LAST DAYS, New Release ~ in nutshell capsule & read First Chapter.

A palm tree beach

LAST DAYS ~ In a nutshell…

A spry elderly woman has died mysteriously in a Florida coastal town, and the head of a clandestine organization in Washington D.C is interested in the case. All evidence, or lack thereof, points to accidental death, but Detective Katerina “Kat” Andruko has nagging doubts. She also has doubts about a mysterious phone call profiler Dimitri Garmonin, PhD, her intended, took and hid from her. ~~  As if that wasn’t enough, Kat’s former fiancé and fellow law enforcement officer gleefully taunts her, predicting the demise of her relationship with Dimitri. Her future mother-in-law thinks she’s less than demure and not suitable marriage material for her son. ~~  Meanwhile, all leads on the elderly woman’s death go nowhere. Old enemies at the local TV station are calling the police incompetent. They air an unfavorable segment about Dimitri. Just as Kat and Dimitri reluctantly begin to believe the death was accidental, the woman’s neighbor goes missing.  [Cover Reveal To Come]

Chapter One

 Pelican Beach, Florida ~ Mid-March

Det. Katerina “Kat” Andruko

 I had to confront Dimitri. If he was serious about making a total commitment to share his life with me, there couldn’t be secrets.

I took the antique pierced earrings he had given me at Thanksgiving out of my jewelry box. Lovely. Alexandrite set in rose gold. They had belonged to his grandmother. Recalling that moment, I still got a magical rush. With this gift, handcrafted nearly a century ago in St. Petersburg, we’d taken a step into a deeper relationship.

Mere moments after giving me the earrings, Dimitri’s phone rang. He turned his back on me and informed the other party I was in the room. The enchanting romance of the moment evaporated, but I let it go. It was Thanksgiving. My sister and her chef Nick Anastos had closed the restaurant and prepared a feast fit for royalty, a family tradition my Larissa proudly kept going. She and Nick ran the Andruko Chophouse, the restaurant my parents started. She, Mari, and I lived in the upstairs apartment. 

A knock on my bedroom door jolted me to the present. “Come in.”

The twerp stuck her head in, or should I call her Your Royal Highness Emo-Princess Mari? Her BFF had recently chopped my niece’s lush brunette hair into an uneven chin-length do, if you could call it that. I thought my sister was going to have a cow when she first saw it. The entire head of hair was now dyed purple.  “Hey, what’s up? You going out?”

“I wasn’t planning on it. I’m not on the schedule for a shift today.”

“Oh, thought maybe you were cause you’re holding those fancy earrings. Thought you might have big plans with Dimitri.” She drew out each syllable of his name and offered a self-conscious grin.

“No plans.” I shrugged.

“Mom brought fresh-baked baklava up from the restaurant that Nick just made. Want some?”

“You bet. I’ll be out in a minute.”

“If you don’t hurry, I’ll eat them all. Fair warning.” The door slammed behind her.

I took a last, long look at the earrings, and placed them back inside the jewelry box, then sighed. The holidays had been a whirlwind of merriment, rejoicing, and romance. I’d given Dimitri ample opportunity to explain that mysterious phone call. I’d even tossed out a few leading questions.

“Which he dodged.” Whoa, I surprised myself by stamping my foot as the words blurted out.

Even though it bothered me, I hadn’t found the right time to pin him down. His mother came from New York for Christmas and New Year’s. She was polite as could be but hovered over him displaying etiquette that could only be described as old world.

Then he announced he had a special Valentine’s Day planned. He brought a dozen pink roses and a box of chocolates to the apartment. But that wasn’t the special part. He whisked me away to a Cooking Class for Lovers at the Pelican Beach Hospitality Institute. Along with three other couples, we prepared a fine French meal. It was served to us by a few of their full-time students acting as waiters. And now his birthday was approaching. There would always be something. I had to do what I had to do.

I sighed again and hustled into the kitchen. Mari hadn’t been kidding. She sat at the table, stuffing her face with the honeyed confections.

“Save at least one piece for me.”

She half-stood pushing out her chair. It screeched against the floor as she swallowed the last morsel and licked her fingers. “I gotta go. I’m meeting Ashley.” With that, she rushed out the door. Her sneakers pounded down wooden steps leading to the back door of the restaurant and reserved spaces for family and employees in the parking lot.

Larissa turned from the sink where she’d been washing dishes. “Her behavior has been so much better since the holidays.”

“I don’t want to cast blame, but without Carla’s influence, she and Ashley have grown up a bit in the responsibility department.” Carla had been one of Mari’s closest friends who had not set a good example. She’d been murdered by a serial killer the previous fall.

Larissa dried her hands. “Have you gotten all the arrangements finalized with Mackey for Dimitri’s birthday party?”

“I better have. It’s in three weeks.” I took a quick bite of baklava to hide the frown about to overtake my face.

“And Chef Hote has the menu?”

“Yup.” I took another bite and glanced away from her.

“Did you place a birthday cake order with that Christian baker we want to give business to?” She took a step toward me.

“Yeah, she closed her shop and is running the business from her house. I understand it’s going well for her.”

