Monday, June 22, 2015

Kittens Can Kill Book Review

Kittens Can Kill

by Clea Simon which will be on tour June 2015

Book Details:
Genre: Cozy Mystery 
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press 
Publication Date: 03/03/2015 
Number of Pages: 434
Series: Pru Marlowe Pet Noir #5 (Each is a Stand Alone Mystery) 
ISBN: 9781464203589 

The dead don’t keep pets. So when animal behaviorist expert Pru Marlowe gets a call about a kitten, she doesn’t expect to find the cuddly creature playing beside the cooling body of prominent Beauville lawyer David Canaday. Heart attack? His three adult daughters angrily blame drug interactions, feline allergies—and each other. And begin to feud over their father, his considerable estate, and that cute ball of fluff. While the cause of death is pending, each sister has an axe to grind—with arguments that escalate when David’s partner reads out the will.

Pru’s special sensitivity to animals, which caused her to flee the cacophony of Manhattan for the quiet Berkshires, adds further problems. The local vet is overwhelmed as the animal hospital’s money runs out. There’s a needy Sheltie and some invasive squirrels, too. But the dead man’s kitten, his former partner, and his troublesome family keep drawing “wild-girl animal psychic Pru back in.

Despite the wry observations of her trusty tabby Wallis, now the wrongfully accused kitten’s guardian, and the grudging compliance of her cop lover, this may be one time when Pru can’t solve the mystery or save the kitten she wants to believe is innocent. A single witness knows the truth about that bright spring morning. How far can Pru investigate without risking her own hidden tale?
My Thoughts:

I would love to have this ability to talk to animals!! I have always wondered what they are thinking about and do they fully understand us or just a few words here and there. I know that they are very sensitive to things we can't hear or see. I have a Yorkie and he knows the difference of my husband's car when it pulls off the main road and gets on the back road, he will start barking and doesn't stop until he gets inside and gives him some love and petting.

So, this story really sounded like something I loved to read and they are all definitely colorful characters who have all kinds of quirks and things that probably outsider's from other places wouldn't get, but those end up being my best books!

This book isn't Pru Marlowe's first case (there are actually 5 and this is the 5th one, so I guess I need to get busy and find those other 4 books so I know how this all happened!), so I am really excited to get some of the rest and read how she started her crime fighting and solving techniques and how her cats get involved and will sometimes offer tidbits of information that is useful to her current cases.

It's a really fun book to read, even with some bad language but the comedy parts of the book will crack you up and I promise you that there will be several times when out of the blue you will think of something that either Pru or one of her cats did and you will silently smile or just bust out laughing, making people around you suspect that YOU might be the looney tunes!

You are really going to love reading this book and while it does deal with some murders, they aren't described in full details to make the book sell. I know a lot of books do that to get the hard core readers who thrive on this stuff, but you will be pleased to know this is not one of them!

Happy Reading!

Read an excerpt:
Chapter One:

