Roni Faciane ~ Author Interview

Roni was left to fight a fight that few could win. She filled with rage holding her baby now covered in bruises, praying to a God that wouldn’t protect her. She pushed back murderous plots in her head. After all, her son and daughter relied on her training to dispense justice—not revenge. Defending her baby, she took her beating in front of a judge and vowed to make them pay. Five years later, she would again face that same system. This time she was a huntress of fugitives—a bounty hunter. A newfound badge of redemption propelled her into the spotlight. Exploited, threatened and sued, she continued her mission. But she found her biggest challenge in the case of human trafficking, the deaths of six young women, and two serial killers.

Roni tells her riveting story in RUBBER BULLETS a memoir!

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

WATCH THE INTERVIEW BELOW!


Doctor Glass by Louise Worthington ~ Book Review

TITLE: Doctor Glass (April 11, 2022)

AUTHOR:     Louise Worthington

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.★ (4.5)
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Psychotherapist Emma-Jane Glass has prioritized work over leisure for far too long. She does whatever it takes to help her clients, and it’s bordering on professional obsession. When she publishes a controversial article about unstable mothers murdering their children, an anonymous letter arrives on her doorstep:

I will expose you.
Then, I will mutilate you…
Wait for me.


After she is abducted into the night, Doctor Glass finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous sociopath. But being a relentless doctor of the mind, she feels an urge to help her fragile captor, even if it might shatter her sanity—and her life. It becomes a game of survival, and only one mind can win.

For fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French, and Alex Michaelides comes the newest voice in psychological fiction.

CONTENT GUIDANCE: 
This novel explores aspects of psychology and mental health and contains depictions of self-harm, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. Please read with care.

* Disclosure: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase. I only recommend products/books/tools I use and love!

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

WRITING (★★★★★): Worthington’s writing style will draw you in! She has a degree in literature and psychology, which she uses to create psychological thrillers, such as Doctor Glass, that let her readers explore the depths of the human mind and how far humans are willing to go when their lives and livelihoods are threatened.

This book started out a little slow, but quickly picked up its pace as she pulls you into the store. Page after page, I couldn’t put this one down. I’ve read a few reviews that say the ending was too fast, but I don’t really agree. I think the story just doesn’t end the way we hope… there is no Hollywood ending here… Life doesn’t always end happily ever after, and Worthington isn’t afraid to show us the ugly side of life.

STORY (★★★★): This is a psychological thriller that will definitely keep you engaged. It starts with Dr. Glass’s kidnapping after writing an article that expresses her sympathy for a mother who killed her child and then herself. I have to say, I cringed as I read her words and yet, I couldn’t put the book down. Some of the scenes were hard to read – disturbing and emotional but I had to know what happened and why. I had to keep reading.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): Worthington does a wonderful job with the character development in this story. It’s almost scary how she is able to make every single character realistically immoral and evil.

I enjoyed reading through the perspective of multiple characters. Worthington does a great job allowing us to get into the minds of each character. Although nothing really turned out the way I expected, or hoped, that is just the way life goes at times.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): I really like the cover. There is something about it that is so haunting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Louise Worthington writes psychological fiction for fans of deeply layered thrillers and horror.

She has a passion for exploring the complexity and darker side of the human heart in psychologically-layered tales imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings from poisonous gardens, and medieval dungeons to an isolated property by the sea. Common themes are mental health disorders, family, motherhood, murder and revenge.

After gaining a degree in literature, she taught English in secondary schools and studied psychology. More recently she runs a farm with her husband in Shropshire and tutors teenagers in English.

She is the author of six novels, including the psychological thrillers Rachel’s Garden and The Entrepreneur, and the gothic horror, Rosie Shadow.

Doctor Glass came out on 11th April 2022, the first book in the Glass Minds series.


Mirror of Emotions by Ali Ashhar

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

Mirror of Emotions is a melange of every phase that life encounters you with. This book shall take you on the erratic path on this journey of life and readers can expect an exhilarated persona of themselves disentangling the complexities they keep battling with during different phases of life. 

Ali Ashhar is poet and content writer currently residing in Kanpur, India. He is the award-winning author of poetry collection, Mirror of Emotions. He has co-authored three international anthologies. He also contributes his poems and articles to literary journals and newspapers. His works have been published in Eve Poetry Magazine, Indian Periodical, Indian Review, My Voice Canada and Good Morning Kashmir. 


Life becomes more of 

what you hold inside

rather than what transpired outside. 

~ Poem by Ali Ashhar

FOLLOW ALI ASHHAR


The Christmas Coordinator by Kae Galla

The Christmas Coordinator – With Christmas Eve on the horizon, the citizens of the North Pole turn to Grimm for guidance and support. ​     Being meticulous and organized is Grimm’s specialty.  For years now, he has kept everything running smoothly, ensuring Christmas goes off without a hitch.  With only one month to prepare and execute a perfect holiday, he has his work cut out for him.      Strict schedules and long hours are what it takes to make sure every child has a Merry Christmas.     Santa has had enough of Grimm working himself ragged, so this year, he has ordered Grimm to begin training an assistant who will help in the Christmases to come. 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.


My name is KAE Galla and I’ve loved writing since before I knew how. I’d sit with my mom and grandma telling them exactly what I wanted my story to be, and they would write it down under misshapen scribbles I tried to pass off as art work. It wasn’t until years later that I finally decided to go full throttle with my passion and share it with the world. Now, thanks to the support of my loving family, great friends, and an amazing team, my dreams of becoming an author are a reality. My heart is in Paranormal Romance, and Romance in general, with “Starburst” being the first of the “A Place to Call Home” series,  but I love challenging myself and broadening my horizons so you can bet there is more to come!

Check her out online:

THE CHRISTMAS COORDINATOR

December 1st

During the rest of the year, the elf community has their normal forty-hour work weeks, but not the month leading up to the big day.  The month leading up to Christmas is the busiest and most stressful time of the year.  As “Christmas Coordinator”, it’s my job to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, or at the very least without any of the children of the world realizing there were bumps in the road.  

When it comes to organization and keeping things running smoothly, I’m the one in charge.  I’m the one who ensures no one drops the ball this entire month, especially not me.  If I overlook even one minute detail, it could mean the total ruin of Christmas.  I can never let that happen.

Children only have so many years of carefree whimsy before the stress and confusion of adolescence and adulthood take hold.  Once that happens, there’s nothing more we can do for them.  That’s why it’s so important for us to make each and every Christmas memorable and full of joy.

Today the elves are stocking supplies and running safety checks on all the equipment while Santa, his advisory committee, and I make the master list.  Assuming all goes well, production can start first thing tomorrow morning.

Walking into the conference room, it’s pretty much what you’d expect, a large oval table with chairs all around, dry erase boards along the walls and a projection screen in the center.  As professional as the setup looks, this is the North Pole, and we have a flair for holiday spirit year-round.  Tucked in the corner of the room is a small table fully stocked with hot cocoa and all sorts of Christmas cookies and desserts.  Garlands, lights, and ornaments line the dry erase boards and when the projector isn’t in use, it is programmed to display snowflakes all around the room, turning it into a virtual snow globe.    

Santa is sitting at the head of the table, patiently waiting for the others to arrive.  In his pre-Christmas attire, Santa is wearing a deep red business suit with a green tie.  His beard is neatly trimmed and well kept, while his cheeks are as rosy as always.  I smile to myself as I think, no one would ever picture Santa in a business suit.  If the world ever saw him on one of his days off, they might be reminded of his jolly persona, or they might even have a hunch as to who he is- he simply radiates Christmas Spirit- but, they would never be able to peg him as Santa immediately.  

I take a moment to make sure all my documents are in order after taking my seat next to the jolly old man.  Age is a relative term at the pole, but with his gray beard, the term ‘old’ fits.  Elves live to be thousands of years old.  Santa, along with his wife, has also been blessed by Father Time with a similarly long lifespan.  

One by one, the advisory committee takes their seats and neatly stacks their own documents in front of them.  Everyone chats excitedly but it’s time to get this show on the road. 

Clearing my throat, I stand and address the room.  “Good morning, everyone.  Happy December first!”

Everyone in the room cheers and returns the greeting before giving me their undivided attention.  

“Thank you all for your hard work this year, and, of course, for joining us so early…”  And so begins the arduous task of combining all the data each of us has collected over the past year.  

