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What time is it? It’s GIVEAWAY time! Check out Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 1-3 by Diane Greenwood Muir and find out how you can enter! All Free!

A magical coming-of-age story from Coretta Scott King honor author Jewell Parker Rhodes, rich with Southern folklore, friendship, family, fireflies and mermaids, plus an environmental twist: Bayou Magic

There are secrets only the dead can tell. And some of these secrets refuse to remain buried… The Girl and The Field of Bones by A.J. Rivers

The more you look for love in all the wrong places, the more you wonder if it was right in front of your nose all along… The Dating Itinerary by Brooke Williams

The battle for mankind’s future is upon us… and it rests in the hands of one forgotten soldier… Exodus Ark by J.N. Chaney

Live a better, longer life AND enjoy every moment of it… Unlock Bliss: A Memoir Of Getting Happier by Dr. Zeev Gilkis

What time is it? It’s GIVEAWAY time! Check out A Lotus Grows In The Mud by Goldie Hawn and find out how you can enter!

She shouldn’t have stayed. Now she can’t leave…. Blood Secret by Jaye Ford

Perfect for not-so-scary storytime: Halloween With Snowman Paul by Yossi Lapid

This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches: The Witches by Roald Dahl

Telling her smoking hot boss that she was married seemed like a good idea at the time…. Working Stiff: Runaway Billionaires #1 by Blair Babylon

For fans of THE DA VINCI CODE, THE RED TENT and THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO: The Mystery Of Julia Episcopa by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings

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Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert, Friday, December 31: Pour the Champagne with 6 Brand New Free Books for New Year’s Eve! plus … Can an Angel Love a Demon? Her Warrior Angel by Felicity Heaton (Today’s Sponsor)

Would you choose to spend New Year’s Eve with the Perfect Woman, the Queen’s Dollmaker, a Mistress by Mistake, or a Louis L’Amour-style Western? The choice is yours with six new freebies atop this morning’s latest additions to our 225+ Free Book Alert listings….

But first, a word from … Today’s Sponsor



Can an Angel love a Demon?

 Ring out 2010 with this great mixture of the dark and the seductive that asks and answers that question….
 

Her Warrior Angel (Her Angel Romance Series)
by Felicity Heaton
5.0 out of 5 stars   2 Reviews

Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
Don’t have a Kindle? Get yours here.


Prolific and popular romance writer Felicity Heaton has been fascinated by the paranormal, preternatural and fantastical since childhood. She puts her fantasies to good use in this novel one reviewer describes as “scary good”…
Here’s the set-up:

Einar is one of Heaven’s best hunters and he’s on a mission to uncover why an angel was working with demons. When he finds the first demon fighting a beautiful woman named Taylor, he intervenes and saves her life. Taylor has spent her whole life protecting London from the lowest demons and she’s not about to let an angel waltz into her city and take over her job, and she’s certainly not about to fall in love with him, even if he is gorgeous. The reason why she can’t is simple—she’s half demon.

There is no love in this world more forbidden than that between an angel and a demon.

Sense tells Taylor to get out before she gets her heart broken, but she winds up convincing Einar to partner with her instead. Einar is certain that working with Taylor is a bad idea, and not only because he can’t focus when he’s around her, but he can’t let her go. The mission leads them deep into the city’s underworld, where old flames burn Taylor while new flames of passion and fear of the consequences consume them, and the threat of Einar’s demons hangs over them both.

Can a love so forbidden ever have a happy ending or are they destined to break each other’s hearts?


What the reviews say
I love all of Felicity’s books and this book was no exception. I loved all of the characters in this book. Taylor, even though she is half demon, she still saves London from other demons. She doesn’t like that Einar has come to take over her job. Einar and Taylor partner up and Einar knows that it is a bad idea, but the do it anyway. I just love this book, even though the characters for the last two book are not in this book. It is still a great book. Everyone should read this book. —AmberPreer

Her Warrior Angel is good! Like scary good. It is like the other books in the series and talks about Angels. But what I liked about this this, is that it also has a demon in it as the main character and how a Angel can love a Demon. Pretty good story. Give it a try! —E. Chung

About the Author
Felicity Heaton is a romance author writing as both Felicity Heaton and F E Heaton. She is passionate about penning paranormal tales full of vampires, witches, werewolves, angels and shape-shifters, and has been interested in all things preternatural and fantastical since she was just a child. Her other passion is science-fiction and she likes nothing more than to immerse herself in a whole new universe and the amazing species therein. She used to while away days at school and college dreaming of vampires, werewolves and witches, or being lost in space, and used to while away evenings watching movies about them or reading gothic horror stories, science-fiction and romances.


Having tried her hand at various romance genres, it was only natural for her to turn her focus back to the paranormal, fantasy and science-fiction worlds she enjoys so much. She loves to write seductive, sexy and strong vampires, werewolves, witches, angels and alien species. The worlds she often dreams up for them are vicious, dark and dangerous, reflecting aspects of the heroines and heroes, but her characters also love deeply, laugh, cry and feel every emotion as keenly as anyone does. She makes no excuses for the darkness surrounding them, especially the paranormal creatures, and says that this is their world. She’s just honored to write down their adventures.

Click here to visit the Amazon author’s page


Click here to download Her Warrior Angel (Her Angel Romance Series) (or a free sample) to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android-compatible, PC or Mac and start reading within 60 seconds!

Each day’s list is sponsored by one paid title. We encourage you to support our sponsors and thank you for considering them.
Authors, Publishers, iPad Accessory Manufacturers:
Interested in learning more about sponsorship? Just click on this link for more information.

Free Contemporary Titles in the Kindle Store 
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Just use the slider at right of your screen below to scroll through a complete, updated list of free contemporary Kindle titles, and click on an icon like this one (at right) to read a free sample right here in your browser! Titles are sorted in reverse chronological order so you can easily see new freebies.

A pirate wench is not what “she” seems in today’s Kindle Nation eBook of the Day, The Wind And The Sea, by Marsha Canham. Here’s your free sample!

“In this action-packed historical romance, the only time people rest is when they’re downed with fever or knocked unconscious. Nineteen-year-old Courtney Farrow, daughter of Duncan Farrow, the most feared pirate on North Africa’s Barbary Coast, can fight, swear and think as well as if not better than most men.”
Here’s the set-up for Marsha Canham’s historical romance adventure, The Wind and the Sea:

A pirate wench, disguised as a boy,  is captured by an aristocratic US naval ship’s captain and pressed into service as his cabin boy. 

This action-packed swashbuckling adventure is a classic tale of romance, revenge, and breathtaking exploits on the high seas. 


The time is 1804 and the U.S. Navy is attacking and destroying pirate strongholds on North Africa’s infamous Barbary Coast. Courtney Farrow, daughter of one of the most feared and successful corsairs, is captured by Lt. Adrian Ballantine, proud, handsome, and determined to tame her spirit. 

Constantly battling their attraction, they must become reluctant allies in order to discover who is selling secrets to the corsairs, and who has sold out the Farrow stronghold. 

From Publishers Weekly:

In this action-packed historical romance, the only time people rest is when they’re downed with fever or knocked unconscious. Nineteen-year-old Courtney Farrow, daughter of Duncan Farrow, the most feared pirate on North Africa’s Barbary Coast, can fight, swear and think as well as if not better than most men. 

But the time is 1804 and the U.S. Navy is attacking and destroying pirate strongholds. In battle, Courtney, disguised as a boy, is captured and forced to become cabin boy to Lt. Adrian Ballantine, proud, handsome, and the only man who can tame her spirit.

He has other things on his mind, though, namely discovering who is selling secrets to the pirates; she, meanwhile, suspects a traitor in the pirate ranks also. Packed with well-drawn characters, fiery sea battles and, for the most part, accurate information, this book is a good read. (Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

And here, in the comfort of your own browser, is your free sample:

Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert, Thursday, December 30: A “sizzling hot historical romance” and The Blood That Bonds lead 225 free books for your Kindle! plus … Riptide and To Speak for the Dead by Paul Levine of the award-winning Jake Lassiter mystery series (Today’s Sponsor)

Amazon eases into the New Year with two new additions to our more than 220 Free Book Alert listings….

But first, a word from … Today’s Sponsor
“Take one part John Grisham, two parts Carl Hiaasen, throw in a dash of John D. MacDonald, and voila! You’ve got Jake Lassiter.” –-Tulsa Sun
 
If you’re looking for a taut page-turner with a likeable hard-boiled protagonist and an appealing sense of humor, today we feature not one, but two books from the award-winning Jake Lassiter series. The newest addition Riptide is being called “a rip-roaring tale in court and on the water,” while the first in the series To Speak for the Dead was voted one of the ten best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times and made into an NBC movie.


“Realistic, gritty, fun.” – New York Times Book Review


RIPTIDE (The Jake Lassiter Series) 
by Paul Levine
5.0 out of 5 stars   2 Reviews
Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
Don’t have a Kindle? Get yours here.The reviewers can’t get enough of Paul Levine’s Jake Lassiter Series, and neither can we. Here are just a few of the hosannas from the heavy hitters:
“Mystery writing at its very, very best.” –-Larry King, USA TODAY  
“A lively and skilled caper.” –-Los Angeles Times
“Sparkles as a mystery and a character study.” –-Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
“A highly entertaining yarn filled with wry humor.” –-Detroit Free Press
“Wildly entertaining.” –-St. Louis Post Dispatch
Here’s the set-up…
“A thriller as fast as the wind…a bracing rush, as breathtaking as hitting the Gulf waters on a chill December morning.” –-Tampa TribuneSomeone ripped off Jake Lassiter’s favorite client, octogenarian Sam Kazdoy, stealing $1.6 million in negotiable bonds. Then Jake’s old Buddy, Berto Zaldivar, a lawyer-turned-smuggler, ends up dead. The trail of clues from both crimes leads to a sinister professional windsurfer and his companion, Lila Summers, herself a champion athlete and a lethal femme fatale. Jake chases the missing money and the mysterious woman from Miami to Bimini to Maui where, in an explosive finale he learns lessons never taught on the football field or in the courtroom.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary edition of “To Speak for the Dead,” the first of the Jake Lassiter novels, all author proceeds are pledged to the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports cancer treatment and research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. “To Speak for the Dead” was honored as one of the ten best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times. A screen adaptation of the book appeared as an NBC movie in 1995.

