Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Death in the Family by Lanny Larcinese

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Death in the Family by Lanny Larcinese. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt for you as well as a guest post. There's also a tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Be sure to check out the rest of the stops for more excerpts, guest posts, interviews, reviews, and more. Enjoy!
Title: Death in the Family
Author: Lanny Larcinese
Publisher: Intrigue Publishing LLC
Publication Date: January 1st 2020
Print Length: 269 pages
Genre: Crime Thriller
Donny Lentini is a talented young man hungry for his mother's love. To please her, he becomes guardian angel to his mob-wannabe father. When the father is murdered and found with his hands hacked off, Donny is dealt a set of cards in a game called vengeance. The pot is stacked high with chips; the ante, his soul and the lives of loved-ones. With the help of friends—ex-con, defrocked Jesuit Bill Conlon along with former high-school nemesis, Antwyne Claxton—he digs for whether the murder had anything to do with the mob's lust for a real estate parcel owned by the family of Donny's lover. He's new at this game. He doesn't cheat, but plays his cards well. And he gets what he wants.

I slid my foot over to touch Dad’s. I had promised Mother I’d look after him.

“Is this about the money you lost at the table?” I said. “Should we play a few more hands?”

German pounded his fist on the desk. “Don’t try to second-guess me, you punk! You’ll talk when I say, got it?”

I kept my eyes fixed on German’s. Six…seven…eight…

Dad reached over and put his hand on mine. “I didn’t lose the cleaners,” he said. A bead of sweat meandered toward his jaw. “The union was working on ’em going back three years now. It was already a done deal by the time I got there.”

“Whatever,” German said. “Just don’t let it happen anymore. And tell Donny here to mind his manners or you’ll be back driving a truck.”

The baseball bat leaning in a corner near German’s desk was an exclamation point that punctuated his directives. If it ever came down to that, I’d slash his throat with a rusty knife. Yet I still had to walk a tightrope. Dad would have preferred the bat to the demotion. Dad was a climber and German his future.

German picked up a couple of coded folders and put them into a filing cabinet, slamming the drawer down its rails like a runaway train.

“Oh, and Joojy wants to see you. I don’t know about what.”

“What about?” Dad said.

“You don’t hear? I said I don’t know! Maybe that thing. Now get outta here, both yiz. I got to take my daughter to ballet.”
Lanny Larcinese ‘s short work has appeared in magazines and has won a handful of local prizes. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s a native mid-westerner transplanted to the City of Brotherly Love where he has been writing fiction for seven years. When not writing, he lets his daughter, Amanda, charm him out of his socks, and works at impressing Jackie, his long-time companion who keeps him honest and laughing—in addition to being his first-line writing critic. He also spends more time than he should on Facebook but feels suitably guilty for it.

Writing Characters
by Lanny Larcinese
All writers have their own process. Mine begins with character(s). They present early on. I pay no mind to back-story, physical characteristics, or even their role at this initial stage; rather, I contemplate how their emotional construct impels their actions. Writers recognize this as: What does the character need? What motivates him?

Where I part company with some is to require a refined sense of what that need is. It can be simple: Saving the world, getting vengeance, finding love, etc., which may arise from a constellation of experiences and mental, emotional, and often cultural circumstances prior to emerging. For example, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” There is a lot of back-story packed into that Big Bang of an opening line from “Pride and Prejudice,” such that it led to a novel’s worth of attitudes, feelings, assessments, strategies and inter-character dynamics unfolding throughout the entire, fascinating book.

I am not referring to the best way to reveal or mete out characters’ motivations; I am saying I need to comprehend the underlying geology before I can explain a volcano’s eruption.

When I created Eddie Matthews, the despicable bad guy in “I Detest All My Sins,” I wanted to humanize him, so gave him a violent childhood. But it wasn’t enough to confer complex emotional depth beyond expected anger and violence. He wants his captive, Louise, to want him emotionally and sexually. He’s more than willing to handcuff her in a closet and abuse her in the meantime, yet he still longs for her. He’s by no means sympathetic; he’s otherwise self-serving, evil as hell, and a little ego parading as a big ego. But who can’t identify with feelings of longing? It contributed to the favorable Kirkus review of the book, including the remark, “…there’s an appealing neatness to the author’s careful psychological studies.”

The more clarity we possess regarding our own inner landscape, the easier to project it onto our fictional characters; yet not simple. We have defenses, ways of rationalizing unpleasant events and feelings about ourselves that may arise from them. I’m no shrink, but I frequently pause at the keyboard, lean back, and conjure my own history before I can imbue it into a fictional character. Perhaps this is why writing is often cathartic.

