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Save 75% on The First Book in The Emotionally Charged Post-Apocalyptic Series, The Ending
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After The Ending (The Ending Series, #1)

by Lindsey Fairleigh, Lindsey Pogue

4.1 stars – 168 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

The first book in the emotionally charged post-apocalyptic series, The Ending. 
Don’t miss the sequel, Into The Fire.

The Virus spread. Billions died. The Ending began. We may have survived the apocalypse, but the Virus changed us.

When people started getting sick, “they” thought it was just the flu. My roommate, my boyfriend, my family…they’re all gone now. I got sick too. I should have died with them–with the rest of the world–but I didn’t. I thought witnessing the human population almost disappear off the face of the earth was the craziest thing I’d ever experience. I was so wrong. My name is Dani O’Connor, and I survived The Ending.

The Virus changed everything. The world I knew is gone, and life is backwards. We’ve all had to start over. I’ve been stripped of my home, my dreams…all that is me. I’m someone else now–broken and changed. Other survivors’ memories and emotions haunt me. They invade my mind until I can no longer separate them from my own. I won’t let them consume me. I can’t. My name is Zoe Cartwright, and I survived The Ending.

We’ve been inseparable for most of our lives, and now our friendship is all we have left. The aftermath of the Virus has stranded us on opposite sides of the United States. Trusting strangers, making sacrifices, killing–we’ll do anything to reach one another. Fear and pain may be unavoidable, but we’re strong…we’re survivors. But to continue surviving in this unfamiliar world plagued by Crazies and strange new abilities, we have to adapt. We have to evolve.

And more than anything, we have to find each other.
This book contains some adult content and language.
The Ending Series:
Book 1: After The Ending
Book 2: Into The Fire
Book 3: Out Of The Ashes (coming in 2014)
The Ending Beginnings, a prequel serial:
I: Carlos
II: Mandy (TBR Jan 2014)
III: Carlos & Mandy (TBR Jan 2014)


“This book had it all, mystery, excitement, sorrow, emotion, happiness, and hope. I cannot wait for the next book!”  –Cynthia Shepp, Cynthia Shepp Book Reviews & Editing
“This book encompasses everything from adventure to romance and from lonesome fear to a feeling of togetherness and safety. After the Ending is a fascinating apocalyptic tale of a possible end to the world as we know it…Fairleigh and Pogue created such a frightfully amazing read.” –Danielle Schneider, Ladybug Literature
(This is a sponsored post.)

Free Book Alert for December 30 Featuring Nine FREE eBook Titles, Plus The Best Kindle Deals & Steals
Spotlight Freebie: Warren Talbot & Betsy Talbot’s Getting Rid of It: The Step-by-step Guide for Eliminating the Clutter in Your Life

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Getting Rid of It: The Step-by-step Guide for Eliminating the Clutter in Your Life
by Warren Talbot, Betsy Talbot
4.6 stars - 60 reviews
Supports Us with Commissions Earned
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here's the set-up:
You have too much stuff! Your closets are filled with clothes you never wear. You have not seen your kitchen counters in months. Your junk drawer has exploded into an entire room of things you don't use. How can we say that when we don't even know you? Well, because most people do and we were just like you.

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One Reviewer Notes:
There's nothing more frustrating then getting advice from someone who hasn't walked the walk. Betsy and Warren are the exact opposite of this--having decluttered and simplified their life for their amazing travel journeys (you really need to read their other book Dream-Save-Do, a fascinating and inspiring read, to get the full story). Even as a reformed packrat I found tons of great ideas to get rid of the things around me just taking up space and not adding anything to my life. And it doesn't have to be a 3 week project, it can be as easy as doing just one of their exercises to get started. I went immediately to my closet and did their "reversed hangers" exercise, and as I was doing it already intuitively knew that about 30% of my shirts and sportcoats are going to end up in the goodwill pile after this experiment is over. The kitchen pantry and utensil drawers are next! Great book, easy read, practical advice--thanks guys and hope the journey is going well!
Guy Weismantel
About the Author
Warren and Betsy Talbot are a 40-something type-A couple who learned that living large is not necessarily living well. They did all the typical things people do in their 20s and 30s until they realized they were in love with each other, but not with their lives.
Health scares in two people very close to them caused them to reevaluate life, and they decided to jump off the hamster wheel to sell everything they owned and save enough money to travel around the world.
Getting Rid of It is their first book. They wrote their second book, Dream Save Do: Stop Dreaming and Start Living, in honor of their first anniversary of full-time travel. Their core message? Life is short. Live your dream. Warren and Betsy Talbot are a 40-something type-A couple who learned that living large is not necessarily living well. They did all the typical things people do in their 20s and 30s until they realized they were in love with each other, but not with their lives. Health scares in two people very close to them caused them to reevaluate life, and they decided to jump off the hamster wheel to sell everything they owned and save enough money to travel around the world. Getting Rid of It is their first book. They wrote their second book, Dream Save Do: Stop Dreaming and Start Living, in honor of their first anniversary of full-time travel. Their core message? Life is short. Live your dream.

 *  *  *

8 MORE FREEBIES – Just For Today!

Prices may change at any moment, so always check the price before you buy! This post is dated Monday, December 30, 2013, 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.

*  *  *

4.2 stars – 76 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Gina Fiore – beautiful Seattle heiress has vanished. A foreign drug cartel and a Chicago organized crime family are looking. Can Danny Logan rescue her before the noose closes?

 *  *  *

Here’s the set-up:
In this easy-to-follow how-to guide you will get everything you need to reach your weight loss goals.

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4.1 stars – 60 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Mercenary Kian Valara wants nothing more than to retire from a life of blood and butchery. But when an arrogant princeling offers him enough gold to buy a throne, Kian straps on his sword for one last mission. And besides, what could be easier than guarding a prince who wants to sow his royal seed in every backwater fortress and village throughout the realm?

 *  *  *

My Christmas Curse

by Joan Gable

5.0 stars – 3 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
What’s a Christmas Curse? It’s the unfortunate phenomenon that has plagued travel writer Megan Blake since childhood. She has very bad luck between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it tends to get worse as Christmas approaches.

*  *  *

5.0 stars – 7 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Soul Operator is written for anyone who is frustrated, overwhelmed, dazed, confused, stuck, puzzled, fearful, or annoyed with their small business journey so far, even if it’s barely begun.

*  *  *

4.5 stars – 931 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Julia Hollis’ opulent life in Victorian London crashes to pieces when her husband passes away. Worse, she is told by his bankers that he gambled away their fortune. Now, the family’s hope rests on The Larkspur, an old abandoned coaching inn in the quaint village of Gresham.

*  *  *


by Brian Harmon

4.1 stars – 508 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Eric can’t remember the recurring dream that keeps waking him in the middle of the night with an overwhelming urge to leave, yet he spends each day feeling as if he desperately needs to be somewhere. With no idea how to cure himself of this odd new compulsion, he decides to let it take its course and go for a drive, hoping that once he proves to himself that there is nowhere to go, he can return to his normal life.

*  *  *

Once and Forever

by Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Emelle Gamble, Lavinia Kent, Evie Owens

4.4 stars – 8 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
From five compelling authors, five original novellas which will make you laugh and cry, and believe in a love that once found will last forever. Meet a duke, a psychic, a bodyguard and a professor…and one “guardian fairy” in absorbing stories ranging from regency and contemporary romance to paranormal and women’s fiction.

