#GuestPost- Is the Grass Really Greener? by C.Michelle Ramsey

I’m proud to be feature a member of my writers group, C. Michelle Ramsey, and her new release, Is the Grass Really Greener? Her novel explores the relationships of five friends who secretly desire to have what the other has. Intriguing, right? Take a sneak peek at an excerpt, then buy your copy today!

Is the Grass Really Greener Book Cover_Final

Five women, five lives, five secrets. Each woman is battling her own personal demons, and hiding a secret from her friends and family.

Each of them envies another’s life, wishing her life was different, wishing she had what the other woman had. But what happens when what appears to be real, is all a façade?

Battling breast cancer, single parenthood, infidelity, the loss of a child, and managing the single life, can become overwhelming for these ladies.

Not satisfied with their lives, looking for something better, they contemplate alternative choices to improve their lives; crossing over to the other side of the fence is a very real possibility. We can’t see beyond the choices we make, but we must be held accountable for them.

And after they have crossed the fence, they realize two things simultaneously. Yes, the grass was greener on the other side; and also their grass could have been just as green had they taken care of it.

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EXCERPT:

Courtney found herself nodding her head to the beat of the music, more than she was focused on her report. Anita Baker’s “I Apologize” was on the radio playing softly in the background on KSTORM. She had to get this report done for tomorrow morning’s budget meeting. Stretching back in her chair, she let out a long yawn and shook her head to shake the sleep off. It was 11:55 at night and she knew that she had to be up at four in the morning. But these numbers just weren’t shaking out right.

The right thing to do would be to put it away and go upstairs with Nate and go to bed. She found herself going to bed after her husband more and more these days. She used to be the one who was knocked out by eight or nine o’clock, but not anymore. Some nights she was still up until two or three in the morning, if she didn’t have an early day at the office. Nate didn’t question it, because he didn’t want to be bothered with her anyway. She couldn’t remember the last time they had sex. She stopped to ponder that thought, had it really been five months now? Damn, it had. Seems as if she was always attempting to get him in the mood, and the last time she had done that he had brushed her off and he didn’t show even the slightest interest in her.

“Lonely hearts, find someone to love. Fellas, take care of your women; remember to love them long and strong, ‘cuz if you don’t, another brother will. And to all my lovely ladies, I’m wishing you a good night out there in the ATL; thanks for spending another night with me. And come back tomorrow for another night of love with Hypnotiq on the Storm.”

And with that he blew his traditional kiss and Pierce was off the radio for the night. As if this were some subliminal cue, Courtney closed her folder, switched off the radio on the bookshelf behind her, walked over to the doorway, switched off the light in her office, and walked upstairs to her bedroom. She was halfway up the steps when it hit her.

Damn, she thought to herself, I’ve been staying up half the night every night to hear the voice of a stranger. I’m falling for a man who I don’t even know. She started walking back down the steps to her office and flicked on the light and sat in her chair behind her desk.

Courtney furiously ran her hands through her hair shaking her head in disbelief. What the hell is this? I’m falling for a man I don’t know? He’s a kid from the old neighborhood that’s what it’s got to be. He brings back pleasant memories for me at this rough time in my life. Hell I had one cup of Joe with this man and ran into him at my art exhibit, and I sit up every night to hear his voice on the damn radio, how pathetic am I? He might have a girl, hell for all I know he might not be interested in women anyway, or black women, she shook her head laughing at that one. The way he came on to her that night she highly doubted it.  “This is crazy, it doesn’t even matter. I’m a married woman…not happily, but I’m married just the same and I love my husband with all my heart,” she said aloud, “I’m taking my butt to bed, I’m tired…that’s what it is,” and once again she repeated the steps she had just taken, not even three minutes earlier.

But this time when she got to the bedroom Nate wasn’t asleep. He was sitting in the bed staring at the TV. She could tell he wasn’t watching it. Courtney decided it would be best to not say anything, because she didn’t want to argue. All of their words turned into arguments these days and they couldn’t have decent communication. But it wasn’t to be.

“Courtney, I want a divorce,” Nate said.

Thinking she must have lost her mind, or maybe forgot to clean the wax from her ears, she turned over in the bed to face him. “Huh?” she said, a little befuddled.

“I want a divorce,” he repeated in that same monotone he had just used.

“Why?” she asked with panic rising up in her throat.

“I don’t wanna be here anymore, I can’t do this,” he explained.

“Do what Nate?”

“Do us, this thing we call a marriage, this faking it we’re doing day by day, I can’t do it anymore,” he said with a little emotion coming into his voice.

“Look Nate, I know that you’re hurting, I’ve been hurting, too. And what’s hurting the most is that you’re shutting me out. You won’t even talk to me. I know you’re grieving baby, we’re both grieving, but you didn’t suffer this loss alone. I did, too and just like we lost him together we have to find a way to heal together, to go on with our future,” she pleaded.

“I don’t think you heard me. There’s no future for us,” Nate responded a little more passionately this time.

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Author PicAbout the Author: 

C. Michelle Ramsey takes your emotions on a roller coaster ride, one page at a time, with every story she creates. Author of “Reflections of Promises” and “Real Secrets,” she has now released her third novel, “Is the Grass Really Greener?” Her stories take a look at real life situations, real drama, and real people, in a fictional story.

A writing consultant for Bleu Skies Writing Services, she enjoys reading mystery novels, African-American fiction, and chick lit. Her favorite authors are: Terry McMillan, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and Stuart Woods. Michelle is an Atlanta native born and bred, where she currently resides with her husband and three children.

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MJ

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#GuestPost- A Closer Look at Miss Perfect by Nicole Dunlap

Missperfect

African American, Mystery, drama, suspense, romance.

Their desire for perfection will be shattered

Charlene Shaw embodies perfection as a highly-acclaimed actress. Within her gilded walls of beauty, she is scrambling to save her daughter, Raven, from sins she can’t even fathom. This is her self-imposed curse for abandoning Raven as a child.