About the Author

PAUL LEVINE worked as a newspaper reporter, a law professor and a trial lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist. Obviously, he cannot hold a job. Paul claims that writing fiction comes naturally: he told whoppers for many years in his legal briefs. His books have been translated into 23 languages, none of which he can read.

 

Levine won the John D. MacDonald Florida Fiction Award for his Jake Lassiter series. A Miami Dolphins linebacker turned hard-nosed lawyer, Lassiter appeared in seven novels. He has been described by Booklist as “one of the most entertaining series characters in contemporary crime fiction” and by The Miami Herald as having “a lot more charisma than Perry Mason ever did.”

Levine also wrote 20 episodes of the TV series JAG, which gave him an opportunity to steer a nuclear submarine and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, all without endangering national security. He has written, with a self-deprecating tone, about beginning his Hollywood career at the advanced age of 51.

Levine is a graduate of Penn State University where he majored in journalism and the University of Miami Law School where he majored in the swimming pool. He passed the Florida Bar exam in his first try in what he suspects was a computer glitch. He was a trial lawyer with the mammoth, filthy rich international law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he did not even pretend to know all his partners’ names. He specialized in “complex litigation,” cases so abstruse that even lawyers charging 500 bucks an hour didn’t fully understand them. Paul tried hundreds of cases and handled appeals at every level, including the Supreme Court. Along the way, he filed expense accounts nearly as creative as his legal briefs.

Levine says he enjoys writing more than lawyering because he no longer keeps time sheets and gets to work in his underwear. He lives in the hills of Southern California, which he claims are populated by rattlesnakes and coyotes, and those are just the Hollywood agents.
More info at www.paul-levine.com.


Click here to visit the Amazon author’s page

Click on the title to download RIPTIDE (The Jake Lassiter Series)or TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD (The Jake Lassiter Series) to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android-compatible, PC or Mac and start reading within 60 seconds!
Each day’s list is sponsored by one paid title. We encourage you to support our sponsors and thank you for considering them.
Authors, Publishers, iPad Accessory Manufacturers:
Interested in learning more about sponsorship? Just click on this link for more information.
Free Contemporary Titles in the Kindle Store 
HOW TO USE OUR NEW FREE BOOK TOOL:

Just use the slider at right of your screen below to scroll through a complete, updated list of free contemporary Kindle titles, and click on an icon like this one (at right) to read a free sample right here in your browser! Titles are sorted in reverse chronological order so you can easily see new freebies.

Free Kindle Nation Shorts – December 29, 2010: An Excerpt from Key Lime Blues a novel by Mike Jastrzebski, author of The Storm Killer

By Stephen Windwalker
Editor of Kindle Nation Daily ©Kindle Nation Daily 2010

Chapter 1
When I worked for my mother, Prozac was my drug of choice. Since moving to Key West I’ve discovered a slice of key lime pie works just as well. The night I found out Nick Hastings had been murdered less than two miles from where I was tending bar, I ate a whole damn pie….

That’s the first paragraph of Mike Jastrzebski’s novel Key Lime Blues. It says a lot, and it says it with an understated flair that promises much, much more. Even if I were some clueless 23-year-old slush-pile intern for a traditional publishing house I would probably know enough to read that first paragraph and move the novel into the “Better show this one to my editor” pile.

But I know more than that. I know that Mike Jastrzebski delivers on the promise of Key Lime Blues‘ first paragraph just as he delivered with his earlier novel The Storm Killer, the noir thriller that just happens to be my favorite among more than 100 novels I’ve read this year in my curative role for the Free Kindle Nation Shorts program.

And I know that you are in a for a special treat this week, because Mike has generously shared the first 40-odd pages of Key Lime Blues as the featured excerpt for this Free Kindle Nation Short.

Which means that you’ll be able to make your own judgment and keep right going to click, download, and read the entire novel. And then, the next day, whether you are standing at the water cooler or emailing a friend, you’ll be able to say that you and Steve Windwalker have discovered a really terrific new novelist.

Better yet, leave me out of it. Give yourself all the credit, and if you’re like me and looking out the window at a foot or two of snow, you might want want to mention that it’s set in Key West….


But first, a word from … Today’s Sponsor

This past summer, I received an email that began “Stephen, I hope you will consider my book, The Storm Killer, for your Kindle Nation Shorts program.” I was struck immediately by the humility of tone in the sender’s email message. The next morning, after I had read most of the novel, I went back and read the email again and I was even more astonished by that humility, because I knew the book I was reading was the real thing, in a way that one expects to come upon only once or twice in a year of reading.

I quickly wrote back and scheduled the publication of the excerpt here for mid-August, and for the next three weeks I had a strange feeling that must be something akin to what Olympic judges go through when they know that the best skating or gymnastic performance will be coming near the end of the program. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to share some great stuff with readers here over the past couple of years, and I’ve let you know what I liked. But I was aware — not to put fine a point on the analogy since fiction cannot be rated in the linear way that one might rate a performance, say, on the balance beam — that I wanted to save the 10s, because I knewThe Storm Killer was coming. Can a novel could be a 10? If so, I’d say this is a 10. It is a wonderfully ambitious novel of hard-boiled historical noir, and the author, Mike Jastrzebski, delivers on its potential in every way, with every sense, and with an astonishing ability to create, or perhaps recreate, the times and places and characters in this work of fiction.

Let me share a few reviews, and you’ll see — for whatever it’s worth — that I’m not a lone voice in the wilderness on this one.
“Time: 1935. Place: New York City. Crime beat reporter Jim Locke gets sucked into a quagmire of death, deceit, and danger when his actress sister is murdered – and he becomes the prime suspect. When he uncovers a pattern of similar murders, he is convinced that a serial killer is on the loose. But the police aren’t buying it, and it’s up to Jim to stop the madman. The hunt takes him from the grimy streets and smoke-filled bars of Manhattan to deceptively laid-back Key West, just as a killer storm bears down on the island. THE STORM KILLER has it all: hard-boiled narrative, gripping suspense, period detail, an unlikely hero battling his inner demons, and a stunning conclusion that you won’t see coming. Highly recommended!”

–Miriam Auerbach, author of Dirty Harriet Rides Again


“Mike Jastrzebski’s stunning historical debut takes readers back into the hard-boiled world of Chandler and Hammett — and brings Ernest Hemingway back to life in a book as big as the man himself. The Storm Killer, a top grade thriller with a heavy dose of noir, hurtles you from New York to Key West at a pace that will leave you breathless.”

-Christine Kling, author of Surface Tension, Cross Current, Bitter End, and Wrecker’s Key


“Jastrzebski’s hard-boiled thriller storms through New York’s gritty streets down to Prohibition-era Key West with Ernest Hemingway providing the tailwind. A crisp, fast-paced detective story, which Humphrey Bogart would have loved to play the lead in.”

–Award-winning author Sharon Potts, In Their Blood.

Click here to purchase the entire book for $2.99 from Amazon.

 by Mike Jastrzebski
Kindle Edition

List Price: $2.99

Buy Now

 
 
 
excerptAn Excerpt from
Key Lime Blues
a novel
by Mike Jastrzebski
author of The Storm Killer
Copyright © 2010  by Mike Jastrzebski and published here with his permission.