*  *  *

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KND Freebies: Charming period romance TO TEMPT AN ANGEL by Patricia Grasso is featured in today’s Free Kindle Nation Shorts excerpt

It’s another sexy love story wrapped around
a mystery…
bestselling and award-winning historical romance author Patrica Grasso.Now 75% off the regular price!

3.2 stars – 9 Reviews
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Angelica Douglas has no idea that she’s the Countess of Melrose. What she does know is that she needs to support her family as a card shark, while finding a way to seek revenge on the men who ruined her father and sent her family spiralling down into poverty.

Robert Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, heir to the Duke of Inverary, has no idea who Angelica truly is. He just wants to watch over her and make her his mistress.

Angelica thinks Robert is simply a dashing rogue who is far too dangerous for her peace of mind. Robert thinks Angelica is an angel except when she’s being a pain in the behind.

When Robert finds out that his own father may have been one of the men who ruined Angelica’s family, he vows to keep a careful eye on her. When Angelica finds out that Robert’s father may have been one of the men responsible, she vows to stay as far away from Robert as possible. But when danger threatens, both Robert and Angelica must face the truth and let fate take the
upper hand.

Praise for To Tempt An Angel:

“…a great escape…”

“…funny, sad and just a great read all together…”

“This novel is fantastic; it has strong characters, smidgen of mystery…”

“Excellent read!”

an excerpt from

To Tempt an Angel

by Patricia Grasso


Copyright © 2013 by Patricia Grasso and published here with her permission

Chapter 1

London, 1812

He knew she was cheating.

Angelica read the suspicion in the man’s alcohol-glazed eyes. She was confident of her talent, so being caught didn’t worry her, but drunks almost always proved dangerous. With the exception of her own father, of course.

Eighteen-year-old Angelica Douglas wet her lips, gone dry from nervousness, and felt a droplet of perspiration roll slowly down the valley between her breasts. Reaching up, she brushed a wisp of golden hair away from her face and adjusted the wreath of fresh-cut flowers she wore like a crown on her head.

Angelica gave her intended victim a sunny smile and flicked a glance at the group of fairgoers gathered in front of her table. Seated on a stool, she began moving the thimbles around and around on the makeshift table that consisted of a board resting on top of a trestle.

“Stop,” the man growled.

Angelica looked at him expectantly.

He pointed at the middle thimble. Angelica lifted it to reveal nothing and laughed with delight.

“Yer cheatin’,” he accused her, his foul breath making her stomach queasy.

Seemingly unruffled, Angelica looked him straight in the eye. “Sir, you are a poor loser,” she told him in an affronted tone. “Would you care to throw dice instead?”

“I ain’t throwin’ dice with no girl,” the man snapped, and turned to go.

“Afraid?” Angelica challenged him, making her audience laugh with approval. When the man kept walking, she shifted her blue-eyed gaze to those watching and asked, “Would anyone care to throw dice with me?”

“I would love to throw with you,” answered a voice in a tone suggesting intimacy.

The crowd parted for the handsomest man Angelica had ever seen. Older than she by ten years at least, the black-haired and dark-eyed English Adonis carried his tall, well-built frame with athletic grace. Though commonly dressed in black breeches and white shirt, the man had the bearing of an aristocrat.

Sacred sevens, Angelica thought, his devilishly good looks startling her. She felt as if Old Clootie, in all his sinful perfection, had stepped out of the crowd to lead her astray.

Towering over her, the man stood ten inches taller than her petite height of five feet, two inches.

Angelica tilted her head back to look into his black eyes.

Long moments passed. The sights and sounds and scents of the crowded Midsummer Fair disappeared as they gazed into each other’s eyes.

Recovering herself, Angelica gave him a sunny smile and produced a pair of ivory dice. She offered them to him for his inspection. Their fingers touched as he lifted the dice out of her hand; a jolt of excitement shot through Angelica, and she wondered if he felt it, too.

“I’m Robert,” he introduced himself in a husky voice. “What’s your name?”


“Are you a good angel or a bad one?” Robert teased her.

“I was wondering the same thing about you,” she answered.

He smiled at that and asked, “How much have you won today, angel?”

“Four pounds.”

“Then let’s set the stake at four pounds,” Robert suggested.

Angelica hesitated and worried her bottom lip with her small white teeth. If she lost the whole day’s earnings on one toss of the dice, her family would go hungry. But if she won, she’d have eight pounds for her day’s work. Ensuring her own victory wouldn’t be difficult, but this man frightened her in some indefinable way.

“Four pounds,” Angelica agreed, unable to resist the temptation of doubling her winnings.

“What’s your main?” Robert asked, passing her the dice without bothering to inspect them.

“Seven.” Tossing twelve or crabs was the only way to lose by choosing seven, but there was no chance of that happening with her loaded dice.

Angelica shifted the dice back and forth in her hands, as if trying to get the feel of them. When she tossed the dice, a four and a three came up.

“Let it ride,” Angelica said, casting him a side-long glance, hoping to double the eight pounds.

Robert inclined his head. He placed eight pounds down to match the eight on the table.

“Sacred sevens,” she whispered, and tossed the dice. This time a six and a one showed up.

Angelica gifted him with a sunny smile and dragged the sixteen pounds closer. Good Lord, her family could eat on this for a month. If her father didn’t steal it for drink . . .

“Do you play?” she asked him, feeling confident.

Robert fixed his dark gaze on hers, and Angelica suffered the uncanny feeling that he knew she was cheating. Then he dropped sixteen pounds on the table.

A four and a three appeared on her next throw. Angelica stared at the thirty-two pounds she’d won. “Let it ride,” she said, casting him a flirtatious smile.

Surprising her, Robert dropped thirty-two pounds on the table. Angelica tossed the dice; a five and a two appeared.

“This must be your lucky day,” Robert remarked in an amused voice. Carelessly, he dropped sixty-four pounds on the table and challenged her. “Will you let it ride, angel?”

Shocked by the size of his bet, Angelica flicked out her tongue to wet her lips. Should she meet his challenge?

Angelica tossed the dice. A six and a one showed up.

“I’ll pass,” she announced, dropping the one hundred and twenty-eight pounds into her pocket.

Afraid to look at her victim, Angelica walked away without another word. She hadn’t gone more than a few feet when someone grabbed her arm. She whirled around, ready to defend herself.

“May I escort you home?” Robert asked, his smile charming.

Angelica was instantly suspicious. Did he want to steal her winnings? Or was his intention even more sinister? He was incredibly handsome, but her family came first. They depended on her for their survival.

“No, thank you,” she refused.

“You need protection,” he told her. “You carry a great deal of money.”

“Who will protect me from you, sir?” Angelica asked, arching a perfectly shaped brow at him.

“You don’t trust me?” Robert asked, giving her a lopsided grin.

“I trust no one,” she told him. “Especially men I don’t know.”

“We are merely friends who haven’t known each other very long,” Robert argued. “I let you cheat me out of a hundred and twenty-eight pounds. The least you can do is allow me to escort you home.”

“I never cheat,” Angelica insisted, and walked away.

“I suppose you don’t lie either,” he called.

Angelica quickened her pace. She squelched the urge to turn around to see if he was following her.

Leaving Coram’s Field, Angelica slowed her pace and walked west on Guildford Street. Angelica knew she should have looked for her sisters to accompany her home but needed to get away from Robert. Who was this handsome man who’d lost a small fortune to her? She would have liked to know him better, keep company with him, perhaps.

