Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Chapter Reveal: World For the Broken by Elexis Bell

Title: World for the Broken
Author: Elexis Bell
Genre: Dark Post-Apocalyptic Romance
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Fading into unconsciousness, Christian watches psychotic thugs drag his sister-in-law and nephew away to suffer in the city they just escaped. Left for dead near his brother’s corpse, he has but one hope for survival, rely on the pretty stranger who stumbled across him. Not exactly smart after the apocalypse.

Encumbered by the lingering effects of her own violent past, Chloe struggles against her need for independence. Trusting a stranger found lying in the snow is risky, to say the least. Yet, she patches him up.
As they strive to rebuild their hearts, the harsh world they’ve been thrust into promises to tear them apart. Because Christian’s rescue attempt can’t wait. Every second in Chloe’s idyllic hometown means another second of pain for Christian’s family, leaving Chloe with a choice. Risk her life to help Christian save his family? Or condemn them all to a slow death?

Chapter 1
Christian
Snow crunches beneath feet, not far from my aching head. Dazed, I wonder how I could have let someone get so close. I try to lift my face from winter’s blanket, but the world threatens to fall out from under me with even the slightest movement. Head pounding, I struggle to center myself. Holding as still as humanly possible, I strain my ears to pick out the size of my newest friends.
A trickle of warmth slips through my hair, dripping over my scalp and down my forehead. It’s almost pleasant, except for the little voice in the back of my mind telling me that it shouldn’t be there. As if for emphasis, a cold wind sweeps over my back, the only part of me visible above the snow. Warmth has no place here.
I remember how to open my eyes, lifting my head as I do so, and see red swirling before my gaze. The ground tilts and whirls, mixing melting snow and blood in psychedelic patterns. I slam my eyes shut once more, letting my head fall to the ground. My face splashes in the watered-down blood.
My blood.
Another foot breaches the snow with a crunch. The danger that I’m in screams back into focus, so loudly my skull aches with it. Or maybe that’s just the head wound talking.
Fucking get it together, Christian.
I growl inwardly, but I’m excited that I can piece even that together amidst the agony bursting across my scalp.
Are these more of The Wolf’s men, come to finish the job?
Then, it all comes back to me, hitting like a ton of bricks. Tate, Jesse, Karen…Are they safe? I don’t know, don’t remember much, and that scares me.
We’d been on the run, having escaped Breyerville two and a half days ago with The Wolf’s Fangs dogging our heels every second. Poor Tate, just four years old, was terrified to fall asleep, as were we all. He’d only done so to the tune of Karen’s voice, singing a soft lullaby, nearly whispering through choking fear.
What if The Fangs were close? What if they heard her song?
What if they found us?
Then, the blizzard hit and made our tracks impossible to miss. The Fangs found us within a day of the first flakes falling. The scene bursts across my eyelids, like some horrible version of the instant replay used in sporting events back before the war.
We’d just stopped so Tate could go to the bathroom, which took an unfortunate amount of time given the layers the poor kid was wearing, and we were about to set off again. Not that we really knew where we were going.
Just…away.
Away from Breyerville and the brothel Karen was forced into. Away from The Wolf and his cronies, demanding payment and tribute from all locked within his stupid walls. The walls we all helped him build, back when he seemed like a decent human being, someone we could trust to help lead us through the end of the world.
Funny thing about the apocalypse, that. It brings out what’s hiding underneath the surface. Given time and power, The Wolf revealed his true nature, evil incarnate.
The Fangs found us unaware. Karen and Jesse had been arguing again, with Jesse lobbing some new unfair accusation at his poor wife. I’d been a little worried, thinking I may have to step in again and…calm my brother down.
Tate clung to his mother, burying his face in her legs. Her hands covered his ears, trying to spare him the worst of the argument, even as he shielded his eyes with tiny hands.
We heard the gun go off, loud and close. Instinctively, instantly, I ducked. A habit I wish I hadn’t had the opportunity, or the need, to cultivate. Another crack and a bullet meant for me sailed over my head.
A third shot was attempted, presumably to correct their mistake in thinking I wouldn’t drop to the ground. But the hammer fell, and the gun merely clicked. Empty. Luckily, they haven’t figured out how to reload their own ammo.
Before my eyes, my little brother fell. With a small hole in his forehead, blood trickling from it, Jesse landed in a crumpled heap. Thankfully, he was facing the sky. I’d rather Tate remember his father’s dead eyes than the state the back of his skull must have been in.
Four Fangs rushed us, giving me no chance to mourn.
One ripped Tate from Karen’s grasp and threw the kicking, screaming little boy into the snow. Heart racing, all thought gone from my mind, I threw myself upon The Fang whose boot hung in the air, poised above Tate’s head, and we went flying into a snowdrift.
I righted myself first, climbing atop the man, and pummeled him with everything in me. Rage filled me and boiled over. I remember the blood splattering across my face, some my own as my knuckles tore open a bit more with each hit, but mostly from The Fang, a dirty looking man with five o’clock shadow on his entire head. His hood fell back, and the scarf that covered half his face was soggy with blood.
