Tuesday, February 25, 2020

#Review: WILD, WILD RAKE by Janna MacGregor


  4 of 5 stars
Lady Avalon Warwyk's first husband was a cruel tyrant who caused her undue humiliation. The only good thing to come out of the marriage was her beloved son, Thane. With Lord Warwyk's early death, Avalon is finally free to live her life as she saw fit and to raise her son in a loving home. When Thane's guardian informs her that his brother Devan Farris has been appointed the vicar in her parish, Avalon is prepared to bribe him to leave her alone. The last thing she needs is a spy watching everything she does, or does Devan represent a new lease on life for the young widow?

I love Janna McGregor books and this latest installment was quite enjoyable. I loved Devan. He was witty, charming and thoroughly smitten with Avalon. Ms. McGregor slowly teases out the horrendous details of Avalon's first marriage and why she's so skittish around men. The book earned 4 stars instead of 5 because the last part of the book was about Avalon's sister instead of keeping the focus on Avalon and Devon. I'm looking forward to the next installment in this enjoyable series.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.


Blurb:

Her first marriage was an epic fail.

Lady Avalon Warwyk never did love her husband. Arrogant, selfish, and cruel, it’s a blessing when she’s widowed and left to raise her son all by herself. Finally, Avalon can live freely and do the work she loves: helping fallen women become businesswomen. She’s lived these past ten years with no desire to remarry—that is, until Mr. Devan Farris comes to town.

Can he convince her to take another chance at happily ever after?

Devan Farris—charming vicar, reputed rake, and the brother of Avalon’s son’s guardian—is reluctantly sent to town to keep tabs on Avalon and her son. Devan wishes he didn’t have to meddle in her affairs; he’s not one to trod on a woman’s independent nature and keen sense of convictions. But she’ll have nothing to do with a vicar with a wild reputation—even though he’s never given his heart and body to another. If only he could find a way to show Avalon who he really is on the inside—a good, true soul looking for its other half. But how can prove that he wants to love and care for her. . .until death do they part?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the boot heel of Missouri. She is the author of the Cavensham Heiresses series, which begins with The Bad Luck Bride. Janna credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes.

She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

#Review: THE COLONEL AND HE ENCHANTRESS by Paulett Golden


  3 of 5 stars
 
Lady Mary Mowbrah has loved Duncan Starrett since she was 16 years old. Waiting for him to return from the war, it was a long 5 years before he returned, gravely injured. They were both different people now and it will take love and patience for them to reconnect. Will their love blossom now?

I enjoyed this book, but there was something just a bit lacking for me in this story. The other 3 stories in the series were easily devoured. Not so with this book. I found I could put it down time and time again. I kept waiting for a huge conflict or twist in the storyline. The biggest conflict in the book is Duncan's feelings of unworthiness and that got old after a while. Ms. Golden is a talented writer and has woven some memorable characters into the series. I did find the epilogue confusing with so many couples and their children mentioned. I didn't really care about any of them and it took a while before the reader learns whether or not Mary and Duncan have any more children. It was a decent read, but certainly not my favorite of the series.

I voluntarily read this advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.




Friday, February 21, 2020

#Excerpt: FOREVER SUMMER by Nicole Bea


Forever Summer
Nicole Bea
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: February 24th 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Morrigan Westhaver isn’t convinced anything could make her forget her abusive ex-boyfriend—not even if she travels all the way from her home in Michigan to her father’s ranch in Alabama.
Saved text messages and voicemails haunt her life with poisonous words and crippling self-doubt, but she can’t seem to let them go. On the ranch, much to her surprise, she immediately takes to a rescued horse, Stormy, as well as Levy, an attractive ranch hand. Will their understanding and gentle support help her heal, or is the damage too deep?

EXCERPT:
“We could have texted if you wanted to talk,” I remind him, patting the spot on the bed where my phone has slipped down to.
He pulls an elastic band from his wrist and snaps it into place around his hair, making a perfectly small bun before taking the towel, squeezing the excess water from the style, and taking a seat at the edge of my bed.
“You’re trying to make it sound like you don’t want me here, but I know you do. You wouldn’t have let me in otherwise, and you wouldn’t have kissed me this afternoon.” There’s a pause, the night dripping in and our faces drawing closer. “Do you believe in love at first sight, Morrigan?” His voice hangs heavy and warm in the bedroom air.
The question might be a rhetorical one, but I feel compelled to answer because I think I gave a shit answer the first time he asked me the question.
“I used to,” I reply softly, a whispered lilt to my voice that matches his own. “You know, before.” I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.
“That’s interesting.” He clasps his hands together and rests them between his thighs. His eyes tell me that isn’t the answer he wanted. “You stopped believing in love at first sight when I finally started.”


Author Bio:
NICOLE BEA is a short story author and novelist who primarily focuses on contemporary teen fiction. An avid storyteller since childhood, she has honed her skills through a variety of educational programs including management, sociology, legal studies, and cultural diversity in the workplace, most recently engaging in coursework about communication for technologists.
In addition to writing for young adults, Nicole is also a technical writer for a global manufacturer of CPAP masks, machines, and other products that manage sleep-disordered breathing.
When she isn't busy updating her manuscript portfolio or catching up on her To Be Read pile, Nicole can usually be found gardening, horseback riding, or pursuing her new hobby of learning to cook. She and her husband share their home in Eastern Canada with a collection of multi-colored cats and a lifetime's worth of books.


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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

#Review: FOR THE SAKE OF A SCOTTISH RAKE by Anna Bradley


3 of 5 stars

I usually love Anna Bradley's books, but this was not good for me. First, there were 3 romances going on in the story and it was too crammed full of scenes with all 3 couples that muddled the storyline. Lady Lucinda Sutcliffe and Ciaran Ramsey were the main couple and I found Lucy to be quite wild and not at all what a young lady would act like especially all her meetings with Ciaran. She rationalizes these as Ciaran is her best friend over and over and over again. I got it! Throw in a tyrannical uncle trying to steal Lucy's money by selling her to an evil earl and it all felt too contrived. I wished Ms. Bradley had just focused on Lucy and Ciaran and developed their relationship more and left out Lucy's two friends' storylines for future books.


I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.





