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Serving Time (The Timemakers Trilogy) by Nadine Ducca @NadineDucca

24 Jan

CHAPTER 3

Eneld lay between the tangled sheets of his bed, curling a lock of Katherine’s raven hair around his finger. A brilliant crescent Earth hung low in the sky, only the tip visible through the bedroom window.

He ran his hand down her back. “Just five more days to go.”

Katherine stirred. Her warm body pressed against his. “Done packing?”

“Almost.” He glanced at his travel box, which sat in a corner of the bedroom. He could already imagine it going around in circles on the luggage retrieval carousel at Mars Spaceport. Like every other piece of luggage, it would be coated in a fine layer of rusty dust. That damned dust got everywhere.

The comm-link on the nightstand beeped, startling him. “You have a new—” His hand darted out to silence it.

“Who is it?” Katherine snuggled up against him, her eyes still closed.

“Just a reminder I programmed. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.”

She looked up. “Pre-Mars vaccines?”

“Yup.”

“They’re using the new versions on you, right? The ones with the reduced side effects?”

Eneld grunted. “They’d better.” He couldn’t imagine spending the rest of his life seeing the world in black and white. A “minor side effect,” “only ten percent chance of ever happening” was what those bastards down at the Lunar Base CDC claimed.

Still, he had to admit that visual impairment was the lesser of two evils—far better than becoming nesting meat for the latest form of Martian parasite. Every few weeks, someone came across a new species among the vegetation, almost always in the most unwitting and unfortunate of ways.

A chill tickled his spine. He needed a distraction, quick. He drew the covers away and pulled Katherine on top of him. “C’mere, you.” He cupped her breasts and plunged his face between them.

Between shrieks and giggles, Katherine cried out, “Watch those manners!” She tugged back and arranged the sheets around her, lifting her chin in mock defiance. “What would the Team Leader say?”

Eneld grinned. “Nice rack.” He squeezed her breasts.

“Ow!” She slapped his hand.

Uh-oh. Too much. He’d better make up for it, fast. “Sorry, babe. Come here.” He tried to press her down against him, but she shrugged away and sat up, straddling him.

She pulled a strand of hair away from her eyes and quietly stared at him.

Eneld set his hands on her thighs. “Hey? Come back.”

After a little bit, she said, “I was just thinking. You know…down in the lab, there are people who’d kill to be you right now.”

“Someone thinks mighty highly of herself.” He grinned. “But I guess my bed is pretty comfortable…” He ran his hands up her thighs and squeezed her warm ass.

“I’m not talking about that—although you should know I do have other options.” Katherine wrinkled her nose. “I meant Rusty and Spinach. I wish I could be there when they start tunneling.”

Rusty and Spinach were twenty-foot-long biometal earthworms. Along with a couple hundred smaller offspring earthworms, they had been shipped to Mars to chip in with the Soil Restoration Program—“restoration” synonymous to returning the rich Martian soil to its former barren state.

Eneld shrugged. “You won’t miss much. Worms release their payload… New wasteland here… Run for your life there…”

“And the jungles will finally stop spreading. Imagine what it’ll look like. The rusty soil against the wall of ferns.” Excitement glimmered in her eyes.

“Yeah…” Eneld held her gaze, not so sure about his own feelings about the project. Like Katherine, he’d grown up amid horror stories of the genetically engineered Martian jungles. As a child, the swift fly-by images of the endless green canopy had fascinated him. Nothing like that existed on Earth anymore.

After graduating from university with a degree in robotics engineering, he had traveled to Lunar Base Technological Center to specialize in biorobotics. Three years later, his head still full of dreams, he had accepted the office of Team Leader of the Martian Soil Restoration Program. At that time, he’d believed his team would find the ultimate solution to the red planet’s problem.

However, by the time Eneld came into office, the various branches of the Martian Terraformation Project were immersed in finger-pointing battles, because, despite their efforts, the jungles had spread over three quarters of the planet.

Every attempt to control the wilderness had ended in disaster. Be they rugged adventurers or the meek lab rat type, the last three Team Leaders to visit Mars had vanished into the foliage. Now it was Eneld’s turn to go.

