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All your favorite blue plate specials in one cookbook! The American Table: Classic Comfort Food from Across the Country by Larry Edwards

Thriller fans with a taste for politics will devour this exciting investigation into dangerous government overreach… Root And Branch by Preston Fleming

An alpha billionaire goes toe-to-toe with a smart, bold heroine in… His To Ravage: A Billionaire Romance by Emily Hale

Make Enterprise Great Again: The Gods Must Be Crazy!: Cradle of Communism to Catacomb of Capitalism: A Proposal to bring back the House of Roosevelt’s by EPM Mavericks

Desperate to save her parents from debtors’ prison, Esmay signs up as an alien mail order bride… Royal Alien Mate by Sue Mercury

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A spine-chilling tale of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, and the terrifying events that put her there… The Girl in The Locked Room: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Her long-lost friend begs her to prove his innocence. But what if he’s a killer? The Fractured Man by Lisa M. Lilly

When Piper Townsend fell to her death twelve years ago, she took Trey’s secrets with her. He’s never trusted another woman. Until now… USA Today bestselling author Allie Boniface’s FINDING YOU

Annie must decide: Is another shot at happiness worth the risk? Camille Pagán’s ingeniously witty novel: This Won’t End Well

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Kindle Nation Daily Digest For Monday, April 30, 2012: Brief Tips, Freebies and Bargain Updates

Kindle Nation Daily Digest


Brief Tips, Freebies and Bargain Updates
April 30, 2012

Please note that this is the daily digest for Monday, April 30, 2012, and many of the free and bargain ebook offers noted here are on offer only until midnight PST tonight.
Kindle Daily Deal for Monday April 30

 

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal – Monday, April 30 – Two Great Reads for under $4 – Save 67% on Marilyn Bardsley’s Novel Behind the Hit Movie of the Same Name, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, plus … Don’t miss Magan Vernon’s HOW TO DATE AN ALIEN (Today’s Sponsor) http://bit.ly/JWroK8

 

Kindle Fire At KND: PUZZLES!

Love puzzles? You’ve gotta try the Grabarchuk Family puzzle books! http://bit.ly/JL0ZOq

 

FREE Excerpt from DARK MIND

 

Like A Great Thriller? Then we think you’ll love this FREE excerpt from KND Thriller of the Week: Jennifer Chase’s Thriller DARK MIND (EMILY STONE SERIES) – 4.6 Stars on Amazon with 20 out of 21 Rave Reviews – Now $2.99 on Kindle http://bit.ly/IzP9rj

 

Looking For A Good Murder Mystery? Look No Further

 

Looking For A Good Murder Mystery? Jude Pittman’s DEADLY SECRETS (THE INDIAN CREEK TEXAS MYSTERIES – BOOK 1) Gives Readers “A Fabulous Mixture of Texas Humor, Heart-Pounding Action, Sexy Nuances and Mounting Suspense.” – Now $3.99 or FREE via Kindle Lending Library http://bit.ly/JlMpa0

 

SHELLY’S SECOND CHANCE is KND eBook of The Day

Kindle Nation Daily Bargain Book Alert: LB Swan and Hope Chandler’s SHELLY’S SECOND CHANCE is Our eBook of the Day at just $ 2.99, or Currently Free Via the Kindle Lending Library, with 5.0 Stars on 9 Reviews, and Here’s a Free Sample! http://bit.ly/ICfEZV

 

3,200+ FREE Titles – Sponsored by AZIMUTH

 

KND Kindle Free Book Alert for April, April 30: 260 BRAND NEW FREEBIES in the last 24 hours added to Our 3,200+ FREE TITLES Sorted by Category, Date Added, Bestselling or Review Rating! plus … Jack Sanger’s AZIMUTH: THE FIRST JOURNEY (Today’s Sponsor – $2.99) http://bit.ly/IinR3Z

 

FREE Excerpt From YA eBook, SECRETS OF THE MAGICAL MEDALLIONS

Follow The Adventures of The Treasure Hunters Club in This Week’s FREE Excerpt From Our Kids Corner at Kindle Nation Daily Book of The Week: SECRETS OF THE MAGICAL MEDALLIONS: THE TREASURE HUNTERS CLUB BOOK 1 by Sean McCartney http://bit.ly/IodgqB

 

CHILL WATERS by Joan Hall Hovey

 

Critically Acclaimed Author, Joan Hall Hovey, Does It Again! A Mix of Mystery, Suspense and Romance, CHILL WATERS Has Readers Wanting More From The Female Stephen King – Now $3.99 on Kindle

http://bit.ly/IbPzOt 

KND FREEBIES! Download Now!

 

KND FREEBIES! Four Brand New Kindle Freebies! Kathy Dunnehoff’s BACK TO U, Shirley Martin’s NIGHT SHADOWS, Sarah M. Ross’ AWAKEN (THE PATRONUS) and Marla Madison’s SHE’S NOT THERE http://bit.ly/ICsc3J

 

FREE Excerpt From Kailin Gow’s SAVING YOU SAVING ME

Saving You Saving Me

SAVING YOU SAVING ME (You & Me Trilogy) by Kailin Gow is featured in today’s FREE KINDLE NATION SHORTS excerpt; plus a link to enter to win a Kindle Fire! http://conta.cc/J4upmI

 

Romantic Thriller THE ENEMY’S SON – 99 Cents

 

Kindle Nation Daily Bargain Book Alert! Kristen James’ Romantic Thriller THE ENEMY’S SON – 5.0 Stars on Amazon and Now Just 99 Cents or FREE via Kindle Lending Library http://bit.ly/Ie9Jrb

 

MORE KND FREEBIES

 

MORE KND FREEBIES! Four More Brand New Kindle Freebies! Download Now! Tal Morris’ FREE THE ALPACA, Elizabeth McKenna’s THE GYPSY CASTS A SPELL, Spencer Baum’s THE HOMECOMING MASQUERADE and David Adams’ IMPERFECT http://bit.ly/JlFe1M
 

Hope you’ve found at least one item of value here, and we’ll check in again tomorrow. Thanks, as always, for being part of the Kindle Nation community.

