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July 15, 2018

Shades of fae pre_order

Title: Shades of Fae
Genre: Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR


Blurb:
Not every fairytale has a happily ever after.
We only know three things about the Fae: They don't lie, they cheat. What they aren't given, they take. And if they can't rule...they conquer. Now the fate of humanity lies in a battle between good and evil where lines are not easily drawn.
Time travel to 19th century France, brave the gritty streets of New York City, or enter the realm of the Fae itself in this darkly enchanting collection from today's hottest USA Today, award-winning, and international bestselling paranormal and fantasy authors.
Shades of Fae is your ticket to a mystical realm where Sinister Sidhe and Dark Elves manipulate mortals, vengeful fae warriors battle nefarious vampire lords, and an apocalypse rife with werewolves, dragons, nymphs, banshees, shifters, and supernatural hunters brings unparalleled danger.

In 2018... The Fae are Coming...
Find out who survives and who dies when you order Shades of Fae TODAY!


Participating Authors:
USA Today bestselling author CK Dawn
USA Today bestselling author Shawnee Small
USA Today bestselling authors Cheri Schmidt & Tristan Hunt
Elle Boon
USA Today bestselling author Pauline Creeden
Award-winning author Tameri Etherton
Award-winning author Cyndi Faria
USA Today bestselling author Isadora Brown
USA Today bestselling author Amy L. Gale
USA Today bestselling author Charlene A. Wilson
USA Today bestselling author Katalina Leon
USA Today bestselling author J.A. Armitage
USA Today bestselling authors Megan J. Parker & Nathan Squiers
Lynda Kaye Frazier
Kim Carmichael

Colleen Halverson
Danielle Rose
Lynda Haviland
Dyan Chick
Award-winning author Cate Rowan
Award-winning author JB Michaels
R.S. Broadhead
Jen L. Grey writing with Heather Renee
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July 11, 2018

Promo Blitz All of my heart


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Contemporary Romance
Date Published:10-3-2017
Publisher: Sand Dune Books (indie published)'

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When Suzie Hart inherited the lakeside Victorian cottage that would soon become Sweet Hart Inn, she imagined her life all planned out ahead of her. She would run the inn, write her recipes, and pick up an occasional catering job with her cousin Sydney. What she didn't plan on was Brad Matthews.

Suzie Hart has it all. A beautiful home, friends and family, and the sweetest job in the world. She's the best darned cook in Harbor Falls, North Carolina, and has the street cred to prove it. She runs her own bed and breakfast, writes a food blog, and is working on her first cookbook.

Life is perfect. Right?

Wrong. You see, Suzie has a secret. And when that secret rides up to her doorstep on a bad-ass Harley and tosses her not-so-perfect little world into some kind of big, bad tumble, happy-go-lucky Suzie panics.

Brad Matthews doesn't have a secret, he has a plan--and that plan includes luring Suzie back into his life. When she worked as his sous chef in Asheville, he had no intention of falling in love with the sassy chef, or any woman for that matter. No room in his life for romance. But when Suzie disappeared and took Brad's heart with her, his good intentions shattered. Now that he's found her again, he's not about to let her alter the new path he's set out for his life--and hers.


Excerpt

Suzie hoisted the second twenty-five pound bag of mulch from her wheelbarrow to the ground with a grunt, dropping it next to the stone foundation of her house. There. Ready for her to spread in the morning. The hostas were planted and weeds wouldn’t grow overnight so she’d just make this her Sunday morning chore—after breakfast, that is. She was pooped. Long day. She was now ready for a bubble-bath and that glass of wine.

Standing up straight, she swiped the back of her gloved hand over her forehead. Glancing, toward the west, she watched the sun settle over the mountain, shadowing downtown Harbor Falls a half mile or so in the distance. She loved living on the edge of town, right on the lake. She liked being just so far removed from Harbor Falls’ daily hustle and bustle. If you could call it that. Downtown Harbor Falls boasted of a business district, but nothing compared to the likes of nearby Asheville or other vacation and shopping hot-spots of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But Harbor Falls was Harbor Falls, small town at its best. No big box stores. No strip malls. Just a busy little downtown. And they liked it, just the way it was.

Life and business, and living in her new-to-her home, were good. She marveled every single day how she’d acquired the quaint Victorian cottage. It was a dream come true. Her aunt’s passing had been unexpected and the fact that she’d left the home to Suzie was even more so. Her father’s oldest sister was the maiden aunt everyone adored, and Suzie missed her terribly. She vowed she would never take owning the home for granted and would always honor her aunt in the highest regard by keeping the home full of love and laughter and children. Aunt Donna so loved children. Since Suzie was the oldest of all of the cousins, her Aunt had doted on her more than the others, and had encouraged her to chase her dreams. Still, she never expected that her aunt would leave the beautiful storybook home to her.

