Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Amanda Cabot | Exclusive Excerpt: DREAMS REKINDLED
Author Guest / February 26, 2021

She was being as silly as Laura. Dorothy frowned as she placed the hat on her head for what felt like the hundredth time, tilting it ever so slightly to the left. It wasn’t as if she were about to meet the president. All she was doing was going for a walk. There was no reason to fuss so much over her appearance. Today was the fourth day since Brandon Holloway had come to Mesquite Springs, and it seemed that both he and Laura had fallen into a routine. Each day Brandon came to Polly’s Place for his midday meal. Each day Laura kept peeking out the kitchen door, almost as if she didn’t trust Dorothy to tell her when he arrived. And when he did, she insisted on taking Brandon’s meal to him, returning to the kitchen with the same report: there was no question about it; he was the man she was meant to marry. Finally satisfied with the angle of the hat, Dorothy secured it with two of her prettiest hatpins, then descended the stairs. Once a quick look confirmed that nothing in the kitchen needed her attention, she opened the back door and stepped out into…

Anna Sugden | Exclusive Excerpt: HOT ON THE ICE
Author Guest / February 23, 2021

Lily reached behind her and held up a Ziploc bag. “I put these aside specially for you.” “Score!” Fist-pumping, Noah jumped off the stool and plucked the bag from her fingers. He then grabbed her waist and started twirling her around the kitchen. “You totally rock!” “Put me down, you idiot, before you injure yourself or me,” Lily laughed breathlessly. “Is this a private party, or can anyone join?” Dante’s tone was mild, but the brittle edge cut through the light-hearted atmosphere like a warm knife through cold butter. He stood in the doorway, his expression unreadable. Lily disentangled herself from Noah and stepped back to the counter, although she had no reason to feel guilty. Dante had no claim on her. Besides, there wasn’t the slightest spark between her and Noah. The man who made her pulse race wasn’t the one whose arms she’d just been in, but the one watching her with a muscle twitching in his jaw. She picked up the squeeze bottle and began icing again. Her hand shook a little, making the white lines of the ‘M’ a little wobbly. Unwilling to show how rattled she was, Lily gritted her teeth and continued with the…

Sharon Sala | Exclusive Excerpt: SOMEBODY TO LOVE
Author Guest / February 19, 2021

Ava was still daydreaming about her lunch with Hunt and didn’t think to check the rearview mirror before heading home. It wasn’t until she was pulling up into her drive that she caught a glimpse of red and then a car pulling in behind her. When she realized it was Vince, her heart stopped. She had a moment of sheer panic, and then anger washed through her. The fact that he was an utter jerk was no longer in question. He was stalking her and it made her mad. She reached beneath the seat, grabbed the old baton her dad had given her years ago when she began working nights at the hospital in Savannah, and got out with it in her hand. Vince got out, holding up his hands in a joking I-give-up gesture when he saw what she was holding. “There are laws against stalking,” Ava said. Vince took a step toward her, grinning. “Aw, come on, Ava. I’m not stalking you. I just wanted to clear the air. I didn’t mean anything back at the grocery store. I was just surprised to see you and—” “You weren’t surprised. You were looking for me or you wouldn’t be…

MaryJanice Davidson | Exclusive Excerpt: A WOLF AFTER MY OWN HEART
Author Guest / February 18, 2021

There was a swinging door between the kitchen and living room, and Lila blessed it. Which was a switch from earlier, when she’d been carrying boxes and mistimed the swing (“Ow, dammit!”). But now the contrary thing concealed her for a crucial few seconds, and then the guy who kicked in her door came through, and she had the barrel up behind his ear before he was all the way in. “Jeez, you Domino’s guys are persistent,” she hissed. “I told you. I. Don’t. Want. Any. Pizza. Jackass.” “Please. If I was delivering pizza, it’d be Green Mill.” That startled a laugh out of her. She had to give it to him, he didn’t sound rattled in the slightest. And he was distractingly good-looking. Not every guy could pull off a Caesar haircut. Or had eyes the color of forest moss. Forest moss? Time to get laid. Not by this guy, though. Most likely. His looks made up for his clothes: He was wearing scruffy slacks, a shirt he hadn’t bothered buttoning up all the way (which revealed the shoulders and abs of a swimmer, which was even more irritating), he didn’t have a coat, and…was that blood on his…

Bella Ellis | Exclusive Excerpt: THE DIABOLICAL BONES
Author Guest / February 10, 2021

From Chapter 6 of THE DIABOLICAL BONES Anne Anne felt no small amount of apprehension as she followed the rest of the party, led by Liston Bradshaw, into the oldest and, until recently, locked- away part of Top Withens Hall. It was the dense and sorrowful atmosphere that weighed the heaviest on her slender shoulders, for there were ghosts in every corner–of the spectral sort that Mr. Dickens liked to write about, but rather the remnants of memories that told of a distant, happier life. A group portrait of Clifton, his wife, and Liston, even from beneath the veil of cobwebs and dust shrouding it, showed a close family full of pride in and warmth for one another. On a windowsill a vase was placed, surrounded by scattered desiccated petals; a shawl was draped over the end of the bannister as if it had been left there only a few moments before, its owner expecting to return to gather it up at any moment. It seemed to Anne that the moment Mary had died thirteen years ago, Clifton Bradshaw had locked away every trace of the cordial family life that had lived there and buried it along with his wife….

