What just happened?

We’ve taken the time to refresh the novel blurbs for eight of our most recent books and we wanted to update everyone about this.  They should be up to date on Amazon by early Monday morning and are up to date on our web site at http://www.thethrillofsuspense.com .

Here’s the latest on our New Adult series, Scandals.

Due Dates, book #1 in the Scandals Series

DUE DATES

Killeen Ames is an overachiever.  Beautiful, smart, athletic, and living with the star quarterback of the ASU team, she has it all.

Then, in the blink of an eye, her world implodes.  Her boyfriend graduates and leaves her alone and pregnant which also puts her full-ride scholarship in jeopardy and leaves her homeless.

An unlikely inheritance gives Killeen a do-over and the freedom to choose her next step and what she wants to do about the baby.  But the new life comes with a man she can’t resist who doesn’t know the dark secrets of her past.  She realizes what’s truly important when she has to make a life or death decision.

 

Killer Date, book #2 in the Scandals Series

KILLER DATE FINAL

Reno Marks has never lived by the rules.  After he escaped from his alcoholic mother,  he moved to Vegas to become a professional magician.  Forced to live underground for a while, he sees life at its lowest level.

Reno loves women…as a whole, but he’s never been in love.  In fact, he doesn’t really know what it is.  When Jenny, a beautiful pre-school teacher, comes into his life asking for help, he is struck by an emotion he’s never felt.  Could it be love?

Unfortunately, Jenny realizes he’s a bad boy she doesn’t have time to tame.  It’s going to take Reno stepping way outside his comfort zone to convince her he’s worth saving.

 

Worst Date Ever, book #3 in the Scandals Series

WORST DATE EVER

Tulsa Wiggins was abandoned on a doorstep by her mother.  She has always been alone, whether trying to survive in a foster home or making her way in the world.  Her talent for computer technology has made her an expert in cyber security, which is perfect for a person who doesn’t know how to get along with others.

When she’s forced to move in with Cody, a super-hot fireman, Tulsa discovers how it feels to love and be loved.  But he’s a player who might also be a killer.

Can she handle the challenge of falling in love while her heart is at risk and her life is in danger?

 

Here’s the latest on our Young Adult time travel mystery romance series, Time Shifters

Change The Past, book #1 in the Time Shifters Series

TIME SHIFTERS Change The Past

Kelly Welch’s sixteenth summer was supposed to be the best ever.  Long, lazy days with her friends and her horse in Texas.  But her life changes in an instant.

Her unexpected move to Fort Myers Beach, Florida leaves her lonely and frightened.  Living with a workaholic aunt she barely knows and looking to start a school where she’s the new girl makes her anxious and unhappy.

Until she meets Scott.  He is smart and nerdy, sort of like her, and they hit it off right away.  His best friend, handsome, athletic Austin joins them on a surprise adventure back to the past and adds an unexpected complication.

The summer that began so badly becomes the most exciting and dangerous one of her life when she is faced with the dilemma of risking her own life to save someone she doesn’t even know.  Is she brave enough to risk it all…especially now that she’s felt the first promise of love?

 

TIME SHIFTERS Day At The Beach

Austin Burke lives for football.  He’s the star quarterback at South Beach High School with the bright future in college and maybe professional football.  He isn’t looking for a girlfriend, but then he meets Kelly.  She’s brave and funny and can beat him at their favorite video game.

When Austin and Kelly get together with their friends Scott and Zoey for a fun day at the beach on what they think is a deserted island, it goes wrong from the very beginning.  They are surprised to find a group of people led by a very frightening man.  As they try to find a way off the island, Austin discovers his attraction for Kelly, but he thinks she and Scott are a couple, and he won’t do anything to hurt his best friend.

But then they are attacked by a crazed criminal who is determined to leave no survivors.  The teens must work together, and Austin takes charge to attempt to bring them home safely.

 

TIME SHIFTERS Runaway Lover

Zoey Chandler is popular, beautiful, and rich.  Her most important achievement is that she is on the cheer squad.  That is, until she accidentally is swept along on a crazy adventure with Austin, Kelly, and Scott.  She discovers there is more to life than having a good hair day.

Their newest adventure takes them to a travelling circus where Zoey falls in love with a charming young man named Jesse who trains tigers.  Kelly and Austin get closer as the teens learn new jobs and experience a lifestyle very different than they’ve ever known.  But love is complicated, especially when there is a time change of almost a hundred years and Jesse is the target of a jealous killer.

If they can save him, how can Zoey make the difficult decision of whether to give up the life she knows and loves for a boy in a different time who has stolen her heart?

 

TIME SHIFTERS Forever Love

Kelly and Austin are left alone while everyone else is on vacation trips with their families.  They celebrate the Fourth of July together and grow closer than ever.

But as soon as Scott and Zoey return, the teens take off on an excursion to the past to visit the historic Stanley Hotel.  Their goal is to save a little girl named Emma from a kidnapper, but as they celebrate another Fourth of July, Kelly is swept away by her first real kiss.

The teens experience a new and hard lifestyle, all the while hoping to see if the stories about ghosts are true.  They meet a lot of interesting people, even some very famous ones, but everyone seems normal.

As they face their first defeat, they are caught by surprise when the same danger that takes Emma also threatens the teens when one of their own is captured in a killer’s web.  Will they be able to save Emma?  Or will they join her as permanent guests in the ghostly halls of The Stanley Hotel?

You don’t have to believe in ghosts…until you meet one.

 

Finally, our single title, Life’s What Happens

Life's What Happens Amazon sized

The email about the gathering popped up on Don Williams’s smart phone and he found himself obediently driving back to the small college town where events years ago shook the world and changed his life forever.  A morbid curiosity or a second look from a more mature point of view, he found himself driving up the long fraternity house driveway.  It took him longer than expected as his driving tour of the campus pulled his imagination back in time.

What happened next rocked his belief in the past and present.  The recollections of his past lovers, friends and events raced into focus and quickly overlaid the reality of now.  His ability to change the past and influence the present blurred the lines between what he knew and what he remembered and his trip consumed him.

He relived a college life that spiraled out of control in spite of his best efforts to graduate.  With everyone who mattered to him then, he mourned and celebrated the changes that have occurred since.  For college life then and now more has stayed the same than not.  LIFE’S WHAT HAPPENS is their story, as each is faced with questions much more complicated than any generation past. It is about the year they turned from boys to men, and where their choices took them.

Based on actual events, this is the unwritten story of what really followed the summer that became the most famous summer ever in song and memories.

 

Please remember, all these books and all the blacklist of classic romance novels are free.  Simply leave a review on Amazon on any book and fill out the form on the first age of our website and you’ll receive your FREE book direct via email.

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Time To Lose The NEW ADULT Training Wheels

1 training wheels

I got started in writing due to Janet Dailey.  She was my hero and, to a large degree, my mentor.

But this isn’t about her but rather what she did to romance and what part of history applies to New Adult!  Read on…

I can only dream of having the longevity and talent needed to drive my 3 million romance and women’s fiction book sales to even remotely come close to her 100 million plus in sales.  I don’t think she is given enough credit for all she did to completely change the publishing industry.  Janet was known for adhering to the conventions of romance fiction — one man, one woman, happy ending.  But her books broke the mold because they featured independent women who weren’t simpering virgins waiting for their rich prince to sweep them off their feet, plus they were set in America rather than in the old-world Europe of traditional romances.  Janet was the first American writer published by the Toronto-based Harlequin publishing empire and her new bold changes became the foundation of the industry to this day.

Why do I bring this up?  All genres go through an evolution not unlike the romance genre did starting in the 1980s.  Romance was still always the major plot, but suddenly the characters had real lives with a back story and careers.   The romance (i.e. the man) wasn’t all that defined them.

My husband and I just attended the #TexasWriter’sLeague annual Editors and Agent’s Conference where we paid super close attention to the speakers, discussions and meetings that surrounded the New Adult genre.  I noticed that there is still a lot of confusion about exactly what the NA market is and what the audience wants.  The one thing that is clear is that it is evolving, just as romance did, into something more substantial than just bad boy meets good girl, which has been the norm up to now.

After the Saturday sessions ended and before we got back to working on book #2 in the SCANDALS New Adult Series, KILLER DATE, we set out to see where the evolution in the genre is today. Surprisingly, we found numerous blogs, surveys and discussions about new adult literature and how it is finally moving from books focused on New Adult angst to solid stories where the protagonists are in their new adult sweet spot, age 19 to 25 who have more than just boy troubles.  Why deal with just that one element of the complications of transition that most new adults are going through?

Now we’re talking…don’t just saddle the poor new adult characters with relationship baggage.  Let them actually deal with college, family, jobs, roommates, housing and finances.  Let them struggle, but ultimately survive and succeed in the story.  How “new adults”, born between 1989 and 1996, will propel a story set in 2014 forward is what makes a story great and if told and written well, will deliver a best seller.

Of considerable note I came across the blogging of Lauren Sarner at the #Huffington Post and her 2013 blog on new adult books.  I loved it and it summarized very well all the blogs and reviews and face-to-face discussions I’ve had for long time.  She wrote that “New Adult is a new genre whose target audience is people like me–young twenty-something’s, overwhelmingly of the female variety.  A New Adult book is basically a Young Adult book with sex and cursing thrown in.  A typical plot line features two brooding, damaged souls with damaged pasts (typical examples include characters whose entire families have tragically died, characters who have grown up in abusive homes, characters suffering from manic depression or panic attacks) who meet, sparks fly, and drama ensues. The books are often titled something like “Damaged” or “Broken” or “Smashed with a Sledgehammer”

She notes she may have made that last one up, but she was sure it exists somewhere.

