OFFBEAT

 

OFFBEAT

Love and Music In Texas Book 5

 

by

USA Today Bestselling Author Nikki Lynn Barrett

 

Name of cover designer: Robert Barrett

Official genre of book: Contemporary romantic

 

Life is full of choices… 

 

Right before she turned sixteen, Taryn McAllister made several rebellious choices, one which led her to become the drummer for a major teen sensation country star. After a deadly accident, she made another choice – to get back on the wagon and play drums again, no matter that it took adapting because she’s confined to a wheelchair.

Now another set of choices is thrust upon her. After reconnecting with her estranged best friend, Taryn is offered a chance to play drums for a local Texas band ready for the Nashville move. Her once strong confidence is shaken, and she’s torn between her love of music and the reality that it might not work out.

Chris Roland made a string of bad choices, and it’s left him feeling numb. Now he’s playing the drums temporarily for his sister’s band, but he knows this isn’t the life for him. Problem is, he doesn’t know what direction to go. He knows what he doesn’t want, but can’t decide on what he does want.

And then he meets Taryn, the feisty drummer who could be his replacement. He’s relieved for a chance to break away….that is until he gets to know her. And while he’s getting to know her, she’s helping to open up a part of his soul that was long dead and buried.

It’s high time to make the right choices. It’s just a matter of deciding what choice is right.

 

“Okay, I’ve got the book.” Chris wrangled himself away from the woman’s arm. “Alice, have you met Taryn? She’s playing drums for Baby Stetson. We managed to steal her away from Kyra Sanders.” His eyes met hers, and Taryn knew right off the bat this made him uncomfortable.

 

 

Ah. This must be one of his casual sex partners. Fan-friggin-tastic. Taryn gave Alice a long glance. She could see why Chris was attracted to her. Alice had long, dark hair, big breasts, and plenty to offer. So what the hell did he continue to see her for if he could get things from women like Alice?

“Really? You play drums?” Alice didn’t hide her shock.

“She’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.” Moving around Alice as she continued to gawk, Chris settled in the chair again, then slid the book over to Taryn. “Pick your poison.”

“Don’t let Kyra hear you say that,” she giggled as she searched the book for Kyra’s song listings. Then she realized Alice still lingered. “It’s nice to meet you, Alice.” She stifled a laugh at the woman’s look. She must not get rejected often. The feeling lasted for less than a minute before Taryn’s insecurities crept in.

Not that she’d ever had a lot of success rates with men, but now she had a lot more stacked against her.

“Yeah, nice to meet you, too.” Alice faked it. She made it obvious. “You played drums for Kyra Sanders? Like seriously?”

“For three years.”

“Nice.” Alice brushed it off, then faced Chris. “Call me sometime. Soon. We need another good time.” She practically purred before sauntering off, swaying her ass as she moved.

“Taryn-” Chris started.

“Let me guess. She’s one of your casuals,” she said at the same time, flipping the pages of the book back and forth in her hands.

“Was,” he corrected.

“Was?”

“Yes. Was. I don’t want to be that person any longer.” He reached across and covered one of her hands. Taryn froze. The way she reacted to his touch scared her.

“What kind of person do you want to be?” Her voice cracked. Damn, she needed water.

“The person who gets and keeps your attention,” Chris said softly.

“But-” She darted a glance towards the way Alice went.

“Don’t, Taryn. Don’t look back at her and compare. I know you are. I didn’t even remember her name until Melody said something about it being the girl who works at the inn. I know, it sounds bad as I say it.”

Yeah, yeah she was. Damn him for figuring it out.

 

 

I’m an avid lover of books. I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, completing my first “book” by fifth grade in one of those one subject spiral notebooks. I have a passion for music, photography, jewelry and all things creative. I live in Arizona with my husband and son, but dream of being somewhere much colder and stormier. For now, I’ll have to live that life through my characters and stick it out with the summer heat.