Resentment toward her family stepped out of the shadows of her mind. Why did she need to forgo a normal life in order to support her family? Just once, she wanted someone to take care of her.

And then guilt for thinking such disloyal thoughts chased the resentment away. A tragic figure in her mind, her father couldn’t help his dependence on drink; her aunt certainly couldn’t work and had already spent all her money keeping them alive; her sisters were younger and couldn’t be expected to do more than help out. Her dreary life wasn’t the fault of her family. The men who had ruined her father would pay dearly for their crimes against the Douglas family.

Angelica put her hand in her pocket and touched her winnings. One hundred and twenty-eight pounds would feed them for a long time. Perhaps she could save some of it for their return to Sweetheart Priory, her father’s ancestral home in Scotland, the only thing of value they still possessed. If her father didn’t steal the money to pay for drink . . .

Glancing at the sky, Angelica wondered if she should have accepted Robert’s offer to escort her home. Twilight was just an hour away. Would she make it home before nightfall?

Angelica walked briskly through Russell Square, Montague Place, and Bedford Square. Most Londoners appeared in high spirits, anticipating the celebration of Midsummer. Bonfires would light Primrose Hill that night, discouraging those elegant gentlemen from polite society who wished to duel there.

Then Angelica started down Tottenham Court Road. Here the crowds dwindled until she walked alone.

“Lord, guide me home safely,” Angelica whispered, fingering her necklace, the only thing of value she owned.

A gift from her aunt, the fluted diamond globe hung on a gold chain. The pendant’s top and bottom were set in gold. Aunt Roxie had insisted the diamond had magical properties that protected its owner from harm.

Unbidden, the image of her handsome victim arose in her mind’s eye. Angelica knew she had behaved badly.

Cheating the man out of that much money was sinful, she thought. Her actions mirrored that of the disreputable men who’d ruined her father so many years ago. Perhaps she should return to the fair and give back part of the small fortune to him.

Her need was greater, Angelica told herself. If the man could afford to gamble a hundred and twenty-eight pounds, he could afford to lose it

Angelica knew the only reason she wanted to return the money was because she wanted to see Robert again. Yes, she was lonely, but she needed no distractions to interfere with her revenge.

“Why are you walking, angel?”

Startled by the voice, Angelica whirled around to see Robert on horseback. Her heart beat faster at the sight of him. Had she conjured the man up by thinking of him? Such happenings were possible.

“I beg your pardon?” she said.

“I asked why you were walking instead of riding,” Robert replied.

“I forgot my wings at home,” Angelica told him.

“Would you care for a ride?”

Angelica smiled politely and refused, saying, “I never travel with strangers.”

“We aren’t strangers.” Robert gave her a boyish grin and added, “You’ve just stolen—I mean, won—a small fortune from me. The least you can do is allow me to escort you home.”

Angelica wanted desperately to ride with him. She wanted to keep company with a gentleman and live a normal life. Sacred sevens, she wanted her old life back

Duty defeated desire.

“Making your acquaintance has been a pleasure,” Angelica said, turning away.

“Several people saw you pocket that money,” Robert reminded her.

Angelica saw the sense in what he was saying. Yet, she suffered the uncanny feeling that accepting his offer would change her life forever. Would that be a bad thing? She certainly wasn’t happy with her present life.

“I live on the far side of Primrose Hill,” Angelica said, turning toward him with a smile lighting her face.

Robert dismounted in order to help her up. The sound of a galloping horse broke the silence around them, and they turned in time to see a man on horseback aim a pistol at them.

Robert dove for the ground as the shot rang out and took Angelica with him. She heard their attacker’s horse galloping away.

Robert lay on top of her and stared into her eyes. Caught by his dark gaze, Angelica felt her cheeks heating with an embarrassed blush.

“The danger has passed,” she managed to whisper, feeling the warmth of his body seeping through her light clothing.

Robert seemed in no hurry to release her. “You’ve lost your crown of flowers,” he said.

Angelica couldn’t credit that the man was talking about flowers when they’d nearly been killed. She opened her mouth to tell him to get off, but then he moved.

“I knew someone would try to steal your money,” Robert said, helping her rise. He lifted the wreath of flowers off the ground and placed it on top of her blond head, adding, “You look like a flower fairy again.”

“What makes you think the assassin was aiming at me?” Angelica countered. “He didn’t stop to steal my money. Perhaps he’s one of your enemies.”

Robert snapped his brows together. She knew from the expression on his handsome face that he thought she made sense.

“I’m an excellent markswoman,” Angelica said, pulling her dagger from the sheath strapped to her leg. “If you hadn’t thrown yourself on top of me, I would have taken him down. Then we could have questioned him.”

Robert burst out laughing. “A knife wielding angel? Next time I’ll let you rescue me,” he said, helping her onto his horse.

“I should walk the rest of the way,” Angelica said when he mounted behind her. “Being attacked twice in one day is statistically impossible.”

“You are the sweetest gambler I’ve ever encountered,” Robert said. Then, “What’s your full name?”

“Angelica Douglas.” His body pressing intimately against hers made her feel weak. To mask her nervousness, she asked “What is your full name, sir?”

“Robert Roy.”

“Are you joking?” Angelica glanced over her shoulder at him. “Your name is really Rob Roy?”

Robert shrugged. “My father had a keen sense of humor.”

“I agree,” Angelica said with a smile, “but the joke is on you.”

Robert inhaled deeply of her scent, lavender and water lily. She reminded him of a spring day. “Your smile shames the envious sun, angel.”

“I love this moment in the year’s cycle,” Angelica told him. “Sunshine, flowers, and freedom fill the days.”

“Do I detect a philosophical gambler?” Robert asked, amusement tingeing his voice.

Angelica shrugged. “I am philosophical by choice and a gambler by necessity.”

A connoisseur of beautiful women, Robert enjoyed the feeling of the angel in his arms as they started down Hampstead Road. She exuded seductive innocence, an aphrodisiac to his senses.

The girl possessed a startlingly perfect face, flawless ivory skin, and full lips that begged to be kissed. Thick golden hair, streaked with paler shades of blond, framed her face and cascaded almost to her waist.

Crowning her head, the wreath of fresh-cut flowers gave her an ethereal appearance. He could almost see this flower fairy cavorting like a nymph through the woodland.

Hers was a haunting beauty that had beckoned to him from the first moment he’d seen her at the fair. Why would such a woman waste her time running a thimblerigger’s game? Most gentlemen of his acquaintance would have parted with a fortune to keep her as a mistress. She would produce beautiful babies, too.

Robert stiffened when he realized his thoughts had drifted to babies. Thinking of babies always darkened his mood, like a cloud blocking the sun.

Well, he needn’t concern himself with babies. He planned never to marry again.

“Is something wrong?” Angelica asked without turning around.

Her question yanked him back to reality. “No, angel, I merely suffered an unpleasant thought.”

“What was it?”

“Nothing important.”

Angelica glanced over her shoulder at him. “You mean it is none of my business?”


Robert halted his horse when they reached the two-hundred-and-sixteen-foot summit of Primrose Hill. He gazed down at the tiny hamlet of cottages with their pale pink, lemon, and sage stucco fronts trimmed with white like frosted cakes.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Robert remarked.

“Everything looks pretty from this height,” Angelica replied with a rueful smile.