Lauren continued.  “New Adult is a label that is condescending to readers and authors alike.  It implies that the books act as training wheels between Young Adult and Adult.  For the New Adult books that are particularly childish, the label implies that they are a step above Young Adult–which is insulting to the Young Adult books that are far superior.  For the New Adult books that are particularly sophisticated, the label implies that they are not worthy of being considered “adult.”  It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.”

She closed with a challenge for me, as a writer of three series currently…a YA Time Travel Mystery, New Adult Suspense and Romantic Suspense, and it should be for all writers of the NA genre. Lauren explained, “Books are supposed to expand your world; expose you to people, places, emotions, and ideas you might not otherwise experience.  Suggesting that you need training wheels for such a thing is like suggesting that a child needs training wheels to walk.  You’ve just got to do it.  Good fiction is supposed to hold the mirror up to reality, regardless of the genre–and reality does not have training wheels.”

 

So my challenge is not how to write a NA novel that is actually an entertaining book where the characters can be brooding or damaged, but there is more going on in their lives than wondering the if boy is going to call.  That was my goal when I created the New Adult SCANDALS series.  Book #1, DUES DATES, has the usual female and male relationship issue, but her life didn’t start and end with him.  They both have baggage, but there’s a real world going on around them that they also have to deal with that adds complications, drama and humor.  A new adult’s life is not just about male/female relationships, but about their relationships with everyone around them.

Now my challenge is crafting the blurb and discussions about DUE DATES to attract the New Adult reader with the typical relationship of brooding, damaged souls, but then capture them with the complications of being a new adult in a complicated world.

That’s why the title of the blog is  …and yes it is a total rip off of the intellectual capital of Lauren #Sarner at the #Huffington Post.  It’s time for the NA genre to move to the next level that deals with young people that are not just defined by romantic relationships, but have dreams and problems and friends and lots of other things impacting their lives.

So I’m proud to be ahead of the curve with of our two training wheel-free NA novels.

Our current New Adult series, SCANDALS, book #1 DUE DATES was released a few months ago.  Find DUE DATES at http://www.amazon.com/DUE-DATES-SCANDALS-Kathy-Clark-ebook/dp/B00GQC1S3O/

DUE DATES AMAZON

An inheritance brought her more than she ever could have imagined…

Killeen Ames has it all…beauty, brains, a college softball scholarship and a rich and handsome boyfriend who has helped to stretch her college funds and fill her social calendar. He is the only boy she ever allowed past second base and now he’s her baby daddy. However, being a father was not in his short-range plans. He graduates, then he splits, leaving Killeen to decide what she wants to do about the pregnancy…and to worry about how she’s going to keep her scholarship. With no marketable skills, no job, no home and medical bills for her and the baby on the horizon, she knows she must move forward. A knock at the door of her boyfriend’s apartment changes the game forever when an attorney gives her the news of an inheritance from an unknown dead relative and another due date looming.

After traveling to Austin, Killeen walks into the meeting and is surprised to find out that the relative was actually her birth father, and he had been a popular music star who recently died of an overdose. Even more shocking are the four strangers who share the same absentee dad. He has left them a highly successful private investigation agency, Scandals. The catch is…they have to make the commitment to work there.

Their introduction to the P.I. business almost gets them killed when a bomb goes off in the warehouse that sends Killeen to the hospital. She has kept the secret of her pregnancy from everyone, including Christopher, the totally irresistible manager of Scandals. Their hot night of wild sex in the office was a one-time thing…right? She chalks up her attraction to him as just raging hormones. They have no chance of a future together. He’s gorgeous, intelligent and successful. He would never want anyone with so much baggage.

Christopher has a secret of his own. He’s been investigation the possibility that, despite popular opinion, their father’s death hadn’t been an accidental overdose. He thinks it was murder.

Even though the five siblings still haven’t accepted the fact that they have a father who made no attempt to be a part of their lives, they join together to discover the truth about his death. The search throws Killeen and Christopher together and their passion grows hotter. As her feelings for him slowly become more serious, she knows she must tell him about the baby.

After a fun day in the sun, an event happens that outs Killeen’s secret. Christopher, as expected, doesn’t take the news well. But they must continue to work together to track down a killer, especially since the killer has now focused on them.

Someone doesn’t want them to stay and take over the business. In fact, someone wants them all dead and now the decision on whether or not to be a part of the agency seems very unimportant compared to the job of trying to stop from being killed.

They set up a trap that goes terribly wrong. Suddenly, Killeen must make a big decision. Who should she save? Her baby? Christopher? Her new brothers and sisters? Their lives are in her hands.

Due Dates is the first book in the Scandals New Adult series of romantic suspense. Each book of the series will focus on one of the offspring of Roger Elliott, a famous musician who left them with a legacy they weren’t expecting. Killer Date, the second book in this series will be released in Summer, 2014 and will tell Reno’s story.

 

Life’s What Happens is a 1969-1970 story told in flashback, where the super bowl of angst plays out and life in college when failing a course could land you in a war on the other side of the planet, brooding, sparks and romance flew in between classes, relationships, graduation, career planning and finding draft loopholes that would soon be shut.  Find Life’s What Happens on all the usual book seller sites including Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/LIFES-WHAT-HAPPENS-Kathy-Clark-ebook/dp/B00A14STPS/

Life's What Happens Amazon

Getting Ready For March 20th.

So what happens on March 20th?

After one month of building reviews and releasing book #4, RIP in the Teen Time Travel Mystery Series, CUL8R, I am finally ready to launch formal advertising of the book to the world.

To date it has received 17 reviews, almost all 5 stars and there are another dozen or so free copies floating around the planet still to weight in.  This blog is about the press release planned for that date.  I want to also thank the Stanley Hotel for their  support. It is a must see whenever you’re in Colorado.

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Already a top 100 on Amazon Teen & YA time travel…and here’s the Press Release for the formal announcement of RIP’s release on March 20TH.  Here’s the press release as planned today.

Colorado’s Stanley Hotel hosts a new ghost story by Bob Kat titled RIP (Rest in Peace) to be released on February 25, 2014. “While The Stanley Hotel has been featured in TV, movies & books in the past, it is refreshing to see a new twist on the use of the hotel,” Jesse Freitas, Manager of The Stanley Hotel stated.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was founded by F.O. Stanley, a wealthy businessman forced to move west for health reasons. The expansive property boasts amazing architecture, a magnificent setting and spectacular views, but it may forever be best known as the inspiration for Stephen King’s spine-tingling novel “The Shining” and the subject of Ghost Hunters, the American paranormal reality television series on several occasions.

“But now The Stanley Hotel is in the news again,” says Kathy Clark, a.k.a. Bob Kat, an American fiction author,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Clark_(American_author).

Jesse Feitas said, “We are excited that the CUL8R book series has chosen The Stanley Hotel as a destination for RIP, not only to tie in a connection with the paranormal stories but traveling back in time to the first couple of years in The Stanley Hotel’s history brings in a whole new fun element to the story.”

“My co-writer in this series, husband Bob Wernly of Austin, Texas and I chose to set the 4th book in the CUL8R Time Travel Mystery Series at the infamous hotel after several trips and many weeks of guest time over the years. We worked hard to describe the hotel as accurately as possible because it’s such a wonderful place and we wanted to do it justice. Several years ago I was lucky enough to go on a private ghost hunt with Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of Ghost Hunters, crawling through the basement tunnels not open to the public in total darkness which really added to the authenticity of the story,” Kathy said.

RIP (Rest in Peace) is Kathy’s 31st novel and will be released formally on all the major on-line bookstores on February 25th and is available in both e-book and paperback. Kathy has sold over 3 million books globally and has appeared on the NY Times and USA Today bestsellers’ list for her romance novels where she cut her author teeth on her first 23 books.

“In 2012 we joined the crowd of authors who moved from the traditionally published to the self-published e-book marketplace. This is our eighth novel as Indie-Authors,” said Bob, “including four young adult novels in the CUL8R series, two romantic suspense novels in the DENVER AFTER DARK series and the first book BABY DADDY in the SCANDALS new adult series. All but the CUL8R series are written under Kathy Clark’s pen name.”

“Self-publishing allows writers the freedom to include content that traditional publishers would shy away from. And the publishing process is more than a year quicker, so we can continue to focus on the next book in the series instead of waiting for executive approval,” Kathy explained.

The CUL8R series is about four teens from Fort Myers Beach, Florida. “We had to make the time travel trips to the past in the novels really matter…life and death situations that force the teenagers to depend on their intelligence, ingenuity and friendship so they can change the past to save the future.” Bob explained. “I discovered an October 1920 issue of American Magazine with an article that Thomas Edison was developing an electrical device to speak with the dead. This later became known as his Telephone to the Dead. Since Edison spent much of his life in the Fort Myers area, what if our teenagers found that invention, tucked away in the garage of a distant relative who had worked for Edison? What if our personality survives our passing as Edison believed?”