Northern Lights, Southern Exposure: A Yankee’s Thoughts on Living in the South

 

I’ve been on a Sally Mann kick lately. In the span of a few days, I binge-watched a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment, then a documentary about her life and photography. And if that wasn̵…

Source: Northern Lights, Southern Exposure: A Yankee’s Thoughts on Living in the South

Unwrapping Noel by Jennifer Theriot

UNWRAPPING NOEL

 by

Jennifer Theriot

 

GENRE: Women’s Contemporary Romance

COVER DESIGINER:  The Graphics Shed

EDITOR: Diane Rinella

Noel Calabrese hates Christmas as much as she hates her life. While in the Napa Valley on a business trip, she meets Leon Hallas. Could this sexy, silver fox be her ticket to happiness? Will she learn to trust again?

Unwrap this steamy little romance about second chances and self-worth, complete with a palindrome…

 

Click here to hear an excerpt of Unwrapping Noel by Jennifer Theriot.

 

Audible review 5✯ by Anna Salamatin (March 22, 2016)

 

“Smexy Christmas” 

Would you listen to Unwrapping Noel again? Why?

Sure, it’s a true to life story line. Noel could easily be one of my friends or colleges.

What did you like best about this story?

It’s about mature, adult people with life experiences under their belts. They are dealing with stuff that life really throws at you.

Which character – as performed by Sara Gordon – was your favorite?

She really brought Noel to life for me. I felt her emotions.

I also liked how she portrays Anna, and brings her out of the shadowy side lines so to speak.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I did listen to it in one day.

Any additional comments?

This is a captivating, emotional, and romantically erotic romance about not just finding love, (after a devastating betrayal) but finding THE LOVE, and having the courage to trust again. … Noel’s story just spoke to me.

 

 

Sara Gordon

How long have you been narrating audio books?

A: Since June 2015

What made you decide to do this?

A: I took a voiceover class as I was very interested in animation and commercial voiceover. Audiobooks were something that we touched upon in class and was intrigued by the process.

Is it hard to ‘get into character’?

A: It depends. Some days, external events happen that can kind of dampen the day, but when I get in the booth, it’s pretty easy. Knowing the characters and knowing yourself is what makes it smooth.

Are there any characters you’ve narrated that you identify with?

A: There is something I can relate to in every character I’ve done, but not one in particular that I identify with wholly.

What are your favorite genres to narrate?

A: Children’s books. They are so much fun and you can let your imagination go and try new voices. It gives you a license to be larger than life. Those characters can be anything and you have to decide, if say the character was a tree, you know, what would a tree sound like?

Are sex scenes difficult for you?

A: A little. While I do work from home, it can still feel a little strange and awkward. You have to plan things out about breaths and if it makes sense to keep it during the editing process or is it becoming too breathy and what not. Sometimes I can hear people in the apartment next to me and I wonder, ‘Can they hear me?’ Ha ha, I’m not as open in my own sexuality sometimes and I think that’s the hardest part about doing sex scenes. But, like anything else, when you remember that you have a job to do, you make it work.

Is there any genre you don’t narrate?

A: At this point in time, not really. I’m open to almost anything.

How was it working with Jennifer Theriot? 

A: Absolutely wonderful. She was very quick to answer any question as well as generous and patient during the process of recording, editing, and reviewing each audio chapter. It was a great experience.

Do you have a career aside from narrating?

A: I am a singer and actor in New York. To help pay the bills, I’ve had many “day jobs”, mostly as a nanny or in retail.

Any favorite authors you’ve worked with?

A: The authors that I’ve worked with have been great! This is actually only my second audiobook but I’m excited to keep going and maybe one day record something for a book or author that I admire.

How important are strong female characters to you?

A: Very important. I like female characters that are well rounded, strong but still vulnerable, and hopefully not one dimensional. When you have well rounded characters, that’s what creates a relatability- a way to connect better to them and the overall story. We need more of that for female characters because women are not one dimensional. Representation in every form is important.

Do you narrate both male and female voices?

A: Yes. Sometimes I try to record the male voices in the morning when I’ve almost just woken up and my voice isn’t warmed up. It’s lower then and the sound just seems more realistic.

What does Sara Gordon do for fun? What are your hobbies and interests?

