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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Avid Reader: Review: Death of a Sculptor in Hue, Shape and Colo...

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The Avid Reader: Review: Death of a Sculptor in Hue, Shape and Colo...: Death of a Sculptor in Hue,

Shape and Color by M.C.V. Egan






Home on Anna Maria Island Blitz




Contemporary Romance
Date Published: January 31, 2018

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Pittsburgh Privateers third baseman Gavin Sullivan is home on Anna Maria Island with a lot on his mind: his mother’s recent battle with breast cancer and, now, the surprising news his oldest brother, Colby, is a twin. Gavin has a sister he’s never met, and worse, he’s sworn to secrecy while his parents try to find her. Is it any wonder he shows up to Spring Training thirty pounds heavier than last season? Armed with a complicated diet and a warning from Coach Zee, Gavin feels wrecked, until he finds a half-naked goddess on his parent’s stretch of beach. Funny how the body that has been making him feel so miserable lately suddenly has him flying high.

Curve model Emerson Raye wants to prove the naysayers back home in West Virginia wrong. Big is beautiful, too. All she has to do is land a spot in the Sports Unlimited Swimsuit Edition by convincing America to vote for her. When pro athlete Gavin Sullivan stumbles onto her oceanfront photo shoot and asks her out for drinks, Emerson and her assistant concoct a plan to leak photos of the date to the media and create the vote-getting buzz Emerson needs. Soon, Emerson realizes there’s more to Gavin than meets the eye, and their temporary, no-strings relationship heats up. But can something lasting survive under harsh media scrutiny when secrets threaten to sabotage everything?



Excerpt



Emerson had been kissed before. She had a modelling career full of air kisses, double-cheek kisses, and the occasional, friendly smooch on the mouth. She also had a personal life spattered with overeager, often rushed kisses that were nothing more than prerequisites for the main event.

Gavin Sullivan’s kisses weren’t like anything she’d ever encountered.

He took his time, eliciting pleasure with more than his mouth. His hands grazed her neck, his thumbs stroked her jaw. His fingers threaded through the fine hairs at her nape. And all along, his mouth explored her mouth. Lips to lips. Tongue to tongue.

He tasted like butter and sweet champagne. He smelled like citrus fruit and sandalwood.

She leaned into him and whimpered. Her hands gripping the collar of his linen shirt. Her body burned. Her brain urged her to crawl into his lap and settle in for a long, slow, mind-blowing ride. And she was seconds away from obeying when above them, someone cleared his throat.

“Sorry for the interruption.”

Emerson jerked back.

“Dessert?” the man asked as he set shell-shaped bowls of sorbet in front of them.

Gavin didn’t move. He didn’t take his hungry eyes off Emerson. “Thank you,” he said to the man. “That’ll be all for tonight.”

Looking into Gavin’s eyes, Emerson’s heartrate tripled. She wanted him. Even if it made her vulnerable. She wanted this. Even if it was a fantasy.

When the man left, Gavin grinned and reached for the silver spoon beside her bowl. “Dessert?” He dipped the spoon into the single scoop of light-colored sorbet and lifted it like he might feed her, but then, with an even brighter grin, he brought the spoon to his own beautiful mouth and licked it clean. “Lemon,” he said, his voice warm and deep.

She opened her mouth, and, for a split second, was afraid her throat was too dry to speak. “I like lemon,” she said, watching him help himself to another bite.

This time, he set the spoon down, and inched closer, so close, she could feel the cold on his tongue and smell the lemon on his lips.

“Want a taste?” he whispered.

She wrapped her arms around his powerful shoulders and pulled him in. Their lips locked. Their tongues tangled. He shoved his hands beneath her thighs and guided her onto his lap. Skirt riding high. Heart beating fast. She settled over his erection, biting back a moan as he nipped at her jaw and rubbed erotic patterns up and down her back. And then, he was licking her ear, tugging her lobe, sliding his hands along the silk of her dress to her stomach and the underside of her breasts.

Emerson tipped back her head, and her eyes fluttered open to the starry sky. Was it awful to pray during something like this? Because she wanted to. She wanted to pray for this to be real.