I am fascinated by training in method acting, i.e., techniques to access long-ago emotions locked in a closet out of self-protectiveness for use on the stage—crying real tears when the scene calls for it—then putting the grief back into the closet when the klieg lights go off. There, the actor isn’t “acting” per se, but in that and other moments “becomes” the character.

Finally, not everybody needs to plumb depths of their own psyches to create fascinating, complex characters. Some have great radar or are blessed with intuitive understandings of psychodynamics. Me? I need to dig within myself. I need to access feelings of fear, longing, love, hate, frustration—the panoply of emotions attendant to being human—and bring them to the surface, examine them from all angles, recall what they meant to my life and how I reacted for better or for worse, and what the consequences were.

Once I do that in me, I can put it in a book.
Lanny Larcinese will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. To increase your chance of winning, leave a comment at a different stop each day. Good luck!
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Monday, December 30, 2019

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: The Wrong Kind (Hannibal Jones Mystery #1) by Austin S. Camacho

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for The Wrong Kind by Austin S. Camacho. This tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt for you as well as a guest post about scary situations. Be sure to enter the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Check out the other stops on the book tour for more excerpts, guest posts, interviews, reviews, and more. Enjoy!
Title: The Wrong Kind
Series: Hannibal Jones Mystery #1
Author: Austin S. Camacho
Publisher: Intrigue Publishing LLC
Publication Date: December 1st 2019
Print Length: 255 pages
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
A distraught woman hires private investigator Hannibal Jones to track down her daughter who has run away, trying to escape the homeless shelter life her mother has come to accept. When Hannibal finds Connie Blanco she is entwined in a gang war and somehow connected to a murder. The corpse is barely cold before a second murder follows and Hannibal finds himself entangled in a complex plot revolving around stolen drugs…but who is the mastermind of this twisted scheme?

“If you take my advice you’ll go back up to Charles County and look in on your mama. It might not matter to you but it will make her feel a lot better.” He stood, leaned forward and offered a hand to help her to her feet.

And then the lights went out.

Hannibal spun in the sudden darkness, one hand snatching his Oakleys off his face while the other darted under his suit jacket reaching for his weapon. Before his fingers could manage to grip the gun his head exploded with pain.

The impact staggered him. The left rear corner of his head. With luck that might be enough of a clue. He whipped his left fist around and back. He hit nothing but air. Then an arm wrapped around his neck. Another arm went under his right arm and he felt the hand at the back of his head. He knew the hold, not a choke in the classic sense, but what television wrestlers called a sleeper hold, cutting off the blood flow in both his carotid artery and jugular vein. He could breathe fine but with no blood going to his brain it didn’t matter. He felt a deeper darkness moving in and his balance deserted him. The arms suddenly came away. Something crashed into his knees. Most likely the floor. His arms were unresponsive, and it felt like he was falling forward. He took a deep breath because he knew the next part was really going to hurt.
Austin S. Camacho is the author of seven novels about Washington DC-based private eye Hannibal Jones, five in the Stark and O’Brien international adventure-thriller series, and the detective novel, Beyond Blue. His short stories have been featured in several anthologies including Dying in a Winter Wonderland – an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association Top Ten Bestseller for 2008. He is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey. Camacho is also editorial director for Intrigue Publishing, a Maryland small press.

Have you ever found yourself in a scary situation? What happened?
I’ve actually been in a lot of scary situations. Our house burned down when I was in junior high school. A car hit me and totaled my car. An earthquake shook the building I worked in. But the most frightening was probably during the first Gulf War.

I was a broadcast journalist in the Army. In 1990 I was stationed in Belgium running a military radio station for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE.) Once hostilities broke out in The Gulf many of us were sent to the front to report the news to our military audience.

I was stationed with a Patriot Missile unit ion the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Israel for a while. The unit was there to defend our ally from Iraqi attack. I made news stories about these men as they set up and manned missile launchers.

One night an alert yanked us out of our tents. The enemy had launch scud missiles at Tel Aviv. We were pretty much standing on ground zero of the missile attack. The soldiers moved with impressive precision, and I grabbed my video camera to capture the activity. Standing amidst the launchers I was totally involved with capturing high-quality video, with my partner handling lighting. Then we saw glowing missiles in the sky. Our team launched Patriots in response. I raised my sights and through my lens I watched Patriot missiles leave the ground and intercept scud missiles overhead. Those explosions in the night sky made for spectacular video.

