Monday, July 31, 2017

New Release: Sink by M.E. Rhines!!


Sink
M.E. Rhines
(Mermaid Royalty #1)
Publication date: July 31st 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Obedience has always been a matter of survival for sixteen-year-old mermaid princess Pauline. Her mother is the tyrannical Queen Calypso, who rules the kingdom of Atargatis with an iron trident. To utter one word against her would mean banishment—or worse—so Pauline bites her tongue and minds her manners. But on the eve of her sister’s merling-shower, all of that is about to change. Confronted with the truth about what happens to the human men who are betrothed to the mermaids of Atargatis, Pauline realizes she can stay silent no more.
Determined to end the queen’s dark tradition, Pauline goes along on a search for shipwreck survivors, secretly planning to free them. But things get complicated when she finds herself inexplicably drawn to one of the men. Before she realizes what’s happening, she has kissed him—and a kiss from a mermaid is not without consequences. Now Pauline will have to risk everything if she is to save the young man and thwart the queen’s dark plans…
EXCERPT:
My eyes widened, my heart hammering against my rib cage. A fear I didn’t understand tugged at my tailfin, like an anchor had been tied to its end. I sank against the wall of our pirated vessel and watched the chaos as it unfolded in slow motion.
Gene laughed at something my sister said just before it hit him. His smile fell in an instant as soon as the sudden deadening feeling pummeled into his chest. He dropped the plate and held out his hand. From my experience with Beaked Sea Snake, he was seeing double the fingers.
A fogginess washed over his eyes. He reached out for Fawna for just a second before his arms fell to his sides, limp and useless. Then, his human legs gave out from under him. A loud crack sounded as his knees made impact with the hard floor of the ship.
When he finally fell backward, my sister stood over his paralyzed body with a shameless, cruel smirk that gave me the chills. My mother, hovering well above me, nodded her approval with a warm, glowing pride showing on her face.
I looked around, expecting to see the same shocked expression I wore among my clan. But not one jaw was dropped. Every one of them watched with tense, excited eyes. They looked like bloodthirsty demons from where I was sitting.
“Mother,” I whispered. “What’s going on?”
She didn’t hear me.
“My Queen,” someone shouted from below. “What are your orders?”
Mother took in a long, powerful breath and shouted, “Air him out.”
I gasped, disbelief shuddering through me. “Mother,” I screamed. “Mother, you can’t!”
My protests were drowned out by the unified battle cry that erupted from every member of our clan. Angelique dropped her guitar, dashing for Gene with two other mermaids close behind.
I rushed for him, but Mother grabbed my arm with bruising fingers.
“Let me go,” I demanded.
Even through the screeching cheers below, I could hear Mother’s teeth grinding. “Don’t make a scene.”
I stilled, having every intention to stay put and comply, as usual. But then, I caught a glimpse of Gene’s face. While his muscles were tight and immobile, his eyes were filled with a conscious terror. They pleaded with me from across the ship, begging me to save him.
Before I could stop myself, I twisted my arm out of Mother’s grasp and swam to him, hoping to talk some sense into my sister before she did something terrible.
It was no use. I couldn’t reach them. They had too much of a head start. All I could do was watch as they snatched the helpless human and dragged his lifeless body up, up, and up until…
Bubbles sprayed all around them as they held Gene’s head and neck above water, but kept their own gills safely submerged. Even if he had working legs to thrash and fight with, he would be outmatched. Our tails treaded water in a way a human’s boney appendages couldn’t come close to.
He was in our world, by no choice of his own. We brought him down here against his will, and now that he was a part of it, my mother was sending him back home to die.
The gills would not disappear. They would only struggle for a short while before giving up to the heat of the land above. Gene’s chest moved in and out, in faster but shallower spurts.
I kicked my tail harder. Just as he came into my reach, he took one final gulp of air from his own world, and the movement stopped.
Mother had killed him.


Author Bio:
ME Rhines a southwest Florida native currently living in North Port with her two beautiful children and a third, much larger child whom she affectionately calls husband.
She writes young adult paranormal romance to feed her belief that fairy tales are real and
nonsense is necessary.
She also writes adult romances under her edgier alter-ego, Mary Bernsen.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cover Reveal: Second Window by Erika Kiefer!