Below each eye, the tattoos of fangs marked him as a bona fide member of The Wolf’s Fangs. The quality of the first tattoos meant he’d been a member for a while. Since before they ran out of traditional ink a year and a half ago and had to start making their own. Since before the legitimate tattoo gun broke a year ago, and they had to do it the old-fashioned way. He’d been a Fang for at least a year and a half. Maybe longer.
The number of fangs tattooed beneath his eyes, rimming the socket, denoted how many times this particular Fang had bitten for his master. Four beneath one eye, and five under the other. Nine times, he’d killed for The Wolf.
Another Fang followed, crushing snow beneath sprinting feet, leaving the other two struggling to contain Karen’s fury, all 5’4” of it. They shouldn’t have separated mother and child. Swearing and screaming and flesh-hitting-flesh rang out behind Christian, with Tate crying in the snow not far off to the right.
“Stay there, Tate!” I screamed, sending another fist into the face of the man who would have killed my nephew.
Anger almost got the best of me, and I momentarily lost track of the assailant approaching me at full tilt. As the Fang beneath me faded, head lolling to the side in death, I sprang to my feet. I spun, just in time for another Fang to barrel into me, a palmed blade ready to sink into my flesh.
Back down into the drift I went, and this time, I didn’t come out on top. The Fang hadn’t expected me to turn, so his blade merely gashed my side, rather than digging in. Unbelievable luck.
Twisted up in the cloth of my jacket, the spin also jerked the knife from my assailant, sending it flying off somewhere. A miracle.
But that’s where the good news ended.
With something clenched tightly in his fist, packing it for rigidity, The Fang landed a solid blow, unfortunately, located squarely on my temple thanks to the awkward way we landed.
I nearly passed out then and there, retaining only enough consciousness to hear Karen scream out, “Stop! I’ll go with you if you just stop! Leave my baby alone!” Tears choked her voice, but it carried, nonetheless. All motion stopped, even the man sitting atop my chest stilled, unafraid of his seriously dazed victim.
“Please,” Karen begged. “Please, just…we won’t cause any more problems. Just…don’t hurt him.” I heard her slump to her knees, heard the rustle of fabric, and Tate’s whimpering as she pulled him to her breast.
I saw the grizzled Fang standing behind her spit into the snow, mostly blood. Bright red gashes lined his face, leaking openly. He jerked his chin up at the man on top of me, and my chest got lighter as The Fang heaved himself onto his feet.
Karen’s hands clutched at her son, pressing him tightly against her. Her pale face was rosy with the cold, and her long, black hair tumbled in a tangled heap, spilling free from the hood of her jacket, partially concealing Tate from view. Between her hair and his too-big jacket, I couldn’t see the boy’s face.
Rather than walking away, my assailant turned toward me. With black eyes rimmed with seven fangs and a cruel smile lurking beneath them, he pulled his foot back and slammed it into the left side of my head.
I remember the pain, arcing through every synapse, filling every cell of my body. I remember curling onto my side, watching through eyes barely open, clouded with the blood that dripped into them, as Karen and Tate were led away, sobbing. All our packs were gathered up and taken, as well.
Now, lying broken in the snow, the reality of their absence wallops me, leaving me breathless and gasping.
They’re gone. All three of them. Jesse is dead. Karen and Tate…who knows. Will they kill Tate? Or use him against Karen to keep her pliable?
Disgust burns within me at the thought, simmering beneath the icy hands of agony as they steadily rip my heart to shreds.
And what of me?
I’d been so sure I would die, even as I slumped sideways, rolling onto my stomach. The snow fell around me, sapping the warmth from my body. When darkness took me, I thought it the end.
But now, shockingly gentle hands roll me over, and the ground tips beneath me. Stomach roiling, I worry I may vomit, but manage to hold myself together. Barely. My eyelids flutter, stars exploding in my vision.
A shadow takes form, just beyond the starbursts. A woman.
Brilliant red hair tumbles forward, hanging in loose waves just above my face. A gloved hand pulls the scarf down from her nose and full mouth, revealing pale cheeks flushed with cold. Meanwhile, surprise registers in her shining emerald eyes. Turning her head to the side, she speaks in a voice that sounds a hell of a lot like salvation. “He’s alive.”
She leans forward, no doubt getting her pretty hair dirty with the blood that coats my face as the delicate strands brush my skin.
“Can you hear me?” she asks, very gently.
I nod. Sort of. The motion upsets my already spinning equilibrium even more, and my eyes fall shut, robbing me of the sight of her.
“Please,” I murmur.
But what could I ask? Please save them? Please help me?
She owes me nothing. She and her companions will likely take whatever they can from me, from Jesse’s corpse, from the body of the Fang that I killed. They’ll desert me, likely take the shirt from my back.
Why wouldn’t they?
Before I can ask her anything, the darkness claims me again.
Elexis Bell is a quiet nerd with too many hobbies, including everything from gaming to shower-singing and even archery, weather permitting. She specializes in sarcasm and writing stories that make people feel. She's made a home for herself with her husband, their dog, and a small army of cats.