He sighed. “I don’t know why we don’t just call it quits.” Yes he did. Mankind wasn’t going to give up halfway through a conquest, no matter the difficulties.

Katherine opened her eyes wide. “What? Don’t be silly! This time we got it.”

“Listen, Kathy, that’s what everyone’s been saying for the last twenty years. And look where we are now. We shouldn’t even be calling Mars the ‘red planet’ anymore.”

Katherine pursed her lips. “The problem is that the teams before us used the wrong techniques. Trying to wall in the jungles was simply ridiculous, and hacking away at the trees taught us how virulent their sap is. Spraying—we both know how that turned out.”

“Another Team Leader gone,” Eneld mumbled.

Katherine poked his chest. “But this time we’re getting it from below. Rusty, Spinach, and all the other earthworms will attack the root of the problem, literally. The jungle won’t suspect a thing.”

“You’re talking about it as if it were some beast we’re trying to hunt down.”

“In a way, it is.” Her black eyes locked onto his. Katherine was one of the few engineers who held the assumption that the entire Martian jungle functioned as a mega organism, each plant and crawly critter working together to feed, grow, and, come the day, procreate. That spectacle would be anything but pretty.

Eneld sat up against the headboard and nuzzled her neck. “Enough talk. I’ve got something better we can do.”

But Katherine drew back. “All this talk about Mars making you nervous?” She chuckled. “Get over it. You’re going there in less than a week.”

“I know, okay? I don’t need you to constantly remind me.” He shifted. Katherine was starting to feel heavy.

“You think Marsworms are going to burrow into that little head of yours?” She walked her fingers across his chest and tapped his forehead. “We’ve got vaccines against them, you know. Good ones.”

A knot formed in Eneld’s stomach. Sure, Katherine could joke about Marsworms—she wouldn’t have to spend the following months wearing earplugs and resting in short naps with one eye open.

“We might have a vaccine to inhibit Marsworm larvae growth,” he muttered, “but what about the constrictor ivy? We don’t have anything against that.”

Remote-controlled bots sent into the depths of the jungle had discovered a macabre garden of human-shaped bush sculptures. Some were huddled on the ground, while others were forever locked in a panicked run, legs apart, arms spread. Dozens of colleagues had died, smothered by the ivy. Those images had never reached Earth, but Eneld, as the new Team Leader, had been forced to sit through a disturbing movie session.

Katherine leaned over him, her breasts hovering deliciously close, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “Tell you what. I’ll go instead. Just appoint me, and I’ll get the job done.”

Eneld reached out to grope her. “Huh? You?”

“Well, since you’re obviously having second thoughts about it… I am the most experienced worm-wrangler—after you, of course.” She smiled and slowly rocked back and forth.

Eneld squeezed her breasts, a lopsided smile forming on his lips. “‘Worm-wrangler’ is a terrible name.”

“Then you come up with one.” She bent down and planted a quick kiss on his lips. Her hair smelled of coffee and cream.

”You’d have to study all the regulations.”

“I’m a fast learner.” She kissed his forehead, her breasts grazing his chin. “You can teach me. I’m sure you’re an excellent teacher.”

“You’re just buttering me up.” Eneld chuckled.

She drew away. “Aw, you got me. Still…I’d do anything not to let an opportunity like this slip by.”

Eneld let his head drop against the headboard. She’d said it. Opportunity. He wanted to groan every time he heard the word. Opportunity was what had pushed him to leave Earth and accept a job on the moon. An even greater opportunity was what now drew him into the sputum-coated jaws of Mars. What was he trying to prove to the world? That he was some sort of savior? The knot in his stomach tightened. He gently pushed Katherine aside and lowered his feet over the edge of the bed.

“What’s wrong?”

He rubbed his forehead. “I…uh…I’ll be right back.” He stumbled to the bathroom. With a push of a button, the door locked after him. He leaned over the sink and took a deep, shaky breath.

Damned Soil Restoration Program.

Living on the moon was pleasant enough; he enjoyed having the crescent Earth hanging over his head, its oceans winking down at him. But Mars…Mars was war. His heart thumped against his chest. How fitting that man’s attempt to domesticate the god of war should go so askew.