Monday, February 17, 2020

#Excerpt: MARRIED TO THE EARL by Samantha Holt


Married to the Earl
Samantha Holt
(The Wallflower Brides #3)
Publication date: February 10th 2020
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance

Going from vivacious society belle to widow wallflower can leave a lady wanting…
Joanna Lockhart is trapped in a mire of grief and boredom. Still recovering from the sudden death of her husband, the beautiful widow is tired of being treated like a fragile porcelain doll. But when a severe illness nearly claims her life, Joanna finds the perfect outlet for her natural vitality—a charity.
Unfortunately, her sudden interest in all things philanthropic is marred by the presence of one Ambrose Creassey. For some unknown reason, this handsome cad has decided to cast aside his reputation as a rake, and take up the mantel of charitable patron.
As the Earl of Newhaven, Ambrose has enjoyed his life of delicious debauchery. But recently the earl has hungered for more noble pursuits. A charity seems to be the perfect outlet for his newfound desire to be more than just a rake. And of course, he doesn’t mind the aid of a beautiful, well-connected woman like Joanna… Especially when he cannot resist riling her a time or two.
After all, she does rise so beautifully to the challenge.
Focusing on their work is harder than either of them thought. There’s no denying the attraction between them, but is Ambrose truly prepared to cast aside his hedonistic history? And even if he does, is Joanna ready for a new love?


EXCERPT:
“It is hard to see how this will become a hospital,” she murmured.
“I should imagine you would rather see it as a grand house once more, ready for a ball.”
She glared at him. “Considering we hardly know one another, Lord Newhaven, it is a wonder you can imagine anything that I might think.”
He shrugged. “It is not hard to take a guess.”
“If we wish to take guesses, I would rather expect you would prefer this house to be used for raucous house parties.”
His lips quirked. “I suppose we should cease guessing then.”
“That would be preferable, yes.”
“Let us continue our tour.” He opened another door, leading through into a drawing room.
No furnishings existed and a thick layer of dust coated the grand stone mantlepiece. Beneath her feet, the rugs were worn and frayed. “This is going to take a lot of funds.”
“My understanding is we have enough to ensure the house can be converted into a hospital, but our current pledges will not cover the ongoing running of it.”
So, he knew something about his charity. That was interesting. She could not be certain why the earl had decided to take a closer look at how things were run but he was not entirely ignorant. However, if he was to be interfering with her work, she would have to speak up. They had far too much toil ahead of them for him to be causing any chaos.
She paused by the fireplace and turned to face him as he wrenched open the shutters on one window. Blinking in the sudden influx of light, she tilted her head. “Why exactly have you decided to assist the charity? Mr. Bartlett told me you are only a figurehead.”
“Well, that is incorrect. I am also the biggest donor.”
She lifted a brow.
“Does it surprise you that I might wish to actually have a hand in the running of the charity?”
“Frankly, yes.”
A smile curved his lips. “Well, I do enjoy a frank woman.” He strode over to join her by the fireplace. “And why have you taken up the mantle as the charity’s latest philanthropist?”
She could come up with some pithy remark perhaps. Some flippant reply that would have him eyeing her with amusement once more, but she could not help feel they had reached some odd moment of honesty. She blew out a breath. “I should like to find something useful with which to occupy myself. Being a widow is a tiresome occupation.”
“For someone like you, I imagine it is.”
“Someone like me?” She stiffened her shoulders.
“Someone as vivacious and as intelligent as you.”
The air flew from her lungs. She let her shoulders drop. “Oh.” for some reason, the flattery made her cheeks warm.
Preposterous.


Author Bio:
USA Today Bestselling author Samantha Holt lives in a small village in England with her twin girls and a dachshund called Duke. If you’re not sure where to start why not try…
Amelia and the Viscount (Bluestocking Brides #1) for a fun, slightly hot shorter length read. Meet the Chadwick sisters and follow their adventures in each of their standalone stories.
You’re the Rogue That I Want (Rogues of Redmere #1) is a longer read with heat, witty dialogue, a feisty heroine and adventure. All books in the series are standalone.
Sinful Confessions is the first in the Cynfell Brothers Series. These are all novella length and standalone–ideal for a quick dip into the world of the sexy Cynfell brothers.
Wake Me With a Kiss is a sweet, fairytale romance. Twists on Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella are also available if you love a clean, fun read.
To Steal a Highlander’s Heart is a full length dive into the world of sexy highlanders. For those who love braw Scots, some steamy scenes, and medieval romance, this series is a perfect escape.


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Friday, February 14, 2020

#Review: HOW THE LADY WAS WON by Shana Galen


  5 of 5 stars
 
I was looking forward to reading Colin and Daphne's story and Ms. Galen does not disappoint. She has written a intriguing, compelling and complex story. Lady Daphne, daughter of the Duke of Warcliffe, married Colin Fitzroy 7 years ago and she has been disappointed ever since Colin disappeared the day after a disastrous wedding night. Now that he's back from the war, she expected him to reunite with her, but she's afraid that he'll continue to ignore her and she's running out of excuses why her husband isn't joining her at the ton events. Colin has issues expressing himself and with feelings ever since he was a young child so he stays away from Daphne to protect himself from having to confront long buried emotions. Can they finally come together and heal their emotional wounds to be able to live as husband and wife?

Throughout the war, Colin was known as "The Pretender" for his ability to blend in and not be noticed as he gathered intel. Ms. Galen does a great job slowly teasing out why Colin is so uncomfortable talking about "feelings." There's plenty of sexual attraction between these two, but sex is not a full relationship for Daphne. She wants her husband to love her. In addition to the main story of these two's compatibility, there is the "trouble" that Daphne has found herself embroiled in with Lord Battersea. I liked Daphne's tenacity in trying to resolve her problem on her own. She's brave and clever, but only when she works with Colin can they find a final solution. The plot moves along nicely with no sluggish parts. There is a lot of sex in this book so reader beware if you don't prefer that. I'm looking forward to reading the next story in the series.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.


#Excerpt: RESTART BRISTOL by Sedona Hutton


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sedona Hutton will be awarding a $25 or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


He’s a hot mess. She wants stability. Will these childhood sweethearts risk another pass at love?

Veterinarian Holly Nicholson longs to put down roots. And with a growing practice and pending nuptials to a handsome doctor, her dream future is finally within reach. But when her NASCAR racing high-school steady rolls into town, Holly’s heart takes an off-track excursion.