About the Author


Elley Arden is the author of the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Cleveland Clash series. She previously worked for The Walt Disney Company and spent over a decade as a non-fiction writer and editor. When she’s not writing, Elley can be found reading, watching sports, redecorating her house, or kicking her husband’s butt in Words With Friends. She lives in Pennsylvania with her high school sweetheart and their three crazy (in a good way) kids.




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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

FIVE STARS for Death of a Sculptor from #TheAvidReader

on January 30, 2018
A rich and famous artist known all over the world for his sculptures, Bruce Jones has died at the age of 62. Bruce was loved by many. He was loved by his 5th and current wife as well as his four exes’ and a mistress plus his seven children.

Bruce gave each of his wives a different color of his choosing for his own personal reasons. Bruce loved and cared for each of his wives very deeply and differently. He liked to sculpture each of them in the color he gave them.

We find out who and what kind of person Bruce was through the pov of each of his wives and his seven children as well. We find out more about Bruce through the eyes of a private investigator and a Detective, plus a few more people too. We also hear what all the “wives” think about each other and their stepchildren.

I love watching tv shows on the ID channel among others. But two of my favorites are James Patterson’s MURDER IS FOREVER and Betrayed. When I was reading Death of a Sculptor I kept thinking of these two shows. I know that Death of a Sculptor is fiction but I think it would fit right in with Murder is Forever with each of the wives and children playing their part. I love how Murder is Forever portrayed; like a movie or tv show instead of a documentary. I can just hear Bruce on Betrayed narrow rating his own death.

I did relate to a couple of the wives in some ways as I am the fourth wife and I have never had children of my own. We are one big family with wife number two and the mother of my two wonderful stepsons and her family.

Death of a Sculptor is a very short read with just enough info that will leave you wanting more because the story is so great that you just need to know more about their stories and lives. But in the end, it does leave you with that satisfied feeling that Bruce’s story is complete with no loose ends.

I would recommend Death of a Sculptor to anyone looking for a great read that can be read in one sitting, a story that is filled with lots of love for one man and his family and a little murder on the side.



BACK TO YOU by Pauline Creeden


Back to You

With first love, everyone makes mistakes… but a few get a second chance. Rachel Sawyer gave up her first love to chase after her career in New York. Since moving to the city, finding success has been easy, but finding love? Not so much. But she doesn’t have time for what-could-have been, until her Grandmother calls, and she decides to make a quick trip back home to her small town in Ohio. Brandon was dumped by the love of his life, on Valentine’s Day. When Rachel broke up with him, the plans he had for his future fell to pieces. Nothing has ever been right since. A failed marriage, a business in shambles, his family mad at him… he can’t seem to get back the success he once had. Then she waltzes into his life once more. Is it a second chance, or will she set him up for heartbreak again? Buy links: Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)

Pauline CreedenPauline Creeden

Pauline Creeden is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy. In her fiction, she creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long.   Follow Pauline Creeden: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Taming Mia




Paranormal Romance/New Adult
Date Published: 2/2/18
Publisher: Decadent Publishing

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Mia is finally getting what she’s always wanted—the chance to be off on her own at college. Her own apartment, sexy college guys, and, most importantly, no more pride rules to follow. At least not until after graduation, when she’ll return home and marry the mate her father, the alpha, chooses for her. Until then, Mia is determined to enjoy her freedom to the fullest. And when Tristan comes along, she knows she’s met the perfect fling.

It’s Tristan’s last year at Mountain Ridge University. He’s ready for some smooth sailing, including no girl drama. As a jaguar shifter, he’s not interested in a relationship, and certainly not a mate. Mia is the answer to what he’s looking for—playful, sassy, and seeking a bit of no- strings-attached fun.

But is there more to their relationship than either of them is willing to admit?



Excerpt

Mia padded softly along the rocky, moonlit trail. Her cat eyes were well-adjusted to the darkness, and she carefully took in all of her surroundings. The large, craggy boulders and tall saguaro cacti loomed high above her in the canyon, and the sounds of small animals rustling in the bushes called to the hunter in her. Mmm. Yum. She’d love to do some hunting...but it would have to wait for another time. For now, she had something a little tastier in mind.

Her paws barely made a sound as she traveled down the path. She stepped delicately around a particularly spiky plant—she’d learned the hard way a few nights ago when she’d had to end her run early due to a pawful of cactus stickers. On high alert, she scanned the trail for other prickly invaders.