 Raven Shaw is captivatingly gorgeous but burdened by a closet of skeletons. After a rough childhood, she is finally living life. Jon, her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved, has returned to her. A stalker looms just outside of reach, blackmailing her for Jon’s fortune. She’d do anything to keep this man–even if it means turning to another… Mysterious, handsome Tyriq may have the key to erase her deepest, darkest secrets forever. Yet, this savior might threaten her mind’s rationale of “happily ever after” with Jon.

 

 Excerpt:

Muscles warm, lungs hallow, Raven felt light as a feather, stepping onto the stairs at the shallow end. Slowly her lids dimmed, eyes narrowed. A pique in senses alerted her to the sound of a camera flash. She turned to the glass chairs in the back corner next to the submerged pool bar.

With his suit jacket draped over the chair next to him, Jon sat comfy-like, leaning back. He’d undone the top button of his vest, tie a shrew, peering through her camera.

At the snap of a photo, Raven’s lips bunched together. “Stop taking my picture!”

He clicked another one.

“Where have you been; to a club?” Heated, she reached over and tried to grab it.

“Uh-uh, Re-Re,” he said and she got a faint scent of alcohol from his breath.

She leaned back, looking at him through a different light. “Are you drunk?”

“Sexy,” he said, peering through the lens and took another shot.

“Shut up! You went off to work at the beginning of the week. Came back and left again. Then you had the nerve to leave a sappy message about coming home tonight. Then called to say you wouldn’t. Now you’re here! That’s bull.” Hands balled into fists, she itched to claw the half smile off his face. “Uh-huh, you had plans to come home then some slut called, and you decided to stay out. What happened, your little slut had to cancel? Your hoe couldn’t make up her mind!”

He chuckled, and she reached over to slap him. It stung her hand, but he didn’t flinch.

Jon took another picture. “Give me more ‘hood girl,’ I like that.”

“You bastard!” She tried to pummel his face. This time he grabbed her wrists and pulled her in his lap, tucking her hands behind her back. Jon dominated her with hard kisses, making her delirious. Rage momentarily forgotten.

“C’mon, Re-Re, no hitting, not just yet.” He leaned his head over, away from her untamed hand. Dominating her once more, he said, “Whoa, I haven’t had this much action since your ice skating. If I knew you’d be so stingy, I would’ve had you then and there–”

“Cheating bastard!” I’m working things out for us! Trying to make sure your image stays clean and you… Biting his shoulder, she contemplated her pending self-sacrifice.

“Do you honestly think I’ve been cheating on you?” Gone was the grin. “Look me in the eyes and tell me if you actually believe I was out with another woman?”

“No,” she whispered. I want to believe the best in you.

Hand to her chin, Jon pressed it back toward him until they were less than an inch away, and she clawed her fingers into his biceps still in limbo between adoration and anger.

“As I said, it’s been a while,” he said softly, licking his lips. “Months. I thought pregnancy was supposed to–”

So what? I’m still mad.” She let her fingernails deepen. Part of her was concerned, but most of her didn’t care–she just wanted to hurt him the way she hurt while he was away. “I cooked lamb. I waited for you.”

“Is there any way you’d ever forgive me?”

She hated the drunk Jon. So cocky. Slowly, he pulled her closer, kissing her feverously as he pulled at the strings of the bikini behind her neck. She dragged his bottom lip through her teeth again and let her legs wrap around him in the chair. She wished her thighs were stronger, wanted to hold him siege. Planting kisses on the side of his mouth and down his chin, she bit him as her hands dug into the back of his neck. The bastard, versed in six different languages, whispered Italian notes that made her blood boil. The way he grabbed her behind, wanting and needing every last inch, said he was angry too.

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Amazon     Barnes & Noble     YouTube

IMG_9924About the Author:

Nicole Dunlap holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Child Development, and a Masters Degree in Counseling from Azusa Pacific University. She works for social services. She has been self dubbed the “gumbo genre” novelist, because books shouldn’t be lightly seasoned… Her stories revolve around family and relationships, women’s issues, drizzled with drama, peppered with suspense, and finished off with aromatic notes of romance. The Shaw Family Saga pays homage to dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships, with well developed characters that readers can root for; love them, hate them, cry for, and most of all, yearn to flip through the pages to the end of that character’s journey.

If this teaser excerpt enticed you to read more about the suspense of the Shaw Fmaily Saga, please check out NicoleDunlap.com Feel free to email me at nicole@nicoledunlap.com, Tweet me, message me on Facebook, and friend me on Goodreads.

 

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MJ

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5 Prince Publishing New Release- Indiscretion by Tonya Lampley!

Join me in welcoming Tonya Lampley to the 5 Prince Publishing Family!

cover

One careless night and a man’s life is changed forever.

Damon Harris wants a better life than the one he’s currently living. He has a penchant for trouble and a trail of mistakes behind him, but inside he can feel a greater call urging him on to the man he knows he can become. He marries the ideal woman in hopes it might settle him down. But change is hard. Stuck in a self-created prison where the only warden is himself, he’ll do just about anything to break free.

A few drinks, a beautiful girl…was it worth it?

Amazon 5 Prince Publishing

Excerpt:

Damon sat in a red-velvet bishop’s chair in one of the back rooms of St. Augustine’s Cathedral in downtown Chicago. The 100 year-old church’s renowned stained glass window, featuring the Messiah in an array of colors, hung high above him and gently filtered the October sunlight. His eyes rested on the tiny dust particles floating in the air, a useless attempt to distract him from his thoughts.

Three rapid taps on the heavy mahogany door broke through the silence and jarred him from contemplation.

