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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Wolf of Baskervilles by Majanka Verstraete


Wolf of Baskervilles
Majanka Verstraete
(Adventures of Marisol Holmes, #3)
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: November 12th 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

Who is Marisol Holmes?

She’s a teenager.

Detective.

Jaguar shifter.

And don’t forget, she’s also the descendant of the great Sherlock Holmes.

Our heroine had been in some pretty tight spots before, but now? She’s about to face her biggest challenge yet: a powerful shifter with a taste for blood. No one has faced down the deadly wolf of the Baskervilles and lived to tell the tale.

Even so, Marisol Holmes plans to do just that.

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Author Bio:

Author Majanka Verstraete has written more than twenty unique works of fiction. A native of Belgium, Majanka’s novels explore the true nature of monsters: the good, the bad, and just about every species in between. Her young adult books include the acclaimed Mirrorland (YA Dark Fantasy) and Angel of Death (YA Paranormal) series of novels.

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Healing Heather & Accepting Aerin by Tinsley Sellers



Healing Heather
Tinsley Sellers
(Beckley’s Daughters Romance #1)
Publication date: July 20th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
She’s going 120mph in a 65 zone—and if driving even faster could change history, Professor Heather Harris would floor it. She’s on a collision course with Sergeant Brian Daniels, a state trooper determined to enforce the speed limit and slam the brakes on his own heartache. Can a fast-moving physicist find love with a laid-back law officer, or will ghosts from their pasts keep driving them apart?
“All relationships come with an expiration date. All of mine just happened to fall on the same two days.” —Heather Harris
After a long year of tragedy and loss, Dr. Heather Harris is finally ready to come to terms with the deaths that have left her devastated and alone in the world. Spending summer break at the lake cottage she inherited from her grandparents is the first step in coping with her crushing grief, but she soon finds herself on a collision course with Sergeant Brian Daniels, a police officer whose passion for classic cars won’t stop him from enforcing the speed limit.
Brian Daniels embraces his small-town, laid-back, lakeside life. After years of heartbreak at the hands of his first love, he’s finally free—and a fast-driving, karaoke-singing physics professor offers an exciting diversion. Opposites attract, but the sudden appearance of a blonde on a Harley threatens to throw a monkey wrench in the works. Will the pull of his past be stronger than the promise of his future?
Welcome to the small-town world of Beckley, Michigan. The two-lane roads are long and winding, the many lakes are cool and blue, and the dense forests are green and shaded. Summer days are warm and sunny and summer nights are clear under the glittering stars. The people are warm, friendly, smart, funny–and very, very real. When you need a place to call home, Beckley welcomes you—and sometimes the family you choose is as strong as the bonds you’re born with.



Accepting Erin
Tinsley Sellers
(Beckley’s Daughters Romance #1)
Publication date: November 16th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Former Chicago Cubs third baseman Chet Coakley needs a quiet place to write the last novel in his best-selling series.

When a freak accident ends his baseball career, Chet finds his second chance writing a series of retro-detective novels. He’s on a deadline and can’t afford a distraction—especially not in the form of a vivacious blonde innkeeper who challenges everything he believes about himself.

Professional chef Aerin Buckholtz owns a vintage lodge and fifteen cabins on a secluded lake in the Michigan woods.

Betrayed by her best friend and self-conscious about her appearance, Aerin believes that romance isn’t meant for her. She’s building her business—and working to earn good reviews seems safer than admitting her attraction to a handsome former athlete who feels far out of her league.

Can Aerin and Chet learn to see themselves through each other’s eyes and accept a love neither one saw coming?

Welcome back to Beckley, Michigan! Autumn is in the air and as the days get shorter, the air gets cooler and the trees begin to turn every shade of gold and red. The people are just as warm, friendly, smart, funny, and real as you remember. When you need a place to call home, Beckley welcomes you—and sometimes the family you choose is as strong as the bonds you’re born with.

If you like small-town romance, you’ll like Beckley. If you like smart heroines who balance demanding professional careers with a commitment to family, friends, and finding love, then you’ll definitely like it here. If you like strong, sexy, hard-working heroes who have not-so-secret soft spots for kids, kittens, and classic cars, you may find that you never want to leave!