Chapter 1
When I worked for my mother, Prozac was my drug of choice. Since moving to Key West I’ve discovered a slice of key lime pie works just as well. The night I found out Nick Hastings had been murdered less than two miles from where I was tending bar, I ate a whole damn pie.
Dirty Alvin’s is the kind of bar where you can get a burger at a reasonable price along with a frosty mug of beer and a slice of the best key lime pie on the island. They cater to a diverse crowd and the dozen tables manage to stay full about half of the time. The bar has eight stools squeezed into enough space for six, but it’s where most of the customers gather two or three deep to tell their stories and bemoan their days.
Customers were scarce that Thursday night and we were closing a little early. There were three of us working and I was cleaning up behind the bar. Tanya, the owner, was in the back room counting the till. When Tanya’s father, the original Dirty Alvin, died, she took over. I knew something about working for a family business and I suspected she had mixed feelings about running the place.
I took a moment to watch while Marissa, the waitress, struggled to slip into her leathers. She was a small blond with a tiny waist and large store-bought breasts, and male and female customers alike often took the time to stare at her. Outside, her girlfriend Christy was showing her impatience by revving up her Harley, which is why I didn’t hear the front door open.
When I looked up, a tall thin woman was standing in front of me. I jumped and a frown broke the deadpan look that was fixed on her pitted face. “What’s the problem?” she asked, as if she was used to having people jump at the sight of her.
Maybe she was, I thought. I shook my head. “Nothing. I didn’t know you were standing there.” I threw the towel I’d been using into the sink and met her gaze without flinching. “We’re closed.”
“That’s good for both of us.” She set one of the biggest purses I’d ever seen onto the counter and slid onto the barstool across from me.
Now it was my turn to frown. “I thought I said we were closed.”
Apparently the lady was deaf because she ignored me, opened her purse, and began rummaging around. At one point I swear her entire arm was lost in the void. When she finally finished digging into the abyss she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a Bic lighter. She set them down and when I started to protest she interrupted me. “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re closed.” She reached back into the bag and this time she drew out a badge and tossed it onto the bar. “You Wes Darling?” she asked.
I didn’t pay much attention to the badge. I’d seen them before. Instead I asked, “Did I serve a minor or something, officer…?”
She took the time to light a cigarette and drop the pack back into her purse before answering. “It’s not officer-it’s Detective Davies. I’m afraid this is a little more serious, Wes.”
I retrieved an ashtray and set it in front of her, then reached over into the cooler and took out a Miller Light for myself. I took a swig before asking, “You want one, Detective?”
Davies shook her head. “I’m working. I wouldn’t mind a diet Coke though.”
I grabbed a glass, turned my back to the cop, and filled it from the fountain. “So what did I do to warrant a visit from the Key West gendarmes?” I asked, pushing the Coke across the bar.
Davies wore a gray skirt with a matching jacket that needed a good ironing, and when she accepted the glass I noticed she didn’t wear a wedding ring. She took a slow, deliberate sip of her drink, and then took a business card from her jacket pocket. She placed the card on the counter and pushed it toward me, careful to avoid the water ring from her glass. “Recognize this?” Davies asked.
It was creased and had a stain in the middle faintly resembling a four-leaf clover. I picked it up and was surprised to see my name on it. “It used to be one of mine,” I said.
“Used to be?” She reached out a thin, tapered finger and flicked the edge of the card with her nail. “It says you’re Vice-President of DDA Security and that you specialize in discreet investigations.” She tapped the card one more time, snatched it from my fingers, and held it in front of her eyes as if she were studying it.
She squinted at the fine print on the bottom of the card and added, “It also says here you’re a security expert. Pretty pretentious of you, don’t you think? How does anybody become an expert at anything at your age? You’re what, thirty years old? And what’s this shit about being founded in 1876?”
“It’s true.” A flicker of pride rushed through me, as it always did when I spoke about the history of the agency. “My great-great-great-grandfather was a Pinkerton detective, a Wells Fargo shotgun driver, and he even knew Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. When he was forty-five he moved to Detroit and started the firm. Back then it was called The Darling Detective Agency.”
“Thanks for the history lesson.” Davies stubbed out her cigarette and set the card face down on the counter. Written in my mother’s precise handwriting was the name Dirty Alvin’s, and the address to the bar.
The detective picked up the card and slipped it back into her pocket, and then leaned toward me. “What I really want to know, Wes, is are you in Key West working a case? Is the bartending gig some kind of a cover? I don’t understand how someone goes from being VP of a big firm to tending bar in Key West.”
“Oh, come on, Detective. People have been coming down here to escape for as long as my family has been in the detective business. Let’s just say I left the business six months ago for personal reasons. I don’t have a clue where that card came from-or why you’re standing here keeping me from closing up.” I finished my beer in two gulps and set the bottle onto the counter hard enough to emphasize my irritation.
“All right,” she said. “Then explain to me how your business card ended up in the pocket of a body we discovered out at Smathers Beach early this morning. Murder’s bad for the tourist trade, and makes the city fathers nervous.”
Me too, I thought. I reached beneath the counter for the bottle of antacid tablets I kept there and popped four of them into my mouth. I’d left the agency for a reason. Because my family had been in the detective business for well over a hundred years, my mother expected me to take over some day. The trouble was I never felt comfortable dealing with the deceit, the dead bodies, and the cops. It only took one screw-up on my part to convince me to quit. Still, the business was in my blood, and Davies had managed to spark my curiosity.
“This body got a name?” I asked.
Davies turned her head slightly, watching me like a wild animal getting ready to pounce. “The guy had your card on him,” she said. “I was hoping you could tell me his name.”
“Look, Davies,” I said. “I’m not a psychic. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve got, and I’ll help if I can. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Davies sat there for a few seconds, then took a small notebook from her purse and laid it in front of me. “There was a driver’s license on the body, along with your card, and this.”
I recognized the notebook and my hand began to tremble when I picked it up and flipped it open. On the front page he’d written: stop and see Wes. Now I knew why Davies wanted to talk to me.
My mouth went dry and I had to work up a little spit before I could get the words out. “Nick Hastings?”
Davies nodded. “You know him?”
“He worked for our agency.”
“So you are a P.I.?”
I barely heard the question. Not only had Nick been my mentor when I started in the business, but for over twenty years he’d been involved in an on-again, off-again relationship with my mother. I wasn’t looking forward to being the one to break the news to her.
“You all right?” I thought I detected a touch of sympathy in her voice, but when I looked up her eyes were cold and unwavering.
No, I wasn’t all right. My eyes started to water and I fought to blink back the tears. I’d been raised to believe crying was a sign of weakness. The last thing I was going to do was shed tears in front of a cop, especially a woman cop. I took a deep breath, gnawed at the inside of my cheek until it felt raw, and then said, “Sorry, but I didn’t hear the question.”
“You said he worked for your agency.”
“It’s actually my mother’s agency. I used to work for her, but like I told you, I quit six months ago. How’d Nick die?”
“Shot. Twice at close range.”
“Any witnesses?”
“No. At least nobody’s come forward. You have any idea what he was working on?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t even know he was in town.”
“Are you telling me he was working for a business your family owns and you don’t know why he’s in Key West? I find that hard to believe.”
“How many times do I have to tell you? I quit the business-all right? Wasn’t cut out for it.” I started to reach for another beer, but thought better of it. “As far as I knew he was still in Detroit. I wish he had stopped in last night. Maybe we would have had a drink instead of him going off and getting himself killed.”
Davies looked down at the counter and used the thumbnail of her right hand to pick at something only she could see.
“Maybe you knew he was in town, maybe you didn’t.” She raised her eyes and they were hard and unyielding. “If I find out you’re holding something back from me that will affect the outcome of my investigation, I’ll toss you in jail myself.”
“Do you mind if I call and break the news to my mother?”
Davies reached back into her purse and pulled out a daily planner, accompanied by a business card which she handed to me. “If you think of anything, give me a call and let me know. I’ll need your mother’s name and phone number so I can call her and find out if Hastings was working on a case down here.”
After writing down the information I rattled off, she tossed the planner back into her purse, grabbed the bag and slid off the stool in one easy move. “Do you know who Hastings’ next of kin was? Someone will have to make arrangements for the body.”
I shook my head. “I know his mother and father are dead. He never spoke to me of anyone else. My mother might know.”
“If you could stop by tomorrow and identify the body it would help. You can’t tell shit from the driver’s license picture.”
“Where do I go?”
“His body’s still at the hospital if you want to see it. Otherwise, you can stop by the station and I’ll show you some pictures.”
“I’d rather see the pictures,” I said, not sure I could handle viewing Nick’s body.
Davies turned to leave. She proceeded to the door and pausing with it half open glanced over her shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she said. “I’ll be expecting you tomorrow.”
Chapter 2
It was 2:30 a.m. when I stepped out of the front door of Dirty Alvin’s and started jogging west along Caroline Street. Most nights, the flick of palm fronds brushing against tree trunks and the smell of the salty air blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico have a soothing effect on me. That night, I was only aware of the grating sounds. I heard a baby crying through an open window, a man and woman shouting at each other, and a silent mantra playing over and over in my head-Nick’s dead, Nick’s dead.
I never knew my father. According to my mother, I was the result of a wild weekend in Acapulco with a Vietnam vet who suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know where he was from. I didn’t even know if he was alive or dead. At this stage of my life I didn’t really care.
Nick was the father figure in my life. He came to work for the agency when I was six years old. He once told me that was the day he fell in love. It took my mother a little longer, but by the time I was eight Nick had moved in with us.
My mother and Nick had a troubled relationship. When I was sixteen Nick moved out for good, but it didn’t end the relationship. He continued to work for the agency and he would often spend two or three nights at a time at our place. As far as I knew my mother never dated another man, although I suspected that when the relationship was in an off again phase, Nick went out other women.
It took me ten minutes to jog to the city marina dinghy docks. I was living aboard a thirty-six foot sailboat, which I had purchased when I moved to Key West. Rough Draft was moored in the Garrison Bight mooring field, a large permanent anchorage surrounded on three sides by land. It offers good protection from most Atlantic storms. Its only downfall is that a good northern wind strikes at least two or three days a month during the winter, tossing the boat around so badly I’m unable to sleep. That night the breeze was kicking up some whitecaps, an omen of things to come, I thought.