“You ready?” a deep voice asked. Damon recognized the voice of Kurt, who would be his brother-in-law in a matter of minutes. A pretty stand-up guy, in Damon’s opinion. Looked nothing like his sisters, and wasn’t all that close to them, but he had stepped in per Carmen’s request, to fill the role of best man when Damon argued with the original one—his life-long friend Craig. Tempers flared when Craig told Damon he was making the biggest mistake of his life. The conversation ended with Craig refusing to be a part of the wedding. They had since made up, but Craig stood by his original protest. Kurt being in the wedding made Carmen happier, anyway, Damon mused.

Someone knocked again.

“I’ll be there in a minute.” Damon responded. He walked over to the full-length mirror to give himself a once over. The black tuxedo that Carmen picked out hugged the contours of his svelte body. The white shirt gleamed against his smooth ebony skin. He noticed his white bow tie was crooked and slowly straightened it. His palms were moist as he ran them down the silk stripe of his pants trying to remove the uncomfortable feeling.

He rubbed his freshly cut hair, checked his nose and the corners of his mouth. In a few moments, he would enter the sanctuary. He brought Carmen’s image to mind. Good. Sweet. Settled. She possessed an aura of comfort—like baked bread or warm milk. The kind of woman that could hopefully bring him the peace he had been searching for.

Kurt pummeled the door this time. “Everyone is waiting. Carmen’s starting to get nervous. You were supposed to be out here a half hour ago.”

Damon looked down at his shoes, patent leather, polished to a spit shine. Was he doing the right thing? He cared deeply for Carmen, but was it love?

What he wanted was to feel normal, to be satisfied with his life. The ghost of his past emerged again, as it often did, and reminded him that he had made a mess of things—two children by two different women, and a short stint in jail. The reminder rode in on a tide of regret.

He heard someone trying to turn the worn iron doorknob, but he had locked it. It wiggled back and forth desperately and he could hear mumbling on the other side. The rhythm of his breath sped up and a wave of warmth rose up from his feet. He thought of Rachel, the mother of his second son, and the words that spewed from her perfect mouth three years ago when she broke up with him—I can’t be with someone who’s content to do nothing with their life. And when she met Evan Kilgore, M.D. at the hospital where she was taken the night she broke her foot playing softball, she banished Damon to the “friend zone.” He accepted his punishment; anything to still be a part of her life. He never thought she would marry him. He never forgave himself for losing her and wasn’t about to make the same bet and lose twice. He had to marry Carmen. If he didn’t, he might lose her too.

“Go get the key.” He heard Kurt say to someone on the other side of the door, along with another knock.

It was time. Damon stood silent in the room. He expanded his chest and forced air deep into his lungs, but it still felt like he was suffocating. His hands registered a slight tremor and as he straightened his tie a second time, he felt a bead of sweat trickle down his temple. He grabbed the teal handkerchief out of his pocket and blotted it. His legs felt heavy, like someone cemented them to the floor. Why did doing the right thing feel so uncertain? He closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing. In a few minutes, it would be over. He willed his legs to start moving. Kurt, and Carmen’s sister, Cathy, lunged forward into the room as he opened the door.

The church’s pot-bellied groundskeeper walked up behind them carrying a large metal ring, holding several antique keys. He rubbed his shiny dark beard. “Ev-ry-thin’okay?” he asked with his bushy eyebrows raised.

“We got it, sir. Thanks.” Kurt said to the man who looked around the room, then shrugged before walking away. Kurt turned his attention to Damon. “The wedding planner is going nuts! We thought something had happened to you.”

Cathy huffed, “No we didn’t.” She squinted at Damon. “Why don’t you just admit it and save us all a lot of trouble.”

He looked right through Cathy. “I’m good, man. I just needed a minute, that’s all.” Damon brushed past Cathy, dressed in a silly Cinderella-looking, teal, taffeta dress, and lightly grazed her gloved arm. She gritted her teeth as she placed her hand into the center of his back and shoved him forward. He stumbled three un-willful steps at the forceful blow before he managed to get control of his feet. He closed his eyes and drew in a slow deep breath, taking a moment to gather himself—to deny himself the delightful thought of shoving her back—his mother had raised him better than that. He stretched out his arms and adjusted his shirtsleeves, checking his cuff links. Unfortunately, she was part of the deal.

He continued down the hall and opened the double doors to the sanctuary, where 200 guests sat in pews adorned with teal bows, and music from the harp player greeted him. Damon and Carmen argued for two days over the harp player—a total waste of money in his opinion, as was all of it—the courthouse would have suited him just fine. He walked past the harp player strumming like a fool, down the red aisle runner and took his place at the altar in front of the robed Reverend Mallory and the barrage of burning candles.

“Are you ready, Son?” Reverend Mallory was a large man, his voice even louder. The question he asked reverberated through the church and came to rest in Damon’s ears.

Damon gave a nod. Reverend Mallory opened his Bible and the wedding planner raised her bony arm toward the back of the church, cuing her assistant to start the music. Time seemed to suspend as the remaining eight members of the bridal party entered the sanctuary, waltzing to Carmen’s careful selection of Luther Vandross’s Here and Now, and took their places at the front of the church. Damon was avoiding Cathy’s glare when the collective sound of 200 people standing grabbed his attention. When he looked up, Carmen stood in the doorway, engulfed in a sea of white. Tulle cascaded all around her. She made eye contact with Damon almost immediately and smiled. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling, but he knew her well enough to read the look on her face—that grin and the beam in her eye spoke of her happiness. And when he saw how happy she was, despite everything, he was happy for her. Her hand reached out for his and she took her place beside him.

Reverend Mallory loudly cleared his throat, and began the vows. Carmen recited hers first. Damon silenced the voice inside his head that hinted at the fact, he might not be sure of this marriage. But there were so many people. So much money spent. Too much to lose not to get married.

“Damon, do you take Carmen to be your lawful wedded wife? Do you promise to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her for so long as you both shall live?