There’s nothing cute about a death scene. Not the shards of the mug that rested in a puddle on the cold tile floor. Not the scent of the tea—acrid and sharp—that now mingled with the mustier odors of a body’s last struggle. And certainly not the body itself, sprawled contorted beside the shattered ceramic, one arm reaching out for succor, the other frozen in rigor as it clawed at the argyle wool vest that covered the still chest.
No, there was nothing cute about the tableau that greeted me when I made my way into the kitchen of Mr. David Canaday, Esquire, after twenty minutes of pointless knocking. But the kitten that sat beside the puddle, batting at a metal button that must have popped off the vest in that last desperate effort? That little white puffball, not more than eight weeks old and intent as he could be on his newfound toy as it rolled back and forth? He was adorable. The cutest little bundle a girl could ever swoon for.
He knew it, too. As I stood there, staring, he batted that button toward me. Rolling around on its rounded top, it made its slow circular way toward my feet.
“Play?” The message in those round blue eyes was clear. I was supposed to kick the button back. To get it moving—make it livelier prey than the still man on the floor would ever be again. “Back to me?”
The button hit my boot, and the kitten reared up when I stepped back, his front paws reaching up to slap the air.
“No, kitty. I can’t.” I took another step back the way I had come.
“Play?” And another.
I had no desire to kick the button. What I wanted to do was scoop up this little puffball and run.
To remove such an innocent creature from the horror before me. That had been my plan, even before I’d walked into the room. Get the kitten, get out. Get on with my day.
That didn't look like it was going to happen. Not now, and as much as I wanted to snatch the kitten up I restrained myself and, fiddling with my bag, found my phone while I took a third step and a fourth back to the kitchen door. As much as I wanted to grab up the kitten and run for dear life, I knew better than to disturb what just might be a crime scene—or to remove what I assumed to be the only living witness.
Chapter Two
The paramedics arrived first, and for that I was grateful. They had the body on a stretcher by the time the daughter arrived, straps across those jolly blue diamonds and a blanket covering the soiled khakis below. Better still, they were the ones to tell her what that still, pale face should have. What had been patently obvious to me from the moment I’d stepped into the room: Dad was dead. They were taking him to the hospital—that was protocol—but there’d be no sirens wailing because there was no great rush. Lucky for me, she opted to ride along.
I didn't envy the paramedics. The daughter looked like the type who would fight them. Insist on CPR or defibrillation, even as the old man’s color faded to a muted version of that vest, the blood slowly settling in his back.
She didn't look much better. Pale as dishwater, with hair to match. That hair, a listless bob, had been dark once, maybe as black as mine, but time had dulled its color and its sheen, much as it had softened what might have once been impressive cheekbones and a jawline that now sloped gently into a chubby neck.
Between that pallor and the way she had carried on, I had thought at first that she was the wife. Then I remembered: the old man was widowed. It was his daughter who had called me, asking for help in settling a new pet with an increasingly shut-in and by all accounts difficult elder.
“It needs everything,” she had said when she’d called. “Shots, whatever.”
I’d been bothered by that impersonal “it.” Sexing a kitten can be difficult, but this smacked of something colder. Still, I’d said I’d call Doc Sharpe, our local vet, to set up a well-kitten visit and silently figured on adding taxi and escort charges.
In the meantime, I’d told the daughter that I’d drop by to set things up. As the woman on the phone had gone on, though, I’d begun adding services. Neither she nor her father had expected this kitten. She had errands to run, she’d said, and sounded particularly put out by its sudden, unannounced appearance.
It—that impersonal “it” again—had been an unexpected gift, the caller had said. And while that sounded odd, I wasn't going to question it. Not if they were willing to pay.
That gig was shot, I thought as I watched the ambulance from the shelter of an eager rhododendron, blossoms ready to pop.
Sure, I could bill for my time. I’d certainly charge for the load of supplies in my car. But I wouldn't count on getting paid, not soon anyway. Spring and my business usually picked up. The tourists started filtering back, and the seasonal condos filled with troubled dogs and angry cats, all confused by the very human idea of relocating for fun. But even though the May days were growing soft, my client base hadn't warmed up yet. I’d been counting on this job for at least a few regular checks.
“Mama? Where did you go?” The soft cry brought me out of my musing. Male, definitely, though still much more a baby than a boy. Spring. I looked through the bush’s dark green leaves for a nest. For a den in the dark, damp leaves beneath the trees.
“Where are you?”
The kitten. Of course. With all the hubbub, the tiny animal must have been spooked. Must have darted for safety and gotten outside. I couldn't recall anyone mentioning the little cat as they strapped the old man to the gurney and bundled his daughter in for the ride.
The kitten was determined, I’d give him that. And he seemed to have gotten over his fright. I looked around. The EMTs had left the door ajar when they first stormed in, and the little fellow probably snuck out. Normally, I’d cheer him on. Self-determination is a virtue that I applaud, but a baby is a baby, after all.
And while the east side of Beauville might look nicer than our shabby downtown, part of the appeal was its old-growth woods.
I thought of the foxes that would be nesting soon beneath those trees. And the fishers, and a few other predators, all of whom would be looking for a tasty morsel for themselves or their own young. Nature, right? With a sigh that probably revealed more about my human nature than I’d care to admit, I dropped to my knees. Besides, it wasn't like I was doing anyone else any good just then.
“I’m here, little fellow,” I called out softly, peering around the shrubbery. “Where are you?”
He didn't answer, not that I really expected him to. I should explain that this is odd for me. I have a sensitivity, you see.
Some people might call it a gift. I can pick up what animals are thinking, hear their thoughts like voices in my head. Yes, I know how nutty that sounds. That’s why I keep my particular sensitivity to myself, although I have a feeling that others are growing suspicious.
But the thing about picking up animals’ voices is that they don’t talk like you or I do. They have no need for meaningless conversation, and they certainly don’t chatter just to hear themselves speak. And so although I tend to perceive their voices in human terms—that kitten asking for its mother, for example—that’s just my weak human brain trying to make sense of what I’m really getting. Which was a young animal coming to terms with its environment. That kitten wanted to play, because playing is its job—how it learns to hunt, to survive. He had appeared to address me because kittens, like all mammals, learn from their mothers, their peers. From the world around them. He wasn't calling to me, specifically. He was reaching out, because he was alone.
Alone. That was part of what I was getting, but there was something else, too—an undercurrent of loneliness and confusion, a jumble of noise and fear and…
“Back to me? Kick it again?”
Boredom? Well, as I've said, play is a young animal’s job.
And while I didn't necessarily want to play kick the button, I was grateful for the repeated plea. The voice was clearly coming from inside.
I turned back to the silent house. Although I’d walked in with no problem—Beauville still being that kind of place—someone had thought to lock the door. Luckily, the latch was a simple one, and it gave way quickly to the thin blade of the knife I always keep close at hand. This wasn't breaking-and-entering. Not really, I told myself as I closed the door carefully behind me. I’d been hired to take care of a kitten, and that’s what I was going to do.
“Kitten? Hello?” As I've said, I wasn't really expecting an answer. What I was doing was announcing my presence, trying to sound as nonthreatening as I could, which for me meant voicing my thought in the form of a question.
“Back to me!” I tried to echo the thought I had picked up. The kitchen remained still and apparently empty. I proceeded through the open archway into what appeared to be a living room. “You there?”
“Play with me!” That insistent voice. “Why won’t he play with me?”
I didn't have the heart to tell him, but I had to. “He’s gone,” I said.
“Gone?” The question bounced back, like that button. The small creature was trying to make sense of my response. Of the word. I kicked myself. I wasn't doing the kitten any favors with my euphemism. Animals live or die in the physical world, and despite this one’s infant appeal, he probably had a better sense of reality than most of the humans in this town.
“Dead,” I said, summoning the memory of the still, cold body.
“Gone?” The damage had been done, and I felt the confusion as the kitten continued to roll that word—that concept—about in his tiny feline brain.
“Catch me!” The button appeared, rolling in a slow semicircle from under a chair. “Let’s play!”
“Kitten?” I ducked down and leaned beneath the coffee table.
There, eyes wide, crouched the little creature. He’d taken refuge from all the commotion. Up close, I could see he was undersized and a little ragged, more ready to pounce than to groom. I reached for him and he reared up, batting at me with cool paw pads. “Okay, little fellow.” I scooped him up, and as he nuzzled against my shirt, I felt a wet spot on his back.
“Feels like you've been trying to wash.” No wonder his fur looked patchy. “Or did you get splashed?”
I sniffed the kitten and caught something funky. Tea, I hoped, and not something more gruesome. I didn't think I was imagining a slight mint scent, and any puddles on the floor where the body had fallen had been trampled into dark stains. Mimicking my action, the kitten stretched around to sniff the wet spot, and promptly sneezed.
“Gesundheit, little fellow.” He looked up at me, eyes wide, and sneezed again. An adorable little snort, prompted perhaps by that touch of mint. But I've been in this business too long not to think of the other possibilities: feline viral rhinoneumonitis—FVR, better known as feline herpes—for example. Not fatal, but something to manage. At any rate, I held the little creature under the tap for a moment. He was young enough to take my impromptu bath without too much fuss and was purring as I rubbed him down with a dish towel.
“Excuse me.” The voice behind me made me twirl around and the kitten jumped to the floor. He landed by a pair of cowboy boots—turquoise blue—attached to jeans that fit like a second skin. On top of these, a woman’s face scowled at me, the eyes wide and regal. “But who are you, and what are you doing in my father’s house? And what are you doing with my kitten?”

