Book Blitz & Excerpt: Blood from a Stone + Giveaway

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Blood from a Stone by David M. Salkin

Word Count: 68,144
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 274

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME AND MYSTERY
MEN IN UNIFORM
MYSTERY
ROMANCE
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

A dream house to share with his love becomes a nightmare when an old diary reveals a dark secret that brings a wounded warrior out of retirement.

When Special Forces veteran Cory Walker purchased the home on Harkers Island, he knew it came with a history. Two white marble angels in the rear yard stand sentinel over the house where Casey Stone and her mother had lived—and died. But that was decades ago, and Cory is now in love with both the house and his girlfriend Amanda. He’s determined to build a new life on the quiet island to readjust to civilian life and enjoy his new love.

Cory’s decision to build a wine cellar turns his dream house into a nightmare when he discovers the hidden diary of Casey Stone. Casey, only sixteen, had been raped and murdered many years earlier, the only horrible crime that had ever occurred on the small island. Her mother was so devastated that she hanged herself, hence the two angels in the yard placed there by Earl Stone. As Cory reads the journal, he discovers that the truth may be much different from what was ever believed.

The wrong man is sitting in jail, and as Cory begins to ask questions about the case, he soon realizes he is opening a box of secrets that may get both him and Amanda killed.

Earl Stone, the formerly grieving husband and stepfather, may be the next President of the United States, and when a man that powerful wants secrets to stay buried, the dangerous possibilities are endless.

Reader advisory: This book includes mentions of sexual abuse and rape of a minor, psychological abuse, violence, reference to warfare including the deaths of children, sometimes graphic injury description and murder.

Excerpt

Amanda was driving down from Twin Oaks. I had a bottle of Italian red, a Super Tuscan called Le Volte by Ornellaia, decanting in the kitchen. I’d made a puttanesca sauce, and the garlic, red peppers and crushed anchovies sautéing in olive oil had perfumed my new home. The sizzle was a magical noise. Into that, I’d added diced Kalamata olives, capers, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.

The spaghetti alla puttanesca was just a little taste—a traditional Italian pasta before the main course. The secondi would be a huge bone-in rib-eye steak, grilled out back on the patio. I had dry-rubbed the steak with my list of secret ingredients. It’s a secret because I never make anything the same way twice, so it’s a secret to me, too. A little sautéed broccoli rabe and badda-bing, dinner would be served. It would be our first meal together in the new house. I was trying to cook my way into her staying with me forever.

In my other life, I had eaten MREs on a regular basis—government-supplied packets of food designed to make you angry enough to kill people. ‘MRE’—Meals Rejected by Ethiopians, Meals Rarely Edible, Meals Requiring Enemas, Massive Rectal Expulsions. You get the idea. They weren’t very good. As a result, I learned to cook—foraging and becoming a creative genius to turn the rancid packets into something my comrades and I might actually eat.

Amanda arrived right on time, and with her, a breath of fresh air and an aura of positive energy and bright light that I’d been missing all my life. Her mere presence made me smile. I was hoping my cooking skills would make up for whatever other shortcomings I have. It seemed to be working. I have two great skills—cooking and killing people, and I planned to leave the death and destruction part in my former life. I was determined to be a kinder, gentler version of myself going forward. I would gourmet my way into Amanda’s heart.

Dinner was a smashing success, with conversation that covered a hundred topics and had us both smiling like lovestruck teenagers as we caught up on each other’s weeks. It was pretty darn perfect. After dinner, we finished that great bottle of Ornellaia, opened a bottle of port and decided to take a walk to the beach.

It was the kind of peaceful night that reminds one of how amazing life can be when everything falls into place. We ended up in the warm, flat ocean up to our knees and I asked her yet again about moving in. This time she didn’t say ‘no’. Instead, she talked about maybe trying to find a physical therapy job down here, closer to the island.

We walked home and sat outside in the back garden, looking at the stars. The moon lit the white marble faces of the two angels who resided in my yard. The pair had stood sentinel there for years before I’d purchased the house. They came alive softly in the moonlight, and with them, their sad story hung in the still air. The house had a history—one that the folks on Harkers Island wanted to forget.

On Sunday, after a late, leisurely brunch, Amanda left. It was like the air had been sucked out of the house. Loneliness snuck back into my soul and once again I had to fight off the ghosts of those last days in Afghanistan.

I needed a mission to focus on. And this time, it would be for me. A wine cellar… It would be a surprise for Amanda when she came back down in two weeks.