Every day Suzie sent up a prayer of thanks to a higher power who might have assisted in helping move her dream forward.

Sweet Hart Inn was hers. She’d worked hard to convert Aunt Donna’s home into a working bed and breakfast inn, and to renovate the kitchen for her cooking classes and catering. It was also the perfect place to work on her cookbook and write her blog.

Cliff had dumped her, yes. And her sister had done something unthinkable, yes. But secretly she thanked the two of them and held no grudges, because their decisions had forced her hand. When that happened, and when the home was literally dropped into her lap, she’d left the past behind and started making plans on how live her future.

Sweet Hart Inn was the rest of her life. She intended to stay here, run this little bed and breakfast, and do her cooking and writing thing for years to come.

Her gaze spanned the horizon and then settled on the lake. Smiling, she rubbed her hands together to rid them of some dirt and then wiped them on the thighs of her jeans. As dusk settled in, all she wanted was a quiet walk down to the lake for a few moments of silence. Then that long, hot soak in the tub.

With her first few steps, the rumble of a surly engine grew louder down the road, forcing her to turn back. A large motorcycle—one of those bad-boy types—and its rider leaned into the turn and then smoothly made way up the curvy drive to her home. She liked how the bike thundered into her peaceful existence and she wasn’t quite sure why. It was both unexpected and welcome, and that really made no sense at all. Perhaps it provided an edge to the night, a hint of excitement the inn normally didn’t lend at this time of evening.

The rider stopped the bike and abruptly cut off the engine.

Suzie stood spellbound staring at the man and motorcycle. He wore black from head to toe—helmet, leather jacket, hip-hugging tight jeans, and boots. Yes. Bad boy. The man stood silent and unmoving, staring back at her.

She’d expected a guest this evening, a Mr. Logan, and supposed this man could be him. He hadn’t said anything about arriving on a bike—not that her guests were in the habit of indicating the type of transportation they would use to get to the inn.

She stepped forward, again wiping her dirty hands on her pants, silently wishing she’d ended her planting early and showered. She reached out, ready to shake his hand and welcome him and—

Her breath caught in her throat.

The man dismounted, stood straight up, and slipped off his helmet. The steady gaze that met hers and held while he shifted the helmet to his left hip and ran five fingers through his ruffled, curly brown hair, startled her.

Her heart jack-knifed.

An icy panic shot up Suzie’s back and she sucked in a breath and held it. A buzzing noise filled her ears, like a thousand people talking to her all at once. She’d know that finger-rake mannerism anywhere.

Her head spun and Suzie felt herself go a little light-headed.

****

Brad caught Suzie’s gaze and then watched her body literally fold into itself and fall to the ground. “Shit!” He rushed forward to grab her about the time her temple connected with a rock at the edge of a flower bed. “Suzie!”

His chest pounded. He pulled her onto his lap, fear shaking his arms. “Suzie, darling, hell. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to startle you. Wake up sweetheart.” He caressed her face and cooed soothing words.

Inside he was mortified that he’d caused her to fall and had hurt her.

She moaned and shifted, pushing her palms into his chest. “Wha…” The half-word fell out of her mouth on a breath. “What are…”

“Sh, darling. Oh, Suzette.” Brad glanced about. Where to take her? Inside? To the hospital? He glanced about and noticed a small SUV parked near a back entrance. He supposed it was hers. Were her keys inside? Obviously he couldn’t take her to the hospital on his bike.

Should he call 9-1-1?

“We need to get you somewhere. Have that bump looked at.”

Suzie shifted and huffed out a quick breath. “No, Brad, no…” Then she slumped into his arms again.



About the Author

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Sophie Jacobs writes to silence the people in her head, and she needs two pen names to get the stories down! (If only cloning were so easy.) Whether writing contemporary romance or women’s fiction, she strives to get their stories told. Writing as Maddie James, she pens romance genre fiction from cowboys to suspense. RT Book Reviews says, James “deftly combines romance and suspense,” and Affaire de Couer claims she “has a special talent for traditional romance.” Published in print, ebook, audiobook, and in at least seven languages, Maddie has been listed as a Top 100 Romance Author on Amazon and as an iBooks Rising Star in Western Romance.


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RABT Book Tours & PR

Title: The Lilituria Prophecy
Author: Grace White
Genre: Mature YA Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: July 11th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
For Daiya Cattiva, turning eighteen is a nightmare come true. Once she Awakens, her body will no longer be her own, and she will thirst for physical connection—need it to survive. But the bond is only temporary, and Daiya will be forced to satiate the demon inside her, time and time again. For that is the burden of the Lilituria.

Grace White is the paranormal pseudonym of romance writer, L A Cotton.
She resides in the UK with her family, and lives for binge watching series on her Firestick, losing herself in a good book, and reliving her younger days through trashy teenage movies ... not necessarily in that order.
Author Links:
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July 10, 2018

Promo Blitz wherever Love finds you


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Contemporary Romance
Date Published: 6/26/18

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It’s his game. He makes the rules. Rule number one – only he can break the rules.