“In RIP [Rest In Peace] you don’t have to believe in ghosts…until you meet one,” Kathy added.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the U.S. So, when Kelly, Scott, Austin and Zoey travel back to 1911 to try to save a young child who went missing from the busy lobby, they aren’t surprised when ghost children run up and down the halls.

There’s romance in the Rockies as they take jobs with the hotel so they can keep an eye on 4 year old Emma and her family. Kelly struggles with her attraction to Austin while Zoey tries to get over her broken heart. Along the way, they meet some colorful historical characters and experience life among the rich and famous just after the turn of the twentieth century. After three other successful time travel adventures, they assume it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. That almost proves to be a fatal mistake.

Kathy concluded, “But can they save Emma? Or will they join her as permanent guests in the ghostly halls of The Stanley Hotel?”

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Peace-CUL8R-Travel-Mystery-Romance-ebook/dp/B00IKIML6U/
iBookstore – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id826260582
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/410880
Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rip-kathy-clark-aka-bob-kat/1118721095?ean=2940148194996&itm=1&usri=2940148194996
Kobo – SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 17, 2014
Sony Reader Store – SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 24, 2014
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20879728-rip-rest-in-peace?bf=1000&from_search=true
All Romance – https://www.omnilit.com/product-riprestinpeaceacul8rtimetravelmysteryromance-1428505-152.html
GOOGLE Play / Books –https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Bob_Kat_RIP_Rest_In_Peace_a_CUL8R_Time_Travel_Myst?id=is7kAgAAQBAJ&hl=en
Diesel – SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 24, 2014

FOR PAPER BACK CREATE SPACE – http://www.amazon.com/RIP-Rest-Peace-CUL8R-4/dp/1496145968/

WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Clark_(American_author)

AUTHOR SITE:   http://www.nightwriter93.com

BLOGhttps://kathyclarkauthor.wordpress.com/

FACEBOOK:   https://www.facebook.com/kelly.welch.cul8r

TWITTER:   @93nightwriter

PINTEREST:   http://www.pinterest.com/BobKat1993/

JOIN KATHY’S EMAIL LIST FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS, PRE-RELEASE BOOKS AND BARGAIN / FREE BOOKS: http://eepurl.com/N4osT   via MAIL CHIMP

Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and is a time for every community to come together and build awareness and a movement towards safe and healthy relationships for all individuals and families. Domestic violence touches every person in our community and society as a whole; and violates a person’s dignity, safety, and basic human rights. It is something I came in contact with on a regular basis after I volunteered as a Victim’s Advocate for the cities of Northglenn and Thornton Colorado a few years ago.

The issue weighed heavily on my mind and being an author I finally put the issue front and center in an adult suspense novel, CRIES IN THE NIGHT, which was published ten days ago. One of the reviewers of the book stated it best:

“I sat and read this book in one day, which is amazing considering my hectic schedule. Ms. Clark provides an inside view into the lives of first responders. We see them at the scene of the crimes, or in the midst of emergencies, and they are the people’s heroes. But do we really know them beyond that? She provides a candid in-depth look into the chaos and confusion that is their lives, the raw emotions they deal with behind the scenes as a result of their career choices, and show us the human side of these special people, walking in a unique calling.

I fell in love with the characters, Julie and Rusty, while becoming endeared to his brothers, Chris and Sam as well. Other characters in the story that were central to the storyline are so authentic, that you actually become connected to them in a real way.

I loved the story because while it does have elements of romance, the story was not romance based. It is a contemporary fiction story, with elements of suspense to keep your adrenaline pumping, and elements of romance to keep the heat flowing from the pages. This was a professionally, well-written story, which takes a look at real life adversities of abuse victims, emergency personnel, and true life challenges from a first responders perspective.

Ms. Clark did a wonderful job of weaving a tale of intrigue, and compassion with depth, and reality. The characters are relatable, and a hidden secret from one of the characters past can derail even the best laid protection plans. Ms. Clark did not miss a beat in this romantic suspense novel.”

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You can find CRIES IN THE NIGHT at –
• Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/CRIES-Denver-Romantic-Suspense-ebook/dp/B00FDRYCIQ/
• Barnes & Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cries-in-the-night-a-denver-after-dark-suspense-kathy-clark/1117001303?ean=2940148755203&itm=1&usri=2940148755203
• And Kobo at http://store.kobobooks.com/Search/Query?fcmedia=Book&query=1230000187051

And as far as the domestic violence issue see http://www.nnedv.org/getinvolved/dvam.html and http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/30/presidential-proclamation-national-domestic-violence-awareness-month-201 for additional information.

Kathy’s website is at http://www.nightwriter93.com

I hope the fictionalization of a truly terrible epidemic will bring more victims to a place of taking action to change their path.  There are professionals out there that can help you today.

A Victim’s Advocate Story; Who save’s the hero?

My release this week of book #2 in my DENVER AFTER DARK Suspense Series, CRIES IN THE NIGHT, followed several years of plotting and character development in my mind.  This is my 29th book overall and was easily took longest in my thought process.  Literally a dozen books and several film screenplays came to mind and got written since I first experienced the situations described in this compelling and provocative novel.  Chapter one is at the end of this blog.  The entire book is now available on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/CRIES-NIGHT-DENVER-AFTER-ebook/dp/B00FDRYCIQ/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
In the 1990’s I volunteered to become a Victim’s Advocate for the Northglenn / Thornton Colorado Police Departments.  Victim advocates are professionals trained to support victims of crime or calamity in their greatest time of need.  Sometimes the perpetrator was still not captured or the traffic accident still blocking the road.  Advocates offer victims information, emotional support, and help finding resources.  Clothes, food and even a safe place to stay were all part of the routine.  When I did this vital task my time was on the front lines in your neighborhood where citizens learned of the death of a loved one, a spouse, usually a wife and even girlfriends who had received yet another beating by their lover and family members learn someone close to them had been shot, maybe even killed.  It was a gutsy raw and tough environment.  Victims learned they did have a place to turn.
That experience caused me to put some of these stories to paper in CRIES IN THE NIGHT.  The back story of the relationship between the heroine and hero is what happens when two people are thrust into high risk hard work situations.  I think the reason why the story took so long be written is that the characters took a long time to step up and unveil their feelings, aspirations and goals.  They have spoken.
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Julie Lawrence is a Victim’s Advocate for the Denver PD.  Her job is to respond to domestic violence incidents, fires, car accidents and other tragic events where people need help dealing with their darkest moments.   She has had her own share of tragedies in the past which gives her empathy and a unique insight into victims and what they need to heal and move on with their lives.  But she is better at giving advice than taking it and has closed herself off from sharing her life with anyone or anything except a stray tiger-striped gray cat.

Rusty Wilson is a firefighter with a reputation for working hard and playing harder.  He meets Julie while he is trying to save a burning house and she is protecting a battered wife and an unborn child.  He is attracted to her, but not ready to settle down.  To his surprise, she resists even his most platonic attempts at developing a relationship.  One day a typical call turns into a hostage situation, and Julie rushes to the scene, partly in her role of Victim’s Advocate and partly because Rusty is involved.
She finally accepts his offer of friendship, and as they get to know each other better, they realize they have a lot in common.  When a stalker starts playing a cat-and-mouse game with Julie, she and Rusty work together, trying to figure out which of her past domestic violence cases has created a psycho who wants revenge.  In her line of work, there are a lot of people who want her dead.
Julie has no idea who is trying to kill her.  The warnings had started out as just creepy, but gradually turn into genuine threats on her life.  Rusty provides the emotional and moral support she hadn’t realized she needed until the danger increases.  Their love affair starts in the heat of passion and ends when he finds out her secrets.
Someone is watching . . . and waiting.  Julie has dedicated herself to saving other people.  Who’s going to save her?  Find out on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/CRIES-NIGHT-DENVER-AFTER-ebook/dp/B00FDRYCIQ/
AFTER MIDNIGHT REVISED
CRIES IN THE NIGHT is Book #2 in the Denver After Dark series.  AFTER MIDNIGHT is Book #1 of the series and –
  • Won 1st place in The Best Indie Suspense Novel of 2013 and
  • 3rd place in the Readers’ Favorite Suspense Novel Award of 2013.

Kathy Clark also is writing a New Adult Romantic Suspense series (Scandals) and Young Adult Romantic Mystery series with the CUL8R series under the pen name of Bob Kat.

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Find out more about Kathy’s 29 books on her website at http://www.nightwriter93.com

CAUTION: Beta Reviewers have advised this chapter is hard to read but even harder to put down.

CRIES IN THE NIGHT

 CHAPTER ONE

 

The back door slammed with such force that the small house shuddered.  In the back bedroom the woman froze in front of the ironing board, the iron paused in mid-air.  Steam poured out of the holes with a hiss, but she didn’t notice.  Instead, her gaze raced across the room and met the wide eyes of her son who had been playing with a boxful of Matchbox cars.

He dropped the tiny red Ferrari he had been holding and scuttled backward, disappearing under the bed.  No words had been spoken, but he knew the drill.  This wasn’t his first rodeo.  He had learned early that out of sight also meant out of the line of fire.

The woman wasn’t so lucky.

Heavy, quick footsteps signaled the man’s approach down the hallway.  Her heart pounded in her chest, and she realized she hadn’t taken a breath since he had entered the house.  She exhaled slowly, trying to calm her nerves and steel herself for the battle ahead.  Even before she saw his face, she knew he was angry . . . at her, at his son, at his boss, at his life.  It didn’t really matter.  He always came home to share his dissatisfaction with her.

