#BlogTour #PsstPromotions #LetsTalkPromos @PromotionsPsst @LetsTalkLTP / #Excerpt : The Milan Job #TheMilanJob – Krista Cagg @KristaCagg @corrugatedsky

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

The Milan Job Blog Tour

Today I’m on the ‘The Milan Job’ blogtour, organised by Psst… Promotions & Let’s Talk Promos.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Krista Cagg Author PicAccording to her mother, Krista has lived in her own imagination since birth. The real world let her down. It was, frankly, boring beyond belief. After she discovered fantasy novels and comics there was no going back. This didn’t win her any popularity contests (or dates) until after high school. Art school introduced her to other geeks and the wonderful world of AD&D. A love for RP eventually led to LARP (the goth/vampire era of her life). Finally, sci-fi/fantasy/fandom conventions introduced her to the beautiful world of Steampunk. Music. Clothing. And books. She dove into the books she took a shine to and absorbed them. But something was missing. She wasn’t satisfied. During her recovery from neck surgery something she’d heard somewhere stuck out in her mind: “If you can’t find the stories you want to read then write them yourself.” On a couch in Savannah, GA. with Sons of Anarchy playing in the background, The William’s Hunt began.
Currently, Krista lives in her home town in Pennsylvania with five cats, a husband, and a weiner dog, Pete, who watches from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.
Check out her website and follow her on social media.

Synopsis :

The Milan Job_Krista CaggMeet Captain Alexandria de Sade, the proud and once loyal captain of Naviwerks chrono-ship #25. When she learned the truth about how the company was fleecing their customers she turned her back on the promotion they offered her, left the man she loved without a word, and disappeared with her ship.
With a plan in mind to undermine Naviwerks’ business of artifact and heirloom retrieval, Captain Alex hired on several like-minded misfits to crew her chrono-ship which she re-christened The William’s Hunt. They are: An awkward but genius Horotech, an irascible ex-marine, a flamboyant playboy, a churlish physician, and a hot-shot pilot.
Their first venture: go to Milan, Italy 1490 and retrieve the working model of Leonardo da Vinci’s Gran Cavallo before Naviwerks does. What should have been a simple snatch and run mission for the newly formed band of pirates goes south nearly immediately. In their struggle to recover, they learn that there is much more behind Naviwerks’ actions. Captain Alex and the crew of The William’s Hunt are the only ones that stand a chance of putting things right,and it seems as if her crew’s every step takes them deeper and deeper into discovering just how nefarious Naviwerks truly is.

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Excerpt :

“They control the Guard.” Laurence’s voice filled the silence. He said it with a hesitant tone, but there it was, and he swallowed nervously as both Nigel and Geri turned to look at him with expressions that clearly said he should explain himself.
“Well, it only makes sense,” he offered with a slight tremor in his voice. “Why else risk exposing such a high profile entity as the Papal Swiss Guard before their official existence if they did not feel they could control the situation? At this time it was the church that chronicled the happenings. No one would gainsay what they wrote down as the truth.” Laurence began to blink more rapidly, and his fingers fidgeted as the Historian and the Security Officer closed in on him, Nigel in fascination, while Geri looked like he was growing impatient again.
Laurence continued. “So to them it wasn’t a risk. Look, I’m simply following a line of logic. You needn’t look at me like that, Mr. Reynolds. If I am wrong then it still makes sense that more Agents will not be in Milan waiting for us since w-…”
Nigel raised a hand. “No, I believe you are correct.” Oh, their little Horotech was cleverer than Captain Alex led them to believe. His mind was sharp indeed. He had his own growing reasoning for why it made sense for Naviwerks to have Agents in the Papal Swiss Guard if not outright control of the group. It would mean far darker dealings within the corporation than any of them had guessed, and Nigel wasn’t willing to commit to the hypothesis just yet so he kept these thoughts to himself for now. “But perhaps this mystery is one we should pursue at another time. Right now we have a model to obtain. Then we can return to berth where we can puzzle this.”

Giveaway :

Win a signed copy of The Milan Job, a sneak peek at The Gunpowder Plot, and a $10 Amazon gift card

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds

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#PublicationDayPush #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : The Return of the Disappearing Duke – Lara Temple @laratemple1 @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘The Return of the Disappearing Duke’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

-sr6vo4QLara Temple writes strong and sensual Regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but do so with plenty of passion. She lives with her husband, two children, and one very fluffy dog and they are all very understanding about her taking over the kitchen table so she can look out over the garden as she writes and dreams up her Happy Ever Afters.

Social Media links:
Amazon author page US
Amazon author page UK
Goodreads
Facebook Author Page
Facebook
Twitter
Website

Synopsis :

YYmHIV4MA scarred mercenary … Or the Disappearing Duke of Greybourne?
Rafe has spent years running from his true identity. He’s a lone wolf, living far from aristocratic England and his violent father. Then unconventional Cleopatra Osbourne requests his protection as she crosses the Egyptian desert. In Cleo he discovers a fellow outcast—and a fierce desire! Cleo must return to London, and here lies Rafe’s dilemma—because following his heart means claiming the title he’s avoided for so long!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Bookbub

Excerpt :

After a week of camping together in the desert as they travel the length of Egypt, tension is building between Rafe and Cleo. This scene takes place at one of their last campsites where Cleo is collecting firewood and comes across a half-naked Rafe as he is shaving…

