foraging team's successes and are pulling out the stops to find out which member of his team has the illegal mutant ability that gives them an edge over the other teams. Should these peacekeepers discover Ethan is the mutant they seek, they will haul him away and dissect him like a frog.

~*~BUY LINK~*~



Michal looked down at me, clearly displeased about something. "You gotta be more careful, Ethan."

"Me?" I asked, not having the slightest inkling of what he was referring to.

"Yes, Ethan, you," he confirmed as he turned the key in the ignition and pumped the accelerator gently to get the engine started. The truck was pretty old and I doubted it had a single part that hadn't been replaced or refurbished at some stage. "I'd wager my bottom dollar they're here 'cause they want to find out why our team brings in more metals than the others."

Our team was one of many that foraged in the ruins outside for non-corrosive metals - such as gold, platinum, copper, bronze and lead - that had survived the decades since the Apocalypse. We would take them back to the Recycling-Works where they would be sorted, melted down, and handed over to the factories.

"What do you mean?" I replied, feigning ignorance.

"Them other three goons," he whispered as he jerked his head back to indicate our workmates in the back seat, "they ain't too bright. They think you just know the best spots to look, but not me. I've seen you."

That sent icy tendrils of dread creeping back into my gut. "Seen me what?"

"You can drop your act with me, okay?" he said softly as he shifted the truck into gear and drove it out of the Recycling-Works yard and towards the town gates. "I've heard about people like you, and you're secret's safe with me. Just don't keep hitting pay dirt every day from now on, 'cause those Custodians, they're not here to protect us from the Skel like they claim, or they'd have brought a Bushmaster instead of that G-Wagon."

He was right, and I knew it. The Custodians always rode in their Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles when going into situations they perceived as potentially dangerous. That they came in an unarmoured G-Wagon today proved they were not expecting to encounter Skel as they claimed. So that was just a smokescreen to cover their true intention - which was to find out which of us had my aberrant, mutant ability: the ability I used to locate the metals we were looking for.


Michal looked down at me, clearly displeased about something. "You gotta be more careful, Ethan."
"Me?" I asked, not having the slightest inkling of what he was referring to.
"Yes, Ethan, you," he confirmed as he turned the key in the ignition and pumped the accelerator gently to get the engine started. The truck was pretty old and I doubted it had a single part that hadn't been replaced or refurbished at some stage. "I'd wager my bottom dollar they're here 'cause they want to find out why our team brings in more metals than the others."
Our team was one of many that foraged in the ruins outside for non-corrosive metals - such as gold, platinum, copper, bronze and lead - that had survived the decades since the Apocalypse. We would take them back to the Recycling-Works where they would be sorted, melted down, and handed over to the factories.
"What do you mean?" I replied, feigning ignorance.
"Them other three goons," he whispered as he jerked his head back to indicate our workmates in the back seat, "they ain't too bright. They think you just know the best spots to look, but not me. I've seen you."
That sent icy tendrils of dread creeping back into my gut. "Seen me what?"
"You can drop your act with me, okay?" he said softly as he shifted the truck into gear and drove it out of the Recycling-Works yard and towards the town gates. "I've heard about people like you, and you're secret's safe with me. Just don't keep hitting pay dirt every day from now on, 'cause those Custodians, they're not here to protect us from the Skel like they claim, or they'd have brought a Bushmaster instead of that G-Wagon."
He was right, and I knew it. The Custodians always rode in their Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles when going into situations they perceived as potentially dangerous. That they came in an unarmoured G-Wagon today proved they were not expecting to encounter Skel as they claimed. So that was just a smokescreen to cover their true intention - which was to find out which of us had my aberrant, mutant ability: the ability I used to locate the metals we were looking for.