THE SECOND WINDOW by Erica Kiefer

We're pleased to share the very first cover reveal from Clean Teen Publishing's new digital first imprint— CTP Pulse. We couldn't have launched this new imprint with a better title. THE SECOND WINDOW by Erica Kiefer is a young adult mystery with romance, betrayal, and twists you will never guess are coming. Scheduled to release on December 5, 2017, this book definitely warrants an add to your To Be Read pile. Pre-orders will roll out next month.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Available December 5, 2017
As her senior year flies by on cruise control, seventeen-year-old Olivia Cole yearns for excitement—something her upscale private school no longer provides. Her job as a grocery store bagger isn't much help…until the day she has a bizarre exchange with the cagey town recluse. When the woman abruptly surrenders to the police, Olivia feels compelled to dig deeper into her perplexing story. But the investigation stalls when Olivia receives another piece of news—Andre Steele, the golden boy of Westmont and her previous tormentor, has unexpectedly returned from his four-year stay in Brazil—and the whole school is buzzing! All at once, Olivia's dull and predictable life is uprooted, and she wonders if "boring" was so bad after all.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Erica Kiefer’s is also the author of the now available Lingering Echoes Series a set of stand-alone contemporary YA fiction novels, touched with romance, emotional drama and suspense. With a degree in Recreation Therapy from Brigham Young University, Erica’s experiences working with at-risk youth have influenced the realistic and relatable nature of her writing. Her first inspirational non-fiction entitled Borrowed Angel (published in April 2014 with Currawong Press) describes the loss of her infant son and her journey towards healing.
Married since 2005, Erica resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her four children and can often be found satisfying her sweet-tooth with chocolate-chip cookies and a glass of milk. Now and then, she dusts off her collegiate rugby skills and dives back into the game.

START READING THE LINGERING ECHOES SERIES TODAY FOR FREE:

ABOUT CTP PULSE:

CTP Pulse is our new Digital First Imprint! Titles in this Imprint are perfect for the avid reader. We will be publishing titles to this imprint in half the time of our other Imprints Clean Teen Publishing and Crimson Tree Publishing. This makes this cross-genre Imprint perfect for the binge reader. While this Imprint won't have it's own website, you can find CTP Pulse Titles under Clean Teen Publishing or Crimson Tree Publishing depending on their genres. These titles will have the special CTP Pulse Logo added to their page.

DON'T FORGET TO ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY:

Don't forget to enter our giveaway for a CTP Mystery box. Press on the picture below to take you to the post with the giveaway form. :)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Release: Smoke and Mirrors by Susan Harris!!


Smoke and Mirrors
Susan Harris
(The Ever Chace Chronicles, #3)
Published by: Crimson Tree Publishing
Publication date: May 29th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Ever Chace is a Valkyrie, but not just any Valkyrie—she’s a Valkyrie queen in the making.
Torn between the past and present, love and obligation, Ever is terrified of saying the words that would break the curse she is bound to. Pushing Derek away hasn’t simplified things; it has only made her miserable. With her father waking, and her and Derek’s lives on the line, can she really shy away from who and what she is becoming? How long can Ever keep her past lives a secret?
Pushing thoughts of his mate aside, Derek tries to focus on the task at hand—tracking down a monster that leaves nothing but a husk behind. But Ever is never truly off his mind, even as two of his own become targets of the unsub. Can he set his personal distractions aside to keep his team alive?
EXCERPT:
Caitlyn bade Derek farewell and left him staring out at the stars. Making her way outside, she inhaled the night air, tasting the frost in the air before it quickly evaporated, her lungs no longer functional. Her heels clicked against the concrete as she hurried towards her car, the sound of her name being called as she reached the car hasting her movement.
“You heading home?”
Donnie had sensed when she’d left the station and would, of course, make sure she was alright before he continued on with his duties.
“I am. Are you staying here for a while?”
Folding his arms across his chest, Donnie tilted his head and narrowed his gaze. “Yeah, I have one or two leads to follow up before I head out. I should get home just after sunrise.”
“Okay, I shall see you then.” Caitlyn turned around as she heard Donnie swear. A hand on her waist caused her to pause, and she turned back to face him.
He never spoke, never made a sound, but the look in his eyes told her exactly what was about to happen. Donnie crushed his lips to hers, pushing her back against the car so that she was trapped between the metal and his overwhelming mass, ensuring that she could not escape.
It was not a gentle kiss, but a claiming of sorts—a strong, bruising meeting of lips that told Caitlyn that Donnie was done waiting and intended to take what he considered his. He nipped her bottom lip, drawing blood, the copper taste mingling with Donnie’s own unique taste. He gave a little groan, and with a little more pressure on her lips, Caitlyn opened up as Donnie tasted, sucked on, and devoured her mouth. And when Caitlyn felt her control slip, eager to succumb to the passion that this man excited from her, Donnie pulled back, finally allowing her space.
“I had to do that. I needed you to know what my intentions are, Cait. I don’t care who claims you are theirs; you are mine, and I plan to seduce you into agreeing with me. I’m the only man you need worry about, Caitlyn Hardi. Because I am yours—now, forever, and always.”