And they weren’t turning back. No matter how many of them died trying, they wouldn’t give up until they conquered what they had set loose.

He glared at himself in the mirror.

Or it kills us all.

As much as he hated to admit it, he could really use a fix. He opened the medicine cabinet and took out a small, chromed case. He popped the lid off, slid the tab, and a fine line of white dust emerged. It tickled and stung as he snorted.

He tilted his head back. That was damned good stuff.

Throx was illegal in almost all regions of the system, but Eneld dedicated a generous portion of his salary to keeping acquaintances in the right markets. When he left Earth to go to Lunar Base, he took along a short list of recommended dealers. Buying his fixes on the moon wasn’t a problem. The population of Mars, however, was comprised of only a handful of nerve-wracked scientists, most of who screamed and covered their ears if you approached them too suddenly. Not the type of people you could buy throx from.

When he asked his usual dealers if they knew who could supply him on Mars, they all shrugged and gave him the same curt response: StarCorp. The quote the company offered was steep, but if he cinched his belt a little, he could afford it. Nobody else dared deliver to Mars, anyway.

He rubbed his nose and looked down at the case. Without giving it a second’s thought, he slid the tab again and another white line emerged. He stared at it, suddenly hesitant. Change was coming. It was searching for him, fumbling around with outspread arms, stubbing its toes against the furniture. He could feel it inch toward him the closer departure day came. Maybe he should call it quits. Maybe Mars was the change he needed as well as an excuse to stop snorting throx. He’d miss the giddy arousal each line caused, but he’d save a lot of money.

He let out a quick sigh and snorted the line. A sharp pain needled him between the eyes, and he pinched the bridge of his nose. The blanket of red dust on his travel box, the biometal earthworms, even the tangled jungles all faded into irrelevance. Change might be coming, but throx would always give him the same carefree high.

When he returned to the bedroom, Katherine was dressing.

“Whoa, hey, leaving already?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a lot of work. And may I remind you of your ridiculous no-sleepover policy.” She poked his chest.

“I know, I know.” Eneld wrapped his arms around her waist. “But can’t you stay a little longer?” He undid a button on her shirt, his lips brushing against her neck. “C’mon…I’m leaving soon…”

He felt Katherine relax in his arms, her warm breath against his ear. “All right, if you insist.”

Good girl. Her hungry lips traveled down his neck and chest. He gently urged her lower. A brainiac in the workshop and a total slut in bed, Kathy never needed much coaxing. Eneld glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Almost eleven o’clock. He’d have to take round two easy if he wanted to make it to his early appointment. Throx could only go so far.

Serving Time

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Genre –  Science Fiction/Fantasy

Rating – Adult

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Website http://nadineonwriting.blogspot.com/

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The Soul of the World (Legends of Amun Ra #2) by Joshua Silverman @jg_silverman

5 Jan

SEVEN YEARS LATER…

Caerus Anius pulls the throttle of her urban terrain vehicle. She grips the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white. The large rear tires turn, spitting out dirt as it accelerates into the Erebus forest on Potara. This is a forbidden place, long thought to be haunted and ruled by Achlys, the spirit of the eternal night. She enchants the forest, keeping it in eternal darkness and an unholy mist. According to legend, Achlys was the embodiment of misery and sadness. She is a pale, sickly looking woman with bloody cheeks, long nails, and white hair. Yet, despite the warning, this is where Caerus Anius drives.

The Erebus forest is located thousands of miles from northwest of the Thothian empire. Along Thoth’s southern border are the Olympic Mountains, which butt against the ocean. The Olympic Mountains are identified by Mount Parnassus at an elevation of over forty thousand feet. It is a massive empire which, over the course of thousands of years, has dominated the Hellenes.

Once, it was led by the Priesthood and became the most advanced society. Then, almost two thousand years ago, the Amun Priests’ power dwindled. The monarchies of the High Priests were replaced by the Ephors, a republican government. Since that time, the Amun Priests have been thought of more as a cult than a religion. Most Thothians discount the Amun Priests’ beliefs with a wave of their hand. They are called ‘mystics’, ‘magicians’, or ‘zealots’ of a long forgotten time. Yet, the historical impact of the Amun Priests cannot be ignored, despite their irrelevance.