About the Author:

authorA recovering journalist, Clea Simon is the author of 14 mysteries and three nonfiction books.

Parrots Prove Deadly is the third in her Pru Marlowe pet noir series.

She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband Jon and their cat, Musetta.

Disclaimer: Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. All opinions are mine and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from yours.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Lovin' Giveaway Hop**Closed**

Summer Lovin
Welcome to the Summer Lovin' Giveaway Hop!
Hosted by Viva Veltoro and Lindsey Blogs.
This giveaway hop is full of bloggers who are ready to celebrate the warm temperatures of Summer with some fabulous prizes. Be sure to hop around to them all, including the TWO Grand Prizes - the first on Lindsey Blogs at SEBG and the second over at Viva Veltoro!

Here at Mary's Cup of Tea, I have filled up a cosmetic bag with several goodies and a few of them were too big to put in the bag, so there will be full size products along with the smaller products. The total for the package is $60 and it may be even higher depending on when I get ready to ship and I see I have more room, I will throw in a few more full size products.

There are actually 2 mystery bags in this giveaway. The red one contains only perfume samples that I have been saving for this whole year and the other bag is a set of hair care & body care products from Sienna Naturals. There will be a full size Marc Anthony styling aid for hair and some products from L'Bri Natural products. You will also get a travelling size of Yogini perfume from Harvey Prince worth $25.00.

Don't forget to follow the Linky List to enter to win more prizes from my fellow bloggers below! Good Luck Everyone!

In the Mandatory entry, I will be asking you which kind of product you would like for me to add if I have room. Your choices are: cosmetics, skincare (includes body products), snacks, haircare, more perfume samples, jewelry or books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: So Easy Being Green, Viva Veltoro, and the Summer Lovin' participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Celebrity Cat Caper Book Review