She nimbly jumped onto a large boulder and sat back on her haunches. She sniffed the air. Her whiskers twitched. The smells of the desert filled her nostrils—pungent and crisp, scents of earth and life. Mia was learning to love the way the desert smelled after a rain.

It also smelled of him. Mia had picked up his scent several minutes ago, and she knew he was close. But where was he? He had suggested they meet on this trail, and, now, he wanted to play hard to get. That damn sneaky cat.

It was a good thing she wanted to play, too. She didn’t even care why he had been so pissed off earlier—she just wanted to see him. To touch him. To taste him. She’d gone off to college to have fun, and she sure as hell was determined to do so. She wanted to forget about Asher, Rob, and most of all, her father’s meddling in things that didn’t concern him. Tonight, amidst the wide- open spaces of the canyon and the cool night air, she was going to do whatever the hell she pleased.

She scanned the canyon walls. A flicker of movement on a rocky ledge nearby caught her attention. A flick of a tail. The soft glint of moonlight reflecting off keen, predatory eyes. Tristan. He knew she saw him, and he inched slowly out of the shadows, his belly low to the ground. A low rumble emanated from deep within his chest.

He walked out to the edge of the outcropping. The strength of his jaguar emanated from him, his sleek spotted body accentuated with powerful shoulders and legs. He was the biggest feline shifter she’d ever seen. The rumbling purr in his chest turned into a fierce roar, vibrating across the canyon walls.

Oh, yes. A shudder went down Mia’s spine, electrifying all the nerves in her body. She wanted nothing more than to rub herself all over him. She purred, her insides turning into delightfully liquid goo as she thought about how his beautiful fur would feel against hers. His gaze penetrated her, ready to devour her. He was the predator...and she was his prey tonight.

Oh, yeah? Well, you can come and get it, then, big boy. You wanted to run tonight, so we’ll run.

Mia rose, standing strong on her lean, powerful legs. She belted out the loudest roar she could muster. Then she turned on her heels and bolted down the path.

She had no problem with the jaguar devouring every inch of her body tonight. But he’d have to catch her, first.


About the Author


Misty Malloy’s obsession with hair bands started in the 80’s. When she’s not listening to Guns N’ Roses or writing, you can find her wrangling dogs at the animal shelter, doing Zumba, or having brunch. She loves wine, cheese, happy hour with both wine AND cheese (of course!), sexy historical movies, and alpha males. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and their dire wolf dog.







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Sunday, January 28, 2018

~ The Immortality Trigger by Douglas Misquita ~ a Luc Fortesque adventure thriller




1945 
Allied paratroopers raid a secret Nazi research facility. The operation is reported as a success. But, the lone survivor, Benjamin Ezra, knows otherwise. 

2014 
A drug lord, El Fantasma threatens to plunge Colombia into an era of bloody drug wars. DEA Country Attaché, Zachary Mason is in charge of a covert operation to remove El Fantasma, with the help of a vigilante, El Angel, and a retired undercover agent, Raymond Garrett. 

In Naples, INTERPOL agent, Sabina Wytchoff, is investigating the death of her parents, when the Wytchoff family’s association with an ancient cabal comes under investigation. 

After the events of The Apocalypse Trigger, Luc Fortesque, is scouring the world for the man who tested experimental drugs on him. 

Wei Ling works for a shadow Transhumanist faction within China’s State Council, developing drugs that will enhance human longevity. 

Their paths will converge… violently… and conclude the mission that began in 1945.

The Immortality Trigger is also available at all leading eBook retailers


Reviews for The Immortality Trigger:

"...with a storyteller of Misquita’s caliber, you just may need Dramamine before the first chapter is done." - Bestthrillers.com

"For fans of the fast-paced and modern tale with global reach that dabbles in history, this is a perfect storm." - Lydia Peever


"The Immortality Trigger cemented in my mind why Douglas Misquita is my favourite Indian thriller author." - Newton Lewis


Other books in the series:
         



Douglas Misquita is an action-adventure thriller writer from Mumbai, India. He hammered out his first novel on the keyboard of a laptop with half-a-working-screen, and has been churning out literary entertainment to the tune of a book-a-year. His books have been praised for their pace, locales, intertwined plots, research and visuals - it’s almost like watching a movie… only, this one unfolds across the pages of a book! 