“Where the hell is he?”  The man wasn’t large, but when he was in one of his moods, he seemed to expand in size until his presence filled the doorway.

“Who?” she managed to ask, struggling to keep her expression under control.  For some reason, it made him angrier if she showed fear even though her legs were trembling.

He threw his car keys at her.  She tried to dodge, but the unexpected movement and her own swollen bulk slowed her.  The keys smashed into her left cheek, then fell to the floor with a clatter.

“You know who.  That piece of shit kid.  He left his goddamn sled in the driveway and I ran over it.  Twenty bucks.  Trashed.  I work hard and get paid shit.  And he just throws his toys around like they were nothing.”

“He’s usually really careful . . .”

He cut her off.   “Didn’t he go to school today?”

“They had a teacher’s workday.”

“Then he has no excuse for not bringing in the garbage cans.”

“It was snowing too hard.”

“Not too hard for him to play.”  He kicked the basket of laundry against the wall.  “You fuckin’ baby him too much.”

“He’s only six.”  She knew that arguing only made him angrier, but her motherly instinct was to defend her young.

The man’s dark gaze raked the room before focusing on the abandoned Matchbox cars.  His nostrils flared and he moved toward the bed, knowing it was the most likely hiding place.

“No!” the woman cried.  “Leave him alone.”  She reached out to grab him, but he swung his arm to fend her off as if he was swatting away an annoying insect.  She reacted by striking back.  Unfortunately, the iron was still clenched in her hand.  The hot surface landed flat against his forearm and the back of his hand.  Steam oozed out of the holes as the skin sizzled.

With a guttural roar, he jerked back as quickly as possible and looked down at the arced-shaped blisters that had already bubbled up.  Like an enraged bull in the ring distracted by the matador’s cape, he turned his attention back to her.

“What the fuck?”  He knocked the iron out of her hand, grabbed the front of her sweater in his meaty fist and pulled her forward, over the ironing board which clattered to the floor.  Her feet scrambled to keep upright as he dragged her over the metal legs.

“I . . . I’m . . . sorry, Carlos.  I didn’t mean to . . .”

He silenced her with a punch so hard that her teeth rattled.  Momentarily dazed, she didn’t struggle as he slammed her back against the door frame.  Her head cracked against the wood and she could feel the sharp edges biting into her shoulders.  She didn’t fight back as he hit her again and again.  She knew she deserved this.  If she hadn’t hit him with the iron, he wouldn’t have come at her like this.  The skin over her eye slit under his knuckles, and she could feel the warm flow of blood pour down her face.  But as bad as it hurt, she knew it was nothing like the pain he was feeling from the burn.  So she let him take it out on her.  She owed him that.

It wasn’t until his blows moved lower that her defense mechanism got its second wind.  His fist buried into her breast.  Swollen from the imminent birth of her baby, the pain shot through her like a lightning bolt.  He drew back and would have landed a blow in her expanded abdomen, but she collapsed, trying in the only way she knew how to defend her unborn baby.  He released his hold on her sweater, but instead of stepping away, he kicked her.

She curled her body in a protective shell, putting all the flesh and bone she could between his steel-toed boot and her stomach.  He kicked her again and again, cursing her with words that burned her soul as much as her ears.  Finally, she blacked out.

A child’s scream woke her.  She struggled to open her eyes, but one was swollen shut.

“Mama, mama!” the little boy cried.

Her hands slid in the puddles of blood on the floor as she struggled to push into a sitting position.  Her blood.  She could see it staining the white yarn of her sweater.  In the back of her mind came the random thought that that was her favorite sweater, and now it was probably ruined.  She had so few clothes that still fit.

Her son’s small hands wrapped around her wrist and she stifled a scream as he pulled.   Pains shot up and down her arm telling her it was probably either broken or badly bruised.  Her brain struggled through the fog as she tried to remember where she was and why she was bleeding and aching all over.

Carlos!  She straightened and tried to look around.  Was he hurting Danny?  Her son seemed to sense her fears and with a maturity well beyond his years, he comforted her.

“He’s gone.  But he hurt you,” Danny told her.

“I’m okay,” she lied, trying, as always, to protect him from the truth.  But this was worse than the last time which had been worse than the time before that which had been worse than the time before.  She could remember them all.  In a twisted measure of days, months and years, each marked a new ending and a new beginning of sorts.  She had never doubted that she had done something wrong to deserve his anger, and she had never doubted she would survive.  This time, she wasn’t so sure.

A searing pain, much deeper than all the others pierced through her, starting deep in her stomach and radiating out.  She heard another scream and was surprised that it had come from her mouth.

“Mama . . .?”  Danny’s voice was terrified.

The room began to swirl around her, and her vision blurred.  Another pain doubled her over and she slid back to the floor.

 

 

Julie’s cell phone began ringing as she juggled a bag of groceries in one arm and inserted the key into her backdoor lock.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on . . .,” she chanted as she hurried inside, dropped the bag on the table and pulled her phone out of her purse.

“This is Julie,” she spoke into the small receiver.

“We’ve got a domestic and fire at 238 W. Maple Ave.,” the voice recited crisply.

“I heard it on my scanner.”  As she spoke, Julie held the phone against her ear with her shoulder and jotted down the address on a piece of unopened mail.  “I’m on my way.”

“I’ll notify the officers on-scene.  What’s your ETA?” 

“I’m pretty close.  I’ll be there in ten.”

The line clicked off and Julie let the phone slide off her shoulder and into her hand.  She grabbed the perishable items out of the bag and tossed them into the freezer or onto a shelf in the refrigerator and left the rest of the items to be put away later.   She picked up her keys, checked to make sure her thin billfold was still in her pocket and left without bothering to take the address with her.  She knew it by heart.  She had been there before.

Less than ten minutes later, she found a parking space.  It had been snowing off and on all day, and it had picked up again just before she arrived.  Julie looped her scarf around her neck, buttoned her coat up, pulled on her gloves and got out of her car.  A white ladder truck and an engine with the familiar DPD logo painted on it were parked directly in front of the house, their hoses snaked across the snow.  The generators rumbled, spotlights focused their harsh beams on the action, radios crackled with sporadic chatter and firefighters shouted back and forth to each other as they focused a steady stream of water on the blaze that had gobbled up the left side of the house.

Julie quickened her pace as much as she dared on the icy sidewalk made worse by the steady flow of water that was draining from the house.   An ambulance was at the end of the driveway.  The backdoors were open and the stretcher was out.

“Hey Julie.  Sorry to get you out on a night like this,” one of the cops said as he approached her.  He flipped his little spiral notebook closed and tucked it into the breast pocket of his jacket.

“Is she alive?”  Julie held her breath, afraid of the answer.

“Barely.  He beat the shit out of her . . . again.”

“No surprise there.  Why can’t you guys put him away for good?”

The cop shrugged.  “She always bails him out.”

“I thought she had a restraining order against him.”

“She does.  But an RO is only paper.  It doesn’t stop fists.”

Two paramedics pushed the stretcher down the driveway from the house.  A thin blanket covered the woman’s prone body.  Her young son walked beside it, his hand on his mom’s arm, a gesture that was probably reassuring for both of them.  It wasn’t until she got closer that Julie noticed the rounded mound showing the woman was pregnant.

“Oh my God,” Julie cried and hurried over to the stretcher.

The woman looked up at her . . . or tried to.  Her swollen and battered eyes clearly hampered her vision, but she was able to recognize Julie.  An expression flashed across her face, one that was part embarrassment and part happiness to see someone she knew.  “Julie . . . I know what you’re thinking . . . don’t be mad at me,” she said in a voice that shook with pain.

“Gloria, you don’t have to apologize to me . . . or to him,” Julie rushed to calm her.  She gently took the woman’s hand and walked next to the stretcher as the two paramedics struggled pushing it through several inches of unshoveled snow and over the shattered remains of a sled.

“He didn’t mean to hurt me,” the woman told her.

Like hell he didn’t, Julie thought, but aloud she said, “How do you feel?”

Gloria lifted her other hand that already had an IV attached and rubbed her belly.  “Not so good, but I’m most worried about my baby.”

Julie looked up at one of the paramedics and he shrugged.  “They’re going to do everything they can to help you both,” she told the woman.

“I burned him with the iron.  That’s why he got so mad,” Gloria continued, anxious that Julie know why the event had happened.

“You need to focus on yourself and your baby,” Julie spoke soothingly.  “I’ll stay with Danny until someone comes.  Have you called your mother?”

Gloria turned her head as if afraid of being overheard.  “No, would you do that for me?  Her number is in my phone . . . you know, the one you gave me.  It’s hidden in the laundry room.  Danny will show you.”  She tried to give her son a smile, but she could manage only a stiff grimace.

The little boy looked at Julie and nodded shyly.

“We’ve got to go,” the female paramedic said as the stretcher reached the ambulance.  She and her partner prepared the stretcher for loading and Julie reached out for Danny’s hand.

“Only my mother,” Gloria pleaded, twisting around and leaning toward Julie.  “Don’t let him go with anyone else.  Promise me.”