“I do.” Damon adjusted his tie, secretly loosening it. The promises felt really big. He had a long history of preserving his own self-interests. He wanted that to be behind him now. He accepted the ring from Kurt and placed it on Carmen’s finger.

“Do you together promise, in the presence of your friends and family, that you will at all times, and in all circumstances, conduct yourselves toward one another as husband and wife?”

“We do.” He muttered as he searched his heart for certainty. Carmen’s voice broke through his with full conviction.

Reverend Mallory smiled. “You may now kiss your bride.”

Damon lifted Carmen’s veil and looked into her eyes. He needed her. He needed her in order to become the man he wanted to be. She would settle him into a normal life, where he would go to work at his job as a car salesman, come home and eat dinner with her, and go to the grocery store on the weekend. Normal. He grabbed her around the waist and kissed her as a symbol to everyone, and to himself, that this was his new life.

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About the Author:

authorTonya Lampley’s first novel was titled A Taste of Love and was a National Indie Excellence Book Awards finalist. She lives in Ohio with her husband and is currently working on her next book. For more information about Tonya, please visit her on the web at http://www.TonyaLampley.com.

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#FridayFeatures- The Only Option by Deatri King-Bey

Before I begin writing a novel, I’ve already seen the entire plot run through my mind like a movie. As I write, the storyline pours from my fingertips, but with improvements from what appeared originally on the movie screen in my mind. My latest novel, The Only Option, was a completely different experience for me. The heroine had been harassing me for years, but I didn’t listen to her. Why? That’s an excellent question I wished I knew the answer to.

 A few months ago, she said, “No more. It’s my turn.” Yeah, I hear voices. That’s why I write. I figured I might as well get paid for my psychosis. Anywhooo, I began writing The Only Option, but didn’t have any idea what the plot was about or even the genre. On one hand I was terrified! For me writing without some sort of game plan is like taking a road trip without knowing the destination. Some people find that exciting. I’m not one of them.

So I begin writing and knew from the moment Jonah (the hero) saw Isis (the heroine) that The Only Option would be a romance. This fit in my comfort zone, so all was good with the world. I continued writing and BAM. I was smacked in the head by the plot’s base, arranged marriage. I’m not a big fan of arranged marriage books. I’ve read a few I like, but I don’t go out of my way to look for them. So imagine my surprise when I found myself writing a romance with an arranged marriage. All kinds of stuff went through my mind, but I kept writing their story and I fell in love with Isis and Jonah.

With that being said, I thank my characters for harassing me until they get what they want.

TheOnlyOption250w

African-American Romance/Multicultural Romance

 Sane upwardly-mobile women don’t agree to enter into arranged marriages… Or do they

Control freak Jonah Tazi comes from a long line of arranged marriages, but the thought of his parents picking his bride never sat well with him. Time is working against Jonah, so he reluctantly agrees to allow his father to find him a proper bride. Then he meets Isis and becomes infatuated with the vibrant, funny, and talented woman. A powerful man used to getting exactly what he wants, exactly when he wants it, he is unprepared when Isis doesn’t agree to his proposal immediately. Now he is determined to convince her (and everyone else) that he and Isis belong together. Jonah intends to be her only option.

Isis Michaels has always been sheltered by her father. The tables have turned, and now she must shelter him. Isis rearranges her life and will do whatever it takes to please her father during the time he has left—almost anything. It becomes clear that he wants to see her settled before he passes. Is marrying Jonah, a man she’s emotionally and physically attracted to but just met, her only option?

Here’s a little sample. Enjoy

Excerpt: 

Chapter 1 

“Dad, you’re not choosing my wife.” Adjusting his earpiece, Jonah exited the elevator. Fifteen minutes early for an acquisition meeting, he considered himself late.

“You’re a lot closer to forty than thirty. People are starting to talk.”

“I don’t care.” Artwork lined either side of the hallway. The priceless collection had taken Jonah years to build and there were more pieces to acquire.

“Well, I do. Three years. Three years ago you promised to dedicate time to finding a wife.”

“I’ve been busy running a multibillion-dollar corporation.”

“I was just as busy as my father and his father before him. We’ve always had arranged marriages. That didn’t change when my father moved to this country. He did an excellent job of choosing my wife.”

“You’re divorced.” Jonah’s grandfather had moved his wife from Morocco to the United States shortly after their marriage. The majority of the family remained in Morocco and Spain along with many of their traditions. Jonah’s selection of a wife went beyond tradition. As the only son, Jonah believed it was his duty to produce at least one heir to carry on the Tazi name. Time had slipped by too quickly for him to find a wife. A control freak, he hated the idea of his father choosing his wife, but he didn’t see an alternative.

Attracted to the maturity of women his own age, if he waited much longer, the type of woman Jonah wanted wouldn’t be of childbearing age. “Fine, I’ll get married. I take it you have suitable options in mind?”

“Of course I do. I’ll have your assistant set up the meetings.”

“Speaking of meetings, I have one in thirteen minutes. We can talk later.” Jonah disconnected and continued along the hallway. Originally, he’d tried to acquire D. M. Solutions two years ago, but the owner wouldn’t consider his offer.

He rounded the corner, then stopped in his tracks. Few people had access to his private floor, so seeing a woman standing dangerously close to his Auguste Rodin sculpture shocked him. What drew him even more than her presence were her legs. Quite tall himself, he rarely met a woman who reached his shoulders. He’d give his Rembrandt to have her legs wrapped around him as he pushed into her.

Soon he’d be selecting a wife and other women would be off-limits. Currently a free man, Jonah had no intention of allowing the long-legged lovely to pass him by.

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Buy Your Copy Today! 

Print, Kindle, and Nook

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MJ

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5 Prince Publishing New Release- Stutter Creek by Ann Swann!

Stutter Creek Cover

She went looking for an old flame and found a serial killer instead.