An hour later Cleo was heading back towards the temple through the palms, her arms full of brush for the fire, when she saw Rafe by the well.
He stood with his back to her, his shirt off, his back glistening with water as he shaved. The lowering sun was adding red and gold to everything and it transformed his back into a landscape far more arresting than any she’d seen on their trip. Like the desert, its power was rough and raw. Beautiful.
She stood rooted, like Lot’s salt pillar of a wife. She couldn’t look away. Her heart began thumping viciously, her skin burning, and a moan bubbled up inside her. It had been building this whole week, images and thoughts and sensations knitting together into one stifling fabric of need.
She would never have imagined a week ago that one of her chief worries was an increasing tendency to daydream about a brusque and flippant mercenary. She couldn’t even blame him. All he was doing was shaving peacefully. She, in turn, was on fire. She wanted to skim her tingling palms down that sculpted expanse, feel every curve and contour, slip them round to his flat abdomen until her fingertips brushed the dark hair arrowing down…
She knew she should move on, but she remained where she was, wishing he would turn to her, not with his teasing laughter or compassion, but mirroring the heat she felt flooding her, making it hard to breathe.
He poured water from the gourd over his head and face, rivulets forming shiny stripes down his back. She swallowed as he dried his face with a strip of linen, his touch slowing and softening as it moved over his scarred shoulder.
Her heart squished itself into a little ball, shoving back the lascivious storm. What she wanted more than anything was to wrap her arms around him and touch her lips to that shattered, tortured skin. Soothe it…him…
Oh, this is not smart at all, Cleopatra. Lust is one thing, caring is another matter altogether.
Their journey was about to come to an end. In a couple of days she would never see him again.
Repeat after me: you will never see him again.
He turned, his hand still on his scars, his eyes locking with hers. She didn’t know what she looked like, but she was afraid he could see everything. His hand descended slowly from his scars and she watched it with something like horror, as if waiting for him to extend an accusing finger. She’d been hot before, but her face blazed like the noonday sun. She swallowed and stepped back, stumbling a little.
‘If my scars bother you so, you must stop sneaking up on me when I am shaving, Cleopatra.’
His voice was utterly flat and her mind utterly aghast, so it took a moment for her to register his words. She dragged her gaze up from his chest to his eyes.
‘That’s not… I wasn’t… They don’t…’
He walked towards her, still with that same flat look. She tried to gather her thoughts, explain…
Explain what? That’s she’d stood lusting after him behind his back? That even now she wanted to reach out and take…
Perhaps if he had stood still she might have been able to think of something sensible and mature to say, but he kept coming towards her and her mind joined her body in the wishful clamour—perhaps he would not stop…he would put those big hands on her, touch her, bend down to press his half parted lips on hers…
He was within an arm’s reach from her, he extended his arms… God, she would combust faster than dry papyrus if only…
With a faint, unamused twist of his mouth he took the bundle of twigs from her arms and walked past her.
She stood for a moment, heat and horror warring inside her for dominion.
It was only a few short moments but it felt as though she’d been down to the rings of purgatory and back.
Nothing like that had ever happened to her. Not even with William when she’d been young and foolish and—despite her father—still believed in love and dreams come true. She’d thoroughly enjoyed their embraces, even if they’d led to humiliation and disillusionment. But she’d never felt…fire.
She’d never felt afraid.
Already the flood waters were lowering, leaving behind the usual debris—a wincing embarrassment and frustration. It took another moment for the real sting to wake her as his words finally sank in—he hadn’t thought she had stood there like a lust-struck ninny, but stricken by disgust and dismay because of his scars.
Shock held her silent for a moment. He treated his scars lightly, but there had been disappointment in his voice, his eyes. No—not disappointment, hurt. She’d hurt him.
She turned and hurried towards the temple, her mind tumbling over itself.

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Giveaway :

Win 3 x E-copies of The Return of the Disappearing Duke (Open INT)
*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BookBlitz #RandRBookTours @RRBookTours1 @Shanannigans81 / #PromoPost : Conscience #Conscience – Jonathan Pongratz #BookRelease #Scifi

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Blitz Banner(1)

Today I’m on the ‘Conscience’ blogtour, organised by R&R Book Tours.
To promote this book I have some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Author PicJonathan Pongratz is a writer and author of captivating horror, urban fantasy, and paranormal stories. When he’s not writing, he’s busy being a bookworm, video game junkie, and karaoke vocalist. A former resident of Dallas, he currently resides in Kansas City with his halloween cat Ajax. By day he works magic in finance, by night he creates dark and mesmerizing worlds.

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Synopsis :

Title: Conscience
Publication Date: August 27th, 2020
Genre: Sci-Fi / Short Story

ConscienceCoverRory Bennels lives in a world ruled by a business entity known as the Corporation. For years he’s executed cerebral uploads for the recently deceased, but when the famed anarchist Epher Lore ends up in his lab, a series of events occur that shakes Rory’s world to the core.

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds

Book Blitz Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

#BlogTour #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : Blooms of War – Suzanne Tierney @notajaxgirl

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘Blooms of War’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

eqRWmyBUWriter of lush, historical happily-ever-after tales, Suzanne Tierney believes in true love. But she takes delicious pleasure in making her characters fight, flutter, and find their way to each other. Her books have won numerous awards and she has twice been a Golden Heart Finalist® with the Romance Writers of America.
Suzanne grew up in Oregon, adulted in the San Francisco Bay Area, and somehow ended up in Florida, where she is very much a cold-water fish learning to navigate humid, salty seas. She loves chatting with readers.

Social Media Links:
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Synopsis :

_-81nAH4In war, she fell in love.
Vera Betts shouldn’t be falling in love with the enigmatic doctor she suspects of espionage. Reeling from her family’s betrayal, she’s faked her nursing credentials, invented a new name, and run away to the frontlines of the French battlefield. Four years into the Great War and she knows who she is and what she’s meant for—to save the living and sit vigil by the dying. When the cagey-yet-earnest Dr. Nicholas Wallace arrives, so do mysterious explosions destroying hospitals. Even as Nick raises her suspicions, he lowers her defenses. He wants the war to end. Are his acts of sabotage politically motivated or a desperate attempt at peace?
In peace, she fell apart.
A year later, Vera is back with her oppressive family, living under her real name, and Nick is on trial for murder. Trapped in grief and guilt, she cannot speak about the past and does not believe in the future. With Nick refusing to defend himself, she ventures to London to understand why he is so willing to embrace the hangman’s noose. Who is he trying to protect? What secrets does he plan to carry to his grave? And why does Nick insist upon hiding her true identity? To save the man she loves, Vera must tear open the past and confront the tragic price for peace.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Excerpt :

Chapter Three

London, May 2, 1919

[Having learned that the doctor she fell in love with during the Great War is on trial for murder, Vera ventures to London to stop him from confessing to the crime. It is the first time Vera and the doctor, Nick, have seen each other since they separated nine months ago under fraught circumstances.]

