Saturday, 17 November 2018

Still Breathing


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Women’s Fiction
Date Published:  November 17, 2018
Designer: Damonza
Publisher: Acorn Publishing

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Newly widowed and on the threshold of seventy, Lizzie Warton questions the value of her remaining years. Uncharacteristically, she decides for the first time in her life to do what she wants, instead of what everyone expects.

Against the wishes of family and friends, she sets out for Africa to work at a Ugandan middle school. When she lands at night in the Entebbe airport, her hosts are not there to meet her. Near panic, she hires a local taxi. The driver drugs her, steals everything, and dumps her limp body in a slum. Waking in the dark, she feels someone tugging off her shoes.

Without money, a passport, clothes, or medications, Lizzie is forced to start over and find a way to survive. 

Soon she learns that nothing in Africa is as it appears. The grind of daily life in the third-world is beyond anything Lizzie imagined. Nevertheless, encouraged by budding friendships in surprising places, and against every sensible instinct she’s ever developed, Lizzie’s own personal search for meaning becomes the grand adventure of a lifetime.



Excerpt


      “Hey, muzungu! Over here!”

“Lady, best prices in Owino!”

 “I have jeans. You want jeans? New styles from America!”

“Hey! Pretty white lady! Over here!”

 “Best quality! Best prices! Today, only for you, muzungu!”

“I have a new shipment! Come and see!”

“Muzungu! Lady, what you need?”

Lizzie was sick of the accented voices shouting at her. She had yet to see another white woman in the claustrophobic market. Warned in advance, she had ignored the hands on her arms, the fingers trailing across her fingers, even the nudges to move her toward their shops, but she was fed up with the vendors’ constant calls aimed at her. Still, she doggedly maintained her wooden smile, even though she was gritting her teeth behind it.

At one point, a vendor called out a question in Luganda and someone else answered it. Lizzie was sure it had something to do with her. Laughter broke out and other voices chimed in with more quips. Grinning faces nodded at her as she walked away.

Lizzie shot a questioning look at Mrs. Birungi, who rolled her eyes, even though a smile tugged at her mouth. “It is nothing - just vendor talk. Ignore it. We need to go over that way.” Birungi pointed to a split in the congested path ahead, and steered them to the right.

Afiya pulled abreast of Lizzie a little later as they bobbed through a brief open place in the moving crowd. “They said they not sure if you are white or Ugandan.”

“What?”

“It was joke. Our people always make jokes.”

“How was it a joke?”

“Somebody said you half Ugandan.” The girl suppressed a grin.

“I don’t get it.”

“They said you have white top but Ugandan bottom.” Afiya smiled broadly as she said the line.

Lizzie looked back at her, puzzled.

“This kind bottom.” Afiya patted her own rump. “Word means both things. They admired your…bottom.” Afiya couldn’t help but giggle as she repeated the word.

Lizzie understood and sighed. “Well, I guess that’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” In her mind, a little appreciative thought blossomed at still being noticed in that way, at all. She hastily chided herself and kept walking, but her hips now swayed a tiny bit more, nevertheless.


About the Author

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Originally from South Minneapolis, Gene Fournier earned a BA in Philosophy & Literature from St. Louis University followed by a Masters in Film from USC. Gene is a member of the Writers Guild of America west (WGA) and worked as a screenwriter and editor in Hollywood, but sadly, he never got that big break.

Seeking a return to his roots after twelve years in California, he accepted a Director of Media position with a multinational company headquartered in the Midwest. For thirty years he wrote, directed, edited and distributed corporate video programs around the world, managed live presentations, and orchestrated the creative elements for national and international meetings.

Retired now, with his seven children grown, and a dozen grandchildren to distract him, Gene is finally able to write down the stories he’s been carrying in his head all these years.


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Friday, 16 November 2018

When Our Worlds Meet Again by Aniesha Brahma

~ Book Blitz ~
When Our Worlds Meet Again by Aniesha Brahma
16th November 2018


About the Book:


Two years after the events of 'When Our Worlds Collide', Zayn and Akriti are now leading extremely different lives. Akriti has come back from her stint at the business school and running her mother's café. Zayn has run into trouble in his PhD program and has come home for a break. While he thinks that things are just as he’d left them two years ago, that is far from the truth. In a last ditch attempt to make Akriti remember the connection they had once shared, Zayn tries to recreate all their memories. But things are never the same when collided worlds meet again. 





Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Read an Excerpt:


Prologue
2015.
Akriti was sitting at the cash counter of her mother’s little café going over the expenses for the day. Her headphones were plugged into her ears as she listened to songs on her phone. Her laptop was propelled open in front of her as she made notes on what else needed to be done the next day.
In the two years that she had been gone, the café had not changed at all. Her mother had kept all the renovations that Akriti and her colleagues had done two years ago. The only difference was that now there was a bulletin board next to the chalkboard menu that had been installed just a few weeks ago. On the bulletin board hung a poster that announced that next week’s Poetry Slam would start at 6PM sharp, and Suzanna needed to be contacted for early registration.
Akriti finished her work and shut down her laptop. She looked around the café in grim satisfaction and let out a happy little sigh. The music from her phone suddenly stopped playing. Glancing down she saw that her phone had started buzzing, flashing a number she had not seen on her phone in quite a while.
Debating for a minute, she received the call.
“Hi, Zayn.”

Airports have seen more sincere kisses than weddings it is said. As Zayn Banerjee waited to catch his flight back home, he witnessed one too many couples bidding each other teary eyed goodbyes. It was watching these strangers that he remembered how it had felt two years ago when he had left his home behind in pursuit of higher studies. How he had come to this alien land which had eventually led him to a lot of heartache and misery!
But there had been something good about those two years. There had been someone who had seen past all his imperfections and focused only on the good that was in him. Who had been his friend against all odds and yet, they had fallen out of touch with each other over the course of two years. He wondered if she was still using the same number. He wondered if she still had his number saved.
On an impulse, he pulled out his phone and dialed her number. She answered it on the third ring.
“Hi, Zayn.”
“Akriti.”
He was pleased as punch that she remembered him.
“Did you want something?”
“I am just calling to let you know that I’d be home soon.”
“Oh.”
“Oh? Honestly, I was hoping for a reaction better than oh.”
“Zayn, it’s really late here. Let’s talk when you’re in town?”
“I’ll do you one better. I’ll come see you.”
“Great. Safe flight.”
Then the line went dead. Zayn stared at the phone, wondering if their friendship was lost over the course of time. This wasn’t like the Akriti he remembered.
This wasn’t his Akriti at all.