Slowing my pace when I turned into the parking lot, I walked past the over-flowing trash container to my van. After exchanging my running shoes for a pair of Crocs I headed across the lot, dreading the call I was about to make.
I stumbled down the ramp and along the dock to where my dinghy was locked, and sat on the pier with my feet resting in the seat of the boat. When I took out my phone I wanted to throw it as far out into the channel as I could, or better yet, fling it against the concrete break wall. Instead, I opened it, blocked my number, and called my mother.
Even though I knew she must be sleeping, she answered on the third ring. “Hello, mother,” I said, holding the phone away from my ear. My mother has a deep, raspy voice. It’s the product of smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and years of living by the philosophy that the loudest voice wins any argument. When she’s angry or excited, she sounds like a man and she can swear like a sailor doused in rum.
“This is a surprise. Don’t tell me Nick knocked some sense into you and you’re ready to go back to work.”
I bit back a retort. It was obvious she knew Nick was in Key West, and just as obvious she didn’t know what had happened to him. I choked back a sob, took a deep breath, and because I couldn’t think of an easy way to put it, I said, “Nick’s dead, Mom.”
There was a moment’s silence, and I could almost see her sitting up in bed and reaching for her cigarettes. It was her way of handling stress, and had been for as long as I could remember. When she finally spoke her voice quivered. “Are you sure?”
“The cop I talked to, a woman by the name of Davies, had Nick’s driver’s license, but I haven’t seen the body. I’m supposed to stop in tomorrow and make the ID. Hopefully, they’ll have a little more information by then.”
There was another pause. “I can’t believe he’s gone, Wes.” I could hear her sobbing on the other end of the line and I almost broke down myself.
“You going to be all right?” I asked.
Her sobs died off as she reined in her feelings, and a moment later she was in control again, the mother I remembered. “I need you to do me a favor, Wes.”
“What?”
“I want you to wrap up the investigation Nick was working on.”
I cringed at her words. I wanted to be a good son, but I couldn’t risk being sucked back into that life, so I had to disappoint her-again. “It’s not going to happen, Mother,” I said. “I’m out of the business for good. I’m happy doing exactly what I’m doing.”
“You’re too fucking old to run away, Wes. You can’t be a boat bum and a bartender for the rest of your life.”
I thought about what she said. Although the nightmares still troubled my dreams, they came less frequently since I’d moved to Key West. I wasn’t kidding when I’d told her I was happy playing the role of beach bum.
“At least I can’t kill anyone working behind a bar,” I said.
“You didn’t kill the girl, Wes. The F.B.I. screwed up, not you.”
“Mother, we’ve had this conversation a dozen times. Nothing you say is going to convince me to get back into the business.”
“Well, I don’t have anyone else I can send down there right now,” she said. “When you ran off it left me short-handed.”
“I gave you two months notice.”
“Right. Like I can hire a licensed operative in that short a time. Why do you think Nick was down there? He was too old to be in the field. If his death was a result of this case, you can blame yourself.”
“That’s a shitty thing to say, mother.” I knew she was upset, but her words still stung.
I thought I heard her crying again, but I didn’t know if the tears were real or if she was playing me; she was capable of it. I felt bad and I knew it was what she was aiming for. When she finally spoke she dug the dagger in a little deeper.
“I’m going to have to come down and claim Nick’s body. That’s going to take awhile, not to mention the hoops I’m going to have to jump through. There is no next of kin. Still, I guess I can find time to wrap up the case while I’m down there.”
She thought she had me, but I wasn’t biting. “Nick was working in the field because he liked it,” I reminded her. “And we both know that either Sam Jackson or Will Harris can fly down and take over the case. Stop laying a guilt trip on me.” I gave her my new e-mail address and added, “Let me know what flight you’ll be on and I’ll pick you up at the airport.”
“Don’t you think you should give me your phone number?”
I hesitated. I’d changed my number after seventeen days in a row of her calling and demanding that I grow up and get back home to the office. With a sigh I gave it to her and added, “This is not an invitation for you to harass me, mother.”
“I wouldn’t think of it.”
“Of course you would,” I said aloud after I hung up. “Of course you would.”
Chapter 3
Since I work nights, my normal routine is to sleep until noon and then do boat chores for a couple of hours. The night I found out about Nick, I was awake most of the night and up before seven. I dressed in my usual shorts and t-shirt, put on a pot of coffee, and stepped out into the cockpit. There was a chill in the air, but the sky was cloudless. The wind had died and the water was as still as the Detroit river after a week-long cold snap.
When I began to shiver I moved down below. Slipping on a sweatshirt, I poured my first cup of coffee, and headed back outside. I sat sipping coffee, listening to the quiet, and thinking about Nick until the calm was shattered by first one boater, and then another, starting their dinghy motors and heading to shore. I returned a wave from a couple on the next sailboat over, and then stood and went below to refill my cup and grab my computer.
I don’t get TV reception on the boat; or rather I get three Spanish speaking stations and a local one that plays the same old movies and 1940’s era serials over and over. But thanks to my cell phone provider I have a card for my computer that gives me broadband speed Internet access.
I read a couple of newspapers online and then went to my e-mail account. The only message I had was from my mother. It was short and to the point, and infuriated the hell out of me. Wes, hon. I really do need your help on this one. I don’t have anyone free to handle this. I’ve attached a copy of the file in case you change your mind. I’ll call and let you know when I’m arriving in Key West.
I couldn’t count the number of times I’d made it clear to her I was through with the business. I knew what she was doing. She’d once told me I was a good detective because I had the curiosity of a six-hundred pound cat. Well curiosity be damned, I thought, just before shutting down the computer without opening the attachment.
I didn’t want to go down and identify Nick’s body. Instead, I spent the next several hours doing boat chores. I hooked up a hose to the wash down pump and sprayed off some bird droppings. Once the deck dried, I taped, sanded and varnished a section of handrail that was beginning to weather under the harsh tropical sunlight.
When I finished, I put on my swimsuit, dove off the bow, and did thirty laps around the perimeter of the boat before taking a quick shower. Of course it’s the only kind of shower you can take when your tanks only hold sixty gallons and you have to haul water from shore in five gallon cans.
It was eleven by the time I sat back down at the computer. I played a couple of games of solitaire, but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept going over in my mind what had happened to Nick, and I wondered if his death had anything to do with the case he was working on. Finally, after getting up several times and wandering out to the cockpit and back again, I gave in and downloaded the file my mother had sent me. There were actually two files, one document file and one picture file. I opened the document file first.
There wasn’t a whole lot there. The client’s name was Frank Szymanski. He hired the firm to find an ex-girlfriend. He claimed they had an argument, she ran off, and he was heartbroken. Her name was Gail Bernard and she was a stripper who used the stage name ‘Destiny’. He also provided the information indicating she was originally from Key West, and had gone to school at Michigan State University. According to the client, he met the girl at a party in Detroit and fell in love.
The file listed Szymanski’s address in Grosse Pointe and his cell phone number. Nick had placed a note in the file referring to him as ‘that Frankie Szymanski.’
It wasn’t much to go on, so I went hunting on the Internet. Under Destiny I found reference to a comic book character, several nightclubs, and even a church, but no stripper. Under Gail Bernard, I hit the jackpot.
The articles in the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press were four years old. Both stories stated that as a freshman Bernard had been expelled from Michigan State University for running an escort service out of her dorm room. The cops found out about her enterprise when one of her girls, a fellow student, filed a complaint against a school football player. The courts went easy on the girl and Gail was given two years probation.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Frank had been one of her customers and maybe read a little too much into what would have been a business transaction. Maybe the girl had even led him on a little in hopes of having a few extra bills tucked into her g-string.
Any thought of Frank Szymanski being a victim ended when I Googled his name. What I discovered was enough to have me reach for my bottle of Tums. It appeared our client was the same Frankie Szymanski who had started his career as a hit man for the mob. The same Frankie Szymanski once linked to the nineteen seventy-five disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. The same Frankie Szymanski who had been brought up on racketeering charges in nineteen eighty-five.
Damn, I thought. If my mother was serious about handling this case by herself I was going to have to step in. She was right, it had been a long time since she’d been in the field and I didn’t want to lose her too.
I was swearing under my breath by the time I opened the picture file. The blonde looking up at me wore stylish glasses, loose fitting beige shorts, and a white top that showed just a hint of skin. It took me a couple of minutes, but then I realized that I knew the girl, or more precisely, I knew her boyfriend. She’d changed the color of her hair from blonde to red and had her breasts enlarged, but I was pretty sure it was Billy Bodine’s girlfriend. I wondered if this was why Nick was planning to stop by and see me the night he was killed.
Billy was a Jimmy Buffet wannabe who played a fair guitar, and sang weekend nights at Dirty Alvin’s. Destiny usually came in on Friday nights, and a six-foot tall red-headed Amazon was someone I wasn’t going to forget, even if she had a boyfriend. She usually hung around until close, and then she would leave with Billy.
I e-mailed my mother to tell her that I knew when and where the girl could be found. I told her I’d give her the information when she arrived, and added that I was going to leave the boat within the hour and would be meeting with Davies to identify Nick’s body.  
Once I let my mother know what I’d found out she would have no reason to drag me further into her case. Of course I still had to put up with her visit, and I had no doubt she was going to hassle me about coming back to work for the agency. It was in her nature and I figured I might as well accept it, but I didn’t have to like it.
I needed some time off to deal with my mother and with my grief. I called the bar and explained my situation to Tanya. I accepted her condolences and when she suggested I take the week off, I thanked her and told her I’d stop by that evening. What I didn’t tell her was that I wanted her to introduce me to Destiny. Finally, I changed my clothes and washed down a ham sandwich with another cup of coffee before climbing into my dinghy and heading into shore.
***
Even by Key West standards, the two men standing at the end of the dinghy dock looked out of place. It wasn’t the floppy straw hats, or their extraordinary height, or the matching faces on twin skeletal frames. No, it was the array of identical prison tattoos running up and down their skinny white arms and legs.
My first thought was that they were going to get one hell of a sunburn if they didn’t watch themselves. My second thought was they were looking for someone, and I figured by the way they watched me pull in, I was that someone. By the time I locked my dinghy to the dock, they had made their way over to me.
“You Wes Darling?” the one on my left asked.