Larissa nodded once, slowly. “You’ve got the party room booked, decided on a menu, ordered the cake. So, what’s wrong?”

I backed toward the door, grabbed my beige bomber jacket off the pegged coat rack on the wall. “Nothing’s wrong.” With that, I shot out, closed the door behind me, and rushed down the stairs.

Larissa yelled after me, “Now you’re acting like your niece, and that’s not good.”

I climbed into my lightning-blue Ford Fusion, my pride and joy, and sat there for a moment. My heart pounded, and it wasn’t from having run down the steps. If I confronted Dimitri, would it end our relationship just as it was about to begin?

I took a circuitous route to his beach house, wending my way through side streets, as my thoughts roamed to a few not very cozy places. Finally, I pulled into his drive. The house sat across the street from the ocean upon ten-foot-high cinder block pillars. This was to protect it from the highest storm surge after a violent hurricane. I drove under the structure, into his personal carport, and parked next to his white Chevy Tahoe.

I climbed the twenty-five steps to his small porch and front door. I’d counted them more than once. When my heart rate lowered, I rang the bell.

Dimitri answered, wearing a pair of cut-offs and a worn tee. He was barefoot. “Hey, my love, I just made coffee. Want some?” His voice had a slight Russian accent which I found alluring. After he closed the door, he kissed me lightly on the corner of my mouth.

Now, how do I get past that and deliver a one-two-punch ultimatum? Maybe I’d better soften it a bit. I brushed my cheek against his and murmured, “Love you, too, and I’d love a cup.”

The serving and sipping of coffee would give me time to organize my thoughts. I sat and tried to make myself comfortable on the cushioned couch in the open-concept great room.

He brought out two mismatched mugs. One was a Florida Gator’s mug– orange with a gator’s green head on it. The other said: Profilers Do It With Good Behavior. He’d gotten that one via Secret Santa at the department’s Christmas party. The consensus of opinion was Detective. Danny Lee had given it as a gag-gift. Lee shrugged and said, “If you knew, it wouldn’t be Secret Santa, would it?”

Dimitri and I both took our coffee the same way, with a splash of milk, or black on the job if that’s all that was available. I leaned forward, took the profilers cup, and took a sip. “Good coffee, as usual.”

He sat next to me on the couch. “I got it at the Surfside Motel. They started serving their guests Jamaican Blue Mountain roast and are also offering it for sale. I ran over and bought a bag. I get whole beans because, as you know, my favorite part is the coffee maker’s grind-and-brew feature.”

I cleared my throat and shifted my position so my back was straighter. “Dimitri, I want to talk to you about something.”

He was about to take another sip but stopped. “I see.”

I launched right into it and told him I was disturbed about the mystery phone call. “I’ve tossed out quite a few leading questions about this in the last few months, and each time you’ve changed the subject.”

He looked directly at me. “I guess I have. I swear to you on my mother’s life, it has absolutely nothing to do with another woman.”

Dimitri’s mother was precious to him. For him to make that assertion was startling. I took a breath. “I didn’t think it did. I think it’s related to something in the last murder investigation. That Pentagon weapons designer was our prime suspect. Then his assassination was quickly hushed up. It was like he’d never come to town. You and Mackey both disappeared for two days. Then you came back, and both of you acted as if nothing had happened.”

“We took a couple of days off and went to his hunting cabin. Nothing illegal or nefarious.”

“I didn’t know you and he were such good friends, or that you hunt.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “We weren’t terribly good friends. It was spur of the moment, and I do hunt. We’re friends now.”

“You forget, I’ve seen your hunting skills, and I’m not so sure you hunt four-legged, furry creatures.”

He laughed. “You don’t miss much, and that’s why you’re becoming the world’s greatest detective.”

“You’re charming, but that’s silly.” I took another sip of coffee.

He reached out and touched my hand. “During that phone call an elderly gentleman asked me to check on the safety of some people here in town on the down-low. As he requested, I checked once a month over the last three months, and they seemed to be doing fine. End of story.”

“Well, if that’s all it was…”

The Perils Of Cheryl by Carol McClain ~ new release

a-the-perils-of-cheryl

Only a man can save her—any man so long as he’s hot

If you’ve been around Christian writing circles at all, at one time or another you’ve run in to my friend Carol McClain. I’m absolutely pleased to have her on the blog to promote new new release.

Sassy, desperate, and ditched by her husband, Cheryl Chandler realizes only one thing will redeem her from her ex-husband’s betrayal. A man. Finding love in rural New York proves a daunting challenge. With a shallow gene pool and a crazy family, she wants someone willing to accept her quirky teens whose eccentricities range from New Age ideologies, to OCD, to religious fanaticism, and a toddler—her husband’s parting gift. What man would love her and accept them? (Or could she hide the kids?) Her children, and mother, have the solution. Online dating.

Here she meets two men. Religious fanatic Tarrant charms her, but he’s so pious, he actually likes to go to church and loves to study his Bible. Mysterious Carleton is everything her desperation desires, witty, knowledgeable, and handsome. How does a woman choose among a crazy family or a need for unadulterated love or the draw of faith? She certainly can’t decide without a hefty dose of humor.