Through the view finder, events can come to feel like you’re watching a movie. It was only after the first couple of hits that I realized that those enemy missiles were falling toward ME. If even one of those scuds got through the Patriot Missile barrage my fellow soldiers and I would be vaporized. Luckily for us, the missile team was highly skilled. Not one enemy missile got through and I was able to produce a couple of pretty nice video news stories.
Austin S. Camacho will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. To increase your chance of winning, follow the tour, and leave a comment at a different stop each day. Good luck!
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Friday, December 27, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Dragon's Burn (Legion's Fallen Motorcycle Club #1) by Brooke Warren

Title: Dragon’s Burn
Series: Legion’s Fallen Motorcycle Club #1
Author: Brooke Warren
Publication Date: December 27th 2019
Print Length: 255 pages
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Reverse Harem, Romance
High school is over which means summer vacation has officially begun. I just spent the last four years busting my butt making sure I secured a one way ticket out of hicksville and the suffocating small-town life.

To celebrate my impending freedom I attend an end of year party with the same people I can’t wait to escape from. Except this party is different from the rest, there’s someone new.

What starts as a summer fling quickly turns into more. My carefully guarded heart is split wide open. Meeting him sends my life on a detour and threatens to destroy all my future life plans.

He’s not supposed to happen, he’s not part of my plan. He spins my world out of control, like a drug addiction I can’t seem to kick.

Can he escape his obligations with Legion’s Fallen MC or will our love destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve?

This is a medium-burn contemporary reverse harem romance. The build of harem is slow and will be complete by end of series. Anticipated 3-4 books in series.

***This book is intended for those 18+ due to adult content and language.***

“I asked Ryu to come with me to Boston.”

Deb drops her slice of pizza on her plate and starts choking. I slide her drink closer and wait while she takes a sip to clear her throat, the whole time bracing for the backlash I know is coming.

“I’m sorry. . .” She coughs again and takes another gulp of her soda. “Did I hear you correctly? You asked Ryu to go with you to Boston?” Her mouth hangs open in disbelief.

I thought about keeping what happened the other night to myself, but it’s driving me crazy. I need someone to talk to about this. Tell me I was stupid for asking. Or tell me I haven’t completely lost my mind because I’ve fallen for him and am not ready for it to end.

“What on God’s green earth possessed you to do that?”

I wince at her comment. “Well, I’m not one hundred percent sure.”

“Is this why you begged me to meet you tonight? So, you could drop this bombshell on me?”

I shrug. “I figured if we were in public, you’d be less likely to maim me.” She huffs in annoyance, but she knows I’m right. Pizza is her weakness, and I exploited it for my own personal gain, but safety comes first. And being out in the open lowers the chances of her going off on me like she would if we were at home.

“Not only do you use my love for Tony’s pizza against me, but you made sure we had eyes all around us?” She leans back in her seat and shakes her head. “At least you let me eat a few slices first. Well, get on with it. Tell me what happened.”

I don’t just tell her about the other night, I also tell her about the day he left jail. They don’t have anything to do with each other, but in my head I need everything that's happened this week off my chest. I swear her eyes keep getting bigger and bigger the more I spill. When I’m all done, I expect her to dive right in with her opinion, but she just sits there blinking.

“Ok, let me get this straight. You saw him leave jail on Monday, but you don’t know why he was in there to begin with. Then you go over to his house two days later, sleep with him and invite him to come to Boston with you. Now you guys aren’t really talking?”

I shake my head. “When you sum up everything like that, I can hear how fucking ridiculous it all sounds. Which is why I need your help.”

She blows out her cheeks before diving back into her food. I tilt my head to watch her shovel the pizza into her mouth. When she polishes that slice off in no time flat, she shoots me a glare. “What? I’m stress eating.”

“Why are you stressing? I’m the one with the issue. This was supposed to be fun, nothing more. And I fucked that up with one question. The only way I could’ve screwed this up more would’ve been if I asked him to marry me.”

“Please, for the love of God, tell me you didn’t,” she gasps.

I toss my crust at her. “No! Jeez. I’m not that crazy.”

“No, just crazy enough to ask a guy who you barely know, that’s been in jail, to move up north with you.”