Their teams work hard all year long, watching the deeds done by the children of the world– some good, some not so good,  some honest mistakes or slip-ups, others dark and devious, full of malicious intent.  These men and women are our front line, our first defense against the Naughty List.  No child is ever banned from the Nice List unless their actions are beyond saving, and even then we have a special team dedicated to investigating the reason behind their misdeeds.  That team also provides each child with ample opportunities to right their wrongs, before absolute judgment is passed.  

In past years, the advisory staff was drastically smaller.  Unfortunately, we lost more children to the Naughty List that potentially could have been saved than I’d like to admit.  Fifty years ago, when I took over the position as Christmas Coordinator, I did an overhaul on the advisory council itself by adding more members and adjusting workflow.  Each council member is in charge of a small team.  Each team is then assigned a time zone.  

Decades ago, the world’s population wasn’t as robust as it is currently.  Wars, disease, and famine took so many before their time.  This also meant that not only were there far less children than there are now but also that many lost their Christmas spirit very early on.  Although it’s painful to watch, there was nothing we could do.

Thankfully after so much destruction and sadness, cures have been discovered, treaties brokered, and there has also been an increase in charitable acts worldwide.  With all the progress going on in the world, more and more children are being brought into the world.  It was a slow process, so it’s understandable that the increased workload was overlooked.  Sometimes a fresh look at the process is exactly what the doctor ordered, and that’s why the overhaul was so important.  

We all have the same goal on the council:  keep as many kids on the Nice List as possible.  

“So, where do we stand this year?”  

One at a time, they provide their reports on lost children before adding their portion of the Nice List to the Master.  Our computer system speeds up the process of filtering and compiling the present list for our production staff in the toy shops.  

Of those on the Naughty List, some are expected while others come as a total shock.  For those unusual cases, Mr. Buckley and his team will continue to research and do their best to save them from the Naughty List.  I know it’s unavoidable. We will always lose some children, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept, and it doesn’t mean we will give up on them.  

As if on cue, Buck and the head of his alpha unit, Zayne, walk in to collect the appropriate case files.  Once they’ve left, we can’t delay any longer.  With a heavy heart, Santa, myself, and the other members of the council, sign and seal the Master List.  Those on the naughty side now, won’t be receiving any presents from Santa this year, and probably never will again.  Once a child loses their spirit, it’s rare for them to find it again.  Adulthood has far too strong a pull.  

“Don’t worry, Grimm. Buck will save as many as he can,”  Santa says before dismissing the council.

Sighing heavily, I pack up my briefcase and get ready for my next task of the day.  There’s so much to get done and not a lot of time to do it.  Sure we spend the year getting the basics in order, but children’s desires change so frequently that it’s best to wait on hammering out the details.

Little girls don’t just want a baby doll anymore. They want dolls that cry, eat, and wet themselves.  So our toymakers build basic doll forms throughout the year and then based on the Master List, they get to work turning those forms into toy ‘real babies’ and superheroes.  Little boys don’t want cars or fire engines anymore. They want spaceships and transformers.  So our toymakers follow the same process of building a basic form and then creating something new and exciting.  So far, this process seems to work well.  

“Grimm?”  Santa asks from the doorway.

Shaking myself from my thoughts, I realize everyone else is long gone and I’ve been sitting here silently for several minutes.  “Sorry, Santa. Just thinking about what’s next.”

“It’s only the first of the month and you already seem stressed.  I want you to start training someone to be your assistant to help you next year and going forward.  You do an amazing job and you’ve turned this process into a well-oiled machine.  I think it’s time you had a little help.”

Nodding, I say, “Yeah, maybe.  I’ll think about it.”

It’s not often that Santa pulls rank, but I see it in his eyes before he even speaks. He’s about to do just that.  “Grimm, that’s an order.  I won’t have you working yourself to death.”

“Understood, sir,”  I say with my head low.  

I know he’s right, but it’s hard for me to let go and trust that someone else will get the job done correctly.  Maybe that seems controlling or like my ego is coming out, thinking that I’m the only one who can get the job done, but when the fate of Christmas is on the line, I can’t help but worry.

Other Books By Kae Galla

Nova spent years in a world she didn’t belong, never knowing who or what she is.
Years of questions and confusion, but the time has come for her to find out who she really is and where she belongs. Does she have a family that misses her? Have they been looking for her all along? Are there others like her? What could possibly have happened to bring her into the human world when she was so young?

The answers to all her questions are out there somewhere, and it’s time she found them. It won’t be easy, it may even be dangerous, but it’ll be worth it. Finding her family is only the first step, from there she will have to piece her life back together as she learns the differences between who she is and who she was meant to be.

What will happen when she’s thrown into a world she knows nothing about?


Luna Luna grew up with nomadic parents but when they disowned her for wanting to live among a true pack, Alpha Sax welcomed her into his pack before her awakening. On Luna’s sixteenth birthday, the awakening arrives and she shifts for the first time. Will she finally feel like she has found her home? Her place?

Despite her wolf being small and weak…

Despite being shunned by her true mate…

Despite having no blood relatives to stand up for her…

Luna is special and the Alpha knows it because she can see what others can’t, she can see people’s true colors. When Luna finds herself helpless and in danger will her mate see the light or will he abandon her for a second time.


RIDLEY
Humans are selfish and greedy beings…at least that’s what I thought. When my mate turns out to be half human, I’m forced to take a closer look and realize not all humans are bad.
How do I tell her she’s not merely a human? How do I teach her about a side of her she never knew existed?
Will she accept me and our connection? Or will I be left heartbroken?

ARISTA
My entire life I felt out of place. I knew my aunt was doing the best she could raising me, but deep down I knew there was more out there for me. I just had to find it.
Growing up a human, I never expected to find a mate. Heck, I never even knew merfolk existed.
Falling in love was easy. Accepting who and what I am? That’s the hard part.


Brin
Tossed aside like garbage, I never knew who my true parents were. The woman who raised me never showed an ounce of motherly affection toward me, only a sense of responsibility.

When I’m forced to flee from the only home I’ve ever known, I fear death is all that awaits.

Until he finds me.

My life will never be the same.



Jingle His Bells by Lisa Wood

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

Jingle His Bells by Lisa Wood

Remi Abrahms had been in love with Cole since she was twelve years old. No one else had ever measured up and she worried no one ever would. She knew he could never feel the same way.

Cole Blackburn hadn’t really noticed Remi until her high school graduation party two years ago. Being almost a decade younger than him, she just wasn’t on his radar. He would love to ask her out but knows she’s off-limits.

Why? Remi is his best friend’s baby sister.

Now they’re both home for Christmas and their attraction is off the charts. Is their happily ever after worth destroying the bond between siblings and losing your best friend?

This is a HEA story with no cliffhangers.
Due to explicit language and content, this book is intended for readers 18+.

Lisa was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. She is a retired software tester with two kids, both grown, and a granddaughter that she loves to spend time with. 

She writes erotic romance because the perfect man has to exist somewhere! Her alpha males include billionaires, grumpy mountain men, and the boy next door who generally need a little help to get their happily ever after with their heroines. She writes in a variety of different tropes including romantic suspense, second chance love, paranormal romance, and so many more! 

You can connect with me via email: lisa@romancingyourdreams.com

Find my links here: https://linktr.ee/lisawooderotica

Sign up for my newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/s8f2r9

Purchase a copy of Jingle His Bells here: https://amzn.to/3EX0Q9b

TWO CHAPTER EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Cole

Cars lined the street and I rolled my eyes, trying to find a spot closer than a mile from the damn house. As per usual, Tristan had gone way overboard. His little sister, Remi, had just graduated and he was throwing her a party. I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time around her in the last couple of years, but when their parents were killed two years ago, Tristan had stepped up as her guardian. He was incredibly protective of her and I didn’t envy any of the guys at the party who tried to approach her.

I didn’t have much interest in being at a party with a bunch of teenagers, but he had asked me to give him a hand and I’d agreed. He was going to be pissed as I was supposed to have been here two hours ago to help set up, but there was no way I was kicking the hot piece of ass I’d taken home last night out of my bed. I finally found an empty spot a couple streets over, parking the truck, and started toward the house. I let myself in the house, already overrun with people.

“Cole! Where the fuck have you been? You should have been here hours ago,” Tristan griped from the back door.

“Sorry, man, I slept in. I’m here now, where do you want me?”

“Bullshit, you slept in. What was her name?”