The other brother snickered and asked, “What the fuck kind a name is that for a detective?”
“I’m not a detective,” I said. I stood and they moved in unison to block me from stepping onto the dock. “Now you want to move aside and let me up onto the dock?”
“You look like the picture your mother sent us,” the first man said. “She said you could tell us where we can find Destiny.”
I groaned inwardly. “She sent you a picture?” I asked, but I knew the answer before he said it.
“She told our boss, Frankie, that you knew where Destiny was. Frankie sent us to see you.” He pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket, unfolded it and showed me the print.
It was a copy of the promotional picture I had taken when my mother made me vice-president of the agency. She could have sent it, or it could have been copied from the business section of the Detroit Free Press, where it once ran with an article on the firm. One thing was for sure though, it was my picture. “Yup,” I said. “It looks like me so I must be Wes Darling. Now who the hell are you?”
“I’m Bob,” the man holding the picture said. “And this is my brother, Willie. Like I said, we work for Frankie. We just want to know where we can find the broad, and you can go about your business.”
“I don’t know you,” I said. “And I don’t know that you work for the person who hired us. Tell you what-I’ll fill my mother in and she can tell your boss.”
“We could make you tell us,” Willie smiled as if the idea appealed to him, then he added, “Or we could just kill you.”
“You could try,” I said. While we stood there talking, three dinghies had come and gone. There was also a small sailboat gliding back and forth along the canal that had passed us twice not thirty feet from the dock. I nodded toward the sailboat. “Of course there would be a lot of witnesses.”
Bob followed my gaze, and then said, “Go ahead and call her. We’ll wait.”
I shook my head. “Not with you guys standing over me. You guys leave-I call my mother.”
“This is bullshit.” Willie turned to his brother. “Give me five minutes with this clown, and he’ll tell us anything we want to know.”
“Shut up, Willie.” Bob stooped down and we were looking at each other, eye to eye. “I got a feeling there ain’t so many people around here at night. If you’re playing games with us, we’ll be back. You understand what I’m saying?”
“I understand,” I said. Up close I could smell his cologne, something fruity I didn’t recognize. When he stood back up, the collar of his shirt spread open and I caught a glimpse of a teardrop tattoo he had stenciled just below the neckline. Unfortunately, the tattoo added a little weight to the threat. In many prisons, a teardrop warned the other inmates the wearer had killed a man.
I watched the two men meander back along the dock and noticed Willie walked with a slight stoop and was bow-legged. It wasn’t much, but it might help me identify them should the need ever arise. I waited until they were out of sight, and then sat back down in the boat. It looked like I was going to have to call my mother before I headed off to see Davies.
***
Detective Davies was standing in front of the police station smoking a cigarette when I walked up. From the back, she was damn good-looking; too bad we had to talk face-to-face. She seemed lost in thought and didn’t notice me until I stepped in front of her. She lifted her eyes, blew smoke in my face, and gave me an unfriendly look. It took me by surprise; I thought we had been on reasonably good terms when she walked out the previous evening.
“I was just getting ready to send out an all points for you. I thought maybe you weren’t going to show up.”
“Well here I am.”
“Ain’t I lucky.” Davies took a final drag from her cigarette, flicked the butt into the street and turned away from me. “Come on in.”
I hadn’t realized how hot it was outside until the cool interior air of the station hit me. I followed Davies past the duty officer, through a door and down a hall. She opened the door to a small room and invited me in with a toss of her head.
There was a table, several chairs, and not much else. She waited until I took a seat, then said, “I’ve got to get my notes and I’ll be right back.”
When she walked out I sat looking at the back of the door and thinking that Detective Davies was never going to win the most congenial cop award. I expected her to keep me waiting just for the hell of it, but she was back in less than two minutes.
She walked in carrying a file folder and two bottles of water. After placing the file on the table, she took the seat across from me and held out one of the waters. “I thought you might be thirsty.”
“Thanks.” I opened the bottle, took a sip to be polite, and set it down in front of me. “So, do you know what happened to Nick?”
“First things first.” Davies opened the file, took out an eight-by-ten photo and slid it across the table to me. As I’d walked to the station I had tried to prepare myself for the worst. I hesitated, picked up the picture, and glanced at it. My stomach began to churn and my heart fluttered.
It was Nick all right. He was lying on his back with his eyes open, and there was a jagged hole near his left ear. This wasn’t the way I wanted to remember Nick. I couldn’t help but wonder if his death was connected to the case, and I swore if it turned out the two brothers who had confronted me at the dock had anything to do with his death, they’d pay for it.
“It’s him,” I said. I drew a deep breath, forced my eyes away from the photo, and stood. “My mother is coming down to Key West to handle everything. Will they release the body to her?”
“She’s not next of kin-right?”
“No,” I said. “But when I spoke with her last night she said Nick doesn’t have any living relatives.”
“We don’t have a morgue here in town; we have to use the hospital. They’re going to be anxious to have the body picked up as soon as possible. Since I’ve still got to call your mother, I’ll see what the situation is and we’ll go from there. In the meantime why don’t you give me your phone number in case I have any further questions.”
“You have any suspects?” I asked.
“Not unless we include you,” she said.
I hoped she was joking, but I’d never known a cop to show much of a sense of humor when it came to murder.
Chapter 4
I arrived at Dirty Alvin’s around eleven.  The place was filled to capacity, Billy was taking a break, and ‘Redneck Woman’ played on the Jukebox.  Billy sat at the table next to the small stage, smoking and chatting with Destiny.   
Joe Fleming was working behind the bar and it was all I could do to bite back a smile.  Joe works construction during the week and helps out at the bar whenever he’s needed.  At forty-three years old, he was movie star handsome and built like a boxer, with a muscular chest and large biceps.  He was wearing a pair of too tight white jeans along with a flamboyant lime-green shirt he wore with the top three buttons undone to reveal his shaved chest. To top off his ensemble, he sported a lime-green baseball cap that read; don’t ask I’m gay.
I waited until Joe looked my way, held up a finger, and walked toward the bar while he pulled out a Miller Lite.  I worked my way through the crowd, picked up the beer, and said, “Thanks for covering for me.”
“Sorry to hear about your friend.”
I nodded, turned to face the room, and leaned back against the bar.  Tanya and Marissa were running around taking orders, but when Tanya looked up and saw me she excused herself and walked over.  
Tanya’s skin was cocoa-colored, and her large green eyes worked to accentuate her mixed heritage.   I found her attractive despite the fact I hated her short spiked hair.  She wore a Dirty Alvin’s t-shirt tied off below her breasts, a pair of low-riding jean shorts, and I thought she was a hell of a lot hotter than the Amazon I’d just located for Frankie Szymanski.  
The problem was, every time I made an effort to show a little interest Tanya backed away.  I figured part of the problem was that her father died from cancer only two weeks before I came to work for her. She was still grieving.  Beyond that I didn’t know much about her personal life.  I’d learned through a conversation with Marissa that Tanya lived alone, and I never saw her out with a guy.  Hell, for all I knew she could be gay, which might explain her aloofness toward me.
“How ya doing?” she asked.  
“I’ll get by.”   
“I didn’t think you’d stop by tonight.  You said your mother was coming into town?”
“She’s not here yet.”
“So you stopped in why-because you’re lonely?”
“Actually,” I said, choosing my words with care.  “I told my mother I’d wrap up the case my friend Nick was working on before he died.”
 Tanya looked confused.  “I don’t understand.”
“In my past life, before I came to work for you, I was a private investigator.  I worked for my mother too, just like Nick did.”
“I still don’t understand what that has to do with your being here tonight.”
The jukebox went dead and I looked up to see Billy pick up his guitar and step up to the microphone.  When he started to sing an off-key version of Jimmy Buffett’s  ‘Come Monday’, I glanced over to where he’d been seated and said, “I stopped by to ask you about her.”
She followed my gaze and her voice turned cool when she said, “What’s Gail done now?”
“Far as I know she hasn’t done anything.  I think it’s a case of unrequited love.”
Tanya let out a little snort.  “I’ve watched a lot of guys fall in love with Gail, but I’ve never seen her return it.  Tell your client he’s wasting his time.  What are you supposed to do, bring her a proposal or something?”
I shook my head.  “We were hired to find her and let the client know where she is.”
“Look-Gail’s had enough problems in her life.  Why don’t you tell your client you couldn’t find her?  She doesn’t need some lovesick guy chasing her all over the place.”
“I can’t do that,” I said.  “Besides, she’s a stripper for Christ’s sake.  She’s paid to have men chase after her.”
“She wasn’t always a stripper,” Tanya said.  “She’s put up with a lot in her life, and I’m asking this as a favor.  Gail and I were good friends at one time, almost like sisters.”
“I promised my mother I’d do this.”
“I never pegged you for a momma’s boy,” Tanya said, before she turned and walked away.
I wanted to run after her.  I wanted to explain it was too late to do what she asked.  Instead, I turned my attention to Destiny.  She was now standing in front of the stage, swaying to the music and looking more like a college girl on vacation than a stripper.
Destiny’s blue jeans were stylishly ragged and her white heels added to the impression that her legs went on forever. She wore little or no makeup and her red hair flowed across her shoulders as she danced.  
While I stood there watching, three different guys came up and hit on her. She dismissed each of them.  She seemed totally into Billy and I figured Tanya was right; Frankie Szymanski was wasting his time chasing this girl.
After I finished my beer I set the bottle on the counter and looked around for Tanya.  She was behind the bar working the register. I was about to head over to apologize when my phone rang.
I wanted to ignore the call, but I’d been trained by the best.  In the detective business information is everything and I was on a case.  When I answered, a thick demanding voice on the other end asked, “Is she there?”
“Who the hell is this?” I asked.
“Who do you think it is asshole, George W. fuckin’ Bush?  You made a big mistake pissing my boys off.  They were ready to break both your legs after the incident this afternoon.  Your mother said Destiny would be at this Dirty Alvin’s place tonight.  Is she there?”
“How am I supposed to know?” I asked.  
“Don’t be a smart ass.  You think I trust you after this morning?  I sent one of the boys to watch the place and he saw you go in.  Now is she there or not?”
I didn’t like Frankie Szymanski any more than I liked the brothers who worked for him. If I hadn’t promised my mother I would have hung up on him.  Instead, I reigned in my irritation and said, “She’s here all right.”
“Good.  Keep an eye on her and if she leaves, call me.  I’m in town and either me, or one of my associates, will be there to talk to her before close.”
He hung up before I could reply, so I slid the phone back into my pocket, turned back to the bar, and ordered another beer.
I never did get a chance to talk to Tanya; she spent the night avoiding me.  I stuck around, helped behind the bar, and waited for my client to appear.  He never showed, and a little before two, I left Dirty Alvin’s.    