When Beth lost her father to cancer and her husband to another woman, she didn’t know where to turn.  So she retreated to the family cabin at Stutter Creek.  Some of the best times of her life were spent at that cabin.  That’s where she met her first crush, a boy named John.  But that was many years ago . . . could he possibly still be around?  Or would she find something sinister instead?

Buy Your Copy Today!      5 Prince Publishing

Excerpt:

Amanda Myers was making a conscious effort to keep her heavy foot off the Toyota’s gas pedal when she spied what appeared to be a small boy standing beside the road. An old fashioned newsboy cap nearly obscured his tiny face.

Mandy hit the brake and steered the Celica toward the gravel shoulder. With a practiced hand, she quickly texted her coworker, Myra, and asked her to concoct a cover story for her tardiness.

The kid had seemed very small in silhouette—maybe five or six years old—and no house or vehicle in sight.

When Myra texted back to say the boss was on the warpath, Mandy replied, “Well, just tell him I stopped to pick up a boy on the edge of town. That should really turn his face red!” It was an inside joke. Everyone knew when the boss’s face was red it was wise to give him a wide berth.

Myra sent back a row of question marks.

“L8R,” Mandy responded. She looked all around. She had assumed the little guy would come dashing up to the car as soon as she had come to a stop. But even when she could no longer hear the crunch of her tires on gravel, he still hadn’t materialized.

I didn’t pass him by that much.

Craning her neck to see past the Toyota’s blind spot, Mandy dropped the phone into the center console drink holder and shoved the gearshift into park. A thick stand of live oaks cast a deep shadow over the bar ditch. The setting sun made the trees appear as black-paper cutouts in a landscape collage.

After checking her mirrors to make sure no one was behind her, Mandy pressed the button to lower the passenger-side window.

It was almost all the way down when a man yanked open the door and exploded into her world like a tornado into a trailer park.  Her hand flew to the gearshift, but she couldn’t engage it.  Even as her flight instinct kicked in, part of her mind was telling her this was almost certainly the same strange guy who had requested her section at the restaurant the night before.  His eyes had seemed to follow her all around the crowded dining room, and his oily stench had made him stand out like a spot of mold on white linen.

Mandy drew in breath to scream, her hand scrambling across the console for her phone or the gearshift, whichever came first, but he was too fast.  With lightning speed, he dove across the seat and slapped a rectangle of duct tape across her mouth.  At the same time, he buried his free hand knuckle deep in the thick blonde braid at the base of her skull even as his other hand slid down to her windpipe and began to squeeze.

Mandy’s fight instinct kicked in then, and she whipped her head back and forth in an effort to dislodge his hands. His stench, and the oily filth of his unkempt hair, was sickening. She clawed at his eyes, ripped at his skin, but it was no use.  The psycho laughed and simply leaned his head back out of her reach.

That’s when Mandy began to claw at her own face, attempting to scratch the silver tape off her mouth. It didn’t matter. There was no one around to hear her scream even if she could have gotten it off.

She wasn’t a quitter, though.  Mandy did her best to get her feet out from under the steering column to kick. But he was pressing down on her with his whole weight. She was trapped. Calmly, the psycho took one hand off her throat, doubled up his fist, and hit her so hard the back of her skull struck the driver’s side window with an audible whap!

Then he went back to her throat. As his deceptively thin fingers crushed her windpipe, Mandy’s grip on reality began to loosen.  Tiny strobes flashed inside her skull.

He squeezed even harder, the tips of his fingers disappearing into the flesh of her throat.

At the last second, as her world began to grow dark, a memory flashed through Mandy’s mind. She remembered how as a small girl of six, she had begun to worry about running out of air because if you couldn’t see something, how did you know how much of it was left? She could see balloons, though. So she had begged her mom to buy several packages of the colorful party staples, which she’d then blown up and stored in her bedroom closet. Her mom humored her. Her older sister, Kami, however, couldn’t let a good thing like that go unnoticed.

She had waited until Mandy was out, then she’d tied all the balloons together and attached them to the stop sign on the corner. Mandy had felt so humiliated when she came home from school and saw them. She’d wanted to get them down and put them back in her closet, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She would have let herself run out of air before giving her sister that satisfaction.

The balloon bouquet had wilted quickly in the hot New Mexico sun.

Now, even as she was dying, Mandy grasped the irony of that memory. She really had run out of air. Her last coherent thought—as the fireworks behind her eyelids exploded in the grand finale—was of those wilting, multicolored balloons.

####

Ann Swann

About the Author: 

Ann Swann is the author of All For Love, a contemporary love story published by 5 Prince Publishing.  She is the author of Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot, and Stevie-girl and the Phantom Student, tales of the supernatural.  She has also written numerous award winning short stories.  She lives in West Texas with her husband and their rescue pets.  She loves libraries and book stores and owns two different e-readers just for fun.  Her to-be-read list has taken on a life of its own.  She calls it Herman.

Amazon Central     Blog     Facebook fanpage     Twitter   Email     Goodreads

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook     Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

 

#TeaserTuesday- Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs)- Zachariah’s introspection

This weeks #8Sunday teaser post got great feed back. One reader stated she loved the introspection. As I said before, it’s one of my favorite scenes of the novel. Watching him beat himself up over something as simple as a kiss was very entertaining,  especially since he was getting drunk at the time. With that said, I decided to share a bit more of that scene to show more of Zachariah’s character. Enjoy!

Excerpt:

My eyes traveled up from where I stood in the kitchen to the rail that marked the end of the bedroom. Visions of Melissa wearing lingerie to entice came to mind. One look at what she wore and I would be upstairs in a heartbeat.

Back then, the place was full of furniture, life, laughter, and love.

Melissa liked to decorate. Nearly every paycheck she brought home went towards something new to make this place ours. If electronics were my vice, shopping and decorating were hers. I didn’t mind because I made enough to pay the bills.

Man, she knew how to make a house a home. Pictures, flowers …everything modern and clean.