“Not a clue,” I chuckled.

“You’re such a manwhore. C’mon, you can help me man the barbeques.”

“Cause you’re so much better, right?”

He shook his head and I followed him to the backyard. It was fucking jam packed. I found myself rolling my eyes again as I accepted the flipper.

“So, where’s the guest of honor?”

“God only knows. Last I saw her, she was hanging out by the pool. With the dress she’s wearing, I’m expecting to murder some of these assholes tonight,” he gritted out.

“So, you didn’t invite me for company. You just needed someone to help bury the bodies,” I laughed.

I worked the grill, flipping about two hundred burgers, all the while scanning the crowd. I figured I should at least congratulate Remi. She graduated with full honors, the valedictorian of her class. My eyes settled on a woman on the other side of the pool, facing away from me. She had auburn hair, falling in waves, nearly to her waist, and the nicest ass I’d seen since… well, since this morning. Her skin was bronzed and her legs long and shapely. She stood out, not just because of her body, but also because she was one of only a handful wearing a one-piece instead of a skimpy bikini.

“I see you invited some guests of your own,” I said, not taking my eyes off her.

“A few women from work, yes. They’ve gotten to know Remi over the years and wanted to be here for her.”

My heart stopped as she turned around. My eyes trailed up her long, shapely legs and widened at the bathing suit that was anything but conservative as I’d thought. Cut outs showed off her flat, tanned stomach, and her large breasts were barely contained. My mouth watered just looking at her as my eyes finally reached her face. I froze, not believing what I was seeing.

Fuck.

It was Remi, no longer the gangly, uncoordinated girl I’d last seen a couple years ago. I was in so much fucking trouble.

“Cole? Cole! Dude, the burgers are burning,” Tristan said, punching my arm.

“Shit,” I said, my attention brought back to the grill.

“What the fuck? I spent the last minute calling you!”

“Sorry. I think I was just momentarily stunned that you let Remi out of the house like that.”

“Like what? She’s wearing a dress. It’s a little shorter and tighter than I’d like, but she’s eighteen and I only have so much control.”

“No, she’s not. She’s in a bathing suit. A very revealing bathing suit.”

I pointed toward her and then watched as his jaw tightened and face turned red. His fists clenched at his sides and his spine snapped straight.

“Watch the grill,” he growled, storming toward her.

He got to the other side of the pool, grabbed her arm, and started dragging her toward the house. Anger flashed on her face as she struggled against him. She was yelling at him, but was too far for me to hear what she was saying.

“Oh, shit,” I muttered.

She somehow managed to break free of him and shoved her hands hard against his chest. I started laughing, along with most of the people around us, as he went flying into the pool. He was going to be pissed as hell. Her eyes rounded, realizing what she’d done, and she ran away from the pool, grabbing a coverup on the way. She came to a stop behind me, peeking around my shoulder as Tristan made his way out of the pool, soaked to the skin, and a murderous look on his face.

“Hi Cole,” she squeaked, ducking behind me again. “He’s gonna kill me, isn’t he?”

“I think that’s a very real possibility,” I chuckled, “but I’ll try to hold him off if you want to try to disappear into the crowd.”

“Thank you!”

She took off with a squeal, just as he reached me, and I stepped out in front of him.

“Get out of the fucking way,” he snapped, “or I’ll be burying your body along with hers.”

“No way. You said yourself, she’s eighteen. There’s not one woman here that isn’t dressed in something revealing. They all look hot as fuck,” I reasoned, backing away slowly when I realized what I’d just said.

His eyes narrowed, filled with anger, and I was stunned at the low, lethal tone that came out of his mouth.

“You keep your dick far away from my little sister, or I’ll rip it off and feed it to you.”

“Understood.”

I turned back to the grill, feeling guilty as hell, but couldn’t get her hot little body out of my head. Tristan lost track of Remi, changed into dry clothes, and grudgingly came back to the grill, muttering under his breath. This wasn’t the last she was going to hear about this.

***

I’d been here a couple of hours now. I was done with the food and was a couple beers in, sitting on a chair on the patio. I’d had to throw a little punk out of it, but whatever. Respect your elders and all that shit. Needing another beer and a bathroom break, I stood up and started toward the house.

“I’ll be back in a few, man. Gotta take a piss.”

“Grab me a beer while you’re in the house, yeah? I’m definitely going to need more alcohol to get through this party.”

“No problem.”

I walked into the house, bypassing the downstairs bathroom, and the line that went with it, heading upstairs to use the one in Tristan’s room. I got a glimpse of someone walking in ahead of me and quickened my pace with the intention of throwing her out.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” I barked.

She spun around, eyes narrowed, and snapped, “I don’t know, Cole, what are you doing in here?”

“Oh shit. Sorry, Remi. I didn’t realize it was you. I didn’t get a chance earlier but congratulations.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry you got dragged to a party I’m sure you have no interest in being at.”

“I don’t know,” I said, my eyes taking in her body, “it’s definitely been worth it.”

A blush rose on her cheeks and she rushed into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. I chuckled at how easily she blushed and sat on Tristan’s bed to wait. She came out and I stood, holding out my arms for a hug. She hesitated for just a moment before stepping forward, letting me wrap my arms around her. I ducked my head and kissed the corner of her mouth, my cock hardening as she rocked her hips forward and let out a quiet moan.

“Fuck, Remi. Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”

Her eyes met mine, full of desire, and she raised up on her toes to brush her lips against mine. I groaned, moving one hand to her ass and the other to the nape of her neck, pulling her flush against me. I took her mouth in a passionate kiss, my tongue thrusting into her mouth. Her tongue tangled with mine and my cock pressed hard against her body, already weeping for her.

“Cole…” she moaned.

I growled, lifting her up, and she wrapped her legs around my waist, her damp center covered with only a thin scrap of material. I pressed her up against the wall and pulled the straps of her bathing suit down, her large breasts bouncing out. A rush of precum leaked from my dick as I took one of her rosy nipples into my mouth. My tongue circled it as it peaked and she cried out as I bit down. She reached for my belt, fumbling to get it undone. I knocked her hand out of the way and swiftly undid my pants, shoving them down to free my cock.

“Are you sure about this, Remi?”

“Just do it,” she murmured against my lips.

I pulled her bathing suit to the side and thrust my cock into her hot, wet, tight-as-fuck pussy. She gasped, her mouth opening to accept my tongue as I slowly moved in and out of her. I pulled back until just my head was in her and then slammed back in, fucking her against the wall. She moaned, her pussy clenching around me and my release was building quickly. I slipped a hand between us and pinched her clit between my fingers, flicking it with my thumb.

“Holy shit, Remi. You feel like fucking heaven, wrapped around my dick. I want you to come all over it.”

She cried out, her juices soaking me as she came on my cock. I roared as cum shot out of me, filling her with my seed. I kissed her softly, my cock slipping out of her as I eased her to her feet. We leaned on each other, our breath slowing as we came down from our releases.

“Yo, Cole! Where the hell did you go?” Tristan called from downstairs.

“I’ll be down in a minute. I had to wait for a bathroom to free up.”

Remi’s eyes widened and she pushed me back. She quickly straightened her bathing suit and ran out of the room. I grabbed hold of my pants and walked into the bathroom, not sure what the hell had just happened. I glanced down, shocked when I saw streaks of blood on my cock.

Fucking hell.

As if it wasn’t bad enough I’d fucked his sister, but I’d apparently also taken her virginity. I rushed out of the room, doing up my pants in the process, trying to find her. I grabbed two beers and headed back outside, falling back into my chair and passing one over. After a few minutes scanning the backyard, it was clear she was avoiding me.

“What’s up with you?”

“Oh, nothing. I was just trying to find Remi.”

“Why?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“I haven’t had a chance to congratulate her. I’ll catch her later, I guess.”

Hours later, I still hadn’t found her and the guilt was eating me up. I’d had about enough of the party and gave up on finding her, pulling out my phone to order an Uber.

“I’m going to head out, man. I think you can handle it from here. Shit. I didn’t even think about my truck. It’s probably going to get towed.”

“Where is it parked?”

“On Sycamore St., just off your street.”

“Give me your keys. I’ll get Babs to pull it into my driveway and you can get it in the morning. Don’t worry,” he cut in, sensing my hesitation, “she’s DD for the girls and had nothing but pop all night.”

“Thanks, man. I’ll talk to you later in the week.”