Accepting Aerin is the second in the Beckley’s Daughters Romance series. This series is recommended for adult readers and contains explicit language and intimate situations.


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Healing Heather Sneak Peek:
That’s your truck?” I almost dropped my ice cream. My hot caramel, double scoop, butter pecan with whipped cream and two cherries sundae, to be precise. All over the front of Brian’s blue and white striped button-down shirt.
After I had hung up on him, I couldn’t shake the image of the ice cream. The craving got too strong, and I had decided that spending my dinner calories on that outrageous sundae made perfect sense. A tiny voice in the back of my brain had whispered that I might be trying to run into someone—not naming any names, not pointing any fingers—accidentally on purpose. You’re not helping, I had whispered back to the voice, but hopped in Violet and hit the road rolling towards Bowdon anyway.
Johnson’s was an old-fashioned soda fountain, and entering it was like stepping back fifty years in an instant. The fresh-faced teenage girl behind the counter wore a pink and white striped apron, and an exaggerated pink bow held back her blonde ponytail. Her hand-drawn name tag read Lizzie, with a tiny pink heart dotting each ‘i.’
When I had placed my order, she grinned. “One Sergeant’s Special, coming right up!” She had cheerfully gotten busy, scooping and topping like someone who had built that particular confection on more than one occasion.
“The Sarge likes his with an extra cherry,” she held up the half-empty jar of maraschinos as evidence. “One or two for you?”
“Two, of course,” I peered over the counter as she worked. “And maybe just a little more whipped cream?”
As I emerged from the ice cream parlor with my enormous probably-better-than-sex sundae, the first thing I saw was a fully-restored classic pick up. Parked directly in front of Johnson’s, right next to Violet, it was a Dodge, 1951 or ’52, five-window. From the pristine condition of the Sea Mist Green paint to the spotless whitewall tires, I surmised that it still had the original straight-line 6-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission. Brian stepped wordlessly aside while I handed him my sundae and circled the truck, utterly transfixed. I may have been drooling just a little. Clicking the latch, I lifted the driver’s side bonnet—and gasped out loud.
“Yeah,” he nodded over my shoulder, “it’s a 392 Hemi. Just like yours.” He grinned and started spooning my sundae into his mouth. “I bought her about eight years ago, and it took me six years to bring her back to life. I figured she deserved the Hemi.”
He scooped another generous spoonful of my ice cream into his mouth and savored. “Dang, did Lizzie make this? Just gets better every time.” He handed me back the paper bowl and closed the truck bonnet. “Wanna go for a ride?”
Did I ever. Girl Code or Common Sense 101 be damned, there was no way I was turning down a ride in that beauty-on-the-outside, beast-on-the-inside truck. Without a word, I climbed into the cab on the passenger side. The interior had been meticulously restored, and the tan leather bench seat had been customized with intricate stitching.
He roared the engine to life, and my heart skipped a beat. In seconds, he had turned off the main highway, and we headed east an empty two-lane, windows rolled down and radio turned up.
“So, if I remember correctly, this is the part of the country song where I kick my shoes off and put my pretty bare feet on the dash.” I smiled sweetly and licked the caramel from my spoon, a little more suggestively than was strictly necessary. Something about the rolled-up sleeves and half-unbuttoned casual shirt he wore over a plain white tee spoke to me on an almost cellular level, triggering a sensual response I couldn’t really control. I took another bite, swirling my tongue through whipped cream with an exaggerated innocence.
“Followed by the verse where I kick you out of my truck for spilling ice cream all over the leather,” he looked meaningfully at the paper bowl and its rapidly melting contents. The molten caramel and the summer heat had conspired, almost liquefying the butter pecan.
“Sorry,” I said meekly, sitting up straighter and corralling my wayward thoughts. “I won’t spill, I promise. But you may have to help me finish this, it’s a double.”
“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.” He kept his left hand on the wheel, and while I held the bowl, tried unsuccessfully with his right to secure a spoonful. “I’m a lefty. Help me out here?”
I slid over a bit closer and held the sundae-loaded spoon to his lips. Without taking his eyes from the road, he took the bite with obvious relish. I repeated the process, then helped myself to a spoonful. Sharing the single spoon felt intimate and little romantic.
We drove in comfortable silence. Neither one of us mentioned our recent conversation, and it didn’t feel necessary to bring it up. The road wound through the silent forest, then suddenly opened up with hay fields and horse pasture on either side of the road. Three horses glanced up briefly, then resumed their leisurely grazing. A white farmhouse stood about a hundred yards from the road, flanked by a tidy barn and a stable. I imagined a young family: a father leading his young daughter on the back of a pony; a mother laughing and pushing a baby boy on a tree swing.
“Can I tell you something?” he asked suddenly, startling me from my reverie. “I just don’t want you to misunderstand.”
“Of course you can,” I replied, curious. “But don’t feel like you need to explain anything to me. I don’t want you to think I…” I trailed off, not knowing exactly how to finish my thought.
“Think you what? Judge me? Pity me?” He slowed the truck, pulling over on the shoulder, and turned to face me. “I don’t think you would do either. But let’s just set the record perfectly straight. Yeah, I had a relationship with Amanda. It was a lot of years, a lot of chaos, a lot of pain, and now it’s over. It’s been over for a long time.”
“Okay…” I exhaled. “She made me think you were still seeing each other pretty exclusively. I didn’t—I don’t—want to be in the middle of anything.”
“You aren’t. You couldn’t be. There’s nothing to be in the middle of.” His green eyes still showed pain, though. I reached over and took his hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. The pain in his eyes gave way to something that looked like optimism. Or maybe hope. Either one was fine by me.
“Well then. That’s resolved. I’m sorry I was rude this afternoon, it was uncalled for.” I smiled an apology. “So, Sergeant SeaMist, is this a ’51 or a ’52?”