Candace Cheatham
Associate Editor
Kindle Nation Daily

 

Looking For A Good Murder Mystery? Jude Pittman’s DEADLY SECRETS (THE INDIAN CREEK TEXAS MYSTERIES – BOOK 1) Gives Readers “A Fabulous Mixture of Texas Humor, Heart-Pounding Action, Sexy Nuances and Mounting Suspense.” – Now $3.99 or FREE via Kindle Lending Library

4.4 stars – 5 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Previously published as Anna’s Secret

Kelly McWinter is a former Fort Worth police officer who suffered a personal tragedy that caused him to quit the force and isolate himself in the community of Indian Creek, Texas. Kelly is the Clint Eastwood, John Wayne type of man who makes everyone feel safe.  The characters at Indian Creek are so unique and eccentric that readers and reviewers alike have fallen in love with the regulars who frequent Cam Belcher’s Hideaway Bar and Barbecue.

Tammy from Fallen Angel reviews described the Indian Creek Texas mysteries as “A fabulous mixture of Texas humor, heart-pounding action, sexy nuances and mounting suspense. There’s plenty of excitement, plenty of intrigue, a local flavor to tickle the toughest of taste buds and a good serving of hot, steamy romance to titillate the senses.”

Review

I read Deadly Secrets in one afternoon because I couldn’t put it down. Once I got hooked in by the cast of characters in Indian Creek, Texas, I had to keep reading! Just got the second book, Deadly Betrayal, and am ready to start it. Love Kelly the hero and his great dog Jake! Highly recommend Deadly Secrets to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a spark of romance. This one is on my keeper shelf.

From the Author

Deadly Secrets was such a fun book to write.  I fell in love with the regulars at the Hideaway Bar and Barbecue and Kelly McWinter is every woman’s hero.  Tall and dark and ruggedly handsome with a gentle manner and a determination to know the truth, he’s solid gold.  Thank you for purchasing this story and I hope you enjoy reading Deadly Secrets as much as I enjoyed writing about everyone at Indian Creek Texas.

Books We Love is having their annual Spring Fling between March 15 and May 31. All visitors to http://bookswelove.net will have an opportunity to enter for a chance to win Amazon’s top of the line eReader, THE KINDLE FIRE. PLUS, every week from March through May we’ll be giving away two Books We Love eBooks. Readers will have their choice of any two Books We Love or Spice Books We Love eBooks. And every winner of a weekly prize will also receive ten additional entries into the Kindle Fire drawing.

About The Author

Over the past 20 years Jude has published a mixture of freelance articles, features, short stories and corporate histories. But, her passion has always been for the shadowy secrets unveiled in the mystery novel. DEADLY SECRETS AND DEADLY BETRAYAL, the first two novels in Jude’ s Indian Creek Texas Mysteries series, were the realization of a lifelong dream. Previously published as Anna’s Secret and Betraying Mikki, Jude has brought her mystery series to BWLPP and she couldn’t be happier with this new arrangement.
(This is a sponsored post.)

MORE KND FREEBIES! Four More Brand New Kindle Freebies! Download Now! Tal Morris’ FREE THE ALPACA, Elizabeth McKenna’s THE GYPSY CASTS A SPELL, Spencer Baum’s THE HOMECOMING MASQUERADE and David Adams’ IMPERFECT

With hundreds of new books turning up free each day now in the Kindle Store, it can be tough to hone in on books that you will actually want to read. And most of the new free books will be free for just a day or two at a time, so we are working hard to make sure that you do not miss the ones you want!

Here are a few books that have just gone free by authors who have already proven to be  favorites with Kindle Nation readers. Please grab them now if they looks interesting to you, because they probably won’t stay free for long!

Important Note: This post is dated Monday, April 30, 2012, and the titles mentioned here may remain free only until midnight PST tonight.

Please note: References to prices on this website refer to prices on the main Amazon.com website for US customers. Prices will vary for readers located outside the US, and even for US customers, prices may change at any time. Always check the price on Amazon before making a purchase.

*  *  *

Free The Alpaca

by Tal Morris

Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

A gentle satire of activism and political correctness run amok in a small New England college town. Meet Eric, an unhappy engineering student with a compulsion for writing rhymed verse about engineering disasters. Eric is forced into therapy by the University administration, but things start looking up when he becomes the poet laureate of local environmental activists.

The colorful cast of characters includes a chocoholic physicist, a phony vegetarian, corrupt politicians (both good and bad), petty thieves, communists and activists. You’ll also meet the Western Massachusetts Residents Against Magnetic Radiation and their struggle against, who knows? Set against the backdrop of mill towns making the transition to degree mills, Free The Alpaca looks at the lighter side of the trade-offs required for peaceful coexistence in 21st century New England.

*  *  *

The Gypsy Casts a Spell

by Elizabeth McKenna

2.7 stars – 3 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Short Story – Vadoma Taits has the “sight” and has seen her own death. On what she thinks is her last day on earth, her cousin stabs a man during the annual autumn fair. In her remaining hours, Vadoma sets out to save him from the gallows. When the village’s Marquis rebuffs her pleas for mercy, she turns to desperate measures.

If you like this short story, check out Cera’s Place – Elizabeth McKenna’s debut novel. 4 star average!

*  *  *

4.0 stars – 14 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

In a posh suburb of the nation’s capital, at the most exclusive high school in the world, the vampires who secretly run the government have created a game for America’s daughters of privilege. Show up to Homecoming in a black dress and you’ve entered yourself in a contest where the winner becomes a vampire, and the loser becomes the winner’s first victim.

Only the wealthiest, most connected students can hope to win, so when new girl Nicky Bloom wears a black dress to Homecoming, everyone assumes she has a death wish. They don’t know that Nicky has her own agenda. As the dance continues into the night, they will find out that Nicky Bloom is far more than she seems.

*  *  *

Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

n Belthas IV, the great forge world in the inner sphere of Toralii space, thousands of constructs — artificial slaves — are manufactured every week.

They are built identical, each indistinguishable from the other, until they are implanted with a stock neural net. From that moment onward every construct is different.

They all have one thing in common, though; all constructs are bound by rules. They serve. They do not question their place. They do not betray.

Each construct is different, but one is more different than the others…

A 4,000 word short story set in the Lacuna universe but suitable to read as a stand-alone story.