“Thanks for helping out. Let’s get together next week, without a bunch of brats, and have a few drinks.”

“Sounds good, talk to you later.”

I headed out front to wait for the Uber, wondering what the fuck I’d been thinking.

Chapter 2

Remi

Holy shit.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d had a crush on Cole for years, and I’d just let him fuck me up against a wall. I considered telling him I was a virgin, but was afraid he’d stop if I did. I was feeling completely euphoric until Tristan had called him and it was like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over me. I ran out of the room in a panic, his cum leaking from my pussy, soaking my bathing suit.

I spent the rest of the evening avoiding him because I wasn’t sure I could hide what had happened from Tristan if he saw us together. He would kill him if he found out he’d fucked me. I did my best to settle the dirty thoughts running through my mind while I was celebrating with my friends. Once the last person had left, I went over to Tristan and threw my arms around his waist.

“Thank you, big brother, for the awesome party. I’m sorry I pushed you in the pool,” I said, giving him my best puppy dog eyes.

“No, you’re not. Either way, you’re welcome, little sister. You deserved it. Mom and Dad would have been so proud of you.”

“Thank you,” I whispered, my eyes filling with tears.

“Let’s wait until morning to clean up.”

“Okay. Did Cole leave?”

“Yeah, the old man gave up a couple hours ago and ubered home.”

“Do you think I could get his number?”

“Why would you need that?”

“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I just want to thank him for coming tonight,” I said, hoping he would believe me.

“Oh, sure.”

I added his name into the contacts on my phone, hugged Tristan once more, and headed upstairs to shower. I was covered in chlorine, sweat, and Cole’s cum. I stayed in the shower, water raining down on me, until the water turned cold. I dried off and fell into bed naked, pulling the covers up over me, and grabbing my phone. I hadn’t reacted well after we’d slept together and I needed to talk to him. I called his number twice, the call going to voicemail both times. I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow, so I decided to text him instead.

Remi: Cole? It’s Remi…

I waited for a couple of minutes and when it didn’t show as read and I hadn’t gotten an answer, I tried again.

Remi: Hello?

Remi: You must be sleeping. I just wanted to thank you for coming tonight. I’m sorry for the way I reacted in the bedroom. I heard Tristan and just panicked. Message me or call me, please.

I woke the next morning, checking my phone right away. My heart fell when he still hadn’t responded. I got up and dressed, ready to clean up after the party, and hoping I’d hear from him later in the day.

I didn’t. I texted every day for a week and still hadn’t heard back from him. He’d had sex with me, that had to have meant something to him, right? He went out for drinks with Tristan on the weekend, so he was obviously alive and well. I cornered my brother the next morning.

“Big brother, is everything okay with Cole?”

“Yeah… why?”

“I’ve been texting him to thank him for last weekend, but he hasn’t answered me back.”

“Well, maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to my little sister,” he said, looking at me warily.

I didn’t want to raise his suspicions any further, so I just shrugged my shoulders and left the room. I went up to my room and threw myself on my bed, tears burning my eyes. I’d given him a part of myself I could never get back, believing that it was the start of something, but I guess I’d been naïve. I didn’t see or hear from him the rest of the summer. He didn’t even come to the house to hang out with Tristan.

The last week of August, my car was packed to the brim and I was ready to leave for university. It was stupid, but as hurt as I was, I’d hoped he would come to see me off.

He didn’t.

“Little sister, I’m going to miss you. Are you sure you want to go to school so far away?”

“I’m sure,” I smiled, trying not to cry, “but I’m going to miss you, too. It’s going to be weird not seeing you every day.”

“I’m still willing to take you, you know?”

“Tristan, it’s a seven-hour drive. I’m more than capable of going on my own. I’ll call you when I get there.”

I hugged him tight, raising up to my toes to kiss his cheek.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. Drive safe, Remi.”

I nodded and climbed into my car, heading toward my fresh start.

***

4 years later

I stepped into my little black dress and zipped it up, slipping my feet into my favorite strappy 4” heels. My boyfriend, Sam, was taking me out to dinner and was going to be home any minute. I’d graduated university and had been working at a tech company since I finished. I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t been home in over a year. I’d spent more time than I’d like to admit, pining over Cole, and it was just too hard for me to go back.

Tristan had threatened to drag me back for Christmas this year, so Sam and I had planned to spend a couple of days there over the holidays. I finished getting ready and ran downstairs, getting to the front door just as he got home.

“Remi, you look beautiful,” Sam said, dropping a kiss on my lips. “Just give me a few minutes to change and we can go.”

“Okay,” I smiled.

I watched as he walked up the stairs. He wouldn’t tell me where he was taking me tonight and, frankly, I was a little bit worried. I loved Sam and we had a great relationship. The problem was, I didn’t feel even a fraction of the passion with him that I had with Cole. I was pretty sure I would never find it with anyone else. True to his word, Sam was back downstairs quickly and I threaded my fingers through his, following him to the car.

I couldn’t help but grin when he pulled up to the Emerald Grill, a new steakhouse in town.

“Sam,” I said, excitedly, “It’s almost impossible to get a reservation here!”

“My boss owed me a favor and was able to get a table. I knew you wanted to come here, so I jumped at the chance.”

“Well, thank you.”

I kissed him on the cheek and got out of the car, waiting for Sam to hand his keys to the valet. He wrapped his arm around my waist and led me into the restaurant where the host led us to our table. We enjoyed our meal, but as he sat across from me, he looked nervous, sweat beading on his brow. I watched as he stood up and pulled something out of his pocket.

No,

He dropped to one knee and opened the small box to reveal a large diamond solitaire.

No.

Tears filled my eyes, emotions overwhelming me. They spilled over my cheeks as he started to speak and my heart broke for what was to come.

“Remi, I love you and want to spend my life with you. Will you marry me?”

I just stared at him, speechless. That was possibly the worst proposal, ever, but my answer would have been the same either way.

“I… I…”

“Remi?” he asked, laughing nervously, rubbing the back of his neck.

“I’m sorry,” I cried, knocking my chair over in my haste to stand.

I bolted out of the restaurant, leaving a stunned Sam down on one knee, while people looked on with a mixture of shock and pity. I practically pushed a woman out of the way to hop in a cab that sat out front. Blurting my address to the cabbie, I swiped my cheeks furiously, trying to figure out what I should do next. I ran into the house and up the stairs, stripping out of my dress as I went. I made a decision and got changed, throwing everything I could into two suitcases.

Knowing I couldn’t just leave without a word, I went downstairs into the office and grabbed a pad of paper.

Sam;

I’m so sorry… for everything. I love you, so much, but I’d be lying if I said a part of my heart wouldn’t always belong to someone else. It wouldn’t be fair of me to accept your proposal, knowing that I can’t love you the way you deserve. It wasn’t fair of me to wait as long as I have to tell you.

I want you to be happy and to find someone worthy of your love and devotion. You’re a good man and I don’t doubt that you will find the perfect woman for you. I have taken what I can now, but will make arrangements to collect the rest of my things as soon as I’m able.

I wish you the best and, again, am so sorry for how I’ve ended this. I know I’m a coward doing it in a letter, but I can’t bear the thought of doing it face to face.

I love you.

Remi

I set the note on the kitchen counter, threw my suitcases in my car, and started toward the only person I knew could soothe my broken heart.

Tristan.

***

I drove straight through and seven hours later, I parked my car behind Tristan’s. I smiled at the god-awful, tacky Christmas decorations that went up every year, as far back as I could remember. I pulled the suitcases out of the trunk, dragging them up to the porch. At 2 a.m., I figured Tristan would be home so I let myself in and quietly pulled the suitcases in after me. I turned, surprised to see a glow from the living room.

“Big brother?”

“Little sister?” he called, confusion on his face as he met me in the foyer. “What are you doing here?”

“I… I… Tristan, I’m a horrible person,” I wailed, throwing myself at him, emotions clogging my throat.

“What happened? Talk to me, sweetheart.”

“Sam proposed.”

“And that’s a bad thing? You’ve been together for two years.”

He led me into the living room and sat us down on the couch, his arm around my shoulders.

“I couldn’t do it, Tristan. I love him, but I don’t think I’m in love with him. I feel like I’d be settling and that just isn’t fair to him.”

“How did he take it?”

“I don’t know,” I said sadly, “he was still on one knee in the restaurant when I left.”