Akriti hung up the phone feeling utterly drained. Once upon a time this was a source of her happiness but tonight he was a cause of her stress. The last thing she needed was for Zayn to come barging into her life once more.
She remembered all the memories that they had made together two years ago. The time when she’d finally felt okay to let her guard down and just be herself. It seemed to her like it was a lifetime ago. But he’d left. Like everyone else in her life and she had found herself consumed by her loneliness. Going off to business school had only made Akriti revert back to her old self.
That’s a lie they tell you, Akriti thought bitterly to herself, as she put her headphones back on and started listening to music again, time doesn’t heal a damn thing. It just burns the memories into your mind.

About the Author:
Aniesha Brahma knew she wanted to be a writer since she was six years old. She was schooled in Dolna Day School and went on to pursue B.A., M.A., and M.Phil in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur Univeristy. She currently lives in Kolkata, with her family and five pet cats. She is the author of All Signs Lead Back to You, When Our Worlds Collide, The Guitar Girl and The Secret Proposal. She compiled and edited the 10 volumes series, 'Children's Classic Stories' with love and great efforts.

Website * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook




Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Hidden Children (The Lost Grimoire #1) by Reshma K.Barshikar

~ Release Day Blitz ~
The Hidden Children (The Lost Grimoire #1)
by Reshma K.Barshikar
13th November 2018


About the Book:
‘What price would you pay to be extraordinary? What would you do to speak to a butterfly? 

Shayamukthy cruises through life: shooting hoops, daydreaming and listening to her favourite books. Even moving from the US to India, to a new school, a new culture, hasn't really rattled her. But something isn't right anymore and it begins when 'New Girl' joins the school.

She pulls Shui into a world of magic and wonderment, a world she has been hidden from all her life. What starts as a quest to look for a lost book, hurtles Shui into a world where people live in trees, talk to the dead and speak to butterflies.

But like all power, magic comes at a steep price, and under all things wondrous lie demons waiting to crawl out. The more Shui learns, the more she doubts everything and everyone around her. 

Will she be able to master her powers, or will they devour her and everyone she loves?



Order Your Copy from AMAZON now!

Read an Excerpt:

‘That was pretty dramatic,’ said Anya, as I put the cards away. ‘Is it always like this...?’ she asked, floating around my room, touching everything but not. Her fingers grazed over the junk on my bedside table, the white alarm clock that never woke me up on time, my Winnie the Pooh bear from when I was four. Then she walked back to my window and smelt the candles. I saw my bra peeking out of from under a towel and leapfrogged across the bed to hide it from her. By the time I’d turned around, she’d lit them all. The votives glowed like fireflies, and the flames flickered yellow gold and the edges of the window lit up and it was suddenly so pretty that I gasped. They would go out any minute, I thought to myself. It was stupid to have flames by the window, but I loved the way they looked against the night sky, my very own queen’s necklace. After walking around the entire room, she smoothened her skirt underneath her and sat, very delicately, on the edge of my bed, her one leg neatly tucked in behind the other.

‘So then,’ she said, ‘tell me all about school.’

And I did. I told her about the crazy house names and the basketball; how I haven’t been able to shoot very well in a while. I told her about the move from Denver, the first few terrible days and months. I told her about the teachers, their eccentricities, how Mr Nelson never finished his apple at lunch. I bitched about Malvika, avoided Aadyant completely, and we laughed about the basketball hitting her stomach. We wondered how Malvika would feel if she woke up in the morning and found her porcelain cheeks covered with pustules.

I asked about her pendant, a doughnut-shaped stone that nestled between her collarbones, and about her goth-like ring. She said they were both the Ouroboros, a snake eating its tail, and that they had belonged to her mother. She told me about her mother, how she’d died and I felt terrible. I told her about my knot, the one that was buried deep in the cotton that clogged my brain up. We talked about the whys and the hows of Kate Bush, whom I had no idea about, and Ranbir Kapoor’s abs; she giggled when I showed her his picture on my desktop. It was 10 p.m. when Ma walked in and asked Anya for her dad’s phone number so that we could get permission for a sleep over. By 4 a.m. we had talked ourselves out; our mouths were dry and our fingers were tingly. And the candles never went out. 

About the Author:
Travel writer and novelist Reshma K Barshikar is an erstwhile Investment Banker who, as she tells it, ‘fell down a rabbit hole and discovered a world outside a fluorescent cubicle.’ As a travel and features writer, she contributes to National Geographic Traveller, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, The Sunday Guardian, SilverKris, The Mint Lounge and The Hindu. Fade Into Red, published by Random House India was her debut novel and featured in Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers. She also holds well renowned workshops for young adults at both BDL Museum and Kala Ghoda and is keen to build a strong Young Adult reading and writing community to fill the desperate lack of young adult fiction in the Indian Market. Her new Young Adult novel, The Hidden Children, will be launching at the Vizag Junior Literary Festival. Reshma is from the ISB Class of 2003. She calls both Mumbai and the Nilgiris home. 


Contact the Author:
Website I Facebook I Twitter I Goodreads




Thursday, 8 November 2018

Freefall (The Amalie Noether Chronicles #1) by Jana Williams

About the Book:
The deep-space transport ship, the Vera Rubin, is light years from Earth when botanist Elle Silver begins to question the use of their space-travel drug, HCH.  Elle notices a growing number of her friends and  fellow colonists awaken from their 90-day sleep cycles exhibiting a variety of negative side-effects and she begins to believe the drug is the culprit.  Some of the effects are minor, dry eyes and lack of appetite. Other symptoms are a bigger concern on a tiny ship packed with colonists.  With each sleep cycle completed, more and more colonists awaken both confused and barely concealing a simmering rage - rage that could be a catastrophe on a ship as crowded as the Vera Rubin.  Elle needs proof, but she also needs a plan. If the drug that allows them to travel deep-space is at fault, what then?  Elle and her friends Ashok, Achebe and Jin-Hai are pressed to their limits to find a solution to their problem before the ship erupts into chaos... with light years left to travel.