“Don’t worry about him.  I promise I won’t leave him until your mother comes for him,” Julie assured her, and Gloria relaxed back against the cushion.  The two women weren’t long-time friends or even acquaintances.  Their relationship had started almost two years ago when Julie had responded to a domestic call.  That one hadn’t resulted in hospitalization.  But it had been the first in several similar events that had created a trust great enough that Gloria knew she could leave Danny in Julie’s care.

Danny trembled but didn’t pull his hand away as he watched his mother being loaded into the ambulance.  The red and blue lights bounced off the surrounding trees and houses, magnified by the stark whiteness of the snow and turning the still-falling snowflakes into confetti.  Julie looked down at the little boy whose gaze followed the twinkling lights as they disappeared down the street.  She realized he wasn’t wearing a coat.  She unbuttoned her own, took it off and knelt down in front of Danny.  Even though it was much too large and drug on the ground, he burrowed gratefully into the warmth of the wool.  Shivers of cold and lingering fear shook his tiny body.  “They’re going to take good care of your mama.  But right now we need to call your grandma.  Can you tell me your mom’s secret hiding place?”

“It’s in the house,” he told her, then lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “In the smelly things.”

Smelly things?  Her mind scrambled for what that might mean.  “Dirty clothes?” she asked.

“No, the good smelly things.  You know, the ones with the little bear on the box,” he whispered back.

“Dryer sheets?”

He nodded.

Good choice.  Men like Carlos never did laundry, so it would be unlikely he would stumble on it there.  Julie looked around.  Apparently the fire was out.  Smoke no longer billowed from the roof, and the firefighters were straightening out the hoses in preparation of rolling them back up.  One of the firefighters walked out of the house with an axe swung over his shoulder.  She lifted her hand and waved at him.  She recognized him from several other fires she had been called out to.

He noticed and walked toward them.  He was tall, well over six feet.  Dressed in full firefighting uniform, he looked big and menacing, sort of like an urban alien.  Steam radiated from his long black coat with its yellow reflective stripe and the top of his red helmet.  He had an air canister strapped on his back, but he had unfastened his respirator and it hung off to one side.  His face was smudged with a layer of carbon, marked with paths where sweat and water had streaked down.  After giving Julie a crooked grin, he swung the axe to the ground and knelt in front of Danny, as if he knew what an imposing sight he must be.

“You must be Daniel,” he said to him.  “I saw some amazing drawings on the refrigerator.  I was hoping I would get to meet the artist.  Were those yours?”

Danny nodded solemnly, but Julie could see that he was flattered.

“And that must have been your room with the race car posters.”

Again Danny nodded.  “Did my room burn up?”

“No, we were able to stop the fire before it got to your room.  But I’m afraid some of your things got a little wet and are going to smell like smoke.”

“How about my baseball cap?  The doctor people made me and my mom leave so fast I didn’t get it.”

The firefighter said, “Oh yeah, I remember seeing a couple caps in there.  They’ll be fine.”  He took off his helmet and held it out to Danny.  “Maybe you’d like to wear my hat.”

Danny’s brown eyes stretched wide.  “Oh yes, sir.”

The man set the hat on the boy’s much smaller head and it settled down to cover his ears and his face all the way down to his nose.  Instead of taking it off, Danny lifted his chin and looked out from underneath it.  But most noticeable was the twitch of a smile that had softened his tense lips.

The firefighter stood and turned his attention to Julie.  He pushed the heavy cloth hood off his head, revealing rumpled dark brown hair.  As he looked at her, she was struck by the clarity of his bright blue eyes.

“You’re Julie, aren’t you?” he asked.

She was a little surprised that he knew her name because they had never actually spoken.  But she wasn’t exactly a stranger to any of the public responders because she or one of her volunteers showed up at all of the more serious crime, fire or accident scenes.  “Yes, I am.  And you’re . . .?”

“Rusty,” he answered and pointed toward his last name that was printed on his jacket as he added, “Wilson.  I’m sure you know my younger brothers.”

“Oh, so you’re that Wilson,” Julie teased.  She was very well acquainted with his brothers.  Sam was a Denver cop who she worked with often, and Chris, the youngest, was a paramedic out of Denver Health.  He wasn’t one of the ones on scene tonight, but their paths had crossed often in the course of their jobs.

Rusty held up his hands.  “Whoa, you can’t believe everything you hear about me.”

“Why do you assume it’s all bad?” she asked.

“Because some of it is true.  I’m the first to admit that I enjoy life.  But my brothers like to exaggerate my . . .,” he grinned, “. . . transgressions.”

Julie shrugged.  This was not a point she wanted to debate in the middle of a snowy night when she was without a coat.  “I was just wondering if someone could take me inside for a minute.  I need to get Danny’s things and . . . well, something else.”

“Sure, I’ll take you in, but he needs to stay out here.”  Rusty called over one of the other firefighters.  “Jackson, would you hang with my friend Daniel for a few minutes?”

Jackson, a middle-aged black firefighter who had just finished shutting off the hydrant and screwing the cap back on, nodded and knelt down next to Danny.  “Hey buddy.  My name is Jackson.  Do you mind keeping me company while they go get some of your clothes?”

Danny nodded, solemn again.  He stayed, but his gaze moved back to Julie.

“Don’t let anyone take him away, okay?” she asked Jackson.

“Got cha,” Jackson confirmed.

After giving Danny a reassuring pat on the head, she turned to follow Rusty.

“Don’t forget my cap,” Danny called after her.

“I won’t,” she called back.

“Watch your step,” Rusty cautioned.  He took a flashlight out of his utility belt and turned it on.

Apparently, the electricity was off and the spotlights didn’t penetrate past the front door.  The dark house took on a sinister spook-house sort of feeling as they stepped over the threshold and into the smoldering interior.

“The fire didn’t make it to this part of the house, but the back two bedrooms are pretty much gone,” he added as they made their way around pieces of furniture that had been knocked over or tossed out of the way.

“Any idea what caused it?” she asked as she followed directly behind him, keeping her hand on his back because she couldn’t see anything outside the beam of his light.

“Looks like an iron on the carpet.  But the investigators will find out for sure.”

They picked their way along the soggy carpet of the hallway.  Even though the flames hadn’t made it into the hallway, the sheetrock was damp and there was a heavy, acrid smell that burned her lungs.  When they arrived at Danny’s room, she hurried to collect his jacket and a few items of clothing, including his Little League baseball cap that was sitting on his chest of drawers.  She also scooped up the stuffed monkey that held an obvious position of importance on his pillow and stuffed it all into his Cars backpack.

“We need to get out of here,” Rusty reminded her.

“I have one more thing,” she told him.  “Did you happen to notice a laundry room?”

“Not in this part of the house.  Maybe off the kitchen?”  He led the way back down the hall and across the small living room to the kitchen.  Sure enough, in the mud room that led outside was a small stackable washer and dryer that had probably been one of Gloria’s prized possessions.  But Julie had eyes only for the box of Snuggle dryer sheets on the shelf next to it.

“Really?” Rusty asked when he saw her pick it up.

She didn’t answer, but pulled out the sheets until she reached the bottom of the box.  Nestled there, just as Danny had told her was the emergency cell phone she had given Gloria the last time Julie had been called out to this house.  It was something she often gave to victims of domestic abuse because their controlling spouse or partner often refused to let them have any contact with the outside world.  She was glad to see that Gloria had listened to her cautions to hide the phone in a safe place where Carlos wouldn’t find it because Gloria clearly hadn’t paid any attention to Julie’s other advice to not let him back in her life.  Julie held up the phone so Rusty could see it, then followed him out the backdoor and to the driveway.

Once back outside, she took deep, cleansing breathes of the crisp cold air.  “I don’t know how you guys do it,” she admitted to Rusty.

He flashed her a grin, his teeth looking incredibly white against his soot-blackened face.  “Are you kidding?  I’d do this even if they didn’t pay me.  But don’t tell anyone.”

Julie flipped open the phone, turned it on and watched as it booted up.  “Hey thanks,” she told him.

“No problem.”  His expression sobered.  “You do good work, you know.  They need someone like you to help them after all this.”  He motioned around them at the devastation.  Yes, they had saved most of the house, but the smoke and the water had ruined much of what the flames hadn’t consumed.  These people had lost a lot, if not everything, and they would need all the help they could get.

“Hey Wilson.  We’re ready to roll,” the captain called and gave Julie a wave of acknowledgement.

She and Rusty walked back to where Danny and Jackson waited.  Rusty reached down and lifted his heavy helmet off of the boy’s head.  “Thank you for taking care of my helmet for me.  It looks good on you, but I’m going to need it in case I have to go to another fire tonight.”

“Sure,” Danny said with pride at having accomplished something so apparently important.

“Maybe you can get your mom to bring you by the fire station sometime when she feels better,” Rusty suggested.  “I’ll give you a tour and let you sit in a fire truck.”

“Really?  Wow, okay,” Danny agreed.

Rusty looked back at Julie.  “And I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, we seem to hang out at the same places.”  She smiled.  “Thanks again.”  She nodded her head toward Danny, indicating that his kindness toward the little boy hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Rusty dismissed it with a shrug, but he gave her another grin as he put his helmet back on and headed toward the waiting fire truck.

“Julie, we’re finished, too,” the police officer who had been standing nearby talking to the captain told her.

“We can sit in my car and wait for his grandmother,” she suggested, but the officer shook his head.

“I can’t leave you here.  It’s still a hot scene.”

Julie glanced around, suddenly nervous.  “You mean he’s not in custody?” she asked while being careful to keep the conversation as neutral as possible.