When she decided she didn’t want to wait around to see if my mother lived or died, she cleaned the place out, taking everything except for the bed and kitchen table. Guess those items were too big to move.

I finished off the second beer, rimmed it into the trashcan, and screwed the top off a third.

Now it was a man cave, a place where my friend, Nick, came to hang out and watch the game. A flat screen TV and a large sofa were the only pieces of furniture occupying the living room.  Bedroom furniture consisted of a bed and dresser. My computer desk sat tucked in a corner of the living room. Melissa bought that too. I guess she considered it an act of mercy to leave it behind.

Another empty got trashed. Grabbing two more bottles and putting the rest in the fridge, I headed upstairs.  I stripped and threw my tuxedo to the bottom of my closet. The only reason I had it in the first place was because Melissa insisted on me buying a tailored tux for our wedding instead of renting one. That monkey suit was proving to be bad luck.

Wearing nothing but boxer-briefs, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared into the depths of my brew.

That kiss.

What the hell had I been thinking?

Everything up until then went smoothly. I did my job. I distracted her, made her laugh and smile. As a result, the intoxicating fragrance of her perfume and feel of soft flesh as my hands slid over her body while we danced blew my mind.

Caught up in the moment, I got cocky and insisted we continue dancing when the music slowed.

It had been so long since I’d held a woman in my arms it had been hard to let go. Then there was the way she had looked at me. I could tell she enjoyed being in my arms as much as I enjoyed holding her.

Involvement in a relationship that led to anything emotional or physical was out of the question.

Wasn’t I the one who’d said we’d be friends who never slept together?

No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to ignore how the soft curves of her body against mine felt…right.

Sex wasn’t my goal, though. Correction, sex wasn’t the only thing I wanted. My thoughts leaned towards a relationship that would…

I drained the bottle in my hand and reached for the last one on my nightstand.

Continuing this train of thought would lead to nothing but heartache. One time around that block was enough.

Unfortunately, I inherited my parents’ love of romance.

I was pathetic.

After barely looking at a woman to appreciate her appearance in over a year, the moment I got close to Yasmine, the first thing going on in my head wasn’t sex. Oh no, I thought about building a future and family.

Damn. I could see her wearing my ring and becoming my wife.

The most beautiful, smart, confident, opinionated, arrogant, and hardheaded woman I had ever met.

I stared at my cell phone, willing it to ring. After calling twice and getting kicked to voice mail, I refused to call again. I wouldn’t become that guy – the one who called begging like a wimp for a woman to answer her phone. She didn’t owe me anything. If Yasmine wanted to call me, she would, plain and simple.

The bottle depleted, I reached absently for another before realizing I’d drunk the ones I brought upstairs. Damn, half of the twelve-pack was gone, six beers in less than an hour. I hadn’t drank like this since the night Melissa left.

Tomorrow morning, I would be screwed.

Whatever. For now, I needed to forget the mistake I’d made tonight and pray Yasmine would forgive me in the morning.

Unable to ignore the buzz and light-headedness any longer, I turned out the light and sat in the dark. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t forget the softness of her lips, the taste of her tongue, and the way she kissed me back.

Damn. It was going to be a long night.

####

I have to say, what happens next makes me laugh every time!

Buy a copy of the  5 Star Reviewed Bestseller  to find out!

Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

New to The Butterfly Memoirs Series? Catch up with A Heart Not Easily Broken (Book One of The Butterfly Memoirs)

Reviews, Free Chapter Samples, All Sales Links

#8Sunday- Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs)- Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

It can be hard for a man and woman to maintain a platonic relationship without pesky feeling getting in the way. What happens when he decides he wants more and she isn’t ready?

Excerpt: 

Wearing nothing but boxer-briefs, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared into the depths of my brew.

That kiss.

What the hell had I been thinking?

Everything up until then went smoothly. I did my job. I distracted her, made her laugh and smile. As a result, the intoxicating fragrance of her perfume and feel of soft flesh as my hands slid over her body while we danced blew my mind.

Caught up in the moment, I got cocky and insisted we continue dancing when the music slowed.

####

I have to tell you guys, the events of this chapter are some of my favorite ones in the novel. What happens? You have to get a copy to find out! Happy reading!

Buy a copy of the  5 Star Reviewed JADED today to find out!

Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

New to The Butterfly Memoirs Series? Catch up with A Heart Not Easily Broken (Book One of The Butterfly Memoirs)

Reviews, Free Chapter Samples, All Sales Links

Visit this link for more Weekend Writing Warriors #8Sunday posts! 

5 Prince Publishing New Release! A Heart at Home (An Everlasting Heart, Book 3) by Sara Barnard

A Heart At Home

Historical Romance

Can a love already tested to the limit survive on the trail to the wilds of California to their new home?  After bidding farewell to her despondent family, newly-pregnant Charlotte drops everything to follow Sanderson to a promised job out west. The journey proves more difficult than any of them could have ever imagined. Wild animals, natural disasters, and a heavy Indian presence test not only Sanderson and Charlotte’s strength and endurance, but their faith in each other as well. Meanwhile, Minerva packs up the little rock cottage to journey west in the company of infant Jay Jay and Cotton just as peace Sanderson is trying to bridge between the Army and the Snake River Indians begins to fall apart.

 Excerpt: 

“Shall we ride into town and say goodbye to George and Cotton, Charlotte?” Sanderson’s honey-sweet voice was thick in the early summer air. The sun had just begun to peek over the eastern horizon, tinting the sky a soft baby pink.

Morning had always been Charlotte’s favorite time of day, when everything was new and the pace was slow and sleepy. It was as if they all had another chance, a fresh start, the gift of a new day. Back during the War Between the States, when Sanderson was gone and nothing made sense, she would sit out in front of the little sod-roofed house she had shared with her father. There she could just be, with her steaming cup of coffee, one with the night birds in the darkness as the sun prepared to make its daily climb into the sky. But today was different.