He looked at me in horror, shaking his head.

“I don’t disagree with your reasoning. The last thing you should do is settle, but you didn’t even talk to him about it?”

“No. I panicked. I packed my suitcases and drove home. I left him a note, though.”

“Oh, little sister, you know you’ll need to talk to him about it, right?”

“I know, but not today. I want to have a couple glasses of wine and go to bed.”

“How long are you staying?”

“I’m not sure. I’d like to stay until the new year, if that’s okay?”

“Remi, this will always be your home. You can stay as long as you want. Let me get you a glass of wine. Red or white?”

“White, please,” I said, curling my legs up and pulling the blanket around me.

He came back with a glass of wine for me and a beer for himself and settled beside me with a sigh.

“What are you going to do about work, Remi? You only had two weeks booked off.”

“I actually have another three weeks banked. I’ll give my boss a call in the morning. I think it should be okay. I’ll just tell him I’ve had a family emergency or something.”

“Or, you could just tell him the truth. You’ve always said you two get along well.”

“You’re probably right,” I sighed. “I’m so sorry I just showed up like this in the middle of the night. I probably should have called you first.”

“Remi, relax, you’re fine. I was out with the guys tonight and wasn’t ready to sleep when I got home, so I decided to throw a movie on. I’m not so old I need to be in bed at 11,” he teased, bumping my shoulder.

I smiled, knowing I’d made the right decision to come home. Tristan always managed to cheer me up.

“What are you watching?”

“Die Hard, of course.”

“I still say that having Christmas at the beginning and end of the movie does not make it a Christmas movie,” I laughed.

“Bite your tongue!”

I leaned on his shoulder, sipping my wine. There was only about an hour left in the movie, but I just kind of zoned out for it. I was so spent, I could barely see straight.

“I’m going to head to bed, Tristan. Thank you for tonight.”

I kissed his cheek and dragged myself off the couch, heading toward the stairs.

“Chin up, little sister, things will get better. You made the right choice. Everything else will come in time. I’ll bring your suitcases up for you.”

I nodded and went upstairs, washing up before going into my room. Glancing at the suitcases, I sighed and fell into bed, still dressed.

Why did life have to be so difficult?


The Meow Guardians by Maria Vermisoglou

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Title: The Meow Guardians

Genre: Holiday animal fiction

This Christmas the holiday spirit is under threat and only a special stray can save it!

The name’s Ginger, AKA Agent Meow 01. Usually, I spend my free time searching for scraps and getting chased by dogs, like the stray cat that I am.

But this Christmas, everything changes.

When the dog agents from PAWs mess up and leave the human world hanging by a thread, it’s Ginger to the rescue. With my combination of brains, stealth, and daring, I’m the agent they call when the fur starts to fly. Except this time, I’ve got a new partner.

A house cat.

With the clock ticking, this mission seems doomed to failure with so many pheromones about.

Will the Christmas spirit be saved, or will we turn our tails and let the world burn?

Maria Vermisoglou is an International Bestselling author of fantasy and paranormal with an obsession for witches. She loves throwing her heroes into impossible situations. Maria draws inspiration from books, travel, and…the ceiling. (So blame the ceiling!)
Maria started writing when the stories she read became too boring and the voices in her mind too loud.

When she’s not writing, she loves a good riding on the fantasy dragon, but a book can also be exciting, along with a cup of tea.

Nowadays, you can find her in Athens, exploring the mysteries of the ancient world.

Subscribe and enter Maria’s magical portal: https://maraki2311.wixsite.com/creativequillYou can also follow Maria in social media: https://linktr.ee/portal_to_the_unknown

ONE CHAPTER EXCERPT

Chapter One: Duty Calls

It was a sunny morning in an otherwise chilly winter. I lay on a tree branch, reveling in the warmth on my skin. The birds chirped, making my stomach rumble from hunger. While I could leap high, I couldn’t fly, so they rarely became my meal. Besides, all that feathered costume took too much time to dismantle. Sitting under the sunlight was pure bliss until a sharp noise penetrated my ear.

“Agent Meow 01, do you copy?”

I yawned and stretched my tired body. “Can nobody sleep around here?”

“Agent Meow 01, do you copy?”

“Yes! I copy, cut, and paste if you want.” I let the sunlight filter through my eyelids, sat up and scratched my ear. “What is it?”

“Agent Meow 01, the mission is about to start. We need you in headquarters.”

“Of course, how could I forget? Oh, wait! I didn’t forget because it’s freaking November and the mission starts every December!” My voice rose with every word, masking the fear building inside me. If they were calling me a month early, things were worse than bad. A squirrel gawked at me from the oak tree across and tightened its grip on the acorn it held. I pounded my clawed paw, and its fur thinned. With a shake of its pointy ears, the squirrel leaped into the tree hollow.

“There were some complications, which is why we need you forthwith. Please proceed to headquarters with utmost haste.”

I clicked my tongue and huffed, watching my quiet morning dissolve, and problems arise in my future. “I’ll be there in a few.” After a thorough cleanup of my claws on the branch, I licked my paws, removed some insects who had taken refuge in my fur and leaped from the tree.

“Cooold!” I screamed. “I thought the snow would have melted by now.”

An ugly coat of white blanketed the street from the night before when it had snowed like crazy. I retreated, my eyes darted in every direction, in search of dry land. My back collided with the tree, signaling the end of the path. Still, my paws were dipped in the snow, making me shiver from whiskers to tail.

 Some passerby laughed at my predicament, but carried on their way. Probably because I was a cat. And a secret agent. But they had no knowledge of the latter because they were humans.

People in gumboots crossed the crunching streets, shivering in their coats. Children yelled, throwing snowballs, and I glared at them, observing the wet balls of death flying through the air, in case any of the snowballs closed in on my location. Cars moved on the streets at a snail’s speed, the drivers cursing.

“Well, if you hadn’t been living in abandoned buildings and pipes, you might have realized that,” the voice from my earphone sounded amused.

“I will have you know pipes have a great reserve of rats. Do you know how delicious they are?” I licked my whiskers at the thought of their juicy flesh as they went down my throat.

“You’re not made of sugar, agent. Get on with it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m a dame, but made out of red granite not sugar.”

My body trembled, and my teeth chattered like castanets in a flamenco dance. When a father passed in front of me hauling his son, who was covered from top to bottom with warm clothing, I felt a pang of jealousy. Wet drops brimmed in my eyes, blurring my vision and obscuring the polar weather. I quickly detected the best path to the headquarters without becoming an ice cube and grinned when I came up on the first means of transport. I jumped on an old lady’s shopping trolley when she happened before me and waited till she reached the red light in the avenue, leaped on an oh-so-terribly cold bush and continued my journey, changing means of transportation, avoiding the patches of snow as much as possible. Annoyed at the constant rattling of my teeth, I clenched my jaw and sped up to get away from the icy mattress before I suffered a heart attack. Oh, how I hated cold!

When Tails of the City, a local pet shop, swam in view, I breathed in relief and pressed my legs harder, licking my mouth in anticipation of the warm secluded room with the machine that spat heat. My nose twitched at the prospect of treats and canned fish. Mice I could catch, but I would never get near that treacherous water.

“Hey, kitty, are you hungry?” The shopkeeper welcomed me with a smile.

I blinked. Is she expecting me to answer to that stupid diminutive? Keeping my eyes on her face, I waited.

“Someone is not in a good mood today.” Her mouth quirked. “Is it the snow?”

I hissed.

The woman enveloped with the wet smell of dog food laughed and padded to the back of the store, giving me the chance to slip to the aisle with the cat products. Passing by the discarded empty boxes, I gritted my teeth, resisting my urge to jump right in and proceeded to my destination. I lifted my head, sniffing around, and my senses turned crazy. The massive packages lined up on the shelves teased my nose, causing my mouth to water. So many wonderful flavors to choose from and so not the time to do it. I climbed on the top shelf which hosted transportation boxes, beds, and finally came to a stop in front of the pink cat cube.

I entered and pressed the button that made a monitor come to life.

The pet shop was the entrance to a secret base for the Pat & Purr, which was an organization for cat agents. We had many bases across the globe, with state-of-the-art technology and special toys to help our mission.

The computer voice asked the familiar series of questions, so I answered quickly before the human came looking for me. The lights on the screen faded, and the floor opened beneath my feet. I slid down a pipe, and I yelled, enjoying the trip. I loved amusement parks, especially slides that transferred you from one place to another at lightning speed.