When I stepped outside into the humid night, I nearly collided with one of the brothers.  He was dressed in black, and I suspected he was high on something.  He shifted around on his feet and moved his shoulders, almost as if he were slow dancing to a beat only he could hear.  His black jeans and t-shirt looked like they were brand new, and the black leather jacket hanging unzipped from his lanky frame was out of place on the warm Key West night, as his earlier outfit had been out of place on the docks.
“She still in there?” he asked
“Where’s your doppelganger?” I asked.
“What are you talking about asshole?”  
“Let me make it simple for you.  Where’s Willie?”
“You don’t need to know where Willie is.  All you need to remember, is he’s always got my back.”
I glanced around and didn’t spot Willie. “I’ve got to tell you,” I said.  “You and your brother need to hire yourselves a fashion consultant. You’re way overdressed for Key West.”   
He popped something into his mouth, and pulling a handkerchief from his jacket pocket he mopped a trickle of sweat from his brow.  His head was shaved and he was a couple of inches taller than me; six-three, maybe even six-four, it was hard to tell for sure with the way he slouched.
“It’s fucking February.  It’s not natural for it to be this hot.”  He leaned a little closer and his breath was mint fresh.  “Besides, I’m not dressed to impress you.  Now shut up and take this.”  
He held out an envelope to me. “Frankie says there’s a nice bonus in there for you.  He says forget you ever heard a Destiny or Frank Szymanski.”
I took the envelope and counted out twenty-five hundred dollar bills.  “We usually bill our clients,” I said as I folded the envelope and tucked it into my front pocket.  “And I was expecting Frankie.”
“Frankie’s administration.  He doesn’t get out much anymore.  I guess you could call me the field rep.  I’m going to have a little talk with this Destiny chick, get what she took from the boss, and then I can go back to Detroit where fags don’t walk around holding hands and cats don’t do tricks for idiots who come in on cruise ships.”
My stomach began to churn a little at what I was hearing.  “I thought this was all about locating a lost love,” I said.
“Yeah-right.  Like Frankie is going to waste all this time and money looking for a hundred dollar whore.  She took something and the boss wants it back.”
“And if she doesn’t want to give back what she took?” I asked.
He shook his head.  “Oh, she’ll give it back all right.  I always collect.  It’s why Frankie sent me.”  To further accentuate the point he straightened himself up, snapped his head to the side and smiled when his neck made a popping sound.  “Now get out of here.  I see they’re locking up the place and I don’t want to miss my Destiny now, do I?”  He laughed aloud at his own joke and took a step away from me.
An uneasy feeling crept over me and I reached out and caught his arm.  “Maybe I should talk to her for you.”  
Everything I’d read about Frankie Szymanski indicated he had a propensity for violence.  Despite the assurances, I didn’t trust Frankie, or his henchman.  The last thing I needed was to be responsible for another girl getting hurt or killed.
With exaggerated care he shook my hand off his arm and turned back to face me.  “Don’t never touch me like that, Darling.”  
When he realized what he’d said his eyes narrowed and his face took on a red glow. With a quick flick of his fingers he reached for the edge of his jacket and drew it aside enough for me to see the revolver hanging in a holster beneath his left arm.
“I don’t plan to hurt the girl if get what I want.  Frankie, he also told me not to hurt you if you followed instructions and did what you were told.  Now like I said, get the hell out of my sight.”
I considered my options.  My great-great-great grandfather, Dusty, would not have hesitated.  He’d have drawn his gun and shot first.  There were two problems with that scenario.  First, I didn’t have a gun on me, and second, the last thing I needed in the middle of Key West was to reenact the Gunfight at the OK Corral.  Especially when there was only one gun and it wasn’t mine.  I figured if I moved quickly I could probably disarm him, but then again, someone might get shot.  Since I was the likely recipient of the bullet, I decided on a tactical retreat.
“Sure,” I said.  “It’s not really any of my business.”  I glanced over at the bar and started walking toward Duval.  
“Now you’re thinking,” he said.  “I ain’t gonna hurt the broad.”  He cleared his throat and added, “Unless of course she makes me.  Truth is, most people see me, take one look at the gun, and it’s all over.”
I didn’t say anything, but forced myself to continue walking away from him. When I turned the corner I stepped out of sight behind a store that billed itself as ‘The Topless Bikini Shop’.
Duval was starting to wind down.  Traffic was light and a few late night drinkers wandered the streets in small groups.  If I’d seen a cop I would have flagged him down, but it appeared that if I wanted to help the girl I was on my own.
Every instinct told me to keep going, but I already felt responsible for the death of one girl in the line of business.  Because of that girl, I wasn’t about to leave Destiny to the clown with the gun.  Instead, I edged back and peered around the wall in time to see the man in black slide behind a gumbo-limbo tree and disappear into the shadows.
The first one out the door was Billy.  He carried a backpack and strolled over to a red motor scooter parked next to the bike rack.  He sat down, fumbled in his pack, and when he lit a cigarette a flash of light lit up his face.  I figured he was waiting for Destiny, and I wondered how Bob would handle the situation.
Marissa and Joe were next.  Joe climbed into a pink cab that pulled up to the curb, and half a minute later a motorcycle roared up.  Marissa ran to it, hopped on, and wrapped her arms around Christy.  As they pulled away, the door opened and Destiny followed Tanya out of the bar.  
Destiny carried a purse slung over her shoulder, and Tanya carried a sweater.  In her heels Destiny was over six-feet tall and was a stunning woman, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Tanya.  She gave the door handle a good shake to make sure it was secure, and then the two of them walked arm in arm over to the bike rack.
“Hey, hurry up will ya,” Billy called out.  “I want to get the hell out of here.”
Destiny shot Billy the finger, and stood waiting while Tanya bent over and unlocked the only remaining bike in the rack.  Finally, Tanya threw her sweater into the basket and when she rode off, Destiny strolled over to stand beside the scooter.     
Her jeans were tight, and while she struggled to climb onto the back of the scooter the man in black stepped out from behind the tree.  His right arm rested along his body and the weight of the gun in his hand caused him to list slightly.  
“Hey Destiny,” he called out.  “Frankie wants his diamonds back.”  While Bob’s attention was focused on the girl, I crept along the edge of the building.  Keeping in the shadows of the trees and shrubs, I began to make my way back towards the bar.
“What the…” Billy jumped at the sudden appearance of the stranger and would have knocked over the scooter if Destiny hadn’t been straddling it.  “Who the hell are you?” he asked.  
“You can call me Bob,” the man said.  “In fact, why don’t you call me Mister Bob?  Now scat.”
“Come on Gail,” Billy said, reaching for the throttle.  “Let’s get out of here.”
“Leave the broad,” Bob said.
“What are you, nuts?” Billy asked.  “I’m not gonna leave her.”
Bob raised his arm and his voice hardened.  “Look here, pretty boy.”  He waited until Billy looked over and saw the gun before adding, “I can shoot your ass off the bike, or you can be on your way by yourself.  It’s your choice.”
While Bob waited for Billy to decide what he was going to do, I inched my way along the sidewalk while searching for a branch or rock to use as a weapon. All I found was a lone coconut.  It lay next to the sidewalk and was about the size of a softball.  When I picked it up I was disappointed at how light it felt, but it was all I had.  I tightened my hand around the coconut and continued on.
Billy made up his mind, dropped his cigarette butt, and said, “Get off.”
“You can’t be serious,” Destiny’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
“I said get off, now.”  Billy’s voice trembled, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the gun.
“Good thinking.” Bob waved the gun in front of him.  “There’s something else you need to consider.”
“What?”   
“You need to remember-I know where you work.  If you even think about going to the cops I’m gonna come down here just like now when there’s no one around, and I’m going to break both your kneecaps-understand?”
“Yes sir,” Billy said.
“Good.”  Bob stepped toward the scooter.  “You don’t have to worry about the girl; I don’t want to hurt her.  We’re gonna have us a nice little chat, that’s all.  I’ll make sure she gets back home all right.  Now why don’t you get the hell out of here?”
“Yes sir,” Billy repeated.  At the same time he pushed back with his butt, forcing Destiny off the scooter.  
“You son of a bitch,” she shouted when Billy started the bike.  Sliding the purse off her shoulder she grasped it by the straps and swung it toward Billy’s head.     
He ducked, cursed when it glanced off his arm, and once again nearly tipped the scooter.  With a quick glare over his shoulder, Billy took off down the street as fast as the bike would carry him.
I used the distraction to edge up behind Bob. When Destiny turned to face him she saw me.  She opened her mouth and I gave my head a quick shake, holding a finger to my lips.     
She hesitated, but only for a moment.  “How’s Frankie doing anyway?” she asked Bob.  I admired the girl’s spunk.
“He wants his diamonds back,” Bob said.
“I don’t have ’em.”
“Too bad, Destiny.  In that case I’m gonna have to…”  
At that moment I twisted my ankle on the uneven concrete.  A flash of pain shot up my leg causing me to let out a sharp breath.  Bob’s reaction was instantaneous.  He swung around, dropped to one knee, and pointed the revolver at my stomach.     
Chapter 5
Destiny may have saved my life. She jumped forward without hesitation and swinging her purse like a mace she brought it down on Bob’s wrist. Whatever she was carrying in her bag made a dull thump when it hit and the revolver flew from his hand.
At the same time I threw the coconut. Bob ducked and the coconut zipped past his ear. When he started to reach for the gun I launched myself at him. My shoulder slammed into his face and I heard the cartilage snap in his nose. Bob let out a whoosh of air as I landed on top of his chest and then he lay still beneath me.
“Did we kill him?” Destiny’s face was flushed. Her voice rose an octave and her eyes opened wide with excitement. “He looks like hell.”
I rolled off Bob, pushed to my knees, and studied his face. She was right, he did look like hell. I looked around and made sure Willie wasn’t anywhere to be seen. When we were on the phone, Frankie made it clear the brothers wanted to break my legs because of what I had done down at the docks earlier. That was nothing compared to this.
Blood dripped from Bob’s smashed nose and there was a wide cut over his left eye. Reaching out, I touched his neck, searching for his pulse. I felt the throbbing, let out a sigh of relief, and jumped back when he coughed and opened his eyes.
His eyelids fluttered while he tried to focus on my face. He said something in a low whisper and I leaned forward in time to hear, “You’re a dead man, Darling.” He closed his eyes and groaned. “Fuckin’ lousy name.”
“Yeah, well I’ve gotten used to it.” I pushed myself to my feet and added, “I couldn’t let you hurt the girl.”
Bob felt his nose and let out a hiss. “You broke it.”
I’m not sure how he could tell. His nose was flat and looked like it had been broken before, maybe more than once. Up close, I could see that several of his teeth were capped with gold crowns. I suspected Mister Bob had done a lot of fighting in his life, and it appeared he hadn’t always come out on top.
“You didn’t leave me a choice,” I said.
“I told you I wasn’t gonna hurt the broad.” Bob moved his hand from his nose, wiped the blood on his pants leg, and tried to sit up. “All I wanted was to get Frankie’s diamonds back. It didn’t even concern you-and now you went and made it personal between us.”
I used my foot to push him back down. “Don’t get up.”
Bob reached out, but I moved back out of the way before he could grab me. He shot me an ugly look. “You’re a dead man. And your girlfriend there is gonna join you if she don’t cough up those diamonds.”
“Maybe I should hit him again.” Destiny moved up alongside me, kicked out with her right foot and caught Bob in the ribs with the tip of her shoe.
Bob grunted and grabbed for her ankle, but I was faster.