Author Bio:
Susan Harris is a writer from Cork in Ireland.
An avid reader, she quickly grew to love books in the supernatural/fantasy and Dystopian genre. She writes books for young adults and adults alike.
When she is not writing or reading, she loves music, oriental cultures, tattoos, creepy snow globes, DC shoes, stationary, anything Disney, Marvel movies, psychology and far too many TV shows. If she wasn't a writer, she would love to be a FBI profiler or a PA for Dave Grohl or Jared Leto.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Now Released: Breaker and the Sun by Lauren Nicolle Taylor!


Breaker & the Sun
Lauren Nicolle Taylor
(Paper Stars #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: Clean Teen Publishing
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Times means nothing. It’s just the sun and moon changing places.
New from Lauren Nicolle Taylor, the best-selling author of Nora and Kettle, comes a fresh take on a classic tale.
Breaker Van Winkle is a recently returned Vietnam vet, struggling with PTSD and the difficulties of readjusting to civilian life with his mother. Sunny is a high-achieving eighteen-year-old Chinese-French immigrant who fled Vietnam during the war. Sunny is usually as cheerful as her name implies, but she has her struggles too. Haunted by violent memories of the bombing that killed her parents, and chafing under the rule of her eccentric grandmother, she finds solace deep in the Catskills, at a place she calls the Ugly Tree.
When Breaker stumbles upon Sunny and the Ugly Tree, things start to change. They are drawn to each other, and feel called to the tree. As they spend more time together and their relationship deepens, they notice that their time at the tree is becoming twisted somehow. Sunny’s mind yawns and her ambitions begin to slip away. Breaker feels safe and carefree, his memories finally burying themselves in the distant past. They are being lulled toward a tempting, peaceful sleep—but there is a cost to this magical serenity, and it may be more than either of them can bear…
EXCERPT:
ONE GOOD MEMORY
BREAKER
An older man in full uniform approaches us, looking stern and judgmental. He frowns at Tien, and I feel like I want to stand and defend him. Tien stands and salutes the older man, whose crinkly face cracks into a smile. “No need to stand on ceremony here, Tien,” he says gruffly, ruffling his spiky black hair. Then he looks at me. “Don’t let his looks fool you! Tien will take care of you. He’s one of the good guys.”
I frown then. Not sure how to take that. Tien doesn’t seem to mind though.
When the old guy is gone, I nudge Tien. “Are you cool with that? I mean, shit, this must be a little awkward for you sometimes,” I mutter, watching all the white men strolling between groups, their uniforms in varying states of spit and polish.
He shrugs. “It was at first. And yeah, looking like I do, I have to work harder at getting some people to accept me, trust me, but once you know me, well…” He gulps down the rest of his coffee and crushes the cup in his hand. “You can’t help but love me!”
It doesn’t seem fair that he has to work harder. “Doesn’t seem right, man,” I say, shaking my head.
Tien knocks my leg with his knee. “Nope, it isn’t. But what you just said. That right there is enough of a reason to keep trying. Things will change. Name by name. Face by face. I like you already, Breaker!” He’s intoxicatingly hopeful.
I run a hand through my hair. Who would have thought I’d be on this side of the argument?
Tien knocks my knee again. His laugh is full of light. Not sunshine exactly. More like the light from a cluster of stars. It sparkles with magic.
Heart steady. A smile, tinted green, but a smile just the same.
The sun hits the sand, and it sparkles. Palm trees bristle in the warm breeze. If I squint, if I look past the stacks of wooden crates piled on the beach, the dirty men draped over them, it looks like a postcard.
I snap that image for later.
Booze is poured into tin cups, and we sip. We wipe our brows of sweat and tell stories, swap the most mundane details of our lives with each other, building something. This foundation we have to rely on.
Kicking my shoes off, I bury my toes in the sand, watching it cascade over my white, shriveled skin. My feet look like they’ve been in a bath for hours.
I’m staring at them when a disk with colored feathers sprouting from it lands at my feet.
I look up into the expectant grin of a kid, about the same age as Red. He beckons me with his hand, asking me to join the game he’s playing with his friends.
Sarge nods an okay.
Towering over these little Vietnamese kids, I jog to where they’re playing. Quickly, I realize the aim of the game is to keep the feathered disk in the air using whatever I can.
The kids are amazing, back-flipping, twisting, slapping at it with their hands and feet. I try to keep up, and they laugh but encourage me to keep trying.
We’re just kids, playing a game.
Our shouting rattles across the waves. We kick and slap at the ball, we laugh when someone falls over, but offer a hand to help them back up.
My smile cracks open my chest as some fear spills out onto the sand to be collected by the sea.
Some of the other guys join us, and we play until it’s too dark to see.
The sun sprays red and orange over the water, and the kid who invited me slaps my back and winks. He hands me the feathered disk and runs away, laughing and shouting at his friends.
Tien taps my back gently. “Breaker. Where’d you go?”
My mouth feels strange, turned up into a smile.
I’d forgotten about that kid. That good memory.
“Sorry. I was just remembering something,” I mutter.
“Must’ve been a good something,” Tien says, pointing at my mouth.
I chuckle. “Yeah, it was.”