When I had purchased the house, I had been surprised to find it had a basement. The island is only a few feet above sea level. When this house had been built, the foundation had been set on a man-made hill, making the house one of the tallest on the island. It made the stately home regal, perched slightly above the rest of the houses like a castle above the serfs. It had an attitude—and I probably had one of the only basements on the island. There were plenty of newer and fancier homes, several worth seven figures, but this house had character—along with that dark history.

The basement was cool, the perfect temperature for wine. I’d sketched out a design and purchased lumber and some tools. The first thing I did was put in some overhead fluorescent lights. Then I scrubbed the poured concrete floor. The walls were cinderblock, with a few open crawlspaces.

Channeling my energy into something positive, I was going to finish making a rack system against one of the walls. Nothing too fancy. I would have the shelves slightly pitched forward. That way I could see the labels and keep the corks angled to the floor. It was a great way to design a wine cellar, but I couldn’t take credit for inventing it. Back in my days with Special Forces, a buddy and I used to kill time talking about our dream houses, and all of them included a great wine cellar. He would have built it someday—I’m sure of it—if some fanatic wearing a bomb vest hadn’t run into his tent one morning in Kabul and killed him and a few other great guys I knew. I’d build it for him. And that first bottle would be used to toast my friend.

I was cleaning off the cinderblock wall, getting ready to nail in the studs, when the beam of my flashlight caught the edge of something inside the crawlspace. That was when my dream house turned into a nightmare and ancient history became my new reality.

Sitting on the sand behind the top of the cinderblock wall was a small leather-covered book. Old and worn… I picked it up and looked at the cover. It must have been covered with doodles and cartoon flowers years ago, but the ink had faded, and insects and moisture had damaged it. When I opened the front cover, it cracked slightly at the binding.

Casey A. Stone 1991.

It took me a moment to realize what it was—a diary.

The paper was stiff and crinkly in my hands. The penmanship was neat and feminine…

My brain started playing catch-up, making the hair on the back of my neck stand.

Casey Stone.

She was one of the angels in my yard.

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About the Author

David M. Salkin

International, award-winning author David M. Salkin has been entertaining readers since 2005. His brand of thrillers includes military-espionage, horror and crime. Salkin has appeared around the country, including three times as a panelist at New York City’s Thrillerfest and also at Books in the Basin, in Midland and Odessa, Texas. Dave enjoys speaking to book clubs and groups about writing, and has appeared on television, radio, and various print media.

David served as an elected official in Freehold Township for twenty-five years (Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Township Committeeman) and was inducted into the New Jersey Elected Officials Hall of Fame in 2019. He is a 1988 graduate of Rutgers College with a BA in English Literature. When not working or writing, Dave prefers to be Scuba diving or traveling. He’s a Master Diver, as well as a pretty good chef and wine aficionado. David speaks three languages fluently – English, sarcasm and profanity.

David is an associate member of the Philip A Reynolds Detachment of the Marine Corps League, and board member of the Veterans Community Alliance.

Find out more at David’s website.

Giveaway

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David M. Salkin Blood from a Stone Giveaway

DAVID M. SALKIN IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 11TH May 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Artifacts + Giveaway

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Artifacts by Bailey Bradford

Book 1 in the Intrinsic series

Word Count: 54,742
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 215

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

Aldric Beamer thought working in an antique shop would be safe and boring. He never expected to find his life—or his heart—in danger…

Being the low man on the totem pole is nothing new for Aldric Beamer. The youngest of three siblings, he was always the afterthought in his family, but Aldric’s trying hard not to let the little confidence he has sink any lower.

Aldric loves the job he managed to land at Intrinsic Value, so much so that he often works off the clock—or maybe he doesn’t want to go home to his empty apartment. Just as he’s slowly learning to trust his boss and co-workers, he’s attacked outside the store, and all the security he thought he had vanishes with the force of a blow to the head.

San Antonio cop Darrell Williams takes one look at the beautiful, bruised man he finds in a dingy alley behind an antiques store, and something in his heart melts. This weakness scares him, making Darrell gruff and indifferent when he should have been—and longs to be—compassionate and caring.

Aldric’s no pushover, though. He’s had enough of being ignored and treated like he doesn’t matter as much as everyone else. And he’ll make damn sure Patrol Officer Williams doesn’t dismiss him in any way…

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and assault. There are expressions of homophobia by several characters, mentions of non-nurturing parenting, references to addiction and a scene of attempted abduction.