A: I love to paint, sing, and visit family in Brooklyn. I used to do races and half marathons and such and now I’m starting to get back into it.

Does your ‘significant other’ (if applicable) support your narrating career?

A: While it’s not applicable for a significant other, my family and friends are very supportive of my work and what I want to do with my life.

 

Jennifer Theriot hails from the Great State of Texas. She is a career woman, working as CFO of a Texas based real estate investment firm by day and does her writing at nights and on weekends. In her limited spare time, Jennifer enjoys being outdoors; preferably somewhere on a beach curled up with a good book. Spending time with family and friends, listening to music, watching a baseball game and enjoying a good bottle of wine are usually on her to-do lists. She’s mom to three grown children and ‘MiMi’ to three (soon to be four) grandkids – all of whom she adores!

Her best-selling Out of the Box Series, OUT OF THE BOX AWAKENING, OUT OF THE BOX REGIFTED, OUT OF THE BOX EVERLASTING and TOCCATA OBBLIGATO~SERENADING KYRA are currently available on Amazon.com.

WebsiteTwitterGoodreadsAmazonFacebook ✯ Authorgraph ✯ Blog ✯ Google+ ✯ YouTube

 

DEFINED by OTHERS

Chapter One

Defined by Others

 

 

 

I sat in Pete’s office after the video ended, staring at the
screen with her frozen image. The illness that eventually took her life left
her looking gaunt and ravaged. When her coffin was lowered into the grave the
day before I was left feeling as if with her body, her casket, her illness they
were also burying that which makes life an adventure and with that much of my
youth and perhaps some part of my future.

 

As I stared at her face my mouth felt dry, my hands had a
slight tremor mimicking my lower lip, and not even in my thoughts could I quite
find a word to define this moment, to describe my feelings. I burst out crying
in loud, wracking sobs and I heard the door open. Through my heavy tears the
contact lenses swam and moved in my eyes, making everything seem a blur. I felt
the hand on my shoulder before he handed me the tissues. 

 

“Can I get you something Anne? Anything? Water? Coffee?” he
asked.

 

I blew my nose and composed myself as best I could.

 

“Water, ice cold water would be nice.” 

 

“It’s a little early, but I can offer you something stronger
if you’d prefer,” he said as he walked toward a bar in the back of his office.

 

“No, thanks. Water with ice will be fine.”

 

The musical clink of the ice cubes against the glass was the
familiar tone made only by fine crystal. I recognized the Baccarat pattern; it
was the same as the crystal in my parents’ home. He hesitated and cleared his
throat before he spoke again.

 

“I know speaking ill of the dead is in very poor taste, but
Amanda was not a nice person. I am bound, as her attorney, to follow her
instructions to the letter. You can watch what is obviously a pretty nasty
recording as many times as you wish, but when you are done I need to destroy
it, in front of you. Then I am to hand you a box, and again you are to open it
in absolute privacy, so preferably not in this office. Can I suggest I destroy
it right here and now? I have pliers and I can smash the flash drive into
nothing.”

 

“It really is not at all what you imagine. She was even nice
and apologized in it. She could be an absolute bitch, but my tears and sadness
are not for her.”

 

“Oh, I see. How’s your dad doing?”

 

“Better.”

 

“We were all surprised to see you at the funeral. I actually
expected to fly down to Florida and hand all this to you there. She left a nice
expense account for that. How long have you been in town?”

 

“Just a few days. Mom assumed they’d be flying up for
Thanksgiving. They are so afraid Obama will get re-elected after the Romney
tape that they wanted to vote in person.”

 

“He might win you know. Although you would not know it in
this town by the Romney signs everywhere.”

 

“Signs can’t vote.”

 

“Spoken like a true Democrat.”

 

“Yeah, yet another choice where I absolutely failed my
parents.”

 

“Don’t knock yourself, I do not think any of us live up to
parental expectations.”

 

I drank the ice cold water and nodded my head at the screen.
No words were needed as he closed the file and Amanda’s face disappeared from
the screen.

