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Monday, November 13, 2017

Blog Tour: Temptation Trials Part II

Adult, Dystopian Romance & Post-Apocalyptic
Date Published: September 26, 2017

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        Lust, one of the seven deadly sins, is sweeping the nation into its seductive web. In this dystopian society, Cali and Stefani have to comply by the Regime’s strict rule of arranged marriage. But Eminence, the world dictator, doesn’t play fair.

     Against all odds, they both decide to put their relationships through the ultimate test on The Temptation Trials—a reality TV show where every temptation of the flesh is set before them.

     As participants on the show, they soon learn that losing may cost them more than the men they love. Cali’s torn, unsure of what her future holds with Cade. Stefani worries whether her relationship with Tobias can be salvaged. 

     Love can be blind. The betrayal they face from the Trials burden them. Will love be their redemption, or will it destroy them? A million questions torment their minds.  

     Can you love two people at once? If a person is chosen for you, can those feelings be real? 

     Cali and Stefani must overcome heartbreak and pull together with their loved ones before it’s too late. The abominable truth is unveiled, which sends them on a journey that will jeopardize their lives. 
     The will of the weak is his for the taking. Can love save their souls?




Review

This was a second in a series. I really enjoyed the fact that the characters were flawed and grew throughout the story and series in general.

There were a lot of elements in this story that evoked emotion. The characters had to deal with quite a bit over the course of the novel and it really resonated with me as the reader. 

 It was a lot deeper than I was expecting.  I very well put together follow up to Temptation Trials.

About the Author



     B. Truly has wanted to be an author since she was fifteen years old and is grateful to have accomplished this dream. She has very vivid dreams and a wild imagination. She likes to read, watch tons of TV shows, and movies. She’s addicted to romance and gets a thrill out of action and sci-fi. She writes New Adult and Adult, Romance. Sci-fi, Dystopian, and Paranormal genres.
      B. Truly likes to explore different elements of sci-fi romance, and create various realms of reality. She also loves creating impossible situations for her characters to grow from and try to overcome.
     B. Truly has three wonderful children and a husband who defines the person that she is today. She works full-time as an Ultrasound technologist in Houston, Texas.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Blog Tour: Thicker Than Blood



Contemporary Romance
Date Published: May 1, 2017

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Every paramedic’s worst nightmare is to arrive at the scene of a horrific accident and find out that the victim is someone they love. Or, in Caden Ross’s case, the woman he used to love. It took two years to finally get over Dakota and move on with his life, or so Caden believed, until he has to face the thought of a world without her. Nothing could have prepared the handsome, headstrong off-duty paramedic for the emotional upheaval of keeping the woman he once thought would be his forever alive.

Dakota Martineau appeared to have the world in the palm of her hand. She is beautiful, kind, has an adoring family, including her best friend and identical twin sister. She has a passion for incorporating her love of life, family, and her cultural background into her dream job with special needs kids. Then, in a life-altering crash, she discovers just how fragile life is. Thankful to be surrounded by an incredible group of friends who will help heal, not just her body, but also her soul, she knows she should be happy she is alive and on the mend, but Dakota is still tormented by the loss of her one true love.

How can you feel safe with the one person who hurt you the most? What road will Caden and Dakota take when they discover fate wreaked havoc on everything they thought was true?


Excerpt

“Opening the door, he enquired, “What are you doing here, and where is your sidekick?”
“Brody is waiting downstairs. Are you going to ask me in, mate? We need to talk.”
“I wasn’t talking about Brody. I was talking about Koko.”
“If you’re trying to cause a kerfuffle, it won’t work.”
“Don’t have a clue what the hell you just said, but if you say we need to talk and without Brody or Koko, I’m thinking I’m going to need a beer.”
Edward followed him in. “It means a skirmish or a fight. And you might want something a little stronger. I bloody well do.”
If Caden had been more like his old self, that comment might have raised his hackles. Instead, he numbly grabbed his bottle of Jack and two tumblers before heading to his couch. He poured a generous amount in each glass then handed one to Edward.
“What do I owe for the pleasure of your company? What’s in the envelope?”
“All in due time, Caden. I hope you worked today and don’t have a shift later, because that is a generous amount of liquor you poured.”
“I’m off for the next four days, thanks for asking, Mother.”
“A little testy today?”
“Edward, get to the damn point. I’m not really up for a boys’ night.”
          Edward made a show of looking around the room. “Where’s your girlfriend?”
Caden took another large sip and let the alcohol burn its way down to his stomach before he wheezed out, “Moved out a while ago.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know. What happened?”
Caden stood, beyond annoyed with all the questions. “If you must know and if it will get you out of my home sooner, she left me after she found out that I’m still in love with Dakota. Happy now?”
Edward’s face broke into a huge smile. “Actually, you couldn’t have said anything else that would make me happier.”
Leaning down and getting into Edward’s face, he replied, “You’re seriously starting to piss me off. Do you have a death wish or something? You do remember your bodyguard is downstairs, right? Say what you have to say and get out.”
Not intimidated one bit, Edward calmly responded, “Do I really have to mop your floors with your arse before I prove to you that I can and will take care of myself? Besides, after I tell you why I came here, I think you’re going to want to kiss my arse and not kick it. Now sit the fuck down and hear me out.”
Taken aback by the conviction in Edward’s voice, Caden obediently sat, taking another huge gulp of his drink. “Start talking.”
“I need some assurances from you first. What I am about to show you is going to mess with your mind, and I want you to be prepared. You have to keep your temper in check and think things through before you go off half-cocked. This involves a lot of people who I care about. They are going to be hurt enough without you adding fuel to the fire. That being said, do I have your word that you will stay calm and think about everyone involved?”
“How can I honestly give you my word if I don’t know what it’s about or how I’ll react?”