Excerpt

The Help Wanted sign in the window stopped Aldric in his tracks. He’d been walking along San Antonio’s Pearl District, somewhat lost in his thoughts and worries, so why he noticed the sign, he couldn’t have said.

Maybe because it stood out in the day of internet-everything. All the job boards that he’d scanned and the applications for employment that he’d sent in had been online. That was just how it was done nowadays…except not at the business he’d stopped in front of.

Aldric stared at the sign for a solid minute while trying to calculate his chances of being hired if he went in and applied before going home and changing. Not that he had any fancier clothes. Jeans, T-shirts and one button-up were all that was in his wardrobe.

What are the chances someone else will apply and get hired by the time I go home, shower, shave, change and come back?

Whatever the odds were, his empty stomach didn’t want to risk them. Blinking away his musings, Aldric pushed his glasses farther up his nose, then caught himself screwing up his face to re-settle them exactly where they’d been. He attempted to smooth down his hair—being thick, it tended to tousle, even though it wasn’t long—and reached for the door handle, which was when he saw the name of the place that was hiring.

Intrinsic Value Antique Shop. At least shop wasn’t spelled all funky. It was a silly pet peeve he had, people adding extra letters onto words to make spellings like shoppe rather than shop. An antique store might have a better reason than most businesses or services to use an old spelling of the word, and he had no reason to be judgmental of anything—something he needed to keep in mind.

Even though he knew nothing about antiques, Aldric opened the door and stepped inside to the tinkling of chimes. He glanced down at the door handle inside and saw strings of silver and copper bells dangling from it.

“Good afternoon. May I help you?”

Aldric pivoted so quickly that he almost tripped over his own feet—nothing unusual for him. Heat rushed to his face, and he gulped as he spotted the older man standing with one hand on an ancient-looking cash register. “Er, yes, I, um, I—” Aldric took a deep breath and exhaled to the count of ten. If he didn’t get himself calmed down, he’d stumble over his words as well as his feet, as he tended to do when he was flustered.

“My name is Elliot Douglas. I’m the owner of Intrinsic Value. Please call me Elliot.” Elliot came around the counter and stopped in front of Aldric.

“Aldric Beamer.” Aldric offered his right hand to shake. “Nice to meet you, Elliot.” His mouth was dry, and a tickle started up in his throat.

“Nice to meet you, too.” Elliot pumped his hand one more time, then let go. “Are you here about the job? I noticed you standing outside and thought you might be considering it.”

Aldric covered his mouth and turned his head before he coughed. He lowered his hand and faced Elliot again. “Sorry, the mountain cedar is kicking my allergies into high gear. Yes, sir, I’m here about the job. Surprised me to see an actual sign in the window. Everything’s done online, it seems. I’ve been told to go home and apply online so often, I’ve quit thinking about actual signs.”

“Ah yes, the internet is an amazing tool for many things, but I prefer to meet people in person first, rather than online.” Elliot smiled, and Aldric realized the older, taller man, with his tawny-brown eyes and thick mane of slightly long, wavy light-brown hair that was just starting to silver, was quite handsome.

“Why don’t you come back this way and tell me what makes you think you’ll be a good fit at Intrinsic Value?” Elliot gestured in the direction of the cash register. “I was cleaning off my baby and would like to finish as we talk.”

“Yes, sir.” Aldric coughed again and wanted to melt into the floorboards.

“Would you like some cold water or hot tea?” Elliot offered. “I have both available.”

Aldric wasn’t sure about hot tea. He’d only ever had Texas tea—cold, with lots of sugar and ice in it. But maybe tea was a thing with Elliot. “Er, tea, please?”

Elliot glanced back at him. “You sound uncertain. Have you tried hot tea before?”

Lying wasn’t something Aldric did if he could help it. “I haven’t, but I thought a warm drink might help with my scratchy throat.”

“That it might. I have a few different kinds, but how about you try the chamomile? It’s good for all sorts of ailments.” Elliot stopped by an elegant-legged wooden table that had a silver tea kettle and several mismatched cups and saucers sitting on it.

A white ceramic dish held glass jars of tea and cubes of sugar, and a clear container was filled with what appeared to be honey. Delicate silver spoons were laid out as well. Aldric tucked his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. Everything on that table looked delicate, not only the spoons, and he was afraid to touch anything.

Which had to mean he shouldn’t apply for the job.

“Aldric?” Elliot arched one thick eyebrow. “Is chamomile okay?”