(This is a sponsored post.)

KND FREEBIES! Four Brand New Kindle Freebies! Kathy Dunnehoff’s BACK TO U, Shirley Martin’s NIGHT SHADOWS, Sarah M. Ross’ AWAKEN (THE PATRONUS) and Marla Madison’s SHE’S NOT THERE

With hundreds of new books turning up free each day now in the Kindle Store, it can be tough to hone in on books that you will actually want to read. And most of the new free books will be free for just a day or two at a time, so we are working hard to make sure that you do not miss the ones you want!

Here are a few books that have just gone free by authors who have already proven to be  favorites with Kindle Nation readers. Please grab them now if they looks interesting to you, because they probably won’t stay free for long!

Important Note: This post is dated Monday, April 30, 2012, and the titles mentioned here may remain free only until midnight PST tonight.

Please note: References to prices on this website refer to prices on the main Amazon.com website for US customers. Prices will vary for readers located outside the US, and even for US customers, prices may change at any time. Always check the price on Amazon before making a purchase.

*  *  *

Back To U

by Kathy Dunnehoff

4.8 stars – 5 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Don’t miss this latest book from Amazon Best Selling Author of The Do-Over, Kathy Dunnehoff.

An Overview of “Back To You”

When Gwen hits the big 4-0, her husband leaves and her daughter takes off with a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band. Taking her daughter’s place at the university seems like a good idea until she runs into the reason she dropped out twenty years before… and he’s also found his way Back To U.

*  *  *

Night Shadows

by Shirley Martin

Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Desperate to escape an unwanted suitor, Fianna flees to a faraway city. There, she finds she has gone from bad to worse. She is caught between three different men who want her, each for his own reason. The demon, Stilo, wants her as his sex slave. Angus, the spurned suitor, won’t give up in his pursuit. Only one man, Gaderian, loves her for herself, and he’s a vampire.
In a realm where vampires and demons battle for supremacy, Fianna is trapped in a dangerous game, where someone is bound to lose his life.

*  *  *

Awaken (The Patronus)

by Sarah M. Ross

4.6 stars – 46 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Lucy Donovan was supposed to have a weekend of fun in the sun, celebrating her upcoming graduation from college. In a split second, everything changed. A drunk driver ended Lucy’s mortal life.
Lucy opens her eyes to a world she never imagined possible and a new destiny: as a Patronus, a guardian of spirits. Adjusting to her new role and abilities while negotiating this confusing realm will test her limits and push her further than she ever dreamed she would go. From wayward spirits who don’t want her help to soul stealing vampires, and even a stuck-up British royal, Lucy must brave them all to save one spirit she can’t bear to lose.
Further complicating her confusing life is an inexplicable yet growing connection she feels to a member of her team, Max, whose mysterious behavior leaves her both confused and intrigued.
Waking up dead was just the beginning of her problems. Lucy’s death is about to become the greatest adventure of her life.

*  *  *

She’s Not There

by Marla Madison

4.6 stars – 14 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Women are missing . . .

Is the rising number of abused women who’ve gone missing a statistical anomaly? Or is a serial killer targeting this vulnerable group of women?
When the Milwaukee Police Department refuses to investigate because no bodies have been discovered, Lisa Rayburn, the clinical psychologist who discovers the anomaly, is drawn into an investigation to discover the cause after one of her own clients goes missing. She finds herself forming an unlikely alliance with a former policewoman turned security consultant, TJ Peacock, and the husbands of two of the missing women who may themselves be murderers.
When TJ is attacked, and a woman looking remarkable like Lisa is found murdered, they know . . . someone is willing to kill to protect his secret.

Can they reveal the killer before he gets to them?

(This is a sponsored post.)

Like A Great Thriller? Then we think you’ll love this FREE excerpt from KND Thriller of the Week: Jennifer Chase’s Thriller DARK MIND (EMILY STONE SERIES) – 4.6 Stars on Amazon with 20 out of 21 Rave Reviews – Now $2.99 on Kindle

Just the other day we announced that Jennifer Chase’s suspense-filled DARK MIND (EMILY STONE SERIES) is our new Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!

Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt, and we’re happy to share the news that this terrific read at $2.99 for Kindle Nation readers during its TOTW reign!

Dark Mind (Emily Stone Series)

by Jennifer Chase

4.6 stars – 21 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

A Serial Killer Plagues an Island Paradise

Vigilante detective Emily Stone continues her covert pursuits to find serial killers and child abductors, all under the radar while shadowing police investigations.

Emily searches for an abducted nine-year-old girl taken by ruthless and enterprising slave brokers. Following the clues from California to the garden island of Kauai, she begins to piecetogether the evidence and ventures deep into the jungle.

It doesn’t take long before Emily is thrown into the middle of murder, mayhem, and conspiracy. Locals aren’t talking as serial killer now stalks the island, taking women in a brutal frenzy of ancient superstitions and folklore. Local cops are unprepared for what lies ahead. In a race against the clock, Emily and her team must identify the killer before time runs out.

“Author Jennifer Chase takes the reader into the world of black magic, sorcery, child porn, murder and the Dark Mind of a serial killer with an ending you just won’t see coming with a final twist that let’s you know that there is much more in store for Emily and Rick. Where the next case leads them only author Jennifer Chase knows and we all hope to find out soon.” – Fran Lewis, Book Pleasures

About The Author

Jennifer Chase holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology. Her intense curiosity in the psychological aspect of crime is what drives her to write crime fiction. She lives in California, where she’s currently at work on her next book in the series.

 

 

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

 

CHAPTER ONE

Tuesday 1030 Hours

 

Intensity overrode the room’s rising humidity.  The claustrophobic staleness of the tight quarters pushed the confrontation between interrogator and suspect to the extreme.

Emily Stone calmly watched her partner from her cramped vantage point.

His eyes, dark and piercing, focused on the suspect.  Sculpted biceps appeared pumped and ready for action – nerves heightened.  He showed restraint, but clearly wanted to unleash mayhem.

“Where’s the little girl?”  Rick Lopez demanded with his jaw clenched.

“I… I… don’t know who you mean.”  The man’s voice wavered and he couldn’t keep eye contact.

“You know where she is.  Give me the address.  Now!”