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Release Blitz: A Portrait of Dawn by Samantha St. Claire



The Sawtooth Range Series
American Historical Romance
Date Published: April 8, 2020
Publisher: River's End Books

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"The greatest thing a human being ever does in this world is to see something . . . to see clearly is poetry, prophecy, a religion all in one." John Ruskin



It’s 1890 and Idaho Territory is celebrating statehood. The event will draw two individuals who, like the new state, must redefine and prove themselves. While the artist, Luke Brennan, is captivated by Dawn Fairburn’s bewitching, jade green eyes and brilliant mind, the world characterizes her as less than an acceptable model of womanly perfection. Both are lacking in society’s estimation, he for his Irish heritage and she for her deformed leg, but together they may prove them all wrong. Like the new state, their combined strengths will give them the courage to step into the wilderness of their uncertain future.




Other Books in The Sawtooth Range Series:




Series Share Link

Kat's Law

ISBN: 978-1535426961



Comes the Winter

ISBN: 978-1973282006



Redeeming Lies

ISBN: 978-1732736719










Excerpt
Chapter One

“The greatest thing a human being ever does in this world is to see something . . . to see clearly is poetry, prophecy, a religion all in one.” John Ruskin



June 24, 1890

  For a future yet to be written, an unbridled imagination is a dangerous thing. Although Dawn held to such philosophical convictions, as she turned to her slumbering father sitting beside her, she allowed herself to travel that treacherous path leading her thoughts to notions of what might be.

  Even in sleep, with his chin nodding gently against his chest in easy rhythm to the rocking motion of the train, he looked dignified and even—presidential. Dawn smiled to herself, pleased by the notion. She considered her father’s pleasing features, his strong, square jaw, the touches of gray giving him that suggestion of experience and wisdom that could build confidence in his constituents. She pressed her lips together and lifted one eyebrow a slight degree higher than the other. Why not? Her skin prickled at the image. If he could go from legal counsel to the next U.S. Senator for New York, why not President? And she would be the one to help put him there.

   Dawn shifted in her seat, frowning. Mr. Pullman’s train cars were a definite improvement from those wooden seats of early years when she and her father traveled from New York to Washington. But comfortable, they were not. She envied his ability to fall asleep so effortlessly—the benefits of a man with a clean conscience.

   She reached down to retrieve her father’s brochure from the floor, the one he’d read to her with such enthusiasm moments before he’d fallen asleep. Now, with the campaign before him, did he insist on this trip into Idaho Territory? They needed to be planning, not traipsing off to the frontier for . . .  Reading the advertisement again, she felt a scowl pinch her brow. Come to the Hartmann Ranch where you can experience the frontier ranching life.

   As the train rounded a bend, the view from her window shifted to the east, the direction from which they’d been traveling since yesterday morning. Streaks of palest yellow heralded the break of day. It should have cheered her as it usually did, but unlike her usual day of ordered routine, this one held too many uncertainties. She looked down at the twisted brochure still gripped in her hands. The word adventure peeked between her fingers. It wasn’t a word that often appeared in her vocabulary. Adventure conjured up images of safari hunters in wild, foreign lands.

