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#MFRWHooks for **NEW BEGINNINGS** 31/08/2016 #bookpromo #amreading #Review


I hope you get hooked by this Snippet

Today’s hook
Sophie shrugged. “I wouldn’t have a clue.” Then turned her attention back on Mr. O’Connor and asked the same thing. “Who is she?”
The handsome attorney on the other side of the massive desk leaned forward and rested his elbows on it before he started to repeat his earlier speech. Although hearing his words, Sophie still found it all very hard to comprehend. Here she was in this old office, furnished with heavy antique oak furniture, the curtains in a pretty shade of aubergine, and the carpet beneath her shoes thick and warm in a matching shade, hearing about an inheritance from someone she’d never even heard of.
Startled by the subtle sound of the clock chiming across the road, Sophie’s gaze turned to the window, where she saw the post office building across the road. It looked impressive and old. It’d been only a few hours since they’d arrived in Hobart, the most southern capital in Australia, but she already liked it. A lot more than Sydney, the place she’d lived all her life.

The chance to start life all over with the help of a stranger.Twenty-two-year-old

Sophie Levesque has been guardian to her eight-year-old sister Mia since their mother’s death a few years ago, and it hasn’t been easy. Luck comes their way when they inherit a small house in Hobart. Problem is, though, they don’t know and have never heard of Clara Bellinger, the testator. Settling into their new life, Sophie is still afraid it’s all a mistake.

Mark O’Connor, attorney in Hobart and the bearer of the good news for Sophie and Mia, curses himself for the lack of information about the testator. However, researching the questions gives him an opportunity to see Sophie again, and the more time he spends with the two, the more he realises that his life is missing something. And it’s not his casual lover Linda.

But then there’s Zach, Sophie’s sexy neighbour from across the road… and a very good friend of Clara’s.

Will unravelling the mystery unravel Sophie and Mark’s promise of a future?

AMAZON US: http://amzn.to/2a1BSJ7
AMAZON UK: http://amzn.to/29FTb4B
AMAZON AU: http://amzn.to/2a9yKgW

5star Review:

I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Blobel’s novels, but I adored New Beginnings. This is a
feel good storycentered on love and hope, Sophie’s dedication to her younger sister, Mia, is incredible. The child is the center of her universe and there’s nothing she won’t do for her. Concerned the recent inheritance is all a mistake, Sophie wants to know more about the woman who gave them a home. Helping her is a drop-dead gorgeous attorney and the handsome, hunky neighbor. Sophie’s journey of discovery is a beautiful one, and when she gets her answers, she finds the last thing she ever thought she would–love. Looking forward to the next book in this excellent series.


Wow…what a tangled web we weave! Sophie has got it coming in all directions with the mystery of the testator. These are the type of stories that I love…since it has a bit of everything in it. Not only do we get a bit of a love triangle but add some mystery and thriller to it. Now, that makes a perfect book by Ms. Blobel! But let me remind you that this is nothing new since I find myself always wrapped up in this author’s writing since she writes with emotion and feelings. Whether it be anger, happiness, sadness – you name it…Ms. Blobel gives us the whole package in her stories!

Snippet Sunday – FLY WITH ME – 28/08/2016 #romance #love #SnippetSunday



FLY WITH ME

This story is still a WIP, so critique away. It’s set partly in Melbourne, Australia, and in New Zealand.

Thanks … and enjoy 🙂

accent-clipart-13309573511112670181decorative-lines-2_large


“Who?” Tiffany asked hardly above a whisper. Her whole body shook, and she knew she had to sit down soon or she’d faint.
“Thomas Terrill.” Jones repeated. “He was up on charges last year for the possession of drugs. The file states that you were involved—”
“There’s no way, I come with you.” She nearly screamed, panic rising within her. “You can’t make me—”
“Miss Brooks. We’re not here to take you with us, but to ask you a few questions,” Sergeant Harris explained. “Is there anybody with you at home?”
Tiffany’s forehead creased into a frown as she shook her head. Anxiety spread through the pit of her stomach, and she had to resist the urge to step back to shut the door.