“A cynical angel?” he teased her.

“Look back at London,” she said.

Robert tugged on the reins to turn his horse around and looked over her head. Beyond the sloping meadow lay London with its distant landmarks—Westminster Abbey, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London.

“You can’t see the squalor,” Angelica said softly, “but it exists.”

“It’s not all squalor.”

“I agree with you, but most Londoners do not live on Park Lane,” she said.

“A bitter cynical angel?” Robert said, turning his horse around.

“There is much in life to cause bitterness unless one is a member of the Quality,” Angelica informed him.

“Do you actually believe the Quality lead perfect, happy lives?” he asked.

“None of them need to scratch like barnyard chickens for their next meal,” she answered.

Robert couldn’t argue with that. “What is beyond the hamlet?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Saint John’s Wood.”

Robert nudged his horse forward. Slowly, they descended Primrose Hill to the hamlet below.

“Stop here,” Angelica said when they reached the last cottage.

Robert halted his horse in front of a pale pink cottage trimmed in white. He dismounted and then lifted her down from the saddle.

“Angelica, darling,” a woman’s voice called. “Thank God you’re home.”

Though she appeared to be in her early forties, a youthful beauty still clung to the woman hurrying toward them. Auburn-haired and brown-eyed, the woman was voluptuous of figure. When she smiled to acknowledge his presence, two adorable dimples adorned her cheeks, making her appear even younger.

“What’s the problem, Aunt Roxie?”

“Your father is a bit under the eaves,” her aunt told her. She flicked a quick glance at Robert and added, “He drank my lavender perfume.”

Angelica raced inside the cottage. Robert followed her through a large common room into an inner chamber where an older man lay on a cot and moaned as if in agony.

“He’s poisoned himself,” Robert said, taking charge. “Fetch me an empty bucket and a jar of heavily salted water.”

“What are you going to do?” Aunt Roxie asked, hurrying into the tiny bedchamber.

“Help me get him into a sitting position,” Robert ordered, ignoring her question.

On either side of the cot, Robert and Aunt Roxie pulled the man up until his back was against the wall. He opened his eyes, looked at Robert, and mumbled, “Magnus? Is it you, Magnus?”

The words startled Robert. His own father was named Magnus, and some people said he looked like his father as a young man. How could this desperate alcoholic know his father?

“Graham, he’s not Magnus,” Aunt Roxie was telling him. “He’s—” She looked at him.

“Robert,” he supplied.

Graham Douglas moaned and clutched his stomach. “Roxanne, it is Magnus,” the old man insisted breathlessly.

“He is not Magnus,” Aunt Roxie replied.

“You cannot win an argument with a drunk,” Robert told her. “I’ll answer to Magnus if it will help him.”

“What a sweet boy,” Aunt Roxie said as Angelica returned with the salted water and empty bucket.

Robert lifted the bottle out of her hand and put his left arm around the older man’s head in order to force his mouth open. He poured some salted water into his mouth and clamped it shut forcing him to swallow.

Robert repeated this procedure again and again until the bottle was empty. Then he grabbed the bucket and planted it in the man’s lap.

“What do we do now?” Angelica asked, her anxiety apparent in her voice.

“We wait,” Robert answered, his gaze fixed on her father. He reached out to grab the back of the man’s head and force it forward until he’d vomited everything in his stomach. Then he handed the bucket to Angelica.

“You’ll soon feel better,” he told the older man, helping him to lie down on the bed.

“I already do. Graham Douglas patted his hand. “I knew you’d come to help me, Magnus.”

“Graham, he is not Magnus,” Aunt Roxie repeated.

“Roxanne, you’ve always been a good sister and remained loyal to me,” Graham Douglas said. “You were there the day I fell off the horse, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was,” Aunt Roxie answered with a nod of her head.

“You were there the day my sweet wife died,” he rambled on.

Aunt Roxie nodded her head again. “A sadder day I’ve never seen.”

“And you were here today to help me in my distress.”

Once again Aunt Roxie nodded.

The older man’s expression changed. “Roxie, you’re a damned jinx.”

Robert chuckled, and Angelica smiled.  Aunt Roxie rolled her eyes heavenward and then sat on the edge of the bed to take her brother’s hand in hers.

Angelica touched Robert’s hand and gestured to the outer room. He inclined his head and followed her out of the bedchamber.

The cottage’s large common room served as both kitchen and drawing room, with a hearth on each end, one for cooking and the other for warmth. On the kitchen side of the room was a large steel cage, its door ajar. Two doors led to other bedrooms. On a table beside the settee sat a Celtic harp, a flute, and a violin with accompanying bow.

“Thank you for saving my father’s life,” Angelica said.

“No thanks are necessary, angel.”

Her next words came out in a rush, as if she were confessing a crime. “My father suffers from an affliction and was desperate for alcohol.”

“I didn’t think he was attempting suicide,” Robert assured her, and she seemed to relax. He gestured to the musical instruments, asking, “Do you play?”

“The harp is mine,” she answered.

“I should have known an angel would prefer the harp,” he teased her.

“A long time ago we had an enormous harp, but we needed to sell it,” Angelica said, a wistful note in her voice. “Perhaps the harp only appeared enormous because I was a little girl.”

“I wish I could have seen that,” Robert said, stepping closer.

“You’ve never seen a floor harp?”Her question brought a smile to his lips. “I meant, I wish I could have seen you as a little girl.”

She blushed with obvious embarrassment.

Robert couldn’t credit what he was seeing. How many years had it been since he’d seen a sincere blush stain a woman’s cheeks?

“Hello, hello, hello.”

Robert stared in surprise as the owner of the voice walked into the room. Approximately three feet long and weighing fifteen pounds, a bird crossed the room toward them. Its head and back were blue, its underside gold, and its eyes green.

“Hello, Jasper,” she greeted the bird. “I missed you.”

Angelica scratched the bird’s head, making him trill with pleasure. Then she warned, “Don’t put your fingers near him until he knows you better. Macaws can take a finger off with one bite.

“Say hello to Robert,” she told the bird.


“Hello, Jasper,” Robert said, amused to be speaking to a bird.

The macaw cocked his head to one side and repeated, “Hello.”

“Good night time,” Angelica said, crossing the room to the cage. “Come.”

“Good night,” Jasper said, walking to the cage.  He stopped in front of the door, turned around, and crossed the room to Robert, saying, “Hello.”

Angelica laughed. “Good night, Jasper.”

This time the macaw went into the cage. Angelica shut the door and covered the cage with a blanket.

“Good night,” the macaw called.

“Good night.” Angelica looked at Robert and said, “I won him in a card game.”

“Who is this Magnus your father mentioned?” Robert asked.

“Magnus Campbell, the Duke of Inverary,” Angelica answered, and there was no mistaking the bitterness in her voice.

“Your father is acquainted with a duke?” Robert asked in surprise.

“My brother is the Earl of Melrose,” Aunt Roxie answered, walking into the common room.

Robert was even more surprised by that announcement. He glanced around the common room, unable to credit the fact that an earl lived in this poverty.

“Darling, we’ve fallen upon hard times,” Aunt Roxie explained.

“We did not fall,” Angelica corrected her aunt.  “We were pushed, and the Duke of Inverary is one of the men who pushed us.”

“How did the duke push you into . . . your current condition?” Robert asked. “Who are the other men involved?”

“Ours is a long story” Angelica told him, placing her winnings on the table.

