Monday, January 26, 2015

RELEASE DAY: Ashley Stambaugh "Torn"


Blurb:
Three months have passed and Melina thought she was safe. Safe from the effects of the angel powers and safe from the Noxin demons. But she thought too soon.
Just as she’s starting to enjoy her new powers and her new relationship with Lee, the slight pain she still experiences after using the powers starts to grow worse. As the pain becomes more and more unbearable, she finds herself lashing out at innocent people with unex-plained anger and hatred. Then to make matters worse, she sees a Noxin demon again.
No one, not even the elders, seems to know what’s happening to Melina, or how a Noxin demon found her. And when she’s introduced to Dean, another unique human like herself, she learns that his pain is completely gone, which only makes her situation even more con-fusing.
Grasping for any type of answer, Melina throws out one possible explanation after another. But as her angry feelings intensify, and her angel powers grow weaker, she begins to think there might be something malevolent inside her that’s trying to take over. It’s not long be-fore her internal struggle spirals out of control, and her body is turned into a battlefield that’s torn between good and evil.
Melina fears that if no solution is found, then she might lose all the people she loves, especially Lee. But what scares her even more is that she might lose herself to evil.
 
 
Author:
Ashley Stambaugh grew up in a small town in Illinois where she and her two siblings creat-ed some of the best memories playing on their family’s farm. She stayed in the southern re-gion of the state to attend college where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and also met her husband.
Now, she and her husband live in central Illinois and spend their time creating new memo-ries with their two rambunctious boys and their comical black Pug. She also enjoys reading, taking long walks, and finding great bargains. When her sons are a little bit older, she has a great desire to travel with her family. Oh, and she also has a slight obsession with chocolate.
When she’s not busy chasing after her two young children or losing herself in a good book, you can find her curled up on her couch with her laptop, writing.
 
 
 
Now available on
Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords
 
 
Excerpt:
Chapter One
 
Melina took a sip of her coffee and gazed out at the lightly falling snow. Mesmerized by its delicate beauty, she didn't even notice when someone took a seat in the chair across the table from her.
"How’d I know you'd be sitting at a window seat?" the voice mused.
Her eyes widened in excitement as she turned and smiled at the newcomer. There sat Lee, bundled up in his black wool coat, a gray and black plaid scarf wrapped loosely around his neck, his tawny hair messed about from the wind. She leaned over and gave him a soft kiss, a slight blush reddening her cheeks. They had been together for almost three months now, but she still got flushed and giddy around him.
She turned back to look out the window again. "It's breathtaking, isn't it?"
Lee chuckled. "Yeah, snow's pretty to watch. But if you know you have to drive in it later, it loses some of its luster."
"That's why I walked here," Melina said as she pointed down at her tall, black snow boots.
He smiled at her. "I'm happy to see your Christmas gift is being put to good use."
"These put my old pair to shame. They're much warmer. I can go for a lot more walks now." Melina grinned then returned her gaze to the snow. "I'm trying to catch sight of my first snowflake. It's snowed six times this month already, and I still haven't seen one."
"I'm sure you'll have plenty of opportunities, seeing how it's only the third week of January and how much you love to watch snow." He let out another chuckle just as Nina, the owner of the café, showed up with his coffee.
She was a plump, older woman with short, spiky white hair and always had a smile on her face. "Good morning, Lee." She beamed at him as she set the steaming coffee mug down on the table. "I brought you your usual."
 "Thanks, Nina," he said and then took a sip of his drink.
"You're welcome, sweetheart. You two let me know if you need anything else." She gave them both a quick wave then made her way back to the front.
Lee looked back over at Melina. "I'm sorry I'm a bit late. I know you said you wanted to get out of here before the morning crowd arrived."
"It's all right," she said, shaking her head. "We still have about twenty minutes or so before the usual rush shows up."
He held her gaze, his light brown eyes full of concern.
Melina averted her eyes down to her coffee mug. She didn't want him to pick up on her anxiety, but she must've been doing a lousy job of hiding it, because she could still feel him staring at her.
"I'm okay," she said as she lifted her eyes back up to meet his. "I'm just—" Melina's voice cut off as she suddenly let out a short cry. Her hand shot up to her head as her face contorted in pain.
"What is it? What's wrong?" He jumped up from his chair and knelt down beside her.
She rubbed at her aching forehead as she struggled to speak. "Too many… people. Too many… thoughts. My head… it feels like it's… going to explode."
Lee furrowed his brows as he stood up from his knees and glanced around the room. "There aren't even ten other people in here."
A low groan escaped her. "It feels like a hundred." She continued to massage her temple when suddenly the pain intensified. "Ahh!” she screamed as she raised her other hand up to her temple. “My head feels like it's on fire now."
He quickly threw some money onto the table then slid his arm around Melina. "Come on. Let's get you out of here." He hoisted her up from her chair, and let his arm slip up underneath hers.
"It burns! It burns!" she cried as she squinted her eyes shut. "What is going on?"
"We're almost out of here. Hang on." There was a side exit a few steps away from them, and Lee led her out through the door as discreetly as he could. Melina hated not saying good-bye to Nina, but if she saw her in this state, she would become overly concerned and cause unnecessary stress.
They stepped outside and the windswept snow caused her to turn her face into Lee's shoulder. When they were several feet away from the café, she finally lifted her head and said, "I need to stop for a minute." She released her arm from around his neck but continued to lean on him.
"Okay," he said, keeping his arm wrapped snugly around her. "I'm parked just up at the end of the block. Do you think you can make it there?"
She nodded and slid her arm up around his neck again. When they had finally reached his SUV, he helped to ease her down into the passenger seat. He shut the door for her then ran around and climbed into the driver's seat.
"What happened in there?" he asked as he started the engine and turned on the heat.