Author Question:  What do you as the author want the reader to take away from this novel?

Carol’s Answer:  Cheryl believes only a man can save her, any man so long as he’s hot. Little did she know that the one she needs isn’t the one she expects. Only one person can straighten out the mess of our lives (and Cheryl’s is an LOL mess). Any Christian knows the answer.

A Carol McClain

Author Bio:

McClain is the award-winning author of four novels. The New York Yankee on Stinking Creek is the first-place winner of The Dragonfly Book Award for best novel.

McClain writes novels about the redemption of the unredeemable. Even her most serious works are laced with humor. She is a consummate encourager, and no matter what your faith might look like, you will find compassion, humor and wisdom in her complexly layered, but ultimately readable work.

She is a past president of ACFW Knoxville and its current treasurer/secretary. She facilitates Postmark Writers, an offshoot of the LaFollette Art Group. She teaches online courses and is a clinical supervisor for WGU.

In addition to the above, she’s served on the Board of Connections to Recovery, an organization dedicated to keeping addicts sober. She’s mentored recovering addicts, and at one time, had been a foster mother–the complexity and difficulty of that calling proved she was better off writing about it than performing it.

(Is there nothing she can’t do?)

Aside from writing, she’s a skilled stained-glass artist, and a budding potter.

Purchase THE PERILS OF CHERYL on Amazon.

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CD Cover Need an exciting read for the new year? COURTING DANGER ~ Young women are being murdered in this Florida #beach town. The female detective feels she knows the murderer, can’t place him, and it’s tearing at her.

 

 

The Bride Escape by Dalyn Woods ~ a review

The Bride Escape

Twists & Turns Ending in Thanksgiving Dinner

It didn’t seem as if Charlotte “Charlie” Dutton, now Lyons, had much to be thankful for. Her first husband committed suicide. Here she was in a limo, wearing a wedding gown with blood on it, and she had a bloody knife with her. It obviously was her wedding day. To make matters worse, Charlie was rapidly coming to the conclusion that she’d just killed her new husband, but she wasn’t sure. She had amnesia and remembered not a single thing of her former life in Folkston, Georgia.

This is a Christian Romantic Suspense with many twists and turns the reader will enjoy. The limo is parked in front of Liam MacBain’s cabin at the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. The man claims to be Charlie’s childhood friend. The next day the limo is gone. Then the driver turns up burned to death in the limo’s trunk. Charlie is arrested for the murder of her husband and the limo driver. She’s poisoned while in the jail. And the plot twists keep on coming at a rapid pace.

The main characters are well drawn and likeable. Charlie is impulsive, while Liam is protective and a ‘by the book’ kind of guy. Charlie slowly begins to rely on Liam, but finds her back is continually up against the wall since the sheriff also remembers her from childhood. He’s carried a major grudge against her all these years and would love to pin the murders on her.

This is a ‘clean reads’ novel for lovers of inspirational romantic suspense who like a mystery story that keeps them guessing.

Purchase The Bride Escape on Amazon

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AOM Cover From Thanksgiving thru New Year’s, murder, intrigue, covert ops, family upheaval, #widow, loyalty. #Florida #Caracas. ACTS OF MALICE #inspy #ChristFic #cleanreads  Purchase on Amazon

ACTS OF MALICE ~ Release Day!!!

AOM Release pngIt’s here! Release Day for ACTS OF MALICE. It was on Pre-Order, but now, TODAY, it is officially released!!!

Detective Story, murder mystery, national security

Lavender Raines and Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie are polar opposites. Thought not a holiday novel, per se, ACTS OF MALICE has Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s scenes that will touch your heart, make you gasp, have you laughing, or all three.

ACTS OF MALICE IN A NUT SHELL…

ACTS OF MALICE:  A taut and compelling classic murder mystery with a national security underlying theme. Interpersonal relationships, greed, dry humor. Unrequited Love. Uplifting.

Lavender Raines gets the ‘doorbell ring’ no wife ever wants to get. Her husband has been brutally murdered, and the FBI is more secretive than helpful. The problem is, his body was found in Caracas when she thought his business trip had taken him to New Orleans.

Mackenzie just opened a second beach resort-town restaurant, this one in Ribault Beach, Florida…but now the clandestine security organization that from-time-to-time sends him on covert missions wants him to find Lavender’s husband’s killers.

Forces from within the “Deep State” have shaped circumstances that will alter the course of both their lives. Then a local man is murdered. Mackey is emotionally shut down about his life, but protective of others. Lavender is a pillar of strength in her family, but distrusting of Mackey and guarded around him. Can they find common ground amidst this treachery and turmoil?GreenStar Burst

Excerpt:

Chapter Five

Lavender Raines

Yawning, my mother entered the kitchen with a lazy, graceful sway. She tightened her fuchsia kimono-style bathrobe and headed for the coffee maker. “I didn’t sleep well at all last night.”

I placed my coffee mug on the kitchen table and swiveled in my chair to face her. “Was the guestroom bed uncomfortable?”