Author Bio:
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Bad Bloods by Shannon A. Thompson is Now Released!!!


 


July Lightning Shannon A. Thompson (Bad Bloods #4) Published by: Clean Teen Publishing Publication date: May 1st 2017 Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

From best-selling author Shannon A. Thompson comes an exciting new duology in the Bad Bloods universe. Sixteen-year-old Caleb has been called many things: a patient, a musician, even a prostitute…now he has a new name—son. After his identity is uncovered, Caleb bands together with the family he once rejected in order to save the city of Vendona. But it won’t be easy. Enemies wait around every corner—and so do harsh realities. With Violet and Kuthun by his side though, nothing seems impossible. As Vendona sits on the verge of an economic collapse and a massive hurricane threatens the city, Violet and Caleb must show its citizens how to overcome decades of hostility and division to save themselves. Standing or not, a sea will rage, a wall may fall, and all will depend on immortal pain and sacrifice.

Author Bio:

Shannon A. Thompson is a young adult author, avid reader, and a habitual chatterbox. As a novelist, poet, and blogger, Thompson spends her free time writing and sharing ideas with her black cat, Bogart, named after her favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. Her other two cats bring her coffee. Between writing and befriending cats, Thompson graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, and her work has appeared in numerous poetry collections and anthologies. Represented by Clean Teen Publishing, Thompson is the best-selling author of The Timely Death Trilogy and the Bad Bloods duology. When she is not writing, she is climbing rooftops, baking cookies, or watching murder shows in the middle of the night, often done with her cats by her side. Visit her blog for writers and readers at www.ShannonAThompson.com.
 
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cover Reveal for Smoke and Mirrors by Susan Harris!


Find out why readers are losing sleep due to THE EVER CHACE CHRONICLES. ÔDr. Ever Chace's life is anything but boring. She thought growing up human in a supernatural world was strange, but things heat up when she finds herself falling for a man who's bark isn't nearly as sharp as his bite. Start this series for FREE with SKIN AND BONES by Susan Harris. Then enjoy this exclusive cover reveal of the third book in the series— SMOKE AND MIRRORS, which releases on May 29 2017. Plus, enjoy a discounted pre-order deal of $2.99 this week only!