   Careful not to disturb him, Dawn lowered her head to her father’s shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent of his pipe tobacco and starched collar. How could she ever remain impatient with him? With a skill she’d honed since earliest childhood, she focused her thoughts on this moment. In this moment, she was blissfully content. Tomorrow was yet to be. With luck, she would see the adventures only from the windows of a rolling train.

  From the train window, the indistinct reflection appraised the serious young woman with green eyes. Dawn had been told often enough they were the same shade that made her mother so attractive. But unlike her mother, Dawn lacked the golden locks. Her brown hair favored her father’s, as did the firm line of her jaw. And like her father, her thoughts rarely strayed from her duty to support and serve.

~

Luke Brennan sat as rigid as the straight-backed chair, prepared for the worst, as his employer squinted at him through a dense cloud of cigar smoke.

The barrel-chested man behind the desk pursed his lips as he studied Luke’s most recent drawing. “It isn’t the quality of your illustrations, Luke.”

Luke tried to interpret the editor’s tight, pained expression, uncertain whether the man was commiserating or experiencing another bout of chronic indigestion. He suspected the latter. Empathy was not among Mr. Carrington’s virtues.

The older man leaned back and shoved the cigar between his lips, taking one long draw and puffing another fetid cloud in Luke’s direction. “It’s business, purely business. The St. Louis-Dispatch is foremost designed to make money for our publisher, Mr. Pulitzer.” He waved his hand, and the cigar sent a thin smoky trail, spiraling to the ceiling. Luke imagined how he’d capture smoke with his pen. Of course, he’d need to consider the limitations of the engravers.

Luke followed the ribbon of smoke curling back upon itself and watched it transform in width as it drifted to the ceiling.

“Luke, are you listening to me?” The editor leaned forward, resting his arms on the edge of his desk, a scowl lining his brow.

Luke cleared his throat and brought his gaze back to the man.

Apparently satisfied, the editor continued, “It’s a problem of speed. You submit half as many illustrations as everyone else on my staff.” His lip lifted into a sardonic smile. “Personally, I like your work. You have an eye for humor, like the drawing you made of the governor last month—the one where the woman’s hat is covering his lip.” He demonstrated with his cigar, posing with it close to his upper lip. “Looked like he was wearing the peacock feather right there! Brilliant!”

“Are you giving me notice?”

“What? No! You’re good. I just wish you could turn yourself into a photographer. As soon as we can figure out how to print the darn things cheaper and faster, no paper will waste time with illustrations. As much as our noble publisher would like to kick us into the twentieth century, we aren’t ready. But the writing is on the wall, so to speak, or should I say in the typeset? Or should I say, engraving?” He cackled at his own poor attempt at humor. “Illustrations will soon be passé. We are moving into the modern era of photographic journalism, at least that’s the term they’re using in the windowed offices down the hall.”

Luke had yet to understand fully his tenuous position, and his patience was growing thin. “Are you telling me I’m not covering Idaho’s statehood?”

The editor tapped ash into his coffee cup. He pursed his lips. “Yes, and no.”

“Sir?”

“I’m still sending you to Idaho, but not to the capitol. We’ll be assigning someone else for the bigger event. All the political posturing will happen in Boise City or. . .” He glanced at the paper on his desk. “a town called Hailey. I want you to go to Ketchum to capture the—let’s call it, the more prosaic side of the occasion.”

Luke imagined this Ketchum would be less a city and more fitting to a setting for some Western dime novel, filled with saloons and drunken miners. If he was lucky, maybe he’d see his first street shootout. His mood made a radical shift. Perhaps, this wouldn’t be so bad. He’d have a chance to encounter some real wildlife, the bison, the antelope or even the bears he’d only seen in zoos.

 “We have some patrons who are investors in the Philadelphia Smelter in Ketchum. They’ll be attending the celebration.” The editor interrupted these positive thoughts with the realities of his assignment. “You might do well to figure them prominently into any illustration you make for the paper.” A cunning smile inched across his face. “I’m certain that our financial department would be appreciative.”

“I see.”

“Good!” The big man waved a hand to the door. “Miss Turner has your train tickets for you. Oh, and I’ve arranged accommodations for you at a place called the Hartmann Guest Ranch. Seems some couple has opened their ranch for people interested in—” He picked up the same paper from his desk. “Experiencing the frontier.” He raised a bushy eyebrow. “Can’t imagine why anyone would want to. But see if you can ferret out a good story without getting scalped.” He let out a loud guffaw, adding, “Although, that would make a topnotch story.”