 


Thanks for all your comments,
I do appreciate each single one of them!
And check out Snippet Sunday  Facebook site for other writers.

  Check out my books on Amazon

Lots of sunshine for Jelic’s characters because of her love for her native Croatia “Rose of Crimson” @Firetulip

Rose of Crimson
by Zrinka Jelic

Blurb:
KATE ROKOV‘s grades are plummeting. She needs to get the voice out of her head or she will flunk her finals.

MATTHIAS ZRIN, a three centuries old immortal, born into an aristocratic family as Miles Rušinić, is enthralled with Kate. It is his vROSE OF CRIMSON, COVERoice preventing Kate from sleeping and her ignorance is testing his limits. He wants her to write down his story to settle his wife’s earthbound spirit. His tragic love story has become Kate’s obsession since fifth grade during her summer trip to Rušinić castle.

Their coming together settles the ol d spirit and breaks an ancient curse, and in doing so, a flame spanning over three centuries reignites and burns with wild desire. In this tale of two life times and desire versus emotional need, both know some dreams will have to wait for the right time, but the magic between them is impossible to withstand.

About the Author:
Zrinka Jelic lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two children. A member of the Romance Writers of America and its chapter Fantasy Futuristic &Paranormal, as well as Savvy Authors, she writes contemporary fiction—which leans toward the paranormal—and adds a pinch of history. Her characters come from all walks of life, and although she prefers red, romance comes in many colors. Given Jelic’s love for her native Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, her characters usually find themselves dealing with a fair amount of sunshine, but that’s about the only break they get. “Alas,” Jelic says, with a grin. “Some rain must fall in everyone’s life.”

Exerpt: 
“I guess we’ll leave it here.” He pulled Kate to her feet with him. “It’s getting late and you have to study.”

Inhaling deeply, she opened her eyes and blinked as if she’d just woken from some sweet dream. A hint of anger mixed with her disappointment. “Ah, why stop
now? I felt deep sadness in you at the sight of the tall ship docked in the small harbor. You married her off to this Master Rokov, but you didn’t want to
give her up. Am I right? That is where my last name comes from.”

His piercing stare caused her to lower her gaze. “Save some fun for another day.” With soft fingers, he cupped her chin and forced her to look at him.
“Will tomorrow after your classes be too soon?”

She closed her eyes, surrendering to his feathery touch while butterflies stirred in her stomach. “Not soon enough.” Her husky whisper betrayed her attempt
to stay composed. “This beast inside you, does it stir again? When you leave me so abruptly, I feel like you’re doing it for my protection.”

His stare deepened and he closed his eyes then gave a slight nod. “So far I’m able to control it, but promise me one thing. If I ever urge you to run away from me, you’ll do it.”

She exhaled a shaky breath. “Oh, God, Miles. I hope it’ll never come to that. Where would I go? Or hide? When you turn into the beast or when the entity takes over, do your senses heighten?”

“Yes, they do. I can hear tiniest sounds and smell fear in my prey. My vision changes, I see in darkness. I hope you never discover any of my beastly ability. It’s inhumane. That’s why you must promise me. I cannot be in your company if you don’t know what I’m capable of. If I don’t visit for a while, it’s because of the beast. I must conquer it before I put you in danger.”

“I understand.” She swallowed. “It’ll be hard without you here, but I can bear it. How will you placate this beast?” Not with another unsuccessful suicide, she almost blurted, but thought better of it.

“I doubt the entity has the same grip on me as it did centuries ago, still I must be certain. There are no drugs or treatments for this, only love can cure me.” He cast her a shy smile.