“What are you, nuts?” I snatched her arm and dragged her away from him. “Didn’t you hear him threaten to kill you? I don’t think the man’s joking.”
“Fine.” Destiny pulled free of my grip, turned, and started off down the street. “I suppose I should thank you for your help, Mister Tough Guy,” she called out over her shoulder. “Of course you’d already be dead if I hadn’t stepped in to save your sorry ass. I’m out of here.”
“Hey, Destiny,” Bob tried to sit up again, and this time he succeeded. “I’m coming after those stones.”
Her body slumped, but she kept walking, calling out in the dark, “My name is Gail, not Destiny. You made a mistake, Mister Bob. I don’t have your diamonds.”
Bob turned his gaze to me and something about his stare told me I’d better stay out of his reach. “She looks like the picture Frankie showed me. Is she or ain’t she Destiny?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Keeping an eye on Bob I moved over to where the revolver lay. “I’m sure Frankie gave the same picture to my mother he gave to you.”
“Frankie is not going to be happy about this,” Bob said.
“I don’t really care at the moment.” I picked up the gun and pointed it at him. “Take off your belt.”
“You don’t want to do this.” His voice held an edge, and he spoke so quietly it took an effort to hear what he was saying.
I transferred the gun into my other hand and repeated, “Take off your belt.”
Bob shifted his gaze from my face to the gun and back to my face. I could almost see the gears grinding in his mind while he debated with himself, trying to decide if I was capable of shooting him. He must have read something in my eyes, because he reached down and started unbuckling his belt. Once he’d slipped it out of the loops, he held it out in front of him.
“Now toss it here,” I said. “And lay down on your stomach with your hands behind your back.”
Bob followed my orders and I formed the thin black belt into a loop. Holding the gun in my left hand I shoved the barrel into his back. With my right hand I slid the loop around his wrists, cinched the belt, and took off my own belt which I used to bind his feet.
I tucked the pistol into the back of my shorts. “You should be able to work your way free in a little while,” I said.
“Hey man.” Bob started to struggle with his bonds. “Don’t take my gun.”
“What am I supposed to do, Bob? You told me you were going to kill me. I’m not about to leave the gun with you.”
“I can maybe get over what happened between us today. That ain’t gonna happen if you take my gun. You might as well shoot me right now; because I swear I’m gonna get it back. And when I do, I’m gonna pistol whip you until you wish you’d never met me. After that, I’m gonna shoot you dead. That’s a promise.”
“I already wish I’d never met you, Bob. But I couldn’t stand by and watch you hurt the girl. Not after I found her for you. Tell you what, why don’t you go home, and I’ll ship the gun back to Frankie.”
Bob started struggling again, and the effort caused him to groan. “Don’t do that man-the boss’ll think I’m incontinent.”
“I think you mean incompetent,” I said.
“What, you an English teacher now? Like I said, Darling, you’re a dead man.”
I adjusted the gun to a more comfortable position, and was thankful the area around the bar was not very well lit. It also helped that there was no traffic at this time. I cast a final glance in Bob’s direction, pulled my shirt out to cover the pistol, and headed after Destiny at a slow jog.
While I ran, I wondered if I my attacking Bob might have been a little irrational. After all, he said he wasn’t going to hurt Destiny. But I knew, deep in the hidden regions of my mind, if Bob hurt or killed the girl I might never recover. I was still shaken by the death of the young girl, Celine Stewart, on my last case.
The neighborhood around me quickly turned residential. The narrow street consisted of a mix of small houses, a few retail stores and several larger houses that had been converted into guest homes. I’m sure at any other time it would have been picturesque, but on this night it possessed the charm of a ghetto.
I glanced back to make sure Bob hadn’t managed to get free, and then picked up my speed. I’d seen Destiny turn on to Caroline Street and that’s where I headed. Those belts weren’t going to hold Bob for long, and when he got free he was going to be as pissed off as an angry boar.
I spotted Destiny walking about a block ahead of me and pushed to catch up with her. If she was trying to get away, she wasn’t moving very fast. She walked with a slight limp, and I suspected her feet were hurting her. Considering the height of the heels on the shoes she was wearing, I wasn’t surprised.
Destiny must have heard the slap of my shoes on the pavement because she picked up her pace. When she realized her heels would not let her move fast enough to get away from me, she spun around, let her weight rest on her left hip, and began to swing her purse in front of her. “What do you want?” she asked.
I pulled up in front of her. “We’ve got to talk.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you getting me out of this mess. But if you think by playing hero you get the girl, you’re wrong. Right now all I want is to go home, grab a stiff drink, and climb into bed.” She put her hands on her hips and added, “Alone. I think I’m leaving Key West tomorrow.”
“Bob wants those diamonds back, and now he’s pissed at both of us. The belts I tied him up with aren’t going to hold him for long. He could be out there looking for us right now.”
Destiny glanced behind her. “He’s got the wrong woman.” She spoke without a hint of hesitation, and I suspected she was used to lying.
I shook my head. “No, he doesn’t, and he knows it. Bob’s seen your picture. I have too. I’m a private investigator. Frankie hired my firm to find you. I didn’t know he was going to have someone meet you with a gun. He said he wanted to talk to you.”
“You son of a bitch. You could have gotten me killed.” She started to swing her purse in front of her. I’d seen how she’d used it for a weapon, so I timed the arc of her swing, moved forward, grabbed her arm, and held her. Her breath was tinged with the scent of tobacco and alcohol, and a faint flowery perfume clung to her hair.
“We need to talk,” I said again.
She looked back down the street and I could almost read her mind, Bob or me. She hesitated, turned on her smile, and licked her lips.
“All right.” She moved closer to me, brushing my chest with hers. “But if you’re going to protect me from Bob, who’s going to protect you from me?”
“What do you mean?”
Destiny brought her hands up to my shoulders and leaned in, kissing me on the cheek. I felt myself turn red when she moved her mouth up next to my ear and touched it with her lips.
I’ve always been a sucker for strong, exotic women, and the feel and touch of this woman was making me dizzy. She was aware of the effect she was having on me, and she smiled before moving back half a step. “What I mean,” she turned the smile into a smirk and drew out her words. “Is that I can take care of myself.”
“I want to help,” I said.
This seemed to amuse her. She blew me a kiss, said, “I don’t need your help,” and brought her knee up between my legs.
I yelped, let out a groan, and when I began to collapse, she shoved me backwards. While I fought to control my fall, Destiny kicked off her heels and began running down the street.
I lay on the sidewalk fighting the pain and cursing my stupidity. I knew she was a fighter but I’d still let down my guard. I grunted, and forced myself to take several slow deep breaths before climbing back to my feet. Somehow, I didn’t think she’d get far running in her bare feet, and I took a perverse pleasure in the knowledge that if she kept running on the pavement, she would soon be in as much pain as I was.
I hesitated, grabbed her shoes, and started off at a slow walk, increasing my speed as the throbbing eased. Soon I was jogging along Elizabeth Street at a quick enough pace that I was sure I would intercept her before long.
I run almost every day, but the sharp burning feeling in my groin was working against me. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath and I was pleased to discover that running made me forget my discomfort. Three blocks later, in front of The Church of God of Prophecy, I caught up with Destiny.
She let out a loud sigh when I pulled up alongside her. “Why don’t you leave me alone?” she asked.
I held the shoes out to her as a peace offering. “I got you into this so I’d like to help get you out of it. Besides, you can’t go home.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“Frankie seems pretty set on locating you. Believe me, it’s not hard finding out where someone lives if you have an idea where to look. They know you’re in Key West for sure now. It’s only a matter of time until they dig up your address.”
Destiny put her heels back on while I watched. “You know you’re like a migraine headache. Just when I think I’ve gotten rid of you, there you are again. And each time you appear the pain gets a little more intense.”
She clenched her hands into fists, and her eyes looked wild and angry. At that moment, I was overcome with a ridiculous vision of her gouging my eyes out. I took two quick steps back. I was still walking funny, and I suspected that this woman might really be crazy enough to try and whip my ass.
“I was only doing my job,” I said. “You can’t go home though. You can’t take the chance Bob will be waiting there.”
She took several deep breaths, the anger melted from her face, and she let out a hoarse laugh. “This is the first time I ever kneed anyone in the balls. You went down like you’d been shot. You’re one of Tanya’s bartenders-Les something or other.”
“That’s Wes. Wes Darling.”
“Cute. So is this where you offer to take me up to your room and protect me? Because to tell you the truth, since I was fourteen every boy who’s offered to help me had one thought in mind. They wanted to help me all right. Out of my clothes and into bed. Is that the kind of help you have in mind, Wes?”
“A bit cynical, aren’t we?” I asked.
“A little trait my mother instilled in me at a young age.”
“Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have a room. I live on a boat. I guess going there is an option.”
“No it’s not.” Destiny’s voice faltered, and for the first time I saw fear in her eyes. “I don’t do boats. Understand? I mean, this is great. I’ve got about a hundred bucks in my purse, the clothes on my back, and I don’t have a credit card. For some reason banks don’t consider strippers a good risk.”
I nodded, and I did understand. The boat was out. There are plenty of people who fear boats and the water, so I tried to soothe her worries. “We’ll find some place to hole up and…” My cell phone rang and I reached for it, but I thought I knew who was on the other end.
“I talked to Frankie,” Bob said, “and he’s not happy. Now that makes two of us. We’re the wrong two people to have pissed at you. So here’s the offer. Tell the broad to give me the diamonds and you give me back my gun and we forget all the bullshit. You live, she lives, and Frankie and I go home, done deal.”
I was pretty sure no matter what I did, Bob would be thinking about how much pain he could inflict upon Destiny and me before killing us. All I could hope to do was buy a little time, get the diamonds from Destiny, and deliver them to Frankie. If we were lucky, he’d be willing to trade the stones for our lives.
“You calling from a cell phone?” I asked.
“Yeah, a course. You think you can find a telephone on every corner anymore?”
“All right, I’ll call you back in a few minutes. I’ve got to talk to the girl.”
There was a moment’s silence. “You got fifteen minutes,” he said. “I don’t hear back from you, I come a huntin’. By the way, Frankie has arrived in town and my brother’s still around. You cross me, you cross them. It’s not just me you got to worry about.”
“I’ll get back to you,” I said, and hung up the phone.
“What does he want?” Destiny asked.
“You know what he wants.”
“I don’t have ’em.”
“Frankie seems pretty sure you took them,” I said.
“So maybe I did. The bastard thought because he was paying for my services, he could rough me up anytime he wanted to. I figured the diamonds were my way out. The thing is-I don’t have them anymore.”
I raised an eyebrow and gave her a disbelieving look. “Are you telling me you lost Frankie’s diamonds?”
She shook her head. “No. I didn’t know how to get rid of a bag of diamonds so I found someone who could help me.”
“And how does a girl go about locating a fence to sell stolen diamonds in Key West?”
“I asked Elvis.”
“Elvis?”
She laughed. “You’re going to love this,” she said. “He’s my psychic.”