She and Sanderson had taken their coffee in haste while packing their belongings for the long, overland journey that lay between them and California Territory. Jerry Thomas was already outside. It was no secret that he wished Minerva, her sister-in-law, and baby Jackson Junior, would come with them. Well, with him.

“Yes, I can’t leave without seeing Pa.” She glanced at Achilles, who Jerry had saddled. The old Gray stood swishing his tail absent-mindedly as Charlotte shouldered her bedroll. The adventure that awaited them on the long trail between Arkansas and California, where the job of Indian Agent was promised to Sanderson, was all consuming. Well, almost. “And I am sure going to miss Cotton.”

Just the thought of the bright, gapped-tooth grin of her former-student-turned-adoptive-brother and his sunny disposition was enough to dampen her resolve to head west. The adventuresome spark that had flared moments before flickered as the thin, sallow face of her Pa and the bronzed, shining one belonging to Cotton flashed through her mind. The bedroll that had seemed so light suddenly felt as though it contained lead bricks. She eased it to the ground, casting a glance back at her rock house.

The sign Cotton and George had made in secret, while building the house for them as a wedding present, caught her eye. S.C. REDDING     Q. “Q was Cotton’s favorite letter.”

Emotion surged from the depths of Charlotte’s soul. “Don’t know if I can leave them, Sanderson.”

She didn’t realize she was trembling until her beloved’s hand fell gently on her shoulder, drawing her watery gaze from their first home to him. He was still handsome, he always would be, but in a more aged way since escaping from prison. Sparkles from the sunrise accented the brown flecks in his hazel eyes. A slow smile spread wide across his full lips, revealing those dimples that made her knees turn to water and her stomach turn up in knots. Everything will be alright, it seemed to promise, cloaking her fears in warmth. As long as we’re together, everything will be alright. Achilles nickered, breaking Charlotte from her trance.

“It’s not set in stone, Charlotte. We can stay.” A chilled summer breeze tousled his hair, swirling the thick, sandy locks this way and that. “I can find work around here…” Sanderson’s words trailed off as he tried to hide the hopeless note in his voice. He averted his eyes, focusing on Charlotte’s ear instead of her face. “I’m sure there’s plenty, what with most of the guys heading west with gold fever.”

Charlotte felt her shoulders rise and fall. Altrose had survived the war only to become little more than a ghost town as the south struggled to thrive as an integral part of the United States of America. Apparently, the promise of adventure and riches west of the Rockies proved more suitable a venture than staying to work in disgrace amongst the haughty carpetbaggers. Most of the shops along Main Street had closed, their boarded-up windows all boasting the same selfish farewell on splintery boards: GONE WEST FOR GOLD. The stage had taken to running only three times a week instead of everyday. Even then, it seemed to carry more and more of Altrose’s citizens away and never brought them back.

“Let’s go on and go if we’re going,” Charlotte whispered. Minerva’s soft sobs tore at her tender heart. “No use forcing them to keep saying goodbye.”

Her sister-in-law’s face was pressed on Jerry’s shoulder, his arm draped loosely around her. Tearstains soaked the fabric of his shirt in a giant halo around Minerva’s face. Charlotte knew the pain she was feeling. She had felt it at every one of Sanderson’s many impromptu absences during their courtship and marriage. How odd it was not to be feeling the old, familiar sadness herself, not to be the woman ripped from the promise of happiness in her beloved’s arms. I wish she’d come with us, her and Jay Jay. We’re family…

Before Charlotte could utter those very words, Minerva straightened her back and shrugged Jerry’s arm from around her.

“Perhaps I will—” She wiped her purple velvet housecoat sleeve across her nose. “Perhaps after.” Charlotte watched Minerva’s eyes glisten as she searched her English vocabulary for the very words that wouldn’t hurt Jerry Thomas while, at the same time, would explain her heart. Words they all wanted to hear.

Jerry held a finger to her lips. His chestnut eyes gazed into Minerva’s. Neither pain nor suspicion clouded them. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Minerva Dika Glasgus.” His thumb trailed lightly across her cheek. “I know a thing or two about women, and I understand that you need that paper from Dr. Jernigan. Life has dealt you many blows, and none of us are certain of the future. Should we marry—”

Minerva’s cream complexion deepened until it was scarlet. “Go on.”

Jerry’s lips twisted into a seductive smile. Charlotte felt her own insides quake at the intensity of the moment.

“Should we marry and tragedy strike, you need to be able to make it in a white man’s world and provide for yourself and Jay Jay…and whoever else may have come along at that point.”

Minerva clasped both of her hands over his, holding them to her lips as the tears—no doubt, welcome ones—ran in rivulets down her cheeks. “Thank God, you understand.” Her voice was breathy.

“I’ll be in California, Camp Bidwell. Send word when you have your paper in hand, and I’ll send the funds for your travel.”

Minerva nodded, her eyes squeezed shut. Charlotte’s hand tightened around Sanderson’s.

“I love you, Minerva.”

Minerva’s sobs came harder, faster. She nodded, sending the tendrils of soft, inky hair flouncing about their hands. “I love you, Jerry.”

He kissed their hands. “Just promise me one thing.”

With a lone sniffle, Minerva sobered. Charlotte knew in her soul that Minerva didn’t have any more promises to give, what with having herself and baby Jay Jay to care for. “A promise?”

“Promise me that you won’t even consider coming west until you have that paper in your hand.” He kissed their hands again. “Promise?”

Minerva exhaled. “Promise.”

Jerry mounted his horse with the special saddle. She laid her hand on his wooden leg. The tears of love, relief, and understanding shimmered in tiny pools on her pockmarked face.

“No more tears,” Jerry instructed, cupping Minerva’s chin in a hand. “Now, give me a smile and go on inside so you don’t have to see us leave.”