Find FREEFALL on Amazon.Com & Amazon.In


Read an Excerpt:


ONE

“Aaakkkkaaah,” Elle gasped as light like a thousand million suns seemed to explode behind her eyes, catapulting her into consciousness. Sleep apnea forced her to consciously attend to what was supposed to be an unconscious act. Elle was certain she knew intimately how it felt to die—she did it over and over again in her sleep. She lay still for a long moment, shaking off the dregs of her harsh awakening. Suddenly she opened her eyes. I had a dream. Which is weird; I hardly ever dream.

With her eyes now open, Elle was grateful for the deep shadows in the Skein. Scattered before her were only dim pools of light created by the pale glow of a monitoring station or data readout screens. The checkerboard of dim light and utter darkness was designed for sleep. Not just any kind of sleep, though—the Skein was made for folded, deep-space travel sleep, for human hibernation.

Peering around, Elle could vaguely identify the sleeping shapes of colonists floating weightless above and below her in the zero gravity of the ship’s inner core. They were tethered to the Skein via long filaments linking one sleeper to another like a daisy chain via a supple towing line. Each human hibernated for a three month cycle, gently tugged along by the Skein rather like balloons.

Over the course of their ninety-day sleep cycles, colonists passed through medical stations that performed muscle-tone tests and various neurological scans, body mass index tests, and more, until the Skein released them at the end of the ninety day cycle. They were netted and pulled into a brighter area where the onset of light coaxed them into wakefulness again. Elle was the sole exception. She hibernated like the other colonists, but her sleep was more erratic—uniformly unpredictable, in fact.

Now fully awake, Elle released the magnet that anchored her to the Skein and began pulling herself down towards a glowing iris of light at the bottom of a deep well of darkness. As she passed other colonists still deep in slumber, she took time to look into their faces. They were people she had trained with for the past fifteen years, as a cadet. Some faces were familiar, and so peaceful in sleep that she felt tempted to smooth the hair back off their faces as a mother would. Except that none of them had any hair. Each colonist was lasered head to toe before entering the Skein so the electronic scanners could accurately read the barcodes on the backs of their heads or the soles of their feet and attribute each medical test to the appropriate colonist’s file.

Elle encountered a colonist she didn’t immediately recognize and stopped to examine his face. Frowning, she gently grasped him by the shoulder and turned him so that one of his feet faced a nearby barcode scanner. A name immediately popped up on the screen, and Elle recited the name to herself while looking into the cadet’s face to memorize it. Grinning, she released him back to his journey in the Skein and floated on.

She was slowly approaching a distant junction that would pull her through the first airlock and into the waking chamber. Instead of waiting to be towed, Elle pushed off abruptly from her handhold on the Skein and cartwheeled towards the junction. Elle was fairly confident that she could stop herself in time to avoid smacking up against the other wall of the rotating core. She hadn’t missed once in over a year, but it was still chancy enough that the potential to pinwheel towards oblivion gave her a thrill.

At the final moment she did reach out and grab a strand of the Skein, which instantly stopped her forward motion. Reattaching her magnetic clip, Elle let it tow her into the light.

A low voice whispered across the room as Elle entered, “Good morning, El-lee. I see you’re awake early again.”

“Is it morning, Bea?” Elle said, her tone grudging, but she smiled at Bea’s long drawl of her name. Bea had absorbed the bastardization of Elle’s name and mimicked the other colonists’ teasing tone exactly. Bea was very observant.

“Well, theoretically it’s always morning somewhere in space, Elle.” Bea had brightened her voice just a little, testing the waters to see if Elle was really ready for her day.

Elle made shooing motions with her hand. “Still remembering how to breathe.”

“Ah, sleep apnea again?” Bea paused. “Want some water, then?”

“Yes, please.”

“All right. Five minutes while I find water for you. Then into the shower.”

As Bea trundled off to the kitchen, Elle muttered, “Space Mom.”

“I heard that.”

Elle grinned, which turned into a yawn and a stretch to help her body back into wakefulness. The webbing that held her carefully suspended between ceiling and floor in the half-gravity of the room stretched with her. She began ripping apart the Velcro strip that tethered the top of her lightweight disposable pajamas to the Skein.

With her other hand she groped for eye drops to lubricate her eyes. She had noted recently that her eyes often felt crackly if she was awakened too suddenly. It wasn’t a particularly pleas- ant sensation after nearly three months of sleep. Elle’s dry eyes were one of the very few side effects she experienced from hibernation. Or “stasis,” she corrected herself in a mildly snide mental voice.

Control really didn’t like the colonists’ use of the word “hibernation.” Their preferred term was completely detached from any association with the synthetic Hibernation Control Hormone that had been concocted from research done on hibernating bears on Earth—the very same hormone research that had nearly ended the dream of extended deep-space travel.

HCH had been tested extensively on bears in captivity, and then upon the last few found in the wild, before it ever went to human trials. An animal rights group known as Earth-First kept the bear hormone research in the news feeds daily with their guerrilla-like sorties against the actual scientists, the research facilities, and ultimately the human test agents, too. Finally Control had moved all training facilities for its deep-space cadets away from Earth completely. All cadets were now trained only on Moonbase and Marsbase to avoid any confrontations with Earth-First.

To Elle the most galling thing about the word “stasis” to describe the colonists’ hormone-assisted travel mode was that the phrase was completely detached from the colonists’ experiential reality. In theory, “stasis” sounded so serene: sleep for three months, wake up, eat, shower, visit for a few days with whatever teammates happen to be in rotation with you, then back to sleep again for another three or four light-years of travel.

Of the team of 150 travelers on board the Vera Rubin, most had reported varying degrees of lethargy and confusion upon awakening from hibernation. Many also reported dry mouth, dry eyes, inability to resume urination, little desire to eat anything, and a complete lack of interest in sex. This last problem was Control’s biggest worry. Yes, we are colonists, Elle acknowledged to herself. But she disagreed adamantly with Control’s assertion that as long as the colonists could have babies, their quality of life aboard ship could be damned.

It seemed Control felt so sure that everything else would balance out with time that they gave the green light to launch the Vera Rubin a full day ahead of schedule. Control theorized that all the negative HCH symptoms would disappear once the Vera Rubin entered the Three Sisters solar system and went into high orbit for a year around Amalie Noether, their targeted planet. Control was willing to bet the crew’s lives that normal functions would return once the colonists were off HCH completely.

“How are the eyes?”

Elle blinked away the excess lubricant and wiped it on her forearm. Her entire upper torso was bare now that she had tossed her top aside for recycling. Their sleep coverings needed to be as simple as possible so that in an emergency Bea would be able to remove a colonist from the Skein and disrobe them with one quick rip of Velcro. It wouldn’t require cutting, tearing or removal of complex garments to attach intravenous lines or heart monitors and begin incisions if the situation were dire.