Brooke Warren is a new Indie author who lives in Florida with her husband and three dogs. When she is not writing, you can find her reading, playing online video games (World of Warcraft and Fallout are her favs), or getting lost for hours on You Tube and Netflix. Her love for books and over active imagination has inspired her to share the stories stuck in her head.

Thank you so much to all the readers and supporters. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Win a $10 Amazon gift card!
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Book Tour and Giveaway: Ghost Revelations (Ghost Dud #1) by Aspen Black

Title: Ghost Revelations 
Series: Ghost Dud #1 
Author: Aspen Black 
Publication Date: October 25th 2019
Print Length: 181 pages
Genres: Reverse Harem, Urban Fantasy, Romance 
I was always told growing up in my family, surrounded by magic, that I was a dud. I had no power except the ability to talk to ghosts. It never bothered me because I enjoyed my job as a bartender at my Uncle's bar that caters to the supernatural community. I spend my nights working and getting to flirt with my crush.

Then one night, my life turned upside down. Someone was murdered right around the corner and suddenly a hot wizard detective with a perfect bubble butt from MEPA, The Magical Entity Protection Agency, swooped in and asked for my help with the victims' ghosts. Working with the detective soon leads to a race to stop a killer who is bent on exposing the supernatural community to humans with more deaths.

Join Victoria on her journey as she works to stop an evil being with the help from her crush Akira the werewolf, Lucian the wizard, and her ex-boyfriend Shax.

This is a reverse harem medium to fast burn book or a why choose novel.

F/M/M/M. This does include M/M heavy elements.

Aspen Black is often described as kooky by her friends. She writes the stories that have floated continuously in her imagination since she was a child. She's a lemonade addict that really shouldn't be allowed near lemons.

Being an introvert, she spends most of her time writing and reading her favorite books.

Please join her on her Facebook and twitter feeds for up to date information on current and in-progress books.

She is a lover of all animals, having a small zoo at home.

- Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
How I became an author? That question always makes me laugh a little. I think anyone who picks up a pen (or types out on the computer) a story can be called an author. I was in fourth grade when I really developed a love of writing. I remember an essay where we had to write about what we wanted to do when we go to college. I wrote I was going to go to Harvard and become a writer! Of course, that didn’t happen. When I graduated high school, because my family needed me, I went straight to the work force and stopped writing for years. I went to community school in my mid-twenties, got a degree, a little bit of a better paying job, but it wasn’t until this past year that I picked up writing again.

I kept telling myself that I’d find time to write when I wasn’t so busy, or I had a better job. News flash to myself: It wasn’t going to happen unless I made it happen. So, I picked up that pen and got to writing. Ghost Revelations took about five months overall to finish. It was an idea I had for years that brewed in my head. Now, when I made it into a reverse harem novel? That idea came as I was writing it. I always got so mad at a heroine who was in love with different guys but ultimately had to choose one. How was that fair to her or the guys? It wasn’t!

I think I got off topic…I digress. I love writing, it’s my passion. Writing again, after so many years, has really helped me become happy again. It’s helped fight off my depression (which has been really bad), so much better than all the medications I’ve had to take for it.

- What are some of your pet peeves?
Pet peeves. I really only have a few. The biggest one is cracking knuckles. I CAN’T stand that noise. It literally makes me cringe. Another pet peeve is when someone says they’ll have something done at a certain time or date, and they wait until the very last moment to do it.

- What do you do to unwind and relax?
This might sound weird, but, I write or read. I can write for hours but only get a few things down and still be relaxed as if I had been reading that whole time. I don’t watch cable; I have Netflix on while I work.

Oh! It’s rare nowadays, but I also love to create little creatures with polymer clay or burn wood designs.

- Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Awkward introvert, kooky, and awkward.

- What is something unique/quirky about you?
I know that I have a quirk about collecting all things Panda that I can. I also have this weird habit that when I have an ‘all day writing’ day, I have to have lemonade or I can’t start.

- As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Ok, it’s time to be honest here. My spirit animal has, and always will be, a panda. I am OBSESSED with collecting pandas. I have a half sleeve of panda tattoos on my left arm. They are fuzzy, soft, cuddle, chubby, extreme klutzes. Just like me!
Win a Google Home Mini, a $10 Amazon gift card, or a $5 Amazon gift card – 1 winner each! 
Follow the tour HERE for special content!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Book Tour and Giveaway: Aryana's Journey (Excalibur's Decision #1) by Aspen Black

Title: Aryana's Journey 
Series: Excalibur's Decision #1 
Author: Aspen Black 
Publication Date: December 20th 2019
Print Length: 291 pages
Genres: Reverse Harem, Fantasy, Romance 
In the twenty third century the gateways were opened by Merlin between Earth and The Realm, the home of the Fae, in search of the next King Arthur. Magic flooded the Earth, overtaking most of technology. Now, hundreds of years later, Fae have learned to coexist peacefully with humans and Merlin still searches the Earth with Excalibur.