Realizing he’d more than likely made sure he wouldn’t get hired, because Elliot had to think he was on the dense side, Aldric shook his head. “It’s okay, thank you. I’ll just—” He started to take a step back.

“Just what?” Elliot asked, scooping tea from a jar before he put it into a little oval-shaped strainer. “Are you not interested in the job after all?”

Aldric bit his bottom lip and pondered whether he should stay or not. For one thing, he’d already made some kind of impression, good or bad. For another, Elliot hadn’t run him off. That has to mean I still have a chance, right? Until I tell him I know nothing about what this shop sells. Damn it.

“I’m interested, but I don’t have any experience with antiques,” Aldric rushed out, watching Elliot pour hot water over the strainer holding the tea. Elliot had put a lid on it so the tea leaves didn’t flow out.

Aldric took a step closer, unable to resist getting a better look at what Elliot was doing. He took off his round-framed glasses, polished them and shoved them back on.

“The tea needs to steep for a few minutes,” Elliot explained. “The infuser keeps most of the bits of tea leaves from escaping, but you still might have a few pieces in your cup. Those will usually settle at the bottom.”

“That’s the infuser?” Aldric asked when Elliot nudged the strainer holding the tea.

Elliot smiled at him. “Yes, it is. Do you like honey?”

“I—” Aldric’s stomach picked that moment to let out a rumbling growl. He dropped his gaze and pressed a fist to his belly. “Sorry. Skipped breakfast.”

“Well, that won’t do. It’s almost time for dinner. I’ll order us something to eat, then you and I will sit down for a proper interview—if you’re interested in the job?” Elliot picked up the jar of honey.

“Oh, I…I am, I just thought I’d blown any chance I had at it.” Aldric ducked his head and stared at the worn toes of his tennis shoes. “I don’t have any experience for it. I’ve only worked at fast-food places. I don’t know anything about antiques. I didn’t even know what that thing—the infuser—was.” His ignorance was embarrassing, and he hated that he didn’t know more.

“So,” Elliot drawled, one corner of his mouth curving up. “No experience at all? That would mean I’d have a clean slate in you, if I were to hire you. Wouldn’t have to rid you of bad habits and misinformation.”

Aldric was almost too afraid to believe he might have a chance of keeping his shitty apartment and not going hungry for much longer, after all. “Are you serious?”

“Utterly. Here, let me fix your tea, then I’ll order something from the restaurant across the street. It has a little of everything. I have a menu for it behind the counter. This won’t take a moment…” Elliot took the infuser out, then added honey to the tea.

“Thank you.” Aldric should have refused the offer of a meal, but the truth was, he was too hungry to let pride cost him sustenance. He took the warm cup of tea from Elliot and inhaled the fragrant steam rising from it. “Oh! This smells good.”

Elliot smiled at him, a delighted expression, if Aldric wasn’t reading him wrong. “I hope you’ll like the way it tastes as well. Let me grab that menu, then you can peruse it with me.”

“Okay, thanks.” Aldric took a sip of the tea. It was hotter on his tongue than he’d expected, and he winced as he swallowed. He was glad Elliot hadn’t seen him do that. The next sip he took was slower. The taste was as pleasant as the smell of the tea, the honey sweet but not overpowering.

“Here we go. I haven’t had anything bad from here yet, but then again, I always order the same thing. I’m a creature of habit in many ways.” Elliot’s smile had turned rueful.

“What do you get?” Aldric asked before taking another drink. He could get addicted to hot tea.

“Nothing adventurous, just the grilled salmon with steamed vegetables and mashed sweet potatoes.” Elliot handed him the menu. “I think the burgers should be good, though. Whenever I’m in the restaurant and see and smell them, they remind me very much of the ones my brother used to love.”

“Younger or older brother?” Aldric flipped the paper menu open to scan the selections.

Elliot froze for a second, as though something were wrong. Before Aldric could ask him if he was okay, Elliot drew in a breath, then touched his temples, where he had a few strands of gray. “Younger. Chris is thirty-two, Natty is thirty-four and I’m the old man at forty-something. Do you have any siblings?”

Aldric decided he’d get the bacon burger and sweet potato fries. He’d never had the latter before. “I have two, like you. Twins. They’re almost twenty years older than me.”

Elliot’s eyes widened. “That’s two whole decades!”

“Yeah. I was a surprise,” Aldric muttered. That was a nicer description than his family had called him at times. “Gregory and Simon are forty. I’m twenty-one.” He hoped Elliot wouldn’t ask any more questions about them, or Aldric’s family, period. Hoping to avert such possibilities, Aldric tapped the menu. “Can I get this? The bacon-mushroom burger?”