Elle turned towards Bea as she blinked her eyes, hoping they would start to tear up on their own. She smiled at Bea’s well-worn apron with the faded daisies and multiple pockets. It had been a launch gift from one of the guys. Bea came into focus and Elle recognized what was supposed to be a look of concern on her face.

Bea’s facial programming wasn’t even close to the magnitude of expressions that her voice and language proto- cols had built into them. Bea would learn and adapt her language skills as she spent time with the three different teams of colonists. She could learn their body language and their slang. But Bea could only work with what she had been given as far as facial expressions were concerned.

Sadly, early on some smart ass had clipped an internal circuit that had left Bea with a perpetually droopy eyebrow. Weirdly enough, Bea had used it to advantage, making that droop express disapproval, disbelief, and even, with a tilt of her head, wry amusement. All this was augmented, of course, with her amazing linguistic skills. Bea was a gem of a rare sort.

“I think the eyes are good, Bea. I’m ready to try standing too, I think.”

“Good. Hold off on that.” Bea’s eyes lost their focus momentarily as she internalized the command to lower the Skein in which Elle was still entangled.

Once her bare feet hit the deck, Elle held onto the nearest threads and tested her weight. My balance feels good. Elle lifted one leg and then the other. She circled her ankles first right, then left. Finally nodding her approval, Elle ripped the Velcro away, releasing herself from the Skein completely, along with the pajama bottoms. Buck-naked, Elle looked up and caught Bea measuring her visually through squinted eyes.

“You don’t appear to have lost any weight at all. That’s really good, Elle. And your muscle tone appears good too. How do you feel?” If Bea could purse her lips, Elle imagined she would be doing so right now.

“Not hungry yet, but not nauseous, either.” Elle paused, doing a quick internal self-assessment.

“I’d say pretty good. How long was I down?”

“Eighty-six days without a hitch. There was some unusual cerebral activity just before you woke.” Bea continued more thoughtfully. “It almost looked like REM sleep. You woke up so suddenly, once I noticed I didn’t get a reading on it.”

Elle laughed. “Maybe Angie did. I think it was my apnea kicking in that woke me.”

The Vera Rubin had two crew support computers on board, prosaically named A and B by Control. The crew immediately gave them human names, of course, and afterwards referred to them in all dispatches as Angie and Beatrice. Or Bea.

Overall, the ship ran itself with its own massive array of computers. The Vera Rubin was essentially a deep-space ferry transporting a cargo of 150 colonists who slept and lived aboard. Elle’s team was just the first wave of what would be five shuttles over a span of fifteen years.

The HCH allowed the crew to hibernate throughout most of the nearly three year journey, thus avoiding personal conflict while minimizing the amount of food, air, and water needed, and also the mechanical impact on the ship itself. The Vera Rubin had been built to largely be self-cleaning and self-guiding because at any point in time there were only about ten or fifteen human colonists awake. Even after waking, many were groggy and lethargic from the aftereffects of HCH sleep. A few colonists came out of the hibernation cycle decidedly volatile, but so far all symptoms seemed to disappear with time.

“Well, let’s get some tests out of the way and then toss you into the shower.” Bea started to turn away, then circled back. “Do you need some help getting to the lab?”

Elle held out one hand towards Bea and plastered a pleading look on her face. “Hold my hand, Bea. You know how I hate doctors and tests.”

Bea snorted, an explosive sound of either wry amusement or disgust—Elle felt it could be either. To her credit Bea did pause a moment, apparently giving Elle’s request due consideration. Finally Bea trundled forward and took Elle’s hand in her own metallic grip. “The things I do.”


About the Author:
Jana Williams is certain that fiction can change people’s lives - especially women and girls.  Her own life is testimony to that fact.  One of five daughters, she was raised by a single-mom who placed a high value on reading and storytelling.

The ability to read, coupled with a child’s innate curiosity about the world, and access to books to satisfy that curiosity can offer significant opportunity to a child. Like most writers Jana has bounced from job to job, absorbing stories, cultures and customs as she worked.  She has been a high-speed motion picture photographer, a VFX coordinator, worked in the film industry, and the publishing trade as a book seller - a publisher’s rep and now an author.

But her first love is reading…. and with each book of the Freefall trilogy sold Jana will donate funds to Literacy agencies around the world whose work is to bring the joy of reading to others.

Enjoy a good adventure story and help others learn to read at the same time !

Find/Like Jana on Facebook  
Find Jana’s Writing advice - Twitter







Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Children of the Fog


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Psychological Thriller; Supernatural Suspense; Horror
Date Published: August 21, 2018 (Second Edition with new cover)

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* International & National Bestseller (200,000+ copies sold worldwide)

* Top 100 Paid Best Seller on Amazon

* #4 in Amazon Top 100 Paid Best Sellers Overall

* Top 100 Bestseller in Thrillers, Suspense, Horror, Paranormal, Occult, Ghosts

* #1 Horror, #1 Occult, #1 Ghosts



YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS TO MAKE A DECISION: Let A Kidnapper Take Your Child, Or Watch Your Son Die. Choose!

Sadie O'Connell is a bestselling author and a proud mother. But her life is about to spiral out of control. After her six-year-old son Sam is kidnapped by a serial abductor, she nearly goes insane. It isn't just the fear and grief that is ripping her apart. It's the guilt. Sadie is the only person who knows what the kidnapper looks like. And she can't tell a soul. For if she does, her son will be sent back to her in “little bloody pieces.”

When Sadie's unfaithful husband stumbles across her drawing of the kidnapper, he sets into play a series of horrific events that sends her hurtling over the edge. Sadie's descent into alcoholism leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son--a man known only as...The Fog.

***CHILDREN OF THE FOG has a unique tie-in to Tardif`s newest thriller, SUBMERGED.




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Excerpt



Sadie's woeful gaze drifted around the living room. Paper plates were piled everywhere. They had somehow gone astray and hadn't made it into the garbage can that she had so thoughtfully provided next to the dining room table. Plastic cups, some half full of pop, were on every table and counter space. There were more cups than there had been kids.

"Ugh," Leah said behind her.

Sadie followed her friend's gaze.

A chocolate cake smear—so dark it almost looked like dried blood—stretched across the kitchen wall, three feet from the ground, a small handprint at the end.