After my soft landing on the white carpet, I walked to the sliding doors that parted and I entered the heart of our organization.

Pat & Purr, the secret cat organization that worked for humans under their nose. I’m telling you, if it wasn’t for us, they would have destroyed the planet. Not that they haven’t tried it already.

It was quiet. Very quiet. The main room, where on a normal day, my colleagues would type in their computers, assess distress signals, fabricate modern devices or chase their tails, was empty.

I swallowed the nervousness dancing in my stomach and studied the desks where the monitors sat quietly, the chairs against them and shifted my gaze, in search of any sign of life. The sticky notes on the pastel blue tapestry where we sometimes stuck memos didn’t shed any light on the mystery, so I moved further to the agency.

“This is strange. Am I too early?” My ears folded, and I meowed loudly. “I am losing my form.”

“Nah. They’re waiting for you in the mission room.”

I rolled my eyes when Sandy, a dirty white cat with a burned tail and goggles on his swollen eyes, came into view behind the master computer.

“I didn’t realize I was such a famous figure. Aren’t you coming?”

“Nah. I have to run some algorithms and put the final touches on your accessories. Time is of the essence, so I’ll just listen from the radio.” He lifted a screwdriver as a greeting. “Have fun, Ginger.”

Chuckling, I padded the way to the mission room, my thoughts swirling. Sandy’s words did nothing to ease my nervousness, adding more mystery to the tangling jungle of unexplainable occurrences. My paws tingled once they touched the fluffy rug, and I rolled on my back, dug my claws on the carpet, rubbed the itchy spots and relished the sensation of velvet against my fur before I got back on my feet.

Pat & Purr had pipes leading to offices and storage rooms, and of course, the playroom. We cats loved slides, boxes, and naps. Our organization was built to give us a haven to be ourselves without the presence of humans.

I slid down the red pipe and landed right outside the door which harbored the mission room where we held all our important meetings. My paw froze in the air and I stalled. I’ve never been to the mission room. Even my tail was nervous. Like all cats, I could feel change and this one blew unpleasant vibes. When I pushed the door, my whiskers flicked from the massive presence of cats, which explained the emptiness in the offices. All cats were gathered here.

The mission room didn’t only look like a mission room, but it smelled like business, too.

Grey walls coated the circular room that broke the tradition of colorful rooms of the agency. The floor emitted the vibrant aroma of freshly cut wood, although claw marks decorated their surface and the paint glistening on the walls gave the impression they were painted recently. My anxiety spiked when I gazed at all the furred bodies and the papers flying around. Arrays of chairs spread in the room where cats were already sitting. The silence was deafening. Only the voice from the speaker sounded, peppered with scratching noises of ears, tapping of claws against the wood, and stretching of stiff limbs. The glowing monitors drew my attention to the tail of the mission room. I felt the food I swallowed yesterday stirring in my stomach. I flashed back to my first day as an agent, when I’d met the Board of cold-blooded killers. Otherwise known as Pat & Purr’s Board. The vested cats typed feverishly on computers while they answered phone calls. When the Russian blue penetrated me with his yellow eyes, I decided to scram.

“This can’t be good.” I inspected the room, confused by the vast meow population, in search of a place to curl while the speech was still underway. My eyes fell on an empty seat and I grinned, but my grin melted when I realized it was in the house cats’ seats.

While agent cats generally got along with each other, since we all sought the same goal, there was a broad gap between strays and house cats. We strays were laid back, ate what we could find and struggled with everything. Since we lived in the streets, we had to protect ourselves, toughen up and sharpen our claws for imminent attacks. The menu of our enemies contained many pages.

House cats had the whole enchilada. A house to pass the chilly winter nights and hot summer days, nice food waiting for them every minute of the day—they were fat!—and love. But they were whiny, slow and indifferent. We stray cats called them cat queens. If we dared to sit next to them, they would call us every name under the sun, not accepting to be close to a cat of lower status than theirs. Rubbish! We all lived on the same earth therefore, they should be helping us, not giving us more obstacles to deal with.

I spotted an empty seat in the stray cat aisle in the middle. My whiskers trembled and I coughed at the pungent scent of sandalwood and fish the Head of Pat & Purr carried who delivered his speech with passion and determination. I wrinkled my nose, hoping I didn’t have to face him today. My stomach rumbled. I crossed rows of dark and colorful cats, passed under swinging and curly tails until I climbed to the seat, curling on the fuzzy pillow.

“Every year, we make sure humans find happiness at Christmas. Our agents work hard, infiltrating homes and move strings so that they can make that happen.”

I yawned. “Let’s catch up on some much needed sleep.” I had barely closed my eyes when I heard paws shuffle from the neighboring seats and meows fill the room. I stirred in my chair.

“You’ll find your assignments on your desks,” the Head of Pat & Purr announced.

He was a British shorthair silver tabby with the most beautiful green eyes a cat could possess. However, his charming qualities stopped there. He was annoying as hell and sluggish. The black bow around his neck set him apart as a house cat. Even if he was a stray, someone would pick him up solely for his beauty.

Screens sprung in desks, throwing up papers from the slot on the side, so I turned my attention to mine. My desk was a wooden circular thing anchored to the chair, and no screen popped up like the others. I punched it and raised my eyebrow when it remained immobile. The cats started jumping off their seats, dragging chairs as they left the room, muttering things among themselves.

I debated whether to go to the silver cat or follow the clowder when a sharp female voice boomed.

“Whoever has no assignment should report to the front desk immediately.”

I looked at the silver tabby and noticed him pace on the desk, conversing intensely with a Siamese female, their tails twitching.

Clearly, there was something wrong, or they wouldn’t have called us mid-November. We took on the mission at the beginning of December and had the whole month. Seeing how he gestured at the calendar, time was of the essence.

“Time to find out who messed up.” I leaped from my chair and made my way to the wooden floor decorated with claw marks.

When the two cats sniffed my presence, they lowered their voice to whispers. The Head cat of P&P punched the desk, ending the conversation. He arranged his bow tie better before addressing me.

“Yes?”

“Agent Meow 01, reporting for duty.”

“I presume your screen didn’t pop up?” He rummaged through the pile of papers in his office.

“I wouldn’t be here if it did.”

“Yes, yes. There are certain circumstances…yes.” He leafed through his papers, mumbling among himself. “There you are. Agent Meow 01, oh, you’re many years in the force.” He finally looked at me, studying me with renewed interest, but his eyes glided toward the back of the mission room where the cats of the Board typed on their fancy screens while they spoke loudly on the phone. My ears flopped. They reminded me of humans who were so absorbed with their work they didn’t see the world around them. As far as I was aware, the Board were lap cats who did secretary duty and acted like they had the best job in the world while we were servants who occupied space.

Our assigned number signified when we joined the force. I was the first recruit in ‘01, hence the code name. The rest of my details were on the fancy papers they made me paw and fairly certain the Head cat of P&P would bring up in a minute or two.

I tapped my foot down, annoyed by his lack of energy. Everything pointed out to the severity of the situation—his assistant paced as she checked her clipboard, the blinking red lights on the monitor behind him suggested an urgent call—and yet, he acted sluggishly.

“And you’re a ginger tiger cat?”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s unverified at the moment.”

His eyebrows shot up and his lined forehead creased. The miracle of eyes darted between me and his papers. “Really?”

I tilted my head, my ear touching my shoulder. “No, sir. I am, as you can see, a very orange striped cat, a fact anyone can determine if they look at you!” I pounded on the floor and he jumped in the air, landed on the desk, scratched the surface and almost fell back.

The Siamese cat stifled her giggles between coughs and hisses but buried her face behind a paper when The Head cat of P&P glared at her. “Strays are so rude.” He licked his paw, leafed through his papers, but he seemed more alert, his gaze wary on me, as if he was afraid I’d start throwing punches.

“I’ll tell you where your manners go when you starve or when a dog is after you because his master ordered him to sick’em,” I growled, ruffling my fur, and decided to put an end to this conversation before we dove into politics. “Why are we starting the mission now? It’s early.”

“Because the dogs messed up!” The Head cat of P&P hissed, losing his indolent attitude. He banged his paw on the desk and pressed his claw hard between his teeth. “The dogs messed up, and we have to clean up the mess, as usual,” he said in a more controlled voice.