“Of course, of course.” Elliot moved back behind the counter and picked up something black. He stuck one finger in a silver ring that had smaller holes in it, and it took Aldric a moment to realize Elliot was using some kind of old phone.

Aldric had vague memories of his parents having a landline, but by the time he’d been old enough to care about it, they’d had cell phones. Even so, none of the phones Aldric had ever seen had looked like the one Elliot was now speaking into.

Elliot grinned as if he knew what Aldric was thinking, making Aldric look away and take another drink of his tea. When Elliot had looked at him then, it had occurred to Aldric that his potential boss was not only quite handsome, but very attractive. He’s about the same age as my brothers, so gross. Aldric needed a job more than he needed to get laid, and he’d never been attracted to older men, either—and he wasn’t about to start down that road now.

Not that Elliot would be interested in someone like him. Even though he’d only spent fifteen minutes in Elliot’s presence, Aldric could already tell that the guy was much classier than he’d ever be. There was also the very real possibility that Elliot wasn’t gay, despite the vibes Aldric was reading. Well, it didn’t matter one way or another.

Elliot hung up and tapped the black phone. “It’s an ancient rotary phone. My grandparents and parents had these, way back when, although we’d upgraded to a push-button phone by the time I started school. Want to see how it works?”

Aldric was itching to do just that. “Yeah, I mean, yes, I’d like that.”

The lesson taught him more than how to dial out on the phone—it taught him that Elliot was a patient and kind man. He encouraged and answered any questions Aldric had, which was freeing in a way that Aldric hadn’t experienced before. The old saying about children being seen but not heard had been a rule in his parents’ home.

“You have an inquisitive nature and a good brain.” Elliot propped a hip against the counter. “I think you’ll do well here.”

Aldric blinked in surprise. He was glad he’d set the teacup down, or else he might have dropped it, considering how much his hands trembled. “I have the job?”

Elliot nodded. “You do.”

“But…what about references and work history?” Aldric regretted asking as soon as the words were spoken.

“I like to believe I have excellent judgment when it comes to people,” Elliot said. “Am I wrong in regard to you?”

Aldric shook his head. “No. It’s just, I don’t know anything about antiques, or what I’ll be doing.”

“You can learn. Someone gave me a chance a few years ago and made this”—Elliot swept a hand toward the antiques in the shop—“possible. I’m still learning, one might say. That’s one reason I keep alphabetized cards on every item in the store, as well as those in the back. If someone asks about, say, this…” Elliot walked over to the second row of shelves and pointed to a silver tray. “What does it look like to you?”

Sweat broke out on Aldric’s brow. He knew what the object looked like to him, and it seemed obvious—was Elliot trying to trick him? No, Elliot had been nothing but kind to him. Aldric couldn’t let his own insecurity get the better of him now. “A-a silver tray?”

Elliot’s smile could have lit up the room. “Yes! So you’d just open the gold-leafed book under the register—go ahead and find it. Open it and look up ‘silver tray’.”

Aldric did as directed and was delighted to discover that most of the cards also had a small image of the item on the right corner. “It’s an eighteenth-century silver salver.” He read off the rest of the information, relief coursing through him even as he stumbled over some of the words. He could do this job.

“You won’t be alone in the store often, not at first,” Elliot said. “I’ll be out on the floor with you or, once you’ve been here for a while, in my office. Sometimes I’m away for a day or so, for instance at a fair or auction, or I might have to leave the city, to procure or sell an antique or attend an event, but I close the shop then.”

Aldric’s excitement fizzled out. “Oh. How…how long would you be gone? How often does that happen?” He’d lose out on work, and if he couldn’t support himself—

“I’d have you come in and work in the back while I’m gone. There will always be plenty of cleaning that can be done. I’ll show you how to polish silver and clean antiques—the ones that should be cleaned,” Elliot added before the door opened, and a young woman carrying a box entered. “Meredith! You are an angel of mercy.”

Meredith shook her head, making her brown hair ruffle over her shoulders, and chuckled. “Hardly. I’m just the delivery chick from across the street. Who’s this?”

“Aldric Beamer, my new employee,” Elliot answered, glancing at Aldric. “Right?”

“He’s not sure?” Meredith asked before Aldric could answer. She winked at him. “You should work for Mr. Douglas. He’s cool, and I bet he pays well, judging by the tips he gives me.”