“I’m in no hurry,” Robert replied, masking his curiosity with nonchalance.

“Another time,” Angelica said in refusal. “I’ll tell you the whole story when I have written the final page.”

Robert cocked a dark brow at her. “Are you planning revenge, angel?”

The door burst open suddenly, ending their conversation. Two young women hurried inside. Both appeared younger than Angelica. One had black hair and limped and the other was a redhead, yet the three sisters resembled one another.

“Robert, may I present Samantha.” Angelica gestured to the ebony-haired girl. “And this is Victoria. Sisters, meet Robert Roy.”

“Rob Roy?” Samantha exclaimed with a smile.

“You must be joking,” Victoria said.

“Mind your manners,” Aunt Roxie admonished them. “Ladies of quality do not insult guests.”

“Ladies of quality do not run a thimblerigger’s game,” Angelica told her aunt.

“Nor do they pick pockets,” Samantha said, emptying her pockets of coins.

“And they do not engage in disreputable activities,” Victoria added, placing her own day’s earnings on the table. “You know, dear aunt, disreputable activities like telling people’s fortunes, calling up the dead in a seance, or selling love potions.”

“Hush, darlings, we need the money,” Aunt Roxie replied. “I do what I can to help out.”

Angelica gestured to Robert, saying, “Let’s walk outside.”

Once the cottage door closed behind them, Robert asked, “Your sisters are pickpockets?”

“I’m afraid so,” she answered.

“And your aunt is a charlatan?”

“Aunt Roxie is no charlatan,” Angelica told him. “She has a special gift.”

Robert tried hard not to laugh in her face but couldn’t quite suppress his smile. “Do you actually believe in that?”

“Yes, I do,” Angelica said. “I possess a similar, albeit undeveloped, gift. “

“The sight of you did bewitch me,” Robert said, gifting her with his devastatingly charming smile.

Angelica stared in the direction of Primrose Hill.  “Samantha limps because one of her legs is slightly shorter than the other,” she said without looking at him. “A wealthy gentleman, one of the men who ruined my father, ran over her with his carriage. We couldn’t afford a physician to set the broken bone.”

“I’m sorry,” Robert replied.

“That happened a long time ago,” Angelica told him. “Victoria has a problem with letters and numbers.”

“What do you mean?”

“She can’t read properly or cipher numbers,” Angelica said, turning toward him. “Other than that the Douglases are a normal family.”

Robert laughed. “I’ll come by tomorrow to check on your father.”

“You want to consort with people like us?” Angelica asked.

Robert leaned close, his face merely inches from hers, and said in a husky whisper, “I’d love to consort with you.”

Ever so gently, Robert drew her into his embrace. His face hovered above hers for the briefest moment and then descended as he moved one hand to the back of her head to hold her immobile.

Their lips met in a chaste kiss. When she relaxed in his arms, Robert changed the tempo of the kiss.  His lips on hers became ardent and demanding; his tongue persuaded her lips to part, tasting the sweetness beyond them.

And then it was over.

Robert drew back and studied her expression, knowing she’d just experienced her first kiss. He traced finger down her silken cheek and rubbed his thumb across her lips.

“May I have my watch back now?” Robert asked, gazing deeply into her disarming blue eyes.

Angelica blushed. “I-I don’t know what you mean.”

“You lifted the watch out of my pocket when we were attacked,” Robert told her.

Angelica reached into her pocket and produced the watch. “It looks like real gold,” she remarked, passing it to him.

“It is real gold.”

“How can you—?”

Robert planted a quick kiss on her lips and then whistled for his horse, grazing a short distance away. The horse returned to his side in an instant.

“You certainly have trained him well,” Angelica said.

“I have a firm hand but can be a generous master,” Robert said suggestively.

“I will never call any man my master,” she informed him.

“We’ll see.”

Robert mounted and pulled on the reins to turn the horse around. Whistling a bawdy tune, he started down the road through the hamlet. He knew she was probably watching him but would not turn around to wave good night.

Angelica Douglas was unexpectedly spectacular, a seductive angel, a rare woman of courage and loyalty. Albeit an incorrigible cheater at games of chance.

Though her father had fallen upon hard times, she was still an aristocrat. The father’s loss of fortune served Robert’s purposes; he planned to make that magnificent angel his mistress.

That thought made Robert smile with pleasure. He decided to go visiting in the morning before he called on Angelica. He needed to know what the Duke of Inverary had done to Graham Douglas.

Keeping a mistress who wanted revenge against his own father could undoubtedly complicate his life. Somehow, he would atone for whatever his father had done to the man.

… Continued…

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To Tempt An Angel
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by Patricia Grasso
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Free Thriller Excerpt! Top 40 in Suspense Thrillers, Amazon US! Check Out This Free Excerpt From DISAPPEAR by Iain Edward Henn

On Friday we announced that Iain Edward Henn’s Disappear is our 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:


by Iain Edward Henn

4.1 stars – 159 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Top 5 Bestseller on Amazon UK – Crime Thrillers & Mystery
Amazon US – Top 40 in Suspense Thrillers
On a rain-drenched night, a young husband runs to the corner shop – and never returns.Eighteen years later, his body reappears.-Reappears, wearing the same clothes, and on the same street from which he went missing.
-Reappears, and is the victim of a hit/run driver.He looks exactly the same now as when he vanished.His widow, Jennifer Parkes, is determined to solve this enigma once and for all.

Other bodies are found, all missing eighteen years. None seem to have aged.

On the trail of a vicious killer, Jennifer and homicide detective Neil Lachlan are drawn into a human minefield of deception and terror; into the depths of a mystery that baffles the police and defies logic. Investigating at the forefront of scientific and medical technologies, they confront a threat that is closer than either of them could ever have imagined.

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




It was the perfect time and the perfect place for the killing.

The first soft sweep of dawn light, the air crisp. The reserve was a large, sprawling tangle of green, sections of park, sections of natural bush. The running track circled the grounds, obscured from view in several places by overhanging willows and over-reaching ferns.

The jogger’s blood lust was running at fever pitch, his senses singing with exhilaration. Most people would wake this morning feeling good to be alive. The jogger had woken feeling reborn, his all-consuming, dark need re-energised. His moment had finally arrived.

The time.The place.And the perfect victim.

For the first time in eighteen years he was free to kill again. The watchers were gone, he was certain of that.

He’d driven the perimeter of the reserve, stopping at random to scan the area with binoculars. No cars in the immediate vicinity. The reserve itself was empty, except for the young woman, keeping to her usual routine.

He joined the track on one of the hidden stretches and began to jog. His timing was precise, so that the woman was a dozen metres in front of him. She covered the ground in long, casual strides.

He couldn’t have wished for a finer specimen. Long legs, athletic physique, electric blue shorts in a tight fit.

The urge coursed through his veins like a drug as he closed the distance between them.

He was going to make up for the long years of frustration and denial; of trying to satisfy his desires with fantasies and memories; of practically being driven mad on occasion by the inexplicable restraints.

That was over now.

The woman was almost within reach. He imagined the thin strip of wire looped around her throat, pulling tight, biting into flesh. Her panic; her gasping for breath. She’d be unable to scream, unable to break free of his iron grip.

And then acceptance as her hands fell limply to her sides and her knees sagged, life draining away.

The jogger reached for the wire that lay in the pocket of his tracksuit pants. Its cold steel felt reassuring against his fingers.