“He was gone when we arrived, but you can bet he’ll come back.”

She shivered, not just because of the cold that was penetrating her heavy sweater.  She had never actually met Carlos, but she had seen his handiwork on at least three occasions.  “Let me make a quick call to Danny’s grandmother so she can be on her way.”  She went to the Contacts’ list.  There were only two numbers in it.  Gloria’s mother and Julie’s cell phone.  Even though she had encouraged Gloria to call her if Carlos came back, it was now clear that that hadn’t happened.  She clicked on the word “Mom” and put the phone to her ear.

It rang five times before a sleepy voice answered, “Hello.”

Julie turned away so Danny couldn’t hear the conversation as she gave Gloria’s mother a quick summary of the evening’s events.  “I’m taking Danny to the police station.  We’ll wait for you there.”  She gave the woman the address, and after getting her confirmation, Julie hung up.

“Okay, Danny, we’re going to get to ride in a police car.  Have you ever done that before?”

He shook his head, but there was a spark of excitement in his eyes.

“But first, I’m going to trade you coats,” she told him.  She released his parka from his backpack where she had clipped it and handed it to him.  He took off her coat, and they exchanged outerwear.  She welcomed the warmth as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up.  Danny had a little trouble with his zipper, so she helped him get it started, then reached into the backpack and pulled out his cap.  The first genuine smile of the night spread across his face as he put it on and tugged it into position.  She didn’t even need a voiced “thanks” because his expression said it all.

The police officer unlocked the doors of his cruiser and opened the backdoor for them.  Julie glanced back at her white Kia that was parked down the street.  She knew it was city policy that she couldn’t carry civilians in her personal vehicle and she had promised not to leave Danny’s side until his grandmother arrived.  That left her no choice but to ride with him in the patrol car to the station.  She would worry about getting a ride back to pick it up later.  Since Danny’s grandmother lived in Fort Collins, it would take her several hours to get dressed and drive to the station.

The spotlights that had illuminated the scene switched off as the fire trucks prepared to leave.  With only the red and blue emergency lights still flashing, the night seemed darker and the shadows deeper.  Julie glanced around.  She had the uncomfortable feeling that Carlos was there, out of sight, but watching as she took his son away from him, hopefully forever.  She shivered again and silently urged Danny to hurry up.  She wanted to be inside the safety of the cruiser.

As soon as he was inside, she climbed in after him and tried not to notice the telltale smell of urine and vomit that usually clung in the air of the back seats of all the patrol cars.  It had been a long day and was turning out to be a long night.  But she, like Rusty, loved her job and would rather be here than any place she’d ever been.  Only she knew how desperate she was to never go back.

FREE Pre-Release Copy; Adult Romantic Suspense

My second book in the DENVER AFTER DARK Romantic Suspense Series, CRIES IN THE NIGHT, will be released in early October.  Book #1, AFTER MIDNIGHT

  • Was a finalist in The Best Indie Book of 2013 competition and
  • Garnered 3rd place in the Readers’ Favorite competition for 2013.

I am looking for readers of adult suspense who are interested in receiving a FREE copy in exchange for a review. Here’s the blurb followed by chapter #1.

Interested? EMail me at kathy@nightwriter93.com If not please share this blog.

Thank you, Kathy

CRIES IN THE NIGHT 09012013

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CRIES IN THE NIGHT

Who saves a hero?

Julie Lawrence is a Victim’s Advocate for the Denver PD. Her job is to help people deal with their darkest moments.

Rusty Wilson is a firefighter with a reputation for working hard and playing harder. He meets Julie while he is trying to save a burning house and she is protecting a battered wife. Their love affair starts in the heat of passion and ends when he finds out her secrets.

A stalker is out to kill her. In her line of work, there are a lot of people who want her dead. Rusty joins forces with her to figure it out before it’s too late.

Someone is watching . . . and waiting. Julie has dedicated herself to saving other people. Who’s going to save her?

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CHAPTER ONE

 The back door slammed with such force that the small house shuddered.  In the back bedroom the woman froze in front of the ironing board, the iron paused in mid-air.  Steam poured out of the holes with a hiss, but she didn’t notice.  Instead her gaze raced across the room and met the wide eyes of her son who had been playing with Matchbox cars.

He dropped the tiny red Matchbox car he had been holding and scuttled backward, disappearing under the bed.  No words had been spoken, but he knew the drill.  This wasn’t his first rodeo.  He had learned early that out of sight also meant out of the line of fire.

The woman wasn’t so lucky.

Heavy, quick footsteps signaled his approach down the hallway.  Her heart pounded in her chest, and she realized she hadn’t taken a breath since he had entered the house.  She exhaled slowly, trying to calm her nerves and steel herself for the battle ahead.  Even before she saw his face, she knew he was angry . . . at her, at his son, at his boss, at life.  It didn’t really matter.  He always came home to share his dissatisfaction with her.

“Where the hell is he?”  The man wasn’t large, but when he was in one of his moods, he seemed to expand in size until his presence filled the doorway.

“Who?” she managed to ask, struggling to keep her expression under control.  For some reason, it made him angrier if she showed fear even though her legs were trembling.

He threw his car keys at her.  She tried to dodge, but the unexpected movement and her own swollen bulk slowed her.  The keys smashed into her left cheek, then fell to the floor.

“You know who.  That piece of shit kid.  He left his goddamn sled in the driveway and I ran over it.  Twenty bucks.  Trashed.  I work hard and get paid shit.  And he just throws his toys around.”

“He’s usually really careful . . .”

He cut her off.   “Didn’t he go to school today?”

“They had a teacher’s workday.”

“Then he has no excuse for not bringing in the garbage cans.”

“It was snowing too hard.”

“Not too hard for him to play.”  He kicked the basket of laundry against the wall.  “You fuckin’ baby him too much.”

“He’s only six.”  She knew that arguing only made him angrier, but her motherly instinct was to defend her young.

The man’s dark gaze raked the room before focusing on the abandoned Matchbox cars.  His nostrils flared and he moved toward the bed, knowing it was the most likely hiding place.

“No!” the woman cried.  “Leave him alone.”  She reached out to grab him, but he swung his arm to fend her off as if he was swatting away an annoying insect.  She reacted by striking back.  Unfortunately, the iron was still clenched in her hand.  The hot surface landed flat against his forearm and the back of his hand.  Steam oozed out of the holes as the skin sizzled.

With a guttural roar, he jerked back as quickly as possible and looked down at the arced-shaped blisters that had already bubbled up.  Like an enraged bull in the ring distracted by the matador’s cape, he turned his attention back to her.

“What the fuck?”  He knocked the iron out of her hand and grabbed the front of her sweater in his meaty fist and pulled her forward, over the ironing board which clattered to the floor.  Her feet scrambled to keep upright as he dragged her over the metal legs.

“I . . . I’m . . . sorry, Carlos.  I didn’t mean to . . .”

He silenced her with a punch so hard that her teeth rattled.  Momentarily dazed, she didn’t struggle as he slammed her back against the door frame.  Her head cracked against the wood and she could feel the sharp edges biting into her back.  She didn’t fight back as he hit her again and again.  She knew she deserved this.  If she hadn’t hit him with the iron, he wouldn’t have come at her like this.  The skin over her eye slit under his knuckles, and she could feel the warm flow of blood pour down her face.  But as bad as it hurt, she knew it was nothing like the pain he was feeling from the burn.  So she let him take it out on her.  She owed him that.

It wasn’t until his blows moved lower that her defense mechanism got its second wind.  His fist buried into her breast.  Swollen from the imminent birth of her baby, the pain shot through her like a lightning bolt.  He drew back and would have landed a blow in her expanded abdomen, but she collapsed, trying in the only way she knew how to defend her unborn baby.  He released his hold on her sweater, but instead of stepping away, he kicked her.

She curled her body in a protective shell, putting all the flesh and bone she could between his steel-toed boot and her stomach.  He kicked her again and again, cursing her with words that burned her soul as much as her ears.  Finally, she blacked out.

A child’s scream woke her.  She struggled to open her eyes, but one was swollen shut.

“Mama, mama!” the little boy cried.

Her hands slid in the puddles of blood on the floor as she struggled to push into a sitting position.  Her blood.  She could see it staining the white yarn of her sweater.  In the back of her mind was the abstract thought that that was her favorite sweater, and now it was probably ruined.  She had so few clothes that still fit.

Her son’s small hands wrapped around her wrist and she stifled a scream as he pulled.   Pains shot up and down her arm telling her it was probably either broken or badly bruised.  Her brain struggled through the fog as she tried to remember where she was and why she was bleeding and aching all over.

Carlos!  She straightened and tried to look around.  Was he hurting Mattie?  Her son seemed to sense her fears and with a maturity well beyond his years, he comforted her.

“He’s gone.  But he hurt you,” he told her.

“I’m okay,” she lied, trying, as always, to protect him from the truth.  But this was worse than the last time which had been worse than the time before that which had been worse than the time before.  She could remember them all.  In a twisted measure of time, each marked a new ending and a new beginning of sorts.  She had never doubted that she had done something wrong to deserve his anger, and she had never doubted she would survive.  This time, she wasn’t so sure.

A searing pain, much deeper than all the others pierced through her, starting deep in her stomach and radiating out.  She heard another scream and was surprised that it had come from her mouth.