Aldric hadn’t even thought to ask what his wages would be. The whole job-thing had happened so fast it felt like a dream.

“We haven’t discussed his pay.” Elliot took out his wallet and removed several bills from it. “But, of course, I believe in paying a livable wage.”

Aldric knew first-hand that minimum wage wasn’t a livable wage. He’d worked just under full-time and had often skipped meals to make rent. More than once, his electricity had been cut off. No fast-food joint he’d worked at had wanted to employ him full-time—that would have meant offering him health insurance. Then things had taken a turn for the worse and he’d found himself unemployed and hovering at the edge of homelessness.

“Aldric?”

Aldric lifted his glasses with one hand and rubbed a knuckle of the other into his eye. “Sorry. I sort of drifted off. I promise I won’t do that while I’m on the clock.”

Elliot held out a box and a drink. “I have utter faith in your ability to work well. Here, take this and head to the back. Second door on the left is my office. We’ll dine in there.”

“Fancy,” Meredith said, her brown eyes alive with humor. “Nice meeting you, Aldric.”

“Nice meeting you, too,” he replied, his face heating because he’d mentally checked out in front of her and Elliot.

He found Elliot’s office and was almost afraid to sit down in the plush leather chairs. The whole room looked like something out of an old-time movie, with its shiny wood surfaces, smooth leather seats and framed black-and-white photos from decades ago on the walls.

“Have a seat. Well, scoot closer to the desk if you want to use it for a table.” Elliot came around to the other side of his desk and sat, placing his own food on it. “There’s a coaster for your drink in the wood tray to your left.”

Aldric found the coaster and set his drink and boxed meal down before moving one of the leather chairs closer. “This is a very nice office. Is everything in it antique?”

Elliot began removing his food from the box it had come in. “Yes, except the pens and paper. Although I do have a quill pen!” He pointed at a long white feather. “It’s not quite an antique, but I like it.”

Aldric took a bite of his burger, and his stomach gave a happy rumble. “This is good,” he muttered after he’d swallowed.

Elliot grinned. “I’m glad you like it. My salmon smells amazing, as always. Before I start in on it, though, I want to cover salary, hours and health insurance.”

Aldric almost choked on the sweet potato fry he’d just bitten into. “Health insurance?” No. His ears were playing tricks on him.

But they weren’t. Elliot explained how he’d make sure Aldric was covered, without a waiting period. Aldric would have a full forty hours a week, would be paid at time and a half for any hours over that, and while he wouldn’t get rich working at Intrinsic Value, he’d earn that much-longed-for livable wage. It seemed too good to be true, and Aldric quickly and gratefully accepted everything he was offered, hoping that nothing happened to make this dream-come-true come crashing down around him.

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About the Author

Bailey Bradford

A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

You can follow Bailey Bradford on Twitter and Facebook.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE romance book from the author!

Bailey Bradford Artifacts Giveaway

BAILEY BRADFORD IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 27TH April 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Twist My Heart + Giveaway

Twist My Heart Banner

Twist My Heart by Brooke Taylor

Word Count: 96,730
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 379
Heat Rating: Sizzling
Sexometer: 2

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

After a tornado drops a feisty fugitive into the arms of a steel-hearted warrior, she must convince him to help her and her not-so-little dog evade a wicked enemy.

When a tornado drops Thea Gale and her not-so-little dog Titan into the arms of a steel-hearted warrior, she has no idea the trouble she is in. Lucky for her, the battle-scarred Navy SEAL who comes to her rescue knows a few things about evading wicked enemies.

Nickolas Steele is certain the right thing to do is to turn the filterless fugitive and her overprotective canine in to the authorities. But is the captivating amnesiac really a threat or is she the one whose life is in grave danger?

Nik can’t shake the feeling Thea’s past has come back to claim her, and discovering who she really is might be more deadly than either of them is prepared for. In order to enlist Nik’s help, Thea must not only confront the trauma of her former life but also penetrate the carefully forged armor protecting what’s left of Nik’s heart.

Excerpt

Newly retired Navy SEAL Nikolas Steele rolled an Atomic Fireball around his tongue as he debated continuing down the highway with a tornado watch in effect. The safe thing to do would be to hunker down for a bit, but Nik’s mood teetered precariously toward danger.

Retired.

Nik didn’t feel retired. He felt cocked and loaded.

‘You’ve been their weapon, now find your peace,’ his teammate Will’s pregnant wife, now widow, had told him before he’d left Coronado.