Aryana works in the Mayor’s kennels overnight. She’s been content with her life up until the moment her eyes meet those of Merlin’s. Everything changes during the Star Festival. Her life becomes a whirlwind as she travels to Avalon with her Knights of the Round Table, her Wizard and a new ally that no one was ever expecting.

It’s up to Aryana to help stop an ancient evil that dwells deep within The Realm. She will have to learn to fight for herself with the help of Excalibur to aid in the upcoming war.

This is a slow to medium burn fantasy reverse harem why choose novel.

Aspen Black is often described as kooky by her friends. She writes the stories that have floated continuously in her imagination since she was a child. She's a lemonade addict that really shouldn't be allowed near lemons.

Being an introvert, she spends most of her time writing and reading her favorite books.

Please join her on her Facebook and twitter feeds for up to date information on current and in-progress books.

She is a lover of all animals, having a small zoo at home.

Facebook * Facebook Readers Group * Twitter
Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads
- What can we expect from you in the future?
You can expect so much! I’m a little like the energizer bunny when it comes to writing. I have the two series right now that I’ll have published and finished by the end of 2020. I also have a contemporary paranormal series based in a town that I’ll have written by the end of 2020, but won’t probably be published until 2021. That idea was something I had started even before Ghost Revelations but it’s taken a while to develop the story.

I have a stand-alone fantasy I’m writing that’s based vaguely on the idea of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk. That book is looking to be at least four hundred or more pages.

I also have a few note books full of ideas that I just need to develop. I have an idea that has the first few pages already written for a twist on a zombie apocalypse. The only ideas that I struggle with are Christmas stories. I’d love to write a few short stories for next Christmas.

I’m really hoping that I can attend a few writer/reader conferences as an author. That would be a DREAM.

- Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
My characters completely hijack the story. I have no reigns whatsoever. I’ll go in with an idea but they’ll take over and it’ll come out totally different. You should really read my books or my characters will be sad!

- What did you edit out of this book?
For Ghost Revelations, I actually took out a few chapters that just didn’t work with the overall story. I did add an extra chapter back in though. I saved the chapters I took out to see if I could use in the future.

- What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I’m what’s known as a ‘pantser’. For the most part, I’ll write down an idea, do a vague outline of what I want the story to work off of, and then I let my fingers fly! I do write in chapters, I can’t write outside of chapters, it has to go in order.

- Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I can do both, but I prefer to have music going on in the background. If it’s too quiet, I can sometimes get bored and unfocused. But if there’s a tv going? I’ll get so distracted I stop writing altogether.

- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first book, Ghost Revelations, took about five months. Aryana’s Journey only took two. I’m thinking the second book in the Ghost Dud Series is going to take about two months as well I started earlier this month but, I’m only about half way done with it.

- Do you believe in writer’s block?
Oh, yes. It is there! I’ve run into it a few times. The longest was about two weeks and it was HORRIBLE! Not being able to think of anything to write felt like I was missing a limb.
Win a Google Home Mini, a $10 Amazon gift card, or a $5 Amazon gift card – 1 winner each
Follow the tour HERE for special content!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Book Tour and Giveaway: Queens of Wings & Storms by Various Authors

Title: Queens of Wings & Storms: Limited Edition Fantasy & Urban Fantasy Collection
Publication Date: November 20th 2019
Print Length: 1022 Pages
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Searching for myths and magic?

Queens of Wings and Storms in a fiery collection of fantasy and urban fantasy tales from today’s bestselling and the hottest new authors.

Fly with dragons, witches, and burn whole kingdoms to the ground as you explore one new fantastical world after the next. From urban fantasy streets to forgotten lands, our heroines and queens are poised to rule it all.