The Recycling-Works boss rushed outside to talk to King, no doubt thanking him for his squad’s wonderful effort in saving my team yesterday. I wonder what he'd say if he found out it was the other way around.
Hearing feminine footsteps in the street outside piqued my interest, so I spun around and froze in shock when Nanako walked into the Recycling-Works yard with Councillor Okada several steps behind her. In her hands was a small, black box wrapped in a checked-pattern handkerchief.
Upon spying me, her petite, round face lit up with joy and she ran over to me with lively steps. She bowed briefly, held out her hands, and said, "I made this for you."
I looked down at the beautiful lacquered wooden lunchbox and had no idea what to do. Just seeing her, a single girl, out here in Newhome's streets - although with a chaperone - was a concept so unfamiliar that my mind was spinning in confusion.
"For me?" was all I could think to say.
"It's obento," she said, nodding to encourage me to accept the home-cooked lunch.
Michal gave me a gentle shove in the back, whispering, "Go on, accept it, you drongo."
I stumbled forward a step and received the beautiful lunchbox, trying not to stammer as I replied, "This is wonderful, thank you, Nanako."
Sergeant King chose that moment to interrupt, sending a questioning glance towards Nanako and Councillor Okada. "Okay boys, the day's not getting any younger. Saddle up and move out!" He could have at least greeted them, the unsociable sod.
We clambered into the truck and as Michal drove us out of the yard, Nanako walked to the gate with Councillor Okada, where she stood quietly, watching us drive off. I flashed her a warm smile and waved, clutching her unexpected gift with my other hand. She bowed, and held it until we were out of sight.



Peter Stone, an avid student of history, was reading books on Ancient Greece from the age of four. His periods of interest include the ancient world, medieval era, Napoleonic times, and the Second World War. He still mourns the untimely passing of King Leonidas of Sparta and Field Marshal Michel Ney of France. 

A child of the Cold War Generation, Peter Stone studied the ramifications of a nuclear missile strike when he was in his senior year of high school, learning the effects of nuclear fallout and how to (hopefully) survive it. He has ever been drawn to post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels and films, and eagerly devoured The Day of the Triffids and John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy when he was a child.
Peter Stone graduated from Melbourne School of Ministries Bible College in 1988. He has been teaching Sunday School and playing the keyboard in church for over twenty-five years. His wife is from Japan and they have twowonderful children. Peter Stone has worked in the same games company for over twenty years, but still does not comprehend why they expect him to work all day instead of playing games.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Jenna Jacob "Embracing My Submission"

Jenna Jacob
"Embracing My Submission"
Haunted for years by dreams of a savage, amber eyed Dominant with lips so enticing my soul ached in frustration and lust. None of the Dominants at Genesis, my local BDSM club ever stirred me in such blistering ways. While I tried to fill my submissive desires vicariously through interactions at the club, I attempted to convince myself it was enough. But it wasn’t. My dream Dom made certain I hungered for more. 

Forced beyond what I could bear, my passion and frustration exploded. I threw in the towel, determined to stop chasing a dream and gave up completely on finding submissive surrender. But fate intervened when two gunshots split the night. Forced to confront my desires and insecurities, I was shocked to realize that my dreams may have held a deeper meaning. Were they compelling me to finally embrace my submission?

***Book 1***
on Sale for $.99

Embracing My Submission


*~*SMASHWORDS*~*   *~*KOBO*~*



Jenna Jacob is married and lives in Kansas. A lover of music, cooking, camping, and riding Harleys on the open country roads. When she was thirteen she began writing--and not on a stone tablet, as her youngest son often teases. There is always a plot bubbling inside her head that has to be written.
With four grown children, she finally has time to paint the pictures of her twisted mind with words. Outgoing with a sassy sense of humor, she's never once been accused of being shy. With nearly twenty years of experience in the dynamics of the BDSM lifestyle, she strives to portray Dominance and submission with a passionate and comprehensive voice.

Author Links:



Twitter:  @JennaJacob3





Nearly fifty years after the events of Awakening 2, Lilly decides to stop running away and returns to Italy only to find the threat of a vampire civil war growing. With the help of Beth, Carrie and Jamie, Lilly learns how to face her feelings about her tragic past and to accept that, whether Torren wants her or not, her heart wants him. But when she finds Torren in Rome, not only is he still with Vittoria, he doesn’t seem to remember Lilly at all.
Can Lilly convince Torren to leave Vittoria to be with her and help the Organization find a peaceful solution to the conflict, or will Vittoria and a vampire war come between Torren and Lilly and their happily ever after?