***

“After the ship docked in East Sussex, you were supposed to come find me. Not the gallows,” I tell him.
Nick sighs, a slow exhalation that stretches the seconds to minutes. His breath is all-consuming, like he had been holding it for too long, probably from the moment I walked into this court room. His gaze takes me in small bits and all at once. Every hair on my head, each of my eyelashes, the pores on my skin, the cells of my body. He is the only person who has ever looked at me thus, like I matter more than water and air and sunlight.
The lines fanning out from his eyes are deeper. His cheekbones are sharper, more angular. Sweat beads along his forehead.
The Court Martial demands, “Who the devil are you?”
Nick shuts his eyes and shutters his expression. He tries to yank back his wrist. I hold on tight. “A ghost,” he murmurs.
“In the flesh,” I answer.

Giveaway :

3 Winners each win a Donation of $15 to designated winner’s choice of frontline healthcare worker organization in the name of the designated winner – for example it could be the American Red Cross; etc. (Open INT)
*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#MiniBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : Raven Storm – Emma Miles @EmmaMilesShadow

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘Raven Storm’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

xDwsh7JoI often get asked when I knew I was a writer; the answer is always. A writer is what I am, it’s in my soul. There have been times in my life when I couldn’t write, and times when my writing has been the only thing that kept me going. I think I always longed for something deeper from life, something more meaningful, and I found it in my imagination and in the music of words.
It was poetry which first caught my attention, and whilst my younger cousins called for ghost stories it was animals I first wrote of. I think I gravitated toward fantasy because of the freedom it gives, I could create my own worlds and decide my own rules. My Wind’s Children trilogy was born from an image that came to me whilst daydreaming, of a young man sitting alone below a bridge. I didn’t know who he was; it turns out neither did he, but we found out together.
I’m now working on my seventh book and love writing more than ever, it’s an addiction, an obsession, but one I now share with my wonderful writing family. My beta readers, my editor, and you, my readers, having you with me on my journey means the world to me.
I write as much as I can around work, but I also try to squeeze in a ridiculous amount of hobbies! I’m a wildlife photographer and do a little archery. I paint, sculpt with clay, withies and driftwood, preferring to be outdoors if I can. I still have a love for the theatre, having started out in life studying backstage crafts, and a great love for language. I speak a little French, Romanian and Italian, ma non molto bene!
Thanks for reading this. If you read any of my books and love them, please come say hello and tell me, you’d be surprised at how much that means to an author.
Take care of yourself.
Em x

Social Media Links:
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Synopsis :

4vTMlA7QFear walks with those in power.
Divided, the land of Chem hangs in the balance. In the west the Ravens seek to bring safety to women, and an end to slavery. In the east the remaining covens cling to their power, refusing to give up their way of life to foreign invaders. Across both lands the priests whisper and plot, their gods a shadowy threat hanging over them all.
To protect their young family, Kesta and Jorrun have made their home in the Raven Tower of Elden. Unable to abandon their responsibility or friends, they remain embroiled in the fight to the north. Whilst peace and friendship blossom between the Fulmers, Borrows and Elden, the arrival of strangers turns the court of Taurmaline upside down.
The history of the Fire-walkers is about to catch up with them, and the Fire-spirit’s truth will be revealed.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK
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Excerpt :

This extract is taken from chapter two where we catch up with Dia and Temerran the Bard on Fulmer Island.

Despite her late night, Heara was already running her trainees through their paces when Dia left the hold to make her way down to the beach. The Borrowmen had loaded their trade goods the day before, and most of their boats had left the beach and returned to the ship. The Undine was beautiful in a way that made you catch your breath; it was as though the ship were not just made for the sea, but made of the sea and the wind.
She spotted Temerran sitting alone in the dunes, his gaze lost somewhere out to sea. He’d tied his hair back in a small tail, but the wind still played with his red curls. Dia was reluctant to disturb him, but he sensed someone watching and looked up. A smile immediately replaced his pensive frown.
‘Icante.’ He stood, but she waved at him to stay where he was. Her knees protested with a sharp ache as she crouched to sit beside him.
‘Will you follow your usual route?’ she asked.
Temerran glanced at her and nodded. ‘I’ll spend two weeks in Taurmaline and then head up to Chem. I’ll need to spend a couple of months in the Borrows after that.’
‘My daughter and Jorrun have both headed for Chem.’
He turned to regard her. ‘Trouble?’
‘Isn’t there always?’
A smile ghosted his lips as his eyes traversed the horizon. ‘I’ll let you know everything I see.’
Dia laughed, and Temerran’s smile broadened. ‘You’re not my spy.’
‘Aren’t I?’ He turned to look at her, eyebrows raised.
She gave a slight shake of her head and laughed again. ‘Okay, perhaps you are.’
His face grew serious. ‘Do you think you’ll ever send another walker to Taurmaline?’
Dia’s throat tightened. It was many years since Larissa’s murder, but it still hurt. King Bractius might not have been to blame, but queen Ayline had most definitely played a part.
‘No, I don’t think I’ll ever send another walker to Elden. Dorthai and Finian do well enough as ambassadors. Will you call in at Northold?’
‘My visit there is what makes the Elden court tolerable. Mind you.’ He smiled. ‘I am looking forward to seeing Prince Lucien.’ He turned and took her hand. ‘Come with me. It’s been months since you visited Taurmaline.’
Dia shook her head. ‘It’s harvest, I’m needed here.’
He let go of her hand and kissed her cheek. ‘It was worth a try. But seriously, I think you should go sometime soon, your influence on Bractius is important, and the reminder to Ayline that there are consequences if she tries anything stupid is even more important.’
It was Dia’s turn to stare out at the horizon. ‘Perhaps you’re right, but I don’t exactly feel comfortable there.’
Temerran winced. ‘That’s hardly surprising.’
Loud male voices broke into their peace as Arrus and Vilnue made their way down the narrow path to the beach with the last of the Borrow warriors, Worvig tagging along at the rear.
‘I guess we’re ready to sail,’ Temerran said, although it was a moment before he stood. ‘As a bard my only home is my ship, but I’m always saddest leaving here.’
‘Will you ever settle?’
He looked down at the sand, his eyebrows drawing in tight across his green eyes. ‘The Bard of The Borrows cannot settle, he belongs to the sea, and to all the islands.’
Without a backward glance he strode down the beach to meet his men.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours / #Excerpt : The Sterling Directive #TheSterlingDirective – Tim Standlish @timstandishUK @Unbound_Digital

