(August and Jacob have just been given the identity of a man who was found deceased. They’re about to inform the family)
Two hours later, they sat in the car in a quiet suburban street in Cronulla. They had a name, the case file, and the address of the parents and were about to drop a bombshell on the guy’s family.
Tristan Kurtz was twenty-six years old when he was reported missing by his mother, when he never arrived home in Sydney from an LGBTQIA+ music festival in Byron Bay. He’d reportedly hitchhiked from Byron Bay to Coffs Harbour, having travelled with local residents who he’d met at the festival, and had given him a lift. The missing person’s report had said Kurtz was dropped off in the main street, and had waved them off. He was later seen on CCTV footage walking toward the highway, at 8:11pm.
He never arrived at his parents’ house, he never contacted them to say his plans had changed, which was out of character for him. His parents had called everyone he knew—friends, workmates, old boyfriends—to no avail, and twenty-four hours later he was reported as a missing person.
Well, he wasn’t missing anymore.
He was only twenty-six. A kid, August thought, with his whole life in front of him. A life stolen, stripped away, and thrown away like garbage.
August stared at the house and sighed. He was spread too thin, he was stretched as far as his skin would allow. Another murder, another gay man slaughtered for no other reason than pure bigotry and disregard for human life. “I hate this. I hate everything about it.”
Jacob was quiet for so long, August looked over at him. “Yeah, me too,” he said flatly. He was reading through Tristan’s file. He finally closed the folder and met August’s gaze. “We need to find this bastard.”
“We need to see his parents and tell them.” Jacob looked over at the house and frowned. “Fuck, I hate this part.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
Neither of them made a move to get out of the car. “Is it better to know?” Jacob asked quietly. “Is it better to find out what happened, for closure? Or is it worse, because when you don’t know you still have hope?”
August was pretty sure it was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but it was one he knew the answer to. “It’s better to know. In the long run.” He cleared his throat. “Hope can break your heart every day for years, and living with false hope is hell on earth.”
Jacob stared at him, and August wondered if he’d said too much. But Jacob nodded and unclipped his seatbelt. “Then we shouldn’t wait another minute.”
August got out of the car and together they walked up to the front door and rang the bell. They’d called ahead, so they were expected, but when a tall, middle-aged man opened the door to greet them, Jacob took off his hat and with that single gesture, the man nodded and began to cry.
Hope was a cruel and brutal thing.
Not Suitable for Work
I heaved a sigh and pushed off the cushion, shuffling blind down the hall to brush my teeth. It was only 9:00, but exhaustion and the look on my mother’s face haunted me. I crawled into the sheets, where ideas and questions tumbled around in my head in a jumbled mess.
Give me a truth… I’m fine. Once this job sorts itself out, life can begin again. I’m not hiding, I’m… playing to my strengths. I’m better alone. I can focus. Know yourself. Your business is you.
But, as always, my thoughts turned back to That Day—the day I blew it, the day Derrick taught me the hardest truths of my life.
Stop. Don’t. Don’t think about it. Don’t go there again. I gripped my arm tight and braced against the memories I couldn’t control, could never forget. Something new. Think of something, anything else. My nails dug into my skin as I searched my mind and landed on…
Wonder where he is tonight, what he’s doing? Is he drinking Jameson? Is he thinking of me? Definitely not, but still. What if he was? And why are you holding your elbow so damn tight?
My grip slacked, and blood began to flow again. It had been such a nothing move, only a means to stop me from driving home tipsy, but the memory of his hand wrapped around my arm made my skin tingle.
“Give me a truth.”
In the dark, alone, the truth was this: I wanted him to touch me again.
Q&A with Liza Jonathan:
Q. What inspired you to write a holiday romance like Wrecking Christmas?
A. “It all started when I was going through my RSS feed one day, and I came across a piece on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Blog called The Painful Fantasy of Holiday Romances. Written by Amanda, one of the bloggers there, it was a very heartfelt missive about how people with difficult family lives read holiday romances differently. For them, stories where no one has any real problems and everything can be worked out by winning the cookie bake off can be hard to take. ‘Some of us,’ she said, ‘will never have a good Christmas.’