SKIN AND BONES (BOOK THREE)

Pre-order discounted to $2.99 for a limited time! GRAB YOUR PRE-ORDER HERE.
Available May 29, 2017
Paranormal Romance
Crimson Tree Publishing

SKIN AND BONES (BOOK ONE)

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE (BOOK TWO)

Ebook - Collateral Damage

 

 

ABOUT SUSAN HARRIS:

Susan-2BBio-2BPicSusan Harris is a writer from Cork in Ireland. An avid reader, she quickly grew to love books in the supernatural/fantasy genre. When she is not writing or reading, she loves music, oriental cultures, tattoos, anything Disney and psychology. If she wasn't a writer she would love to be a FBI profiler or a PA for Dave Grohl or Jared Leto.

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Release: Glitter and Gold by Sherry D. Ficklin!


Of Glitter and Gold: A Canary Club Anthology
Sherry D. Ficklin
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: March 27th 2017
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Set during the flamboyant anything-goes era of 1920’s America, these three tales are filled with intriguing characters and rich imagery from the time period—with flappers, jazz music, gangsters, and lavish wealth. Escape to a different decade today with the compelling stories of the Canary Club Anthology.
Novelette 1- Gilded Cage
Masie, the flaxen-haired daughter of notorious bootlegger Dutch Schultz, returns home from boarding school to find her family in crisis. Her mother is dangerously unstable, her father’s empire is on the brink of ruin, and the boy she once loved has become a ruthless killer for hire. To keep her family’s dangerous secrets, Masie is forced into a lie that will change the course of her future—and leave her trapped in a gilded cage of her own making.
Novelette 2- All That Glitters
A dame with brains, moxie, and killer curves, June West isn’t your average flapper. She’s managed to endear herself to the son of one of the most powerful gangsters in New York, earning herself a spot in the limelight that she’s always longed for. With the infamous playboy at her side, June has become accustomed to living the high life. Lavish parties, expensive clothes, sparkling jewels—nothing is beyond her reach. But when her carefully woven web of lies finally catches up with her, she must make an impossible choice… come clean about her past and risk losing everything, or find a way to bury her demons—once and for all.
Novelette 3 – Nothing Gold
Dickey has been down on his luck since the day he was born. Flat broke and sick of being looked down on, he meets young socialite Lillian at a wild party. The connection is like a strike of lightning. From a wealthy New York family, this debutante is everything he’s been told he can never have—and the only thing he wants. Determined to win her, he knows the only way to get her parents approval is with cold hard cash. So when a shot at the biggest score of his life comes around, he just can’t refuse…
NOTHING GOLD EXCERPT:
It’s easier than I imagined to sneak into the party. The music is so loud and the crowd so enormous that no one sees me wind my way through the shrubs on the outskirts. The massive estate is far enough away from the city that I had to hitch a ride to get here, and I’ll have to time my exit just right to make the train back to Manhattan.
Brushing off my secondhand suit coat, I enter the party via the back patio. A wide pool is filled with people, most still in their fancy evening wear. My eyes slide past them, searching for the one person at this shindig that I know. I scan past butlers with white gloves holding silver trays covered in champagne glasses, past gleeful dames in short skirts with blood-red lips, and past gents in their glad rags I can tell with one glance cost more dough than I make in a year working at the mill.
When I finally see him, his pinstripe suit, matching fedora, and red pocket square, he’s standing atop the massive staircase on the ledge overlooking the party. Deacon Brewer, the reason I’m here tonight. His hands are stuffed in the pockets of his trousers as he chats up a fella I don’t recognize, along with the dame hanging off his arm. Plastering on an easy grin, I wind my way through the people, helping myself to a glass of bubbly as I head for the stairs. The stone steps are covered in gold confetti, the whole place practically dripping with it. Long, red velvet drapes hang from arched windows, and leafless branches painted gold and draped with crystal beads sit in tall vases in every corner. Nothing has been left un-gilded.
I shake my head at the audacity. Might as well have a neon sign—someone, please rob the joint.
Deacon sees me coming and dismisses himself from his conversation, welcoming me with an open hand.