The tallest building in the empire is the Great Temple of Amun, located in the southern district of Amun. Built into the face of Mount Parnassus, anchoring it to the mountain, it is home to the Amun Priests. The exterior of the Temple, from the ground to peak, is covered in hieroglyphics and Egyptian sculptures of the gods and the lesser deities. Outside, on the ground floor of the sandstone Temple, are two hundred-foot high crystal statues. One is sculpted in the form of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. The crystal statue of Ra is sculpted as a man with the head of a hawk. Above his head is a sun disk. He holds the Scepter of Seth in one hand and in the other, Ankh, the symbol for the ancient word ‘life.’ The second crystal sculpture is of Amun, which is the god to whom the Temple is dedicated. He was revered as the King of the Gods in Egyptian culture and was depicted as a man with the head of a ram.

The UTV zips along the dirt road. Cruising through the forest of eternal darkness, the gentle hum of the engines does nothing to stop Caerus’ nagging fear of the child in the back. It’s her third child, a third boy. But this one is different, this one was never meant to be born. When Caerus saw what the boy was, she knew she had to get rid of him. He was far too dangerous to keep. He had to be taken somewhere safe.

The woman pushes on the throttle, decelerating as she drives through rougher terrain. The hoot of the owls and the caw of the crows unnerve her very soul. Outside of the windshield, the forest floor is covered in a white mist. Caerus manipulates the buttons on the dashboard. A needle rises from the hood and a red light sweeps over the landscape. An electronic display of the topography appears over the steering wheel, allowing Caerus to see where she is maneuvering. This should have never have happened to me. Why did I bear this child?

She hears a beeping on the display, indicating a house to the right. From its looks, she has no doubt that this is the house she seeks. She maneuvers towards it, parks, and steps into the mist. The chill in the night air hits her, sending a shiver up her spine. The hairs on her arm rise with fear as the owls and black crows cry above her head, hidden by the dark trees that sway under the breeze. The UTV hisses as the door opens. Caerus lifts the child, covered in an emerald green blanket, out of the car and tucks him in her arms.

A large, sheer crystal sphinx looms up, almost hidden from sight and covered in an overgrowth of dark forest shrubs, leaves, and vines.

Beyond the forty foot sphinx is a clay doorway covered in the same vines. A porch light hangs over the door, illuminating the immediate area. The doorway itself is arched in ancient Egyptian style architecture and between the two lotus bud columns, one on each side of the arched heavy oak doorway, lies a maze of ferns leading like a path out to the sphinx.

The front door opens with a loud creak, startling her. She puts her hand to her chest to quiet her pounding heart. Looking in the doorway, she sees a clean-shaven old man with dark eyes and dirty white hair. His white robes expose his grey haired chest as they came to a point. Over the white robe, the old man wears an emerald padded coat with gold trim, extending to the floor.

“Leukos?” she asks the man in the doorway. “Leukos Trismegistus?”

“I am,” he replies. Caerus moves closer. She holds the child to him for inspection. Leukos Trismegistus takes the child into his arms. She exposes the child’s forearm to Leukos.

“Do you see it? Do you see the symbol?” she asks.

Leukos holds the child into the light. On his forearm is a birthmark of two dragons, their heads wrapped around each other. One head faces the sun and the other faces the moon. The blood drains from Leukos’ face, though he keeps his composure in front of Caerus.

“I see the symbol,” he says.

“Well?” asks Caerus with both dread and anticipation. It would do no good for Leukos to lie to her; in fact, it would only make matters worse for the Hellenes.

“You have borne the child with the symbol of the Emerald Tablet.”

Caerus’ face goes slack. She pushes the child into his arms and backs away. “Then you take him. Keep him secret, keep him safe, Leukos. He’s far too dangerous with his brother.”

“His brother?” Leukos asks.

Caerus struggles to speak. “He bears the symbol of the Heart of Gold. His older brother is already with the Priests of Amun. They must be separated, Leukos.” She grabs his forearm. “Promise me you’ll take care of him.”