Books by:
Angela Sanders
USA Today Bestselling Author Tina Glasneck
USA Today Bestselling Author Claire Davon
USA Today Bestselling Author Adrienne Blake
USA Today Bestselling Author Kyndra Hatch
USA Today Bestselling Author D. C. Gomez
Jenn D. Young
Kat Parrish
AJ Gala
Susannah Shannon
Angela Kulig

**Scroll through the slideshow to learn more about the authors!**
Win a year of Kindle Unlimited!
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Monday, December 23, 2019

Virtual Book Tour: Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon by Kathy Holmes

Title: Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon
Author: Kathy Holmes
Publisher: Screamie Birds Studios
Publication Date: July 5th 2014
Print Length: 180 pages
Genres: Psychological, Thriller, Romance, Suspense, Contemporary
Nikki Durrance escaped the worst nightmare of her life when she fled Las Vegas for San Francisco, leaving her abusive husband Jeff behind at the Blue Diamond Saloon. Rebuilding her life in San Francisco with the help of her closest friend Sally, Nikki draws the line with one thing: men. But when she accompanies Sally on a business trip back in Las Vegas, Nikki meets Dr. Mike Fischer, a sexy and desirable pediatrician also from San Francisco.

After a whirlwind courtship followed by a proposal, Nikki panics and jumps on the nearest cruise ship to Mexico. Realizing she must face her fears rather than run from them, she returns home and accepts Mike’s proposal. Life picks up even more speed with Mike’s plans and Nikki panics once again, imagining that everything Mike does mirrors her ex-husband Jeff. Attempting to sort out what’s real and what’s not, Nikki begins to question everything, including her sanity when everything with Mike feels like déjà vu.