“Mama . . .?”  Mattie’s voice was terrified.

The room began to swirl around her, and her vision blurred.  Another pain doubled her over and she slid back to the floor.

HER CELL PHONE began ringing as she juggled the bag of groceries in one arm and inserted the key into her back door lock.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on . . .,” she chanted as she hurried inside, dropped the bag on the table and pulled her phone out of her purse.

“This is Julie,” she spoke into the small receiver.

“We’ve got a domestic and fire at 238 W. Maple Ave.,” the voice recited crisply.

“I heard it on my scanner.”  As she spoke, Julie held the phone against her ear with her shoulder and jotted down the address on a piece of unopened mail.  “I’m on my way.”

“I’ll notify the officers on scene.  What’s your ETA?”

“I’m pretty close.  I’ll be there in ten.”

The line clicked off and Julie let the phone slide off her shoulder and into her hand.  She grabbed the perishable items out of the bag and tossed them into the freezer or onto a shelf in the refrigerator and left the rest of the items away when she got back.  She hadn’t even had time to take off her coat, so she picked up her keys, checked to make sure her billfold was still in her pocket and left.  She didn’t bother taking the address with her.  She knew it by heart.  She had been there before.

Less than ten minutes later, she found a parking space several houses down.  It had been snowing off and on all day, and it had picked up again just before she arrived.  Julie looped her scarf around her neck, buttoned her coat up, pulled on her gloves and got out of her car.  A ladder truck and a pumper were parked directly in front of the house and their hoses snaked across the snow.  The generators rumbled, the radios crackled with sporadic chatter and the firemen shouted back and forth to each other as they focused a steady stream of water on the blaze that had gobbled up the right side of the house.

Julie quickened her pace, as quickly as she dared on the icy sidewalk that was made worse by the steady flow of water that was draining from the house.   An ambulance was at the end of the driveway.  The back doors were open, but the stretcher was out.

“Hey Julie.  Sorry to get you out on a night like this,” one of the cops said as he approached her.  He flipped his little spiral notebook closed and tucked it into the breast pocket of his shirt.

“Is she alive?”  Julie held her breath, afraid of the answer.

“Barely.  He beat the shit out of her again.”

“No surprise there.  Why can’t you guys put him away for good?”

The cop shrugged.  “She always bails him out.”

“I thought she had a restraining order against him.”

“She does.  But an RO is only paper.  It doesn’t stop fists.”

Two paramedics pushed the stretcher down the driveway from the house.  A thin blanket covered the woman’s prone body.  Her young son walked beside it, his hand on his mom’s arm, a gesture that was probably reassuring for both of them.  It wasn’t until she got closer that Julie noticed the advanced term mound showing the woman was pregnant.

“Oh my God,” Julie cried and hurried over to the stretcher.

The woman looked up at her . . . or tried to.  Her swollen and battered eyes clearly hampered her vision, but she was able to recognize Julie.  An expression flashed across her face, one that was part embarrassment and part happiness to see someone she knew.  “Julie . . . I know what you’re thinking . . . don’t be mad at me,” she said in a voice that shook with pain.

“Gloria, you don’t have to apologize to me . . . or to him,” Julie rushed to calm her.  She gently took the woman’s hand and walked next to the stretcher as the two paramedics struggled pushing it through several inches of snow and over the shattered remains of a sled.

“He didn’t mean to hurt me,” the woman told her.

Like hell he didn’t, Julie thought, but aloud she said, “How do you feel?”

Gloria lifted her other hand that already had an IV attached and rubbed her belly.  “Not so good, but I’m most worried about my baby.”

Julie looked up at one of the paramedics and he shrugged.  “They’re going to do everything they can to help you both,” she told the woman.

“I burned him with the iron.  That’s why he got so mad,” Gloria continued, anxious that Julie know why the event had happened.

“You need to focus on yourself and your baby,” Julie spoke soothingly.  “I’ll stay with Mattie until someone comes.  Have you called your mother?”

Gloria’s turned her head as if afraid of being overheard.  “No, would you do that for me?  Her number is in my phone . . . you know, the one you gave me.  It’s hidden in the laundry room.  Mattie will show you.”  She tried to give her son a smile, but she could manage only a stiff grimace.

The little boy looked at Julie and nodded shyly.

“We’ve got to go,” the female paramedic said as the stretcher reached the ambulance.  She and her partner prepared the stretcher for loading and Julie reached out for Mattie’s hand.

“Only my mother,” Gloria pleaded, twisting around and leaning toward Julie.  “Don’t let him go with anyone else.  Promise me.”

“Don’t worry about him.  I promise I won’t leave him until your mother comes for him,” Julie assured her, and Gloria relaxed back against the cushion.  The two women weren’t long-time friends or even acquaintances.  Their relationship had started almost two years ago when Julie had responded to a domestic call.  That one hadn’t resulted in hospitalization.  But it had been the first in several similar events that had created a trust great enough that Gloria knew she could leave Mattie in her care.

Mattie trembled but didn’t pull his hand away as he watched his mother being loaded into the ambulance.  The red and blue lights bounced off the surrounding trees and houses, magnified by the stark whiteness of the snow and turning the still-falling snowflakes into confetti.  Julie looked down at the little boy whose gaze followed the twinkling lights as they disappeared down the street.  She realized he wasn’t wearing a coat.  She unbuttoned her own coat, took it off and knelt down in front of Mattie.  Even though it was much too large and drug on the ground, he burrowed gratefully into the warmth of the wool.  Shivers of cold and lingering fear shook his tiny body.  “They’re going to take good care of your mama.  But right now we need to call your grandma.  Can you tell me your mom’s secret hiding place?”

“It’s in the house,” he told her, then lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “In the smelly things.”

Smelly things?  Her mind scrambled for what that might mean.  “Dirty clothes?” she asked.

“No, the good smelly things.  You know, the ones with the little bear on the box,” he whispered back.

“Dryer sheets?”

He nodded.

Julie looked around.  Apparently the fire was out.  Smoke no longer billowed from the roof, and the firemen were straightening out the hoses in preparation of rolling them back up.  One of the firemen walked out of the house with an axe swung over his shoulder.  She lifted her hand and waved at him.  She recognized him from several other fires she had been called out to.

He must have noticed because he walked toward them.  He was tall, well over six feet.  Dressed in full firefighting uniform, he looked big and menacing, sort of like an urban alien.  Steam radiated from his long black coat and the top of his dark helmet.  He had an air canister strapped on his back, but he had unfastened his respirator and it hung off to one side.  His face was smudged with a layer of carbon, marked with paths where sweat and water had dripped down.  After giving Julie a crooked grin, he swung the axe down to the ground and knelt down in front of Mattie, as if he knew what an imposing sight he must be.

“You must be Matthew,” he said to him.  “I saw some amazing drawings on the refrigerator.  I was hoping I would get to meet the artist.  Were those yours?”

Mattie nodded solemnly, but Julie could see that he was flattered.

“And that must have been your room with the race car posters.”

Again Mattie nodded.  “Did my room burn up?”

“No, we were able to stop the fire before it got to your room.  But I’m afraid some of your things got a little wet and are going to smell like smoke.”

“How about my baseball cap?  The doctor people made me leave so fast I didn’t get it.”

The fire fighter said, “Oh yeah, I remember seeing a couple caps in there.  They’ll be fine.”  He took off his helmet and held it out to Mattie.  “Maybe you’d like to wear my hat.”

Mattie’s brown eyes stretched wide.  “Oh yes, sir.”

The man set the hat on the boy’s much smaller head and it settled down to cover his ears and his face all the way down to his nose.  Instead of taking it off, Mattie lifted his chin and looked out from underneath it.  But most noticeable was the twitch of a smile that softened his tense lips.

The fire fighter stood and turned his attention to Julie.  He pushed the heavy cloth hood off his head, revealing rumpled dark brown hair.  As he looked at her, she was struck by the clarity of his bright blue eyes.

“You’re Julie, aren’t you?” he asked.

She was a little surprised that he knew her name because they had never actually spoken.  But she wasn’t exactly a stranger to any of the public responders because she or one of her volunteers showed up at all of the more serious crime scenes.  “Yes, I am.  And you’re . . .?”

“Rusty,” he answered and pointed toward his last name the was printed on his jacket as he added, “Wilson.  I’m sure you know my younger brothers.”

“Oh, so you’re that Wilson,” Julie teased.  She was very well acquainted with his brothers.  Sam was a Denver cop who she worked with often, and Chris, the youngest, was a paramedic.  He wasn’t one of the ones on scene tonight, but their paths had crossed often in the course of their jobs.

He held up hands.  “Whoa, you can’t believe everything you hear about me.”

“Why do you assume it’s all bad?” she asked.

“Because I’ll admit to some of it.  But they like to exaggerate my . . .”  He grinned.  “Transgressions.”

Julie shrugged.  This was not a point she wanted to debate in the middle of a snowy night when she was without a coat.  “I was just wondering if someone could take me inside for a minute.  I need to get some of Mattie’s things and . . . well, something else.”

“Sure, I’ll take you in, but he needs to stay out here.”  Rusty called over one of the other firemen.  “Jackson, would you hang with my friend Matthew for a few minutes?”

Jackson who had just finished shutting off the hydrant and screwing the cap back on, nodded and knelt down next to Mattie.  “Hey buddy.  My name is Jackson.  Do you mind keeping me company while they go get some of your clothes.”