If you are an animal lover, especially a cat lover, then this book is going to be right up your alley! It's called Celebrity Cat Caper written by Patricia Fry. She has written quite a lot of books on her cat and his mysteries and they are all favorites of mine!
The klepto cat opens a new bag of tricks in this fast-paced story. Rags, the kleptomaniac cat, becomes a therapy cat in a children’s reading program. A documentary film crew arrives to capture the cat in action.  
Savannah and Michael Ivey invite strangers into their home during a torrential rainstorm and learn that one of them has a sinister past. Someone is murdered, Savannah is stalked, Michael’s life is threatened, and Rags helps to solve an old mystery that’s had local authorities baffled for years.  
A fast-paced story with many twists and turns.
Purchase your copy on Amazon. 
My Thoughts:
As with all of Patricia Fry's cat capers, this one has just the right amount of humor and serious stuff all mixed into one delightful story. You can't help to urge Rags to figure out the problem and solve the mystery, sometimes getting himself into some sticky business but he always seems to come out okay,
Rags and Theodosia work closely together and between the two of them, they make an interesting team to be in the homicide division. Especially with what danger Theodosia and her cat, Rags put themselves in and the danger that lurks waiting for them.
Patricia always finds a way of making you feel like you are right there in the thick of things and tat you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, so it will be interesting to see what mischief that they get into, since neither of them know where the other one went.
Happy Reading!
About the Author: 
Patricia Fry began writing articles for magazines in 1973 and that's how she earned her living for decades. Her first book was accepted by a New York publisher in 1978. Every five years, or so, she'd evaluate the potential for her writing business and make adjustments accordingly. In 1983, she established a publishing company (Matilija Press) and began producing her own books. By the late 1990s, she was teaching publishing workshops. She wrote her first of many books for authors in 2000 and she also became a speaker at writers' conferences in many cities throughout the US. Around the same time, she hung out her shingle and started working with other authors on their book projects.

Nearly forty years after she began writing for publication, with forty nonfiction books to her credit and after working with many dozens of clients on their fiction and nonfiction books, she felt she was at a crossroads. Patricia reminisces about that period in her life. "All my friends were retiring. I wondered if I should, too. But how does one retire from something they love? Writing is not just a job, it's my passion."

The year was 2012. Patricia knew it was time for another career shift and she asked herself, "What writing dreams have not been fulfilled?" The answer came in one word: FICTION. That year, she gave herself a birthday gift--the time and space to write a novel.

She says, "The idea came rather quickly. And within a relatively short time, I was the author of a published novel, "Catnapped", the first in the Klepto Cat Mystery series." Every two or three months since, Patricia has produced a new book in the series. While you're urged to read these books in order, many readers agree that each book can be read as a standalone.

"I write these cozy mysteries with love and hope that you enjoy my stories." (Patricia Fry)

The Klepto Cat Mysteries

The Klepto Cat Mysteries are light, fun cozy mysteries full of adventure, intrigue, and a little romance. They feature Rags, an ordinary cat who just can't keep his paws off other people's things. Often, the treasures he finds are clues in a mystery. Follow Rags's fascinating life path from when he and Savannah were single and he roamed the neighborhood stealing everything from toys belonging to large dogs to jewelry and bathing suits.

Rags and Savannah don't stay single long. After meeting Michael, a handsome veterinarian, Savannah settles down, but the cat doesn't change his thieving ways. Even though his kleptomaniac habit is annoying and embarrassing to his family, he has earned the respect of the local sheriff's department and he was even asked to star in a documentary.

Be on the lookout in the next few weeks for a giveaway of ALL of the Cat Caper books that I have as of now, which is a total of 4 books.  It will be sometime towards the end of June or the first week in July, so mark it down somewhere so you don't miss entering to win these amazing 4 print copy books!

Disclaimer: Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. All opinions are mine and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from yours.

Ming Tea Murder Book Review

I have another delightful book from Laura Childs and this one is called Ming Tea Murder. You can never go wrong reading a Laura Childs book and I have several friends lining up to read my copy now that I am done!
It’s scones and scandal for Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning in the latest from the New York Times bestselling author of Steeped in Evil 
Normally Theodosia wouldn’t attend a black tie affair for all the tea in China. But she can hardly say no to her hunky, handsome boyfriend, Max, who directs public relations for the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. Max has organized an amazing gala opening for an exhibit of a genuine eighteenth century Chinese teahouse, and the crème de la crème of Charleston society is invited.

In the exotic garden staged in the museum’s rotunda, a Chinese dragon dances to the beat of drums as it weaves through the crowd. The guests are serenaded by a Chinese violin as they sample an assortment of tempting bites. And to give them a memento of the occasion, there’s even a photo booth. But Theodosia makes a grim discovery behind the booth’s curtains: the body of museum donor Edgar Webster.