The woman was within arm’s reach now. He noticed the slight tilt of her head as she became aware of another runner on the path. It was almost time.

For the young woman it should have been the start of one of the most exciting times in her life. She’d woken that morning feeling good to be alive. Instead, it was to be the end of everything.




Eighteen years earlier



Thunder rolled across the sky, nature’s soundtrack to the dark clouds that blanketed the city. The night was lit only by the occasional flash of streak lightning. There was steady rain, not a deluge, just the promise of one, and the wind howled like a pack of hounds.

Hell of a night, thought Brian Parkes.

He’d been stuck on the train for two hours, any hint of rain and the blasted things slowed down. Give them a full blown electrical winter storm and they threw in the towel completely, stopping and starting with a familiar, grinding mechanical wheeze. Then came to a complete standstill.

On a number of occasions during the two hours the train had stalled for up to fifteen minutes at a time, before lurching on a little further. Stop-starting all the way.

At the end of the long journey Brian learned from a station assistant that the delays were caused by overhead lines coming down under the force of the strong winds. Many decades earlier Neil Armstrong had set foot on the moon. But in Sydney, the train system defied the fact that, elsewhere, Man was reaching for the stars.

It was a twelve-minute walk from the station to his home. His umbrella had been pushed inside out by the wind and the metal sprockets had snapped. The thin strands of metal stood upwards, away from the inverted cloth, like a creature on its back with its legs in the air. He dumped it in a roadside bin as he ran, pulling the collar of his coat tighter. He sprinted the first two blocks, and then slowed to a walk for the third. After all, what was the point of racing? He was already soaked to the bone. He wasn’t going to be any less wet when he walked through the front door.

Was it just his imagination or was the rain driving harder since he’d left the train? That’d be right. It pounded the pavement like a battering ram. He broke into a run again as he rounded the corner into his street.

Inside number forty six Claridge Street, Jennifer Parkes watched her husband as he stepped into the front alcove. She felt herself tingle with contentment. She loved the rumpled look of his young face with his easy smile, snub nose and pointy chin. His curly brown hair was plastered to his head by the rain, but the lines of water that ran down his cheeks didn’t detract in the slightest from those handsome, cherubic features.

Their eyes connected and Brian beamed.

‘Hi, baby.’ He eased out of the wet jacket and ambled towards her.

‘I was starting to worry.’

‘Train packed up. Been stuck in a carriage for two hours.’

She winced. ‘Poor thing.Hot cuppa?Hot bath?’

‘Yes please. The works.’

She melted into his arms. The feel and smell of her made Brian’s senses soar. The firm swell of her breasts through the light cotton of her blouse, pressing against his chest, the gentle warmth of her body, supple and slender, fitting snugly against him. He brushed his fingers through the dark hair, shiny ebony black, centre-parted, that fell below her shoulders.

‘Cuppa first. I’ll make it while you get out of those wet clothes.’ She pulled away, headed for the kitchen.

‘In a sec.’ He flopped down on the lounge, shivered, reached for the packet of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. Flipped it open. ‘Damn. I’m out of fags.’

Jennifer’s head popped around the corner of the kitchen doorway. She made a face at him. ‘Silly, aren’t you.’

‘Bloody silly.’

She looked at the rain lashed window, then back to him. ‘You’re not going out in that again?’

He shrugged. ‘It’s only a coupl’a minutes to the corner store. Bill will still be open.’

Jennifer gave him a despairing look. ‘Good night to give them up.’

Brian shook his head. ‘No. Bad night to give them up.’ He retraced his steps to the door, pulling his coat back on again.

‘You’ll catch a chill.’

‘I’ll hop straight into a hot bath when I get back. Promise.’ He paused at the door, looking back at her. The dance of the rain on the roof became suddenly louder. ‘Of all the days to have the car in for service.’

‘One day we’ll look back on this and laugh. Or at least I will.’ She smiled again, winked at him, and he marvelled at how her smile lit the room.

‘Love you,’ he said.

‘Love you too. Be quick.’

‘Real quick.’ He blew her a kiss and stepped out into the storm.

‘Wait!’ she called. She took her small yellow umbrella from the hook on the hall wall and ran to the door, passing it out to him. ‘Take my brolly.’

‘Thanks, hon.’

Jennifer went back through to the kitchen to check on the vegetable stew. She placed four bread rolls in the oven to heat. This was going to be just the meal for a night like this. Despite the cold air outside, she felt warm and cosy in here. Before she knew it, twenty minutes had passed. It was only a five-minute walk, three if you ran, to the local store.

She went to the front door, opened it, and peered out into the rain. She couldn’t see a thing. What was taking Brian so long? Probably standing in that shop, dripping wet, chatting with Bill. Men. She went into the living room, placed her open palms in front of the electric heater, and waited.

Another fifteen minutes dragged by and she began to worry. Brian and his damned silly cigarettes.Where was he? She went to the door again and looked out. The rain had eased off considerably. A full moon glowed through a break in the night clouds and the wind had stopped.

Jennifer pulled a jacket on and marched off along the street towards the shop. The store was closed when she reached it but a light was still on inside. She banged on the front door and half a minute later it swung open.

Bill Clancy was a large, round, red-haired Englishman who, despite his ten years in Australia, had not lost any of his pommyaccent. ‘Ullo, luv. Lucky you caught me. Just closin’ up, I was.’

‘Hi, Bill. Sorry to disturb you but I’m worried about Brian. How long since he left here?’

‘Left here? I’m afraid you’ve lost me, luv. When’re we talkin’ about?’

‘He hasn’t been here for a packet of cigarettes?’

‘No, luv.‘Aven’t seen Brian at all today. ‘E say he was comin’ ‘ere, then?’

‘Yes. He left home forty minutes ago.’

Bill lifted his arms in a gesture of bewilderment. ‘Doesn’t make sense.’

‘You’ve definitely only just closed up?’ Jennifer asked.

‘Yes, luv. Look, maybe he decided to try another shop. He’s probably back home now, snug an’ dry an’ all.’

‘No Bill. You’re the closest shop by far. Why would he go somewhere further?’

‘Well, let’s go look for ‘im then.’

‘No.’ She hesitated. ‘It’s all right. I’ll just go home and wait. I’m sure he’ll turn up soon enough.’

‘Bound to be a reasonable explanation,’ the shopkeeper said.

‘Of course there is.’ Jennifer waved as she headed for the door. ‘Thanks anyway, Bill.’

‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do,’ he called after her.

Jennifer walked back home and noted that the storm had passed. Suddenly she was annoyed with her husband. He’d probably changed his mind, gone to a different shop and got held up for one reason or another. Didn’t he realise I would be worried? Why didn’t he think?

She arrived back home to an empty house. Normally she liked the quiet, but now the silence of their home seemed menacing. ‘Brian!’ How silly of me, to call his name as if he were here. Then again, maybe he was. Anything was worth a try.

‘Brian!’ He’s snuck back in, she speculated, and he’s hiding somewhere, playing a game. Stupid bloody game, not like Brian at all. The silence, in reply, was deafening.

She sat down to wait. An hour inched by and Jennifer had no doubt it was the longest hour of her life. She went to the laptop, accessed the local directory, and called the Hurstville Police Station on her cell. The senior constable on duty, Ken Black, listened as she explained the situation.