She loved him, but couldn’t admit it to him. Maybe this speech was his way of getting into her pants, but so be it. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to make the first move and plant a kiss on his lips. If his beast fully emerged, she’d try to help him overcome its urges. From a safe distance, and with a Taser in her hand. She tapped her finger on her chin as realization dawned. “You could’ve stayed away from my great-great grandma and not hurt her like you did.”

He lowered his gaze at his feet. Was he ashamed of his actions or her remark? “This is how I know the beast has no power over me. Each time I denied its urges, I somehow found Kate. That’s how it started. Just an innocent chasing, cornering her, then I’d watch my hands squeezing her breast hard. She laughed at first, but when I carried it overboard, she’d cry out and pulled back. I’d grab her again and pinch her harder, next thing, I’d press my body on hers and my hands ripped the bodice of her dress.” “Her mother or your father never suspected what was going on between you two?” Kate crossed her arms over her chest. Should she pity him or blame him? His story about the beast seemed farfetched, a fabrication to excuse him for ill-treatment of her great-great grandma. Yet, deep down she sensed it was the truth. The man standing before her wouldn’t hurt anyone on his own accord.

“No, my father only cared that I stayed away from the Vitturi Castle and Kate was darn good at hiding her bruises and mending her clothes I tore from her body.” “Suddenly I have a whole new respect for her. Maybe that is what she’s looking for, someone to understand what she’s been through. Then her curse will be broken.” “Seems plausible. Now I should leave you to your studies.” He raised his hand at her wide eyes and sharp gasp. “Don’t fret. It’s not because of the beast. I too have obligations. Thank you for the wonderful evening.” Leaning toward her and wrapping his arms around her, he planted a kiss on her forehead.

Sad to see him go, she nodded as he pulled back. Did he hear the mad drumming of her heart? Or her crazy thoughts? “Good to know you’re not being possessed at the moment.”

He paused by the opened door and harrumphed. “Taser might work.”

What? How could he know what she was thinking? She was beyond stunned.

“Don’t forget the door.” With a single nod, he stepped out and she locked up after him.

He’d be back tomorrow. The power of wanting him near grew in her. Once again, she longed to be in his embrace. Did he know how much his company made her happy? Tomorrow she’d wake silent and resigned, and for the rest of the day she’d try hard to concentrate on anything other than him.

Where to get a copy of Rose of Crimson

** Kindle ** Kobo **Nook ** iPad **

#MFRWHooks for **NEW BEGINNINGS** 24/08/2016 #bookpromo #amreading #Review


I hope you get hooked by this Snippet

Today’s hook

Sophie Levesque stared at the attorney in front of her, waiting for some answers. She and her little sister, Mia, had been quietly sitting in Mr. O’Connor’s office for more than half an hour, learning about the details of their inheritance.
Once he was finished, silence hung in the air before she asked with raised eyebrows. “Who?”
“Clara Catherine Bellinger.”
Mia leaned closer to her elder sister and gave a soft tug on Sophie’s shirt. “Who is she?”
Sophie shrugged. “I wouldn’t have a clue.” Then turned her attention back on Mr. O’Connor and asked the same thing. “Who is she?”

The chance to start life all over with the help of a stranger.Twenty-two-year-old

Sophie Levesque has been guardian to her eight-year-old sister Mia since their mother’s death a few years ago, and it hasn’t been easy. Luck comes their way when they inherit a small house in Hobart. Problem is, though, they don’t know and have never heard of Clara Bellinger, the testator. Settling into their new life, Sophie is still afraid it’s all a mistake.

Mark O’Connor, attorney in Hobart and the bearer of the good news for Sophie and Mia, curses himself for the lack of information about the testator. However, researching the questions gives him an opportunity to see Sophie again, and the more time he spends with the two, the more he realises that his life is missing something. And it’s not his casual lover Linda.

But then there’s Zach, Sophie’s sexy neighbour from across the road… and a very good friend of Clara’s.

Will unravelling the mystery unravel Sophie and Mark’s promise of a future?