After allowing a smile to tease her lips, Minerva scooped up Jay Jay and turned to comply. As she neared where Charlotte and Sanderson stood, she turned back to Jerry.

Jerry waved her unspoken words away with a smile. “Not a moment before.”

Minerva nodded in agreement before turning back to Charlotte.

Jerry’s voice broke through the quiet. “Hey, Minerva.”

Ever silent, she turned back to face him, Jay Jay balanced on her hip in all his three-month-old glory. Her voice box useless, she could only stare at the man who smiled at her so sweetly from atop the horse.

A distant roll of thunder sent a shudder down Charlotte’s spine.

“I love you, Minerva.” With a mischievous wink, Jerry turned and galloped off towards town.

Minerva sniffled again and shifted Jay Jay from one hip to the other. “He said if I wanted a rock cottage like this of my own, then he will make me one out west.”

Charlotte extended an arm to her sister-in-law. “You can have this one as long as you are of a mind to stay, Minerva,” she whispered.

“I know,” Minerva said, giving Charlotte a little squeeze. “I will watch over your home as though it were my own. When I get my paper, I will come.”

“We—your family—will be there waiting for you and baby Jay.”

With a smile and quick flick of her housedress, Minerva disappeared into the house. Charlotte thought she heard a sob resonate from one of the open windows.

“There, got it,” Sanderson exclaimed as he heaved the giant board upon his shoulder. He carried it to the wagon and stuck it over a wheel. S C REDDING     Q. “Now we can take a little bit of home with us wherever we go.”

####

Buy your copy today! 

Sara pic 3

About the Author:

Sara Barnard is a mother of four beautiful children and author of the children’s nonfiction book THE ABC’S OF OKLAHOMA PLANTS and the historical romance series AN EVERLASTING HEART. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, hiking with her family, or tackling the ever-growing pile of laundry produced by her family of six! Sara holds her B.A. in history and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Fish and Wildlife Management. Along with their four children, Sara’s family consists of a plethora of rescue animals, each with a story of their own. Sara and her family currently make their home in the beautiful, historic hills of Oklahoma.

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#8Sunday- Jaded- Yasmine’s Philosophy on Love, Sex,and Relationships

A woman’s outlook on love and relationships is often influenced by what she sees around her, be it  from parents, family, or outside influences. Most importantly, the decisions a woman makes  comes from their own dating experiences.  Yasmine’s past has been tainted by a wide variety of factors. So much so, she has a philosophy she chooses to live by:

Excerpt:

My philosophy on love and relationships is simple: sex isn’t love, but it’s nice while you’re waiting.

Well, that’s what I used to think before the man that I fell in love with trampled all over my heart.

And raped my best friend.

Love will never happen for me. No man will ever understand me. The real me.

Not my parents, not my brother, not even my best friends.

My life, my experiences – both good and bad – are what define the real me.

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Get to know Yasmine Phillips in A Heart Not Easily Broken! BUY your copy of this Amazon Bestseller for $3.99 today! For REVIEWS, SAMPLE CHAPTERS, and LINKS of all formats…all with just ONE-CLICK! 

For more #8Sunday Samples, check out these other authors! Weekend Writing Warriors

Does Your Family Choose Who You Love?

(This post was originally found on The Butterfly Memoirs blog, 4/12/12)

As much as we’d hate to admit it, family, in some way, influences the decisions we make, no matter how old we get.

As children, we look to our parents and other family members to guide us on the road to adulthood. How we dress, how we speak, what we think. Our beliefs influenced by experiences of those wise in their years. Why? Because as blank sheets, we have to learn how the world works.

Then we hit the dreaded teenage years. Our desire to become individuals, independent of those who taught us, and stand out from our peers emerges. What we now think, feel, and believe do not always coincide what we were taught. Our style of dress, word choices…our minds are now our own. Our personal experiences begin to break the mold of lessons learned.

But what about our beliefs? By beliefs, I’m not referring to religious ones, because everyone’s personal beliefs are their own. The beliefs I’m referring to are what determines who we fall in love with.

No matter where you go in the world, race – in some places more than others – is an issue. Who you decide to become friends with and whom you fall in love with is influenced by those closest to you. If the one your heart guided you to is not of the same race, the relationship may be frowned upon. Family, friends, and society as a whole, often feel they have the right to give you their opinions.

But what about your opinions? At what point do you put your foot down and go with your heart?

Nearly everywhere you look, families of mixed races can be found. The reactions to interracial relationships depends on where you live. The youth of today have learned to embrace the racial and cultural differences between them and their school mates. They look at the quality of a person and ignore skin color. I applaud this. What remains of prejudice comes from older people set in their ways, or from young ones who are still living under racist influence of those around them. When it comes to finding love, your heart should be your guide. Not family, not friends, not the people in the town you live in.

Family influence subject touched on in A Heart Not Easily Broken.

Ebony Campbell comes from a black family in North Carolina. Ebony’s parents are in their late 50’s and grew up when racial relations were tense. Their experiences taught them that races don’t mix when it comes to family. The constantly try to introduce her to every available black bachelor, which causes Ebony to be wary about getting involved with a man of any other race than her own.

Brian Young sees things differently. Growing up in southern California, he comes from a very liberal family. He was taught to see a person for who and what they are, no matter what race. When Brian meets Ebony, he is interested in who she is as a woman; the color of her skin only intrigues him. He has to work to break down the barrier Ebony sets up and convince her he has more to offer than just friendship. When their relationship progresses to more, Ebony must chose. Does she allow how her family feels about her dating a white man cause her to lose the happiness she has found?

Here’s this week’s question: Does your families’ opinions continue to affect the major decisions in your life? Where do you draw the line?

*** A Heart Not Easily Broken –  Book One of the Butterfly Memoirs, has been an AMAZON BESTSELLER  in: Multicultural Romance, African-American Literature & Fiction, African-American Romance, and African-American Women’s Fiction.***

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