While Theodosia prefers tea service over the service of justice, this case is difficult to ignore—especially after Max becomes a suspect. Now she must examine the life of the fallen philanthropist and find out who really wanted him to pay up…
Purchase your copy on Amazon. 
My Thoughts:
As I stated earlier, you can't go wrong choosing any Laura Childs book to read, it's just pure fun and joy reading light murder/mysteries that don't have to be so gory but yet you get the idea of how the person died.
As with all of her books, the main heroine is Theodosia and her group of tea shop employee's are always kept on their feet by her because you never know what's coming down the road where she is concerned. She loves taking on cases and helping the police try to catch the bad guys, but for some reason, they just seem to shrug off her suggestions, so she decides to solve this one on her own!
Laura Childs is quite capable of making even a light and sometimes funny murder/mystery story seem quite laughable and dangerous at the same time. Theodosia might even remind you of someone in your family who doesn't go out on limb working mysteries but they love to sit around and think they are solving something important.
I tend to let them live in their fantasy and let them continue on their merry way because it gives them something to do and something to occupy themselves instead of crushing their budding detective style investigations, even on silly projects that were most likely misplaced and not stolen. I believe that most families who have someone like that in the family tree and they can make holiday get-togethers seem like the life of the party once they get wound up!
You will definitely enjoy seeing how Theodosia works her case and how she is able to capture the bad person who killed Edgar Webster. It's really a lot of fun to watch her in action, I can promise you that!
Happy Reading!
About the Author:
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. 
She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) 
Connect on her Website | Facebook | 
Disclaimer: Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. All opinions are mine and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from yours.  

Deadly Lies Book Review

Deadly Lies by Chris Patchell
on Tour May 18 - June 30, 2015
Deadly Lies by Chris Patchell

Book Details:
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Published by: INDY
Publication Date: December 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-1494296520 


"Chris Patchell's debut novel, DEADLY LIES, is a taut, fast-paced thriller that grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. Patchell is a master storyteller with a real talent for creating pulse-pounding suspense." ~ Kevin O'Brien, New York Times Bestselling Author of TELL ME YOU'RE SORRY

Husband and wife stand on opposite sides of a divide created by lies and rooted in a dark and deadly past…

As a teenager, Jill Shannon fell victim to her stepfather's cruel abuse. Now as an adult, Jill's made it - she has a successful career and a solid, if not static, marriage to Detective Alex Shannon.

Together they live out what seems to be a perfect life in Seattle.

The vow she made as a teenager to never again be a victim lies dormant - until one day a reporter lures her to his hotel room under the pretense of an interview - and suddenly all of it comes rushing back. Jill seeks revenge on the reporter, triggering a series of events that leads Jill down a wormhole of retribution, forcing her to spin an ever-widening web of lies.

Meanwhile, Alex is pulled into a case of a series of murders that began as cyber relationships. There seems to be a familiar fingerprint on these crimes, but Alex refuses to believe the murderer could be someone close to him.
My Thoughts:

Wow, this was one thriller book that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what the heck was Jill going to do next and when will Alex catch on? For a cop, he was kind of lacking in skills to pick up on the fact that his wife was strange and not the least bit happy.

I believe it had something to do with what happened to her as a child and in a way, I didn't want her to get caught and I sort of understood her motive behind the killing of the men she did murder. I wish she had been able to find happiness and forget the past, but I guess if I had a lot of bad stuff that happened to me as a child, I don't guess you can, not without a lot of help.

But, the main story is really about another serial killer who has killed a 16 year old girl who happens to be a really good friend of Alex's and that is where things get tricky. He thinks he might have some old feelings for her but he is at least good enough to back away from her until he figures out how he really feels about his wife, Jill.

You may have a different opinion than me and I get that part, too, but his wife really needed some serious help and it's just too bad that he gets so wrapped up in his work that he doesn't see she is in trouble and she needs him more. What a mess!

The ending definitely surprised the heck out of me as I am sure it will you as well. It's a very entertaining book that has a lot of twists and you won't see some of it coming until it's too late. Read the book for yourself and see how it all plays out and I bet you won't see the ending coming anymore than I did!

Happy Reading!

Read an excerpt:

Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.
She ticked the seconds off silently in her head. Her heart hammered painfully, the desperate waves of panic making it impossible to think. Stay calm. Stay calm, she repeated as she rifled through the drawers of what once had been her mother’s dresser.
Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four.
Shit. It had to be here. This is right where her mother always kept it.
She slammed the drawer closed. The clap of cheap wood echoed in the quiet house. The jarring noise was a dead giveaway.
It didn’t matter though. She was out of time.
His boots rang hallow on the stairs. He was coming. She pushed back the waves of panic and tried to focus.
Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five.
It took a total of forty-five seconds for him to climb the stairs and reach her bedroom door. She should know. She’d counted it enough times, lying awake in bed listening to the heavy tread of his footsteps and dreading what would come next.
He passed the top of the landing and headed down the narrow hall. She could feel the reverberation of his boots on the bare hardwood floors as he drew closer. Maybe five more seconds, if he’s drunk. Maybe. And then he would burst through the door.
Panic overwhelmed her defenses and struck her full force. She knew hiding was futile. She knew he would find her. Unable to stop herself, she ducked into the closet.
The dark welcomed her, and she slid through the curtain of her mother’s clothes. Her back softly collided with the wall. Inch by inch, she sank down until she sat hunched on the floor. Waiting.
“Ready or not, here I come,” her stepfather, Master Sergeant Samuel Morris, called out in that creepy, singsong voice, like this was some kind of sick game.
Her hands shook, and she clasped them in a tight knot under her chin. Her mother’s scent—baby powder and cinnamon—filled the small space, enveloping her like a warm cloak, and she wished she could hide here forever. Safe. Untouched.
Tears stung her eyes. God, she missed her mother. It was bad before. His punishments had always been harsh, but since her mother’s death, everything had changed.
Hot tears poured down her cheeks. She brushed them roughly away with trembling hands and cursed herself for being weak, for giving into her fear. She had to be strong. She must not cry. If there was one thing Sam liked more than the chase-me game, it was her tears, and she had no wish to give him what he wanted. He could take, but she would not give.
She bit the inside of her cheek until the rusty tang of blood filled her mouth.
Sometimes the pain helped her focus. She couldn’t win, of course. He was too powerful, too relentless. But she refused to give up. There had to be a way out of the trap. There had to be. She just had to live long enough to find it.
Heavy footsteps stopped outside the door. The light bulb overhead clicked. Harsh yellow light filled the closet. She pulled her knees close, shriveling back into the shadows.
“Time’s up, Jill,” he said in his rumbling baritone.
Despite her steely resolve, thin tendrils of fear unfurled in the pit of her stomach, and she knew he was right. The game was over. And he had won. Again. Hatred burned in her eyes as she stared at the heavy beige boots encasing his size-twelve feet.
Sam parted the clothes. The hangers squealed against the metal rod, reminding her of fingernails on slate. The sound made her teeth ache.
She could smell his sour mash breath, and a wave of nausea rolled through the pit of her stomach. Tears threatened, and she forced them back behind a frozen wall. Like a caterpillar, she withdrew inside her icy cocoon to a place far beyond, where he couldn’t touch her.
“Were you looking for this?” he asked.
Master Sergeant Morris dangled a twenty-two caliber sub-compact pistol from a thick finger. Jill’s gaze shifted from the gun to the grotesque smile on his broad face and back again.
The gun. Yes. Every night as he opened her bedroom door, she’d thought about the gun, and pictured a bullet hole centered between his thick black brows. But as usual, he was two steps ahead.
Like Jesse James, he spun the pistol around his finger and tucked it neatly into the back of his fatigues.
“You like games, do you?” he asked.
“Not as much as you,” she said, in a voice that sounded steadier than she felt.
His cruel lips flattened into a thin line. Jill remained perfectly still, her face a stony mask. Sam hunkered down. His meaty hands snaked toward her. Hot fingers slithered around her neck. She shuddered and waited for them to constrict, squeezing off her airway. But they didn’t tighten. Goosebumps dimpled her icy skin as he caressed the long column of her slender throat. Their eyes locked, and as much as she wanted to, she refused to look away.
Never again, she promised herself. Never again would he touch her like this. He would pay. Somehow this sick game would end.
And no matter what the cost, she would win.
Chapter 1
Jill Shannon stood with her feet planted shoulder width apart and focused intently upon her mark. Target acquired. Shoulders relaxed, she squeezed the trigger of the 9 mm Glock. The acrid smell of cordite filled her head.
A cocky smile crossed her face as she stole a quick glance at her husband through the thick lenses of the protective goggles. Pressing the button to retrieve the target, she admired the tight grouping of holes that obliterated the center of the bull’s-eye. Dead-on balls accurate, as Master Sergeant Morris used to say.
Alex Shannon kept his eyes trained forward as he completed his round. His grouping was good, a little to the left of Jill’s perfect aim. He lowered his gun and cast a crooked, self-deprecating smile in her direction. “You know, you’re pretty good at keeping my ego in check,” he said as he pulled out his earplugs.
“I’m glad to hear that I serve some purpose,” she said, removing her goggles.
“Like that’s the only thing.”
“A little healthy competition is good for a marriage,” Jill said, her smile widening in appreciation of the ironic inflection in his voice. “Besides, you cant be all that bad. They still allow you to carry a badge and a gun.”
“Yeah, that helps.”
“Girl’s got a point, Alex,” a deep voice rumbled from behind.
“What are you doing here on a Sunday morning?” she asked.
Jackson Levy was a bear of a man, six foot three, and still built like the linebacker he was back in his college days. Alex was no small guy, but next to Jackson, he looked like an undernourished middle-grader.
“Thought I’d get a little shooting in while the wife is at yoga. My own Zen moment, so to speak.”
Jill masked her surprise. Last she heard, Jackson and his wife, Michelle, were separated. If Alex knew about their reconciliation, he hadn’t let on. Of course, that was unusual. They didn’t talk about work. Truth was, they didn’t talk about much at all lately.
“Sometimes I worry about you,” Alex said with a grin.
“Me? What about the two of you? If this is your idea of a date, then … With a cocked eyebrow, Jackson let the words trail off. Stepping forward, he clamped his huge hand onto Jill’s shoulder and gave it a friendly squeeze. “How are you doing, girl?”
“Keeping out of trouble.”
“Looks like you kicked your man’s butt.”
“It’s not the first time,” Alex said, giving Jackson a sidelong glance through narrowed eyes. “Jill’s stepfather was Special Forces. She learned to shoot before she could drive. I don’t need to hear any shit from you about my marksmanship.”