AMAZON US: http://amzn.to/2a1BSJ7
AMAZON UK: http://amzn.to/29FTb4B
AMAZON AU: http://amzn.to/2a9yKgW

5star Review:

I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Blobel’s novels, but I adored New Beginnings. This is a
feel good storycentered on love and hope, Sophie’s dedication to her younger sister, Mia, is incredible. The child is the center of her universe and there’s nothing she won’t do for her. Concerned the recent inheritance is all a mistake, Sophie wants to know more about the woman who gave them a home. Helping her is a drop-dead gorgeous attorney and the handsome, hunky neighbor. Sophie’s journey of discovery is a beautiful one, and when she gets her answers, she finds the last thing she ever thought she would–love. Looking forward to the next book in this excellent series.


Wow…what a tangled web we weave! Sophie has got it coming in all directions with the mystery of the testator. These are the type of stories that I love…since it has a bit of everything in it. Not only do we get a bit of a love triangle but add some mystery and thriller to it. Now, that makes a perfect book by Ms. Blobel! But let me remind you that this is nothing new since I find myself always wrapped up in this author’s writing since she writes with emotion and feelings. Whether it be anger, happiness, sadness – you name it…Ms. Blobel gives us the whole package in her stories!

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Snippet Sunday – FLY WITH ME – 21/08/2016 #romance #love #snippetSunday



Righteo … let’s start with something new.

This story is still a WIP, so critique away. It’s set partly in Melbourne, Australia, and in New Zealand.

Thanks … and enjoy 🙂

accent-clipart-13309573511112670181decorative-lines-2_large


When Tiffany Brooks opened the door and lay eyes on the police officers, memories of the horrid day came back to her when she’d been dragged to the police station the previous year. Everything inside her tensed as she checked the lever for the screen door to make sure it was locked. Her palms moist, she rubbed them against her pants.
“Miss Brooks?” the male police officer asked.
Scared she wasn’t able to find her voice, she bit her lip and simply nodded.
“Miss Tiffany Brooks?” the female officer asked.
She nodded again.
Tiffany wasn’t able to read the expression on either of the police officers’ faces. It worried her.
“I’m Senior Constable Jones. This is Sergeant Harris.” She paused for a moment. “We would like to ask you a couple of questions in regard to Thomas Terrill.”


Thanks for all your comments,
I do appreciate each single one of them!
And check out Snippet Sunday  Facebook site for other writers.

  Check out my books on Amazon

Unexpected Rewards by Jane McGarry @JMcGarryauthor #Bookpromo

Unexpected Rewards
by Jane McGarry

Blurb:
Olivia Davenport is looking forward to her future. After all, Prince Liam has professed his love and King William has promised her a reward for her role on a recent mission. She fully expects to continue her knightly training while enjoying a blossoming romance with her Prince. The King, however, has other ideas, appointing her as a lady-iUnexpected Rewards_200x300n-waiting to Queen Helen.
Thrust into unfamiliar territory and left to fend against the malicious women of court, Olivia feels awkward and confused. With the help of her new friend, Kat, and her sister, Anne, she tries to find her footing among the courtiers, their protocol, and the added complication of Jocelyn Crawford, a lady who has her eyes set on becoming Liam’s bride.
When, a disturbing prophecy puts the safety of the King in question, fear spreads through kingdom. Intrigue abounds at the palace with an enigmatic witch and a strict Friar at the center of the controversy. Olivia must use her training and instincts to unravel what is truly going on in order to protect the King. Through it all, she questions if she will ever be able to fit into Liam’s life and if, in the end, their love can prevail.