Rick pushed the skinny, young man backward against the wall.  Cornered.  Sweat saturated his receding hairline of straggly, sun-bleached hair as his shoulders slumped forward making him appear older.  Weakening, he would cave in and spill the truth.

 

Time stood still for the trapped man.

He rubbed his stubby fingers tightly against one another on the bottom fabric of his loose Hawaiian shirt.  The bright yellow pineapples and colorful surfboards twisted and morphed on the garment beneath his sweaty hands.

Rick took a deep breath.  He backed up a couple of feet from the man and averted his gaze for a few seconds, hands slightly trembling; obviously he wanted to pummel the guy’s face out of pure hatred.

Time ticked away for a nine-year-old girl.

The corner of the cramped depot conveniently used for storing small sailboats, catamarans, and kayaks remained still and silent.  Cluttered with miscellaneous parts, the room waited, quiet like a strange fiberglass tomb.

A calming breeze wafted in with a comfortable, steady eighty-degree temperature.  Trade winds never disappointed in the time of need as the distinct trace of Kauai’s moisture integrated into the atmosphere, from the concentrated outside plant growth, daily rainfall, and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

Emily stood in the corner, shifting her weight somewhat from side to side, and continued to observe her partner’s interrogation.  She surveyed Rick closely as his frustration level accelerated.  All of his typical warning signs radiated in the room with his clenched jaw, brusque voice inflection, prominent vein in his forehead, and a stare that could stop an angry mob dead in its tracks.

She loved Rick for his skill and perseverance; but most of all, making her passion of hunting down serial killers, child abductors and pedophiles his own.

She loved him.

She knew Rick felt at a disadvantage without his trusted Glock pressed firmly in his right hand.

The exhausting clues for three days led them to Kauai from the San Francisco area; the island provided a stopping point for child slavery brokers.  They were able to determine that this man provided transportation and they weren’t leaving until he gave them all of the information he knew.  They hoped that they weren’t too late and that the little girl wasn’t already on her way to another country, only to disappear into the mass culture of black market slavery.

Emily’s fists clenched as her knuckles protruded an ashen white.  Occasionally, her hands brushed by her side out of habit.  Absent of her own Beretta, she couldn’t get used to being unarmed and vulnerable on the island paradise.  Her petite body braced.  She waited for the right moment to move into the conflict, as her unwavering eyes never averted from the weakening man.

The young man began to weep.  “Look, I don’t know…” He slowly sank to the floor with his head in his hands.

 

 

Forcefully, Emily stepped forward with purpose and thrust a photograph into the suspect’s face.  “Where is she?”  In the picture, a beautiful little girl with long brown hair and wispy bangs smiled sweetly at the camera.  The photo represented a much happier time taken during a family picnic at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

The man couldn’t bear to look at her, but finally focused his gaze on the innocent, shining face.

The man knew.  Eventually he would break.

Emily slapped his face with the photo and insisted, “Where is she!”  The picture with dog-eared corners and moisture damage from the humidity shook slightly in her hand as she waited for an answer.

 

* * * *

 

Darkness.

The sickly sweet, rotted tropical fruit and moldy earth filled her nose and burned her eyes.  Tears welled up and spilled over, falling down her tender cheeks.  She clenched her fists against the dank soil underneath her.  Tightening and releasing her tiny hands and slim fingers, she held her breath.  Each compressed grip helped to stable her heightened fear and kept her from screaming, but it didn’t stop an escaped whimper or two.  She didn’t want to alert the bad men.

Cassie Thompson listened for them, frightened of what they were capable of doing to her.  Knees pulled up in front of her weak body, she pressed her spine up against the weather beaten foundation of the basement.  The cool, mustiness of the structure chilled her bones even though she was hot to the touch.  Her teeth chattered slightly.  The sound of her stomach grumbled from the lack of food for the past several days.  Her lips were dry from thirst.  She managed to find a piece of a mango that wasn’t rotten, but that was hours ago.

Her time neared. 

Cassie listened, poised, not ready to accept the terrible things in the mind of her captors.  The floors creaked and groaned above her, one set of beams moved with a heavy footing.

When they had removed her blindfold and tight plastic restraints after the long plane ride, the stocky, dark haired man with black, smeared tattoos on his neck, face, and arms tried to touch her in a groping manner.  His long ponytail mesmerized her and she thought about how she wanted to grow her own hair longer, but her mom had said no.

The other man, tall, clean cut with a slight British accent looked like someone’s dad, stopped the burly man and stated he shouldn’t touch the girl.  He stressed the importance of untainted merchandise and receiving top American dollars.

The weakening floorboards stopped momentarily just above her head.  Muffled voices engaged in casual conversation with idle laughter and raised voice inflections every other sentence.  Wooden chair legs scraped across the floor, stopped, and then followed with a heavy affirming creak.  Lighter, quicker footsteps moved away and faintly disappeared to another part of the house, perhaps out the front door.

Silence.

Desperation filled Cassie again.  She crawled cautiously on her hands and knees to the one area of the basement that revealed a crack of light filtering through.  Dust particles swirled around like delicate confetti through the spotlight of freedom, which drew the little girl closer to its precipice.  She stopped for a moment to listen for any incoming danger.

Nothing.

Wiping her tear stained face with grains of putrefied earth, she willed herself to continue.  She softly told herself that she could do it.  Remembering a story about a young girl, about her age that survived under the rubble of a building after an earthquake.  Cassie could survive this horrible situation too.

Letting out a breath stifled from a whimper, she inched toward the light as the crawlspace narrowed above her head.  The native island soil pushed between her little fingers and packed down firmer into the earth, it felt warmer to the touch than from the other side, and the distinct odor increased in intensity to more of old garbage and feces.

A few small gnats and flies buzzed about their business, swooping around her head.

Cassie leaned toward the tiny crack, focused her eyes and prayed it was a way out.  At first she couldn’t see anything but a brown color and a blinding light.  Realizing that it was a palm tree trunk, she moved her gaze farther to the left and surveyed the yard and saw miscellaneous junk, tires, and an old car mixed between the overgrown jungle foliage.

Humid heat and daily rainfall deteriorated and molded anything in its wake.  It appeared to be the back yard of a home, long forgotten and neglected.

Her heart sank.