Curtis “CC” Clark burned out from life in the fast lane. Switching gears, he moves to a small town in search of some cosmic signpost to reveal his destiny and crosses paths with the only girl he’s ever loved. But he’s worried fate sent him into the pits when he finds out she’s engaged.

Between working at the same animal shelter and her engagement crumbling, Holly can feel old desires stirring. But before they can pick up speed, CC gets his big chance for a high-profile comeback. And returning to the road may mean giving up his beloved forever.

Can CC and Holly find common ground and take their love across the finish line?

Restart in Bristol is the third standalone novel in the Racing Hearts in Serenity contemporary romance series. If you like bad boys with a heart of gold, strong women, and a touch of new age spirituality, then you’ll adore Sedona Hutton’s fun, sexy romance.

Buy link:


https://amzn.to/37cCw1b 

Excerpt:

Curtis rested his forehead against Holly’s, and her heart decided. She nodded in agreement.

“Is that a yes?” he asked, his voice low and husky.

“Yes.” Her response came out breathy, which didn’t surprise her. Whenever she was around Curtis, she felt like a breathless teenage girl.

“You won’t be sorry.” He brushed a hand through her hair. “Damn, you’re beautiful.”

She let out a nervous laugh. It was so dark that all she could make out were shadowy images. His words were sweet, but that didn’t stop the insecurity from poking at her insides. She didn’t look anything like the stunning women she’d seen him with over the years.

“That, coming from you.” She shook her head. “You’ve always seemed to have a steady stream of gorgeous women.”

“You can’t believe everything you read.”

Maybe she shouldn’t, but she’d read the articles and she’d seen the pictures. She wondered if any of those women had meant anything to him and if he’d found love over the last decade. She didn’t want to ask, but she needed to know. “What was your longest relationship?” she asked, scuffing her sandal on the floor.

He ran a hand through his hair. Maybe it had only been a few weeks, which is what the Internet had led her to believe.

“Over six months,” he said, surprising her.

She tilted her head. “Why did you break up?”

His pause was long, but she held the silence, determined to wait him out. After what felt like an hour, he finally responded. “Georgiana thought I was still hung up on you.”

About the Author:

Author Sedona Hutton finds inspiration in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and curly-coated retriever. In addition to writing, she’s a Reiki Master and a certified Chopra Center Meditation instructor. She enjoys reading, yoga, gardening, and experiencing the great outdoors on boats, motorcycles, and Jeeps. Sedona pens a “Peace, Love, & Joy” blog on her website.

Sedona’s novel, Cloud Whispers, was a Finalist in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Contest, an Official Selection in the 2018 Summer eBook Awards for New Apple Literary, Shortlisted for the Books Go Social Best Indie Book of 2018, and a Bronze winner in the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Nora’s Promise was awarded the Bronze medal in the 2019 Reader’s Favorite Contemporary Romance category and was a Finalist in the 2019 NIEA contest. The Perfect Lap was the 2019 Reader’s Favorite Contemporary Romance Finalist.

Website: https://www.sedonahutton.com/
Blog: https://www.sedonahutton.com/blog
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SedonaHutton
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SedonaHuttonAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sedonahutton
Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/author/sedonahutton
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17837575.Sedona_Hutton

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

#SALE .99 DARE TO LOVE A SPY by Debra Elizabeth

Miss Hannah Richardson is enjoying a Season in London. She's not looking for a husband, at least not this Season. She wants to enjoy herself before settling down to married life. All that changes, however, when she sees the Duke of Wetherby. He's tall, dark and impossibly handsome and someone Hannah wants to get to know better.
Camden Darkin, the Duke of Wetherby, is not fond of attending soirees, dinners or balls, but his latest mission for the Crown demands he mingle with the ton. He has vowed not to marry because of his dangerous work and the constant bevy of beauties anxious mothers throw into his path is not tempting him in the least. That is, until he meets Hannah Richardson, a young woman unlike any other he's ever met. Can he learn to love or will his hardened heart rob him of the very thing he needs the most.
Read for FREE with KindleUnlimited or .99 to buy. Can be read as a stand alone story.

Amazon link:

  
Reviewer’s comments:
"I loved the murder-mystery flair that seemed present and the deliciously tense undertone of the spy network. These points gave lots of flavor to the budding romance and caused lots of conflict well so we ended up with a really meaty story"

"A very well-written book, I highly recommend it for those who love a witty, fast-paced Regency romance."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Interview with Donna Simonetta, WHAT WAS I THINKING


1. Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
What Was I Thinking can be read as a standalone novel, but it is the third book in my Rivers Bend trilogy. The series follows the three single siblings in the Braden family of Rivers Bend, as they each find their happy-ever-after. What Was I Thinking is the story of the youngest brother, Jason, who is not a big fan of commitment, at least where romantic relationships are concerned.  His playboy days might be over when teacher Lily Davis moves to town to become temporary guardian to her niece. At least, if they can get over their mutual animosity. It was fun for me to have the chance to write his story, but also to give readers a glimpse into the lives of the characters featured in the first two books, A Sweeter Spot and Love is Lovelier.

2. Do you have a favorite character?
I become attached to all of my characters. It takes a while to write a book, so by the end they become almost like friends to me, so it’s hard to choose. But, I think probably my favorite character is Kelly Lynch. She is the main character in my first published novel, Angels Fly, and we have a lot in common. We’re both writers, both New England natives, who have moved to different regions. Kelly is kind, funny, smart––someone I would love to know in real life. I really enjoyed writing her story.

3. Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
Not within the same book, but in the Rivers Bend trilogy the secondary characters from one book became the main characters in the next books. You can definitely pick up any of the three books, A Sweeter Spot, Love is Lovelier, or What Was I Thinking and read it and enjoy it. But in creating the fictional town of Rivers Bend, you’ll definitely run into old friends in each of the books. That’s part of the fun of writing a series––you get to really delve into the characters and their world.

4. Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
I did. I felt like such a newbie that I wanted the guidance an agent or publisher would provide me. I’ve found such an amazing community of writers with my publisher, the Wild Rose Press, that I’ve never regretted my decision. They truly support their authors, and nurture professional relationships between us.