"Your house is a disaster," Leah said unnecessarily.

Sadie sighed. "Well, at least it's quiet."

Sam had gone upstairs to his room, tired from all the excitement and junk food. The last time she had seen him, he was lying on his bed.

"He's probably asleep," Leah said, reading her thoughts.

Sadie gulped down her ice tea, then set to work on the kitchen, while Leah looked after the living room. After an hour had passed, all that was left to do was run the vacuum over the carpets and turn on the dishwasher.

"All done," Leah said, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow.

"Thanks. I can handle what's left."

As Sadie watched Leah climb into her car, a part of her wanted to holler, 'Come back!'

"You're being silly," she muttered.

Sadie closed the door and slid the deadbolt into place. Then she locked up the rest of the house, set the alarm for the night and went upstairs to check on Sam.

When she opened the door to his room, she smiled. Sam was stretched out across his bed. On top of the blankets. A soft snore issued from his half-opened mouth. He had passed out from exhaustion, his face covered with chocolate cake, white, black and blue icing, and an orange pop mustache.

"Happy birthday, little man," she whispered, tucking an extra blanket around him.

She closed the door and headed downstairs to wait for Philip.

* * *

Sadie was abruptly roused from a deep sleep. She jerked to a sitting position, inhaling deeply, and looked at the space beside her. It was unoccupied, the blanket still tucked under the pillow. She had waited for Philip downstairs for hours. Eventually, she had given up and gone to bed.

She peered at the bedroom clock. It was half past midnight. She'd only been asleep for about forty-five minutes. In the murky shadows of the room, she felt a foreign presence, a movement of air that was so subtle it could have been her own breath.

A draft?

She squinted at the window. It was closed.

Somewhere in the house a floorboard creaked.

Philip must be home.

Tossing the blankets aside, she slid from the bed and walked to the door. Remembering the brick thrown through Sam's window, she froze. Her stomach fluttered as she imagined a gang of teen hoodlums breaking into the house.

But the alarm would go off, silly.

Still, she pressed an ear to the door and strained to listen.

At first, there was silence. Then another creak.

"Philip," she mumbled.

She was about to open the door when she heard an unfamiliar ticking sound. Had Philip bought a clock for the hall?

She listened again.

Tick… tick, tick.

Whatever it was, it was coming closer.

Her heart began to pound a maniacal rhythm and her breath quickened. When a shadow passed underneath the door, she held her breath. Her heart thumped almost painfully in her chest.

Then the shadow was gone.

Cautiously, she opened the door. Just a crack.

The hall was empty.

And no ticking.

Maybe I dreamt it.

With a tremulous laugh, she flung open the door, a show of false bravado. Maybe Philip was working in his office. Maybe he'd gone to check on Sam.

"Philip?"

She walked down the hall and stopped in front of Sam's room. Her toes tingled as a draft teased her feet. She shivered, then opened the door.

The window that Philip had replaced gaped open—black and hungry—like a mouth waiting to be fed. The curtains flapped in the night wind, two tongues lashing out.

She frowned. Philip hadn't left the window open. He'd gone to work early, without a word to either of them. And Sam couldn't have opened it. He wasn't tall enough.

Did I leave it open?

She crossed the room, barely looking at the mound in the bed. She reached for the window and tugged it shut. The lock clicked into place, the sharp sound shattering the stillness.

Then she glanced at the bed.

Sam hadn't even stirred. But then again, he never did. He was almost comatose when he slept and nothing could wake him early, short of a sonic boom.

She tiptoed to the bed and touched his hair. Then, closing her eyes, she leaned down, kissed his warm forehead and breathed in his sweet child scent. He smelled of chocolate and sunshine.

"Snug as a bug," she whispered.

She stepped back, her foot connecting with something soft and furry. Reaching down, she fumbled in the dark until she found the stuffed toy dog that Philip had given Sam the night before. She moved quietly toward the closet, inched the door open and tossed the toy inside. Then she stepped out into the hall, shutting the bedroom door behind her.

Her gaze flitted to the far end of the hallway, where shadows danced between silk trees that stood in the alcove. Beside the trees—two-thirds up the wall—was a small oval window, and through it, a full moon was visible. It hung in the cloudless sky, a pearlescent pendant on invisible string.

It was a beautiful night, one that was meant to be shared.

Loneliness filled her, but she shrugged it off and plodded down to the kitchen to get a glass of juice. Five minutes later, she went back upstairs, with every intention of crawling into bed and ignoring the fact that Philip hadn't even bothered to call on the night of their son's birthday party.

As she passed Sam's door, a flicker of light beneath it caught her eye. Then she heard a soft thud. Sam must have fallen out of bed again. He had done that on two other occasions. Usually he woke up screaming.

She opened the door and sucked in a breath as her gaze was captured by something that made no sense at all.

The window was open again.

She blinked. "What the—?"

Moonlight streamed through the window, illuminating the bed. It was empty.

"Sam?"

She reached for the light switch.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

At the sound of a stranger's hoarse whisper in her son's bedroom, she did the most natural thing.

She flicked on the light.



About the Author

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Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an award-winning, international bestselling Canadian suspense author published by various publishers. Some of her most popular novels have been translated into foreign languages. She is best known for CHILDREN OF THE FOG (over 200,000 copies sold worldwide) and WHALE SONG.

When people ask her what she does, Cheryl likes to say, “I kill people off for a living!” You can imagine the looks she gets. Sometimes she’ll add, "Fictitiously, of course. I'm a suspense author." Sometimes she won't say anything else.

Inspired by Stephen King, Dean Koontz and others, Cheryl strives to create stories that feel real, characters you’ll love or hate, and a pace that will keep you reading.

In 2014, she penned her first “Qwickie” (novella) for Imajin Books™ new imprint, Imajin Qwickies™. E.Y.E. of the Scorpion is the first in her E.Y.E. Spy Mystery series.

Residing in West Kelowna, BC, Canada, Cheryl is now working on her next thriller.

Booklist raves, “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border.”