Giveaway:
One Paperback Copy of The Immortality Trigger by Douglas Misquita
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Friday, January 26, 2018

www.SleuthFest.com


Dead Air Blitz





A Glenn Beckert Mystery
Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Date Published:  October 2017
Publisher: Mill City Press

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Dead Air signals trouble at the radio station. Glenn Beckert discovers his high school best friend is shot in the head while on the air. Beck, the owner of Blue Water Security, is employed to provide security for the station.

He becomes willingly embroiled in the investigation by the not-so-innocent widow. The list of potential suspects is long, gleaned from the numerous extramarital affairs of the victim and widow. The pending sale of the radio station has created friction between his now dead friend, Richie Zito and the major stockholders. Motives for murder becomes increasingly murky after the search reveals an encrypted file on Zito’s laptop.

Beck enlists the help of an old flame, Irene Schade, to break the code, revealing a money laundering network leading to the financial and political powers of his beloved city of Pittsburgh. Their collaboration ignites the flames of passion each had considered extinguished.

A former college teammate, police Lieutenant Paglironi delivers a message to back off. Arrogantly, he ignores his friend’s advice. The threats from less friendly sources are more ominous, forcing Beck to move in an unfamiliar world. A startling revelation from his client forces Beck to deal with his inner conviction of right and wrong, challenging the gray areas of his ethical principles. Betraying his client’s confidence could expose the killer. The alternative is to confront the suspect and take matters into his own hands. Either way his life is in jeopardy.


About the Author



Cliff Protzman was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA.  Cliff's family relocated to Northeast Ohio when he was in high school.  Immediately after graduation he returned to his hometown to attend the University of Pittsburgh.  Cliff planned to major in journalism and write the great American novel. Instead, he switched to Business Administration and began a 30-year career in accounting and finance.

Cliff rekindled his passion for writing acquired as a reporter for his school newspaper. He published his first novel, DEAD AIR: a Glenn Beckert Mystery in September 2017. Cliff also writes short stories. He was a winner in the Unfinished Chapters anthology in 2015



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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Saving Madeline Blitz




Women’s Fiction
Date Published:  May 2017

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On Sale for $1.99 for a Limited Time!!


SAVING MADELINE is unusual, heart-wrenching and humorous. In the beginning, Roxy, a spunky, young actor arrives in Hollywood to follow her dream and escape from her mean-spirited family. When she finds herself coexisting in a cramped Los Angeles apartment with a wounded warrior and her German shepherd, tensions run high. And then her mother moves in—so much for escaping.

Along comes the well-connected acting coach, James Jonathan Jarvis, and Roxy’s big break in showbiz: a part in a reality TV show with a wilderness survival theme. But a week before rehearsals begin, her mother disappears. Roxy’s search leads her close to Montana where she and Madeline become trapped in a real life-and-death situation.

Though bombarded with daily challenges, the women laugh at their frequent calamities, and Roxy’s Hollywood misadventures buffer the troubling glimpses into the world of a woman whose memory is fading.



Excerpt


A short excerpt from the section

Guests Come Knocking

In Saving Madeline



Then Roxy contemplated doing something she’d sworn she would never, ever do. Don’t do it. Do Not Do This! Her palms sweated, her stomached rolled, then taking a deep breath, she did it. She opened the Help Wanted section of a regular newspaper and searched for an ordinary, though flexible, part-time job—just like normal, non-showbiz people did. To her surprise, she spotted two possibilities right away. One involved helping first-year college students revise and edit their failing work from the required course, Writing 101. Piece of cake. She could do that in her sleep. The other required someone capable of assisting a high school aged male with his guitar playing and songwriting.

“Ah, ha!” she declared. Now that was a tasty piece of cake. She wanted that job. Without any hesitation, Roxy made the call, which resulted in an on-the-spot phone interview with a pleasant, friendly woman.

“There is just one more question I must ask,” the woman said after they’d spoken a while. “And I’d like to offer my apology in advance for asking it.”

Roxy waited, curious.

“My son has a thing for starlets, and starlets seem to have a thing for him. Do you consider yourself a starlet?”

Not certain of the meaning or motive of her question, Roxy replied, “What’s a starlet?”

Genuine, hearty laughter traveled across the phone line, followed by, “Perfect. You’re perfect. When can you start?”