5. How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
It was a loooong time. So long, in fact, that my first book published was actually the third book I’d written.
When I finished writing my first book, I queried my five top-picks of literary agents. I loved the story so much that I expected a full-blown bidding war to begin over it. Yeah…not so much. Instead, the first rejection hit my mailbox within half-a-freaking-hour. Thirty minutes.

6. What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?
I never did find a literary agent to take me on as a client. There are so many authors out there, clamoring for the attention of a limited number of literary agents in their genre that I started to think it wasn’t ever going to happen for me that way. But, I didn’t want to give up on my dream of being published, so I researched publishing houses that took unagented manuscript submissions. The Wild Rose Press was one of the publishing houses I learned about through my research, and the one that turned out to be the best match for me and my work. Five books later, and I’m still with them. It is a business, in a brutally competitive field, but TWRP is a great place for authors to grow and flourish.

7. Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Sometimes it can be challenging, but I usually find myself working on three different writing projects, in various stages of development. Promoting a new release, while editing another manuscript, and doing research on a third­­––it can make my head spin. But, I’ve always been an organized person, (I was a librarian in my previous career, after all!) and I’ve got a system down to juggle everything that needs to be done.

8. Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
Writing is a very solitary business, and it can get a little lonely. When I quit my day job to write full-time, I felt like I was getting a little squirrely being alone all day. Ha! So, I decided to volunteer as a Dog Deputy at a local animal shelter. What began as a way to get out of my own head and into the real world every once in a while, has become a passion for me. I love the chance to hang out with the dogs as they await their “furever” homes. Yesterday, I got to spend time with the sweetest eleven-year old boy. I took him for a walk, and spent some time in his kennel with him. I love having the chance to bring the dogs a little attention and comfort in what can be a stressful situation for them. It’s a complete miracle that I have not smuggled all of them home with me by now. My first day volunteering, my husband said to me, “Please don’t bring ALL the dogs home.”

9. Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?
Dogs all the way, for me! I have nothing against cats, but I am allergic to them and haven’t spent as much time with them as I have with dogs.
For ice cream, I would pick vanilla. Although, I will never say “no” to a piece of chocolate candy.
Coffee. I drink tea also, on occasion, but I am a coffee person at heart.
Text. I’m your classic introvert, so texting is a lot more comfortable for me.
Day. I’ve never been a real night owl.

10. What’s next for you?
I’m working on a book I’m really excited about––it’s a romance, of course, but also a ghost story. It’s set in one of my favorite cities, Richmond, Virginia. The main character moves there, only to discover there’s a very nasty spirit residing in the grand, old mansion where she lives and works. Luckily for her, the neighbors are paranormal investigators…and pretty hot too! ; ) I’m polishing that story up, as I prepare to submit it for publication, which is always both an exciting and terrifying prospect! I think I might rather face the ghost in my story than query a publisher.


BLURB:

A wild Vegas fling isn't the traditional Thanksgiving celebration, and Lily and Jason have been like oil and water since they met. Blaming their steamy hook-up on too many shots at the bar, they head home.
Back in the real world, Jason wonders if he's ready to give up his crown as the Playboy King of Rivers Bend to be with just one woman. And Lily has enough on her plate right now without adding Jason Braden to the mix, even if their attraction is crazy-strong.
But life is good at throwing curveballs, and a lot can happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Maybe even enough to lead these two polar opposites home to each other in Rivers Bend.

Buy Links:

Amazon:

Apple:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Donna Simonetta writes the kind of books she loves to read––contemporary romances to help you escape the real world for a little while. Writing is Donna’s third career. She toiled in the business world, and when she decided being an Account Executive wasn’t for her went back to school to get her MLS degree. Next, she worked in a school library for many years. But, Donna dreamed of being an author since she was a little girl, and began to squeeze writing into her day. After the publication of her second book, she decided to leave the library and become a full-time author.

Donna lives in Maryland with her husband, who is her real-life romance hero. They enjoy traveling to visit far-flung family and friends, and spending time on the beach with an umbrella drink and a good book.

Author Links:








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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

#Review: FAIR WEATHER ENEMIES by Sawyer North


5 of 5 stars
   
A family feud between the Hancocks and Ashfords has lasted more than 70 years and brings Adam Ashford and Jane Hancock to the brink of ruin. Their only way out of an egregious contract with a vile solicitor is to find a long sought after gold bounty. They must follow clues in two separate letters to understand the full impact of the clues. Thus begins the adventure that will change their lives forever.

Sawyer North is a new author for me and I must say had me intrigued with his story from the opening pages. It was delightful watching Adam and Jane go from enemies to more than friends in 30 days while on the hunt for the gold. Jane's aunt Hester and Mr. Barlow accompany them and keep them moving toward the end of the clues. I absolutely loved the witty banter between Jane and Adam, first with insults and then with the retelling of all the pranks they have played on each other throughout their lives to their final declarations. I couldn't wait to see how they would get out of an ironclad contract that had one winner and one loser. Adam would lose her ancestral home and Jane would go to debtors prison on the toss of a coin. Needless to say I couldn't put the book down until I had read the final page. The writing is well done and the plot moved along at a good pace.  I just sorry there aren't any more novels from Mr. North. I definitely look forward to his next one.

I voluntarily read the advanced reader copy and all opinions are my own.




Monday, February 10, 2020

#Excerpt: THE COLLAR AND THE CAVVARACH by Annie Douglas


Thank you for letting me visit Two Ends of the Pen! I’m excited to be here to share about my action and adventure novel, The Collar and the Cavvarach. 
 
Set in a world alarmingly like our own, The Collar and the Cavvarach is the story of fourteen-year-old Bensin, a slave, whose status is made obvious to everyone by the steel collar locked around his neck. A martial artist who competes to win money for his owner, Bensin fights in tournaments with a sword-like weapon called a cavvarach. But his greatest battle is the struggle to protect his little sister Ellie from the horrors of legalized slavery in a world where slaves have few rights. Desperate to protect Ellie, Bensin struggles to find a means - legal or otherwise - to arrange for her freedom.

Sound like a story you might enjoy? I’ve discounted The Collar and the Cavvarach to just 99 cents between now and February 12thClick here to grab your copy before the price goes up!



Want to get a taste of the story first? Read on for a sneak preview of chapter one!