Author Bio:
Tinsley Sellers grew up in Chicago, spending her summers with her grandparents in a tiny town a lot like Beckley, Michigan. Life took her to Arizona, Washington, and Idaho before she finally found her home in Arkansas. She is married to an amazing, supportive (and handsome!) man, with whom she has rescued three dogs and two cats. When she’s not writing, she teaches physics and engineering at the local university. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably trying new recipes. She enjoys fast cars, loud music, fine whisky, and big books. In no particular order.

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Re-Vamping Las Vegas by Jen Pretty


Re-Vamping Las Vegas
Jen Pretty
Publication date: July 12th 2019
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Nia hates people.

She also hates vampires.

Too bad she is one.

An innocent bit of fun finds Nia tangled with a dangerous man and the powers that be send her to live with the vampire lord of Las Vegas.

Their efforts to get Nia back on the straight and narrow are almost as ridiculous as her fathers attempt to make her this heir in his bid for world domination.

It’s Las Vegas, what trouble could she possibly find?

Her life takes a sharp turn when someone tries to use her in a power struggle against her father, and her past sneaks up on her.

The past never stays where you left it, and sometimes the beginning is just the start of the end.

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EXCERPT:

“Twenty bucks!”

“I told you I won’t take your bets anymore, Nia.”

“Aw, come on. Chicken?”

“Broke,” Ray laughed as he moved down the bar to deliver a drink.

On Saturday nights, half-drunk college kids filled the city. That’s what’s great about living in a small college town. The nightlife was young, beautiful and flocked to the local hot spots. Ray’s nightclub was large, and the bar ran along one full wall. The opposite end was a raised DJ booth and in between was a sea of bodies writhing and churning like the ocean.

Ray’s was closest to the college, and I always got in free, but Saturday night was my favourite.

My victim danced around with a drink in his hand, trying to pick up girls. Cute and soft, like a puppy, his tail flapped so fast his butt wiggled. I was sure he would strike out. The girls who came to a bar like this weren’t looking for a nice boy. Wearing their low-cut tops with their hair swept up, displaying their necks like a fisherman in a market with his catch of the day.

They were dinner on legs.

Very long legs.

I downed my drink and left the barstool to join the wild party girls. They were probably going to hell, but so was I. We might as well enjoy ourselves. Music was the great equalizer, forcing us all to move to its beat in the cramped space between our bodies. The stench of sweat and antiperspirant filled the stagnant air. My sense of smell was, unfortunately, more delicate than the rest of the people in the nightclub, but the alcohol numbed it.