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Sterling Directive FINAL BT Poster

Today I’m on the ‘The Sterling Directive’ blogtour, organised by Random Things Tours.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Tim Standish Author picTim Standish grew up in England, Scotland and Egypt. Following a degree in Psychology, his career has included teaching English in Spain, working as a researcher on an early computer games project, and working with groups and individuals on business planning, teamworking and personal development. He has travelled extensively throughout his life and when not working or writing, he enjoys long walks under big skies and is never one to pass up a jaunt across a field in search of an obscure historic site. He has recently discovered the more-exciting-than-you-would-think world of overly-complicated boardgames.

Synopsis :

Sterling Directive CoverCaptain Charles Maddox returns secretly to London from an exile in disgrace only to be arrested, imprisoned and threatened with the death penalty. He is rescued by a shadowy government agency called the Map Room who give him a choice: return to prison or become an agent, codenamed Sterling, and help them uncover a government conspiracy connected to the Ripper murders.
Led by the coolly calculating Milady and her associate Collier, and aided by fellow agent Church and mechanical computer expert Patience, the freshly appointed Agent Sterling must rapidly learn his new trade if he is to survive the murky and violent fringes of Victorian life and uncover a secret that threatens the Empire itself.
Set in 1896 in an alternative Victorian timeline where mechanical computers are a part of everyday life, The Sterling Directive blends fact and fiction to create a gripping thriller for fans of espionage and historical adventure alike.

Amazon

Excerpt :

“Gentlemen. Before we proceed, I must ask you both whether you are willing to resolve this dispute by any other means?”
The fog that clung to the concrete surface of the platform was given a pale glow by the first light of an early dawn. Burns, my second, could barely be seen where he stood, scarf wrapped across his face, in the shadow of a black iron pillar some way beyond me, a little further than the distance I would have to walk. It said much about the length of my absence from London society that the only second I could find at short notice was the man known about the Club as ‘Secondary’ Burns, a man who had, to my knowledge, offered his services as duelling assistant to eight of our fellow members, each and every one of whom had subsequently been unsuccessful in their aim.
No wordplay intended.
“Very well. On the count of one, you will each take a step in the direction you are facing. At each subsequent count, you should take an additional step until the count of ten is reached. At that time each of you will turn and fire a single shot at his opponent. If as a result either of you has been mortally wounded, or if honour is otherwise deemed to have been satisfied, the exchange is complete. If, however, these conditions are not met, you will reload and continue to fire until that is the case. Do either of you not understand these instructions?”
Somewhere between where Burns was standing and where my final pace would take me there was an empty cigarette packet on the ground, but from where I waited, I couldn’t tell the brand and, for some reason, this suddenly seemed oddly vexing.
The station official waited a sensible amount of time for either second to voice a concern or query. Both remained resolutely silent. The official nodded to the doctor who stood off to one side and, after one last enquiring glance to each party, continued.
“Very well. ONE”
The thought occurred to me as I set off that, if I stretched my strides slightly, I would be able to reach a point where I would be able to make out the lettering on the cigarette packet. I adjusted my pace accordingly, but stepped carefully; a heavy frost still lay, unmelted, on the platform’s surface.
“TWO”
Somewhere on one of the other platforms an early service from Paris hissed to a halt, whistling its arrival cheerily. I imagined newspapers being folded, cases grasped, coats donned, hats carefully seated on heads.
“THREE”
The industrialisation of London seemed to have grown apace, with smaller Engines appearing to be more commonplace than they were when I left for America. The military had of course retained the monopoly on the more complicated engines, the specifications of which were still secret. However, partial declassification of the technology involved had led to many smaller companies being able to compete beyond their natural reach and had instigated a commercial revolution. At least that was what it had said in the in-flight monograph that I had glanced at on the way over from Canada. From what I had seen of London so far it seemed mainly to mean: more smoke.
“FOUR”
The name on the packet was Victoria…. Or perhaps victory. Either would make for a suitably patriotic brand of tobacco.
It put me in mind of one of the first patrols I had undertaken in my posting; my section had come across a little village, barely more than a collection of shacks and lean-tos, inhabited by the French speakers who populated that area of the Canadian Provinces.
“FIVE”
Given what we’d been told about local sentiments I had been astounded to discover an almost life-sized picture of Her Majesty adorning the largest hut. I mentioned this symbol of heartening patriotism to my sergeant, a veteran of the region who responded to my question with a short laugh. ‘Bless you sir,’ he said, ‘that’s the name of the gin they make round here.’
“SIX”
Some weeks afterwards I was informed by a fellow officer that I had acquired the nickname “Geneva” Maddox. It was the last time that I had hazarded an opinion about the locals in earshot of my sergeant.
Something buzzed sharply past me and I was puzzling over its source when the sound of a shot echoed through the platform. Pausing in my stride I cautiously put a hand to my shoulder, and it was only when I saw it covered in a bright smear of blood that I realised what had happened. I was about to turn when another sound distracted me. I looked ahead and saw Burns collapse, gasping, to his knees. I turned to the official who had begun proceedings.
“If you will continue counting, sir.”
“But.. I mean… I”
“Continue the count, if you please.”
“SEVEN.” the official continued, more uncertainly than before.
I set off again, feeling the pain and warmth spread out across my neck and shoulder as blood began to slowly seep into the cloth of my jacket.
“EIGHT”
Over the years an increasing number of rituals and restrictions had been crafted to differentiate what happened at the Waterloo duelling grounds from the more common act of murder as practised by its grubbier protagonists in the rest of the capital. One of these, the embargo against weapons produced after 1815, lent a measure of confidence to my careful pacing that I might not have felt had we been using modern weaponry.
Even so, the percussion pistols deemed ‘quite the thing’ by fashionable society this season were one of the most sophisticated styles available and were relatively quick to load. As I stepped out the remaining two yards I ran through the reloading actions in my head, estimating that my opponent’s nerves would provide enough time for my remaining two strides.
It occurred to me that, while being shot once from behind said something about the baseness of the shooter, being shot twice from the same direction spoke more badly of me.
“NINE”
Burns was on all fours, pawing the ground, trying to lift himself up; his breath spouted in steaming gasps from his mouth. His face, as far as I could make out, seemed more puzzled than in pain.
I was close enough to see the packet clearly now. Victoria. The engine-stippled design rendered her majestic and unsmiling in a pose long since unrepresentative of her ailing health.
“TEN”
I turned. Edgar had his back to me, struggling along with his second to reload the pistol. “Edgar!” I called down the platform.
The Honourable Edgar Theodore Huntingdon looked round, his face white against the black of his second’s hat brim and time slowed, sound faded. I remembered him in our staircase at college, loudly confident, dismayed at our lack of enthusiasm for midnight carolling. And in London, determinedly the bon vivant of our set, dragging us all to the latest and brightest places. And in Cooper’s. Always back to Cooper’s.
I raised my arm and sighted, my breath clouding in the freezing air, held the gun steady, gently pulled the trigger and felt that guiltily reassuring kick of the gun’s blast. The cloud of smoke obscured my view and the gun’s blast froze my hearing, but I knew instinctively that I had hit.
I side-stepped for a clear view and I saw not only Edgar, but also his second seeming to hang for a moment as a faint red mist coloured the air around them both.
Hearing returned, breathing began and my senses quickened. The two men collapsed to the floor.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : The Last Charm – Ella Allbright @NikkiMoore_Auth