“Well … no, Darling, not really.” She waved, limp-wristed, as if she were shushing me. “I need to get some coffee in me.”

“On the counter. Help yourself.”

She poured coffee into a mug. “I simply can’t understand why George’s parents didn’t fly in to attend his memorial service.”

If I cared for hard liquor, which I didn’t, I might want a shot in my coffee before long. “Mother, you know Marianne has early onset dementia. Henry doesn’t want her to be told George is gone. Besides they recently moved into an assisted living apartment in Seattle and are still settling in.” The fact was neither of his parents had any idea their son’s death certificate and funeral papers had been falsified to make it appear he’d died while visiting them. I went along with this charade because I had no idea who was behind George’s murder, or why. I was afraid for Kendall’s safety, as well as my own and my mother’s.

“Yes, yes, of course.” She added two percent milk and artificial sweetener to her mug and stirred.

“What a pretty bathrobe.” I hoped to change the topic of conversation.

She brought her mug to the table and sat opposite me. “This old thing? I got it several years ago at this marvelous little shop when your father and I were in Santa Barbara. Now he’s gone, and George is gone. It’s just us three girls.” She tilted her head and slid her fingers through her highlighted, chin length hair.

Hard liquor was looking better and better. I slipped my hand behind my neck and scooped my hair out from under my knit robe that had seen better days. “Mother, we’ll be fine. You’ll see. We girls will pull through.”

She ran her French manicured index finger around the rim of her mug. “I want more for you and Kendall than pulling through. Really, dear, this house is not in good shape. You should sell it and come live with me in Virginia Beach.”

I stifled a gasp at the same time that Kendall lurched into the kitchen. “Sell the house? No, never. This is Dad’s house. We have to keep it.”

I stood and hurried over to her. “Honey, Grandma was just thinking out loud.”

“Kendall, darling, it isn’t ladylike to eavesdrop.” My mother’s sing-song rhythm was light, with a softness to it.

Kendall pouted. “I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was coming into the kitchen to get coffee.”

I sat down at the table and kept to myself that I’d also been unable to sleep. In the wee hours, selling the house had very briefly crossed my mind. “The house does have a few projects still left to be done. George finished the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Only the bedrooms need a little cosmetic touch-up.”

“Both bathrooms need a complete renovation. The master bath is very outdated. Really, Darling, there’s not even a hint of open concept. With your talent in home décor, you should know that.” My mother wriggled her nose.

“Grandma, you make it sound like Daddy didn’t provide a good place for us to live.”

“Kendall, darling, I’m expressing my feelings. Would you like me to be dishonest with you and your mother?”

Kendall smacked her mug on the countertop, and liquid sloshed over its brim. She ignored it. “Daddy’s memorial service was only yesterday. So, Grandma, I don’t mean to be rude, but if you can’t put him in a good light, don’t say anything.”

She rushed out of the room, her eyes brimming with tears.

Lavender Raines, Afternoon 

A walk along the waterfront might calm my jangled nerves. I’d been a walking enthusiast for years and had been known to go for miles. Sunrise Boulevard wasn’t that far away and was a lovely stroll along the beach.

I slipped into and tied my running shoes. Did I need a sweater? I checked my phone for the weather report. High seventies. No sweater. I’d be exerting myself, and that would keep me warm enough. I slipped the phone into the diminutive leather bag slung across my body.

After a slow trot to the end of our driveway, I turned and inspected the house. A white concrete ranch on residential Catalina Street with a large picture window, a dark-blue front door, and a couple of palm trees in front. We lived in a respectable neighborhood. George had wanted the house. After growing up in the sizable two-story colonial with a pool I thought of as the house my father bought for my mother, I would’ve preferred a three-bedroom townhouse. Still, George, Kendall, and I had been happy here. So, why had I felt so defensive during my mother’s manipulative harangue, feeling almost as if our house was a hovel?

While walking along Sunrise Boulevard at a leisurely pace, the blahs of self-recrimination had set in and settled. When I pulled my gaze up from the sidewalk, I realized I’d turned the corner onto Mystic Drive. I found myself standing before Funky Boutiking and immediately felt a bit better. The quaint shop sat behind the graceful yet casual Blue Dolphin Boutique Hotel.

Ribault Beach benefited from naturally occurring, softly rolling dunes which somewhat protected the city during fierce storms. Sunrise Boulevard, one of the city’s major thoroughfares ran north and south along the beach. At its southernmost end, a small concrete and steel bridge crossed a short expanse of ocean to Cannoner Island.

“Such a funny shape.” I placed my flattened hand over my sunglasses to block out the hot sun and stepped to the side, trying to get a better view of the small island. Not used to talking to myself, a giggle bubbled up. Then I giggled again. “Looks like my feet brought me here for a reason.”

Recalling the often-told tale charmed me. French Huguenot settlers in the mid-1500s gave the island that name because its seaward end rose higher out of the ocean than its landward end. They thought it resembled a cannon. Of course, the name had long since lost its French spelling and pronunciation– and Ribault Beach had also lost its French pronunciation.

I turned toward the pale yellow 1950s bungalow that was Funky Boutiking and placed my foot on the first step. Should I go in? “I don’t want to be a burden.” This talking to myself was weird.