My teeth ached. The sight of that wiggly boy made me ravenous, but I kept losing sight of him. There he was. His sandy hair was long enough it stuck it to his forehead, slick with sweat. Then he disappeared in the crowd. I danced with the girls until I caught sight of him again. He sat at the bar, another drink in his hand. Was that his third? Hmm, college boy might be getting tipsy.

The music changed from deep bass to a sharp pop song, and the silly girls all screamed with glee.

Ugh.

I wasn’t drunk enough for this. As I crossed the room, my nape prickled. A pair of eyes tracked me. Ryan. He was a moron and always had to shop at my club. There were two other nightclubs like this one in town, but Ryan still came to dinner here.

I blocked out the feeling of his eyes on my ass and slid onto the barstool beside my new puppy. I waved to Ray who shook his head when he caught sight of who I was sitting beside. He poured me another drink. Only one type of drink affected patrons like me. Ray kept it well stocked. One more reason this was my favourite nightclub.

“How are you, Nia?”

He snuck up beside me — creepy bastard.

“I’m fine, Ryan. Go away.”

Ray delivered my drink. I picked up the glass and took a long sip.

Ryan didn’t speak again. He stood beside me staring holes into the side of my head. I rolled my eyes and looked at him. He had coiffed his hair in a modern style. He looked like a pale GQ model with sharp teeth. Too bad he was a disgusting blood-sucking old guy and every time he opened his mouth, I heard nails on a chalkboard.

“I haven’t seen you around town this week,” he said, flashing me his teeth.

Like I cared about his long, pointy incisors. I wasn’t a college girl, ready to throw myself at any old, gross vampire.

“That’s because I have been busy and also, I’ve been avoiding you.” I turned my back to him, hoping Ryan would take the hint and leave me alone, only to find my puppy had left.

Damn.



Author Bio:

Jen Pretty is a well- known and prolific writer of smart urban fantasies. Her novels are character driven, witty, often violent, and with a liberal sprinkling of course language. Some of her books genre-hop into mythology, pulling characters and situations from a variety of sources.

When not writing, Jen can be found in the barn with her horses, or knee-deep in the vegetable garden at her home in rural Ontario, Canada, which she shares with her husband, three children, and a white husky dog named Salt.

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Defenders of the Texas Frontier by David R. Gross





Historical Fiction
Date Published: April 2019
Publisher: iUniverse

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It was 1837 when John Coffey (Jack) Hays, only nineteen years old, arrived in Texas. He was too late to join the fight for Texas Independence but joined the ranging company of Deaf Smith and started his long history of defending Texans from raids by Comanche bands and Mexican bandits. By the time, he was twenty-three he was a captain of the Texas Rangers, known throughout Texas as a fearless fighter and a leader whose men would follow him anywhere, under any circumstances. Amongst his lieutenants were Samuel H. Walker, Ben McCulloch and William (Bigfoot) Wallace each of whom became leaders of Texas Ranger companies, and forged their own legends in Texas history.

Hays, more than any other man, symbolized the Texas Rangers during the era of the Texas Republic. During the Mexican War, Colonel Hays’ Rangers scouted, defended U.S. supply and communication lines from attacks by Mexican guerrillas, and fought with regular units of the U.S. Army. They earned a significant reputation for bravery and success.

Hays’ Rangers were almost always outnumbered in their battles with Comanche and Mexicans, but more than held their own because they had early access to the revolver. Hays made certain every one of the men under his command was a skilled marksman with the revolver and their other weapons. This novel tells the story of Hays’ life, loves, and the sense of honor and responsibility that motivated him to embrace hardship and danger.



 


Excerpt

Chapter 1

My name is John Caperton. I have known and been a friend of Jack Hays since we were young boys teaching ourselves how to hunt and fish and live rough in the forests of Tennessee. I am six months younger than Jack. I followed him, and now I leave a record of his story.

            We arrived in Nacogdoches thirsty and decided to have a beer. Jack stood at the end of the ten-foot bar sipping at the mug of beer he held in his left hand. I was leaning against the far wall, no more than six or seven feet away. Jack was then nineteen, but he appeared to be maybe fourteen or fifteen years old. He’s still slight and is an inch or two shorter than most of the men in any room. His complexion is fair, his nose slightly aquiline. His mouth is firm with thin lips. His chin is square. His beard struggled to be noticed. He didn’t move his head, but his deep-set hazel eyes moved continuously, taking in everyone and everything in the room.