When the man stuck his cigar back between tight lips and began shuffling through the mess of papers on his desk, Luke assumed he was being dismissed. He left the office feeling more hopeful than he thought he’d be when walking through the door minutes earlier. The wild western frontier, a ranch, and real adventure might be just what he needed. His excitement tempered as he glumly realized that it might also be his last assignment.

~

With Elena Hartmann’s straight brown hair and brown eyes and Jessie Long’s freckled nose and strawberry blond curls, no one would have mistaken them for sisters, but Jessie was the closest Lena had ever come to having one. Besides the sharp contrast in their appearance, they were even further dissimilar in personality. Jessie was always the impulsive big-hearted optimist while Lena remained the cautious, reserved introvert. Being brought together through adversity had forged a bond that nothing in four years could weaken.

Lena scanned the telegram a second time before handing it to Jessie. “It’s a good start. Four guests will give us a good opportunity to see if we’re ready to become innkeepers.” She folded her arms, tapping one nervous finger against her forearm. “From what I can determine, only Mr. Fairburn has expressed an interest in hunting or fishing, so that shouldn’t tax Evan’s time with the normal ranch operations. I’m wondering what we’ll find to entertain the others.”

Jessie nodded in a slow, thoughtful manner. “Evan and Bart can easily take turns escorting the gentlemen and teaching them things about ranching and such.” She folded the telegram and returned it to Lena. Her eyes sparkling, she added, “I’ve already planned menus for a week. We’ll have a new breakfast pastry every morning.” She ticked off the days on her fingers. “Monday—popovers. Tuesday—cinnamon rolls. Wednesday—spiced muffins. Thursday—apple pandowdy. Friday—currant scones. Saturday—fritters. Sunday we’ll serve leftovers.”

Lena lifted an eyebrow by a skeptical degree. “That’s something we may need to discuss, Jessie. Your twins aren’t even a year old. I’m afraid your plans might be a little too ambitious.”

Looking more like a petulant child and less like a mother with two children, Jessie wrinkled her nose. She opened her mouth to respond when a crash brought both women swinging heads to the kitchen door. Another thud and Jessie started saying, “Oh, bother! Bart is supposed to be watching them.”

Jessie passed Evan coming from the kitchen. Evan grinned and said, “Your husband looks like he could use your help.”

From the kitchen came a pair of gleeful squeals along with Jessie’s dismayed voice. “Oh Lord, have mercy.”

Evan chuckled as he crossed the room, sweeping Lena into his arms. “Never boring with those two. Good thing she has you around to help.”

“You mean, those three. I’d put Jessie in the same grouping.”

He kissed her, not the chaste peck of a greeting, but a warm resounding kiss on the lips. Then he asked, “How was your afternoon?”

Lena rested her cheek against his chest, breathing in the earthy scent of horses and cedar. “The bedrooms are ready for our guests and I’ve closed all the doors to keep them that way.” She looked up. “I missed you.”

“Only been gone one night.” He stroked her back and rested his chin upon her head. “Are you all right?”

He always knew, could read every subtle shift of her mood. Empathy for others had attracted her to him four years ago when they’d first met in Sawtooth City. His boundless compassion, as he’d expressed it for others, had nearly stifled their budding romance before it blossomed. Those misunderstandings no longer mattered.

But this ache, this sense of longing, she must never speak into words. “I’m just glad you’re back.” She unraveled herself from his arms. “We have two more guests arriving this month, that makes four in all. Edward Fairburn and his daughter are coming.”

“Seems the good Lord might be smiling on your dream.”

“Our dream,” she corrected.

“Our dream.” He took her hand and started for his favorite chair near the fireplace, but pulled up short when Lena cleared her throat. He followed her gaze to his muddy boots and the layer of trail dust covering his pants. “Sorry. Guess I shouldn’t.

“No, you should not.” She laughed at the boyish look of chagrin on his face. “Come on out to the porch. You can tell me about the ranching half of our enterprise and take my mind off the guesting side.”

“You mean you want to hear about how your shrewd husband sweet-talked Nate Gallagher out of that bay stallion?”

Lena spun to face him. “You didn’t?”

“I did.” His mischievous grin told her there was more to the story. He took her hand again and led the way to the porch railing where the view of their long valley stretched west to the Big Wood River. “And would you be surprised to know how I got him to throw in that pair of pintos you’ve been adoring for the past year?”

Lena covered her mouth as she let out a cry. “Oh, Evan, did you really? The little mare?”