“Well, I’ve got a lot riding on your shooting ability. I’ve got to know that you have my back. Maybe I need to take Jill here along with me instead.”
“Not a chance,” Alex said. The response was fast. Automatic. Jill bristled at the proprietary note in his voice. Before she could respond, he continued.
“There’s a big difference between shooting a paper target and a perp. I haven’t let you get shot so far, and believe me, that’s no small feat given the massive target you present.”
Jackson’s wide lips parted in a good-natured smile. “Maybe a bigger target is what you need if you plan on hitting anything.”
“Don’t push your luck, or I might just shoot you myself.” Jackson laughed, and Alex cocked an eyebrow. “I’ll catch you later. I’ve got to take Dirty Harriett here to the airport.”
Alex clapped a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. Jill could still hear his deep, rumbling laugh as she handed in her gear at the desk.
She didn’t miss the appreciative glance she got from the clerk behind the counter as she signed out. If Alex noticed, he showed no outward sign. Was he used to the male attention she attracted? Did he still look at her that way? Did he still look at her at all? Over the course of their five-year marriage, they had slid into a routine. Or was it a rut, she wondered.
“What time’s your flight?” he asked.
“Why so early?”
Jill followed Alex out of the range and down the long, narrow hallway toward the locker room. Her heart pounded in double time as she considered the question, but she kept her voice light.
“I’ve got a project review first thing in the morning and I still have to work on my slides.” Alex glanced at her. He still looked like a college student, his short hair cut away from his angular face and a light growth of stubble on his cheeks. Subtle lines carved their way into the corners of his eyes and lent him an air of experience, falling just short of the war-weary look common to most detectives.
The expression in his golden brown eyes gave her pause. Was he growing suspicious of her frequent trips to the Bay Area? The recent expansion of her role at work provided a plausible excuse for all the time spent away from him. But still.
“I guess we should head straight home then. You don’t have a lot of time to get ready.”
Unaware that she had been holding her breath, she exhaled in a soft sigh. Her long strides kept pace with his as they walked side by side, hands not touching. Jill changed the subject and followed him into the locker room.
“Did you talk to Captain Lewis about the presentation he asked you to do for the conference?”
Once a year, police chiefs from across the country got together to discuss the new strategies and techniques their departments employed. This year, Alex had been asked to present his groundbreaking work on a suite of cybercrime tools. Jill glanced up. Alex’s expression was guarded.
“I thought we talked about this already.”
“Did we?” Jill asked, eyes wide, feigning ignorance.
“It’s a political bullshit assignment. I’ve got better ways to spend my time.”
Jill frowned. It was exactly the type of answer she expected. Tactical. Alex seemed maddeningly oblivious to the types of opportunities that came his way. If only he possessed an ounce or two of ambition.
“Come on, Alex. You’re a smart guy. You know there’s more to it than that. Think of the doors it could open for you.”
“For me? Are you sure it’s me we’re talking about here, because if it is, you know where I stand. All I want is to get back into homicide. Are you sure we’re not talking about what you want?”
“That’s not fair,” she said, controlling her irritation with effort. “The cybercrimes unit has been waiting for a guy with your talent. Think of all of the good you could do.”
“Great, so I can put a dent in identity theft instead of tracking down murderers. Hell of a trade-off, don’t you think?”
“Forget it,” she said, and waved a dismissive hand.
An uncomfortable silence settled between them, and Jill could feel the weight of his stare as they entered the locker room. She deliberately avoided his gaze. There was no point. At times like this, there was no talking to him. The widening gulf between them felt less like a fissure and more like the great divide.
Alex dialed the combination, then handed her a jacket before pulling on his own.
“Listen, Jill, I’m not that guy. Besides, you’ve got enough ambition for both of us.” His voice was soft, and he shot her his best boyish smile in an attempt to take the sting out of his words. “If it helps, Jackson has been pushing me, too.”
It didn’t help. She brushed past him and left the locker room. Ambitious? Hell yeah, she was ambitious. Spending her high school years dirt-poor and in foster homes was inspiration enough to excel. Alex’s Norman Rockwell upbringing didn't instill him with the same needs.
Half way to the exit, Alex’s cell phone rang, eliminating the need for further discussion. She pushed open the heavy doors and stepped out into the brisk morning air. Thick, gray clouds choked out the sun, and though it wasn’t raining yet, it soon would be. She could feel it.
Jill stayed two strides ahead, carving a path through the parked cars toward the silver Jeep Liberty. The lights flashed as Alex unlocked the door.
“When?” As he spoke into the phone, the change in his tone was instantaneous, sharp, and suddenly all business. Jill turned. The expression on Alex’s face was serious. “When was she expected home?”
What now? Here it was, a cool fall Sunday morning, and they couldn’t spend an hour alone without a call. She knew what came next. An emergency. An excuse. And she would be finding her own way to the airport while he rushed off.
Shaking her head, she opened the door and climbed inside the Jeep.
“Have you called the police yet?” Alex asked as he settled behind the steering wheel, the cell phone still pressed to his ear. With a quick flick of his wrist, he consulted his watch. “I’ll be there in twenty-five minutes.”
Hanging up, he glanced over at Jill. Concern was clearly etched into the lines around his mouth. “That was Abby Watson. I mean Nelson,” he corrected with a quick shake of his head. “She got married.”
Jill’s lips twitched in recognition. An unpleasant stab of surprise shot through her.
“Abby Watson. Your ex-girlfriend?”
“Her sister is missing.”
Technically Abby was still in the picture when she and Alex first started seeing each other. There weren’t many wives who felt comfortable with an out-of-the-blue call from a long-lost girlfriend. Fiancée, Jill amended. And she was definitely not among them.
“And so she called you?” she asked, raising her eyebrows and folding her arms across her chest.
Alex lifted a hand off the steering wheel in a shrug. “I’ve known the family a long time. I’ll drop you off at home before I head over to her parents’ place to see what I can find out.”
His hand stalled as he reached out to start the engine, and he paused, as if a new thought had suddenly occurred to him. “I won’t be able to take you to the airport.”
“I’ll call a cab.”
Jill shifted her gaze out the windshield and felt a cold knot of resignation form in her gut. Duty came first for Alex. Always had. But having him rush off to his ex-girlfriend’s rescue was somehow worse. A stab of resentment flared. She pulled in a deep breath and released it slowly.
It didn’t matter. Soon she’d be on a plane headed for California. She could forget all about the argument, the phone call, Abby Watson, and everything else. By the time she landed, this would all seem so very far away.