Leukos appraises her in the dim light. She has risked her life to come to the enchanted forest to save her last child. The prophecies by the oracles foretell a time when the bearer of the symbol of the Emerald Tablet would fight the bearer of the symbol of the Heart of Gold to decide the fate of the world. The two people who bear such a mark would be brothers.

Caerus’ first child bears a birthmark with an uncanny similarity to the symbol of the Heart of Gold. The brothers are destined to fight each other, and only one will prevail. Leukos nods his head.

“You will never see him again,” he says.

Caerus nods, swallowing. “I know, but it is for the best.”

“Then you know his destiny is to fight his brother. The boy’s fate is sealedby the gods.”

Caerus weeps. Only one of her sons will prevail, forced to kill the other. But which son, she doesn’t know and, even if she did, how could she ever choose between her children? No, this way is best. The other brothers do not know of this child yet, and it’s safer for them to never know. In the end, she is saving both of her son’s lives.

“Swear you’ll protect him with your life,” she squeezes his arm again.

“I swear, Caerus.”

She kisses her child goodbye.

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Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG-13+

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Website www.legendsofamunra.comwww.joshuagsilverman.com

Beyond Neanderthal by Brian Bloom @BrianB_Aust

3 Jan

From Chapter 3 – Skiathos Story

‘Which reminds me,’ Patrick said as the waiter left, ‘of a Greek holiday I had on Skiathos.’

Samantha knew he was trying to lighten her mood. She also knew she was in for one of his long, drawn out but usually entertaining stories and leant back in her chair.

‘I was on this little island swimming and sun-baking in the late summer. It was September and everywhere you went there were swarms of wasps across the island.’

‘Sounds like hell,’ Samantha said. ‘I can’t imagine what you and your girlfriend were doing on a wasp infested lump of rock.’

‘Who said I was with a girlfriend?’ Patrick feigned indignation. ‘And my God, you bankers are a breed apart. I say the word “hot”. You hear the word “hell”. I say the word “island”. You hear the word “rock”.’ He paused, momentarily lost for words. ‘Let me try again.’ He picked up a spoon and held it in front of his mouth like a microphone, cleared his throat, then continued in a melodramatically hushed voice. ‘The island was ablaze with bougainvillea, contrasting magnificently with the muted tones of the verdant olive trees.’ His hand swept panoramically through the air.

‘The sun shimmered off the roughly plastered white walls of the sleepy villas. And below them, the sea sparkled like a rippled mirror. On the hilltop, the domed roof of the little church was a blue so bright that it seemed the whole sky had been squeezed from it to form the background of God’s canvas. There was music in the air … a sense of magic was interrupted only by … the buzz of wasps.’ Then, Humphrey Bogart style, he said, ‘Got the picture sweetheart?’

Samantha could not help but smile back at him with. How could she not help but like him so much. ‘Okay’ she said leaning towards him. ‘But wasps? What should I be thinking when I hear the word “wasp”? White Anglo Saxon Protestant?’

‘Aarrgh!’ Patrick struck his forehead with the flat of his hand. ‘I’m not going to answer that.’

‘What’s the matter darling? Wasp get you?’

‘Okay. You asked for it. The barefaced, unadulterated version …’

Patrick gave her a wicked look as he took a swig from the glass of wine the waiter had poured for him to taste.

Samantha looked at him in mock disgust. ‘You cretin. You’re supposed to discreetly swirl that around in your mouth and taste it like a sophisticated gentleman of the world. I can’t take you anywhere. Give you a billycan of tea, a loaf of damper bread and a lump of meat and you’d be as happy as Larry.’

He ignored her outburst and winked at the waiter. ‘It’s great,’ he said. ‘The lady doesn’t drink, so you can just fill my glass.’

‘Ignore him,’ Samantha said quickly before the waiter had time to respond. ‘He hasn’t been allowed out for a while. And yes, I will have some wine, thank you.’

Patrick fixed his green-eyed gaze on her as though he was about to pin a butterfly to a corkboard. ‘Get you Gertrude,’ he said. ‘This is my story, and I’m on a roll here. And like I said, the bare facts ma’am, nothing but the facts.’

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘I’m having fun. Keep going.’

He took her hand that had been lying innocently on the table near the stem of her wine glass and squeezed it playfully.