All the men in the room, with the exception of the bartender, were dressed roughly. Their wool pants were baggy and dirty with constant use, their shirts dirty and frayed at their collars and cuffs. The men’s coats were a variety of styles, including some uniform coats from 1812. Almost all the men wore wide leather belts with one or two pistols jammed in between belt and coat. Some held rifles. Most had large knives in sheaths hanging from their belts. All wore battered hats of indeterminate style and age.

Jack was also wearing wool pants, but his were less baggy. The collar of his homespun shirt was stained but not frayed, and his coat was a heavy wool with a tight weave. His hat was beaver felt, the crown crushed flat, the brim drooping. He had two pistols jammed in his wide belt, the heavy grips facing each other. His bowie knife resided in a sheath close to his right hand. A Tennessee long rifle was slung by a leather strap over his left shoulder.

The continuous murmur of men in quiet conversation pervaded the cramped room. Occasionally, the sound of chairs and boots scraping on the wide-plank pinewood floor penetrated the hum. The floor planks, apparently nailed down while green, were twisted. Men often stumbled while making their way to the bar, not always the result of having imbibed too much alcohol. Every time a newcomer entered the room, there was a shout of greeting. Adding to the ambiance was the sharp sound of playing cards slapped with enthusiasm onto the three rickety tables crowding the space. All the sounds were punctuated by the noise of shot glasses and beer mugs set down on the bar and tables. Chunks of thick, sticky Nacogdoches mud dried in the warm closeness of the room and fell in clumps from the boots of the men who were in the bar longest. This was all accompanied by the stench of stale beer, rough whiskey, cigar smoke, and the stink, rising like steam, from the filthy clothing of unwashed males.

Jack watched as some men left and others arrived, crowding past one another through the narrow doorway. The single room of the rough board cabin that served as the bar filled as more men crowded in.

“Shut the damn door!” someone yelled.

It was late April 1836. Wind and rain pounded the town of Nacogdoches in the new Republic of Texas.

The door crashed open again, and a very large man pushed through. This time nobody shouted a greeting. He shoved men aside to claim a place at the bar.

“Whiskey, damn it, George,” he shouted at the harried bartender, who, after glancing to identify the speaker, stopped pouring beer into the three mugs he held in one hand. He set the mugs down and poured a shot of whiskey, sliding it through the spilled beer lubricating the bar top.

The big man took up the glass, turned to survey the room, and then drank the cheap whiskey in a gulp. He returned the shot glass to the bar without turning.

“Hit me again, and keep them coming, George. Don’t just stand there with your thumb up your ass.”

I leaned in toward the man standing next to me and whispered, “Who is that guy?”

“The local bully,” he whispered back. “Before long, he’ll taunt somebody and wave one of those fists in his victim’s face.”

 I noticed all the men in the bar did their best to avoid looking at him, except for Jack, who didn’t take his eyes from the huge fellow.

The man standing next to me whispered again. “I noticed you came in with that young man at the bar. If he’s your friend, you best tell him not to do anything to provoke. After a couple shots of that rotgut, Big Al will try to pick a fight with someone, and if that youngster doesn’t stop staring at him, he’ll be the one.”

Jack kept his place at the bar and continued to gaze at the bully.

The big man quickly consumed three more shots of whiskey and then suddenly shoved the man standing next to him. “Back off, shithead. Don’t crowd me, or I’ll beat the crap out of you.”

The man backed away, gulped what was left of the beer in his hand, put the mug down on a table, and ran from the bar.

The bully smiled, pleased with the reaction he forced. Then he noticed Jack looking at him. “What you smilin’ about, twerp?” he shouted, pushing past three men to stand very close to Jack.

I left my place at the wall to move closer.

The bully was a full head taller and at least ninety pounds heavier than Jack. His broad shoulders tapered into a thick neck. Although I was three feet away, I could smell his rotted teeth. Jack did not back away from the stench. The bully clenched his fists.