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Friday, 2 November 2018

A Christmas Star by Judith Keim


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Romance, Women's Fiction
Date Published: November 2, 2018


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Two years ago, Noelle North’s then-fiancé left her waiting at the church on Christmas—her wedding day and birthday. She knows she cannot endure another holiday season at home in Boston. At the urging of four women at the assisted-living community where she serves as health director, Noelle decides to rent Seashell Cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida for the holidays. She meets Silas Bellingham, the cutest seven-year-old boy she’s ever seen, and his great-grandmother, Althea. Noelle discovers Althea’s caretaker has been abusing her and goes into action, ending up with the temporary care of both Althea and Silas. Becoming part of the Bellingham household has an entirely different series of challenges when it comes to Althea’s grandsons, Jake and Brett, who are having problems of their own with hotels to run and their parents missing in a plane crash. But after sparring with her, Silas’ father, Jake, realizes Noelle is just what he and his family need, and when she finds the perfect Christmas star for Silas, they both know he’s right.





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 Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE


               On the Gulf Coast of Florida, Noelle North walked along the white, sandy beach that lined the shore like the fur on her slippers back home. The sun’s heat washed over her, hugging her with its warmth on this early December morning. She unzipped her light jacket and lifted her arms to the blue sky, welcoming the day with an embrace. She had a whole six weeks of freedom from work and her dismal life back home.

Her family had wanted her to stay in Boston with them for the holidays, but Noelle knew she couldn’t endure another Christmas of everyone feeling sorry for her. Two years ago, on Christmas Day, her fiancé, Alexander Cabot, had left her waiting at the church on her wedding day, while he’d taken off with another woman, his best friend’s wife. She’d wanted to die of embarrassment. Even now, thinking of that humiliation, a shudder shook her shoulders, and her stomach filled with acid.

               The one thing that had helped her keep going throughout the healing process was the conviction that she’d never fall for a glamour guy again. Besides, at thirty-two and with her grim track record with men, she was pretty sure she was destined to be single for the rest of her life. The thought didn’t bother her as much as it used to. Why should it? She had the freedom to come and go as she pleased, nobody was around to tell her what she could or couldn’t do, and evenings after a hard day of work at the New Life Assisted-Living Community were blissfully quiet.

               Noelle stopped walking and gazed out over the water. Waves rolled toward her in a steady pattern, greeting the shore with a kiss and pulling away like a shy child. Above her, seagulls wheeled in circles, their cries shrill in the stillness of the early morning. She watched as a group of sandpipers darted toward the water’s edge, dipped their beaks into the sand for whatever little morsel they could catch, and continued on their way, leaving tiny footprints behind.

               A flash of black caught her attention. She turned to see a big dog galloping toward her, yellow tennis ball in his mouth. She braced herself to greet him and then chuckled as the dog circled and ran right by her toward a small figure farther down the beach.

               She walked on, watching with interest as the dog ran into the water and came out again carrying the wet ball in his mouth. As she came closer, she saw that the person throwing the ball was a boy whom she guessed was seven or eight.

               The boy smiled at her as she approached.

“Your dog is a very good catcher,” Noelle said. “What’s his name?”

“Duke,” the boy said. The dog, hearing his name, came and sat by him.

“And what’s your name?” Noelle asked, thinking the boy with dark red hair, bright green eyes, and freckles was one of the cutest kids she’d ever seen.

“Silas. Silas Bellingham.” He studied her. “Who are you? And why aren’t you working?”

She grinned. “I’m Noelle North, and I’m not working because I’m on vacation for the next month or so.” She glanced around. “Are you here by the water on your own?”

“Naw. My great-grandmother’s over there. See?” He pointed to a woman sitting in a wheelchair on the porch of a sizeable house overlooking the beach.

               Noelle smiled and lifted a hand in greeting, but the woman didn’t wave back.

               “See you later,” the boy said and ran toward his great-grandmother.

               Noelle watched him go, thinking of all her friends’ children back home. Of the four women who had stuck together through everything since college, she was the only one who was unmarried and without children. She’d always wanted a large family, but that didn’t seem possible now. At her age and with no prospects of a husband in sight, she would be lucky to have even one baby.

               Trying to fight off depression, Noelle resumed walking. It was bad enough to have been dumped at the altar on Christmas, but that day was also her birthday. With a name like Noelle,  she’d always felt the holiday season was something extra special, almost magical, in her life. Until two years ago, that is. Now, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and especially Christmas music were nauseating to her.

               She walked on wishing her grandmother was alive. From an early age, she and Gran had had a special relationship. In fact, Gran was the reason why, as a graduate of Boston College’s nursing program, Noelle decided to specialize in caring for the elderly. She now headed the health program at an exclusive, assisted-living community outside of Boston. Over the past several years, some of the more active residents had become dear friends. Without them, she would not be in Florida.

               Noelle smiled at the memory of Edith Greenbaum confronting her with three of her closest elderly friends. “Now you listen here, young lady,” Edith had said with great earnestness, “it’s time for you to go somewhere, kick up your heels, and have a little fun. I was doing some research on the internet, and I’ve come up with the right place for you.”

               Shocked and pleased, Noelle had played along. “And where might that be, boss?”

               Edith and the other three women had tittered happily.

               “I’ve printed it out for you.” Edith handed her a sheet of information on the Seashell Cottage just south of Clearwater Beach in Florida.

               The minute Noelle saw the picture, she knew it was a perfect idea, the perfect place. Sitting on the edge of a broad expanse of white beach, a small, pink cottage beckoned to her.

With its painted clapboards, wide front porch, and two palm trees spreading shade nearby, it was everything she’d imagined in a beach getaway.

               “Thank you, Edith,” she’d said with meaning. “I’ll see if it is at all possible.”

               “You know we’re right, Noelle,” Edith replied kindly. “It’s time for you to move on with your life. If you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for us. We’re stuck here. But you’re not.”

               Tears stung Noelle’s eyes as she’d embraced each one. It was the perfect time of year for her to do as they suggested.

               Thinking of those dear women, Noelle’s spirits lifted and she began to run.

###

               For the second morning in a row, Noelle awoke and stretched, relieved to be away from home. She’d wanted to come to Florida in time for Thanksgiving, but her mother had put her foot down and insisted that Thanksgiving be spent with all four of her children at home. Noelle loved her parents and her three older brothers and their families. But being with them for Thanksgiving had convinced her it was right to come to Florida for the Christmas holidays. Chaos reigned when the whole family was together. Eight nieces and nephews between the ages of one and fourteen were enough to rattle anyone. Even her mother, Jen, went to bed as soon as she could after everyone else had gone, leaving Noelle to do the last-minute tidying.

               Noelle put on her fuzzy pink robe, padded into the kitchen, and turned on the coffee maker. Through the kitchen window, she saw that the clouds the weatherman had predicted were marring the blue sky and hiding the sun. Still, with ice and snow back home, the day seemed full of promise.