I found I couldn’t leave the ideas she brought up alone. What would happen, I wondered, if I wrote a book for someone like her? So that was how I came up with Hunter Holliday and Kathryn Winslow. They are two people with very tragic pasts, for whom Christmas has been ruined, permanently. They have deep regrets and things they can’t forgive themselves for. And they both get thrown together, completely by chance, in a magical mountain town that grants all their Christmas wishes. Yet, even here, in this perfect place, their baggage has hitched a ride with them. And against this improbable, Hallmark- movie-on-steroids backdrop, they have to work through all their problems and come out whole on the other side, together.
This book is steamy—not sweet—with a hard won happily ever after. I hope it inspires others the way it inspired me.”
Q. Tell us about the real locations you used in this book.
A.. “I was very fortunate to get permission from the Greenbrier Resort to use them as a setting in this book. The Greenbrier, if you’re not familiar with it, is one of the finest resorts in the nation, built in the 1700s in grand Georgian style in the cradle of the Greenbrier Valley. It has hundreds of rooms and is truly breathtaking. For Kathryn, it serves as a kind of El Dorado or Graceland. If she can just get her family there, they just might have the perfect Christmas after all, she thinks. But nothing goes according to plan.
I’ve also placed this Christmas series in Lewisburg, West Virginia, which is a small town neighboring The Greenbrier which is every bit as vibrant as I describe it. There’s people who have been there for generations, and wealthy
retirees who have moved there and bought rolling hilltop estates so they can be nearby to the resort. The Holliday family farm is exactly like dozens of farms in the area, situated on the prettiest rolling landscape you’ve ever seen. It’s the kind of jewel people don’t realize they can find in West Virginia, and I wanted to tell that story, too.”
Q. Any other tidbits we should know?
A. “I make mention in the book that Hunter Holliday is a winner of the Golden Horseshoe when he was in school. People who grew up in the state will laugh with recognition at that. Every kid in eighth grade has to take West Virginia history, and the Golden Horseshoe test I part of that. l. I studied and studied for weeks, but I didn’t crack the code at the state level, though. So, I’ll never be a “knight” of the “golden horseshoe.” Alas. That ship has sailed.”
Q. So we’re going to see more Christmas stories coming out of Lewisburg?
A.. “Absolutely! I have the sequel to it already written and in development. It’s the story of Hopper Vance, who works at Holliday Hot Rods with Hunter, and Cookie, who’s Kathryn’s receptionist at her practice. Turns out, Hopper and Cookie are long lost loves separated by tragedy. And this will be a magically fueled second chance romance you won’t soon forget. It’s all about the persistence of the heart, and the journey to forgiveness. I can’t wait to introduce readers to it next year! After that, I’ve got another one sketched out from the Holliday garage. But after that, who knows? I’m sure readers will inform me what they want to see next. And I’m all ears.”
“Who is he?” Hunter asked. “Just tell me and I’ll kick his ass.”
“I think I can do my own ass kicking.”
“No. Whoever this asshole is, just tell us and we’ll take care of things. We’ll make sure you never see him again. If you know what I mean,” he continued.
“I know exactly what you mean, and no, you don’t need to make him disappear.”
“But, that’s what we do. We don’t know how to solve any other problems,” Gabe said, almost in confusion.
Rocco groaned and held up a hand to ward off the guys. “I didn’t want to get involved, but it looks like I’m gonna have to. Why don’t you tell us about this guy. What’s he like?”
“Smart, strong, capable…”
“Of course,” I huffed. “But he’s confusing. I thought that he was into me, but then nothing happened. Is it me? Am I not pretty enough?”
“No,” Sinner said, shaking his head sharply.