“Wipe that smile off your face, shithead, or would you rather I wipe it off for you?” The bully raised his right fist and waved it in front of Jack’s face. “I said to wipe off that smile, or I’ll wipe it off for you.”

Jack continued to smile while gently placing his mug on the bar. The bully pulled back his fist. The pistol on Jack’s left side was in his right hand. The fist started forward, a cap exploded, and the coat over the big man’s heart burst into flames. He fell straight back, stiff as a felled tree. He was dead when the back of his head hit the floor, pushing his hat over his still snarling face.

Jack pushed his pistol back through his belt and then swept his eyes around the room. “Anybody think that man was not about to hit me?” he asked.

One man pushed his chair back from the table where he sat. The feet of the chair screeched and then caught on a twisted board. The man stood, pushing the chair over backward.

“That son of a bitch beat me near to death three weeks ago, and others in this room have suffered at those fists. Thanks, young man. We are well rid of that scum.”

Several other men in the room voiced their agreement.

“Is there a lawman in this town?” asked Jack. “I suppose I’m in deep shit for killing this man, but I wasn’t going to allow him to hit me.”

“It was self-defense. We all saw it,” said the man as he extricated his feet from the turned-over chair on the floor.

The door slammed open, hitting the wall on the hinge side. A gray-haired man with a four-day-old beard, his potbelly hanging over his gun belt, entered with a pistol in his hand and a badge pinned to his coat.

“I heard a shot. What the hell has Big Al Cranston done now?”

Jack motioned at the body on the floor with his chin. “Is that Cranston?”

One of the men in the room spoke up. “It was completely justified, Sheriff. Couldn’t expect the young man to wait until that asshole hit him. I want to buy our hero a drink.”

I finally found my voice. “I can verify that man on the floor was about to hit him, sir.”

Several men shouted at the bartender to pour Jack a drink.

Jack waved a hand in the air. “Thanks, gents. I’ve had all the alcohol I need. Maybe another time. We’re just passing through.” He grabbed my right arm above the elbow. “Believe we’ll be on our way, unless there is something else, Sheriff.”

“I’ll need you and your friend to come to my office and sign a statement, young man. You too, Sam, and anyone else who agrees Big Al was asking for it. I’ll have to file a report with the judge whenever he comes around again. What’s your name, youngster?”

“John Coffee Hays, sir,” Jack answered.

“Any relation to Harmond Hays of Tennessee?”

“Yes, sir. He’s my daddy.”

“How’s he doing?”

“He and my ma both died of the cholera about four years ago.”

“Sorry to hear that. I served with him in 1812 under General Jackson. Didn’t one of your uncles marry Andrew Jackson’s sister?”

“Yes, sir. She’s my great-aunt Cage, my ma’s side.”

“Well, boys, the tree this lad sprouted from is one tough giant of the US of A. Let me shake your hand, John Coffee Hays. Nobody in this town is likely to weep over the loss of Big Al. Some of you boys haul his carcass out of here. Leave him on the porch of my office until I can order a coffin, but wrap him up in a tarp first. No sense in spreading his blood all over town. George, looks like you’ll have a mess to clean up.”

The bartender replied. “He rarely paid for what he consumed, so no great loss. A bucket of water sloshed on the floor will get most of it. The rest will just mix with the dirt.”

As we followed the sheriff to his office, Jack whispered, “So that’s how it feels to kill a man. Glad I didn’t take the time to think about what I was doing. Just a reflex. Still, I’m glad I’m not in trouble. Wonder if Big Al has family who will mourn him?”

*****


About the Author




Dr. David R. Gross has co-edited three multi-authored textbooks and more than one hundred scientific articles. The first, second, and third editions of his single author text, Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research, can be found in most medical libraries. Since retirement, he has published Man Hunt, a historical novel, Animals Don’t Blush, a memoir, Travels with Charlize, a memoir, Succeeding as a Student, a how-to book, and most recently, A Mexican Adventure, a memoir, the sequel to Animals Don’t Blush.


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Nick by A.S. Kelly

Title: Nick
Series: O'Connor Brothers
Author: A. S. Kelly
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 20, 2019







I’ve never liked lies. I’m an honest guy: I say exactly what I’m thinking without any filter. Without considering the consequences.