‘I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, Mrs. Parkes,’ he said, ‘we’ve seen this sort of thing before. Hubby decides to sneak down the local for a coupla’ beers.’

‘My husband doesn’t drink,’ Jennifer protested, inwardly aware that she needed to keep her cool. ‘He went to the corner shop for cigarettes. That was almost two hours ago. He was wet and tired. He could be lying somewhere, hurt …’ Her voice trailed off.

Forced to put her fears into words she realised all of a sudden the reality of it: Something was wrong. Terribly, horribly wrong.

‘Very well, Mrs. Parkes, I understand,’ Constable Black said. ‘Please stay calm. I cannot list your husband as officially missing until he’s been gone for twenty-four hours. But I’ll take down the particulars from you, and drive by the area as soon as possible, keeping an eye out for anything unusual.’

‘How long is as soon as possible?’

‘Twenty minutes or so. Now, let me take some details. Your husband’s full name, Mrs. Parkes?’

Jennifer gave him the details. Height, weight, hair colour and so on. Then all she could do was wait. Again.

After a while the rain began falling heavily once more. Jennifer, restless, walked out to the covered garden rockery that stood immediately outside the back door. She and Brian had spent much of the past few weekends out here, building the rockery, planting the flowers and ferns. Roughly hewn bamboo cross-beams held up the green tinted, clear fibreglass covering.

She listened to the steady rhythm of the rain. Normally it had a calming effect on her. Not tonight though. She felt a great, deep, dark chasm opening up inside. She was nauseous.

What’s happened to you, Brian? The thought buzzed inside her mind like an annoying insect. Something must have happened because it just isn’t like you to go traipsing off for hours without saying something. That just isn’t you.

She wandered over to the rock pool she and Brian had fashioned out of rockery stones. The moonlight, tinged by the green tones of the covering, glinted off the dozens of five-cent coins that lay on the bottom of the tiny pool.

It had been Brian’s idea on the first day they’d completed the rock pool. ‘I’m going to make a wish,’ he’d said, and had tossed a coin into the water.

‘A wish?’ Jennifer giggled.

‘This is going to be our own private wishing pool,’ he pronounced. ‘My first wish is that you and I will always be together.’

‘That won’t work, will it? Telling someone aloud what your wish is.’

‘Why not?Our pool. We make the rules.’

‘My turn, then,’ Jennifer said. ‘Got a coin for me? My purse is inside.’

Brian handed her a five-cent piece and she dropped it into the water. ‘I wish for our love to keep on growing and never stop.’

He screwed up his face. ‘Corny.’

‘No cornier than yours.’ Jennifer laughed and punched him lightly on the shoulder.

Standing there, staring into the pool, always made her feel good. There’d been so many good times already and they’d hardly even begun.

She rummaged in her skirt pocket and, to her surprise, found a lone five-cent coin. Maybe not such a surprise, she realised. Since Brian had started this wishing pool thing she’d got into the habit of leaving the coins in her pockets. There was no particular reason for always using five-cent pieces. Just another one of Brian’s crazy “rules.” There had to be rules, he’d insisted, for the magic to work.

She and Brian had often strolled out here, impulsively, and made their wishes. It was fun.

She dropped the coin into the pool. My wish is that nothing has happened to you, Brian. Please, please, come home safely to me.





‘Come round and take a seat, Mrs. Parkes,’ Senior Constable Ken Black said from behind the long, wide front desk. Jennifer nodded and went through the narrow front opening.

It was 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and the suburban police station was a hive of activity. Two or three calls at a time lit up the switchboard. Each being handled swiftly by a feisty, no-nonsense woman, middle-aged, who wore a constable’s uniform.

Jennifer realised she’d never been inside a police station before. From the open doorway of the radio room, a few feet away along the left wall, came a non-stop series of garbled messages over the police radio frequency. Every voice seemed to quote a series of numbers, tens and fours and so on, a kind of numerical shorthand that reminded Jennifer of the many police drama shows.

She took a seat facing the senior constable.

‘As I told you on the phone,’ Black said, ‘normal procedure with adults, is that twenty-four hours must elapse after a person has vanished before they’re listed as officially missing. The exception is when it’s immediately probable that a missing person may be in danger.’

Jennifer nodded. ‘My husband isn’t the kind of man to go off without telling anyone, Constable Black.’

‘I’m sure he isn’t. Hence our decision to move early and bring in the Missing Persons Bureau.’ He turned towards his PC. ‘I’m going to take a statement from you, and I’ll need all the particulars on your husband.’

‘Didn’t we cover that on the phone last night,’ Jennifer said. Her eyes felt as though they had knives sticking through them. She hadn’t slept. The constable’s return call the previous night, around eleven, had advised her that his drive around the area had revealed no sign of Brian.

‘Yes, but we’re going to need a great deal more than that with which to initiate a thorough search.’ Senior Constable Black typed, firing questions at her as he went along. He took down Brian’s physical description, hobbies, interests and personal habits. The questioning included the names of Brian’s family members and personal friends and, where possible, contact phone numbers and addresses.

Jennifer answered the questions mechanically. In her mind’s eye the words “thorough search” flashed on and off like a neon sign on a garish, night-time city strip. How could this be happening, out of the blue, to her and Brian? Missing Persons Bureau … thorough search …

‘Who does Brian work for?’ Black asked.

‘He has his own accountancy practice. He set up an office in the city just a few months ago.’

‘Do you have access to his office?’

‘Yes, I have a key.’

‘I’ll arrange for you to meet me there later, Mrs. Parkes. The Bureau will want a list of his clients and any other business associates.’

The questioning continued. Medical history, family history. Was theirs a happy marriage? Had there been an argument the previous night?

‘Please understand that I have to ask some highly personal questions,’ Black explained apologetically.

‘All right.’

‘Does your husband have a drug dependency, or had he ever to your knowledge?’


‘Do you and your husband have financial difficulties of any kind?’

‘No.’ To her own ears, Jennifer’s voice sounded like a watered down version of itself, swept away by a torrent of fears.



Meg Roberts was sitting on the steps outside the house when Jennifer arrived home. ‘I thought I’d hang around in case you weren’t going to be too long,’ Meg said, springing to her feet as Jennifer came up the front path.

‘I’ve been with the cops.’ Jennifer unlocked the front door and Meg followed her through to the living room.

Jennifer was moving as though in a trance. Going through the motions. The police had run a thorough check on all Sydney hospitals. No one matching Brian’s description had been admitted. She’d started to wonder if she was partly to blame. Perhaps she should’ve phoned the police earlier. Why had she waited so long?

Brian had only gone to the local shop, just minutes away. If she’d acted sooner Brian might’ve been found.

It had been close to midnight when Jennifer had phoned Brian’s parents. They lived on the Central Coast, north of Sydney. The anguish in Brian’s mother’s voice had stayed with Jennifer through the long, sleepless night.

‘Jen! I thought I told you to call me. That I’d go down to the cop station with you.’

‘It’s okay, Meg. I’m handling it.’

Meg looked closely at her friend. Jennifer’s eyes were dry but glassy; her face set rigid in an expression of firm resolve. She’s mustered together all her reserves of strength, Meg thought, and steeled herself to face the trauma and get through it. That, in Meg’s opinion, did not mean she was handling it okay. ‘I don’t want you handling it on your own. I’m here for you. Okay?’

‘Okay,’ Jennifer conceded.