Author Bio:

Chris Patchell
When Chris Patchell isn't hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires.

Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn't steal them from comic books.

Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels.

After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time - suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.

Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. "My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior."

Disclaimer: Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. All opinions are mine and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from you.

Messy Beautiful Love Book Review

I have a different kind of book that I wanted to share with you guys that is a little bit on the softer side of what I have been reviewing lately! I guess I decided to give everyone a break from all the mysteries and murders to a much lighter and certainly a more beautiful topic: love! The book is called Messy Beautiful Love written by Darlene Schacht.

Love gets messy.  
Financial problems, sickness, aging parents, a chronically unhappy spouse . . . trials will inevitably come that threaten your marriage. No matter how long you’ve been married or how strong your relationship is, sooner or later you are going to have a mess to clean up.  
Messy Beautiful Love is about cleaning up messes God’s way, exchanging your ideas for His, and being prepared for both the best and the worst that marriage has to offer. 
When you surrender your relationship to God, then and only then will you experience the blessing of marriage as He intended. This is the blessing of obedience.  
Messy Beautiful Love is an invitation to that obedience. The cynical world says marriages don’t last, but God knows better. Tune out the world and tune in to Him.  
When you do that, a beautiful marriage is not only possible, it’s inevitable.  
My Thoughts:
Here is my take on marriage or for that matter any type of relationship that you want to last, and that is mutual respect for each other and to honor that person by not telling lies that can hurt the foundation of your marriage.
Yes, I know we all probably tell small white lies, such as yes, that tie looks amazing on you, when really you don't care for it, but he loves it. There is nothing to gain by telling him that and it will end up hurting his feelings and he will begin to wonder what else do you hate about him or his choices, which can lead to big trouble down the road.
I got from the book that it's alright to agree to disagree but to never let that stand in the way of your happiness with each other. It took me awhile to find my husband and I am not about to let silly little disagreements be the end of something good.
I had to wait until my 40's before I found the right man for me and yes, I made a few mistakes along the way and did get married in my early 30's to someone I think I knew from the beginning was wrong for me but I was stubborn and was going to show everyone how wrong they were, but all I did was show how little I knew of the man I married then.  But, in some ways, that marriage prepared me for this right one and I learned from the mistakes I made with the old one and did not repeat them in this one.
And, I must have learned something pretty valuable because we just celebrated 16 years of being married this past February, so I am patting myself on the back for seriously not messing this one up!
This book is about a couple and their travels together to find each other and themselves so that they can help their marriage stay strong. It's a good tool to have and I suggest if you need some help, this is one book you don't want to miss out on reading.
Happy Reading!
About the Author:
Darlene Schacht is the original founder of Christian Women Online Magazine and The Internet Café Devotions and writes the popular blog Time-Warp Wife. She is coauthor of Candace Cameron Bure’s New York Time’s best-selling book, Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness.
Darlene has been married to Michael Schacht for more than 25 years. They have four children.
I thought that one of you might want to read this very inspiring story so I will be giving away my print copy of Messy Beautiful Love. Open in the Continental U.S. only. Good Luck Everyone!

Disclaimer: Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. I received this book from Blogging for Books but that does not alter my opinions and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from yours.