Excerpt 1
“Torren?” she said again, a little louder, and this time Vittoria’s head snapped up and her eyes, narrowing to slits, locked with Lilly’s. In them, Lilly saw fear, anger, hatred. She supposed she could understand that. But that wouldn’t deter her, either. She was just about to say Torren’s name one more time when his head cocked slightly to the side and then, following Vittoria’s gaze, slowly rotated in her direction. Those impossibly blue eyes came to rest on her, and it was as if a warm wind blew through her. There was another shifting and clicking into place, but this time it was inside her. That gaping hole she’d carried around with her for years was filled. Torren gasped and started to rise, but Vittoria put her hand on his arm, and he settled down again. “Hello,” Torren said. His voice—that voice like velvet over marble—was full of wonder. Hello? That was it? After all these years, a casual hello was how he greeted her? Lilly’s stomach dipped, and then, as she continued to stare into his eyes, as she watched his gaze roam over her features without a hint of recognition, her stomach full-on sank. Excerpt 2 “I’m just trying to understand…was she always like this?” Lilly asked. “Like what?” Torren said, genuinely confused. “So…selfish and self-serving. I mean, was she different as a human? Is that why you fell in love with her?” Torren sat up, struggling to maintain his temper, reminding himself that Lilly had very limited experience with Vittoria. “Lilly, I realize that what you’ve seen of Vittoria has not given you a very good impression of her, but I have known her for a very long time. She is a good person, if a bit impulsive. She cares for me deeply, and it was her love for me that led her to try to ease my suffering. I’m not saying she was right to do what she did, but she certainly isn’t unfeeling.” Lilly softened immediately. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Torren. I shouldn’t have said that. I can tell that you care deeply for her.” Somewhat mollified, Torren settled back against the pillows again. He took Lilly’s hand and kissed her knuckles. “Apology accepted,” he said. “Thank you.” She settled back against him and ran her hand over his chest to his bicep. “I can only imagine how hard this decision must have been for you. I want you to know that I’m truly grateful. You won’t be sorry.” Torren stilled, trying to understand what Lilly was talking about. “What?” “I just mean that given your history and how much you care for her, it must have been hard to leave her and come here.” “Not really,” he said, still not getting it. “She was out when I left.” “Oh! Did you leave a note or something?” “Yes, I let her know I was coming here and didn’t know when I’d be home.” It was Lilly’s turn to pause. “Home to collect your things, you mean?” “What?” he repeated. Lilly sat up and looked down at him, doubt welling in her eyes. He sat up too and studied her. “When are you going to tell her?” she said carefully. “Tell her what?” Torren replied, and only then did he begin to guess what she meant. Her next words confirmed it. “When are you going to tell Vittoria that you are leaving her for me?” Excerpt 3 Moving faster now, high on the music and the promise of blood, Vittoria pulled the boy and Lilly down a back hall that was even darker than the main room past a small line of people waiting for the bathroom and through a door that had an Out of Order sign taped to it. She made sure both her charges were all the way in the room before letting go of Lilly’s hand and shutting the door. A dim light flickered on, powered by the motion detector, casting a yellow-green light over them. The room was no bigger than a closet and half-full of boxes, but there was enough room for the three of them. At least for what Vittoria had in mind. She grinned at the boy, who was squinting a little in the sudden light, and used her palm against his chest to slowly push him up against the wall. His eyes darted over Vittoria’s shoulder toward Lilly and back again, his pupils dilated, and the scent of his arousal filled the room. Vittoria licked her lips and pulled his head down. His lips were warm and tasted sweet. She resisted the temptation to puncture his lower lip and instead moved her mouth across his cheek and then down to his neck. She licked the spot she was going to bite, and he moaned and ground his erection against her, grasping her bottom with both his hands and actually pulling her up off the ground a little. Then she sank her teeth in. First chapter (Note: These books don’t have chapters. They’re broken down into three parts, and each part has multiple scenes of varying lengths. What follows is the first two scenes in Part I of Awakening 3.) In the dream, Lilly drifted underwater in a deep, vast ocean. The light seemed to be coming from all directions at once, so she couldn’t tell which way was up or down. Her lungs burned. She knew she would have to take a breath soon, but there was no air. She flailed her limbs but didn’t seem to move at all. Her body felt heavy; her chest ached. She knew she was going to drown. * * * From beneath the calm surface of the sparkling blue Adriatic water, Lilly Frank’s dark head and smooth pale skin silently emerged. She sucked in a deep breath and her lungs stopped stinging; she’d stayed down for the full twenty-two minutes she’d learned was her body’s limit. The stark contrast between the chilly water and the afternoon sun beating down on her shoulders and neck sent goose bumps racing across her skin. Water droplets sprayed in all directions as she shook her head. With one hand she removed the diving mask, and the other wiped the sheeting water back away from her eyes, which were calm but had a haunted look about them. She had hoped that the busy, multi-colored world below the surface and then the sting in her lungs would be enough to take her mind off the