His lips curved into a teasing grin, his eyes sparkling. “And the stallion.”

She threw herself into his arms again. “You dear man.”

Evan breathed into her hair, “There’s nothing too good for you, my sweet lady.”

Even as she accepted his love with an open heart, she marveled at his words. He stood, offering all he was to her, a good man who had seen something within her worth cherishing. Had she continued to think herself unlovable and refused him, she would have never known this contentment.

What more could she desire? The open range land rolling down to the river belonged to them now, and it’d been hard earned, making it all the sweeter. As happy as she was in this moment, a nudge of worry kept her from savoring it. What if her gambit failed? What if all those articles she’d read about the numbers of people heading west from the cities searching for frontier tours had been exaggerated? All they’d invested could be lost. Was her dream too ambitious?

Evan stroked the side of her neck with his thumb. “Stop worrying.”

“You know me too well.”

“Yes, I do.”

“What if the dream has been too risky? All your money saved for the ranch . . . the profits from your mine. . .”

He lay his finger beneath her chin and lifted her face to his. “It’s our dream, Lena. It’s always been our dream.”

~

Luke’s hand moved rapidly across the white paper, his slender fingers, dusted black, capturing life with swift sure strokes. The thin charcoal stick snapped in his grip as the train hit a rough section of track. An ugly smudge spoiled the drawing. Luke tucked the smaller piece into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handkerchief as soiled and gray as his fingers. He dabbed at the corner of his sketch, where he’d drawn the child’s fingers burrowed beneath the kitten’s fur. A few more strokes with the broken edge of his charcoal and fine strands of sketched hair covered his mistake.

He looked up again, and studied the child’s face in profile. Her eyes reflected an old soul, but her thin arms and round face made her youth clear to any casual observer. How did he translate that dichotomy to paper? How did he truly communicate her essence? He’d seen the work of artists who had mastered such skills, but he had yet to see it realized in his own work.

“May I see?” The child peered curiously at him from across the aisle.

Luke caught and held her round curious eyes—too serious for one so young. The kitten in her lap stirred awake while the older woman beside the child slept on. He passed the sketch pad across the aisle.

The child studied it for a time, then looked up, a frown drawing her thin brows together. “It’s very nice, but my kitten is white.” Her lips pursed as she lowered her gaze to the drawing once again. “But I suppose one could not expect much else if one was drawing only with charcoal.”

“I would suppose you are correct, Miss.” Luke glanced down to conceal his amusement. Critics abounded, and he’d heard from his share over these past years as an illustrator for the St. Louis-Dispatch. From newspaper patrons to editors, he’d received both praise and condemnation. For the most part, he’d come to accept them both with equal detachment. Besides, he was his own worst critic.

She handed the pad back to Luke, a polite smile briefly lifting her countenance. “You are an artist.”

Luke hitched one shoulder. “I imagine you’ve drawn some pictures. Have you made any of your kitten?”

The child’s face grew somber, almost grave. “My grandmother says drawing is idle child’s play and I should give up childish ways and learn to behave like a lady.”

Her answer took Luke aback. A question seemed the better response. “And is that what you think as well?”

She dropped her gaze to the kitten, wiggling her fingers behind its ear. “Grandmother says it is.” Softer, she added, “You see, Grandmother is always right.”

Who was he to refute the child’s dutiful conviction? “Ah, yes. I see.”

He closed his pad and slipped it into his leather satchel, then seeing the girl returning to her lady-like composure, he turned his face to the darkened window. A ghostly reflection of his own features superimposed itself onto the rolling landscape beyond the glass. The blue eyes staring back were like those of his mother. The one time he’d tried to paint her, he’d used a mixture of Prussian blue and aquamarine, never finding the distinct hue.

He brushed a hand through his unruly brown locks, then ran it down his cheek bristly with a day’s growth of whiskers and frowned. As usual, he looked older than his twenty-three years. He always had and he blamed it on the annoying fact that he’d been shaving for over five of those years, a hereditary gift from his Irish father whose face Luke had never once seen free of whiskers except for the day they laid him out in his casket. With pale clean cheeks and his thin body clothed in a borrowed suit, he’d looked a stranger.

Why his mother would have ever said that Luke would one day steal the hearts of young ladies remained a mystery. He certainly hadn’t, but, when he was honest with himself, neither had he tried. Responsibilities to his family left no room in his life for a wife. At least, that had been true until four months ago when his mother had passed. But habits aren’t quickly altered.