Who would ever find me now?

Her right hand touched something smooth and cool poking up from the dirt basement.  Looking down, she gasped in horror as she followed the outline of a small skull, smooth, whitish, and right beneath her vantage point.

Thoughts of horror flashed through her mind.  Vivid, gruesome thoughts that no nine year old should ever have to realize or contemplate.  Cassie’s breathing quickened and she fought to keep from fainting.  Faint light specs floated around her vision like tiny, blinking stars.

The soft whirring of a motor broke her defeated attitude.  Her vision cleared.  The sound was faint and then the engine stopped altogether, but Cassie knew she had heard a car approaching up through the back way of the property.

Someone drew near.

Help.

She willed herself to peek out through the prisoner’s spy gap again.

Please help me.

* * * *

 

Rick turned off the car ignition.  The convertible Jeep engine pinged, ticked, and then quietly settled down among the overgrown island plants.  The lookout point, obscured by the neglected junkyard used as a dumping ground, hid the house.  A disgusting display of the lack of environmental awareness in such a beautiful, untainted part of the Hawaiian Islands greeted their covert approach.

Emily and Rick assessed their opportunities and weighed their options in an unfamiliar setting in silence, scanning the entry and exit points, backup alternatives, ambush areas, potential weapons that would be useable, and odds of being spotted and identified by law enforcement or nearby nosey neighbors.

Emily broke the tense silence and asked, “What do you think?”

“I’m beginning to think that we were lied to.”  He pushed back against the seat with his hands still on the steering wheel.  “Bastard.”

“You sure that the GPS is correct?”

Looking down at his cell phone, “Yes, when we actually get a signal out here.”  The bars on the cell phone flickered on and off in a hypnotizing, frustrating display.  He tossed the phone on the dashboard, the bright screen flashed one more time and then vanished.

Without wasting another moment, Emily pulled the release of the Jeep door and stepped halfway out of the vehicle before Rick touched her arm.  She turned to see his face.  A look she knew well – be careful.

Rick had met Emily during a case in California, while investigating a series of homicides; more accurately two serial killers terrorized their beach town.  His path had crossed hers and he had chosen to retire his position as a police detective to hunt down these predatory animals that stalk children in order to kill by impulse and compulsive need.   All of this accomplished behind the scene, covertly and under the radar, pushed the couple to act.

Emily smiled as she looked directly into Rick’s eyes.  “I know the drill.”   She paused and spoke softly.  “Let’s bring Cassie Thompson home… safe.”

Rick nodded.  He grabbed his small, zippered pack filled with a few techno gadgets along with the cell phone and hooked it around his waist.  A miniscule earpiece with a thin wire microphone clipped to his right ear and extended down half his cheek became a standard operating piece of equipment.  He scanned the immediate area before he shut the driver’s door.

They were close.  The heaviness of the air shifted.

Emily pressed the car door gently shut after she firmly placed the earpiece around her ear.  They relied on their high-tech walkie-talkies to communicate.  The oversized leaves from what resembled a common household plant flapped in the island breeze on both sides of the Jeep, tapping the sides of the quarter panels in a primitive drumming manner.

Emily tapped her jean’s front right pocket to make sure that her emergency zip ties and cell phone hadn’t fallen out.  Still annoyed that she didn’t have her trusted Glock or even her small Beretta, she would have to improvise if it came to a sticky situation.

The humidity turned up the wet, sticky button of Mother Nature.  She paused – statute-like.  A peculiar gut feeling tightened in her lower stomach and overrode her senses making each breath laborious.   The faint, almost lulling sounds of the overgrown foliage seemed to stop on cue and take notice of something unnatural or even more chilling.  She always felt in tune with nature and paid close attention to the subtle cues.

Emily turned and made intense eye contact with Rick for a few seconds, acknowledged silently what they were about to do, then quietly they both moved in opposite directions, stealthily, closer to the house and into the unknown.

Wishing she had a machete to hack a direct pathway to the shack, Emily pushed the monster vines from her vision, craning her neck awkwardly to avoid a gigantic leaf ready to slap her across the face.

Rain droplets popped like sparkling jewels on many of the plants in the shaded areas.  More showers threatened at any moment to wash away the remnants of the previous morning’s downpour.

Emily looked behind her, listening to the steady breathing of Rick through the headset as he hiked up behind the property.  Neither of them were used to the high humidity of the islands.

“Everything okay?”  She whispered.

Pause.

“10-4.”  Rick’s husky low tone assured her.

She couldn’t see him, but knew that he was working the perimeter of the property to gain a better vantage of the situation at a higher elevation.  Her job mandated that she make a brief visual of the house and anything that looked suspicious or a possible place where the kidnappers would keep a child hostage.  Whatever they found, they would report it immediately and anonymously to the local police.

That was the plan anyway.

The pungent smell of mold and deteriorating rubber masked the natural aroma of the outdoors.  Numerous mismatched tires stacked in several piles, some taller than Emily, obscured her view.  The ground sunk uneven in several places, Emily wished she had worn her hiking boots instead of her running shoes.  Her feet felt wet and uncomfortable, undermining her steady balance.

She listened as she approached the house.  It really wasn’t a house, but more of a makeshift cabin in the jungle.  Emily moved in closer to get a better look at the structure.  She slid along the back exterior wall where peeling beige paint chipped and shredded in moist, curled chunks.

A faint scraping noise stopped Emily dead in her tracks.  At first, she thought it was something in the big palm trees around her, a bird maybe, but she concentrated on the location of the noise.  Looking down toward the ground, she squinted her eyes.  Along the area where the house was built up on a high foundation to prevent water damage from the heavy rains and floods, she saw tiny movement.

Emily thought her eyes were deceiving her, but then she saw it again.  A tiny finger poked through the hole of the loose board followed by a terrified whisper.  “Help me.”   The finger disappeared.  

Instantly, Emily dropped to her knees and peered into the crack leading to the dirt basement.  “Cassie?”

A tired little voice replied.  “Yes.”

Emily looked around to make sure they were alone.  She leaned forward and said softly, “I’m here to help you.  Stay put.  Help is here honey.  Just wait quietly, okay?”  She ran her fingers around the loose board and wiggled the planks.  The wood was old, but still stubborn under her strength.  She would need some type of tool to wedge them loose.