The house rested on a foundation of concrete blocks two-feet-high with spaces between them which would allow a rushing storm surge to pass underneath. The bungalow sported a craftsman-style stone porch with concrete steps and blue painted wooden pillars. It was a sturdy little structure.

I held onto the railing and walked up the steps and onto the porch which displayed outdoor and indoor pieces of furniture for sale. I continued into the store.

Abigail Hunter stood at the front counter, behind the register, worry reflected in her eyes.

A well-dressed, thirty-something man on the opposite side of the wooden counter faced her. Randall Creston, another of George’s distant relatives. He hadn’t come to the memorial service. He and his family lived in Crescent Beach, just north of our city. We hadn’t seen him or heard from him for so long, all memory of him had escaped me, until now.

He slapped his hand on the counter. “You and your sister are two stubborn old ladies.”

Abigail winced but still managed a thin smile. “It’s probably true we’re set in our ways.”

“I’ll be back again, and we’ll continue this conversation. I have an appointment in less than twenty minutes.” He turned on his heel and stalked off.

His shoulder nearly brushed against mine as he left. He grunted and nodded. “Good day.”

“Good … day.” I turned and watched him rush out the door, not sure if he recognized me.

When I turned back, Abigail clasped and unclasped her hands.

I walked up to the register. “Are you all right? Wasn’t that Randall Creston?”

“Our cousin Randall, the lawyer. He helps with our finances, such as they are.”

Olivia peeked out from the behind a display toward the back of the store. The sizable bungalow accommodated a small two-bedroom apartment in the back and sat on a half-acre lot. “Is he gone?” She noticed me and rushed over. “Lavender, I’m so glad to see you. I just put on water for tea. Would you like to join us?”

“Thank you, that would make my day.”

The kettle whistled, and the petite woman spun around and hurried to the back.

I returned my attention to Abigail, wondering if I’d just witnessed elder abuse, or perhaps intimidation. “This is none of my business, but it seemed as if Olivia was trying to avoid ‘cousin’ Randall’. I made quotation marks in the air with my fingers.

“Lavender, honey, you have your own troubles. Come sit and have tea with us.” Abigail walked toward an alcove to the side of the front counter.

I sat on the cushioned bench built into the alcove. “Abigail, you and Olivia are my husband’s family. If you’re having any problems, you can come to me.”

Abigail settled her long frame into the seat of an upholstered chair. It was positioned to one side of a small coffee table. “You’re sweet, just like Georgie.”

Olivia bustled in carrying a tray which she placed on the coffee table. “You’ll have to add milk and sugar to your taste. Please help yourself to home-baked oatmeal cookies.” She sat in an upholstered chair on the other side of the coffee table in front of the alcove.

I added a splash of milk to my tea, and then took a cookie which I rested in a napkin on my lap. “Olivia, Randall Creston nearly collided with me as he rushed out.”

She rolled her eyes and mixed two heaping spoons of sugar into her tea. “He’s a very busy man. His clients are the cream of the crop in Ribault Beach. He wouldn’t even come here otherwise, except for this business deal he’s all worked up about.”

“You and Abigail are also his clients?” I sipped my tea.

Olivia shifted in her seat. “We’re his poor church-mouse relatives. His charity account.”

 

ACTS OF MALICE IS NOW ON PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON

NIKE N. CHILLEMI’S AUTHOR PAGE ON AMAZON

 

ACTS OF MALICE, a Lavender Raines/Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie Novel ~ Cover Reveal

AOM CoverDetective Story, murder mystery, national security

Heroine Lavender Raines and hero Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie are polar opposites. Thought not a holiday novel, per se, ACTS OF MALICE has Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s scenes that will touch your heart, make you gasp, have you laughing, or all three.

ACTS OF MALICE IN A NUT SHELL…

ACTS OF MALICE:  A taut and compelling classic murder mystery with a national security underlying theme. Interpersonal relationships, greed, dry humor. Unrequited Love. Uplifting.

Lavender Raines gets the ‘doorbell ring’ no wife ever wants to get. Her husband has been brutally murdered, and the FBI is more secretive than helpful. The problem is, his body was found in Caracas when she thought his business trip had taken him to New Orleans.

Mackenzie just opened a second beach resort-town restaurant, this one in Ribault Beach, Florida…but now the clandestine security organization that from-time-to-time sends him on covert missions wants him to find Lavender’s husband’s killers.

Forces from within the “Deep State” have shaped circumstances that will alter the course of both their lives. Then a local man is murdered. Mackey is emotionally shut down about his life, but protective of others. Lavender is a pillar of strength in her family, but distrusting of Mackey and guarded around him. Can they find common ground amidst this treachery and turmoil?GreenStar Burst

Excerpt:

Chapter Five

Lavender Raines

Yawning, my mother entered the kitchen with a lazy, graceful sway. She tightened her fuchsia kimono-style bathrobe and headed for the coffee maker. “I didn’t sleep well at all last night.”

I placed my coffee mug on the kitchen table and swiveled in my chair to face her. “Was the guestroom bed uncomfortable?”