                                                                                                                            

… continued ….
*     *     *

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Key Lime Blues

by Mike Jastrzebski
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John Truman’s survival depends on New Dawn, the 300-year-old, Oxford-based, secret society that created him, in Mark Adair’s The Father’s Child … Read a free sample of our eBook of the Day right in your browser!

Here’s the set-up for Mark Adair’s The Father’s Child:

John Truman, a bright, introverted, college student belongs to the New Dawn … he just doesn’t know it yet. 

The 300-year-old, Oxford-based, secret society designed him, created him, and built their organization to interface with him. They cannot survive without him; he cannot survive without them. All he wants is to get through today; all they want…is to rule the world.

Reviewer D.J. Bowd says:  “Adair is a master at witty dialogs, artful descriptions and teasing the reader with seeds of fore-shadowing. The story is filled with twists and turns, and fun surprises from beginning to end; a masterful plot that continues to develop all the way to an exciting and unexpected conclusion.  Buckle up, fire up your Kindle, and enjoy the ride!”

From the Author:

When I first began The Father’s Child I had only the idea of a socially-challenged college guy named John Truman who had some interesting friends. Not knowing where the story or the characters might be going, I slowly churned out a chapter here and there. A few chapters and a couple months into it the idea for the New Dawn, a secret Oxford society, formed. Like the proverbial light bulb going on I understood the characters and their mission in life. Everything fit together.

I wrote the first draft in about ten months. After feedback from critique friends and my inner-critiquer, I reworked and rewrote 5 or 6 more times before I thought it was acceptable. A few more rewrites and I started thinking “this is pretty darn good.” I still remember the time I read through the last several chapters without slowing down. Obviously, I knew the plot and the characters intimately. Even so I found myself caught up in the story and the lives of those involved.

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Now Available: Lending For Some Kindle Books

Amazon has kept its promise to make Kindle books available for lending before the end of 2010 — without 36 hours to spare!

The new enhancement has just been announced and, with many publishers blocking the feature, it is currently available for a limited number of titles. To find out if a title that you already own is available for lending, look it up under “Your Orders” on your Manage Your Kindle page and look for the “Loan this book” button at the bottom left, as shown in this screenshot.

 

Prior to purchasing a book, you can check to see if Lending is enabled under Product Details, where it will either say Lending: Enabled, or nothing at all on the subject.

Here’s Amazon’s presentation on the new lending feature, from the company’s website:

Lending Kindle Books

Eligible Kindle books can be loaned once for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle — Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable — it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period.

Finding Lendable Books

Titles that are eligible for lending, as determined by the publisher or rights holder, will have a message on the product detail page. Scroll down to the “Product Details” section and look for “Lending: Enabled” as shown below:

 

For titles you already own, you can check the Your Orders section in Manage Your Kindle. Click the “+” symbol next to a title to reveal additional information about the title. If lending is enabled, you’ll see a Loan this book button next to the product image.

Loaning a Kindle Book

You can initiate a loan from Manage Your Kindle or the book’s product detail page on Amazon.com. You’ll enter the borrower’s name and e-mail address and an optional notification message. Your recipient can receive the book loan even if they do not yet have a Kindle or Kindle reading application.

From Manage Your Kindle:

Manage Your Kindle lists all of your Kindle content purchases under the Your Orders section.

1. Click the “+” symbol next to a title to reveal all information and options. If lending is enabled, you’ll see a Loan this book button next to the product image.

2. Click the Loan this book button.

3. You’ll be directed to a form where you’ll provide the borrower’s name, e-mail address and an optional message.

From the product detail page of a book you have already purchased:

When logged in to your Amazon account and looking at the product detail page of a book you have already purchased, a notification at the top of the page will indicate that you already own the title. If lending for the book is enabled, you’ll see a second notice: “Loan this book to anyone you choose.”

1. Click the Loan this book link.

2. You’ll be directed to a form where you’ll provide the borrower’s name, e-mail address and an optional message (as shown above).

Your loan recipient will be notified of the loan through the e-mail address you provide. The borrower has seven days to accept the loan.

If the loan is not accepted after seven days, the book will become available again through your Archived Items. You can also attempt to loan the book again at that time.

If the borrower already owns the title, or the title is not available in the borrower’s country due to copyright restrictions, the borrower will not be able to accept the loan. In these cases the lender will be able to read and loan the book again after the seven day period has ended.

Receiving a Kindle Book Loan

If someone has loaned you a Kindle book, you will receive an e-mail notification allowing you to download the book to your Kindle device or free Kindle reading application. After accepting the loan, you’ll have 14 days to enjoy the book until the download ends.

To download a Kindle book loan:

1. Open the e-mail message you received about your book loan and click the Get your loaned book now button. Your web browser will launch and automatically direct you to Amazon.com to accept the loan.

2. Log into your Amazon.com account if prompted, or create one if you are not yet an Amazon.com customer. You may also be prompted to enter a billing address to verify your location only (there is no charge associated with accepting a Kindle book loan.)

3. If you are already a Kindle user, just select the device that you would like the book delivered to from the drop-down menu and click the Accept button.

4. If you do not yet have a Kindle or Kindle reading application, click the Accept button and you will be taken through the steps to download a free reading application. After downloading a reading application you will need to return to the e-mail message and accept the loan.

Tip: You have seven days from when you first received your e-mail about the book load to accept the loan. Once you accept, you have 14 days before the loan expires.

Frequently Asked Questions

As the lender, can I read the book while it is out on loan?

Once you initiate a Kindle book loan, you will not be able to read the book until the loan period has ended, after which your access will automatically be restored.

Once your notification has been sent, a reminder message will appear on the Home screen of your Kindle or Kindle reading app, indicating that the book is on loan and cannot be read until the loan has ended.

During the loan period the book will still remain visible in your Archived Items folder, but you will be unable to redownload the title.

Will I be notified before the book loan expires?

Yes. Three days before the end of the 14-day loan period we will send borrowers a courtesy reminder e-mail about the loan expiration. Once the loan period has ended, an e-mail notification will be sent to both the book lender and borrower. The lender can then access the book again through their Archived Items and Manage Your Kindle.

The borrower will receive a notice on the Home screen of their device indicating that the loan has ended.  The borrower will still be able to view the title from their Archived Items folder as well, but selecting the title will bring up a reminder that the loan has ended and provide a link to purchase the item.

If the recipient is finished with the loaned book and wishes to return it, they can do so from the Your Orders section of Manage Your Kindle. Here’s how:

1. Click the “+” symbol next to the loaned title.

2. Click the Delete this Title button.

3. Click Yes in the pop-over window to confirm the return.

After initiating a return the reading rights will be restored to the owner of the book. The owner will also receive an e-mail confirmation of the return.

How do I view the status of my loan?

You can view the status of a Kindle book loan from the Manage Your Kindle page. Click on the “+” symbol next to any title to view more details about any book that you’ve loaned or borrowed.

If you’ve loaned out the book, you’ll see the loan date listed, as well as whether the loan is pending, the expiration date of an accepted loan, or the returned date.

Borrowers will be able to see how much longer a loan is available, or if it has ended.

Is lending available internationally?

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Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert, Wednesday, December 29: Could you live “Happily Ever After” with a mysterious drifter? plus … Laugh away the post-holiday blues with Stilettos No More by Diana Estill (Today’s Sponsor)

When Mona Reynolds hires mysterious drifter Joe Michaels to be her handyman, she discovers that it isn’t only in fairy tales that people live “happily ever after,” in this morning’s latest addition to our 225+ Free Book Alert listings….

But first, a word from … Today’s Sponsor
Award-winning humorist Diana Estill is often compared with “the late, great Erma Bombeck,” but with an edgy 21st-century twist. We welcome her back to Kindle Nation with this take-no-prisoners collection of humor essays readers are calling “Laugh Out Loud Funny!”

Stilettos No More seems to cover every topic that a woman will face as she hits her middle ages. From looks, to cooking, to shopping, to relationships, this book has it all.” —“Reviews, by Readers, for Readers”


Stilettos No More 
by Diana Estill
4.7 out of 5 stars   3 Reviews
Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
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Here’s the set-up:

In this collection of essays, award-winning humorist Diana Estill shares her wacky views on the years between mini-skirts and “Mee-maw” panties, tells the truth about “shapewear,” and offers advice on “how to talk so that your spouse will listen” and other mysteries. Lamenting she’s “put up with this thong enough,” Estill invokes her inner fashion critic as she tackles midlife with both eyes squinted.

The reviewers are saying
Stilettos No More seems to cover every topic that a woman will face as she hits her middle ages. From looks, to cooking, to shopping, to relationships, this book has it all. Being that it is just sixty pages, you would assume that it would be a fast read, but it is not. I spent way too much time laughing and being grateful that I don’t have a weak bladder. As I read, it occurred to me that I might be getting more laugh lines, from laughing so hard. Then I pondered how many calories one might burn while laughing heartily. I think it is a fair trade. I can’t remember ever reading anything so entertaining in my life. Trust me I have done a lot of reading. I highly, highly recommend reading “Stilettos No More.” I also suggest giving it as a gift to every woman that you know. 
–“Reviews, by Readers, for Readers” Sometime around 50 you realize you’ve said goodbye to your youth and hello to world of bodyshapers, random hair growth and senior specials – whether you want them or not. You can spiral into a funk or you can laugh. Stilettos No More helps you laugh, and laugh and laugh! Diana Estill takes a humorous look at life from the top of the hill looking down. The age hill, that is. She’s not afraid to talk about those “things” that start happening when you get to a certain age. Even better, not only can she laugh at them, but she makes the rest of us laugh too. Especially when we’re recognizing ourselves at every turn! Who knew ¾ sleeves had a practical purpose? Some humor collections have peaks and valleys. This book is a steady stream; each essay flowing into the next, each just as funny or funnier than the one before it. Extremely well-crafted. A snappy read, Stilettos No More is a collection of essays that makes you smile, and at the same time be comforted that you’re not alone in your quest for the nearest bathroom. You’ll definitely want to share with family and friends. Highly recommended. 

–Jamie Engle

Stilettos No More, by Diana Estill, is a funny, down to earth commentary on the realities of aging. It’s not easy facing the physical changes that occur, without permission I might add, to our bodies when middle age and menopause invade, but Estill faces these occurrences with a wicked wit that any woman will identify with (if not openly then secretly) and embrace. From underwear, to shoes, to the utterly ridiculous and hilarious protocols of local government and the pomp and circumstance involved in the smallest of decisions Estill’s commentary will produce a wry, knowing smile and, in some instances an inappropriate guffaw of which I no longer feel obligated to apologize.Diana Estill, author of several humorous books, has written an engaging read perfect for the beach, an airplane or a quiet afternoon. My only wish was that Estill spent more time elaborating, ergo, I wish there was more to read as I was finished too soon.
–Judy C.
About the author
 
Diana Estill is the author of three humor books, including Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life, a ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist and International Book Awards Winner (humor category) and Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road. As a former journalist and columnist, her articles and commentary have appeared in major newspapers, magazines, and journals. 

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