I raised my eyebrow and almost felt sorry I attacked him. His docile attitude masked anger.

“Never leave a cat’s job to a dog.”

For the most part, I found them irritating and stupid unless they belonged to Paws—the secret dog unit which had the same role as ours, but started their mission in November. They might be annoying, but they got the job done. Or at least, I thought they did.

“Messed up, how?” I half-lidded my eyes, observing the Head cat of P&P rock back and forth, my back foot nervously tapping the wooden floor like a pendulum.

“Every Christmas, our agencies work hard to bring happiness to the human world,” the Head cat said, prowling.

I waved my paw. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard your speech a dozen times, but you never tell us why. What did the dogs do that was so bad? Why do we have to make humans happy, and why is Christmas our deadline?” The questions slipped through my mouth on their own and I waited, hoping for an honest answer.

When Pat & Purr recruited me, they gave me a purpose. Every December, I felt like I was a guardian of some sort and people would treat me better, spare some food and cuddles. However, I learned the hard way that they could be as mean at Christmas as on normal days. I still did my job in the best possible way, but I didn’t know why I did it anymore. Perhaps for the luckier cats, I guess. Or for the kicks. Or for the cool gadgets I briefly obtained for my mission. Any of these reasons could do, or none at all.

But this time, I needed genuine explanations of why I should work like a dog mid-November before people even started to think about presents, celebration dinners and decorations.

The Head cat of P&P sighed and turned to the Siamese cat. “Can you brief the others while I have this conversation?”

“Yes, sir!” The Siamese cat fished some papers from the mess of his desk and left, wagging her tail.

I frowned at The Head cat of P&P, who scratched his chin. “What conversation, sir?” His cologne misted the air in a thick cloud, tickling my nostrils.

“You’ve lost your interest, haven’t you?”

I was taken aback. It had crossed my mind that he would chide me or give me a lecture on duties, but this was not in today’s forecast. “Well…” I moved my head left and right, trying to come up with an explanation, but I wasn’t the evasive type. “I don’t feel the thrill I used to. It’s just a way to fill my days in December, so I would like to know the reason we must do all these things. Especially since humans don’t treat us well.”

The Head cat’s nostrils fluttered. “Many moons ago, when humans were created to walk this earth, a witch determined they needed cats to guard them against the adversities.”

I blinked. “I’m sorry, a what?”

“A witch,” the Head cat of P&P repeated without hesitation. “They’re not just tales humans tell their children as bedtime stories. Witches are real.”

I took a step back, struggling to wrap this idea around my head. I could believe in things such as birds, dogs, anything natural and logical, but witches were over the top.

Sometimes, on wintry mornings, I slipped in coffee shops when there was a storytelling gathering because every cat knew wherever there’s gathering, there’s food. It was entertaining and educational, if you liked stories with witches who saved the world with their powers and potions or fell in love with the dashing human. But that was all they were. Stories.

I gazed directly at the emerald shades of his eyes, studying the irises. A cat’s eyes revealed everything. Once I got the full picture, I stepped away. He wasn’t lying, or at least, he believed what he said.

“And what does a witch have to do with cats?” I cringed. I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.

“She appointed us to bring happiness to the humans, but if we failed to complete our duty, we would disappear and so would the world. We are the guardians of balance, happiness and mischief.”

“This is…but…” I shook my head and stayed silent. The words failed to express the vast hole in my chest dripping in the pit of my existence. “Why didn’t you tell me that when I joined?” I stirred the conversation to things I understood before my brain exploded.

“You weren’t ready.” He sighed. “Stray cats are more prone to lose their path, and also more disbelieving because of their past.” He tilted his head.

I nodded. “There must be a more logical explanation than a fairytale. It doesn’t make sense that our fate is predetermined.”

“Do you believe in the magic of Christmas?”

“Of course I do. What does this have to do with anything?”

“Then you believe in fairytales,” he decided. “The witch is real and so is the happiness she brings every year with our help.” He collected the papers in his office into a pile and grinned, the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “If the required number is not met, destruction will be upon us. The dogs failed on their quota, so we have to double our numbers to cover the loss.”

“I don’t believe in witches, but the balance thing makes more sense.” I forced the conversation on the darkest corner of my head and held out my paw. “Where are my cases?”

The Head cat of P&P pushed a paper toward me and my mouth dropped. Blinking rapidly, I studied the printed addresses that covered the entire sheet and continued on to the next page. Sweat gathered on my eyelids and I mopped my forehead with a swift move of my paw. “There are over fifty cases listed.” My small heart complained at the sight of so much ink. This year would be the death of me if I had to cross the country walking on snow. “They used to be barely ten.”

“There are a hundred and fifty.”

My pupils dilated, and I coughed. Punching my chest, I meowed a shriek. “A h-h-hundred?”

“Why do you think I have been yelling at the phone for a week with the absurd dog leader who returned only excuses and yelps?” He snorted. “You will have a partner in this one.”

“A p-partner?” My claws scratched the wooden floor as I backed away.

Deep breaths. I imagined the sun warming my face, flowers spread their intoxicating aroma, and lines of rats waiting for me to devour them. My rough tongue whisked away my anxiety as I licked my mouth, and a certain calmness settled over me. I calculated the possibilities of getting the job done on my own, considered all the variables such as weather and hostile humans, and came to the ugly conclusion it was an impossible task. Given this day had only a few hours left, I couldn’t count on getting much done today. So the logical being in me agreed a partner would be a good move.

“And the dogs,” the Head cat of P&P curled his lips, spitting as he pronounced the word, “have offered their full cooperation.” He paused. “As much as I despise them, I advise you to get their help when you need it. Time is of the essence. Your deadline is December 6. Don’t forget. Should any of the teams fail, destruction awaits.” After an ominous pause, he lifted a claw, pointing to the back of the room. “Lucinda will give you the rest of the details. Good luck and keep your claws sharp, agent.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir.” I padded the way to the exit, panting. My head pounded from the unexpected revelation and I was uncertain how I felt about it. Mystified for sure, but no longer lost and uninterested, which was good, given the current situation. “I hope they don’t pair me with a house cat, or this mission will be a guaranteed failure.”

LINKS:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3DZNwPQ

Books2Read: https://books2read.com/MeowGuardians

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59660911-the-meow-guardians

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/the-meow-guardians-a-holiday-mini-by-maria-vermisoglou


Cinnamon Kisses and Gingerbread Wishes by Kathleen Ryder

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Amazon Bestselling Author Kathleen Ryder brings you Cinnamon Kisses and Gingerbread Wishes

Holly is tired of being single. With Christmas around the corner, she gives herself a week to find Mr Perfect, no matter how insane her best friend, Finn, thinks she is.

Finn has secretly been in love with Holly for three years. He now only has seven days with which to convince her that he is her Mr Perfect.

When Holly finds an old recipe book, strange things start to happen. Will Christmas magic lead Holly to love, or will she find what it is that she is looking for much closer to home?

A sweet romance with a happy ever after that proves that magic and love are in the small things, and they are all around us, if only we open our eyes to really see.

An international bestselling and award winning author of sweet contemporary romance, Kathleen’s novels showcase thought provoking plots and strong emotions that have been likened to a Hallmark movie. Featuring feisty heroines and strong heroes, where everyone gets a happily ever after.

To discover more about Kathleen: https://linktr.ee/KathleenRyder

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Pickled Petunia by Dahlia Donovan #giveaway

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Pickled Petunia

Motts Cold Case Mystery Book 3

by Dahlia Donovan

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Mystery beckons when a young woman seeks out budding amateur detective Pineapple “Motts” Mottley to find her missing mother in the third novel of the Motts Cold Case Mystery series.

Murder comes to Motts’s doorstep when a stranger asks her to investigate a suspicious disappearance. Past experience tells her to say no yet her curiosity wins out. What’s the harm in asking a few questions?

The missing person case quickly evolves into murder when a body is found in the strangest circumstances. Motts sifts through various suspects and lies, only to come face to face with danger. Things become even more personal when a killer from her childhood makes an unwelcome appearance.

How many close calls can Motts escape?

Will she survive amidst a flood of beer and a catastrophic inferno?

Add to Goodreads * Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo * Books2Read

Dahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress.  She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters.  An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.  