* * *



“Hi. You must be Liam,” she said. “Come on in. Can I get you something to drink before we get started?”

“Thanks, man. A beer would be great.”

He was a good-looking young man with short dark hair and eyes to match. She figured he was kidding about the beer because he definitely wasn’t old enough to drink. He was still in high school. So she smiled and played along.

“One beer coming up—right after I check your ID.”

He shot her a look of annoyance. “Are you messing with me?”

“No, but I thought you were joking. You weren’t?”

“Hell, no. Come on. Everybody drinks beer.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Not a problem. Wine, whiskey—I’m not picky.”

The content of this first conversation with her arrogant new student was unbelievable. Was this typical behavior for an L.A. teen, or was she just being a mid-western geek?

She brought him a can of soda and asked him to play something. He didn’t react. She nudged, needing to make this small job a continuing reality. “How long have you been playing guitar?”

He shrugged, reluctant to answer her simple question, so she asked again.

He sipped his soda, looking both bored and annoyed. It was as if he didn’t want to be there, but then with a tilt of his head and one eyebrow slightly raised, he tossed out an answer. “Since I was a kid.”

In her estimation, he still was a kid, albeit an alcohol drinking kid. When he finally freed the Martin guitar from its case and played a few bars, Roxy was blown away. As badly as she needed the cash, she let him know that she wasn’t the right person to advance his guitar playing ability. Between the two of them, he was by far the better musician. His musical talent was amazing.

“That’s okay,” he assured her. “I’m more interested in breaking into show business than I am in upping my guitar skills.”

For now, Roxy kept her thoughts to herself. She could relate to his dream, but she wasn’t the person to help him with that, either. She had no connections, no ‘ins’ when it came to breaking the showbiz code.

She crossed her arms and tilted her head. “So you’re here expecting me to help you break into show business via your songwriting ability?”

“Not exactly.” He gave her a lopsided smile. She gave him a confused frown. “I’m here because my parents are trying to keep me out of trouble. They’ve lined up a bunch of activities to keep me busy. You’re just one of them.” An amused expression flashed across his face. “Hey, since I am here, what do you think of this?” He played a new riff on his guitar. “Are you any good with lyrics? Help me come up with some words to go with that.”

His unique musical style intrigued Roxy. She dug out a notebook and pencil and settled on the floor in front of him. The words and music came together with surprising ease. Or so it seemed. They both agreed they were on to something great and had the beginnings of a real song.

With their first session over, Roxy asked, “Same time next week?”

Placing a few folded bills into her palm, he shrugged. “Sure.”

After her student had managed to shove the ill-fitting door closed, she stood in her living room with her ears ringing from the sudden silence. After spending time creating and playing music with Liam, the apartment felt empty, lonely.  She didn’t like that feeling, but she did like the fact that she held $30 cash in her hand. Cash she had earned.

Expecting to see a twenty and a ten, she sat and stared at the money. The two faces staring back at her belonged to neither Alexander Hamilton nor Andrew Jackson. She stood face-to-face with Ulysses S. Grant times two. One hundred dollars. Was this a mistake? Should she be elated or concerned? Until Roxy learned the truth, she’d consider the extra $70 to be a gift, a bonus for a job well done.

# # #


About the Author


Cricket Rohman grew up in Estes Park, Colorado and spent her formative years among deer, coyotes and beautiful blue columbine. Today she is a full-time author writing women’s fiction and mysteries about the cowboys, lovers, teachers, dogs, the great outdoors—even Alzheimer’s. And, so far, there is a dog in every one of her novels.

Book 1 FOREVER ISLAND and Book 2 WINTER’S BLUSH of The Fantasy Maker series, romance novellas, were released November 2017.

The romantic western, COLORADO TAKEDOWN, is scheduled for release early summer of 2018.

Prior to writing, Cricket's career path included the following adventures: actor, singer, audio/video producer, classroom teacher, school principal, and U of A assistant professor.