That’s why people always think I’m an idiot. Someone who only wants to have fun, who never has any problems.
Someone who never worries about the future.
I’ve made my decision.
I’ve chosen myself and left everything else behind.
But what happens when karma comes back to turn your life upside-down? When you find yourself standing in front of someone who could break down all of your walls?
The only woman capable of looking past the fa├žade, and seeing Nick O’Connor for what he really is: a liar.
Would it make sense to keep lying? And, for the first time in my life, could I live with just being Nick?
It’s a dangerous game, a match to be played.
The last match. My match.

I’m Nick O’Connor, and the whistle’s about to blow: I’m about to face the biggest match of my life. But will I be able to fight until the end? Or will I give in, like I always do?
Because I already know I’m going to lose this challenge. We both will.
Because she deserves everything.
And I have nothing to give.




“Nick O’Connor,” she says, smoothing down her uniform.
I stand there, frozen, my jaw on the floor and my airways blocked.
“C-C…”
She looks at me, her head tilted. “Stuttering problem?”
“W-what? N-no!”
She laughs, and I nearly have a heart attack.
“C-Casey.”
“Wow, we got there in the end. What’s up? Memory loss?”
I shake my head vacantly. “What…How…?”
“What am I doing here? How am I?” she helps me out.
I nod, but I still can’t close my mouth.
“I work in the hospital,” she says, gesturing to her uniform. “And as for the second question…Was that supposed to be ‘how are you’?”
I move my head up and down.
“You used to have so much to say,” she says, raising an eyebrow.
Used to.
Has someone just plunged a knife through my stomach?
“You look good,” she says, letting her eyes slide over my figure.
You look incredible.
“Well, thanks,” she says, grinning.
What? Did I say that out loud? Has my tongue become independent from my brain?
“My brother’s just had a baby,” I manage, trying to fill the silence with something logical in case she thinks I’m an idiot – which, I guess, is what I actually am. But better not to shove that in her face at eight ‘o’clock in the morning.
“Oh,” she says, incredulous.
Surprise effect. Always works.
“Ryan?” she asks.
I shake my head. “Ian.”
“That’s amazing! Congratulations!”
I smile, full of pride. I knew that baby would save my life.
“Maybe I’ll pop in later and say hi to the new arrival.”
“You should. She’s stunning.”
She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear slowly, tracing it with her finger. Her lips gently curl into a smile that reaches her ears, lighting up her face with tenderness.
What about you? Do you have children? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you…?
“I should get going.” She glances at her watch.
Did I not say anything?
Luckily, this time, my brain decided to use its anti-arsehole filter, and prevent any more slip-ups.
“My shift starts in ten minutes and I haven’t had a coffee yet this morning.”
“Can I get it for you?” I ask, suddenly.
The question leaps over my anti-arsehole filter with both feet and lands right in my stomach.
She looks at me for a few seconds, her brow furrowed.
“You’re eight years too late, Nick O’Connor.”
Ah. Busted.
My ego, my pride, and…better stop there.
“Take care,” she says, before striding past me and disappearing down the hospital corridors, leaving me standing in the entrance like a dick, incapable of saying anything that could make her stay.
“Hmm.”
Shit.
I turn to see Ryan leaning smugly against the wall a few metres away from me.
“Was that who I think it was?”
“Shut up.”
He bursts out into such shrieking laughter that it must have come straight from the mouth of hell.
“No way, Nick. This time I definitely won’t shut up.”
“I could put an end to all this right now and kill you out in the car park. There’s already too many of us, and now that Jamie’s here, everyone will be so busy suffocating her with love that no one will even realise you’re gone.”
He steps towards me, with a smile plastered across his face that tells me he’s about to get his revenge. He bends down to pick up my phone and hands it back to me.
“Now it’s your turn to swim through the shit. That,” he says, pointing in the direction that Casey had disappeared, “is your sea. I’m just going to sit back and watch while you splash around, looking for the life raft. And don’t expect me to offer you a hand, unless it’s to hold your head under.”
That’s when I realise that I’m completely fucked. Not because of what Ryan said: his words have no effect on me. He’s nothing against me, I’d squash him like an ant.
The problem is something else.
Something much bigger.

And its name is Casey Madigan.















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