 

He pulled out the flash drive and reached into a drawer. He
crunched and cracked the flash drive so viciously that I knew he too had fallen
prey to one or more of Amanda’s nasty games.

 

“I think it is pretty much done. If you are not sure, why
don’t you shoot it?”

 

“That is not a bad idea.”

 

We started to laugh in unison. I did not recognize it at the
time, later though it became clear that we bonded, laughing over the nasty
remains of a common enemy. I gathered my things, including the package Amanda
had bequeathed me, and Pete walked me to the car. 

 

“It would only be a conflict of interest to offer help in
anything regarding Amanda, so if you need any help with your parents’ home,
don’t hesitate to call me. Do you still have the card I gave you yesterday at
the funeral?”

 

“It is such a small town, Pete, even if I lose the card, now
that everyone knows I’m here it will be hard to avoid me.”

 

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home since everyone
in town knew I was there, there was no sense in driving into the city to get
what I needed. I had already put a nice dent in Mom’s pantry and Dad’s bar. I
had been there well over a week, trying to understand what I had missed, how I
had not known about Frank. Then Amanda died and curiosity got the better of me.
What did Alison say?  Her voice echoed in
my mind;

 

‘Enemies always attend each other’s funerals. I guess it is
a way of knowing they won …’

 

Well, we weren’t always enemies, and sometimes it is the
good and healthy memories that make someone attend a funeral. Amanda was the
first of us to die. At forty-seven it seemed too young to bury a contemporary.
Once she was diagnosed, it was only a matter of time. In fact, it was pretty
amazing she lasted as long as she did, money it seems, can buy you time if
nothing else. And in 2012, time can mean science and technology might just come
up with some medication or medical treatment that changes everything. 

 

Unfortunately, it had not worked for Amanda, but so far it
had worked for my dad. This last stroke seemed to be the first time he had an
untimely health issue, with no easy fix in sight.

 

Amanda fought hard for a good two years and then lost; the
image of her greenish skin color and emaciated body made that perfectly clear.
Her beautiful heart-shaped face was gaunt, and her eyes were sunken in the
video. However, the voice was the strangest and most unrecognizable trait. Was
it karma to go so slowly and with so much suffering? Our shopping carts
collided, and I was startled by that as much as I was startled by the tone of
her voice. 

 

“Hi Anne.”

 

“Connie? I did not see you at Amanda’s funeral yesterday. I
just thought you were not in town.”

 

“I don’t like funerals, so I sent flowers, I saw the
comments and pictures everyone posted on Facebook.

 

Frankly I was surprised you were there.”

 

“Facebook? People posted pictures from the funeral? I have
some friends in Florida who use it but I personally avoid social media; I did
consider it as a tool to spy on my kids.”

 

“Most people in town use it in a very public way.”

 

She looked at me in the oddest way so I had to ask.

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

She sighed, loudly the way a parent or teacher does when
exasperated that a kid cannot give the right answer or tell the truth.

 

“You really don’t know do you?”

 

Small town gossip and now combined with the use of
cyberspace, I could only assume was not a great combination. I began to feel
uneasy and wondered if it had anything to do with Frank. I decided to disregard
the thought. I simply could not imagine that whatever Connie was referring to
was of any serious consequence to me.

 

“You know Connie, my dad is really ill, I am just here
getting the house in order for my folks and trying to figure out the best way
to help get them settled in

 

Florida full-time.” 

 

“I am really sorry about your dad Anne. We really need to
talk; it’s about Frank and… well it’s about Frank. I can go over to your
parents’ house tonight, I’ll bring a nice dinner.” 

 

This time I could easily and clearly find the word, THE WORD
that defined the moment; dumbfounded. In a small town gossip travelled like
wildfire; at least in this small town it did, but mom had assured me no-one
knew about Frank. I was not sure what to say, but Connie’s abrupt manner did
not give me much of a chance.

 

“I…” 

 

“Believe me, this is just as uncomfortable for me as it is
for you, but we really need to talk. Simply put, it is about Frank and Mike.”