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘The Last Charm’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

qtq_1Y84A self-confessed reading addict, Ella Allbright writes commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset. Her first novel in this genre, The Charm Bracelet will be published in August 2020 by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins, and she’s currently hard at work on her next book. Ella is represented by agent Hattie Grünewald at The Blair Partnership, who represent J.K. Rowling.
Ella also writes as Nikki Moore, the author of the popular #LoveLondon romance series. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart, and in 2018 the collection was released in Italy. Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the best selling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply. Her debut romance Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015.
When not writing or reading, she can be found working in her HR day job, walking the family’s cute beagle puppy or watching a Netflix series!
You can connect with Ella/Nikki on:
Twitter
Facebook
Amazon UK
Blog
She also vlogs about how to get published as ‘Author By The Sea’ on her YouTube Channel.

Synopsis :

GIVBE-k4A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December…
Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.
This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.
When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.
So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

Purchase Links:
Amazon
Google Play

Excerpt :

The Last Charm – Exclusive Extract

At the beginning of The Last Charm, Leila has lost her precious charm bracelet and it’s been found by Caitlin. This email is the opening chapter and explains how Leila is going to prove to Caitlin that the bracelet is really hers in order to get it back. It’s prefaced by an advert…

LOST:
One precious charm bracelet with
great sentimental value.
Last seen near Lulworth Cove,
Dorset on 31 August.
If found, please get in touch –
REWARD ON OFFER.
Contact LeilaJones@LJ-Art.co.uk

Leila – December 2017

From: LeilaJones@LJ-Art.co.uk
To: Winterjewel@outlook.net

Subject: Re. My Charm Bracelet
Today at 12:32 p.m.

Dear Caitlin,
Thank you so much for getting in touch about finding my bracelet. You’ve no idea how much it means to me. I’ve been checking my phone about a hundred times a day ever since I put up the posters and plastered the ad all over social media. The feeling of relief is almost indescribable.
It was gifted to me on the eve of my eleventh birthday, and without the bracelet, I haven’t felt like myself. Each and every charm on the silver link chain with its little heart-shaped locket clasp is significant, marking a special memory which has the power to make me laugh, smile, or cry.
Caitlin, have you ever loved someone so much that every time you look at them, a piece of your heart swells with joy simply because they’re in the world? Well, that’s who Jake is to me. Each charm on the bracelet is a part of our story. My life, his life, our lives … and how they’ve intertwined over the past fifteen years. I need the bracelet back, and to convince you it’s mine I’m going to tell you all about the precious memories that come with those special charms.
I’ll start before our beginning, because you need to know how I got the bracelet and how that day affected my whole life. By the end of this re-telling, I hope you’ll find it in your heart to return my bracelet to me, so I can finish the birthday treasure hunt Jake created, find the last charm, and put it where it belongs.
Mine and Jake’s story isn’t over yet, no matter what other people might think.

Nb. This excerpt is protected by copyright.

Giveaway :

Win Dorset and Reading themed goodies to celebrate The Last Charm by Ella Allbright (UK Only)
First Prize
Books Make Me Happy/TLC Branded Mug
Keepsake Bracelet for Readers
Lulworth Chocolate Bar
Mermaid metal bookmark
TLC Postcards
PLUS mystery prize

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Second Prize
Lulworth Chocolate Bar
I love Durdle Door chocolate lollipop
Sunshine metal bookmark
TLC Postcards
PLUS mystery prize

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Third Prize
Lulworth Chocolate Bar
I love Lulworth chocolate lollipop
Starry Sky metal bookmark
TLC Postcards
PLUS mystery prize

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*Terms and Conditions – UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #LoveBooksTours @LoveBooksGroup / #Excerpt : The Gossip’s Choice – Sara Read @saralread @Wildpressed

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Gossips choice insta

Today I’m on the ‘The Gossip’s Choice’ blogtour, organised by Love Books Tour.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

sara readDr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.
She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.
She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.
She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).
Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.

Website
Twitter

Synopsis :

The Gossips Choice - Front cover v2“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”

Respected midwife Lucie Smith is married to Jasper, the town apothecary. They’ve lived happily together at the shop with the sign of the three doves for almost three decades. But 1665 is proving a troublesome year. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor, and Jasper is uneasy at her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil War. Their only surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie is shaken to learn their loyal maid has been keeping a secret, and knows when Jasper finds out he will be furious. How could she have missed the signs?
As the year draws to a close, Lucie is accused of serious negligence in her care of one of her mothers which could see her not only lose her licence but face excommunication.