“Dickey Lewis, glad you could make it, boy,” he offers warmly.
As if I had a choice.
“Of course, Mr. Brewer,” I respond with more warmth than I feel. Truth is that I’m in deep to Deacon after a few bad bets at his club last month, and he opted to make me work it off rather than take it outta my hide. I suppose that makes him clever, but I can’t help the gnawing feeling that this is a debt I may never fully repay. “What’s the score?” I ask, lowering my voice.
Draping an arm across my shoulders, he walks me through the glass doors and into the house. Still crammed with people drinking, dancing, and generally wrecking the joint, he pulls a cigar from his vest pocket with his free hand.
“Upstairs in the den is a lovely Monet, behind which is a very large safe. Cash, some baubles, and a bankbook are inside. I don’t care about the rest; you take what you need. But the bankbook needs to find its way into my hands tomorrow morning by eight am.”
I take a deep breath, rolling my tongue over my teeth before answering, “How am I supposed to get into the safe?”
He barks a deep laugh, slapping me on the back. “Guess you’ll have to get a little creative. Just get in, get out, and don’t let nobody see ya, got it?”
All I can do is nod and watch him swagger away. Sure, I’ve boosted loot before, but always simple jobs, smash and grabs. Nothing like this. What have I gotten myself into this time?
Still, whatever else is in there is mine for the taking, I tell myself. Could be a big pay day, judging by the looks of the place.
I wander casually through the house, trying to look as if I belong while also counting the number of cops and guards watching the area. It’s not as many as I expected. I grab a dark-haired dame by the waist, offering her a charming smile and asking for a dance. We Charleston together for two songs, finally stopping to imbibe more champagne. When I ‘accidently’ stumble into her, she spills the contents of her glass on my jacket, fumbling a wide-eyed apology.
Waving her off with a smile, I hand her my glass, “You take this, and I’ll go find a place to wash up.”
“You could always take a dip in the pool, honey,” she says, batting her eyelashes.
Beside her, a gentleman points up a secondary set of stairs near the front door. “Washroom is up there, I think.”
I mutter a thanks and a promise to return, then make my way up the stairs, continuing to stumble around as if drunk, occasionally opening a door to find a couple necking or a room full of folks smoking the Indian hop in long pipes.
Finally, the thumping of the music fading below me, I make my way to the library. Beyond that, I find the only locked door on the entire floor. Digging into my pocket, I pull out my lock kit, a simple flattened iron jimmy and a hooked pick. Sliding both in the lock, I slide them back and forth, listening for the mechanism inside to release. It doesn’t take long and the door springs open, allowing me to step inside and close it quickly behind me. It’s dark except for the glow of a single lamp atop a massive oak desk, behind which is a tall arched window overlooking the front of the estate. From this spot, I can see the cars lined up along the circular drive, partygoers coming and going in wild abandon. Pulling the pocket watch from my vest, I wipe my fingers across the cracked glass face, checking the time. Only thirty minutes until the train. If I miss it, it’ll be two hours before the next one. Not the end of the world, unless someone notices the lift before I’m gone. That’s a long time to stick around with a pocket fulla stolen goods.
I glance around me, the blood chilling in my veins. Every wall except the one with the window is covered in framed paintings. And I have no idea which one is a Monet.
Scrambling, I begin lifting each, checking the wall behind for any sign of the safe. Finally, on the opposite wall from where I started, I find it. Carefully lifting the heavy canvas free, I set it on the floor and turn my attention to the wall safe. It’s not large, about the size of a bread box with a spinning combination dial in the center. Unsure what else to do, I pull the pocket knife free from my trousers and flick it open, trying to wedge it between the door and the frame. As soon as I do, I know it’s going to be futile. The thing is heavy steel; no way my knife is gonna bust it open. Putting it away, I begin spinning the dial at random, praying I’ll get lucky.
I’m so flustered I don’t hear the door open or the footsteps from behind me until it’s too late.
“It’s my birthday,” a voice offers, making me spin, hands balled into fists to fight my way free from the room.