“Well … no, Darling, not really.” She waved, limp-wristed, as if she were shushing me. “I need to get some coffee in me.”

“On the counter. Help yourself.”

She poured coffee into a mug. “I simply can’t understand why George’s parents didn’t fly in to attend his memorial service.”

If I cared for hard liquor, which I didn’t, I might want a shot in my coffee before long. “Mother, you know Marianne has early onset dementia. Henry doesn’t want her to be told George is gone. Besides they recently moved into an assisted living apartment in Seattle and are still settling in.” The fact was neither of his parents had any idea their son’s death certificate and funeral papers had been falsified to make it appear he’d died while visiting them. I went along with this charade because I had no idea who was behind George’s murder, or why. I was afraid for Kendall’s safety, as well as my own and my mother’s.

“Yes, yes, of course.” She added two percent milk and artificial sweetener to her mug and stirred.

“What a pretty bathrobe.” I hoped to change the topic of conversation.

She brought her mug to the table and sat opposite me. “This old thing? I got it several years ago at this marvelous little shop when your father and I were in Santa Barbara. Now he’s gone, and George is gone. It’s just us three girls.” She tilted her head and slid her fingers through her highlighted, chin length hair.

Hard liquor was looking better and better. I slipped my hand behind my neck and scooped my hair out from under my knit robe that had seen better days. “Mother, we’ll be fine. You’ll see. We girls will pull through.”

She ran her French manicured index finger around the rim of her mug. “I want more for you and Kendall than pulling through. Really, dear, this house is not in good shape. You should sell it and come live with me in Virginia Beach.”

I stifled a gasp at the same time that Kendall lurched into the kitchen. “Sell the house? No, never. This is Dad’s house. We have to keep it.”

I stood and hurried over to her. “Honey, Grandma was just thinking out loud.”

“Kendall, darling, it isn’t ladylike to eavesdrop.” My mother’s sing-song rhythm was light, with a softness to it.

Kendall pouted. “I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was coming into the kitchen to get coffee.”

I sat down at the table and kept to myself that I’d also been unable to sleep. In the wee hours, selling the house had very briefly crossed my mind. “The house does have a few projects still left to be done. George finished the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Only the bedrooms need a little cosmetic touch-up.”

“Both bathrooms need a complete renovation. The master bath is very outdated. Really, Darling, there’s not even a hint of open concept. With your talent in home décor, you should know that.” My mother wriggled her nose.

“Grandma, you make it sound like Daddy didn’t provide a good place for us to live.”

“Kendall, darling, I’m expressing my feelings. Would you like me to be dishonest with you and your mother?”

Kendall smacked her mug on the countertop, and liquid sloshed over its brim. She ignored it. “Daddy’s memorial service was only yesterday. So, Grandma, I don’t mean to be rude, but if you can’t put him in a good light, don’t say anything.”

She rushed out of the room, her eyes brimming with tears.

Lavender Raines, Afternoon 

A walk along the waterfront might calm my jangled nerves. I’d been a walking enthusiast for years and had been known to go for miles. Sunrise Boulevard wasn’t that far away and was a lovely stroll along the beach.

I slipped into and tied my running shoes. Did I need a sweater? I checked my phone for the weather report. High seventies. No sweater. I’d be exerting myself, and that would keep me warm enough. I slipped the phone into the diminutive leather bag slung across my body.

After a slow trot to the end of our driveway, I turned and inspected the house. A white concrete ranch on residential Catalina Street with a large picture window, a dark-blue front door, and a couple of palm trees in front. We lived in a respectable neighborhood. George had wanted the house. After growing up in the sizable two-story colonial with a pool I thought of as the house my father bought for my mother, I would’ve preferred a three-bedroom townhouse. Still, George, Kendall, and I had been happy here. So, why had I felt so defensive during my mother’s manipulative harangue, feeling almost as if our house was a hovel?

While walking along Sunrise Boulevard at a leisurely pace, the blahs of self-recrimination had set in and settled. When I pulled my gaze up from the sidewalk, I realized I’d turned the corner onto Mystic Drive. I found myself standing before Funky Boutiking and immediately felt a bit better. The quaint shop sat behind the graceful yet casual Blue Dolphin Boutique Hotel.

Ribault Beach benefited from naturally occurring, softly rolling dunes which somewhat protected the city during fierce storms. Sunrise Boulevard, one of the city’s major thoroughfares ran north and south along the beach. At its southernmost end, a small concrete and steel bridge crossed a short expanse of ocean to Cannoner Island.

“Such a funny shape.” I placed my flattened hand over my sunglasses to block out the hot sun and stepped to the side, trying to get a better view of the small island. Not used to talking to myself, a giggle bubbled up. Then I giggled again. “Looks like my feet brought me here for a reason.”

Recalling the often-told tale charmed me. French Huguenot settlers in the mid-1500s gave the island that name because its seaward end rose higher out of the ocean than its landward end. They thought it resembled a cannon. Of course, the name had long since lost its French spelling and pronunciation– and Ribault Beach had also lost its French pronunciation.