The Collar and the Cavvarach
Chapter One: Before You Get a Collar

Everything was quiet in the next room, had been quiet for at least half an hour. Bensin pressed his ear against the wall again, and this time he heard the sound he had been waiting for: faint, rhythmic snores. Perfect. Mr. Creghorn always slept the soundest when he was snoring, and that meant that Mrs. Creghorn would probably have her earplugs in.
Bensin rose from the mattress he had been kneeling on, stretching his stiff limbs. Fishing in his pocket, he pulled out the two paperclips he had straightened and then re-bent near the ends. He felt his way across the dark room to the door, ran his hands over the handle till he found the keyhole, and inserted the first paperclip. Though he could hardly see anything anyway, he closed his eyes to concentrate as he inserted the second one, raking it in and out to work his makeshift lock pick the way Ricky had taught him. The metallic clickety-clickety seemed horribly loud in the quiet house, but there was nothing to be done except hope his owners were truly sleeping soundly.
Finally he felt the last pin rise out of the way. With the first paperclip, he turned the lock, and with a quick twist of the handle, the door swung open.
I did it! Grinning in triumph, Bensin tiptoed through the doorway, down the carpeted hall, past the bedroom where Mr. Creghorn was snoring away, past the baby’s room, and into the living room. As softly as he could, he slid back the deadbolt on the front door and found the keyhole. The clickety-clickety seemed even louder now, and he held his breath, wondering if anyone would hear.
But the only other sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall above the couch. Turning the handle to make sure the front door was really unlocked, Bensin dared to breathe again.
Pocketing his paperclips, he tiptoed back into the bedroom and pulled the door shut once more. Then he hurried over to the other mattress and shook his little sister gently by the shoulder. “Ellie, wake up!”
In the darkness, Ellie rolled over. “Hmm?”
“Wake up,” he repeated softly. “We’re leaving!”
She sat up, catching the urgency in his voice. “What do you mean?”
“We’re escaping. Here, put your shoes and sweater on.” He was already wearing his own sneakers, uncomfortably tight at the toes since the Creghorns didn’t believe in buying shoes for slaves very often. He bent to pick up the light jacket he had left at the foot of his mattress. Though it still got warm in the middle of the day, nights were cool at this time of the year in Jarreon.
“The Creghorns are asleep,” he told his sister as he thrust his arms through the sleeves, “and I’ve got the door open. You’re going to be free tonight!”
“But it didn’t work last time,” she protested, fumbling in the dark to put on the clothes he handed her. “And they were really mad.”
“I know, but I have a better plan this time. And with it being New Year, I figure most of the City Watch will have the night off, so we won’t be spotted as easily.”
“But what if they catch us again?”
“Then you just look small and cute like you’re so good at, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. You’re too little to lash.” He hoped.
“Can I bring Bunny?” She reached for the stuffed rabbit Mom had made before Ellie was even born.
“Of course. Here, I’ll carry him in my pocket for you. Now come on, and be quiet.”
Her little fingers tightened around his as he led the way out of their bedroom, pausing to close the door silently behind them. They tiptoed down the hallway and through the living room, and he eased the front door open. Outside, he led her down the steps and along the walkway.
The front gate creaked loudly, and Bensin winced. Ducking, he pulled Ellie down with him into the shadows behind the low fence and then froze again. But there was no sound from the house, and no lights went on behind the Creghorns’ bedroom window. Last night they had stayed up past midnight to welcome in the New Year, so he knew they had been extra tired tonight. Good.
Bensin rose to his feet and he and Ellie slipped out onto the sidewalk, a cool breeze ruffling their hair. From the tight clutch of her fingers around his, he could tell that his sister was scared, but she knew better than to make a sound.
The street was still and empty, but that didn’t mean anything. You never knew when a City Watch officer might pass by on patrol. The moon was hidden behind a thick layer of cloud, but the street lamps gave plenty of light. Strings of colorful New Year’s lights twined their way along fences and around the trunks and lower branches of trees, making it harder to find dark places to hide in.
Trying to avoid the light as much as possible, Bensin steered Ellie along the edge of the sidewalk, hugging the shadows of the neighbors’ hedges, darting across the well-lit areas. At the end of the block, he turned left. Partway down the street, he crossed to the opposite side, quickly pulling Ellie across the open space. There were fewer shadows to hide in here, but he knew a couple of the families on the other side kept dogs. The last thing he needed was for them to start barking and alert the neighborhood to the presence of two runaway slaves. When he was sure they were well past, he led his sister back across the street, thankful for some unadorned trees that gave some protection from the street lights.
“Where are we going?” Ellie whispered, breaking the silence.
“To the park, first,” Bensin whispered back. “We can talk there. Now shh.”
They hurried on in silence, Bensin darting wary glances at the houses on either side. In addition to the glowing New Year’s decorations, many had porch lights on for safety, with an occasional nightlight gleaming through bedroom curtains. But as far as he could tell, no one was awake; no one heard them pass. Probably they were all dead to the world in their beds, sleeping off their New Year’s dinners, dreaming about the gifts they had received from friends and family and their hopes for the coming year.
I know what the year 154 will hold. Freedom for Ellie. Bensin could endure anything himself if only his little sister could be free and safe. That was the best, the only New Year’s gift he wanted.
Turning a final corner, they saw the neighborhood park at the end of the block. Ahead, street lamps and houses gave way to dark open space. “Almost there,” he whispered encouragingly.
They crossed the street one more time to avoid another dog. Beyond the last of the houses, concrete became grass beneath their shoes. There wasn’t much cover here, with trees standing only around the edge. Bensin pulled Ellie after him at a run, aiming for the playground in the center. He was thankful there were no lights, but anyone looking out a window in one of those last few houses would see them darting across the grass.
The playground loomed before them, beckoning like the safe haven he hoped it would be. He led Ellie past the swings, drifting back and forth a little in the night breeze, to the tallest slide. The platform at the top was covered; they could rest there for a few minutes and not be seen.
“I don’t want to play right now,” his sister objected, panting, at the base of the ladder. “I’m too scared.”
“We’re not going to play. I’m going to explain our plan up there where no one will see or hear us.”