About the Author


Anne Marie Citro grew born and raised in the greater Toronto area of Ontario, Canada. She grew up in a large, loving family. Anne Marie is married to a very patient man. He is the love of her life. They have four very cool sons, and the girls they brought into their family that have become daughters of her heart. She has been blessed enough to finally have a beautiful granddaughter after four sons. She has her own personal gaggle of girlfriends, who enrich her life on a daily basis and make her laugh. Caesar Friday is her favourite day of the week. Caesars with the girls and date night with her hubby. She works with special-needs teenagers, that have taught her how to appreciate life and see it through gentler eyes. Anne Marie was encouraged by her husband to follow her lifelong dream to write. She loves the characters that take over imagination and haunts her dreams. She loves the arts and she has tried her hand at painting, wood sculpting, chainsaw carving, wood burning, metal and wire sculptures. Yes, her husband is a very patient man! Anne Marie is an avid reader and enjoys about three books per week. But nothing makes her happier then riding on the back of her husband's Harley and throwing her arms out and feeling the wind race by. Anne Marie and her husband take a few weeks every year to travel to spectacular destination around the world. Anne Marie is excited and can't wait to see what the next chapter holds for her life.


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Monday, November 6, 2017

Blog Tour: The Club: Box Set



Contemporary Romance
Date Published: 9/2/2017
Publisher: Short on Time Books

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The complete spicy hot CLUB series. Six sexy novels in one big box set!

THE CLUB SERIES includes:

BLACK DOG NIGHTS
Would you agree to be someone's mistress if he promised to pay your student loans?

SAPPHIRE BEAUTIFUL
She's a professor at a prestigious university, and he's one of her department's new graduate students.

MAD DOG DAYS
She wants to be with her roommate, the guy who she has been in love with forever, but he's still in love with her best friend.

GOLD DUST WOMAN
What happens when a world-renowned artist starts to have feelings for the man she's paying to be with?

YELLOW DOG BLUES
Washed up rock star, Maverick, is no prince and he has some work to do on his charming.

GREY CLOUDY LIES
What's a girl supposed to do when she gets pregnant and the father of the child doesn't want anything to do with the baby? How about seducing the nerdy next-door neighbor and making him believe the baby is his?

Review

This is a large box set. There are 6 full length novels to keep you entertained for days or weeks depending on how fast you read. 

I like that the characters are the same, yet change, from novel to novel. We get full length stories and new HEA's in each installment. 

Karen M. Bryson has such a way with characters. She doesn't just write characters readers will love, she write flawed characters who are redeemable and while we may not always love them, by the end, we do. 

About the Author


KAREN M. BRYSON writes new adult, love in midlife, and romantic suspense with a little spice and lots of heart. She is a winner of the prestigious RONE Award for Excellence in the Indie and Small Publishing Industry.

Karen is also an award-winning/optioned screenwriter.

When she's not at her computer creating new stories, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.

Karen previously wrote under the pen names SAVANNAH YOUNG, SIERRA AVALON, REN MONTERREY and USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR DAKOTA MADISON.


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Friday, November 3, 2017

Blog Tour: The Drowned Tower



Epic Fantasy
Date Published: April 18, 2017

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Freedom is out of the question for practitioners of the Institute, and any supporters otherwise are dealt with violently. A system Sylvie Sirx neither refutes, nor endorses—born from an enviable family, talented in her skills, and entirely too content with her position, her path has always been a straight one… until now.

Her qualifications backfire when an elder from the north descends upon her home for a Choosing. He calls upon the Drowned Tower’s most sought after practitioners for a simple job that ends in blood, and then Sylvie’s blissful world erupts. She finds herself in the company of the Elementalist, Jacques Dace, an insufferable but deadly enthusiast of personal reform. Together, they’re swept into a spiral of powerful magic and ancient grudges. Where truth bends, stones whisper secrets of the past, and their home lies at the heart of what could very well be Ferus Terria’s next recorded war.

And for once, she is forced to choose a side, learning for herself what it means to master fate.


Review

Wow, this one really delivers in many areas. It is a thrilling Fantasy novel with teeth. Yes, it took a bit of catching up to understand what was going on,  but once in the heart of it, Nicholas Rinth has the reader hooked. 

As far as Characters, Plot, and Flow, everything was very well developed and smooth. 