Clamping the spicy cinnamon jawbreaker between his molars, he crushed it to get to the sweet. How the hell was he supposed to do this ‘normal life’ thing when he’d rather risk driving into a tornado than be alone in a quiet hotel room?

Sticking a fuel nozzle into his four-door, matte black Jeep Rubicon, he set the handle to fill it with gas. Kansas prairie air hung thickly charged and stale all at the same time. The unstable weather in Goodland amplified his thrumming nerves. He just needed to come down off of this last deployment. After his teammate Will’s death, it wouldn’t be easy, but when was it ever?

He’d been invited to go with his best friend Coop and Coop’s brother Leo out to a private island owned by the reclusive billionaire Coop worked for. A little sun, sand, and sex therapy on Marakata Cay was exactly what Nik needed to detox the past several months of adrenaline and anxiety out of his system. Get clean, so to speak. He just had to get to Chicago, his rendezvous point with the guys, and in a couple of weeks maybe normal wouldn’t itch so badly.

Right now, what Nik really needed was a drink, and if he got a drink, he’d need a room, and if he got a room, he’d need… Well, there was only one reason an insomniac like himself could stand being in an uncomfortable hotel bed and sleep had nothing to do with it.

What was he in the mood for tonight? Sweet or spicy? Hardly mattered really, it’d been so long. But given how bad his anxiety had ramped up over losing Will and leaving the Teams, it’d be a miscalculation to hold out any longer for an exotic islander. A Kansas farm girl would do perfectly fine, thank you very much.

If Nik were the kind of guy who believed in signs, he might’ve considered the base-model, white Ford truck screaming in hot and skidding to a stop at the pumps to be one. A blonde with country-girl braids and gold-mirrored sunglasses swung from the truck and quickly jiggled a gas nozzle into the tank.

Pouring from the pickup’s cracked windows was his teammate’s favorite drinking song—Johnny Cash’s Cocaine Blues. Replacing the graphic images of Will’s death, which had haunted Nik most of the cross-country drive, was the vision of the shaggy-haired, surfer-turned-SEAL passionately belting out the lyrics as if he were the infamous Willy Lee on the run from the sheriff of Jericho Hill. The way Will would’ve wanted to be remembered.

The blonde’s hips shifted to the train-chugging rhythm of the rockabilly song as her fingers combed her braids out. Lifting her arms, she fought a gust of wind as she whipped the waves into a ponytail. The motion pulled her oversized hoodie high enough to reveal one of the best asses he’d seen in a long while.

Despite the jumpy energy of the old-timey classic, the pumps continued to run super slow and her wild ponytail danced as she sprang impatiently on the balls of her feet. She might as well have been Tigger the Tiger from the Pooh books—bouncy, flouncy, trouncy… He definitely wanted to pouncy.

Nik knew enough women to realize Tigger’s antsy energy meant she was probably more batshit than bouncy, but crazy sure could be a hell of a lot of fun for a night. And one night was all he had to offer.

The last trace of sun slipped below the wheat tips on the horizon as the ominous cloud cover turned what should be a dusky blue-gray sky into a nearly black one. Activated by a light sensor, yellow and red station signage flickered and fluorescent white overheads surged to ignite. Tigger jerked the hood of her sweatshirt over her head, casting her high cheekboned profile in shadow. Nik squeezed his brows and dropped his chin. With a little chuckle, he briefly considered opening with, Who knew the Unabomber had such a smoking-hot ass?

Despite the humor of it, he couldn’t get past the hoodie. The jagged edge to the atmosphere no longer bit down, but the humidity still threatened to choke him out. And she was in a freaking sweatshirt. Women. Why were they always so cold?

Leaning back against his Jeep, Nik crossed the Nile croc cowboy boots Coop had talked him into spending a small fortune on the last time he’d visited Texas. He pretended to check his phone while he kept eyes on Tigger, waiting for his opening.

Her attention, however, had caught on a horse trailer in front of her. The rig had pulled in a few minutes before and Nik had quickly determined that offering to pump the elderly driver’s gas while she went inside would likely earn him an earful, as she was not your average granny. It wasn’t just the long, silver ponytail she sported, either. There wasn’t a single thing soft or round on her lean, work-toned body, leaving Nik quite certain not only that the lady had hooked up the six-horse gooseneck trailer she was hauling all by herself but that she’d also bucked the bales of hay stacked on top.