Amazon

Excerpt :

Peggy Dill the alewife went into labour that very afternoon. Up till now, Peggy had had quite an easy labour for all of her large and robust brood, but with each pregnancy she had become more corpulent, which made Lucie fear things might be different this time. The word that Peggy’s time had come reached Lucie as she strolled back to the Three Doves on her way home from the Pardoes’, for the Dills’ cellar boy met her as she turned into High Street. She asked him to let the Dills know she was on her way and went to the shop to gather her things.
`Mary, make sure to let the butcher know I’ll need a hare skin in the next couple of hours. Alewife Dill won’t take long, I’ll warrant,’ she said as she was making her way out of the door. `Then meet me at the Black Bull. You’ll remember the steps to the living quarters are around the back on the outside and not through the alehouse, which saves you running through the noisy crowd. The drinkers will be making merry with knowing Peggy is labouring above the stairs.’
`The alewife’s in travail again, is she?’ remarked Jasper. `Send word if you need any drafts mixing, for if I remember right, she complains a great deal of her pains.’
`Ha! Yes, she does! One of these days, she’ll bring the alehouse down about our ears! She should thank God for giving her such an easy time of it, compared with so many women.’ Lucie was, of course, thinking about her chat with Isabelle. Having a first-born come breech down would be hard enough without an incompetent midwife adding to her troubles.
Peggy was tramping around her bed-chamber when Lucie arrived, trying to walk the pains away, while all the time drawing heavily on her ever-present clay pipe of tobacco.
`Oh, Mistress Smith, I can’t believe we’re here for this again! I’ll tell you what: if George even thinks to look at me again I’ll chop off his yard with my best kitchen knife. You see if I don’t!’
`From what I’ve heard, Peggy, matters are quite the other way about and you can’t help but jump on the poor man whenever the chance presents!’ one of her gossips remarked.
`Well, a woman needs her due benevolence, ain’t that right, Mistress Smith? And as God knows, working in this alehouse from dawn to dark and raising this endless herd of kids, I’ve little enough time for pleasures out of door.’
`Mother!’ exclaimed Lucy Dill, Peggy’s eldest daughter, now in her teens and acting as a gossip for her mother for the first time.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

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#BlogTour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours / #Excerpt : Night of Shooting Stars #NightOfShootingStars – Ben Pastor #BenPastor @bitterlemonpub

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

FINAL Night of Shooting Stars BT Poster

Today I’m on the ‘Night of Shooting Stars’ blogtour, organised by Random Things Tours.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Ben-Pastor-Author-Pic-1BEN PASTOR, born in Italy, worked as a university professor in Vermont. She is one of the most talented writers in the field of historical fiction. In 2008 she won the prestigious Premio Zaragoza for best historical fiction. She writes in English.

Synopsis :

Night of the Shooting Stars_FINALBerlin, July 1944, a few weeks before the attempted assassination of Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and other conspirators. Bora has been called back from the Italian Front to investigate the murder of a dazzling clairvoyant with Nazi connections.
Soon Bora realizes that there is much more at stake than murder in a city where everyone is talking about a conspiracy aimed at the Nazi hierarchy. Bora eventually meets with Stauffenberg. Are the plotters a group of heroes devoted to the salvation of Germany at the cost of their own lives, or a bunch of opportunists compromised from the beginning with the Nazi regime and now looking for a new virginity in the eyes of the Western Allies and Stalinist Russia?

Amazon

Excerpt :

RED CROSS HOSPITAL, LANDHAUSSTRASSE, WILMERSDORF, 6:32 P.M.