This novel was a great escape from reality as well as a quick and easy read


About the Author


Nicholas Rinth lives lakeside in the southern graces of Savannah, Georgia. Where he spends his time fantasizing about other worlds and working on his next novel.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blog Tour: There Be Demons



Fantasy / Paranormal
Date Published: September 26, 2017

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Heroes come in all shapes.

The war for Andor has lasted a century. Humans and their allies, the Angeli, fight demons from another plane who need a warmer planet to hatch and raise their young. 

Trebridge becomes Ground zero when Abraxas, a minion of the demon Prince Vetis, opens a secret portal into the city. The demons’ goal is to build an army to subjugate the city before the humans realize they are under attack.

Standing in the demons’ way are two disparate groups: the humans of Andor and their Angeli allies who command gargoyle warriors.

Leading the four gargoyles guarding Trebridge is Gillen, a proven war hero who uses Grace to fight demons. But Gillen is an outcast, mocked for his tuft of hair that normal gargoyles lack. It’s up to him to prove once and for all that he’s worthy of his command, in spite of dissention in his ranks. When Gillen asks the Angeli Commanders for reinforcements to fight the growing demon menace in Trebridge, headquarters send four human teens from the projects.

The leader of the humans is Britt, a 14-year-old half-Hispanic girl who is one of the four magic-possessing Chosen. But Britt was never trained in the art of Grace, and like most girls her age, spends her days preoccupied with school and romance. Like Gillen, she must rise above her station in life--if she is to save the ones she loves.

But Gillen and Britt are facing formidable demon foes, Abraxas: a chicken-headed demon who possesses several humans as part of his plan to build the demons’ base in Trebridge and power-hungry Prince Vetis who is his commander. Neither will let the deaths of expendable humans get in their way of the conquest.

At the same time as she is suppose to learn how to fight demons, Britt has to juggle the mundane problems of school and parental custody battles. She doesn’t realize her danger until she confront the demon Prince Vetis in a battle for her soul as a human being.


Review


I love the way that M.K. Theodoratus writes, the plot was so well thought out. No plot holes along the way, I felt like everything was tied up in a neat bow at the end.


There are a lot of moving parts to this novel and a lot of action. I liked the way the characters were relatable even though it was a Paranormal Novel.

The Fantasy aspect is very well done and the imagery and setting is amazing. The Author really brings the world to life through words. 

My favorite thing about this novel was the characters. They were multi dimensional and we really got a good background on them to allow us to understand their characters.

Get ready to be immersed in the world and captivated by the characters she has created.

About the Author


Who am I? Bottom line: I’m an old lady who amuses herself writing. But, since writing stories is twined up with reading, my journey has been a long one.
My adventures in reading/writing started with comic books. You can blame them for my fascination with the fantastic. I fondly remember spending hours reading and trading them.

But I was weird, too. My favorites were the Classic Comic series. I didn’t trade them. All those pre-Silver Age Supermans, Batmans, and Tales from the Crypt etc. disappeared into the mists. My favorite character? Scrooge McDuck. Swimming in a pile of money intrigued me. But never could figure out the diving thing.

The Oz books by L. Frank Baum introduced me to fantasy proper. My first impression when I saw my first Oz book in fifth grade? I couldn’t imagine reading such a thick book…even though the pictures looked interesting. I didn’t actually read the Wizard of Oz until the city children’s librarian recommended it in seventh grade. I thought Dorothy was a pretty neat character; she had gumption.
I was hooked on fantasy after I discovered A. Merritt’s Ship of Ishtar at the used hardware store. I still have my 25c A. Merritt and Andre Norton paperbacks and read them, even though the paper smells.

The realization that real people could write stories came in the sixth grade. Duh.
The teacher assigned writing a short story to the class. Everyone wrote 2-4 pages. I wrote an unfinished 25-page Nancy Drew clone, The Clue of the Clay Cats. The effort got me a “C” because it was unfinished, but I finished it the next summer on my mother’s typewriter. The children’s librarian said it was pretty good. I’ve been a chronic, if haphazard, writer ever since.

My current “writing career” started after I had heart surgery. I got bored sitting around. While dozing, I had this vision of this girl standing on bluff overlooking the ocean, her long red hair streaming behind her in a gale. She was incredibly lonely, and I wondered why. Discovered she was 400 years old and…

While I dithered around with my Half-Elves, I tried improving my fiction craft skills writing short stories. They ended up with a theme: humans fighting demons. My world of Andor was born [from the country Andorra, if you’re a stamp collector]. One of the stories, Night for the Gargoyles, made me wonder about how Gillen got rid of the demons. Four untrained teens from the projects didn’t seem like effective back up to me.

Writing moves in mysterious ways. Another story, Noticing Jamilla, launched On the Run, though the original main character disappeared. There Be Demons and On the Run did get written. If I get my act together, there should be a third book where Britt and Pillar meet and take care of the demon army Grylerrque gathers to conquer Andor. I keep wondering what will happen when fiery Britt meets cool Pillar.

So, here I sit with a computer full of unedited stories--including novels set in our world--still amusing myself writing. Jotting down notes and bits of dialog and transferring them to my computer.
Oh. Yeah. I’m married, have three adult kids who live away from home, and indulge two cats who sleep a lot. I can be found via my website and on Facebook.