Pleasehurry.” The little voice said.

Rick’s urgent voice crackled in Emily’s ear.  “What’s happening?”

“I found her… back of the cottage in the basement.”

“Stay put, I’ll call in for backup.”  A click ended the communication.

Emotion overwhelmed Emily.  “Okay”, she managed to say.  She knew that Rick would get the police and then he’d be at her side almost immediately.  Together they would pry the wood loose and whisk Cassie to safety.

The boards were brittle as Emily leaned in and applied a little more muscle.  The wood and nails creaked, squeaked a high pitch sound, and then moved slightly.  The humidity took hold of Emily as she worked harder to free the little girl as a light mist floated down and attached itself to anything that wasn’t already wet.

Pain radiated through Emily’s body, shot down her arms and ricocheted up through her neck.  Her breath caught in her lungs and she tried to overcome the heavy, humid air.

A muzzle of a shotgun pressed hard against Emily’s back.

She froze.

A man’s voice ordered.  “Get up.”

CHAPTER TWO

Tuesday 1145 Hours

 

Tall stacks of administration of justice textbooks covered the small desktop.  The phone sat on the far left corner with one line lit up, blinking red.  Pencils and pink message stubs divided into three piles of importance neatly arranged on the right side of the desk.

File folders topped the stacks to keep wandering eyes from viewing the actual book titles.  Everything anyone wanted or needed to know about crime scene investigation, including evidence collecting and processing, proper investigative photographs, witness statements, and first responder responsibilities encased the volumes.  Various neon sticky notes protruded from the tops and sides of the books marking important points to remember.

The rotation of the two ceiling fans kept a constant beat.

Four metal desks shared with detectives and patrol officers with equally uncomfortable chairs rounded out the small room housing the Kauai police department substation – unoccupied at the moment.

A small adjoining room proved just big enough for one administrative dispatcher who doubled as the records clerk.  Nothing fancy, but basic amenities sufficed for the small law enforcement work force on the garden isle.

Sergeant Lani Candena flipped open his laptop computer, eyes serious and focused, smile forgotten as he cracked his knuckles one by one, and he waited for the operating system to boot up.  The recognizable jingle welcomed him as the desktop icons popped into view.  He sat for a moment looking at the folder that read: Working Investigations.

It remained empty.

He imagined the unobtrusive file folder full of working investigations, crime scene photos, statements, and persons of interest, but only in his mind.

Kauai had three homicide cases over the past ten years, but the perpetrators hadn’t received swift justice.  The murderous trail had turned ice cold almost immediately – they were officially cold cases.

Lani clicked on his email – nothing interesting.  The spam software apparently hadn’t been doing its job.  He couldn’t get his mind on work; it was preoccupied with his application sitting in human resources at the Los Angeles Police Department.

Growing up in and around Honolulu made Lani even antsier to get to the mainland.  Island fever raged inside him.  He never fit in with the locals or even the small town police department being a half-breed, dad a native islander and mom from a small farm in Iowa.

There were cutting and hurtful names he had endured growing up, but none of them tainted his dream to become a cop.  He spent the first eight years at Honolulu PD, but jumped at the chance to move to Kauai to catch drug dealers, solve a homicide or find a missing tourist.  It plagued him daily as big dreams, but with little reality.

Lani’s thoughts of becoming a big city detective were interrupted as Faye bustled through the doorway of her small workspace.  Her floral dress shifted on her robust body as she approached the sergeant’s desk.  “Lani, here’s a message for ya.  Seems some tourists have seen too many movies.”

Lani ignored the pink message note as it floated onto one of his textbooks.  “Explain Faye.”  He replied patiently.

Rolling her eyes dramatically, waving her arms as rolls of fat jiggled in progression, Faye finally spat out, “Some tourist called in to say that a kidnapped girl from the mainland was seen at a property over in the northeast area.”

Lani raised his eyebrows slightly, but showed no other emotion.

The jolly woman continued, “No one else is available to check it out because of those college kids up at Princeville causing a fuss.”  She giggled at Lani’s subtle reaction, but she knew his moods well.  “Looks like you’re it.  Directions are on the message.”  Faye returned to her desk, picked up the phone, and said in a sweet voice, “Kauai PD how may I direct your call?”

Lani picked up the message, quickly read it, and realized the cottage was near the Blackman’s property.  It instantly piqued his interest.  He knew that they were growing marijuana, but couldn’t catch a break for probable cause.

Maybe now he could?

The large clock on the wall read noon as the second hand slowly clicked away the time.

Food first and then check out the cottage?

Lani thought more about it… He had a large breakfast and lunch could wait.

He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and retrieved his service pistol, a Glock 19, and returned it to his holster on his side.   It was the only time he actually felt like a sworn police officer – armed, ready to protect and serve.  After shutting the drawer, he adjusted his gun belt against his dark blue uniform, grabbed the message slip, and left the office.

Faye gave him an absent, theatrical wave as his extremely tall, muscular frame disappeared out to the parking lot.

CHAPTER THREE

Tuesday 1205 Hours

            “Who are you?”  The man demanded with a slight British accent as he thrust the rifle harder into Emily’s back.  “I said… who are you?”

Slowly Emily stood up straight, keeping her hands held high and in view, and assessed the situation.  She turned to face her accuser.  He stood tall, not quite six feet, blonde hair clipped meticulously, no facial hair or tattoos, and with the steely blue, dead eyes not likely to forget.  He didn’t resemble most child abductors or predators, thought Emily.  That observation unsettled her.

“I’m lost.  I was out hiking and got completely turned around.”  Emily tried to muster some tears with her sweet tone, even though she wanted to shove the rifle butt into his face dropping him to his knees.

The man didn’t blink.  “What were you doing?”  He gestured toward the bottom of the outside wall.

“What… what do you mean?”  Emily wished that her headset was still active and that Rick could hear the conversation.

He took another step toward Emily and jerked the earpiece from her head, crushed it in his fingers and tossed it on the ground.  He aimed the barrel at Emily’s face and motioned.  “Move.”

With no other choice and to bide some time, Emily walked around the cottage and up a well-used path with uneven stepping stones.