‘Here’s where it gets interesting,’ he said. ‘The island is so small that tourists hire these Vespa scooters for a few bucks a day to travel from one end of the island to the other. You know, the Italian scooters with the splashboard in front where you put your feet. It’s like driving around on a slow armchair with one wheel front and back.’

‘Uh Oh.’ Samantha laughed, her hand flying to her mouth. ‘I’m starting to see where this is headed. Tell me, what were you wearing after your swim?’

‘You got it in one, sister,’ Patrick said with a laugh. ‘The answer is that I was wearing a pair of wide legged shorts with nothing on underneath, and this bloody wasp flies straight up my pants leg.’

‘No way!’

‘Wait! There’s more.

Beyond Neanderthal

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – MA (15+)

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#AmReading – Across Eternity by Aris Whittier @ArisWhittier

2 Jan

Across Eternity by Aris Whittier

Amazon

Logan Richards is doubly blessed. Not only is he a genius but he has a rare gift, he remembers things and not just from this life but all his lifetimes. He lives a life of wealth and luxury and has never lacked any material possession. There has never been an obstacle his intellect couldn’t overcome. But Logan has a problem: every night he dreams of the same woman, a woman he has dreamt of all his life. He knows she is real and he is determined to find her and convince her she belongs with him, forever.

Amber Lewis, a waitress for a five-star restaurant in Dana Point, California, is overworked and stressed. Her sister’s death has left her weary and wondering if there’s something more to life than mere existence. Then, one evening while working she meets Logan Richards, a chivalrous man who feels deeply familiar.

Fate has brought them together, but will their growing love prove strong enough to resist the forces that could pull them apart?

The Forgotten Child by Lorhainne Eckhart @LEckhart

2 Jan

Emily balanced the hastily scribbled directions on the steering wheel. She passed the faded red barn at the second marker on the highway. Making a right turn onto a gravel road, she continued until she saw the split-rail fencing with 665 in bright green numbers embedded in the wood. A huge fir archway on two solid beams surrounded the entrance to the dirt driveway, with the name Echo Springs carved into the weathered wood. What was it about the name that stirred some nostalgic memory of longing in her tummy? History, established families, of Mom, Dad, grandparents passing down their heritage and land. She’d heard the powerful family names whispered in the community: the Ricksons, the Folleys, who were the others? She was caught now by a nervous flutter starting to pound her solar plexus as she drove down the long dirt driveway. Old growth spruce, cedar and fir trees on both sides created a dense canopy overhead, and a mixture of other bushes and trees gave the appearance of walls. At the end, the driveway opened up into a large clearing, exposing a two-story white frame house with a wraparound veranda and large post beams. It resembled an old rambling Victorian. Emily parked in front of the house beside an old Ford Escort, a dirty blue pickup truck that had seen better days, a chipped yellow digger, a fairly new black GMC one ton pickup and a flatbed trailer loaded with some mysterious goods covered with a tarp. How many people live here, she wondered?

The wind created a chilly breeze as thick clouds cluttered the baby blue sky. Emily was far from cold when she climbed out of her van. Her underarms were damp and she prayed her deodorant was strong enough to keep her from smelling ripe. It’s nerves, that’s all. Or maybe it was the five cups of high-octane coffee she’d guzzled before Gina arrived, which wound her nerves so tight she could have bounced her way to the door.

She paused and breathed deep the clean air. The front of the house was virtually bare of any landscaping. Patches of grass poked up here and there from the well-packed dirt in the front yard. The flowerbeds in front were littered with dead perennials, weeds and overgrown grass long and bare leaning against the house. How many acres did he have? A large barn and other outbuildings littered the property with what looked like miles of open land with a spectacular view of the mountains.

She flexed her damp hands and climbed the four white wooden steps. She noticed the paint was chipped. Emily nearly tripped when the third step suddenly creaked and caught her off guard. She was way out of her comfort zone and this didn’t help, prompting her self-doubt to send SOS signals to confuse her already shaky insides. She was a mess. Her face ached so much, she was positive the forced smile she wore looked more like a grimace. Emily clutched a brown manila envelope, stuffed with her resume and references from her friends. On unsteady legs, she crossed the wide porch. A porch made for families to gather at the end of the day, to laugh together and share dreams and triumphs. Something families did. Well, the sort of dream family Emily yearned to be part of. She spied a wooden swing suspended by chains at the far end of the porch, beside two wicker chairs placed on each side of a large picture window, and she sighed.