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PROMO: Poetic Freedom



Poetry / African American / YA / NA
Date Published: (Planned) October, 30th, 2017
Publisher: Phenomenal One Press

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Poetic Freedom.

A raw, gritty, urban poetic expression with an exploration of choices we have to make at the crossroads of life. The thoughts are honest, harsh, but hopeful. A perception of the media that feeds us, the spirituality that we cling to, the expectations of the society we are a part of, and how a young man fights to decipher, decide and climb the path not easily traveled, but most strengthened.



~Excerpt from Poem THE TEST by Frank Preston

Pain and frustration the fuel for admiration
Admiring the world’s temptations till they become motivation
When the sensation of success is worn as a vest
They say he's blessed but that depends on the quest




About the Author


Frank 'ThatGuy' Preston, is an artist with a powerful voice. His journey as a comedian, author and motivator didn't come easily and has lead him to have give back to the community by coaching kids, co-creating new sports, and sharing his growth through comedic videos, in person performances, his art and writing. He challenges the minds of his readers to see life through a different scope. As a speaker he explains the difficulties of life as a minority in a world that doesn’t accept him, and how anyone who is mistreated for their differences can overcome them to grow to be great. Frank positions himself as many other artist, writers, and speakers of today, but stands apart in his ability to speak the truth with no bounds.

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Poetic Freedom Themed Prize Pack

(T-shirt * other swag – signed book)

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Blog Tour: Hidden in Harmony



Christian Mystery
Date Published: October 14, 2017

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A devout Christian family faces threats, stalkings, kidnappings, and even murder when they attempt to help a man formerly accused, but never found guilty of committing terrible acts. The Russells refuse to allow intimidation to stop them from standing up for what they believe in. They must rely on God to keep their family safe.


Review

This is a tame mystery novel.  It is classified as Christian Mystery and I think it very much sticks to that. There is nothing overt and out there, it is a pretty straight-forward mystery. 

I liked that it was a Mystery novel while also being a light read. 

The writing was easy to follow, the plot was well developed, and the pacing was spot on. Wonderful characterization as well. 

About the Author


JR Thompson was born and raised in the outskirts of Charleston, WV. He, and his lovely wife, Hannah, now reside in a small ghost town in Montana. In addition to being an author, Thompson also keeps himself busy as the assistant pastor, youth director, and music director for a local church.

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Release Blitz: Greco's Game


Thriller / Suspense / Action / Romance
Date Published: November 1, 2017
Publisher: Regis Books

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Colonel Aleksandr Talanov – the “ice man” – is married to a woman he wishes he could love. But he can’t, and it’s an ugly consequence of his training with the KGB. Even so, no one should have to experience what Talanov experiences: the brutal murder of his wife in front of his eyes.

Wracked with guilt and suspected of plotting her death, Talanov spirals downward on a path of self-destruction. He should have been killed, not her. He was the one whose violent past would not leave them alone. Months tick by and Talanov hits rock bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he meets a hooker named Larisa, who drugs and robs him.

But in the seedy world of human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, Larisa made the mistake of stealing the ice man’s wallet. In it was Talanov’s sole possession of value: his wedding photo. Talanov tracks Larisa down to get that photo because it reminds him of everything that should have been but never was, and never would be because an assassin’s bullet had mistakenly killed his wife. Or was it a mistake?


The answer lies in Greco’s Game, a chess match played in 1619 that is famous for its queen sacrifice and checkmate in only eight moves. In an unusual alliance, Talanov and Larisa team up to begin unraveling the mystery of what Talanov’s old KGB chess instructor regarded as the most brilliant example of how to trap and kill an opponent. The question is: who was the target?