Tigger panned the convenience store parking lot before climbing up on the fender step to stroke the brown and black muzzles poking through the aluminum slats. After slipping something to them—an apple core, maybe?—and a couple of quick pecks to their soft noses, she hopped down with a little bounce before the lady returned to catch her.

Nik’s fingers worked to unwrap another Fireball. The kissing bandit would turn his way soon. Not to be cocky, but it was surprising she wasn’t already showing interest.

Years of working Special Ops made observing people second nature, and he paid extra attention to the ones who didn’t fit perfectly in their boxes. Tigger had definitely bounced out of her box. She was attractive, but didn’t call attention to it with makeup or clothing. Small-framed, but her posture carried her taller. Imitation gold aviators hid her eyes despite night coming on. And she wore that awful baggy hoodie and jeans even though the heat along the dry line crept up to the mid-nineties.

More annoying than the sweatshirt, the hot-blooded Kansas farm girl was more interested in kissing the lips of horses than the cold-blooded American soldier trying to catch her eye.

He wasn’t the only one frustrated. Tigger repeatedly clasped the fuel nozzle, trying to get it to pump faster. Damn, if those delicate pink-tipped fingers were closing around him, neither one of them would be frustrated for long.

Or if she’d only turn his way, he could take care of them both.

Gather some quick intel, disarm her with a grin and maybe a subtle shot of his abs, divert her to one of the dive bars farther off the highway and buy her a round before finding a hotel and going a different kind of round…or two…or four. Simple.

The mission fresh in his mind, and tired of waiting for her to initiate contact, he rocked his body off the Jeep. Discreetly he shifted his concealed carry holster from appendix to hip, because flashing the six-pack with a semiauto sticking out of your waistband tended to send the wrong message. Run, so I can use you for moving target practice wasn’t the look he was going for in this particular application. You live. You learn.

His Sig P365 safely out of sight, Nik strode forward with a good ol’ boy swagger the Lucchese boots lent him. At the first scuff of his leather soles, her mirrored-sunglass gaze snapped his way. One side of his mouth cocked up. Tigger was paying attention after all.

God, having her full focus turned Nik’s blood a little wild, his breathing just south of controlled. His gut flickered with vulnerability. Feelings he was accustomed to having while palming sketchy explosives, but never from a woman.

Damn if he didn’t love things that go boom.

With calculated casualness he stroked his palm up his stomach, bringing the hem of his black T-shirt with it… Just a peek. Okay. It was a cheesy move. Maybe not as blatantly so as the ol’ yawn and stretch, but he’d fully admit it was the male equivalent to pushing one’s boobs together. Like the boob-squeeze, the ab-flash was a seasoned hook when time was limited. Know a good place to get a drink around here? hovered over his tongue, but she held up her hand, ensuring the words never made it past his teeth.

“Save it, cowboy.”

Cowboy? Coop would get a kick out of that.

The sexy curve to her bare, pink lips teased him closer as her patronizing tone backed him off. All he could do was hold position on the oil-splattered pavement. Before he could even ask her if she wanted to save a horse and ride him instead, she cut him off. “From the way you’ve been staring at my ass, you’d only last two minutes, and I don’t even have time for one.”

His bouncy little Tigger was a tiger after all. Even better. “In that case, darlin’, which would you prefer—I wreck your plans for the next several hours defending my stamina or accept the challenge of getting you done in one?”

Her plush lower lip plumped between her teeth, a clear indication she was considering picking the former. But as easily as she threw the nozzle at the pump, she tossed back at him, “Get yourself done in one.”

Nik blinked.

His speechlessness was rewarded with a devilish smirk as she swung her hot tail into the truck and peeled away. In true Tigger fashion, she bounded over the curb to avoid oncoming traffic. A protest of honking followed in her wake.

Nik chuckled. Sweet and spicy. Yep, she’d be one hell of a tiger to have by the tail. With any luck he’d have another shot at a piece of it farther down the road.

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About the Author

Brooke Taylor

Brooke Taylor lives and writes from her country home in Oklahoma where her pets are a constant, but happy, distraction. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys horseback riding, going to the lake, and traveling.

Brooke has worked extensively in the travel industry, from dude ranches to ski resorts to cruise lines. Her many overseas adventures include sky diving in New Zealand, scuba diving with sharks, sailing through hurricanes, and having her tent attacked by wild animals in the Mara game reserve in Kenya. Due to current health insurance rates, Brooke is letting her characters do most of the risk-taking from now on.

Find out more about Brooke at her website.

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