About the Author:
Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.
She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with said cat and a good book.
You can visit her online at: www.janemcgarrybooks.com .
Amazon buy link: https://amzn.com/B01K6Q4L9S

Author website: http://www.janemcgarrybooks.com/
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jane-McGarry-Author/712005068914626
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/JMcGarryauthor
Instagram link: https://instagram.com/janemcgarryauthor/
Pinterest link: https://www.pinterest.com/janem0378/

Excerpt:
“Excuse me, Sir Davenport, Lady Davenport,” says a voice, and suddenly Liam stands beside us. “But I would very much like to have a dance with your daughter.”
“Of course, Your Highness,” Mother replies in awe, dipping into a curtsey.
My acknowledgement is a much stiffer bow of the head. The moments with my family had briefly smothered my worry, but now it hurtles back full force. He takes my hand and I follow him onto the floor, silently praying my knees don’t give out from the terror that rises in me like the tide. One hand fits on the small of my back, the other grasps mine. His palms are uncharacteristically sweaty.
Something is definitely wrong.
I look into his beautiful, blue eyes. They swim with misery. Now that I am going to find out the reason, I am not sure I want to anymore.
He clears his throat. “I didn’t want to have to tell you in public, but I can’t let the night pass and deceive you.”
Not good.
At my silence, he continues, “Somehow Jocelyn has influenced my father. He wants me to court her, to give her a fair chance, because he considers her a more suitable match.”
There she sits now, right next to King William, her usual smug expression in place. Our monarch absently surveys the room. The monarch I saved—who praised me for it—stabs me in the back without a second thought. I should have left him to die in that escape tunnel.
“And what do you think of that?” I ask pointedly.
“Naturally, I protested…abundantly, but…” He stops, won’t meet my eyes.
But? But cannot be good. But can only be disastrous.
I stop moving and we stand looking at each other like mannequins while
couples rotate around us.
“But what?” I whisper, the cacophony of music and chatter turning into an otherworldly buzz while my senses brace for the impact of his answer.
“But…my father told me if I did not give Jocelyn a fair chance, he would not only send you from the palace, but ship you down to Prescott and arrange a marriage for you there. I don’t
know what to do, Olivia. I don’t know how to fix this.”
A barrage of thoughts leap to mind, none of them in any way accepting of this information. Send me away? Ship me to Prescott? As if I were livestock? And arrange a marriage? So many protests, I hardly know where to begin.
The music ends and couples saunter off the floor. Liam and I stand alone in the center.
Eyes will be upon us soon if we remain here like statues.
With every ounce of composure I can muster, I curtsey and hear my voice say, “Thank you for the dance, Your Highness. I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”
Then, I walk away.

New Release: Bethany Swafford “A Chaotic Courtship”

A Chaotic Courtship
by Bethany Swafford

Blurb:
Twenty year old Diana Forester, a country bred young woman fears that her inexperience and uncertainties has driven Mr. John Richfield away. On arriving back home from London, she learns that he is already there, ready bethany coverto continue their acquaintance. If Diana thought that it was difficult in London, courting takes on a whole new aspect when Diana’s younger siblings become involved. She finds herself dealing with her own feelings, her sister, her younger brother, jealous members of a house party, a jilted suitor, and a highwayman as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Richfield.

 

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Chaotic-Courtship-Bethany-Swafford-ebook/dp/B01KKMZ2VY

Author Bio:

For as long as she can remember, Bethany Swafford has loved reading books. That love of words extended to writing as she grew older and when it became more difficult to find a ‘clean’ book, she determined to write her own. Among her favorite authors is Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Georgette Heyer.bethany

When she doesn’t have pen to paper (or fingertips to laptop keyboard), she can generally be found with a book in hand. In her spare time, Bethany reviews books for a book site called More Than A Review.

Excerpt #1:

“You recall I met a Mr. Richfield in London, shortly after I first arrived?”

“Yes, you mentioned him several times in your letters.”

Her tone was matter of fact, giving absolutely nothing away.

“Well…” I hesitated as I sought the right words. I rubbed my palms against my skirt. “At Aunt Forester’s last dinner party, Mr. Richfield asked for my permission to come speak to Father.”