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

TALANOV slowly opened his eyes to the sound of canned laughter. You stupid idiot, he thought, fumbling for the remote. After switching off the TV, he swung his feet down onto the floor and sat hunched over for a long moment. Finally, he stood and looked around the bedroom for his clothes. In the wash of light coming in through the window, he could see them strewn across the floor. He remembered kicking them in various directions when he and “Tash” had giggled their way into the hotel room earlier that night.
Tash sure knew the routine. With legs like a sprinter and hair the  color  of  honey,  the  twenty-something  Ukrainian  had moved up and down him like a pole dancer while slow- waltzing him into bed. Talanov knew it was a set-up long before his head began to spin from whatever it was someone had slipped him back in the nightclub. Even so, he didn’t care. He had quit caring long ago.
He picked up his underwear from a tangle of covers at the foot of the bed. A remnant of what would never be a memorable night of lovemaking. He could still see Tash jumping from the bed in her hot pink g-string, contemptuous at his inability to “do it.” It was always the same, whether with Tash or any of the other hookers he had picked up over the last few months in an effort to try and forget. But try as he did, he could not get Andrea out of his mind.
Memories of that night were still embedded in him like shrapnel. On stage for the award. Waves of applause. Andrea’s sudden urge to lean over and kiss him. Suddenly a shot. An explosion of blood. The brilliant red spatter floating before him like a nightmarish special effect in a movie. And in that split second before his wife hit the stage, Talanov saw movement high on the catwalk. A fleeting shadow making an escape. Then came the shrieks. People scattering. Andrea’s fingers desperately reaching out for him while she lay quivering in a spreading pool of red.
In all his years with the KGB, Talanov had never felt panic.
But he felt it then. Diving to her side, he placed his hands over the gaping holes in her neck. He screamed for help while Andrea’s life continued to squirt through his fingers.  He looked down and saw Andrea’s eyes smiling up at him. She tried to speak.
“Save your strength, help’s on the way,” he instructed, his eyes betraying the confidence he tried to portray.
“Love … you,” Andrea whispered as her eyelids sagged closed.
“Stay with me!” Talanov shouted as the tears streaked down his cheeks. He screamed again for help.
Sitting in the ambulance minutes later, Talanov strained to breathe. But the coils around his chest were crushing, relentless, and cruel. The hope once visible in his eyes had melted into dark puddles of despair. Suddenly, a high-pitched squeal sounded and the paramedics sprang into action. Readings were shouted, drugs were administered, heart massage was commenced. Then came the paddles.
“Clear!” one of them shouted an instant before a jolt of electricity convulsed Andrea’s ghostly white body. The high- pitched squeal did not waver. The paddles were charged again. Talanov did not know how many attempts were made to save his wife before she was finally pronounced dead. He did not remember the hospital waiting room or the questions asked by police, or the young female officer who finally drove him home. Numbness was all that he felt as he lay curled up on the side of the bed where Andrea had fallen asleep on countless nights, wrapped in his arms. 
And numbness was all that he felt now as he stood at the hotel room window, buttoning his shirt.
After staring absently at the lights of West Hollywood for several minutes, he looked toward the nightstand for his watch.
It was nowhere to be seen. With a sarcastic snort, he walked over and picked up his slacks. A wrinkle of worry then creased his brow. My wallet, he thought. It’s gone. He felt his pockets, then turned a full circle, hoping to see it on the floor. He then dropped down onto all fours and searched under the bed.
You little bitch.
Jumping up, Talanov yanked on his slacks, pulled on his shoes and stormed out of the room. Outside, he paused on the sidewalk and tried to remember which way he and Tash had come. He looked right and saw a darkened stretch of asphalt lined with apartment blocks and parked cars. Half a block to his left was an intersection with a traffic light. I remember that light, he thought. He ran to the corner and paused. Which way now? Both sides of the boulevard in both directions were lined with cafés and clubs. Think, he told himself. How far had they walked? A few minutes at most was his recollection. That meant the club was not far away. He remembered its green awning, long and narrow. The kind that stretched out over the sidewalk. With bushes on each side. And black walls, half a block wide, like a warehouse.
He looked right and saw it, a hundred yards or so on the other side of the street. He waited for a break in the traffic and crossed against the light. When the next wave of cars rushed past, he felt a blast of exhaust fumes.
Guarding the front door were two bouncers dressed in black slacks and t-shirts. Flirting with them were several girls in micro skirts. Everyone was laughing. The more muscular bouncer, Gunner, was taller and bald, while the other one, Daz, had a ponytail to the middle of his back. Talanov ignored them and headed straight for the door. Gunner stopped him.
“I need to see some ID,” Gunner said. “You’re kidding. I’m over fifty.”
“Fifty?” blurted one of the girls named Tracy. “I thought you were, like, thirty-something.”  
“Shut up,” snarled Gunner, glaring at Tracy. To Talanov:
“Do I look like I’m kidding?” “Someone inside has my wallet.”
“Not my problem.”
Talanov took a calming breath. He was furious. Tash, or whatever her name was, had stolen his wallet and he wanted it back, assuming, of course, that Tash was inside, which was entirely doubtful. “Ten minutes, that’s all I ask,” he said. “I go in. I look around. I get my wallet and leave. If she’s not there, I leave, anyway. You never see me again.”