He followed her to the top, pulling his feet out of the too-tight shoes as they sat across from each other on the narrow platform. The twisty slide spun away to his right and the ladder dropped down to the left, but here at the top stood a sheltered island of safety. The City Watch, if they passed by on patrol, wouldn’t see them in the shadows under the domed plastic roof.
Lightning flickered from far off across the city, and Ellie scooted closer to him. “Is it gonna rain?”
“Probably not.” Rainstorms were rare in Jarreon. Only slightly less rare were the dry storms that sent dark clouds roiling across the usually clear sky, bringing thunder and lightning and unfulfilled threats.
And change. Mom had told him that stormy skies were a sign that change was coming. The weather had been just like this the day Ellie was born.
“Your life is about to change,” he told his sister as thunder grumbled in the distance. He grinned, knowing she would hear it in his voice even if she couldn’t see it. “We’re going to make you free! You’re going to live with a mom and dad who love you, and maybe some brothers and sisters too; and you’ll get to go to school — real school, not slave school — where you’ll not only learn how to read and write, but all sorts of other fun things. You’ll never have to wear a collar or be lashed, and no one will ever force you to wake up early to feed the baby or change his diapers, or yell at you if he cries. And someday when you grow up, you’ll be free to get a proper job — whatever kind you like — and earn money, and buy whatever you want, and maybe get married and have your own children if you feel like it. They’ll never be sold away from you, and you can do whatever you want with your own life!”
“That’s what you said last time.” Ellie refused to be impressed. “But it didn’t work.”
“I told you, I have a better plan this time. Last time we tried to go too far. The orphanage is miles away; I should have known we wouldn’t make it before it got light and the Watch caught us. But this time we’re only going to a City Watch station. I’ve been talking to Ricky, and I know how it works now. When free kids have problems, they can talk to a Watch Officer, and he or she will help them. If the Watch officers think you’re free and you don’t have any parents, they’ll find foster parents for you.” At least, Ricky had been pretty sure that was the way it worked. “We don’t have to go all the way to an orphanage for that.”
“But I thought the Watch station is the other way.”
“There are lots of stations in Jarreon. The one they took us to last time is the other way, but we’re not going there. I don’t want to risk anyone recognizing you. Besides, when they find out you’re gone, that’s the station the Creghorns will probably call, ’cause they’ve talked to the officers there before. So we’re going to a different one. I looked it up when we were in the library the other day, and I know how to get there now.”
“But I don’t like the Watch. They lashed you last time.”
“Yeah, but it didn’t hurt. You know that. When you’re as strong as I am, hardly anything hurts.” Bensin pushed up the sleeves of his light jacket, flexing his muscles for her to see. “Grr! You know how tough I am!”
She giggled. “Okay, but what are you gonna tell them when we get there? They’ll know we’re running away.”
“No, they won’t. Since you don’t have a collar yet, they’ll have no reason to think you’re a slave. You’re going to tell them that you have no parents and nowhere to live, and then they’ll take care of you until they find a nice family for you to live with.”
“But what about you?”
Here came the part she wouldn’t like. “They won’t see me. I’ll take you as close to the station as I can, but you’ll have to go knock on the door without me.”
Ellie drew in her breath, and her next words came out in a wail. “But I can’t do it by myself! I don’t wanna go without you!”
Reaching out, he took both her hands in his. “You have to be brave, Ellie. This is the only way it will work.”
“But I want you to be free with me!”
“I know, and I will be.” Maybe. “But not yet. The moment they see my collar, they’ll know I’m a runaway slave, just like before. This is probably our last chance, because I heard Mrs. Creghorn saying the other day that you’re old enough you should be wearing a collar too now.”
Ellie pulled a hand free from his and reached over to finger the cold circle of steel around his neck. “I always wonder what it’s like to wear one. Is it that bad?”
“Yeah, it is. Before you get a collar, people don’t always know if you’re a slave or not. But when you have one, it’s obvious. Everyone looks at you different, talks to you different, like you’re an animal and not a person. When free people ask your name or who your owner is, usually they don’t even wait for you to answer before they grab your collar tag to read it for themselves. Sometimes if they really want to be mean, they even call you ‘collar’. And I can’t pick the lock on my collar; I’ve tried I don’t know how many times. So if you’re going to escape, it has to be before you get one.”
She nodded, but she still looked sad. “Don’t worry, though,” he assured her. “Once you’re free and safe, I’ll work on all my days off and save all my money — every last sliver — until I have enough to buy my own freedom. Then I’ll come and find you, and we’ll both be free and happy together.”
Ellie sniffed, and he could tell she was trying not to cry. He squeezed her hand. “When you were only one day old, I promised Mom that I would take care of you and that I would make sure you were free someday.” He had also promised to teach her to be strong and brave, but he hadn’t made much progress yet in that area.
She wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “I’ll get a job first thing and start saving up all my money too. And then I’ll buy your freedom right away and we can live together again.”
Free kids don’t get jobs. At least not when they’re five. But Bensin rose to his knees and reached over to hug her. “What a great idea! I knew you’d think of something smart like that. Now come on, it’s time to go.”
She scooted over to the slide and pushed off. Though Bensin knew he was too big, he squeezed onto it and spiraled his way down behind her.
He had often brought her to the park to play on their days off. Something inside him clenched up at the thought that he would never come here with his sister again, never hear her laughing and calling out to him as she zoomed down the slides or while he pushed her on the swings. But he couldn’t let himself dwell on that. If she ever came to this park again, it would be as a free girl with a new family. I’m keeping my promise, Mom.
Taking her hand in his again, he ran with her toward the shelter of the trees at the edge of the playing field as lightning flickered once more. “And remember,” he told her in a low voice, “you can’t ever tell anyone you were a slave. Don’t ever talk about it with a single person — not the Watch Officers, not your new family, not your friends, not the teacher in your school. If they find out, they’ll make you a slave again.”