               She took her cup of coffee out to the front porch and gazed out at the water. A sense of peace washed over her. Edith had told her life was full of challenges, forcing people to grow and change. Thinking of the past two years, she realized she’d been stuck in a pattern of self-doubt and hurt. No man, she vowed, was worth it. Edith was right. It was time for a change.

               With a fresh resolve to enjoy each day free from the past, she went inside, changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and headed out to the beach. Though the air was cool, the sun felt warm on her face as she headed down the sand at a brisk pace.

               Along the shore, egrets were dipping their beaks into the shallow water, retrieving small, silvery fish. Noelle loved their long legs and the orange beaks that accented their white feathers. How long has it been, she wondered, since she’d taken the time to stop and study the beauty around her.

               A number of people, children included, were searching the sand at the water’s edge for seashells. Some of the more experienced searchers held net bags that sagged with the weight of their treasures. She understood how hooked some people could be on searching for the best and the most unusual shells they could find. Each shell was truly a gift from the sea.

               As she got closer to the part of the beach where she’d met Silas, she slowed. But neither Silas nor the dog named Duke was in sight. Sorry to have missed them, she walked on.

               When she reached the long, wooden pier that reached out into the water like a finger testing for coldness, she sat down on one of the benches at the end of it. For a while, she watched fishermen patiently waiting for a strike. She especially liked to watch the young boys and girls fishing. The hope on their faces was priceless.

               Yawning softly, Noelle headed back to the cottage. The sea air, sun, and freedom from home were working their magic on her body, relaxing muscles that had been tight too long.

               In the distance, she could see Silas and his dog playing on the sand. Picking up her speed, she headed toward them.

               Duke bounded toward her. His black paws pounded the sand in steady, eager beats. Wagging his tail, he stopped in front of her, tongue hanging out. Laughing, she patted him on the head. “Hello, Duke.”

               She looked up to see Silas running toward her, waving.

               Her heart filled at the sight of him. She’d hoped for a little boy just like him one day.

               “Hi,” said Silas, beaming at her. “You’re early today.”

               “Yes, it was such a beautiful morning I decided not to stay in bed. How are you?”

               He looked down, kicked at the sand, and looked up at her with a sour expression. “Mrs. Wicked is back.”

               “Mrs. Wicked?”

               He nodded. “She’s my Nana’s nurse. I don’t like her. She’s mean. She was on her break. And now she’s back.”

               “I see. Well, nursing can be difficult,” Noelle ventured to say, unsure what the real problem was in the house.

               Silas took hold of her hand. “C’mon! I’ve got to hurry back. I’m supposed to stay right in front of Nana’s house. If I don’t, Mrs. Wicked will be mad.”

               Noelle allowed herself to be hurried along.

               Standing in front of Silas’s great-grandmother’s house, Noelle studied the old woman.

Even from a small distance, she seemed bowed in spirit and fragile as she sat in her wheelchair staring out at them. Others might not recognize these signs, but from her years of experience with the elderly, Noelle was used to seeing this. On a whim, she turned to Silas.

“Let’s go say hello to your grandmother.”

“She doesn’t talk much,” Silas said with a note of sadness in his voice.

Noelle smiled. “That won’t matter. I bet she’s curious about me and might like a visitor.”

As they walked toward the front porch, a figure emerged from the house. Noelle observed the big-boned, broad-chested woman and guessed that this was the person Silas called Mrs. Wicked.

“There she is,” whispered Silas.

Pretending not to have heard, Noelle lifted a hand in greeting. “Hello!”

The woman did not return Noelle’s greeting and, instead, went inside.

Noelle climbed onto the porch, walked up to Silas’s great-grandmother, and held out a hand. “I’m Noelle North, a new friend of Silas’s. I thought I’d come to say hello to you.”

From among the wrinkles and the downcast look on her face, her blue eyes lit and a smile emerged. “I’m Althea. Althea Bellingham.” Noelle could see how beautiful the woman must have been and wondered what kind of injuries kept Althea in a wheelchair when there seemed so much life to her.

“She’s Mrs. Bellingham to you,” said the woman emerging from the house to stand behind Althea. Dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt, she scowled at Silas and turned her disapproval on Noelle.

“And you are?” Noelle asked, curious about Silas’ name for her.

“Betty Wickstrom,” the woman said with a challenging expression.

Noelle held back a chuckle. Mrs. Wicked seemed such an appropriate name. She turned to Althea. “Maybe someday Silas and I can get you out in the sun for a bit. He and Duke play a mean game of catch.”

Althea nodded and then glanced at Betty.

“She’s doing very well right where she is. Right, Althea? And now it’s time for her medicine. So say goodbye to her.”

Althea’s expression changed to one of defeat.

“Silas, time for you to come into the house,” said Betty.

“No! I don’t want to go inside. I want to stay with Noelle. She lets me play with Duke.”

Noelle smiled at both women. “I’m happy to stay with him for a while longer. Will that is okay?”

“No!” said Betty.

As Althea reached up to touch Betty’s arm, her long-sleeved shirt revealed a bruise on her forearm. “Yes.”

“What happened to your arm?” Noelle asked as calmly as she could while suspicion rolled through her in a wave of unease.

Althea glanced at Betty.

“She’s fine, just a little clumsy, that’s all,” said Betty, waving away Noelle’s concern.

“You hit Nana there,” said Silas, moving closer to Noelle. “I saw you.”

“Why, you little … You know that didn’t happen. That’s where I helped her up from another fall.”

Silas clasped Noelle’s hand and shook his head. “Adults aren’t supposed to lie.”

Noelle knelt down in front of Althea’s wheelchair and spoke softly. “Althea, you can trust me. I’m a registered nurse who helps the elderly where I live in New England. Are you being hurt?”

Althea looked at Betty, turned back to Noelle, and nodded. Then she lifted her shirt. Bruises were everywhere.

Noelle scrambled to her feet and faced Betty, her hands fisted. The burning desire to attack the awful woman was almost overwhelming. Through gritted teeth, Noelle said, “I would suggest you pack up your things and leave now, Betty, or I’m calling the authorities.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” snarled Betty.

“I would, I can, and I will,” said Noelle, flexing her fists. The abuse of the elderly wasn’t new, but each time she saw an example, it made her sick to her stomach.