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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

PURE INNOCENCE ~ a Historical Regency Romance with Paranormal elements by Liza O'Connor

PURE INNOCENCE
The Extraordinary Life of Amy Winston, Book 1
by Liza O'Connor

A River of Silence





Mystery
Date Published: January 24, 2018
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing

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When Detective Winston Radhauser is awakened by a call from dispatch at 12:45a.m., it can mean only one thing—something terrible awaits him. He races to the Pine Street address. In the kitchen, Caleb Bryce, nearly deaf from a childhood accident, is frantically giving CPR to 19-month-old Skyler Sterling. Less than an hour later, Skyler is dead.

The ME calls it a murder and the entire town of Ashland, Oregon is outraged. Someone must be held accountable. The police captain is under a lot of pressure and anxious to make an arrest. Despite Radhauser’s doubts about Bryce’s guilt, he is arrested and charged with first degree murder. Neither Radhauser nor Bryce’s young public defender believe he is guilty. Winston Radhauser will fight for justice, even if it means losing his job.





Excerpt


Prologue

1988

In only eleven minutes, Detective Winston Radhauser’s world would flip on its axis and a permanent line would be drawn—forever dividing his life into before and after. He drove toward the Pima County Sheriff’s office in Catalina, a small town in the Sonoran Desert just twelve miles north of Tucson. Through the CD speakers, Alabama sang You’ve Got the Touch. He hummed along.

He was working a domestic violence case with Officer Alison Finney, his partner for nearly seven years. They’d made the arrest—their collar was sleeping off a binge in the back of the squad car. It was just after 10 p.m. As always, Finney wore spider earrings—tonight’s selection was a pair of black widows he hadn’t seen before.

“You know, Finn, you’d have better luck with men if you wore sunflowers in your earlobes.”

She laughed. “Any guy intimidated by a couple 14-carat web spinners isn’t man enough for me.”

He never missed an opportunity to tease her. “Good thing you like being single.”

The radio released some static.

Radhauser turned off the CD.

Dispatch announced an automobile accident on Interstate 10 near the Orange Grove Road exit. Radhauser and Finney were too far east to respond.

Her mobile phone rang. She answered, listened for a few seconds. “Copy that. I’ll get him there.” Finney hung up, then placed the phone back into the charger mounted beneath the dashboard.

“Copy what?” he said. “Get who where?”

She eyed him. “Pull over. I need to drive now.”

His grip on the steering wheel tightened. “What the hell for?”

Finney turned on the flashing lights. “Trust me and do what I ask.”

The unusual snap in her voice raised a bubble of anxiety in his chest. He pulled over and parked the patrol car on the shoulder of Sunrise Road.

She slipped out of the passenger seat and stood by the door waiting for him.

He jogged around the back of the cruiser.

Finney pushed him into the passenger seat. As if he were a child, she ordered him to fasten his seatbelt, then closed the car door and headed around the vehicle to get behind the wheel.

“Are you planning to tell me what’s going on?” he asked once she’d settled into the driver’s seat.

She opened her mouth, then closed it. Her unblinking eyes never wavered from his. “Your wife and son have been taken by ambulance to Tucson Medical Center.”

The bubble of anxiety inside him burst. “What happened? Are they all right?”

Finney turned on the siren, flipped a U-turn, then raced toward the hospital on the corner of Craycroft and Grant. “I don’t know any details.”

TMC was a designated Trauma 1 Center and most serious accident victims were taken there. That realization both comforted and terrified him. “Didn’t they say the accident happened near the Orange Grove exit?”

“I know what you’re thinking. It must be bad or they’d be taken to the closest hospital and that would be Northwest.” She stared at him with the look of a woman who knew him almost as well as Laura did. “Don’t imagine the worst. They may not have been in a car accident. Didn’t you tell me Lucas had an equestrian meet?”

Laura had driven their son to a competition in south Tucson. Maybe Lucas got thrown. He imagined the horse rearing, his son’s lanky body sliding off the saddle and landing with a thump on the arena floor. Thank God for sawdust. Laura must have ridden in the ambulance with him.

But Orange Grove was the exit Laura would have taken on her drive home. The meet ended at 9:00 p.m. Lucas always stayed to unsaddle the horse, wipe the gelding down, and help Coach Thomas load him into his trailer. About a half hour job. That would put his family near the Orange Grove exit around ten.

The moon slipped behind a cloud and the sudden darkness seemed alive and a little menacing as it pressed against the car windows.

Less than ten minutes later, Finney pulled into the ER entrance and parked in the lot. “I’m coming with you,” she said.