The two of them hurried down another residential street, still keeping to the shadows as much as possible. Bensin tried not to let himself think about all that might go wrong. And even if everything goes right, Mr. Creghorn will bring out the Motivator and lash me within an inch of my life tomorrow. Of course Bensin would pretend he didn’t know where his sister had gone, but of course his owner wouldn’t believe a word of it. It didn’t matter, though. Let him do his worst. I’ll die before I tell. No matter what they did to him, it would be worth it.
In the distance, he could hear the sound of traffic. “The next street is a busier one,” he warned Ellie in a whisper. “There will be cars, so we’ll have to be extra careful to stay out of sight.” Watch Officers were more likely to patrol there, too. He would have to keep a sharp lookout.
They crept along the new street, Bensin bent nearly double, staying in the shadows of the low brick wall that ran along the front of people’s yards. Every time he heard a car coming, he dragged his sister toward the nearest bush or parked car, crouching behind it with her until the vehicle had passed. If only there were another way we could go. But the only other routes he knew would take them far out of their way.
Three blocks down, they came to the little shopping center where Mrs. Creghorn sometimes sent him to buy groceries. Most of the buildings were dark, but the parking lot was well lit, and he could see lights on in the all-night pharmacy. The Happy New Year sign in their window was flashing red and gold.
“We’ll go around the edge,” he whispered, thankful for the thick hedge that bordered the parking lot.
They were less than halfway around when he heard footsteps approaching, loud in the stillness. Ellie gasped, and he turned and slid his hand over her mouth before she could make a sound that would give them away. “Get down,” he breathed, and pushed her gently to the ground at the base of the hedge. He dropped beside her, shielding her body with his, and the two of them lay there where the shadows were darkest, holding their breath.
 The footsteps drew closer. Bensin didn’t dare turn his head, but out of the corner of his eye he could see a pair of black boots below the dark blue pants of a Watch officer’s uniform. The man was walking past the buildings with measured steps, a flashlight in hand. From time to time he swung the beam of the light back and forth across the parking lot.
If he shines it this way, he’ll see us for sure. Bensin squeezed his arm more tightly around his sister’s shoulders, willing her to stay silent. He could feel her little body trembling.
The officer drew closer, and Bensin could see the sidearm in its holster at his belt. I bet I’m a better fighter than he is. But the thought gave him no comfort. If they both had cavvarachs, he could probably beat the officer in a duel, but that wouldn’t help him now. He was unarmed; and anyway, a cavvarach, perfect for close-quarters combat, was no match for a gun. Besides, you couldn’t fight a Watch officer. Not unless you were looking for a death sentence.
Of course, the death penalty was the consequence for a slave who attacked any free person. Mr. Creghorn loved to remind Bensin of that, but Bensin was sure that law wasn’t always enforced. Who wanted to waste a valuable slave when you could just sell him to someone else?
“Is it the Watch?” Ellie whispered.
“Shh!” He should have kept a hand over her mouth. Had the officer heard? The man turned toward them, but he was still some distance away, and it was impossible to guess anything from his expression. The flashlight scrutinized the parking lot, asphalt and painted lines and occasional scattered trash appearing in its sweeping beam. Bensin waited for it to flash across his face, but the officer pointed it the other way, examining the space between two buildings.
And then he was gone. The blue uniform disappeared around a corner, and the sound of footsteps faded.
Bensin released his grip on Ellie and rose to his hands and knees. “Get up, but keep quiet. Yes, it was a Watch officer, and he’s just around the corner. We’re going to stay in the shadows and crawl in case he comes back.”
He led the way along the hedge, keeping its comforting darkness at their right, the open parking lot stretching away to the left, the buildings beyond. They reached the corner and turned, still crawling. We’re halfway around.
“My knees hurt,” whispered Ellie from behind him. “Rocks and things are poking them.” The officer was nowhere in sight, so Bensin stopped to let her rest. “What if he comes back and sees us?” 
“If he sees you, just tell him what I told you to say: that you don’t have any home or parents. As long as he doesn’t see me, you’ll be fine.”
“But what if he sees us both?”
“That’s why we’re staying in the shadows. Now come on.”
Bensin breathed a sigh of relief when they completed their circuit of the shopping center without spotting the officer again. He must have gone off to patrol somewhere else. “We can stand up again, as long as we stay away from the light,” he told Ellie. “We’ve got two more blocks to go on this road.”
They were nearly to their next turn when they passed a gate behind which a large dog stood, wide awake and watching the street. Bensin didn’t see it in time, and it burst into furious barking.
They both jumped, and Ellie shrieked in alarm, immediately clapping a hand over her own mouth. “Sorry!” she whispered through her fingers.
“Run!” Bensin grabbed her arm and dragged her past the gate, the dog still shattering the night with its barking. A van was parked by the curb a few houses ahead. He dashed toward it, sister in tow. “Scoot under,” he ordered, just as a porch light flicked on.
Flinging himself to the ground, he wriggled forward on his belly, his dangling collar tag scraping over the asphalt and the back of his jacket snagging against the van’s undercarriage. Ellie followed, and the two of them lay there on the cold ground, listening. From inside the house, a woman’s voice called to the dog.
Ellie reached for Bensin’s hand as a door opened. “What’s the matter?” they heard the woman say. “There’s no one here. You barking at stray cats again?”
The dog gave one last wuff and went silent. They could hear its owner walking around her front yard, probably checking for intruders, and then the front door opened and shut once more.
Bensin waited until his heart had slowed back to its normal pace. “You’re doing great,” he whispered. “You’re so brave! Mom would have been proud of you. Ready to keep going?”
“I guess so,” she whispered back, her voice tremulous.
They crawled out from under the van and continued down the street, darting into the shadows whenever a car drove by. At last they reached their turnoff.
“I’m tired,” Ellie complained. “Are we almost there?”
“Not really. It’s still a long way.”
“Can’t we stop and rest some more? I’m hungry, too.”
“I’m sure they’ll give you something to eat at the station. But I guess we can stop for a bit if I can find somewhere safe. In the meantime, I’ll give you a piggyback ride.” He crouched low and hoisted her onto his back.
A moment later, Bensin almost jumped out of his skin when a ragged man who had obviously had too much to drink came stumbling around a corner and bumped right into him. He leaped aside, nearly dropping his sister, and wondered at the same moment what kind of kick would work best with his hands occupied and the extra weight on his back.
But no. The man wasn’t wearing a collar, and Bensin couldn’t afford to risk his life by attacking a free man, even a bum. Not when he was already risking so much tonight anyway.