“And I’m telling you that’s not going to happen.”
Talanov took another calming breath. This one was not as effective. “I’m not looking for trouble,” he began.
“Then get the hell out of here. Or trouble is going to find you.” According to Gunner, the choice was simple. Leave voluntarily or leave forcibly. And it didn’t seem to matter to Gunner which choice Talanov made. For Talanov the choice was like- wise simple. Was his wallet worth a fight? Logic told him to either forget the wallet or try and work things out peacefully.
He opted for option number two. After all, Gunner was a big guy. He was also twenty, maybe twenty-five years younger. Besides, what were the odds that Tash was inside? His wallet had had nearly two thousand dollars in it. More than likely, Tash was partying someplace else.
Talanov looked at the other bouncer, who was staring at him with unfriendly eyes. The groupies were also watching. Everybody was waiting to see what the old guy was going to do. “Don’t make this worse than it is,” he said. “Ten minutes.
Then I’m gone.”
There was a long moment of silence, almost like a vacuum. Nobody seemed to breathe. Then Gunner’s arms shot forward, the heels of his hands like battering rams aimed straight for Talanov’s chest.  It was a preemptive two-handed blow designed to knock the wind out of Talanov and send him flying into the bushes. A lesson about who was boss.
But Gunner had made the mistake of broadcasting his intentions with a number of subliminal signals. Flaring of the nostrils, tightening of the lips, setting of the jaw, the drawing in of a breath and holding it. So when Gunner’s hands shot out, Talanov stepped to the side, grabbed Gunner’s wrist and twisted it down and back. This forced Gunner to compensate by straightening his arm and bending left in an effort to pull away. That allowed Talanov to twist the outstretched arm behind Gunner. He then used Gunner’s momentum to drive him facedown to the sidewalk in one smooth motion. The whole maneuver took less than four seconds.
Kneeling on Gunner’s back, Talanov lifted the arm in a direction that could easily pop it from the socket. Gunner cried out and Talanov eased off.
“I asked you not to make this worse than it is,” Talanov said, glancing at Gunner then up at Daz. “What’s it going to be?” Daz glared angrily down at Talanov but knew better than to try anything with Gunner’s arms bent backward like that.
Talanov raised an eyebrow expectantly. “Ten minutes,” growled Daz. “But if you cause anyone any trouble – and I mean, anyone – I guarantee you won’t be leaving in one piece.”
Releasing Gunner’s arm, Talanov glanced at Tracy and stood. And with a hint of a smile, he disappeared inside.
“Did you see the way he took Gunner down?” Tracy whispered excitedly to her friends. “Man, he’s like friggin McDangerous! C’mon, let’s go and meet him.”
“What is wrong with you, Decker?” a friend responded, giving Tracy a slap on the arm. “You don’t even know that dude. Know anything about him!”
“Yeah, but he’s, like, totally hot.”
The inside of the nightclub had a high ceiling, exposed truss beams and flexible ductwork, all painted black. On the dance floor, a churning mass of young people gyrated wildly to a deafening blast of music played by a DJ with dreadlocks and sunglasses. Mounted above the dance floor were numerous tracks of colored stage lights that kept time to the music.
There’s got to be three or four hundred people out there, thought Talanov, squinting through the noise at the waves of arms bending back and forth. But he had to start somewhere and the dance floor was the logical place.
Finding Tash, however, was not his only problem. She also had a partner: the person who’d spiked his drink. He’d been in enough nightclubs to know one should never leave a drink unattended. And he had not. So who had spiked his drink? The waitress? One of the bartenders? Someone watching him from the service area? Whoever it was, it was imperative that he spotted Tash before she or her partner spotted him. Which meant he had to work fast.
Threading his way through the crowd, Talanov was grabbed by several laughing girls. Lost in the rhythm of the music, they whirled and swayed enticingly around him while motioning him to join in. Talanov pushed past them and made his way to the end of the bar, where he stationed himself unobtrusively in the slashes of spinning lights. There, he allowed his eyes to systematically comb the dance floor. There were lots of blondes, but none of them was Tash.
Suddenly, on the far side of the nightclub, Talanov saw Daz and Gunner enter the club. Daz spoke into a filament mike positioned near his mouth. Within seconds a large man in a suit approached. Standing a full head taller than either of them, the man looked like a Sumo wrestler, with a buzz cut and folds of flesh creasing the back of his neck. The two bouncers spoke to him briefly, then fanned out to begin sifting their way through the crowd.
So much for getting ten minutes.
To his left was a short flight of steps that led to a mezzanine full of café tables and booths. Talanov waited for a group of young people to climb the stairs and fell in behind them. At the top he stepped to one side and surveyed the room. People were everywhere. At tables, in booths, standing in the aisles. Most were laughing and drinking. Many were sending text messages or talking on their cell phones. Again, lots of blondes but none of them was Tash.
Talanov started back down the stairs, then abruptly reversed direction and excused his way to the top. You’re angry and in a hurry. This time, do it right. Thus, calling on skills learned more than thirty years ago at the Balashikha training center near Moscow, former KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov stood in a darkened corner and methodically double-checked each face in the room. In less than a minute he saw her, seated with a businessman in a darkened booth.
“We go to quieter place now, yes?” Tash asked the businessman in broken English. “Get comfortable. Have some fun.” With a seductive smile, she kissed his ear and began stroking his thigh.