It’s a fact: sometimes a moment is enough. Usually it is a moment that lasts a fraction of time beyond what we expected, and says many things. Or else it suggests just a single, unmistakable thing. Emmy Pletsch looked at Bora as she left the car – with a polite “Thank you for the lift, Lieutenant Colonel” – and something in the way she paused before turning away and reaching the pavement made his heart skip a beat. Bora realized that he held her glance as she was about to turn away, and although he did not intend to let Lattmann play go-between, he betrayed himself by staring at her that one instant longer.
Had Lattmann kept quiet, it wouldn’t have happened. Exchanging glances with women was nothing new, at least ever since Dikta left him. But tonight there was that unexpected crumb of complicity in the way they looked at each other, as if to say: The two of us, among all others in the car, with their banalities, stand apart. How? It did not matter.
Bora was the first to avert his eyes, in his reserved, stern way. He told himself, I will never see her again. The world is full of glances, and this did not differ substantially from all the others. But it did, and suddenly nothing was as before.
No one else noticed, not even Trost. Ybarri helped the SS man climb the hospital steps, while Emmy Pletsch held the door open for them. Already she and Bora were ignoring each other, although he was unexpectedly glad to have her phone number in his pocket. Why? She was neither friendly nor helpful when I asked her to set up an appointment for me, although I do plan to contact Stauffenberg with or without her. What, then? I don’t care for women in uniform, let alone a girl whose lover is halfdead! Reticence, tenderness, the way her mismatched eyes send out different messages … Purely my interpretation. Or is it because Bruno has a point? A point about my sexual needs, and the fact that she won’t wear a uniform in bed. Right. As if she’d go for it. As if there were time enough. Well, there is, for a quickie. There comes a point during a war (and in life, I may add) when, as my stepfather told me once, everything accelerates. Our existence and the events around us accelerate, and so do our responses. Love and hatred develop and grow faster, your needs demand immediate attention, because as a soldier you cannot afford to waste time. I wonder where she lives. No. No. Hold back, Martin. She is a headquarters auxiliary you’re also trying to use to obtain an interview. There’s military etiquette, there are principles. Slam on the brakes.
All Trost saw was a frowning young man who left the back seat and got in next to him. “Where to, Colonel?”
“To drink something cold.”
He’d given up hoping for it, but at his return to the hotel he found a message from Olbertz, setting up an appointment in a small café (La Scala was its name, no less) near Potsdam station. The concierge also informed him that a lady had telephoned, asking for him.
For a moment, Bora thought that it might be Staff Leader Pletsch – and immediately discarded the idea, since she couldn’t have had enough time to set up an appointment for him to see Stauffenberg; besides, he’d never told her where he was billeted. His mother was back in Leipzig and Dikta lived abroad: both would identify themselves when calling. Ida Rüdiger, maybe?
“Did she leave a name, number or address?”
“No, sir. She did say she would call again.”
Bora even imagined a ruse by Salomon, using a female friend to stalk him here, of all the hotels in Berlin. Unlikely – no. He decided not to worry about a female caller for now. He climbed to his room to shower and change his sweaty shirt, careful not to lose at any time sight of the tunic where he kept Niemeyer’s letter. It was, all the same, unthinkable to keep carrying it around in Berlin. Even leaving it in the hotel safe was out of the question. Bora discarded the nooks and crannies in the room that he himself would be the first to search, as he’d done at Kupinsky’s. Doors locked, curtains drawn, he emptied the boxes of mostly useless papers and cuttings from Niemeyer’s house, and laid out the contents on the floor. For days he’d sieved through the material the Kripo had handed over to him, to the point of knowing at a glance what this or that folder contained. It was inside one of several nearly identical sleeves of assorted items that he clipped the letter to a sheaf of innocuous self-promoting fluff.
He then sat for a few minutes at the foot of the bed, tracing with his eyes the pattern of stylized pineapples on the wallpaper. They resembled eyeless, exotic faces with a wild knot of hair on their heads; a strangely calming, blind audience converging where the walls met. Before leaving, he opened the windows wide enough to let the air circulate, but not so wide that they let the evening warmth flow in.
Outside the hotel, Trost was waiting in the car. He jumped out to open the door for his passenger, and when Bora – instead of climbing in – deliberately pushed the door closed, he stood there, half at attention, half slouching. In his inexpressive face, scarred by small blemishes like a teenager’s, his eyes were brown, round like chestnuts, warm for a German. He was dutiful to the point of obstinacy. Hearing Bora’s demand for the keys, he baulked without actually saying no. He’d need permission from half a dozen supervisors, he claimed. At least.
“I was assigned Florian Grimm,” Bora replied, as if speaking of an object handed out to him. “Not you. Until Florian Grimm returns, leave the keys here. Unless you have orders to keep me under observation – which is preposterous, since I am in charge of the investigation. Are there any objections,” he added, “to my use of the car?”
Unconvinced, Trost remained silent. Judging by the oblique look he stole at Bora’s articial hand, perhaps he feared for
the Olympia.
“Is that it?” Bora laughed openly, something he seldom did these days. “I perfectly manage driving up and down mountains with my one hand. In comparison, Berlin is child’s play.” There was no way to change Trost’s mind, however, before he’d had a lengthy phone conversation with his Alexanderplatz supervisor. In the end he sulkily relinquished the keys; while he turned the corner to catch the tram, he was still looking over his shoulder.
Bora had his reasons for wanting to take advantage of Grimm’s absence, even if it lasted only ten or twelve hours more. For the moment, he did no more than park the car near the side entrance of the hotel. He chose to walk to the La Scala café, which was near the battered Potsdam train station.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

 

#BlogTour #LoveBooksTours @LoveBooksGroup / #Excerpt : Saint Justice – Mike Girst @michaelgrist

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Twitter - Tour Poster Open - Mike Grist

Today I’m on the ‘Saint Justice’ blogtour, organised by Love Books Tour.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

51PvxvbZ2aL._US230_ (1)Mike Grist is the British/American author of the Christopher Wren thriller series. For 11 years Mike lived in Tokyo, Japan, exploring and photographing the dark side of the city and the country: gangs, cults and abandoned places. Now he writes from London, UK, about rogue DELTA operator Christopher Wren – an anti-hero vigilante who brings brutal payback for dark crimes.
Discover Mike’s other books and his stunning ruins photography at his website.

Synopsis :

W1Hundreds of human cages hidden in the desert. A small-town police department wiped out. One man with nothing to lose.
Rogue DELTA operator Christopher Wren pulls off I-70 after three weeks on the road and walks into a biker bar in Price, Utah. An arbitrary decision he’s about to regret.
Wren’s a stranger in a gang bar involved with human trafficking. The bikers attack Wren, leave him for dead and steal his truck.
Now he’s going to get it back.
From a secret warehouse in the desert. Ringed with fences. Filled with human cages.
As a dark national kidnapping conspiracy unfolds and the body count mounts, one thing is for certain.
Justice will be done.

Amazon

Excerpt :