Chapter 1

Everything in Vegas Looks Better at Night

The dusty, thirsty, lifeless terrain transforms into an Alice in Twinkle land and the neon electrifies the Las Vegas Strip. The barren stretches of nothingness surrounding the valley of so-called normal life vanishes from view. But nothing is normal in a place where gambling is invasive—it’s in the grocery stores, it’s in McDonald’s, it’s in every neighborhood corner where a neon sign flashes “gambling and cocktails.”
Leo the grocer startled me when he appeared at the front door of our Las Vegas house—the one we’d dreamed of when we were squished into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. But that house felt like a prison with its tomb-like shades covering the windows to prevent the harsh, desert sun from scorching the inside of the house.
When I ran downstairs to open the front door, he handed me a package of ice. Because this is how Vegas works—when you check out at the grocery store, the clerk asks if you need ice, and if you’re lucky, they’ll deliver it to you on short notice. It would be such a shame if you had the sudden urge to make a martini and be out of ice. Especially if you had a surprise guest like I did that hot August night.
I felt Jeff’s breath on my neck, the belt buckle he wore when he played Texas Hold ‘Em pushing against me, and so I pulled away and asked, “What’s the ice for?”
“Drinks with Gabrielle,” he said.
“Yes, she’s over there.” I looked in the direction he was pointing, as Leo drove off and a woman wearing a black leather mini-skirt and tank-top stepped out of a taxi. Wearing stilettos, she posed in such a way that time stood still, portraying an air of confidence. Stunned that he knew the half-sister I had never met; I drank in the details of her appearance. She looked nothing like she did in the picture she’d sent me–brunette with medium-length hair. Now she had pure white spiked hair, the exact color Jeff described when he insisted I bleach my almost black hair.
She approached our front door and said, “You’ve lost weight.” I’ve lost weight? What did she know about me? I’d planned on sending her my photo, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Jeff stepped forward, “Please, come in, make yourself at home.”
I fingered my wind-blown hair and glanced at my unkempt clothes. This was not how I’d imagined I’d be dressed when I met Gabrielle for the first time. My enormous closet in the master bathroom, part of an even larger master suite, full of clothes for every occasion—for golf, tennis, or evening wear at some elegant function on the Strip. Because if there was one thing true about my husband was that he loved to impress others with a well-dressed wife.
Jeff led us into the living room, moved the cat off the couch and said, “Please, sit here” to Gabrielle but then turned to me, “Shouldn’t you be getting dressed?”
I didn’t wait around long enough to see if Gabrielle sat down or not, but I heard soft laughter and ice tinkling from the kitchen. Jeff must be making his special cocktail—what he called a French Martini joking that he named it after me. Pineapple juice, vodka, Chambord, and Vermouth—” What’s so French about that?” I had asked. “Well, you are French, right?” he said, and then he threw his head back and laughed in a maniacal way, as if he knew a secret I did not know.
Uneasiness swept over me leaving Jeff and Gabrielle alone downstairs in my kitchen—the kitchen I took pride in. It was a luxury to finally own such a beautiful, brand-new home and I considered that room to be my private haven. It was where I stood each morning when I gazed at the backyard, lit with the morning desert sun, recalling a similar backyard in my California childhood.
I hurriedly dressed in a pair of black slacks and my favorite black pumps I’d found on sale at the Outlet Mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. I rummaged through the dresser drawers searching for a particular red shirt—because from the way my husband was leering at Gabrielle, I knew it was important I dress my best.
Unable to find it, I put on a black one instead, and grabbed a matching black purse. On my way downstairs I passed my upstairs office where I indulged myself in working on my latest manuscript. The words often failed me then, but when I awoke in the middle of the night to an empty bedroom, I could sit in my office and the lights of South Point Casino calmed me, reassured me. I then wrote until the sun began to peek over the mountains of Henderson in the east in that special hour where the daylight meets the neon. I jumped into bed before Jeff returned from an all-night poker game.
When I’d made my way to the living room, Jeff handed me a drink and the three of us sat down—Jeff in his leather recliner and Gabrielle in the chair next to him—the one I considered my own. I moved our cat, Sam, the name Jeff had insisted on even though he was not a cat lover. I sat down on the couch closest to Jeff as if I was competing with Gabrielle for his attention.
After a quick drink and a brief chat, Jeff suggested we all go to the Blue Diamond Saloon. “They have the best buffet,” Jeff said.
No, it wasn’t the fanciest place, like those casinos on the Strip, but it was a local hangout like so many in Vegas that served food, drinks, and of course, the ubiquitous gambling. Actually, it was a bit of a dive, but it was within walking distance from our home, and Jeff particularly enjoyed the poker games there.
Jeff said, “You two go on—I’ll catch up” so Gabrielle and I started walking toward The Blue Diamond Saloon.
Jeff caught up with us, and once we arrived, he sauntered inside as if he owned the place. When I tried to follow him, Gabrielle’s demeanor changed and she gave me a look that said, “You’re so gauche” (after all, according to the emails we’d exchanged, she'd lived in Paris) and she’d indicated she’d expected me to have done the same—with a French name like Nicole and all. But ever since she discovered I hadn’t lived in Paris, she seemed to be slightly disappointed in me. I’d hoped, perhaps, that living in Las Vegas, the “entertainment capital of the world,” would give me some caché, but this was something she dismissed—as if I hadn’t quite mastered being here.
The doorman must have felt the same way, because he refused me admission. This was too weird to even be polite, so I left, and headed for home, stopping by the shop around the front of the club. But all the red shirts cost more than I had on me, and I had left my credit cards in my other purse—the red purse.
When I arrived back home, I noticed the laptop sitting on the white wicker table next to a matching rocking chair in the front entry. When I took a closer look, I saw that the browser was open at Jeff’s poker blog—something he rarely updated. After all, I was the online multi-media professional: writer, blogger, and graphic artist. I read the entry there, with a link to a video he’d posted.
The text said, “Don’t watch unless you have the stomach for it.” So, of course, I clicked on the link. And what I saw filled me with fury, disgust, and hate. It was a video of my husband dressed in my missing red blouse and matching red shorts, with my red purse on his arm, prancing around to some seductive music. And in the background, a neon sign flashed, “The Blue Diamond Saloon.”