For a moment, there was silence. “What was your answer?” Mother asked, as calm as ever.

I bit my lip and found I could no longer meet her gaze. “I fear I may have spoken without thinking.” Back when I had said the words, I had been surprised. Now though, I realized just how mistaken I had been. “I said it’s always pleasant to have someone new visit.”

“I see. Do you like him?”

Ah, there was the question. “I think so.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “He is respectable, at least as far as Uncle Forester could discover. No one ever had a word to say against him. I think he is a good man.”

“And yet, you don’t seem enthusiastic about marrying him.”

“I have only known him for a few weeks.” It felt good to be able to talk this out with my mother, now that the awkwardness of saying the words had passed. If anyone could help me untangle my feelings, it was her. “Is that enough time to know a person? You knew Papa your whole life before he proposed.”

Mother’s hand came over mine. “Diana, look at me.” I lifted my eyes to hers. “You are the only one who can make this decision. It is your right to refuse an offer you find distasteful. However, you need to understand it is not likely you will have the opportunity to travel again and meet other people.”

“I don’t find the offer distasteful. I just don’t think I know him well enough to accept his hand in marriage.” I sighed. “I wish I had had the time to know more of him.”

“Perhaps you will.”

I shook my head. That seemed an impossibility. “Mama, you didn’t see the look on his face when I pretended I didn’t understand. He was so disappointed. I acted as if I were a senseless, empty-headed child! What kind of man would pursue me in the face of that?”

“A man who would be understanding. Someone who would realize your shy nature.”

As soon as I pulled my hand away, I reached to pour myself some much-needed tea. “There are other, much prettier girls with better dowries than I,” I remarked, adding just the right amount of cream and sugar. “I doubt I will ever see him again.”

Of that I was quite certain. I’d had hours to consider the whole mess. I sipped my tea as I watched my mother’s face. Her smile was one I couldn’t quite understand. Why did she look so amused?

“Mr. Richfield is already here.”

 

 

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She had more than just her mission… Dolphin Shore Shifters by @CJMatthews #Bookprome

5 book_FBBannerBLOODTIDE
Dolphin Shore Shifters Book 1
The Santa Barbara Channel holds a closely guarded secret…

She had more than just her mission…

CJMatthew_BloodTide_900Sy’s rotation on land as a dolphin shifter couldn’t have come at a better time. With her best friend missing and no answers forthcoming, it was time to take matters into her own hands. And with the resources at the Save Blue Water organization, finding her friend would be a whole lot easier. Except…something sinister is going on inside SBW, something deadly, and Sy finds herself at the center of danger.

The last thing he needed was bullets and bombs…

Noah Nelson spent every minute trying to forget the war while fighting his PTSD, but jumping in front of a bullet was second nature. It had nothing to do with the fact the target was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Or that she was naked. But suddenly he’s caught up in her world, protecting her from unforeseen threats, and falling in love … but Sy’s got a secret that may rip them apart. Forever.

About the Author:

CJ Matthew grew up in an Air Force family traveling and living all over the US and around the world. It proved to be the perfect experience for gathering ideas and material for future books. And for meeting real life CJ at Dellheroes and heroines in uniforms and flight-suits. She spent her high school and university years in California, which inspired her love of marine life, and the Pacific Ocean.

Toxic Tide
is the fifth book, so far, in her paranormal romantic suspense series: Dolphin Shore Shifters. The series features a pod of dolphins living in the
Santa Barbara channel off the coast of California, who are capable of shifting to human form. While posing as real humans, the dolphins work, through their oceanic conservation corporation, Save Blue Water, to protect their oceans at any cost.

CJ’s next series, The Paladin Group, launched with Deadly Reboot. The books are in the romantic suspense genre, set in a small southern
town, and starring wounded air force veterans, men and women warriors turned civilian attorneys and investigators determined to continue their rescue work.