He threw a glance at the child, now cooing softly to her kitten. Her childhood would probably fade as quickly as the first blush of sunrise if her grandmother had her way. Responsibilities had a way of doing that. In the child’s case, he wondered if the needs of the grandmother had superseded those of the child to remain a child for a little longer.

Under the ambient light of a nearly full moon, Luke could just discern a flat landscape stretching into the moon shadows cast by a distant mountain range. The terrain was so unlike the cityscapes he’d lived in for all his life. He felt a shiver of excitement course through him. Here in this vast and sprawling landscape he’d find subjects to fill the blank pages of his sketch books, the wild, the living wonders he’d long dreamed of seeing with his own eyes.

He checked himself, because he had an assignment to complete if he wanted to keep earning a living, even if it was for a job as unsatisfying as illustrating the news. But the concern nagged at him; would even his best be enough?

Worry never put food on the table nor coins in your pocket. Only hard work and a firm determination had the power to do either. Those were the words his mother had lived and died by. He pulled his collar close to his neck and sat back, as the train rocked him into an uneasy sleep.



About the Author


Samantha St. Claire is the pen name of an author passionate about American history and the people whose legacies are woven into the fabric of a nation. She writes those characters to life in her novels of the western frontier, their trials and triumphs. Coming from a family of pioneers, she honestly claims her roots as a Daughter of the American Revolution and descendant of a Scottish Laird.



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  This post may contain affiliate links: If you purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products/services that I approve of. Purchasing through my links allows me to continue to provide unique content and pursue my business dreams. Thank you for supporting me.
Disclaimer: "All opinions are 100% honest and my own."

 FTC Guidelines: In accordance with FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials for bloggers, I would like my readers to know that many of the books and products I review are provided to me for free by the publisher, author of the book, company in exchange for an honest review. If I am compensated for any reviews on this site I will state that post has been sponsored. 

My Chaotic Ramblings and all participating bloggers are not held responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill their prize obligations. The giveaways on this site are in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook or any other social media site.

Blog Tour: Scoring Off the Ice by Stacey Lynn

SOTI - BT banner
There is no playbook for situations like this.
Scoring Off the Ice, an all-new steamy, surprise single dad romance with all the feels by Stacey Lynn, is available now!
ScoringOfftheIce-IceKings-Amazon
Sometimes scoring off the ice leads to the greatest rewards.
I’ve had only one goal in life since I first strapped on a pair of skates—make America’s pro hockey league.
I left Denmark. I made it to the top. Now, I’m determined to be the best. No distractions. I eat, sleep, and breathe hockey.
Until my birthday when my teammates convince me to live a little. But living a little takes on a whole new meaning when less than a year later I’m confronted with a crying baby on my doorstep, drooling on a note that declares he’s mine.
Suddenly, I'm a single dad in way over my head. There is no playbook for situations like this.
Luckily, I have Paisley. My gorgeous neighbor, my long-time crush, and now—my savior. She’s there any time I need her. Helping. Guiding. Gazing at me with those green eyes that make me feel capable of this after all.
With her at my side, I’m quickly learning there’s more to life than winning a hockey game.
SOTI - AN
Download your copy today! 
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3bPr1Aj 
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2uX74ae
Add SCORING OFF THE ICE to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/37I5oyC