 

I learned at a very young age about the moments that define
us in life and how sometimes they feel as concrete as a ton of bricks falling
loudly and painfully on top of us. This was one of those moments; not at all
like the subtle hidden moment when Pete and I laughed together. So my mother
was wrong and if my Frank’s problem was involved with Connie’s Mike. Well,
there it was and it made sense now the smartphones were clicking away at the
funeral. It was my turn to sigh, this one was a sigh of defeat.

 

“At what time tonight?”

 

“Is seven okay? Like I said I’ll bring dinner.”

 

“You really think we’ll be hungry under the circumstances? I
asked perhaps in a tone too sarcastic and maybe even with a touch of cruelty.

 

“Fine, I’ll bring wine she answered.”

 

“I nodded robotically, I started to pile food into the
shopping cart, and as the salesclerk rang it up I noticed that I had chosen all
of my husband’s, Frank’s favorite foods.
  

HONOR BOUND

HONOR BOUND: A Highland Adventure

 by

Laura Strickland

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Genre: Scottish Historical Romance

Following the disastrous defeat of the clans at Culloden, Scottish Chief’s son Diarmad Ramsay makes his dying father a promise. Diarmad will play the part of Bonny Prince Charlie in an effort to help the true Prince escape the Highlands. With only the fiery Mara MacIvor for guide and with danger on his heels, he must risk all for a Cause in which he no longer believes.

Mara MacIvor considers Ramsay a poor substitute for her beloved Prince. Ramsay may be one of the bonniest men she’s ever met and a braw sight with a sword in his hand, but his disillusionment makes a wide gulf between them. Pursued through the Highlands by Sassenachs and ruthless Highland renegades bent on claiming the price on Prince Charlie’s head, their physical attraction soon becomes a conflagration. But will they ever be bound by more than Diarmad’s vow of honor?

 

His body stiffened as she eased in beside him, but that did not dissuade her. The rain no longer touched her here and, aye, it did feel warmer.

Ramsay drew a breath even as the heat of his body wrapped around her. She could now catch the scent particular to him—spicy, fresh and rampantly male, with the tang of highland air caught in his hair and clothing. Would he push her away?

He sounded amused when he spoke, his voice vibrating deep in her ear. “I suppose this must satisfy some wish you have of lying with your Prince.”

It satisfied a wish, right enough, but had nothing to do with Charles Edward. Mara retorted, “My only intention is to lie out of the wet and grow warm. Will you complain about us sharing against the chill?”

“And about having my arms full of bonny lass? Nay.”

He thought her bonny. Or did he just tease as he had before? Mara ached to know, and desire rose to her head like a draught of her Da’s whiskey.

She slewed round in her allotted space until she faced him, her mouth just below his. “I am no’ thinking of the Prince,” she confessed, “but still how I might thank you properly for your braw gallantry.”

“Oh, aye?” Did he sound as breathless as she? “And what to your mind would make a proper thank-you?”

Without further words, she pressed her mouth to his.

 

 

 

Born in Buffalo and raised on the Niagara Frontier, Laura Strickland has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. To her the spunky, tenacious, undefeatable ethnic mix that is Buffalo spells the perfect setting for a little Steampunk, so she created her own Victorian world there. She knows the people of Buffalo are stronger, tougher and smarter than those who haven’t survived the muggy summers and blizzard blasts found on the shores of the mighty Niagara. Tough enough to survive a squad of automatons? Well, just maybe.

Stacy Juba’s YOUNG LADIES OF MYSTERY SERIES; Books for when Nancy drew fans grow up

 YOUNG LADIES OF MYSTERY series
Books for when Nancy Drew fans grow up
 by
Stacy Juba
 

 

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today


 

Official genre of book: Cozy Mystery/Romantic Suspense

 

Should we dig for the truth when Pandora’s Box is a coffin of buried secrets? When obit writer and aspiring reporter Kris Langley investigates the 25-year-old unsolved murder of Diana Ferguson, a young artist obsessed with Greek mythology, not only does she fall in love with Diana’s nephew, but she must also fight to stay off the obituary page herself.