 

* * * *

 

Rick tried to use the Internet and email from his so-called “smart” cell phone to get any other emergency services to listen to his request on the island about the little girl being held hostage.  He tried the local FBI office and SWAT, but just got voice mail with the standard message.

No luck. 

Is it true that everything is slower and more laid back on the islands?  Even a kidnapping?

            He clicked the high-tech walkie-talkie back on.  “Em, we have to go in without backup.  Stay where you are.”  He waited.  “Em?”

That intuitive voice in his head kicked into high gear.  He realized that Emily didn’t have her headset and he knew something was wrong.  Now, his stomach churned through various layers of acids and knotted the abdominal muscles.

Rick took a higher path through the overgrown jungle, hiked for a couple of minutes, and doubled back to the house.  The rain began to pour, warm and inviting, a strange contrast for any kind of weather.

Two large wooden boxes sat next to the house filled with garage items, lumber and spray cans.

He knew the routine as his mind ran through all of their covert investigations and all of the close calls they had together.  The scenarios never failed him or kept his adrenaline from surging.  It was the part he hated the most – the thought of losing Emily if something were to go wrong.

Dead wrong.

He pushed through more enormous plants and found himself on far side of the property just as Emily entered the house with a man that had a shotgun sighted at her head.

 

* * * *

             

Two tattered wicker chairs sat on opposite sides of the porch in front of two sash windows.  The screens around the sitting area used to keep most pesky mosquitoes away had long since deteriorated, curled and ripped vertically from age and constant humidity.

First step, then the second onto the porch felt like a carnival fun house with sloping sides and uneven movement from the weight of two people.

The blonde man pushed Emily’s left shoulder with the barrel of the gun urging her into the house.  The rickety screen door squeaked as Emily slowly pulled it open, it slipped slightly off at a strange angle due to neglect.

Darkness greeted her with an unknown agenda.

She contemplated her next move and waited for an opening to pounce – the sooner the better.  The man didn’t expect any resistance from a woman who appeared submissive and frightened – all the classic victim behaviors that Emily was not.

The brightness outside wasn’t enough to overexpose her eyesight inside the cottage.  The interior windows covered with heavy black drapes and lack of any luminescent made for a creepy entrance.  Slasher movies with chainsaw murderers flashed through her mind.

The hair stood up on the back of Emily’s neck even before the pungent smell of old garbage, booze, and human body sweat hit her senses.  The putrid odor kept increasing as she moved deeper into the living room and made her swallow hard to keep from gagging.  She knew if she continued into the house it would be next to impossible to escape – too many unknowns not in her favor.

Elements of surprise slowed her pace.  She counted down the seconds and inventoried the thrift store furniture consisting of a broken down couch with protruding springs, two overstuffed, mismatched chairs, and a small fold out table with two straight back chairs.

Pieces of mangoes, pineapples, and empty beer bottles covered the table; the fruit had turned dark around the edges allowing flies to feast on the blackened remnants.

“Company.”  The British man announced as the screen door slammed shut behind them, the broken door still wobbled on its rusted hinges, squeaking for a few seconds.

Emily’s odds for escape now doubled with two people in the house, instead of just one man with a shotgun.

Her uncertainties now realized.

Trapped.

Small steps forward, left foot, right foot, then pivoting to the left and spinning around to face her attacker, Emily pounced on the man, pressed against him close enough to smell his sickly sweat, and shoved the shotgun upward blasting off a shot through the ceiling.  Splinters and chunks of drywall sprinkled the living room like an early snow dusting of winter in the mountains.

The room echoed from the blast.  A couple of seconds passed before the world had normal audible sounds.

Emily knew she couldn’t over power the man, but she used her quick self-defense moves to her advantage.

Momentarily stunned, the man blinked twice and before he could retaliate, Emily slammed the heel of her right hand into his face making direct contact with his nose.  Blood instantly spurted from his membranes and she felt the slippery, warm liquid on her hand spattering her face and white t-shirt.

Rage and adrenaline pumped through her body and catapulted her forward as she landed a solid right hook on his jaw.  He didn’t stand a chance and dropped to the floor.  The shotgun flew, completing one full revolution, end over end, and rested next to the sagging couch.

Fighting the urge to kick his face repeatedly for what he had done to the little girl in the basement, Emily took a set of plastic zip ties from her pocket, rolled the bleeding man on his side, and expertly looped his hands.  She pulled them tight – too tight.  She didn’t care.  He moaned, dazed by the blitz attack.

Just as Emily turned to find an entrance to the basement to find Cassie, a large, muscular man with dark tattoos that seemed to ooze around his grubby white tank top grabbed her by the neck and pushed her backwards onto the couch.  Her fall wasn’t cushioned and she could feel every sofa steel spring jab into her back.  Pain pierced her spine.  The hulk of a man pressed his body against Emily and squeezed the air from her lungs.

Paralyzed.

He groped at her sides and her jeans in a frenzy of excitement.

She couldn’t move her arms or wiggle her body loose from his enormous weight thrust against her one hundred-fifteen pound frame.  Slowly turning her head to the left, she saw the dark inked flesh of his right shoulder and sunk her teeth deep into the muscle.  The powerful human jaw cut through soft tissue and then sliced through the muscle.  He cried out in agony with an animal wail, retreating long enough for Emily to slide out from under him and hit the uneven wooden floor.  Emily crawled toward the shotgun and prayed that it had another bullet in the chamber.

Before she could reach the gun, she was tugged roughly by her hair, dragged a couple of feet backward, picked up like a rag doll, and thrown to the floor on the other side of the room.  The huge man with a long ponytail stood in front of the door blocking any means of escape for Emily.

Bleeding from his shoulder, red ooze seeped further down his shirt as he stood staring at her with a wide, terrifying smile on his face, reminiscent of the inbred family member intent on wreaking havoc on any unsuspecting visitor who happened upon their place in the woods.  It piqued some type of sick, twisted game to him.  He was oblivious to his partner lying on the floor whimpering softly and didn’t care if he were alive or dead.  His focus was on Emily as his personal sadistic plaything until he killed her.

Not clear if he was a brutal psychopath or merely a caged wild animal that acted as the muscle partner in crime, Emily knew she was out manned, out maneuvered, and out gunned.