 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

AP Booktrailer: J.L. Salter "Overnighters Secret"


 
 
 
When Beth left suddenly, it broke two hearts ... but she’d had no choice. Shane, a rugged, ex-Airborne biker, handled it badly ... but so had she. Three years later and 2000 miles away, she desperately needs her ex-lover’s protection from a violent menace with bad history who’ll do anything to reclaim a mysterious suitcase Beth possesses.

Long before Shane acquired that overnighter, a silent movie actress kept secrets there ... and now several lives are in jeopardy. An ambitious female state senate candidate hires a ruthless investigator to eliminate potential campaign problems like her dark family secret — a bizarre 1889 murder.

Is Beth’s terrifying ordeal simply because she unwittingly possesses the overnighter’s secrets? Or is it due to the meth-fueled dumpsterdiver’s unfinished business?

Shane will likely return to California after he resolves this Tennessee situation ... so Beth struggles to resist her reawakened feelings. But before she can sort out their renewed relationship, Beth encounters grave danger and Shane must enter an obvious trap to help her to safety.
 
 
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

AP Author Spotlight: Heather Manning




Heather Manning
 
Website: http://heathermauthor.weebly.com/
Blog: heathermauthor.blogspot.com
Twitter ID: @HeatherM_Author
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2807352.Heather_Manning
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/1/105682533013766310133/posts
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Manning-Author/140994172751360
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/HeatherMAuthor/
 
Describe yourself in three words:
Creative, Funny, Motivated.
 
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Swept to Sea
Lady Eden Trenton never wanted to leave her privileged existence in London—until her father invites a dangerous suitor into her life. Left with few options, Eden devises the best reprieve she can: escape. Chasing freedom, she stows away aboard a pirate ship, praying she will gain her independence in the colonies before she is discovered by the nefarious crew.
Captain Caspian Archer has spent the last five years hardening his heart and searching to exact revenge for the event that tore his life to shreds. When he catches word that his enemy is residing in Jamaica, Caspian steers his ship toward the colonies in all haste. His plans soon change, however, when he discovers the young beauty hiding in his ship’s hold.
Cut from the only lives they have known, Caspian and Eden are pulled together as each pursues a fresh hope upon the sea.
 
What is your earliest memory?
Hmmm...I actually have a lot of very early memories. They are all kind of fuzzy and blended together. One of my earlier memories is seeing the movie Tarzan in the movie theatre. I then called movie theatres "Tarzan Stores."
 
What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
There have been many wonderful moments, but the most recent one has been seeing Swept to Sea published! This was my biggest dream and I am so lucky to have seen it happen at the age of 16.
 
What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
Physics and College Algebra homework. LOL I may be taking a different spin on this question, but those two are ridiculously difficult!
 
What have you learned in life so far?
I have learned that no matter what  gets in my way, I should persevere to achieve my dreams and not let anything get in my way. I should be comfortable with myself and care less about other people's opinions.
 
Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
Hmmmm this is a hard one! Im going to go for some more traditional figures.
1. Nikkola Tesla.
2. Audrey Hepburn.
3. Harry S. Truman.
4. William Shakespeare
5. Charlie Chaplin.
 
 
Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Heather Manning?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RELEASE DAY: Stephy Smith "Why Me, Cowboy?"


 

 
Blurb:

From the first time Tansy Adam’s set eyes on Gulch her heart pounded at the sight of him. His charisma and magnetic personality drew her into his web. Then he changed into a deceitful, demonic cowboy who mystified her. Everyone kept telling her he was not who she thought he was. Who was he? The passionate gentleman whose kisses set her core on fire or the cold hearted cowboy boss that infuriated her?

 

Gulch knew he had to do whatever it took to protect the beautiful Tansy even if it meant driving her away from his life forever. He hated the way he had to treat her, but if it saved her life, he was willing to do anything to keep her from the murderous clutches of the rustler out to destroy the Grow ‘em Feed Yard. How could he expect her to forgive him when he couldn’t forgive himself?

 

Author:

Stephy Smith was born and raised in the Northwest Texas Panhandle. She owns and operates her own ranch. Most of her inspiration comes from the weather, wildlife, and imagination from country living. When she not spending time with her three sons, she loves to read, ride horses, watch rodeo’s and paint. Stephy is a member of Panhandle Professional Writers, American Quarter Horse Association, and Foundation Quarter Horse Association.

Stephy is an award-winning author of Shining Moon Rises. You can find her books at www.barnesandnoble.com www.amazon.com www.audible.com www.smashwords.com and www.kobo.com

 

 

Now available on
Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords

 

Excerpt:
Chapter One

“Mom, you know Mississippi will always be my home. It’s time for me to strike out on my own. Make a life for myself.” Tansy Adams hugged her mother, Eva. She wiped the tears from Eva’s face.

“I just don’t like you going all the way to Texas. That’s a long way off.” Eva’s voice cracked as she tried to talk.

“I know. I can always call and besides, it’s a great opportunity for me.” Tansy’s heart picked up a beat.

“You better get going. Jema is a bit antsy.” Eva pointed to the horse trailer hooked to the back of Tansy’s pickup. The five-year-old mare thumped her hoof on the wooden floor as if to back up Eva’s words.

Tansy slid in the driver side and pulled down the drive of the old plantation house she had lived in all her life.

After two days of travel the subtropical climate transitioned to the arid, dust-blown great plains of the northwest Texas Panhandle. Each state Tansy passed through seemed just as beautiful in its own way. She soaked it all in. Tansy and Jema rolled into the small town.

“Millstone, Texas. Population 12,356. We made it, Jema.” Tansy said out loud, even though she knew the horse couldn’t hear her. Her heart picked up a beat. Light, butterfly-type movements fluttered in her stomach.

Tansy drove straight for the Grow ‘em feed yard to meet with Benny Whipple and the cowboy boss. They met her in the parking lot.

She stretched as her feet touched the ground. An older man rushed toward her.

“Benny Whipple. You must be Tansy Adams.” The old man thrust his hand out to her. She smiled and took his pudgy hand in hers. “Get your horse and we’ll get her settled in while we talk.” Benny stood beside the trailer and waited for Tansy to unload Jema. The cowboy boss leaned casually against a nearby pipe fence with his feet crossed at the ankles.

Benny owned the feed yard. His blue eyes were clear and sparkled with a hint of amusement. Although his hair was gray, the fifty-eight year old man seemed to be in better shape than most forty year olds Tansy knew. And he was better looking than they were to boot. He had a pleasant, calm air about him that made Tansy relax.

Jema backed out of the trailer. Tansy caught the lead rope. She retrieved her tack and tossed the saddle blanket and saddle on the mare's back. Jema didn’t even flinch. Tansy folded the bridle across her elbow and followed Benny through the gate he rushed ahead to open. Jema’s ears perked up and she gazed toward a feed bunk.

“There’s your shed to keep your tack and feed in. We expect you to clean your own shed and stall. As calm as your horse is, I get the feeling you’ve put in a lot of hours horseback. It’s your responsibility to keep your tack in good working order. Here’s a lock and key for the door. We like to think no one will tamper with your equipment, but the cowboys are always up for a good, old-fashioned rodeo. They don’t mean any harm even if they instigate it themselves.”