2. BEATEN

Wren roused to a deep rumbling. Opening bleary eyes, he saw white lights rushing toward him, then past, then more coming.
Everything hurt. He ran down a mental checklist as a semi thundered by only feet away, juddering the sandy shoulder beneath Wren’s cheek. His eyes worked. His jaw felt loose but he could grit his teeth. His back and sides were a blooming swell of stiffness and pain, and his breathing caught on what was probably two cracked ribs. He extended his legs and arms carefully, like an infant born on the roadside shale; no major breaks.
He rolled slowly up, steadying the dizziness with both palms on the cool blacktop. Yes, there; a broken finger. Maybe two. He looked down. In the oncoming lights he saw the fracture in the middle finger of his right hand. He partially remembered that, now: an unlucky angle when they’d started whipping him with pool cues.
He laughed, but it hurt, so he stopped, then wrapped his left fist around the broken finger. He gave a short, careful pull. The grinding and ensuing dizziness nearly knocked him out, but he clung to consciousness. Probably Jug was in worse shape; taking a knuckleduster to the face. There was something amazing about being beaten while on the ground by a gang. It was infinitely better than being beaten by one person alone. Inflame a gang enough, and they would exhaust themselves batting you around without doing much real damage.
He’d seen it countless times in Afghanistan; a mob of soldiers falling on a single civilian and beating him with all their strength, only for the victim to hobble up and run off seconds later, battered but basically unhurt.
Stamping on a guy on the ground felt good, but all you were doing most of the time was rolling his body over. Few people had what it took to hold a victim still and stamp where it would really cause damage; where bones and joints would be broken. They just worked out their anger, and when the anger was gone they wanted to get rid of the evidence.
Wren pushed himself to his feet. He ran his tongue around his gums. Plenty of blood, but it didn’t seem he’d lost a tooth. Half of them were crowns and bridges anyway, lost on other days. He slipped one hand down the back of his waistband and came back with the wallet.
Jug’s wallet.
It had been a long shot. In the heat of the violence, then the rush to get rid of his body, they hadn’t thought to search him thoroughly. He checked his pockets; the thirty bucks was gone of course.
He opened the wallet and checked out his haul. Some crunched-up bills. Some receipts. Social security card. A kid’s prom picture behind a clear window; pretty blonde with retainers. Driver’s license. Address.
Jug’s real name was Eustace. You couldn’t make that stuff up.
Wren stood and limped along the shoulder, rinsed by the rushing lights. He didn’t put out a thumb. Someone would stop soon enough or they wouldn’t. It couldn’t be that far until he hit a gas station anyway.
Nobody stopped.
The station was a TexCo maybe two hours later. By that time the bruising had him hunched over and walking with an ugly limp. His right hand throbbed around the swollen finger. He wouldn’t be making a neat fist any time soon.
Across the stained apron, through the glass, the kid behind the counter watched him approach with wide eyes. You didn’t get a lot of pedestrians on the interstate.
The kid was black and tall, with tight-knapped curls waxed close to his head. So damn young. The bell rang when Wren pushed through the door.
“The hell happened to you, man?” the kid asked.
“White supremacists,” Wren said, picking up a wire basket and scanning the shelves. “You got ice?”
“I got, uh, yeah,” said the kid, watching blankly as Wren started plucking products off the shelves. He craned his neck to follow. “In back, bottom of the chest freezer. Did you say white supremacists?”
“Uh-huh.”
Wren picked up a box of Band-Aids, a ballpen, duct tape, a liter bottle of Black Jack vodka, a hand towel and a local map showing the small towns clustered around the nearby Manti-La Sal National Forest.
“Like, they jumped you?” the kid asked, peering down the aisle while Wren rustled in the ice chest. He caught a glimpse of himself in the freezer’s mirrored back. The bruising wasn’t too visible yet, but the blood was. One of his eyes was shot through with red. There were scratches and a gouge in his cheeks and forehead. So handsome, he thought. Just more scars.
“I walked into one of their bars.”
He limped back down the aisle and the kid hurried behind the counter. “You did what? Are you crazy?”
Wren shrugged, leafed through Jug’s wallet and put fifty bucks down. “Keep the change.”
“Should I call the police?”
Wren looked at the kid a minute. He was seventeen, likely a bit of a nerd, unlikely to ever join a gang out here; maybe a cult when mid-life disappointed him. Good parents, good school, but probably not the most popular kid. College would make or break him; it all depended where he went. Either way he’d always remember this night, when a guy walked up after an epic beatdown, and what was Wren but a good role model?
“I wanted them to do it. Now I know where they live. Don’t worry about me, James.”
“How do you-” the kid started, before remembering he had a nametag.
Wren held out a hand. “Restroom keys.”
James stared a long moment, not processing again, before he gave a nervous laugh and fished them out. “Yeah. Here. You sure you don’t need some help?”
“Everybody does,” said Wren and limped out the door.
The restroom was clean enough. The door didn’t lock but that was no concern. He got the hot water going in both sinks then stripped and washed with the handcloth. Blood and dirt came off him everywhere. The smell of piss came too, along with a faint memory of them urinating on his head. Huh. It was their bar.
His back was a welter of rising purple, striped with bright welts where they’d lashed him with pool cues, darker blots where they’d punted toe-first. Muscle helped absorb most of it. There were a couple of round stab marks, a few slits where impact had split the skin, but nothing too serious. His legs were much the same; bruised and cramped but basically OK.
He doused the washcloth with vodka and swabbed himself liberally, enjoying the clarifying sting. Next came Band-Aids. Covered in other people’s piss, with clothes he couldn’t waste time cleaning now, infection was his main concern. Last he used the pen as a splint and strapped his broken finger tight.
He looked in the mirror. He looked bad; dark tan skin that could pass for a broad spectrum of American minorities between his twin heritages of Pakistan and Mexico, but puffy and bloated now. He’d passed for Pakistani-born ISIS in Afghanistan; that was sixteen months he’d never get back. He’d passed for Guadalajara MS-13 in Mexico, policing the northern border for rival coyotes and cartel mules. He’d even briefly passed for a Native American in the Big Sur terror scare.
He wouldn’t pass for shit now.
His eyes drifted to the names tattooed on his chest, done on the day they were born. Their mother’s name too. Shit. He couldn’t think about now, and wasn’t that always the problem?
He cleaned up the restroom as best he could; leaving no blood, all the trash in the wastebasket. No sense in the kid having to do it.
Back in the store, holding the ice pack to the back of his head, the kid just stared.
“You don’t look any better, man,” he said.
Wren checked the clock behind the counter; after three. “You want to help, call me a cab.”
“A cab? Uh, you know where we are right? On a highway? It’s not exactly downtown.”
“Uber then. There’ll be someone.”
“Yeah,” began the kid, hesitant, “maybe out of Salt Lake? There’s no Ubers around here?” He ended it as a question, as if Wren might have better information.
Wren sighed and dumped the contents of Jug’s wallet on the counter. “I’m only going to,” he read Jug’s driver’s license, “Emery. Is that far?”
The kid snorted. “We’re practically in Emery, man. Thirty minutes max.”
“So call the Uber. I’ll wait out front. And take this,” he gestured at the money. “It’ll cover it. Give the rest to charity, whatever you like.”
The kid stared at the money, reached for his phone, then paused. “It’ll be my Uber, in my name. And you bought duct tape. You gonna kill some guy?”
“He’s not gonna die,” Wren said, firm and calm, like he was handling a skittish animal. “I’m not even gonna hurt him.”
The kid looked distraught. “Then what are you gonna do?”
Wren gave a tired smile. It’s what he’d been doing all his life. “I’m going to change his mind.”

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

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