small, dense stone in her chest, but these strategies—like all the others she’d tried lately—had failed. Her back to Susak Island, Lilly’s gaze swept the horizon to the north and then drifted westward, where she knew the shores of Italy lie drowning in the setting sun. Only recently had she realized that for the past three years she’d been circling closer and closer to Torren’s homeland, a place she hadn’t returned to since the night she was kidnapped and tortured. That night Torren was reunited with Vittoria, and Lilly had seen in his eyes a mystical wonder when Vittoria had called him a name unfamiliar to Lilly. That night he’d brought her back to life and Lilly had lost everything all over again. The distant sound of a motorboat rescued her from dwelling on these thoughts. She listened for a moment and decided it was the afternoon patrol. Not wanting to be caught swimming in protected waters, she turned toward the island, realizing only then how far out she’d come. Swimming the several miles back to the island gave her the opportunity to push herself; she put all her energy and concentration on the strength and speed of her strokes and kicks and soon reached the base of the cliffs against which the seawater pushed. Knowing that the patrol always gave half a kilometer clearance around the island, she swam underneath an overhang in the rock where she would be indistinguishable in the shadows even if they knew where to look for her with their binoculars. As she waited for the patrol to round the point and pass by her, she contemplated the heavy feeling that had followed her around and had become harder and harder to forget over the last several years. The heaviness had been with her for as long as she could remember—even in her human life—but it had intensified after she’d risen from the stones of that dungeon cell and Torren had been too lost in Vittoria to notice as Lilly walked out the door. Over the years it had come and gone; she’d learned to leave it behind by keeping busy—focusing on her martial arts training, traveling, exploring continents and the limits of her new vampire body—but it had never hung on like this before. For the last eighteen months she’d lived like a hunted woman, moving every few weeks to a new place, looking for solace in others’ blood and beds, trying to substitute some other emotion for the ones that plagued her night and day. But she finally had to face the fact that none of that was working anymore. She needed a new plan. She considered her options. She could return to Dubrovnik, where Lorenzo—a human she’d met and taken up with almost a month ago—was waiting in his three-room apartment to lick the salt from her skin. But she’d been easily annoyed with him for the last week, and her interest in him had disappeared completely after she’d caught sight of his profile in a certain light and realized how similar his facial features were to Torren’s. For a wild moment her heart had leapt into her throat—fear, desperation and longing had overwhelmed her. Since then, she’d barely been able to look at him, and not even the knowledge that he could bring her to orgasm over and over again was enough to lure her back into his bed. She could run again. Find a new town, new surroundings. There were still continents she hadn’t explored: Antarctica, South America, most of Africa. But just the thought of more aimless wandering exhausted her. She could go back to China and her favorite master, Master Chen, to resume her training in wushu and tai chi. A person could spend a lifetime exploring the forms. But she’d already dedicated ten years to studying with him—not to mention another two decades mastering several other martial arts—and the forms no longer held her interest like they once did. Besides, she’d practiced on her own ever since then and the heaviness was still there. As she rejected the available options one by one, the heaviness grew denser; her chest constricted and her breath came shorter. She grabbed onto a nearby outcropping of rock so hard the sharp edges drew blood. She tried to will herself calm, to take deep breaths, but the heaviness expanded, threatening to annihilate her. Then she remembered Beth, and a glimmer of hope shone through. Many years ago, she’d invited Lilly to join the Organization. The heaviness eased a little, allowing her to breathe again. She couldn’t run anymore, but maybe she could do something constructive. She could participate in meaningful work and help to build a better future. Yes, that was the answer. She would return to Italy and join the Organization. Maybe she could live with Beth and Carrie, and participating in those two communities—at home and the larger vampire one—would give meaning to her life. She would have purpose. Briefly she wondered whether the weight in her heart was due to her physical proximity to Italy, but then realized that she’d felt it just as strongly when she’d visited China the previous spring. The mere fact that she’d been circling closer to it over the last few months seemed proof that she was no longer afraid of the place and her history with it. It was decided then. To Italy she would go to build a new life for herself. With that thought, hope radiated its full light in her heart. She felt lighter, could breathe freely again. When the patrol boat passed and rounded the bend, the sound of its motor fading as it continued on to its next destination, Lilly pushed off from the rocks, certain that this new direction would bring the lasting change she sought.

Jeanie Grey is a feminist reader and writer of romance and erotica. Her short stories have been published on and For more about her work and her views on writing romance and erotica, please visit her website at http://jeaniegrey.blogspot.comYou can also connect with her on Twitter (@jeaniegrey), Facebook and by email at


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