I turned toward the pale yellow 1950s bungalow that was Funky Boutiking and placed my foot on the first step. Should I go in? “I don’t want to be a burden.” This talking to myself was weird.

The house rested on a foundation of concrete blocks two-feet-high with spaces between them which would allow a rushing storm surge to pass underneath. The bungalow sported a craftsman-style stone porch with concrete steps and blue painted wooden pillars. It was a sturdy little structure.

I held onto the railing and walked up the steps and onto the porch which displayed outdoor and indoor pieces of furniture for sale. I continued into the store.

Abigail Hunter stood at the front counter, behind the register, worry reflected in her eyes.

A well-dressed, thirty-something man on the opposite side of the wooden counter faced her. Randall Creston, another of George’s distant relatives. He hadn’t come to the memorial service. He and his family lived in Crescent Beach, just north of our city. We hadn’t seen him or heard from him for so long, all memory of him had escaped me, until now.

He slapped his hand on the counter. “You and your sister are two stubborn old ladies.”

Abigail winced but still managed a thin smile. “It’s probably true we’re set in our ways.”

“I’ll be back again, and we’ll continue this conversation. I have an appointment in less than twenty minutes.” He turned on his heel and stalked off.

His shoulder nearly brushed against mine as he left. He grunted and nodded. “Good day.”

“Good … day.” I turned and watched him rush out the door, not sure if he recognized me.

When I turned back, Abigail clasped and unclasped her hands.

I walked up to the register. “Are you all right? Wasn’t that Randall Creston?”

“Our cousin Randall, the lawyer. He helps with our finances, such as they are.”

Olivia peeked out from the behind a display toward the back of the store. The sizable bungalow accommodated a small two-bedroom apartment in the back and sat on a half-acre lot. “Is he gone?” She noticed me and rushed over. “Lavender, I’m so glad to see you. I just put on water for tea. Would you like to join us?”

“Thank you, that would make my day.”

The kettle whistled, and the petite woman spun around and hurried to the back.

I returned my attention to Abigail, wondering if I’d just witnessed elder abuse, or perhaps intimidation. “This is none of my business, but it seemed as if Olivia was trying to avoid ‘cousin’ Randall’. I made quotation marks in the air with my fingers.

“Lavender, honey, you have your own troubles. Come sit and have tea with us.” Abigail walked toward an alcove to the side of the front counter.

I sat on the cushioned bench built into the alcove. “Abigail, you and Olivia are my husband’s family. If you’re having any problems, you can come to me.”

Abigail settled her long frame into the seat of an upholstered chair. It was positioned to one side of a small coffee table. “You’re sweet, just like Georgie.”

Olivia bustled in carrying a tray which she placed on the coffee table. “You’ll have to add milk and sugar to your taste. Please help yourself to home-baked oatmeal cookies.” She sat in an upholstered chair on the other side of the coffee table in front of the alcove.

I added a splash of milk to my tea, and then took a cookie which I rested in a napkin on my lap. “Olivia, Randall Creston nearly collided with me as he rushed out.”

She rolled her eyes and mixed two heaping spoons of sugar into her tea. “He’s a very busy man. His clients are the cream of the crop in Ribault Beach. He wouldn’t even come here otherwise, except for this business deal he’s all worked up about.”

“You and Abigail are also his clients?” I sipped my tea.

Olivia shifted in her seat. “We’re his poor church-mouse relatives. His charity account.”

 

ACTS OF MALICE IS NOW ON PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON

NIKE N. CHILLEMI’S AUTHOR PAGE ON AMAZON

 

Hosea’s Heart by Linda Wood Rondeau ~ a spotlight

Hosea's HeartContemporary Women’s Fiction

 

Linda Wood Rondeau is a skilled Christian writer and I’m proud to have her novel, HOSEA’S HEART, featured on this blog.

*****

 

How much should a wronged husband forgive?

Isn’t fifteen years long enough to search for a drug-addicted, runaway wife? His best friend, a private detective, tells him Joanna doesn’t want to be found. Since meeting the alluring Cynthia Prescott, he considers Gregg’s advice—get a divorce and move on.

A respectable minister of a Silver Spring church, Aubrey’s conundrum intensifies with Joanna’s reappearance. Claiming to be a new Christian, she confesses her life as a Madam for Washington’s rich and powerful and her plans to accept a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against Drug Czar, Joey Juarez, her former lover. She seeks Aubrey’s forgiveness.

How can he believe her sincerity? Is all this brought about because of her terminal illness? What does God require? He could possibly forgive Joanna’s drug addiction. How can he overlook her prostitution and liaison with a murderous cartel? Should he love her like Hosea of Old who rescued his unfaithful wife from the bowels of degradation? And why would God bring her back to him now, only to watch her die?

Joanna accepts her probable end—her salvation and reunion with Aubrey is Grace enough. Yet, she prays for purpose in these final days. Is complete reconciliation with her family even possible? Or does God intend for her to help put a Washington menace behind bars?

Joanna and Aubrey’s paths will lead them into unimagined territory as they crisscross through Washington’s underworld, testing faith and friendships. Only in retrospect will they realize God weaves threads of failure into tapestries of hope.