“Of course not-” Hunter snorted uncomfortably.
“You’re beautiful,” Rocco said firmly, and the other guys joined in.
“Sexy as hell.”
“Good ass. Nice and firm.”
“You have nice elbows,” Sinner said.
“What?” I asked in confusion. Hunter smacked him upside the head.
“I panicked,” Sinner said. “You all said nice rack, good ass. What else was left?”
“You could have gone with beautiful eyes,” I snapped. “Or even nice legs, but nice elbows? Who the fuck says that?”
“Obviously not this guy you’re seeing or he’d already be dead,” Rocco muttered.
“Did you fuck him?” Hunter asked. “Guys always lose interest after you fuck them.”
“No,” I sneered. “It’s not like I just spread my legs for any guy I come across.”
“Did you come right out and tell him you like him?” Rocco asked. “Some guys are fucking stupid and can’t take a hint.”
“Actually, I wrote him a note and told him that I really liked him and asked if he liked me too.”
“Like in the song?” Sinner asked.
“Yeah,” I snarked. “Just like in the song. I even drew boxes and asked him to check yes or no.”
“Did he answer?”
“No, you idiot! I didn’t actually do that. I’m not in second grade.”
“Maybe you should,” Sinner shot back. “With all your sarcasm, he probably doesn’t know if you want to kiss him or kick him in the balls.”
Angelbound and Beholder Special Edition Box Set
Tempest stands before me in our hidden corner of the lake. Water runs in rivulets down his bare chest. Every cell in my body calls me closer to my Rhana.
I step nearer. With each movement, my bare feet sink into the loose pebbles of the lakebed. I pause. Only inches separate us now. The warmth from Tempest’s body radiates into my own. My core heats. One thought overtakes me.
This is it. The moment.
Lifting my arm, I reach for Tempest. Water droplets glide down my skin. I rest my cool hand against the heat of Tempest’s cheek. The rough stubble of his skin prickles my palm. With the slightest of movements, Tempest leans into my touch. His gaze mixes quiet reverence with intense desire.
Going up on tiptoe, I bring my mouth closer to Tempest’s. He leans forward, closing the distance. A breath of air is all that separates our lips. Yet Tempest isn’t pressing to touch.
This is my choice. My word.
I gently brush my mouth against his. Tempest’s lips are soft and firm; bolts of desire move through me. I caress the seam of his mouth with my tongue. The movement is like taking a sledge hammer to a porcelain wall. The barrier between us ruptures. Waves of desire break loose.
Tempest cups my face in his hands. Our kiss turns fierce. The emperor glides his hands down my neck, shoulders and back. Next he presses at the base of my spine, bringing our bodies together. The firm lines of his stomach … the hefty strength of his arms … the long ropes of muscle in his thighs … everywhere our bodies touch, there’s a spark of recognition and desire.
What happens next isn’t a conscious thought. On instinct, I wrap my legs around Tempest’s waist while looping my arms around his neck. The need to share my body with him turns stronger. Between rough kisses, Tempest whispers an incantation. The language is unfamiliar, but the rough and gritty sound tell me he’s speaking in a dragon tongue. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m aware that the air now holds the unmistakable zing of magic.
Tempest is casting a spell.
The New Recruit
R. Barry Andrews
Blurb: Set in Cincinnati, this is a fictional novel which introduces the realities of becoming and being an urban American cop. Matt Davis is a 23 year old who has just graduated from UCLA with a degree in criminal justice. His parents tell him it’s time to find a job and he applies to be a cop in Cincinnati, Ohio. The reader follows Matt through the rigorous pre-employment testing and while in Cincinnati, he witnesses a murder. The book follows the investigation of the homicide while Matt waits to hear if he has been selected. He returns to Cincinnati to attend the police academy, then through Field Training until a personal tragedy strikes and he returns to California. When it resolves, he returns to being a cop until an incident throws his life and career into a disaster. The ending is explosive.
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2mlYJrX
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