Garrett Leigh | Exclusive Excerpt: UNFORGETTEN
Author Guest / February 9, 2021

Gus Billy didn’t throw up. He swallowed the pills I gave him and drank the tea, and when he was sufficiently buzzed, seemed to remember he hadn’t eaten since the mini doughnuts I’d forced on him that morning. How does he even live? I’d put away at least six sandwiches since then. “What do you want?” I asked, trying to ignore how much I was enjoying seeing him stretched out on my bed. “I can order something?” Billy shook his head, eyes hooded and heavy. “No. I don’t want you spending money on me, and I don’t have any. There must be something in the cupboards. I just remembered I bought other stuff that’s not in the fridge.” “What did you buy?” “Can’t remember.” “Okay…do you remember where you put it?” “Nope.” Truth be told, he could’ve bought a hundred different things and stashed them in my kitchen cupboards before I noticed. It wasn’t like I ever looked. Curious, I rolled off the bed and sloped downstairs. The fridge was as bare as I’d left it, but a scout of the corner cabinet revealed a squirrel store of baked beans, Super Noodles, and tins of tuna. I couldn’t imagine how…

Vivien Chien | Exclusive Excerpt: FATAL FRIED RICE
Author Guest / February 8, 2021

from Chapter 7 Helen, Wendy, Pearl, and Opal, our beloved Mahjong Matrons, filed into the restaurant at nine o’clock sharp. The four widows didn’t bother to pause at the hostess station for a seating assignment. They had their own table they occupied every morning, always sitting in the same spots. When I’d first started working full time at the restaurant, I’d bring them menus as a formality. They really didn’t need them as they ordered the same thing without fail, day in and day out. After a while I gave up on bringing the menus and just headed straight for the kitchen to place their order with Peter and prep their tea. When I returned to the dining room and approached their table, the elderly women turned to greet me with pleasant smiles and twinkles in their eyes. “Good morning, Lana,” Helen sang in a cheerful voice. “Good morning, ladies,” I returned, giving them all a smile as I set the teakettle down in the center of the table. Helen, who often acted as mother hen, reached for the kettle, and as the women flipped over their teacups, she filled each one to the brim. “Have you heard the latest…

Erika Robuck | Exclusive Excerpt: THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
Author Guest / February 5, 2021

As the dawn breaks, she turns her thoughts to the future, imagining the map of France dotted with stops on her circuit. The main region of her new network is located throughout the Massif Central—the highlands of central and southern France. It is remote and mountainous, and only the locals have a clear understanding of the geography. She had argued with Vera about stationing her in a mountain region. “Send me back to Lyon,” Virginia had said. “If you want to be a kamikaze, enlist with the Japanese.” “Then anywhere else, but not mountains. I can’t face that again.” “Then that’s precisely why you must.” Mountains. It’s impossible to articulate what they represent to her. The terror of the crossing in winter—with a prosthetic leg—was bad enough, but add the guilt over abandoning her people, the Gestapo breathing down her neck, and the knowledge the betrayer was still at large, and it crushed her. She had never experienced a terror like she felt on every level during that crossing, but even then, she hadn’t seen with her own eyes the murder of her people. Until today. The air feels as thin as it did in the Pyrenees. It takes her…

Amalie Howard | Exclusive Excerpt: THE RAKEHELL OF ROTH
Author Guest / February 3, 2021

Winter glared at the butler for making him feel guilty. “No. Call for my horse. I’m going out.” “You just returned home, my lord.” “Are you my keeper now?” Ludlow’s mouth had gone so thin, it was nearly invisible. “Someone has to be.” “Now, see here—” Winter had had just about enough. He turned to give the man the blistering he deserved and stiffened as the front door to his house crashed unceremoniously open, letting in a burst of cool, fragrant wind. A cloaked vision stood there as the enticing waft of flowers slammed into Winter. He couldn’t see beyond the heavily-brimmed bonnet, and for a moment, he thought the actress, Aline, had changed her mind about a frolic in the sheets with Matteo. But Aline was petite. This new arrival was not. Ludlow rushed toward the door in greeting, and froze as the woman chuckled and said something to him in a low, sultry voice. He couldn’t quite see the butler’s face. He also couldn’t catch the lady’s tones to recognize its owner, but they were decidedly refined. Most of his callers were from the demimonde, but the occasional aristocratic lady still found her way to 15 Audley Street…

Naima Simone | Exclusive Excerpt: BACK IN THE TEXAN’S BED
Author Guest / February 2, 2021

Wiping her hands on a towel, Charlotte turned to Faith, smiling as the manager typed out a message so fast on her ever-present phone that her thumbs blurred. “What’d you need?” Charlotte asked. “You, your effervescent personality and beautiful face.” “Do you want me to clue you in on how pimp-ish that sounds, or are we just going to ignore it?” Char­lotte drawled, quirking an eyebrow. “Ignore it.” Charlotte snickered, then grinned. As she had been headhunted from the California restaurant where she’d been working, so had Faith, from her native San Anto­nio, to run Sheen. Faith had created a name for herself as a Jon Taffer in heels. Not that Sheen had been failing and needed rescuing when Faith had been brought on several weeks ago and prior to Charlotte’s hiring, but the owners had wanted to make sure their venture hit the ground running from the beginning. “Okay, give. I have nearly a full restaurant of hun­gry customers to feed,” Charlotte said, crossing her arms. “What’s up?” “What’s up is I just heard from a source who shall remain nameless that the food critic from the New York Voice magazine will be dropping by Sheen next Tues­day.” Astonishment…