“Kris? Kris?”
Her eyes snapped open, the scream ripping from her throat. She glanced around the dark room, shapes foreign, distorted by shadows. “No. I’m sorry Nicole …”
“Kris? Kris?” Someone shook her shoulder. She gasped.
“Kris.” Eric hugged her. Warm. He felt so warm. He stroked her hair, whispering in her ear. “It’s okay. Everything’s gonna be okay.”
Reality rushed back to her. She hadn’t lasted through the movie. She had turned off the television and slipped into unconsciousness. Eric’s face fuzzed in and out of focus.
He switched on the lamp. “Want a glass of water?”
“No.”
“What were you dreaming?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You screamed out ‘Nicole.’ You woke me up.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Nicole was your cousin, right? Tell me about her.” Eric rubbed her hair again, the gentle strokes calming her.
“We were the same age,” Kris said. “Our families were close. We lived in the same neighborhood.”
“That must’ve been fun.”
“It was. Lots of fun.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. Eric traced one with his fingertip.
“My mother told me your cousin was the girl who was killed by a neighbor,” he said in a hushed voice. “I remember hearing about it when I was a kid. She went to a different school, but it still shook up all my friends. It was awful.”
He wasn’t wearing a shirt, just sweatpants. She must’ve scared the hell out of him.
“I’d rather not discuss it,” Kris said.
“I want to help.”
Kris felt the words surging to her throat, but she couldn’t tell him. Not now. Not ever. “You are helping, just by being here. I don’t want to be alone.”
She pressed her lips to Eric’s, first softly then more urgent. He responded without hesitation, crushing his mouth against hers. Kris dug her nails into his shoulders and the smooth contoured muscles of his chest. He gently laid her back and nibbled her ear, working a sensuous trail down her neck.
He glided down the zipper of her hooded sweatshirt and skimmed his thumb across her belly. She closed her eyes, arching as his hand slipped upward with agonizing slowness. Her stomach rose and fell as his fingers splayed over her heart. Kris’s breathing quickened into a pant, every nerve ending igniting.
His eyes moved up to her, communicating desire. “I care about you, Kris. I was happy when you showed up tonight. I was afraid you didn’t feel the same way about me.”
“I do.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Stop talking.”

Kris reached behind his head and pulled him down. Her thoughts scattered as she banished Nicole’s disapproving ghost to the dim recesses of her mind.

 

 

Sink or Swim


Official genre of book: Cozy Mystery/Romantic Suspense

Personal trainer Cassidy Novak garners popularity and fame while starring in a hit reality show. She catches the attention of an obsessive stalker that turns her well-ordered life topsy-turvy. As Cassidy’s competitors disappear in a string of murders, she teams up with Zach Gallagher, the photographer tasked to record her personal moments for a local newspaper. Is Zach trustworthy? He shadows her as easily as the stalker. Cassidy hates the bizarre rules in this guessing game, but when her stalker forces a showdown, she plays to win.
Cassidy sat poised in her chair as former contestants filed onto the soundstage at WBC in New York. Together, the studio audience and television viewers had watched the recorded footage of her walking the plank. Gabriel would now interview the competitors from the inaugural season one final time.
More importantly, he would announce her prize. If it erased most of her debts, then it would at least make this whole embarrassing experience worthwhile. Cassidy’s heart kicked in her chest and sweat moistened her brow.
As one of her old teammates entered, her heart rate skyrocketed for a different reason. Josh Sanchioni slid into a bucket seat, carrying himself stiffer than normal in his sharp gray suit. Studio lights caught his sunbleached strawberry blonde waves, brightening the reddish gold tints.
Cassidy slipped her gaze to his leather shoes. If Josh hadn’t been engaged, they could have been an item. Instead, they’d been good friends until that one evening when the cameras were off and they almost kissed. They’d both realized their mistake and backed away. Things were strained until Josh walked the plank a week later.
Tonight, not only did Cassidy have to face Josh, she would probably meet his fiancée.
Her cheeks heating, Cassidy focused on the competitor beside Josh as a distraction. Adam Horton sat erect, hands folded in the lap of his olive green khakis. He wasn’t military, but he dressed like an Army wannabe. His reptilian eyes drilled into Cassidy, his angular face revealing the shape of bones underneath. A blond goatee darkened his pointy chin.