“I know cowboys are just overgrown kids at heart. As soon as Jema, my mare, rest up from the trip, I plan on getting her accustomed to her new surroundings. If that’s ok.” Tansy unloaded her saddle and blanket from the horse's back and carried them into the shed.

Benny thumbed over his shoulder. “This here’s Gulch. He’s the cattle manager and he’s in charge of all the pen riders. If you have gripes about the cowboys, I want to hear about it. If you got questions about the job, go to him.”

RELEASE DAY: Sara Burr "Underground Rose"



Blurb:

After her surprise discovery of a mystical gift, fourteen-year-old Rose Wilson thinks her life is ruined. It turns out she comes from a long line of gifted women, and despite her protests, Rose’s mom ships her off to her grandmother’s house to spend the summer learning about her family’s well-hidden secrets. To make matters worse, Rose is expected to carry out this tradition alongside her mousy, bookworm cousin, Megan. What a waste of a summer.

With some effort, Rose and Megan manage to find common ground and by the time they get home, they’re working together to adjust to their new life. But everything is turned upside down again when their families are exposed by witch hunters who call themselves The Witches’ Hammer. With killers on the loose, their tiny town isn’t safe anymore. Rose’s entire family is fragmented and forced to flee through a network of hiding places, dubbed The Witches’ Underground Railroad.

As she journeys to the sea, Rose learns more and more about who she really is. The closer she gets to her destination, the more danger she encounters, until she is forced to make the ultimate decision: follow her family’s edict of non-violence and become an orphan, or save her mom’s life.

 

 

Author:

Sara has been entranced by the written word for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a school teacher, she fell in love with books as soon as she could read them. She wrote her very first story, about a girl who ran away and hid in her cousin’s lilac bush, when she was just eleven. Although her stories have grown more complicated and less petulant since then, Sara still loves to entertain kids with her words.

When she isn’t writing, Sara has a big family to keep her busy: a husband who is her other half, and four children who are wonderfully individual. They live next to a beautiful lake in a tiny town with no street lights. Sara spends lots of time taking care of little superheroes. She likes to camp with her family, enjoys traveling, and hopes to see the Northern Lights someday.

 

 

Now available on
Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords

 

Excerpt:

Prologue

Staring into the shadowy woods through the wooden bars of her cage, the girl vaguely wondered if they would burn her at the stake, or if they would sink her into the lake with stones in her pockets. That’s how they had killed her cousin, Catherine.

The girl had been declared a witch and there was nothing she could do about it now. They were going to kill her. She had panicked and wept for days when the realization of this had sunk in, but now she was empty, all emotion gone from her.

The awful priest came back and poked his stick through the bars to make her move back. He got her right between two ribs, and the pain of it made her cry out.

“Shut up, evil girl!” he screamed at her, spittle flying from the corners of his cracked lips. “Your horrible spells and incantations must not be uttered again.”

Putting her head down to avoid eye contact, she peeked at him through her dirty strands of red hair, studying his bulbous nose and thick dark eyebrows. She didn't understand how anyone could think he was honestly a man of God. Nothing about him was good or kind, and the man wasn’t charming or even nice. How had he convinced them all?

When they first captured her, she had cried endlessly and tried to convince them she had not made a pact with the devil. She didn’t understand how this had all happened. It was just a talent of hers, it wasn’t evil – it was more useful than anything she could do. Hurting the boy had been an accident. The fire had just gotten out of control.

She didn’t feel afraid anymore – she didn’t feel anything. It was like she was watching all of this happen to someone else. The sooner they killed her, the sooner she would be out of this miserable, caged existence. Truthfully, she could have burned the cage long ago and escaped, but it would be pointless. They would only hunt her down like an animal. And there was nowhere to run in these woods. There were plenty of stories about people disappearing into them, never to return.

The irony of the whole situation made her laugh, a hollow, emotionless sound, even to her own ears, and the priest poked her with his stick again. Feeling a burst of anger, she looked him in the eyes – a dangerous thing that may earn her another beating – and his stick burst into flame, burning his hand. He cried out and dropped it.

She laughed again. Burning the priest had been an accident, too. She hadn’t even meant to burn his stick. The unpredictable nature of this gift was what had gotten her into trouble to begin with, however this time, it was a happy accident.