He shot her a you-know-better look, then glanced toward the back seat where their collar was snoring against the door, his mouth open and saliva dribbling down his chin. It was against policy to leave an unguarded suspect in the car.

“I don’t give a damn about policy,” she said.

“What if he wakes up, hitches a ride home and takes out his wife and kids? Put him in the drunk tank. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.” He ran across the parking lot. The ER doors opened automatically and he didn’t stop running until he reached the desk. “I’m Winston Radhauser. My wife and son were brought in by ambulance.”

The young nurse’s face paled and her gaze moved from his eyes to somewhere over his head.

With the change in her expression, his hope dropped into his shoes. He looked behind her down a short corridor where a set of swinging doors blocked any further view. “Where are they?”

It was one of those moments he would remember for a lifetime, where everything happened in slow motion.

She told him to wait while she found a doctor to talk to him, and nodded toward one of the vinyl chairs that lined the waiting room walls.

He sat. Tried to give himself an attitude adjustment. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as he thought. Laura or Lucas could be in surgery and the nurse, obviously just out of nursing school, didn’t know how to tell him.

He stood.

Paced.

Sat again. The hospital might have a policy where only a physician could relate a patient’s condition to his family.

His heart worked overtime, pumping and pounding.

When he looked up, a young woman in a lab coat with a stethoscope around her neck stood in front of him. She had pale skin and was thin as a sapling, her light brown hair tied back with a yellow rubber band. Her eyes echoed the color of a Tucson sky with storm clouds brewing. “Are you Mr. Radhauser?”

He nodded.

“Please come with me.”

He expected to be taken to his wife and son, but instead she led him into a small room about eight feet square. It had a round table with a clear glass vase of red tulips in the center, and two chairs. Though she didn’t look old enough to have graduated from medical school, she introduced herself as Dr. Silvia Waterford, an ER physician.

They sat.

“Tell me what happened to my wife and son.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “It was an automobile accident on Interstate 10.”

The thread of hope he held started to unravel. “Are Laura and Lucas all right? I want to see them.”

Her throat rippled as she swallowed. “There is no easy way to say this, Mr. Radhauser. I’m so sorry for your loss. But there was nothing we could do for them.”

All at once the scene bleached out. The tulips faded to gray as if a giant flashbulb had gone off in his face. The doctor was rimmed in white light. He stared at her in disbelief for a moment, praying for a mistake, a miracle, anything except what he just heard. “What do you mean there was nothing you could do? This is a Level 1 Trauma Center, isn’t it? One of the best in the state.”

“Yes. But unfortunately, medical science has its limits and we can’t save everyone. Your wife and son were both dead on arrival.”

His body crumpled in on itself, folding over like paper, all the air forced from his chest. This was his fault. Laura asked him to take the night off and go with them. Radhauser would have avoided the freeway and driven the back way home from the fairgrounds. And everything would have ended differently.

He looked up at Dr. Waterford. What was he demanding of her? Even the best trauma center in the world couldn’t bring back the dead.

There was sadness in her eyes. “I’m sure it’s not any comfort, but we think they died on impact.”

He hung his head. “Comfort,” he said. Even the word seemed horrific and out of place here. Your wife and son were both dead on arrival. Nine words that changed his life in the most drastic way he had ever imagined.

“May I call someone for you? We have clergy on staff if you’d like to talk with someone.”

A long moment passed before he raised his head and took in a series of deep breaths, trying to collect himself enough to speak. “No clergy, unless they can bring my family back. Just tell me where my wife and son are.” His voice sounded different, deeper—not the same man who went to work that evening.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “But when deaths occur in the ER, we have to move them down to the morgue.”

Radhauser stood. Beneath his anguish, a festering anger simmered. Laura was a good driver. He was willing to bet she wasn’t at fault. More than anything now, he needed someone aside from himself to blame.

Outside, a siren wailed, then came to an abrupt stop. The sound panicked Radhauser as he headed for the elevator, waited for the door to open, then got inside. He pushed the button to the basement floor. He’d visited this hospital morgue once before to identify a fellow police officer shot in a robbery arrest gone bad. The door opened and he lumbered down the empty hallway.