Cassidy shuddered involuntarily. Adam never said much, but he made her uncomfortable just the same.

 

 


Dark Before Dawn

 

Official genre of book: Paranormal YA Suspense

If you could control minds…would you? It’s hard enough for Dawn hiding that she’s a teen psychic from her new classmates and new step-family, but it gets even tougher when she learns that ESP spells D-A-N-G-E-R. When Dawn gets involved with a fortuneteller mentor and two girls who share her mysterious talents, she finally belongs after years of being a misfit. When she learns her new friends may be tied to freak “accidents” in town, Dawn has an important choice to make – continue developing the talent that makes her special or challenge the only people who have ever accepted her.
Dawn gave an involuntary shudder as they drove past the beach. The gray tide pitched forward, swallowing the slick mirror of sand. She gazed down at her knuckles, fisted in her lap. Her mother and Jeff worshipped the ocean, but to her it was a mysterious monster foaming at the mouth.
She heard Ken’s voice rambling about some girl, Renee, and how he planned to approach her at her locker. Renee had a boyfriend, but Ken had seen them fighting a couple times over the summer. Maybe if he started saying hi to her, he’d have a chance. After all, she’d smiled his way at the movies last weekend. At least, Ken was pretty sure the smile was meant for him. All his friends were getting hooked up and he wanted to find someone special.
Dawn turned away from the beach, surprised and a little flattered that Ken was confiding in her. “What’s she’s like?”
“Who?”
“Renee.”
“You listened to me talk to Billy last night, didn’t you?” he demanded. “I don’t believe this. I don’t get any privacy.”
Hot numbness swept over Dawn’s face. Oh, no. Ken hadn’t been speaking aloud just now. She’d picked up on his thoughts. Every once in awhile, that happened and Dawn couldn’t control it. Sometimes she caught on and managed to avoid making a fool out of herself. Other times, she blurted out something dumb. You idiot, you’ve got to think before talking, Dawn chastised herself.
“What were you doing, standing outside the door?” Ken asked.
“I walked by your door when you were on the phone. Sorry, I didn’t mean to overhear.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose.” Dawn swallowed as he tightened his grip around the steering wheel. What an awful day, and it was only 7:15 a.m.
“Why’d you bring up Renee now?”
“I don’t know. I … I thought maybe I could help.”
“I doubt it. Just forget it, okay?”
That was exactly what Dawn wanted to do.
“Sure.” She let out her breath as Ken fixed his attention on the road.
This curse had haunted her since she was seven. Dawn never confided in anyone that she was psychic, but whenever she slipped, other kids shrank away from her. Like last year, with Samantha, a transfer student Dawn tutored in math. She and Samantha hit it off until Dawn asked why Sam’s father was in prison. Samantha’s eyes narrowed and she asked how Dawn knew that. No one knew that. Soon, Samantha found a new best friend.
At least Ken had accepted her apology and his own explanation, even though it made her look nosy.
Something made her turn her head. A weather-beaten cream cottage rose on a bluff, stunted and defiant against the broad swath of sky. Shades blocked the windows and silver wind chimes swayed from an overhang on the white-painted porch.
Iciness dripped over her body. A word detonated in her mind.

Evil.

Stacy Juba got engaged at Epcot Theme Park and spent part of her honeymoon at Disneyland Paris, where she ate a burger, went on fast rides, and threw up on the train ride to the hotel. In addition to working on her new Storybook Valley chick lit/sweet romance series, Stacy has written books about ice hockey, teen psychics, U.S. flag etiquette for kids, and determined women sleuths. She has had a novel ranked as #5 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List. When she’s not visiting theme parks with her family, (avoiding rides that spin and exotic hamburgers), or writing about them, Stacy helps writers to strengthen their manuscripts through her Crossroads Editing Service. She is currently writing the next books in the Storybook Valley Series, Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty and The Cinderella Curse.

WebsiteTwitterGoodreads ✯ Amazon ✯ Facebook