Early in our relationship he had revealed how he struggled with his weight when he was younger, and so he took pride in being able to wear my size twelve clothes. In spite of what the fashion industry wanted to believe, I was still below the average size fourteen that most U.S. women wore. I worked hard at keeping my weight down.
But Gabrielle mustn’t be any larger than a size eight, my best guess after viewing Gabrielle wearing nothing but a satin black thong, matching low cut silk black bra, and Jeff’s tie. I recognized it from one of our cruises. She maneuvered a sexy move behind him, danced around him, and smiled into the camera taunting me. A swift kick to my gut told me that today was not the first time they had met.
Then he peered directly into the camera, and snarled, “This is for Sam.” And then right in front of me, in front of the camera, he started making rude fondling movements on Gabrielle’s body while she fondled him in return. I’m a voyeur as much as the next person, but I couldn’t watch anymore. And when I closed the browser window, a message written like a handwritten note said, “RIP, darling,” and then a mock newspaper headline flashed. It said, “Jealous Wife Found Dead at The Blue Diamond Saloon wearing nothing but black pumps.”
Feeling a second swift kick to my gut, I peeked in the closets, the pantry, the cabinets and the rooms upstairs to make sure nobody was in there, waiting for me. Because I was afraid that this time he would make good his idle threats and I’d be dead. Maybe not by his own hands, but I suspected he knew people in low places, and somebody someday would murder me. I’d had enough and I knew that it was up to me to remain alive, to get away before tomorrow arrived.
I may appear stupid for hanging around this long, but I wasn’t about to stay any longer, in case my luck had run out. I was afraid the next death threat, the next slap on the face, the next infidelity would mean the end of me.
At the same time, I asked myself, “Why? What did my husband have against me? What had I done to him?” The years of our marriage punched through my mind like a ticker tape, and then I knew. He had never forgiven me for not loving him as much as I had loved Sam—the one man who’d eluded me. I loved how his name rolled on my tongue—Sam, Sam Sullivan. It played the right notes to my ear like a private dick in some mystery novel. Maybe I had stayed with Jeff for so long out of guilt that somehow I deserved this mistreatment. After all, wasn’t it a sin not to love your husband more than any other man in the world?
So, Jeff taunted me, jealous of any man so much as glanced at me, paying me back by flirting with other women and inviting them to our house. And then later when we broke into the inevitable fight his mustache would curl around his lips, and he’d stare at me, and peer into my soul with those devil-green eyes and say, “I’m the best you’re ever going to have” and somehow I believed him. After all, my own father had rejected me—I couldn’t let the one man who was willing to be with me abandon me, too.
I hung on year after year until I noticed the taunts were getting more serious. And now he had gone too far. He had behaved despicably in front of my half-sister—the one person I wanted to think well of me. And it wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t been drawn into his web, making it worse until that night, after I left The Blue Diamond Saloon and found that message on his laptop.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been spurned forward to race down to The Blue Diamond Saloon to confront them—confront him, for I knew he had set it up—that he had lured her into being on his side. After all, weren’t they both jealous of me—resented me? Gabrielle, when she discovered she wasn’t her darling daddy’s only daughter, and Jeff, well, Jeff, because he couldn’t own me.
But when I got there, all mad as hell, ready to cause a scene, the doorman was off duty. I had no problem entering the place. I was armed with the ammo of my fury, but when I glanced around the room, nothing untoward was occurring anywhere. People were milling around, playing slot machines, eating, drinking. And then my eyes located Jeff and Gabrielle playing a quiet game of video poker, laughing, but looking bored. Maybe their fun had been putting on a show for me. They both glanced up and smiled innocently at me when I stood in front of them, energized by the expression on my face, as if asking for a confrontation.
And that made me even more furious. Gabrielle, I dismissed. But Jeff, oh, Jeff had it coming. I lifted my right hand, pulled back, and with all the fury of the past five cruel, miserable years, I slapped him. I slapped him hard. I slapped him so hard, blood trickled down from his lip—those full luscious lips he took such pride in. He stood up, angry, and slapped me back, “You b*tch. You made my lip bleed. You’ll have to pay for that.”
But I’d had enough. I turned around and ran. I ran so fast, not stopping to see if anybody was following me. I ran back to the house, while calling a cab from my cell phone. I threw together a few of my most important items, like my red purse, but it didn’t take long because the only item of importance was me. And five minutes later when the cab arrived, I jumped in, and told the driver to take me to the airport.
“Lady, are you all right?” he asked, dodging the dozen or so Harleys that rumbled past the house. Too bad I didn’t have my own Harley so I might disappear into the desert.
“I am now,” I said as I met the cabbie’s eyes in the rearview mirror as he peeled out, sensing my distress and urgency, as I left my past behind in the dust.
I took the first flight to San Francisco where I had lived before I met Jeff, where I hoped I still had friends. I charged the plane fare to my Visa, although I knew Jeff would be able to trace the charge and know where I had gone. But I wouldn’t worry about that now. It was important to get myself as far away from Vegas, as far away from Jeff, as far away from my past as I could.
I was burned by my past, yet hopeful that I could build a Disney World kind of life for myself. I closed that dark, dreary, scary door, and I made a vow to never open it again. From now on, people would see a strong, confident, happy, positive-thinking woman.
What I didn’t know was that as soon as you make a vow, the world will do everything in its power to tempt you into breaking it.
Kathy Holmes grew up in Southern California near Disneyland and the beach with a book in one hand and a transistor radio in the other. She began writing stories about family and wrote her first song with a childhood friend. They called themselves the "Screamie Birds."

Books have always spurred her love for travel, especially to places she's read about, and location is often a character in her books.

After an exciting career in Silicon Valley, she is now combining her love for both books and music at Screamie Birds Studios.

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