As he neared the stainless steel door to the morgue, a tall, dark-haired man in a suit exited. At first Radhauser thought he was a hospital administrator. The man cleared his throat, flipped open a leather case and showed his badge. “I’m Sergeant Dunlop with the Tucson Police Department. Are you Mr. Radhauser?”

“Detective Radhauser. Pima County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dunlop had a handshake Radhauser felt in every bone in his right hand. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Detective.”

“Are you investigating the accident involving my wife and son?” Radhauser looked him over. Dunlop wore a pin-striped brown suit with a yellow shirt and a solid brown tie—the conservative uniform of a newly-promoted sergeant. The air around them smelled like antiseptic and the industrial solvent used to wash floors. “Have you determined who was at fault?”

Dunlop hesitated for an instant. “Yes, I’m the investigating officer. From the eyewitness reports, your wife was not to blame. A Dodge pickup was headed south in the northbound lane of Interstate 10 near the Orange Grove exit. No lights. He hit her head-on.”

Radhauser cringed. The image cut deep. “Was he drunk?”

“I need to wait for the blood alcohol test results to come back.”

The anger building inside Radhauser got closer to the surface every second. Silence hung between them like glass. He shattered it. “Don’t give me that bullshit. You were on the scene. What did you see? What did the breathalyzer read?”

Dunlop’s silence told Radhauser everything he needed to know. “Did the bastard die at least?”

“He was miraculously uninjured. But his twin boys weren’t so lucky.” Dunlop’s voice turned flat. “They didn’t make it.” He winced, and a tide of something bitter and hopeless washed over his face. “The idiot let them ride in the pickup bed. Five fucking years old.”

“What’s the idiot’s name?”

“You don’t need to know that right now.”

Biting his lip, Radhauser fought against the surge of rage threatening to flood over him. “Who are you to tell me what I need to know? It’s not your wife and kid in there. Besides, I can easily access the information.”

Dunlop handed him a card. “I know you can. But you have something more important to do right now. We can talk tomorrow.” He draped his arm over Radhauser’s shoulder the way a brother or a friend might do.

The touch opened a hole in Radhauser’s chest.

“Say goodbye to your wife and son,” Dunlop said, then turned and walked away.

In the morgue, after Radhauser introduced himself, a male attendant pulled back the sheet covering their faces. There was no mistake.

“Do you mind if I sit here for a while?” Radhauser asked.

“No problem,” the attendant said. “Stay as long as you want.” He went back to a small alcove where he entered data into a computer. The morgue smelled like the hallway had, disinfectant and cleaning solution, with an added hint of formaldehyde.

Radhauser sat between the stainless steel gurneys that held Laura and Lucas. Of all the possible scenarios Radhauser imagined, none ended like this.

Across the room, two small body bags lay, side by side, on a wider gurney. The twin sons of the man who killed his family.

The clock on the morgue wall kept ticking and when Radhauser finally looked up at it, four hours had passed. He tried, but couldn’t understand how Laura and Lucas could be in the world one minute and gone the next. How could he give them up? It was as if a big piece of him had been cut out. And he didn’t know how to go on living without his heart.



###



For an entire year afterwards, Radhauser operated in a daze. He spent the late evening hours playing For the Good Times on Laura’s old upright piano. It was the first song they ever slow danced to and over their fourteen years together, it became their own.

He played it again and again. The neighbors complained, but he couldn’t stop. It was the only way he could remember the apricot scent of her skin and how it felt to hold her in his arms on the dance floor.

Night after night, he played until he finally collapsed into a fitful sleep, his head resting on the keyboard. The simple acts of waking up, showering, making coffee, and heading to work became a cruel pretense acted out in the cavernous absence of his wife and son.


About the Author


Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She has been writing poems and short stories since she could hold a pencil and was so in love with writing that she was a creative writing major in college.

Prior to an early retirement which enabled her to write full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. It was there she met her husband, Andreas, one of the deans in the University of Arizona's Medical School. About five years after their marriage, they left Tucson to pursue their dreams in 1991--purchasing a 35-acres horse ranch in the Williams Valley in Oregon. They spent a decade there. Andy road, trained and bred Arabian horses and coached a high school equestrian team, while Susan got serious about her writing career. 

Through the writing process, Susan has learned that she must be obsessed with the reinvention of self, of finding a way back to something lost, and the process of forgiveness and redemption. These are the recurrent themes in her work.

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