Meg felt like rolling her eyes. Jennifer was her oldest, closest friend, and she was always insistent, no matter what came along, that she was “handling it.”

‘So what are the police doing?’

‘They took down a lot of details. Just about everything you could think of.’


‘Checked the local hospitals and emergency services.Nothing. So they’ve called in the national Missing Persons services.’

‘They’ll find him, Jen. There’s bound to be a reasonable explanation for all this.’


‘This is not the time to get pessimistic on me. Fashion designers are positive, forward thinking people, right? That’s what you told me.’

‘Point taken. What would I do without you?’ Jennifer gazed gratefully at her old friend. Meg Roberts had always had a bright, breezy personality. She was a pleasantly plump girl with large, expressive eyes, a wide smile and reddish brown curls.

They had been close since their school days, despite the differences between them. In comparison to Meg, Jennifer was often seen as quiet and intense.

Meg grinned. ‘Don’t go getting all buddy buddy now. I don’t think I could stand it. And it’s way too early for alcohol. How about coffee?’

‘Make it strong.’

‘I don’t make it any other way, honey.’ Meg went through to the kitchen and placed the kettle on the stove. ‘So how’s the dress designing coming along?’ she called out as she reached for the coffee jar.

Jennifer sighed. ‘Slowly. I’m still picking up a bit of freelance work with that small fashion warehouse at Surry Hills. There’s not a lot around at the moment.’

When Meg returned to the lounge she found Jennifer, head in hand, crying freely. Meg dumped the two steaming hot mugs on the table and sat down beside her friend. There was so little she could do to help. So little anyone could do.Except wait.

‘It’s good to let those feelings out.’ Meg placed her hand on Jennifer’s shoulder. ‘Cry it all out, babe.’

‘Where is he, Meg? What on earth could have happened to him?’

‘He’ll turn up, Jen. Has to. Whatever happened, he can’t be too far away, surely.’

Jennifer wiped the tears from her eyes and took a deep breath, an attempt to regain her composure. ‘There’s something Brian didn’t know. Now … he may never know …’

‘What could he possibly not have known?’

‘I think I’m pregnant,’ Jennifer blurted out. ‘I’m two weeks overdue. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in the morning for the test.’

‘Listen honey, with any luck your old man will be back and he’ll be able to make that doctor’s appointment with you.’ Yeah, so why don’t I feel convinced, Meg thought, and she hoped her doubt didn’t show. She hated this feeling, the same one she was sure Jennifer had, that Brian wasn’t coming home.





One foot after another hit the pavement in quick succession. There was an acquired art to this, for the sole of each foot to touch the ground only lightly and briefly, the result of the powerful sweeping strides of the runner. One movement passing fluidly into the next.

Jogging in the early mornings and evenings had long since become a popular pastime. Exercise and nutrition had swept the youth culture of the western world, a fad to some, a serious concern to others. These days it was a multi-faceted industry. It suited the jogger’s purposes nicely.

He wore a blue tracksuit lined with a single white stripe. He had matching gloves and sports shoes with thick rubber soles. His sports cap, with rounded peak, was pulled down low on his forehead and with his head tilted downwards as he ran, his face was mostly obscured.

The thin, pliable piece of wire was looped round and round itself, wound into a compact ball, and stuffed into his pocket.

It was a cool, clear morning, one of the last days of winter. Six- fifteen. The jogger had been here for a run on two previous occasions that week, to get his bearings. This wide, leafy reserve in a semi-rural district north west of Sydney was ideal. A narrow path ran along the perimeter of the reserve, amidst hedges and trees that looked as though they’d been there forever.

The jogger had noticed the young woman on both of those previous visits. Fair-haired, plump, wearing a tee shirt and slacks. He noticed her running had improved. She had an easier, more natural pace, a rhythm she’d lacked before.

He’d passed her and now she was several metres behind him on the track. After a while he slowed his pace, allowing her to gain on him again.

He thought back to the previous kill, two weeks before, picturing the quiet street in the nearby suburb. An attractive, middle-aged woman had arrived home in the middle of the day. She carried her bags of groceries into the house. There was no one else on the street.

Plenty of trees in the front yard for cover.

He simply walked, unseen, into the open side door of the house, twenty seconds or so behind her.

He had stood behind the open door between the kitchen and the lounge room, the thin stretch of wire at the ready in his hands. He felt the flood of excitement. Blood coursed through his veins, pounding in his temples. Not too soon, he thought. Control it. Concentrate on the task at hand.

He’d always been this way. Feeling pleasure while inflicting pain on others, though it was getting out of control and he was aware of the need to be careful. The time lapse between each of the past few kills had been less and less and he felt he should taper back.

After this one, he decided.

The third time the woman passed through the doorway, the jogger pounced. His method was always the same. He struck suddenly and swiftly from behind, snapping the looped wire around the neck of the victim, and then pulling tight. The deceptively smooth, thin wire cut into the flesh of the woman, an ugly red welt at first, then a pencil thin crevasse, weeping with blood as she fought for breath.

Now he felt the blood coursing through his veins like an electric current, igniting every nerve end with its voltage, as though stretching out every fibre of him with the power.

He wanted to scream out, for release, at the sheer ecstasy of it.

Strangulation by garrotte didn’t take long. Sometimes, when the jogger could regulate the flow of strength through his arms, and manipulate the struggling of his victim, he made it last longer, which lengthened his enjoyment of the act.

At the surprise of the attack, the woman’s shock gave way to an overpowering fear so strong it was like an odour in her nostrils. She could neither scream nor run though she tried desperately to find a way to do both. As the seconds ticked by her horror became an anchor in the pit of her stomach, plunging down, ripping apart the fabric of everything she had ever been. She began to weaken, her strength slipping away as the world around her darkened, her terror so great that even tears would not form in her eyes.

Afterwards the jogger left the house as he’d entered, unseen, by the side. His car was close by.

He pushed those memories, as exciting as they were to him, from his mind. Control it. Concentrate on the task at hand. The young woman was adjacent to him now on the narrow path.

She glanced in his direction and caught his eye. ‘Hi.’


‘You’re a sucker for punishment. Third time this week, isn’t it?’


‘I’m here every day. Determined to get in shape for summer.’

I know you’re here every day, you stupid bitch.

She moved ahead of him. He slowed his pace further, shifted his position so that he was directly behind her. He allowed the pace of his stride to match hers.

Same speed, same rhythm.

He was certain their breathing and the beats of their hearts were in tandem and the idea thrilled him. She was his.

For two weeks he’d longed for this moment. The exhilaration soared through him like a mad, demonic song. Savour it. The jogger knew he was different, he’d always known that. He simply couldn’t help himself.

The two runners approached a bend in the track, which was completely hidden from view by hedges on either side. His hand slid into his jacket pocket, removed the ball of wire, his fingers deftly allowing it to uncoil. The young woman was oblivious to him. He was close enough to hear the pant of her breath. He ached inside with the irresistible urge.


He lunged forward. One simple, single movement. He looped the wire around her neck, pulled it tight, heard her gasp, heard the air expunged from her lungs.

At first, the jogger didn’t know what the cold, clammy sensation was on the back and side of his neck. He was pulled backwards in a swift, savage movement by what he now realised was a large, meaty pair of hands. Another arm came from the side in the same instant, delivering a karate blow to his knuckles, destroying his grip on the wire. It fell from his grasp and he became briefly aware of the young woman tearing it from her throat, coughing, then falling to her knees.


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