She stood up shakily and readied herself in a standoff against her opponent.  Her options were to hope that Rick would rescue her, probably not going to happen soon enough, or hand-to-hand combat with an overdriven testosterone, dominated Neanderthal, which was highly unlikely, or plan three…

She tried to stand up straight to size up the fervent man as a sharp, searing pain exploded down the base of her neck to her lower back, like a lightening bolt, which caused her knees to quiver.  Light headed with difficulty breathing, Emily remembered her early training at the police academy, which seemed like another lifetime ago.  She kept her physical training updated even though she wasn’t a sworn police officer anymore.

She pushed off with her left foot and took three well-placed steps, covered her face leading with her elbows, and crashed through the single paned, sash window.  She tucked and rolled at the perfect time, hit the catawampus porch, bounced once, and continued down the two stairs to the soft, reddish dirt of the island.

Continuing to roll to the side, she knew that the hulking man would soon be on her tail.

As Emily caught her breath and happy to see that her arms weren’t sliced to ribbons, she saw some familiar shoes approaching fast.  She rolled onto her back to sit up just as the front door opened with a crash that ripped the screen entrance from its hinges.

A two-by-four swung through the air and made precise contact with the angry man’s chest, he dropped immediately to the ground with a dull thud that undoubtedly rattled his internal organs.

Rick stood over the large man with a satisfied look on his face, steadying himself for another blow if necessary.

The large man, face down, windless, remained knocked out cold.

Rick tossed the board aside and helped Emily up, gently touching her cheek and wiping her hair from her face.  “You okay?”  His eyes said more than his simple words.

“I’m fine.”  Emily smiled as her body screamed in agony.  “Let’s get these guys contained before the cops get here.”

Rick grumbled.  “I don’t think they’re coming.”

“What?”

“It’s different here.”

“What do you mean?”  She said slowly.

“Island police protocol.”

“They didn’t believe you?”  Emily looked surprised.

“It may be a while before the cops get here.  Let’s get the girl to safety and leave the rest for the local cops to clean up.”

 

Continued….

Click on the title below to download the entire book and keep reading

DARK MINDS

Kindle Nation Daily Bargain Book Alert: LB Swan and Hope Chandler’s SHELLY’S SECOND CHANCE is Our eBook of the Day at just $ 2.99, or Currently Free Via the Kindle Lending Library, with 5.0 Stars on 9 Reviews, and Here’s a Free Sample!

Book One in The Wish Granter’s Series: A story about taking a chance on love.*

Shelly Wagner is in trouble but her fiancé, Ben, doesn’t know it. Broke and ready to gamble her last dollar on a Super Lotto ticket, she really needs some help.

It arrives in the form of Joe and Alanna—Wish Granters from another world. One problem: it’s their very first assignment and they’re fairly clueless about their new wish granting powers and how to best use them. Plus they have a few things to work out in their own lives—if only they were still among the living. They want to return to earth, but can only get back by helping Shelly first.

After Joe and Alanna show up, Shelly’s life takes a drastic turn. So drastic that Shelly sees she may have been wishing for the wrong thing all along.

Is Shelly doomed or will Joe and Alanna help her squeak through? And, once they grant her wish, will she truly be able to turn her life around?

The Wish Granters: They’ll grant your wish, but the rest is up to you.

From the reviewers:

Chandler and Swan weave a beautiful story about tough choices within this novel. As the reader, you are quickly drawn into the bright lights, big city feel of what Shelly wants, but you also know this won’t be the way she solves her problems. Even while reading, the subconscious constantly nags at you for Shelly – you know this can’t be the way her life will be. This is the result of great writing, to make the reader feel what the characters feel – want for them, hurt for them, laugh at them, love them. Shelly’s journey is one we all know too well – the desire for a quick fix. Chandler and Swan help us all see that a “quick fix” will not change our destiny – we must change ourselves.

Don’t we all say to ourselves, “if only … “, our lives would be all O.K. Well, Shelly got her chance and here is where she discovers what’s really important to her. Loved the characters and the premise of this story. Hope the sequel is just as good.  –  K. Kuhl

Visit Amazon’s LB Swan Page

*L B Swan is a pen name for LB Gschwandtner (The Naked Gardener & Foxy’s Tale & other titles))

My work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. I’ve received awards from the Writer’s Digest and the Lorian Hemingway short fiction competitions.

My books, The Naked Gardener, Page Truly and The Journey To Nearandfar, Foxy’s Tale (co-authored with Karen Cantwell), Maybelle’s Revenge, Shelly’s Second Chance*, and Megan’s New Year* are available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Some are also available in print.

I’m an avid kayaker (touring) and grew up fishing in the Florida Keys.

Here’s a tidbit of interest. My husband proposed on our first and only date and we were married five weeks later.

Contact me:

LB@TheNovelette.com

LB’s Blog: http://thenovelette.com/category/blog

*These two books were co-authored under my pen name, L B Swan.

And here, in the comfort of your own browser, is your free sample of SHELLY’S LAST CHANCE by LB Swan and Hope Chandler:


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CEO Diana Lennox is determined to maintain control of her company until the sexy upstart engineer purchasing Lennox Inc. proves he can run it.Logan, the upstart engineer, has returned to his hometown of Cedar Hill, PA looking to develop an innovative manufacturing process he worked out while...
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This book and its FREE online video course teach you Internet marketing basics like how to get traffic to your website, how to get the contact information from your website visitors and grow an email list, and how to monetize your knowledge by selling digital information products.Learn how to find...
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It’s summer in Sherwood Heights, and that means a ninja stealth picnic, supervillain jail, and a zombie apocalypse. The Dudes are five friends who set out to save one of their number from the doom of private school. But code-names, battle training, and a campout of doom don’t help as much as...
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Manipulism and the Weapon of Guilt: Collectivism Exposed is the utmost controversial exposé and carefully detailed description of the awful emotional mind game that facilitates communism, socialism, fascism, and social liberalism, known as collectivism. The book exposes Denmark, the supposed...
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This award winning book examines the biblical quest to obtain eternal life. It guides you through the journey in a step by step progression, from ancient prophecies to their final fulfillment. The Message for the Last Days maps out God's time intersection of your temporary condition compared to...
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