*****

 

Nike:  Do you have a trailer for this book?How did this trailer come about? Give a link.

Linda:  This trailer was my own effort.

Here is the link: https://lindarondeau.com/

Nike:  Is this novel unique/uncommon in some way?

Linda:  What would a modern-day Hosea look like? Inspired by the biblical Hosea, the novel explores a drug-addict’s life and search for purpose when coming to Christ during a terminal illness. Joanna fears her life has been wasted, yet trusts God to make sense of her existence even if she does not live long enough to see her prayer answered this side of heaven. Aubrey must struggle, not only with his wife’s addiction, but her unfaithfulness as well. How much does God require him to forgive?

Nike:  Can you give us a sneak peek or preview into the next work in progress (WIP) you’re working on? When do you expect to release it?

Linda:  I will be releasing I PRAYED FOR PATIENCE GOD GAVE ME CHILDREN … a non-fiction book that explores what it means to be God’s child. I am also working on the companion novel with the same title. In this work of fiction, a radio journalist postpones a planned tryst as she becomes enmeshed in her children’s problems, finding salvation through the testimony of a Christian author who has written a book, I Prayed for Patience, God Gave Me Children.

Linda Wood Rondeau

BIO:

God is able to turn our worst past into our best future. This is the theme of every Rondeau book. A veteran social worker, Rondeau delves into the intricacies of human relationships, earning her critical acclaim for her heart-warming stories of deliverance and forgiveness. The author now resides in Hagerstown, MD with her best friend in life, her husband of forty years. Active in her local church, she enjoys playing the occasional round of golf, a common feature in many of her books. Readers may contact the author through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram or visit her website: www.lindarondeau.com.

Purchase on Amazon: HOSEA’S HEART

Find Linda Wood Rondeau:

Linda’s Amazon Author Page

Linda’s Blog 

 

 

 

 

 

Whispering Hope by Peggy Blann Phifer ~ spotlight

Whispering Hope

What an amazing cover. I’m thrilled to spotlight Peggy Blann Phifer’s new release WHISPERING HOPE .

*****

1930 Chicago is no place for a Wisconsin country girl.

Virginia Hopewell visits her cousin in Chicago and gets caught up in a deadly gangster shooting at a speakeasy, barely escaping with her life. After learning of the tragic death of her father, brother, and sister-in-law, Ginny returns to Wisconsin and convinces her mother to reopen the resort her father had closed after losing everything in the stock market crash in 1929.

Ransom Blake, an agent with the Chicago Bureau of Prohibition, had been at the same speakeasy acting on a tip about the shooting. Rance is charged with finding the gangster responsible. He and his team are sent to Wisconsin where the man was reported being seen, and to investigate how illegal liquor from Canada is making its way to Chicago.

With the opening of Whispering Hope Resort, Rance registers as a guest and comes face to face with the lovely redhead he’d briefly encountered at the speakeasy during the shooting.

INTERVIEW:

Nike:  Were you good in English as a student? Did you enjoy reading and writing back then?

Peggy:  I like to think I was. That my mother was an English teacher certainly helped a lot. But I hated diagraming sentences I’ve always loved reading and could usually be found with my nose buried in a book. Writing not so much. I actually didn’t start writing seriously until age 50. Call me a late-bloomer.

Nike:  Do you read much? If so, who are your favorite authors? Do you read in only one genre and/or market, or do you “cross-over”?

Peggy:  My reading tastes are an eclectic mix. Everything from the old classics (Dickens, Tolstoy) and then jumped to James A. Michener and Leon Uris. Later on, I devoured Terri Blackstock. Some of my recent and current favorite writers are Kathi Macias, James Scott Bell, Harry (H.L.) Wegley, and–—ahem—Nike Chillemi.

Nike:  Do you have a presence on social media? If so, where do you interact with readers the most?

Peggy:  I use Twitter a lot, but my major presence is on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pegphifer

 

Pegg

BIO:

Author Peggy Blann Phifer, a retired executive assistant after twenty-one years in the Electrical Wholesale Industry, lives in the ‘boonies’ of NW Wisconsin. A late bloomer, Peg didn’t start taking writing seriously until age fifty.

Her debut novel, To See the Sun, a contemporary romantic suspense, released in January 2012. A second novel, Somehow, Christmas Will Come, contemporary women’s fiction with a touch of romance and mystery, released in November 2014, revised and re-released in late 2015. A new work titled Whispering Hope, an historical romantic suspense, set during the years of Prohibition, released in early May, 2018. Her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies over the past five years.

Peg is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, Peg enjoys reading, blogging, and sharing her home with her daughter, son-in-law, and a Border Collie mix dog named Rocky.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PURCHASE LINKS:

Blog/website: http://whispersinpurple.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pegphifer

Twitter: www.twitter.com/pegphifer @pegphifer

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/pegphifer

Google+: http://plus.google.com/+AuthorPeggyBlannPhifer/posts

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/pbphifer

Email: pbphifer@centurylink.net

Purchase link for Whispering Hope: https://amzn.to/2KURU8x