“I don’t normally do this,” the businessman replied nervously. He was a florid-faced man in his fifties, with fleshy jowls and thinning hair.
“Me, too,” Tash replied, scooting closer.
“Where are you from, anyway?” the businessman asked, staring into her gothically-shadowed eyes.
“Wherever you want,” answered Tash. Her hand suddenly went higher and the businessman’s eyes widened. “Hurry. Finish drink,” she cooed.
The businessman was gulping the remainder of his mojito when Talanov slid into the booth. “Zdravstvuy te, Tash,” said Talanov in Ukrainian. Tash’s mouth fell open.
“Who are you?” the businessman asked, blinking several times.
“I came for my wallet,” answered Talanov, his eyes on Tash.
“You know, the one you stole?”
The businessman looked at Tash, who shook her head emphatically.
“I think you’ve got the wrong table,” the businessman said.
“Oh, I’ve got the correct table, all right,” answered Talanov. “Tash here slipped something into my drink a few hours ago. And by the look on her face, I can tell she wasn’t expecting me to wake up anytime soon.”
“He is lying, Tom!” cried Tash. “I don’t know who this man is. Or what he is talking about.”
“It’s Todd,” muttered the businessman, glancing at his empty glass.
“Let me out,” demanded Tash.
“Not until you hand over my wallet,” said Talanov.
“She said she doesn’t know you,” responded Todd. “Then how did I know her name?”
Todd started to respond then looked at Tash with a wrinkle of doubt. “How did he know your name?”
Tash replied with a disdainful huff. “I told you, I am model! He see me somewhere.”
 Todd gave Tash a dubious scowl. “Whatever,” said Tash. “Let me out.”
“As soon as I get my wallet,” declared Talanov.
“How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t have your stupid wallet.”
“Let’s just see about that,” said Talanov, grabbing Tash’s tiny pink leather purse.
“Give that back!” cried Tash, lunging for it.
Blocking her hand, Talanov opened the purse and turned it upside down. A tube of lipstick, mascara, two condoms, and a folded wad of cash landed on the table.
Talanov stared at what was not there.
“See, I don’t have wallet,” said Tash, snatching back her purse. “Now, get out of here. Leave me alone.”
A petite Asian waitress named Jade came up the stairs with a tray of drinks. She had blue streaks in her hair and wore bright red lipstick. When she saw Talanov, she placed the drinks on a table, ran back down, and pushed her way through the crowd.
She found Gunner and grabbed him by the arm.
“Not now,” Gunner replied, shaking off her hand while continuing to scan faces in the crowd.
“Upstairs. The Russian guy that was here earlier with Tash. He’s back and he’s causing trouble.”
Gunner stared at Jade for a moment then touched the micro- phone near his mouth. “On the mezzanine. We’ve got him.”
Sliding out of the booth, Todd stood. “I’m calling the police,” he said, fumbling clumsily with his cell phone.
“Go for it,” said Talanov. “When they get here, tell them to run a drug test on your glass. Provided you’re still conscious by then.”
Tash tried scooting out of the booth. Talanov grabbed her by the wrist.
“Hey, wut’re you doing?” said Todd, fumbling his words as much as his phone. “I think you’d bedder leave.”
“You’ve got ten, maybe fifteen minutes before you pass out,”said Talanov while Todd wobbled in front of him. “If I were you, I’d get some help.”
Todd blinked several times but did not move. “Go!” commanded Talanov.
Todd nodded and hurried off.
“Okay, where is it?” Talanov asked Tash, turning to face her. Tash folded her arms and looked defiantly away. Talanov grabbed her by the chin and forced her to look at him. “For the last time, where’s my wallet?”
Talanov and Tash locked eyes.
“Out back. In dumpster,” she said quietly. Talanov let go and settled back in the booth.
A long moment of silence passed while Tash rubbed her chin. “I want to go now,” she said.
“No driver’s license. No credit cards. No keys.” “What are you talking about?”
“You’re carrying no driver’s license, no credit card, and no keys.”
“So what? Why do you care?”
“That tells me you’re part of something you probably don’t want to be a part of,” Talanov said. “That maybe someone’s holding you against your will. Making you do things against your will.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” “I think you do.”
Tash stared at Talanov for a long moment then looked away. Talanov watched her for a moment. Tash – or whatever her name was – was a pretty girl. A pretty girl with a look of fear in her eyes.
“Sorry for getting so rough,” he said.
Tash gathered her lipstick and mascara and slid them into her purse. She placed her hand on the cash but paused when she saw Talanov watching her. “Here,” she said, sliding the money toward him. “It is all there. Count, if you wish.”
“It was never about the money,” Talanov replied, ignoring the cash and sliding out of the booth.
“Then what is this about?”
“Her photo. It’s all I’ve got left.”
“You do this for picture?” Tash asked incredulously.
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
The next few seconds were one of those rare moments when time seemed to linger.  And in that moment, Tash saw Talanov’s anguish. She remembered the photo – a wedding shot – in a plastic window where a driver’s license should have been. The picture was of Talanov and his bride, happy and smiling, holding flutes of champagne on a beach. Tash studied him more closely and saw desperation and a certain “lostness” reflected in his eyes. Her photo. It’s all I’ve got left. No divorced man thinks that way. My God, she’s dead, you’re in mourning, Tash realized. No wonder you couldn’t do it.
By now, Talanov’s thoughts had drifted back to happier times, what few there had been, mainly because he had been unable to love his wife the way she deserved. Transparency and love – qualities that defined a good marriage – were contrary to what had been hammered into him at Balashikha. Love would get you killed. Or worse: those you loved.
Then the world changed. But Talanov could not change with it. And just when he was beginning to learn how— Talanov noticed Tash’s eyes widen an instant before the room flipped upside down as he crashed hard on top of a table before tumbling head-over-heels to the floor.  Around him, people shouted and ran.