The dame is tall, her garnet-red hair rolled into bouncy curls and pinned in a messy heap at the back of her neck. Her dress is green, almost the same color as her eyes, and it hugs her slender frame as if it were a second skin. Even the long strings of pearls twined around her neck seems completely natural, not just a decoration but an extension of her. I take a breath, blinking, momentarily stunned. She drapes one hand on her hip, her entire body listing to the side as she points to the safe.
“The combination,” she repeats. “It’s my birthday.”
Finally recovering my voice, I stammer. “I was, uh, just…”
The corners of her mouth turn upward. “Breaking into my father’s safe?”
I don’t know what to say. I feel her in the room, the way one might feel the air change right before a storm, a heaviness that settles in, leaving my soul with a sense of foreboding. My instincts battle inside me. Do I grab her and tie her to a chair, or do I flee? The weight of her gaze makes it impossible to think clearly.
“Relax,” she says, raising a glass I hadn’t noticed her holding to her lips and taking a slow drink. “I’m not calling the guards if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Oh? You’re just gonna let me crack this safe and walk away with whatever’s inside?”
She shrugs. “It’s not my money. What do I care?”
I lick my lips, sizing her up. A spoiled little rich girl who wants to stick it to Daddy. I’ve seen a few of those in my day. I can work with this—if I can get my head back on straight. It’s not like me to get so flustered by a dame, not even a high-quality one like this.
“Besides…” She sets the glass on the desk and saunters toward me. “It’s not like we don’t have enough.”
I catch a hint of her perfume in the air when she brushes by me, lavender and something else I can’t quite place. Taking the dial in her hand, she spins the knob until the door finally clicks, then she steps back, giving me a go-ahead gesture.
I hesitate, flicking glances at the bare skin where her neck meets her shoulder, at the creamy whiteness of her skin, before settling my eyes on her face. “What’s your name, doll?”
She looks down, sheepishly at first, but then raises just her eyes to look at me with an expression of bold defiance. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
I swallow, considering her offer. She’s already gotten a good look at me, enough to rat me out to the cops. The look on her face is one of challenge, I realize. She’s daring me to trust her.
“Dickey,” I say, pulling the flat cap off my head and holding it over my heart as I bow to her. “Dickey Lewis, at your service, Miss?”
“Lillian Rose Duke,” she answers. “But my friends call me Lilly.”
Replacing my hat, I grab the safe handle and twist, pulling open the heavy door. Grabbing a large wooden box first, I hold it out to her. Moving back, I grab two stacks of fresh bills and stuff them in the pockets of my suitcoat. Finding the bankbook last, I tuck it into the back of my pants before pulling my shirt and jacket over it.
I spin to Lilly, watching as she upends the box, spilling jewelry onto the desk in a pile. She picks through it, finally just scooping it all into her hand and sauntering over to me. Getting so close I feel the warmth of her, she grabs the lapel of my jacket, sliding the gold and stones into the inside pocket.
“Give these to your girl, Dickey Lewis.”
She releases my lapel, but doesn’t step away. Instead, she leans forward. Thinking she’s going to kiss me, I straighten in anticipation, but she just trails her fingers along my collar until she’s cupping the back of my neck.
“I ain’t got no girl,” I admit, my heart pounding behind my ribs.
“Well, isn’t that a shame?” she says, her lips a hair’s breadth from mine.
Unable to resist, I close the final distance between us, clutching her by the waist as I urge her lips to mine. I’ve never tasted gold before, but I imagine this is what it would be like—champagne, honey, and nerves of steel. When she finally pulls away, I’m gasping. Tugging tugs the white linen handkerchief from my pocket, she wipes my face, then hers, of her smeared lipstick before returning the hankie to its place.
“I hope to see you around, Dickey Lewis.”
With that, she spins on her heel and heads for the door, listening for a moment before pulling it open and stepping out. The room is instantly colder, the air thinner. I can finally breathe, can think.
As I slink from the party and disappear into the shadows, making my way down the street to the train station, I can’t force the sight of her from my mind, or the taste of her from my lips.
Even if it takes every penny in my pocket and every breath in my body, I will see Lillian Rose Duke again.


Author Bio:
Sherry D. Ficklin is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.

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