Before he could retaliate, the whip cracked in the air and the horse began pulling. The wheels beneath her cage creaked and groaned as if they were dying of the plague, and then they lurched into motion, moving more slowly than a walking pace.

She was being taken to a monastery where the monks could determine her innocence or guilt, but she already knew the outcome. Once a woman was accused of witchcraft, she was always condemned to death. Besides, there was too much evidence against her, especially now that she had burned the priest.

“Do not despair, child,” the priest said, walking in pace with her cage. The horrible smirk on his pockmarked face combined with his yellow teeth made her cringe. “We will make sure you pay for your sins. Each and every one of them. You will do your penance, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.” He made the sign of the cross from his forehead to his chest and shoulders.

As he moved to walk away, the girl heard a strange noise, like a combination of rattling trees and a pot boiling over into the fire. It was hard to tell from which direction it came.

The priest cocked his head and peered into the trees. “What do you suppose that noise is?” he said to the driver.

The driver just shrugged his skinny shoulders and urged the horse forward.

As the noise grew progressively louder, the priest studied the girl with suspicion. “This better not have something to do with you, witch,” he said, as he stalked towards the trees to investigate.

Just as he reached the tree line, he was swept off his feet by a rushing wave of water as high as his knees. He cried out and reached for the nearest branches, but he was swept away.

Understanding dawned on the girl. The stream they had been traveling alongside had somehow overflowed its banks. It made no sense – there was no rain. She gazed into the beautiful blue sky. There was not a cloud in sight, yet the growing mass of water was angrily searching for a new place to run to.

She thought she was ready to die, but she certainly had not expected it to be like this. Feeling lightheaded from panic, she stared hard at the wooden bar that held the lock to her cage. Concentrating as hard as she could, she hoped to produce a burst of flame, but she only saw a small wisp of smoke. Then, as she thought of the priest and his horrible sharp stick, a lick of flame immediately bloomed, releasing her from her prison.

By now, the noise of the raging water was deafening, and as she jumped from the burning cage, the water came all the way to the middle of her thighs. There was no dry ground in sight. Grabbing a nearby tree to remain upright, she surveyed the scene.

The priest was nowhere to be seen, and the horse was barely holding its footing. It was agitated and ready to bolt. Having lost control of the reigns, the driver balanced precariously on his seat.

The girl felt a hand on hers, and bracing herself for a battle, she tensed.

“Anna!” she heard a familiar voice cry.

Looking more closely, she saw that the person at her side was her sister. “Mary!” she cried, hugging her tightly. “You did this?”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

AP Author Spotlight: Catherine Bennett

 
Catherine Bennett
 
Website: catherinebennett.org
Twitter ID: author_cbennett
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5990135.Catherine_Bennett
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/authorcbennett/
 
Describe yourself in three words:
Trustworthy. Creative. Chocoholic.
 
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Devon's Choice
Faith, love and a cup of coffee, can change everything.
Life holds no surprises for Devon Murphy. Her life consists of keeping tabs on her aging Irish father, working part time at a coffee shop, and building her online graphics design business. Devon’s only tricky situation is a shallow relationship with the pampered and affluent Michael Turner, who sees her as just another woman to conquer. 
Following his father’s death, Brandon’s only goal is to expand the family business and live life on his own terms. That is, until he walks into the coffee shop one snowy evening and meets the enchanting, red-haired barista behind the counter. But can Devon and Brandon’s attraction for each other be strong enough to help erase their deepest disappointments and renew their faith in God?
The beginning of the book came to me while I was walking my black Labrador, Riley. It was winter and, while Riley was plowing through the deep snow drifts, I began to think about the small suburb in Columbus, Ohio where I grew up. My old house, the streets where I rode my bike, and walked home from school evolved into the backdrop for Devon and Brandon's love story.
 
 
What is your earliest memory?
This may not be my earliest memory, but it's one that made quite an impression on me. My mom and dad had bought me my first bicycle, a white and pink Schwinn with training wheels. I was told only to ride it in the driveway unless my mom was with me. Of course being four years old, I didn't listen and ended up getting a spanking for riding it down the block and through an intersection. I also have picture of me dressed up as Batman sitting on the same bike.
 
What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
When I accepted Christ.
 
What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
Earning a four year college degree.
 
What have you learned in life so far?
Action produces results, while worry accomplishes nothing. Being a procrastinator and a worrier, I have to keep reminding myself of these two things!
 
Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
My husband who is an awesome cook and gets so much joy watching people eat.
My two sons who love to eat.
My mom and dad, who died many years ago. I would love to talk to them again.
 
 
 
Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Catherine Bennett?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RELEASE DAY: Charlene A. Wilson "Blessed of the Gods"


Blurb:

Chad is in love, but the world isn’t right – not when you’re forbidden to have the one you desire just because she’s your slave. His vitality host, Dae, has held his heart since they were both children. He must find a way to set her free if he’s ever to know if she wants him too, and that means finding a way to live without her aid. Chad believes the answer lies in the World of the Sun where they originated, not the world of his cavernous home. Fate will guide him, he knows it.

When Salana, Daughter of the Sun Nation, meets Chad, she’s faced with the unbelievable; a man who must take energy from a host to survive. But he’s not the only one. The entire Tsosey Nation is plagued with this unusual need. The strong yet meek Chamber people submitted to serve them through the centuries. Can Salana help this young man whose dreams of freedom could change the course of both nations? And can she do it without falling for him and turning her back on the marriage arranged by her parents?

 
Author:

Charlene A. Wilson is an author of tales that take you to other dimensions. She weaves magic, lasting love, and intrigue to immerse you into the lives of her characters.

She began writing in her early teens when her vivid dreams stayed with her long after she had them. The characters and worlds were so amazing she brought them to life through her books.

Charlene resides in a small community in Arkansas, USA, with her two beautiful daughters, husband, a cuddly Pekingese, and a very chatty cockatiel named Todder.

 

 

Now available on
Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Black clouds morphed across the sky, and Salana pressed her forehead against the third-floor sunroom window. Her hair framed the sides of her face, blocking the view of her indoor garden.

Another storm.

She blinked at the distant trees. Silhouetted by the glow of the city, branches swung as if throwing punches at the wind in a wild frenzy.

And another reason for Mother and Father not to show.

Her breath misted the glass as her whisper fell from her lips. “Then again, when do they ever show?” Flight delays, meetings, vacations…One thing I can count on is their absence.

A thick bolt of lightning pierced the heavens and cut the black sky in half. She blinked several times to disperse the bright image and looked three stories below to the dark grounds. Rain pounded the backyard terrace like silver streams as they reflected the light from the glass sliding doors of the morning room. She could hardly make out the ivory lounges and tables that pocked the area.

Thunder clashed, and the arboretum quaked around her. Placing her finger at the center of the misted glass, she traced a straight line downward until her hand fell to her side. With a sigh, she turned her back on the scene and scanned her garden nook.

Black iron trellises stretched around her favorite trio of garden chairs and hourglass stands. The cozy loveseat seemed to invite her to curl up in its overstuffed lap to pout.

She strolled to the flowers and stroked a yellow bud. “But you’ve always been here, haven’t you?” Plucking the perfect bloom, she sighed and then tucked it behind her ear.

Tip-taps sounded from beyond the nook, and her nanny’s blue quarter-moon eyes peeked around the trellis. Her singsong voice danced off the tip of her tongue. “There you are, Ducky.”

Despite Salana’s gloom, the sweet words warmed her heart. An involuntary twitch tugged the corner of her mouth into a lopsided grin. No matter they never show. Nina’s always here. Always. “There I am.”

 “I knew I’d find you among the flowers.” Nina’s hair brushed the shoulder of her paisley-print blouse as she dipped her head to the side. “You know you shouldn’t be up here in such a storm. The news circuits say it’s taking down trees all along the coast. Sun City’s going to get a good pounding.”

Her melodic tone played alongside the heavy rhythm of rain on the solarium roof. “The weather this summer has been so odd. I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many storms since the flood when you were a little girl.” She sighed. “Needless to say, your mother and father’s flight was canceled. They decided to just stay in North Arba and leave for Crescent Steeple from there. Those caves make for good protection against weather like this. Always wondered what people saw in living beneath the rock, but there you have it. One good reason, anyway.”

“From what I understand, there are a lot more down there than those who live in that bordering city.”

“An odd lot, those deep dwellers, even more odd than the Arbans. But the Arbans did negotiate a treaty of sorts with the Terracians, so...” Nina blinked and upped her fair brows as her voice trailed from the topic. “Well, at any count, you’ll have to stand in for them at the embassy’s quatercentenary celebration this weekend.”

Salana nodded. Nothing new.