For a long moment, Talanov lay stunned and motionless. What the hell just happened? He opened his eyes and saw Gunner standing over him like an angry bull. Gunner grabbed Talanov and pulled him effortlessly to his feet. When Gunner drew back his fist, Talanov closed his eyes. Do what you want. I’m already dead.
The blow hit Talanov like a freight train and sent white spots exploding through his brain. He floated limp for an instant, then landed on another table before rolling down onto the floor.  In the distance he heard Tash screaming.  Talanov groaned and rolled onto his back. His head was pounding and it hurt to breathe. He saw Gunner push an overturned table out of his way and bear down on him, teeth bared, hands like claws, his neck muscles taut and veined. Gunner took a quick half-step and swung his foot at Talanov’s head. Talanov rolled away and Gunner missed “Leave him alone!” cried Tash. She grabbed Gunner and tried to stop him but he brushed her aside and kicked again. Gunner’s kick was comparable to an extra-point kick in a football game. Full-force after a quick hop, aimed straight at
Talanov’s head. That meant one foot was in motion while the other foot supported all of his weight. Talanov swung his leg like a scythe and caught Gunner in the back of his ankle. Gunner’s leg flew out from under him and Gunner hit the floor hard. When he did, the crowd of young onlookers cheered.
Gunner immediately scrambled to his feet just as a winded Talanov struggled to his, one hand holding his ribs, one hand waving back and forth, an indication that he wanted to stop.
“I’m leaving! I got what I wanted!” gasped Talanov.
“You’re leaving, but not in one piece,” growled Gunner just as Daz pushed his way through the circle of spectators, many of whom were recording the action with cell phone cameras.
“There’s no need for this!” said Talanov, looking back and forth between the two bouncers.
“Stop it, Gunner!” yelled Tash. “He got what he wanted. Leave him alone.”
“Shut up, you worthless whore!” shouted Gunner.  He clamped a meaty hand across Tash’s face and shoved. Tash crashed into a table and back-flipped down onto the floor, where she lay crying, legs sprawled, her short skirt hiked up to her waist. Her blonde hair was tangled and her lipstick was smeared. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara.
Talanov saw the crowd laughing as Tash rolled slowly onto her side and looked helplessly over at him. She tried to get up but Gunner pushed her back down and kicked her. Tash tried crawling away but Gunner grabbed her by the hair.
Five minutes ago, Talanov would have been happy to let Tash get what was coming to her. She had drugged and rolled him. She had taken the only item that meant anything to him. She had left him passed out in a hotel room in order to fleece some other guy. And now, here she was, trying to defend him.
 A thieving whore. Why couldn’t she have left well-enough alone?
Gunner lifted Tash to her feet by the hair and drew back a fist just as Talanov slammed one of the aluminum café chairs on the floor. Gunner paused when he heard the noise and saw Talanov fall into the chair. With his head lowered, Talanov sat motionless against the pulsating reflections of light keeping time with the music. Surprised by this apparent act of surrender, Gunner let go of Tash and looked over at Daz. An instant later, they both rushed forward.
Sensing their decision to attack milliseconds before any movement occurred, Talanov grabbed the leg of his chair and sprang left, slinging it straight at Daz, who stumbled backward while trying to wrestle it away from his face. Continuing his pivot, Talanov sank a roundhouse kick into Gunner’s kidney. With a bellow, Gunner stumbled forward. Talanov stepped behind him, seized Gunner by the back of the neck and hammered his forehead onto a table to the crazed delight of the crowd. He then whirled to face Daz while Gunner slid limp to the floor.
Daz picked up a chair and threw it. Talanov grabbed one of the café tables and used it to deflect the chair. Daz hurled another chair, then another, but Talanov used the lightweight table like a shield and sent each of them tumbling to the floor. Daz turned to flee but was stopped by the wall of spectators. Cut off, he turned and charged. Talanov blocked several wild punches, stepped inside and smashed Daz in the jaw with an elbow. He then grabbed Daz by the shirt, twisted inward and flipped him over his shoulder. When Daz landed on his stomach, Talanov grabbed him by the ponytail and slammed his face on the floor.
“I told you not to make this worse than it is,” Talanov said, leaning close.
With his nose dripping blood, Daz swallowed and coughed. Talanov leaned closer. “So I’ll ask you one more time. Are you ready to call this off?”
Daz coughed again.
“Are you?” Talanov demanded.
With his attention focused on Daz, Talanov did not see the big Sumo move in from behind. He did not hear the collective gasps as Sumo’s hand came down like an axe. All he felt was an explosion of pain. An instant later, everything went black.



About the Author


James Houston Turner is the bestselling author of the Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, as well as numerous other books and articles. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watch-list for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. James Houston Turner’s debut thriller, Department Thirteen, was voted “Best Thriller” by USA Book News, after which it won gold medals in the Independent Publisher (“IPPY”) Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards. His novel, Greco’s Game, has just been optioned for film. A cancer survivor of more than twenty-five years, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Baker University and a master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). After twenty years in Australia, he and his wife, Wendy, author of The Recipe Gal Cookbook, now live in Austin, Texas.

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