The third series, titled The Colonel’s Daughters, is a quintet with each book featuring one of the five sister’s story. Born in different countries
around the world, when each of the daughters happens to return to her country of birth, she’s meets her true love and is forced to confront her destiny. Book 1, A Major Seduction is the oldest sister Kari’s book and takes place at an air force wedding in Tokyo.

A member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Georgia Romance Writers (GRW), and Kiss of Death, CJ lives and writes near a lake in the woods northeast of Atlanta. When she isn’t writing or reading romances, CJ spends time with her two grown children, their spouses, a brilliant grandson and a feisty cat named
Max.

Schedule permitting, CJ loves to travel, to discover new favorite places and to meet new friends in both the US and around the world.

Max flatly refuses to travel.

CJ Matthew and the Dolphin Shore Shifters paranormal romantic suspense series:

** Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Amazon author page ** Goodreads ** Pinterest **

BLOOD TIDE in trade paperback or e-book:

 ** Amazon ** B&N Nook **  Kobo  ** iBooks ** AllRomance eBooks **

The Dolphin Shore Shifters 5 book series on Amazon

Excerpt:

Noah Nelson kept his Ford pickup truck just at the posted highway speed limit. Still, enough salty air whipped through the open window to toss around his
dark hair.

A loud thump shook the vehicle’s undercarriage. Shit, an IED. Instantly his body was covered in sweat. Out, out, out. He twisted the wheel, slammed on the brakes. Clear of the highway, the front tires sank into soft sand. The engine sputtered to death. Noah jerked the door handle and dove out of the truck.

For a few moments he lay panting in the sand, teeth gritted, heart racing. No explosion. He uncurled his arms covering his head. Not a roadside bomb. Noah flexed, then relaxed the muscles in his upper body. What the heck? He’d been home in Santa Barbara almost a year now and still overreacted to sudden noises. Precisely the reason he kept strictly to himself. Until tonight.

Slowly he cracked open one eyelid—just a slit. Hard to see in nothing but half-assed moonlight. His truck was no help. The dome light had never worked. He could hear the surf break on the shore below the bluff.

He raised his head to peer over the ridge to the beach below. The sliver of new moon reflected off the whitecaps. He gingerly sat up, propping his shoulder against the open truck door. As the breeze off the ocean lifted his thick hair around his face, he inhaled a lungful of the salt-heavy night air. The familiar aroma from the sea filled his nostrils and helped slow his breathing. A solitary seagull, wings spread, squawked from just overhead.

“Everybody’s a critic,” Noah whispered.

A strange shadow moved on the beach. Noah blinked and froze. A man? He shook his head and strained to see through the darkness. It was real. A male walked away from Noah’s current position toward the surf. His brain automatically clicked off data. About five feet nine inches, dressed in dark clothing. Moved like a civilian, with what appeared to be an athletic bag at his side.

Midnight swim? Real stupid to do alone. He waited to see when and if the man set down the bag. Noah scowled. Was solo swimmer wearing trunks under his clothes? Not looking forward to pulling some idiot skinny dipper out of the water if things go badly.

Close to the water’s edge, the male dropped the bag, unhooked his pants, and slid out of them, revealing the dark outline of surfer shorts. He toed off his shoes and folded his pants. Then he waded knee deep into the ocean, glancing sideways down the surf line. And waited.

What the devil?

The male bent forward, his back and shoulders blocking Noah’s view. Another shadow emerged from the surf. The guy was helping someone out of the water. Illegal alien swimming in from a boat? In Santa Barbara? The new arrival walked around surfer guy and then stopped.

“Fuck me,” Noah mouthed.

The curves on the second shape were unmistakable, and the scant light revealed lots of white skin. It was a woman, and she was naked. He slowly scanned her curves, biting back an appreciative whistle. She was one good incentive for him to consider getting out more.

The distinctive crack of a rifle shot reverberated through the night air. The back of the man’s head blew off.