Mattie nodded, solemn again.  But his gaze followed Julie.

“Don’t let anyone take him away, okay?” she asked Jackson.

“Got cha,” Jackson confirmed.

After giving Mattie a reassuring pat on the head, she turned to follow Rusty.

“Don’t forget my cap,” Mattie called after her.

“I won’t,” she called back.

“Watch your step,” Rusty cautioned.  He took a flashlight out of his utility belt and turned it on.  Apparently, the electricity was off, and the dark house took on a sinister spook house sort of feeling as they stepped over the threshold and into the smoldering interior.  “The fire didn’t make it to this part of the house, but the back two bedrooms are pretty much gone.”

“Any idea what caused it?” she asked as she followed directly behind him, keeping her hand on his back because she couldn’t see anything outside the beam of his light.

“Looks like an iron on the carpet.  But the investigators will find out for sure.”

They picked their way along the soggy carpet of the hallway.  Even though the flames hadn’t made it into the hallway, the sheetrock was damp and there was a heavy, acrid smell that burned her lungs.  When they arrived at Mattie’s room, she hurried to collect a few items of clothing, including his Little League baseball cap that was sitting on his chest of drawers.  She also scooped up the stuffed monkey that held an obvious position of importance on his pillow and stuffed it all into his Cars backpack.

“We need to get out of here,” Rusty reminded her.

“I have one more thing,” she told him.  “Did you happen to notice a laundry room?”

“Not in this part of the house.  Maybe off the kitchen?”  He led the way back down the hall and across the small living room to the kitchen.  Sure enough, in the mud room that led outside was a small stackable washer and dryer that had probably been one of Gloria’s prized possessions.  But Julie had eyes only for the box of Snuggle dryer sheets on the shelf next to it.

“Really?” Rusty asked when he saw her pick it up.

She didn’t answer, but pulled out the sheets until she reached the bottom of the box.  Nestled there, just as Mattie had told her was the emergency cell phone she had given Gloria the last time Julie had been called out to this house.  She was glad to see that Gloria had listened to her cautions to hide the phone in a safe place where Carlos wouldn’t find it because Gloria clearly hadn’t paid any attention to Julie’s other advice.  Julie held up the phone so he could see it, then followed him out the back door and back to the driveway.

Once back outside, she took deep, cleansing breathes of the crisp cold air.  “I don’t know how you guys do it,” she admitted to Rusty.

He flashed her a grin, his teeth looking incredibly white against his soot-blackened face.  “Are you kidding?  I’d do this even if they didn’t pay me.  But don’t tell anyone.”

Julie flipped open the phone, turned it on and watched as it booted up.  “Hey thanks,” she told him.

“No problem.”  His expression sobered.  “You do good work, you know.  They need someone like you to help them after all this.”  He motioned around them at the devastation.  Yes, they had saved most of the house, but the smoke and the water had ruined much of what the flames hadn’t consumed.  These people had lost a lot, if not all they had, and they would need all the help they could get.

“Hey Wilson.  We’re ready to roll,” the captain called and gave Julie a wave of acknowledgement.

She and Rusty walked back to where Mattie and Jackson waited.  He reached down and lifted his heavy helmet off of the boy’s head.  “Thank you for taking care of my helmet for me.  It looks good on you, but I’m going to need it in case I have to go to another fire tonight.”

“Sure,” Mattie said with pride at having accomplished something so apparently important.

“Maybe you can get your mom to bring you by the fire station sometime when she feels better,” Rusty suggested.  “I’ll give you a tour and let you sit in a fire truck.”

“Really?  Wow, okay,” Mattie agreed.

Rusty looked back at Julie.  “And I’ll see around.”

“Yeah, we seem to hang out at the same places.”  She smiled.  “Thanks again.”  She nodded her head toward Mattie, indicating that his kindness toward the little boy hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Rusty dismissed it with a shrug, but he gave her another grin as he put his helmet back on and headed toward the waiting fire truck.

“Julie, we’re finished here, too,” the police officer who had been standing nearby talking to the captain told her.

“We can sit in my car and wait for his grandmother,” she suggested, but the officer shook his head.

“I can’t leave you here.  It’s still a hot scene.”

Julie glanced around, suddenly nervous.  “You mean he’s not in custody?” she asked while being careful to keep the conversation as neutral as possible.

“He was gone when we arrived, but you can bet he’ll come back.”

She shivered, not just because of the cold that was penetrating her heavy sweater.  She had never actually met Carlos, but she had seen his handiwork on at least three occasions.  “Let me make a quick call to his grandmother so she can be on her way.”  She went to the contacts’ list.  There were only two numbers in it.  Gloria’s mother and Julie’s cell phone.  Even though she had encouraged Gloria to call her if Carlos came back, it was now clear that that hadn’t happened.  She clicked on the word “Mom” and put the phone to her ear.

It rang five times before a sleepy voice answered, “Hello.”

Julie turned away so Mattie couldn’t hear the conversation as she gave Gloria’s mother a quick summary of the evening’s events.  “I’m taking Mattie to the police station, and we’ll wait for you there.”  She gave the woman the address, and after getting her confirmation, she hung up.

“Okay, Mattie, we’re going to get to ride in a police car.  Have you ever done that before?”

He shook his head, but there was a spark of excitement in his eyes.

“But first, I’m going to trade you coats,” she told him.  She released his parka from his backpack where she had clipped it and handed it to him.  He took off her coat, and they exchanged them.  She welcomed the warmth as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up.  Mattie had a little trouble with his zipper, so she helped him get it started, then reached into the backpack and pulled out his cap.  The first genuine smile of the night spread across his face as he put it on and tugged it into position.  She didn’t even need a voiced “thanks” because his expression said it all.

The police officer unlocked the doors of his cruiser and opened the backdoor for them.  Julie glanced back at her white Kia that was parked down the street.  She knew it was city policy that she not carry civilians in her personal vehicle, and she had promised not to leave Mattie’s side until his grandmother arrived.  That left her no choice but to ride with him in the cruiser to the station.  She would worry about getting a ride back to pick it up later.  Since the grandmother lived in Longmont, it would take her over an hour to get dressed and drive to the station.

The spotlights that had illuminated the scene switched off as the fire trucks prepared to leave.  With only the red and blue emergency lights still flashing, the night seemed darker and the shadows deeper.  Julie glanced around.  She had the uncomfortable feeling that Carlos was there, out of sight, but watching as she took his son away from him, hopefully forever.  She shivered again and silently urged Mattie to hurry up.  She wanted to be inside the safety of the cruiser.

As soon as he was inside, she climbed in after him and tried not to notice the telltale smell of urine and vomit that usually clung in the air of the back seats of all the cruisers.  It had been a long day and was turning out to be a long night.  But she, like Rusty, loved her job and would rather be here than any place she’d ever been.  Only she knew how desperate she was to never go back.
.

AMAZON Book Editor Selection for Book Of The Month {x 10!}

Yogi Berra once said “you can observe a lot by just looking”…or something like that.

So I started to look on Amazon and also found out that my many of my books were selected by the AMAZON BOOK EDITORS as a recommended BOOK OF THE MONTH.  In addition to STARTING OVER , here are NINE additional titles that the AMAZON BOOK EDITORS were kind enough to recommend.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS at http://www.amazon.com/COUNT-YOUR-BLESSINGS-ebook/dp/B008C9KVT6/ on Amazon and was named a BOOK OF THE MONTH by the Amazon Editors! Too cool..

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Excuse me while I look at the rest of them!

OH Myyyy…  GOODBYE, DESPERADO is another one that was selected  by the AMAZON EDITORS as a recommended Book Of The Month.

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Don’t take my word go to http://www.amazon.com/GOODBYE-DESPERADO-ebook/dp/B008E6SRSY/

UNREAL!  I need to go down the bookstore asile where my books are located more often!  http://www.amazon.com/ANOTHER-SUNNY-DAY-ebook/dp/B007510BFQ was also chosen by the AMAZON EDITORS as a recommended Book Of The Month.

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ALL RIGHT STOP IT!  ANGEL OF MERCY also was picked y the Amazon Editors!  Find it at http://www.amazon.com/ANGEL-OF-MERCY-ebook/dp/B0085RZPC8

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http://www.amazon.com/STROKE-OF-MIDNIGHT-ebook/dp/B008F9JKP4 Was yet another one that was slected by the Amazon Book Editors as a recommended book of the month!

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If you go on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/TEACHERS-PET-ebook/dp/B00759NGFK you will also find TEACHER’S PET asa recommended book of the month!  This is crazy!

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COLD FEET, WARM HEART is anohter monthly AMAZON recommendation and an be found at http://www.amazon.com/COLD-FEET-WARM-HEART-ebook/dp/B008K9FHA6

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A PRIVATE AFFAIR is a monthly recommendation also and is at http://www.amazon.com/A-PRIVATE-AFFAIR-ebook/dp/B007O26WW2

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For Holloween look for SIGHT UNSEEN at http://www.amazon.com/COLLECTION-ROMANTIC-SUSPENSE-Collection-ebook/dp/B00D6IS4NI yet another monthly Amazon recommendation

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Fins out about all 23 of my published novels through Harlequin, Dell and others and my five newest books being published as an Indie Author at http://www.nightwriter.com