Noelle turned to Silas. “You stay here with your great-grandmother. I’m going inside to make sure Mrs. Wickstrom leaves.”

Mrs. Wickstrom placed her hands on her hips and glared at Noelle. “You can’t make me leave. You didn’t hire me.”

“If you don’t leave, I’m calling the police. I mean it. I’ve handled cases like this before,” Noelle said, well aware this really wasn’t her business. But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t let the abuse continue. The sight of those bruises felt like a punch to her gut.

“Okay then, I’m not leaving until I get paid,” said Betty.

“Write down what you’re owed, and I’ll see that you get the money. That’s the best I can do under the circumstances,” said Noelle. “It’s the nicest offer you’re going to get because if it were left up to me, you wouldn’t get a dime. You’d get a jail sentence.”

“You have no proof that I did anything wrong,” countered Betty.

Noelle’s smile was cold. “Oh, but I do. I have two very credible witnesses and, if necessary, I’ll take photographs to show the authorities. Now, get your things, and I’ll escort you to your car.”

Noelle followed Betty inside and to a bedroom off the kitchen in the back of the house. She watched carefully as Betty hastily threw her things into a small suitcase. When she’d zipped her suitcase closed, she turned to Noelle.

“What are you going to do about it now?”

Noelle drew a deep breath. “I’m taking your keys to the house and escorting you to your car.”

“And then what?” sneered Betty. “Althea isn’t an easy woman to deal with. Too stubborn, too demanding for her own good.”

“We’ll see about that. Come on, let’s go.”

Noelle escorted Betty outside, wrote down the license number, and stood by as Betty threw her suitcase into the back of a small, blue sedan and climbed behind the wheel. After starting the engine, Betty gave her a middle-finger wave and took off with a roar.

Alone, Noelle stood in the driveway, breathing in and out in a calming pattern to slow her heartbeat. What in the hell had she done? She didn’t know Althea Bellingham. And now she was in charge of her until her family could find other help for her.

She went inside the house and out to the seaside porch. Silas was sitting next to the wheelchair, holding his great-grandmother’s hand. Althea was asleep in the chair. At the sweet sight of them, tears sprang to Noelle’s eyes.

“Hello,” she said softly to Silas. “Mrs. Wicked is gone. Come with me. I need your help.”

Silas followed her into the kitchen.

“Who do I need to call? Where are your parents?” Noelle asked.

Silas gave her a look that was so sad, Noelle’s heart clenched. “My dad is in New York. He’ll be back at the end of the week.”

“Do you have a phone number for him?”

Silas smiled and pointed to a printed list by the kitchen phone. “It’s the one on the top. His name is Jake.”

Noelle studied the mounted paper. Jake Bellingham’s phone number was listed at the top. She picked up the phone and dialed the number.

“The Bellingham Hotel New York. How may I help you today?” came a practiced, professional-sounding voice.

Noelle’s heart pounded with dismay. Bellingham Hotel? The family-owned hotels? “May I please speak to Jake Bellingham?”

“I’ll buzz his office for you.”

After a minute, a feminine voice came on the line. “Mr. Bellingham’s office. How may I help you?”

“Please, I need to speak to him. I’m a visiting neighbor calling from his grandmother’s house in Florida.” Noelle’s pulse sprinted at the idea of telling him what she’d done.

“Please hold, and I’ll see if he can take the call,” his secretary said.

A moment later, Noelle heard a deep voice say, “Jake Bellingham.”

Noelle swallowed hard. “Mr. Bellingham, you don’t know me, but I’m a new friend of Silas’s. My name is Noelle North, I’m a registered nurse visiting from Massachusetts, but not licensed in Florida, and I’m calling to tell you that I just escorted your grandmother’s caretaker out of the house for abusing her. I specialize in care for the elderly and recognize abuse when I see it. I did not call the police. I need to know what you want me to do next.”

“Let me get this straight. You don’t know me, my grandmother, or the woman who was taking care of her. Yet you had the balls to throw her out after, what, five or ten minutes in the house?  Is that it?”

“Yes,” said Noelle with a confidence she didn’t feel. “That’s about it. As I said, I am a registered nurse, so I’ve seen too many cases of abuse like this before. She has bruises on her arms and torso that are very telling.”

“Abuse? Really? Put Silas on the phone,” growled his father.

Noelle handed Silas the phone. “Your father wants to speak to you.”

Silas’s eyes grew round. He took the phone and listened, then he spoke in a series of staccato sentences. “Yes! I told you Mrs. Wicked was mean! Yes, I like her! Her name is Noelle and she’s here on vacation. Nana showed Noelle her bruises. That’s why.”

After a pause, Silas said, “Love you too, Daddy,” and handed the phone back to Noelle.

“I had no idea this was happening to my grandmother,” said Jake. “I have you to thank for uncovering the situation. I’ve been mostly away for the last several weeks, and Althea never mentioned any problems with Mrs. Wickstrom. Nor did I notice anything like that. I’m sorry, but I can’t make it home for another few days due to some international legal problems. Can you stay with my grandmother and Silas until I can send someone else to take over for you? In the meantime, who can I call for references on you?”

“You can speak to anyone at the New Life Assisted-Care Community outside of Boston. I handle the health program there. I’m in Florida for a vacation, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not licensed to practice in Florida, and won’t be able to stay with your family for any length of time, and then only as a caretaker, not a nurse.”

“Until just this weekend, I promise,” said Silas’ father. “And if I can find a better service than the one I used for Mrs. Wickstrom, it could be for only a few hours. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you well.”

Noelle bristled. “You may be used to paying people to do your bidding, but it’s not necessary for me. I’ve done this because I care about others. Not to get your money.”

“Whoa! I didn’t mean … Forget it! I’ll be in touch.”

Noelle hung up the phone, still steaming from the notion that she and her work were for sale when she was just voluntarily helping to resolve a very tough situation.

“You’re going to stay with me now?” Silas asked, giving her a wide smile. “Maybe for a long time.”

“Just until your father can find a replacement,” Noelle said, not wanting to get Silas’s hopes up for something that wasn’t going to happen. She already knew she didn’t like Jake Bellingham.



About the Author

 photo A Christmas Star Author Judith Keim_zpskhgxygvr.jpg
Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.

Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.

A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she's lived or visited and on the interesting people, she's met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.

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Still Breathing

Women’s Fiction Date Published:  November 17, 2018 Designer: Damonza Publisher: Acorn Publishing ...