But the bum didn’t seem to care. He mumbled what might have been a greeting and staggered on his way, clutching a bottle.
Still, Bensin didn’t want to chance the man remembering them and telling someone in authority. He crossed the street at a run, darted down another, and turned at the first corner. Ahead, he saw lights and heard music. Probably the bar the man had come from, full of revelers toasting the New Year.
“Are we lost?” squeaked Ellie in his ear, arms clasped tightly around his neck.
“No, we just took a detour.” Bensin spied a dark opening between two buildings. “Look, there’s an alley. I’m going to set you down and check if it’s safe, and if it is, we can sit in there and rest a little while.” He squatted down and gently unpried her arms.
Spying an empty beer can on the ground nearby, he tossed it into the darkness. It bounced off something with a metallic clatter, but there was no other response. Satisfied, Bensin beckoned his sister forward. “Okay, let’s go in.”
The metal object turned out to be a trashcan, which Bensin bumped into and nearly knocked over in the dark. Wincing at the loud clang, he sat down behind it and pulled Ellie down beside him. It smelled none too pleasant, and he didn’t want to think about how filthy the ground probably was. But at least no one would see them. “We can rest for a few minutes. Not too long, though.”
“Can I hold Bunny?”
“Of course.” He pulled the toy out of his pocket and handed it over. Freeing his feet once more, he rested them carefully on top of his shoes so he wouldn’t dirty his socks with whatever was underfoot. He massaged his sore toes. I’m going to have blisters after this for sure.
Ellie settled the crocheted rabbit on her lap and stroked it as though it were a real animal. “Don’t worry, Bunny,” he heard her whisper. “We’ll be okay. At least me and you will still be together.”
She leaned against Bensin’s shoulder. In a few minutes he felt her relax, and her breathing grew regular.
Lightning flickered overhead, illuminating bulging layers of cloud. It must be a good sign. Ellie’s life is going to change tonight, Bensin reminded himself. It won’t be much longer now.
Several times he heard people walk past the mouth of their alley, some talking loudly and drunkenly. Nobody ventured in, though, and Bensin was confident he had chosen a safe hiding place. Still, they couldn’t wait around too long. He had to drop Ellie off at the Watch station and get home before morning.
Finally he pulled his shoes back on and shook his sister awake. “Come on, Ellie. We can’t sit here all night.”
“I’m sleepy,” she protested as he pulled her to her feet. “I don’t wanna go any farther. I wanna go to bed.”
“The Watch officers will give you a nice, warm, comfortable bed to sleep in as soon as we get to the station. And something to eat,” he promised, hoping he was right. “Now let me put Bunny back in my pocket, and let’s go.”
“No. I wanna hold Bunny.”
He didn’t bother arguing. “All right, but if we have to run and you drop him, we might not be able to go back.”
“I won’t drop him.”
At the mouth of the alley, he paused to glance both ways before venturing out. Almost immediately, a flashlight beam from across the street sliced through the darkness. Bensin jumped back, nearly tripping over his sister. “Get back! Get back!” He pushed her behind the trashcan once more.
“What is it? Is it another Watch officer?” she whimpered, wide awake now.
“I think so.” Crouching, Bensin peered out from behind the trashcan. He was horrified to see a uniformed officer crossing the street toward them, his flashlight beam playing back and forth across the alley entrance. “He must have heard us. We have to get further back. Maybe there’s another way out of here.” He grabbed her hand and dragged her after him, still crouching low. Another trashcan loomed, and he dodged just in time. Darting behind it, he was dismayed to find that they had reached a dead end. Could they climb the wall?
“Who’s back there?” called a stern voice from the alley entrance. A beam of light illuminated the dirty ground just to their right and the brick wall behind them.
We can’t get over the wall without him seeing us. On his own, Bensin might be able to shimmy over and flee down the next street without getting caught or shot. But with Ellie, his chances were much smaller. Besides, there were probably more officers nearby, especially considering that this was a neighborhood with a bar. He could call for backup, and before we know it we’ll be in the middle of a manhunt. Bensin had seen such things on TV when the Creghorns watched the news.
There’s only one way out of this. “Ellie,” Bensin whispered through a sudden terrified tightness in his throat, “it’s time for you to do what we talked about. The man won’t hurt you. Go tell him your parents are dead and you have nowhere to live.”
“You mean — go out there all alone?” she gasped.
“I know you’re there,” called the officer. “Come out, whoever you are.”
Bensin clenched his fists in anguish. How could he send his little sister to face a Watch officer by herself? The man had a gun, for the emperor’s sake! If he couldn’t escape with her, his instincts screamed that he had to protect her in any way he could — with his own life, if necessary. Certainly not hide in the shadows and send her out to face an armed man alone.
But Bensin couldn’t forget his mother’s words that day he had visited her in the hospital. “Slavery is worse for girls, Bensin. Their owners think they can do anything they want with them. Promise me you’ll look after Ellie as much as you can. Teach her to be strong and brave.”
And Bensin, tears in his eyes at the frightening sight of Mom so pale and weak on her hospital bed, had looked down at the red, wrinkly bundle that was his little sister and promised. “I will, Mom. I’ll take care of care of her no matter what.” As an afterthought, he had added, “And someday she’ll be free. I’ll make sure of it, I promise. I promise!”
And this was his last chance to keep that promise. The Creghorns would take Ellie to get her collar any day now, and she would never escape after that.
“Come out with your hands in the air!” the officer called. He sounded closer. 
“Go, Ellie,” Bensin whispered, trying to make his voice encouraging. “It’s time for you and Bunny to get a new home. Step out where the man can see you and say what I told you to. And don’t let him know I’m here.”
She gave a frightened little whimper but obeyed. Rising to her feet, she took a shaky step forward, Bunny clutched to her chest like a life preserver.
Bensin had never felt like such a loser.

Want to find out what happens to Bensin and Ellie? Click here to download the ebook for just 99 cents! 

About the Author:
Annie Douglass Lima considers herself fortunate to have traveled in twenty different countries and lived in four of them. A fifth-grade teacher in her “other” life, she loves reading to her students and sparking their imaginations. Her books include science fictionfantasyYA action and adventure novels, a puppet scriptanthologies of her students’ poetryBible verse coloring and activity books, and a fantasy-themed cookbook. When she isn’t teaching or writing, Annie can often be found sipping spiced chai or pomegranate green tea in exotic locations, some of which exist in this world.