Lorhainne Eckhart

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Genre – Contemporary Western Romance

Rating – PG

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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

How the English Establishment Framed Stephen Ward by Caroline Kennedy @StephenWardBook

1 Jan

The crowd outside the Mehta Clinic in Poona, India, was reluctant to make way for a distinguished Indian and his companion, a rather casually-dressed British army captain. It was a hot December day, 1944, and everyone was hoping to catch a glimpse of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the leaders of the Congress Party, recently released from jail where the British had confined him over his role in the Quit India movement. Eventually the distinguished Indian, who happened to be the son of the Maharaja of Baroda, located one of Gandhi’s assistants and told him that the British officer sought an audience with the Mahatma. The Indian led the way into a courtyard garden where hundreds of spectators lined the surrounding roofs. Gandhi was walking slowly up and down, accompanied by Sardar Patel, another Congress leader. The Indian bent to kiss Gandhi’s feet, but Gandhi pulled him upright. Then as the Indian said, “This is Captain Stephen Ward”, Gandhi turned to the Englishman, greeted him Indian style with a namaste and, although it was his day of silence, broke it by saying, “Well, it’s a change to have a visit from an English officer who has not come to arrest me!”

How The English Establishment Framed

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Genre – Politics, Espionage, Scandal

Rating – PG-16

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Along The Watchtower by David Litwack @DavidLitwack

31 Dec

Excerpt – The Trials

“Come, Dauphin. Walk with me.”

The advisor led me up to the parapets of the castle. Despite the pre-dawn haze, I could make out the land below. I looked out past Elwynn Forest to the village of Goldshire, with its thatched-roof cottages and patchwork quilt of green pastures stitched together with stone walls. But beyond them, looming over the houses and fields, I could see the mountains of Golgoreth, high, jagged peaks where the world of the Alliance ended and the realm of the Horde began. Already, storm clouds gathered over the ridge. As I paused on the ramparts to watch, a wind gusted from the east, an unnatural gale that roared in my ears and caused ripples in my skin.

“You feel it?” Sir Gilly said. “Their power builds in the hope that you will fail. Everything is changing now, different than what you’ve come to expect.”

“How so?”

He stretched a trembling finger toward the distant mountains.

“Their evil flows like fog on a November day, seeping into everything. When your father died, the protection he gave to the countryside began to weaken. It will grow weaker still until only the walls of Stormwind provide protection. At the end of the thirty days, they too will fail.” He turned to me, his face inches from mine. “First lesson: you must not, under any circumstances, go beyond the castle walls during the days of anointment.” His brows wriggled and knotted. “And the castle itself will not be safe. The mist will enter the smallest of cracks and transform into strange beings, the source of the trials . . . .The castle you know will change. Stairways will come into being where none existed before. You’ll go down them, but when you turn back, they’ll be gone. Archways and tunnels will appear, leading to odd chambers where you’ll meet the beings I spoke of. Some will be guides—elves or priests or mage. Others will mean you harm, spectral demons, agents of the Horde. Assassins.”

“How will I know the difference?”

“Trust what’s in your heart. If that’s enough, you will save Azeroth for another generation. If not…” A sorrow came over him, weighing down his features . . .

I’d never seen him so downcast, my source of knowledge and strength. I fingered the hilt of my sword, as I had at the start of so many training sessions. My grip on the braided leather tightened.

He looked at my hand and shook his head.

“No, Dauphin. You cannot fight this enemy with a sword.”

“But to defend against assassins?”

“It’s not your body they seek to harm. These assassins can’t threaten your being.”

“Then what is their purpose?”

“To extinguish your spirit. To make you abandon the kingdom to darkness. Their purpose is despair.” He turned toward the watchtower, standing erect, every inch the advisor. “Come. It is time to begin.”

AlongtheWatchtower

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG

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