“Who are you?” I don’t like calling her the woman. I’ve wondered her name for months since she started appearing in that doorway so close to mine.
She turns to me and in her arms is the baby. She’s holding a bottle and the baby is drinking. Quiet little sounds come from it and she grins down at the baby in her arms before tilting her head at me.
“What?”
“You. What is your name?”
“Paisley. Are you Mikah?”
She must want money if she knows my name. Perhaps she’s a fan. A puck bunny—that’s what my teammates call the girls who follow players and only want one thing from them.
“How did you know?” I wish she wasn’t so pretty. Sometimes it hurts to talk when all I want to do is look at her.
She points to an envelope on the table. The note.
“It’s on the outside. I didn’t know if it was your name or the baby’s, so I took a guess. Are you... are you okay?”
“A stranger shows up at my door with a baby in her arms, saying it’s mine. How okay am I supposed to be?” I wander to the table while I ask.
I’m surprised by her gentle laugh.
“I suppose this isn’t your typical Friday night.”
She is funny. If I didn’t think I might throw up, I might laugh. No. This is not my typical Friday night. Mine are for resting. Not life-changing drama.
I say nothing and grab the envelope. I stare at it for a moment. Perhaps if I do not open it, I can pretend this didn’t happen. My fingers shake as I tear it open.
The envelope is larger than normal and thick and I’m careful as I pull out several folded papers.
The top one is the most important though as I instantly see my name, written in scrolling black ink.
MIKAH,
His name is Angelo.
Meet Stacey Lynn:
Stacey Lynn 2019Stacey Lynn likes her coffee with a dash of sugar, her heroes with a side of bossy, and her wine a deep shade of red.
The author of over thirty romance novels, many of which have been best-selling titles on Amazon, AppleBooks, and Barnes & Noble, she loves being able to turn her vivid imagination into a career that brings entertainment and joy to her readers. Focused on sports romance and emotional, small-town romance, she also loves stretching herself in different genres.
Born in Texas and raised in the Midwest, she now makes her home in North Carolina and loves all things Southern. Together with her ultimate tall, dark, and handsome hero, she has four children. Her life is a chaotic mess that fights with her Type-A, list-making, neurotically organized preferences and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Connect with Stacey:
Instagram: http://bit.ly/3bn1e2o 
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2H8K22u 
Stay up to date on Stacey’s latest news! Subscribe to her Newsletter today! http://bit.ly/36zXy9R

As Always…. Thank You For Visiting Today
 ~ Please Leave Some Comment Love While You Are Here

  This post may contain affiliate links: If you purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products/services that I approve of. Purchasing through my links allows me to continue to provide unique content and pursue my business dreams. Thank you for supporting me.
Disclaimer: "All opinions are 100% honest and my own."

 FTC Guidelines: In accordance with FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials for bloggers, I would like my readers to know that many of the books and products I review are provided to me for free by the publisher, author of the book, company in exchange for an honest review. If I am compensated for any reviews on this site I will state that post has been sponsored. 

My Chaotic Ramblings and all participating bloggers are not held responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill their prize obligations. The giveaways on this site are in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook or any other social media site.

Tasty Treats From Subarz Sweets Giveaway Ends 4/29

Tasty Treats From Subarz Sweets Giveaway

Welcome to the Tasty Treats From Subarz Sweets Giveaway!

1 Winner

This giveaway is part of our Mother's Day Gift Guide – Stop by to see all the giveaways and great products. Get your tasty treats for Mom for Mother's Day.

Host is Michigan Saving and More

 
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This giveaway's Sponsor is:

Each one of these has a unique texture and full of flavor. As soon as you smell them you will know exactly how delicious these are. They have so many flavors I would love to try them all, especially the chocolate ones. These make an awesome gift for Mom, Dad, holidays, or housewarming.

~~~

One dozen box of Traditional Chocolate Chip Subarz

$21.00 ARV plus shipping
See review HERE.

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THE GIVEAWAY

This giveaway/sweepstakes is in no way endorsed, affiliated, or associated with Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Media Networking Site. This Giveaway is valid to continental United States residents only, Entrants must be 18+ years of age to enter. This giveaway event will end at 11:59 PM (EST) 4/29/20. The winner will have 48 hours to email their information back to las93063 at gmail dot com or a new winner will be drawn, you may want to put this email address as safe as it could go to spam. The giveaway is not valid where prohibited! By entering you are authorizing us to collect the information on the form below, this information is used only to contact the winner! No purchase necessary, Void where prohibited by law, and the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Winners are chosen randomly by the Giveaway Tools program. The sponsors are each responsible for shipping of the above prizes. No blog associated with this contests are responsible for prize fulfillment. If you would like to be a sponsor in a giveaway like this please email Laura Smith at las930 (at)gmail (dot) com. If you take an entry you must stay following for the entire contest or you will be disqualified.
Sponsors interested in joining our gift guides can see the information HERE.
 

As Always…. Thank You For Visiting Today
 ~ Please Leave Some Comment Love While You Are Here

  This post may contain affiliate links: If you purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products/services that I approve of. Purchasing through my links allows me to continue to provide unique content and pursue my business dreams. Thank you for supporting me.
Disclaimer: "All opinions are 100% honest and my own."

 FTC Guidelines: In accordance with FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials for bloggers, I would like my readers to know that many of the books and products I review are provided to me for free by the publisher, author of the book, company in exchange for an honest review. If I am compensated for any reviews on this site I will state that post has been sponsored. 

My Chaotic Ramblings and all participating bloggers are not held responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill their prize obligations. The giveaways on this site are in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook or any other social media site.