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GUEST POST TEXT


The Christine Stewart Time Travel Adventure Series

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No Way Home

A Christine Stewart Time Travel Adventure Book 1

by Christy Cooper-Burnett

Genre: Time Travel, SciFi, Historical Fantasy

2020 California Author Project Winner – Adult Fiction

2020 PenCraft Award Winner – Science Fiction

“An action-packed time-travel adventure that will leave you thirsting for the sequel.” Sublime Book Review

“A brilliant and thought-provoking book that readers who love tales of time travel will find fascinating.” Authors Reading

Christine Stewart is a regular woman just doing her job when she gets stranded in history. When she gets up for the day, her plan is simple: go to work, travel back in time to the year 1867 in Oklahoma to deport a cyber-criminal, then head back to her time in 2070 Los Angeles and get ready to go on vacation with her son, Michael.

Then the system goes down and she-and dozens of other transporters around the world-are stranded in the past with minimal training and no supplies.

Just when she thinks things can’t get any more dangerous, she is cast further back in time and thousands of miles away.

As her goals shift from simply getting home to something much more dire to all of humanity, Christine must step outside of herself, work as part of a team, and ultimately make the choice between what it easy and what is right. Even if it costs her everything-including her one chance of ever getting home.

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Finding Home

A Christine Stewart Time Travel Adventure Book 2

An exiled prisoner. A desperate woman. A time travel agent willing to break the rules.

Malcolm Aldred is starting over in 1868, Oklahoma. There’s just one problem—he’s an exiled prisoner from 2070.

In 2071, Los Angeles, housewife Hannah Cole is desperate to escape her abusive husband, and begs Cyber Criminal Enforcement Agent Christine Stewart to send her somewhere, anywhere, in history. When Christine agrees to send Hannah to 1868, neither woman has any idea the events that sets in motion.

Malcolm and Hannah adapt to pioneer life in an untamed world full of danger and unimaginable hardships, but falling for each other was never part of the plan. When a deadly hunter tracks Hannah to 1868, fate intervenes and catapults her back to Colonial America, threatening to destroy their future before it ever begins.

Can Christine save Hannah in time or will they both be lost to history forever?

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Escaping Home

A Christine Stewart Time Travel Adventure Book 3

United States, 2072

With the country under the threat of war, a group of time-traveling government agents devise a risky plan to keep their families safe. But transporting hundreds of years to the past and blending in may prove much more dangerous than they expected.

Cyber Criminal Enforcement Agent Christine Stewart has been to the past before and thinks she knows what to expect. She couldn’t be more wrong.

Life in the eighteenth century is anything but ideal, especially when they learn a rogue agent with plans to strike it rich follows them back in time. Armed with a modern-day weapon, the agent may disrupt the timeline in the most disastrous way and alter history as they know it.

Now they’re refugees in their own homeland, and how they proceed will determine their fate. Will they crash and burn in their race to stop the defector before it’s too late?

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Christy Cooper-Burnett is an award-winning author based in California with a degree in Administration of Justice. After retiring early from the new home construction industry, she now divides her time between northern and southern California.

She has one grown son who inspired her to write her award-winning debut novel, No Way Home. She began her writing career later in life, but once she started she couldn’t stop. Her work focuses on creating relatable stories and characters that transcend genres and encourage readers to imagine what they would do if thrown into the unique, imaginative situations her protagonists end up in.

Christy’s debut novel, No Way Home, was the recipient of the 2020 California Author Project award in the Adult Fiction category, the 2020 PenCraft Award in the Science Fiction category, a 2021 Literary Titan Gold Medal Award and a finalist position in the 2021 International Book Awards, Science Fiction category. Her second novel, Finding Home released June 17, 2021, and early praise has already garnered several five-star reviews and her second Literary Titan Gold Medal Award. The third book in the Christine Stewart Time Travel Adventure series, Escaping Home, is an Indies Today recommended read and is set to launch on November 18, 2021.

You can learn more about Christy, subscribe to her mailing list for news and book deals or contact

her at www.christycooperburnett.com.

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Would you like a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card? Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell us something about yourself and how you became an author?

I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. My mother and grandmother were avid readers, and my grandmother was also an editor. Despite my lifelong love of books, I didn’t consider writing until I was in my late 50’s. I had a dream about a woman trapped in the past and in my dream, I was typing the story on my grandmother’s old typewriter. The dream stayed with me into the following day, and I mentioned it to my son. He thought it sounded like a great story and suggested I write a book based on the plot. I had never considered writing, but with his encouragement I started to put together an outline. I wrote on my lunch hours at work, and on weekends. When I had a story put together, I knew I should have a professional editor give it a once over. My friends were eager to read it, and I wanted to have the best version of it to give them. The editor I used was a former acquisitions editor for a publisher and told me it ticked all the boxes, and in her previous position she would have picked up my story. She encouraged me to send it out to small presses who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. No one was more surprised than me when I received four offers for the book. I eventually signed with a small publisher in Texas, Black Rose Writing. I have since published two more books in the series with them and just signed a contract for the first book in a new series, due out next September.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I signed my first contract with Black Rose Writing. It was a surreal moment for me, and one that will stay with me forever. It was the best feeling in the world to know that my book was entertaining enough for a publisher to take a chance on with an unknown author.

Which of your novels can you imagine being made into a movie?

Since my books are part of a trilogy with the same characters, all of them! After three books with these characters, I feel I know them so well, I can imagine all of them translating to the screen.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in No Way Home, Finding Home and Escaping Home?

The protagonist, Christine Stewart was the most crucial for me. She is a regular, forty-something woman just doing her job when extraordinary circumstances turn her world upside down. She is somewhat anti-social by nature, so having to make connections to stay alive goes against every cell in her being. But she knows in order to get home and see her son again, she will do whatever it takes. By the end of No Way Home, she has evolved. It remains a daily struggle for her, but she tries to make a change for the better. She found a best friend for the first time since she was a young girl and learns to put someone else first. Christine has a need to try to save everyone, but in the final installment of the series, Escaping Home, she comes full circle and gets her happy ending. Just not in a way she ever expected.

What can we expect form you in the future?

I’ve just signed a contract for a new book which will be out next September. It is another time travel series, packed with adventure and action. Without giving away too much, here is a little teaser.

They always say, “Be careful what you wish for.”

I wish I had been careful.

I could’ve easily sold my time travel technology for billons and walked away. Instead, I chose to take the elite on vacations deep into the past, to a time and place of their choice.

But when a big-time motion picture company hired me, I sold my soul.

What was supposed to be a few days in the nineteenth century with two of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities goes horribly awry. Now America’s hottest starlet is dead, and Jack the Ripper is on the loose in modern-day America.

And it’s all my fault.

I was foolish enough to let the most ruthless serial killer in history slip out of the past. Am I smart enough to send him packing?

Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Wo would that be and why?

Actually, Tom McCaffrey, the best-selling author of The Claire Trilogy (The Wise Ass, An Alien Appeal, Kissing My Ass Goodbye) is a dear friend of mine. I have access to his brain and pick it often. Not only is he a very talented writer, but he is one of the funniest people I know, and an all-around good guy. Every writer needs a “Tom”.


Gateway to Dark Stars by Kate Haley #giveaway

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

Gateway to Dark Stars by Kate Haley

Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure

Slaying monsters. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.

In the age of jazz and bootleg liquor, black magic is making a big comeback. Luckily, the scourge of demons and cultists are keeping Doctor Vincent Temple in business. Even the Mafia are having trouble with monsters, and they’ve hired Temple to sort it out. Cash is cash, and the old Doctor has never been one to turn his nose up at a job, no matter who’s paying. This time luck is smiling on him. The gangsters are tangling with a cult Doctor Temple has been stalking over a personal matter, but when reconnaissance turns into rescue can he save the world before things become too personal?

The Witcher meets Cthulhu in this gruesome, high-octane adventure. Snatch up your copy now and get ready to slay some demons!

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Kate Haley is a speculative fiction author who works predominantly in fantasy and horror.

While currently content to fill her days with writing and table-top RPGs, her grander plans involve world domination. Something akin to the tyranny of the greatest city atop the Disc would be an acceptable standard. She believes a super-villainous overlord would be an upgrade, given that our current villains lack style and imagination.

After all, super-villainy requires Presentation.

If you like her references, consider reading her books. Peruse the website for short fictions and merchandise, and join the mailing list for early access and exclusive cool stuff.

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Would you like a chance to win a personalized signed copy of the book and an art print of the lead character by the illustrator, or a $10 Amazon gift card?  Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!