Zach Lowe lives his life without relationships in business and personally. Getting involved doesn’t work well when you’re the Black Knight of Wall Street.

Ellora Duvall, the sweet kid who crushed on him in high school, waltzes into the world of corporate finance with the same wide eyed innocence she had in chemistry class. He hadn’t expected her to affect him the way she did, but he’s in control. A few weeks with Ellora will be pure pleasure, then he’ll move on. She’ll understand. He should, too.

Who broke his rules?

Wherever Love Finds You is the 1st book in the Beaumont Brides Series.



 Excerpt


Chapter One

Ellora Duvall picked up her morning latte with an extra shot of espresso and merged into the throng of Wall Street suits packing the sidewalk. She dodged a gang of skateboarders and inhaled the exhaust-filled air as if it were the fresh Colorado mountain breeze she’d breathed since childhood.

It was Monday morning, she lived in New York, and she worked at the most prestigious equity firm on Wall Street. Life couldn’t be better, though her family insisted she should think about marriage.

Ridiculous. She was only twenty-two years old. She was starting her career. She was making more money than she’d ever thought possible. Marriage wasn’t an option, though once she would’ve considered it.

Her heart drummed, and her mouth went dry. She pushed thoughts of what-might-have-been out of her mind.

From the newspaper stand in front of her office building, she scooped up an investment newspaper and plopped several bills on the countertop. She scanned the headlines and pushed through the revolving doors into the marble lobby that echoed with the taps of script-embossed shoes crossing the tiled floor. It was the same headline she’d been reading since she’d graduated college over a year ago—STOCK MARKET CRASH IMMINENT.

She tucked the newspaper under her arm and raced to the elevators. The markets hit record highs every other day. A crash wasn’t possible.

The elevator doors slid open and she joined the mass of humanity cramming into the postage stamp sized space. She sucked in one last deep breath, tightened her stomach and faced the elevator doors.

The suits towered around her. Some spoke about their weekend, others, sipped their coffees. All seemed charged and ready for the opening bell of the stock market.

“Ellora Duvall.” The voice behind her was deep and rich and made her spine go rigid.

Zach Lowe. Alarm blew through her. She hadn’t heard that voice since high school, but she’d memorized it along with his square jaw, his crooked smile and the mischievous glint in his eyes.

She jerked her head up. Raging hot latte squirted through the cap’s spout and splashed over her hand. She gritted her teeth. Yell in this cab filled with suits? Not on her life. She hadn’t looked to see who else was in the cab. She hadn’t realized she stood right in front of Zach. It’d be her luck that her company’s president would be in the elevator. And what would Zach think?

A handkerchief with a monogrammed Z wrapped around her hand and mopped away the coffee.

The elevator glided to a stop and the doors slid open.

“This is my floor.” Ellora stepped from the cab. When the doors closed, she’d race to the bathroom and stick her hand under cold running water.

And scream—from humiliation and pain.

The doors closed.

“You need ice on that.” Zach was standing behind her.

She whirled around. He stood in front of the mirrored doors that reflected his muscular form cloaked in a gray suit.

“You got off the elevator,” she stammered.

“Of course, I got off. You burned your hand. I feel responsible. Let’s take care of that. Now.”

“Zach, you don’t have to help me. I’ll just run some water—”

He said nothing. He stepped past her and strode through a sea of cubicles toward the break room at the end of the hall. Several heads rose above the cubicle panels and stared after him.

That happened to Zach in high school. When he passed by, every head turned.

The company president moved down the hallway studying a prospectus. He stopped and stared over his glasses at Zach.

“Zach Lowe.” He glanced at his watch. “I didn’t expect to see you today. Our golf game isn’t until Wednesday unless you’re having second thoughts.”

“On the contrary, George.” Zach shook the president’s hand and strode down the aisle. “I look forward to it.” He stepped into the break room.

“Hello, Mr. Miller,” Ellora murmured to the president. Her shoulders hunched, she scooted past him.

“Hello. Erica, isn’t it?”

“Ellora. Ellora Duvall. It’s nice to see you again, sir.” She turned to him. The smile she pasted over her mouth felt as if wires had been threaded through her cheeks. When he turned away, she raced to the break room.

“Come here.” Zach dropped a handful of ice into a plastic bag. Where did he find the bag? He lifted her coffee cup from her hand.

She set her briefcase and purse on a round table. “How did you know where the break room was, and how do you know Mr. Miller?”

“If you’ve been in one equities firm, you’ve been in them all. The break room’s always in the same place. As for George, he and I go way back.”

“How far back could that be? You were only one year ahead of me in high school.”

“And two years older since you skipped a grade.” His eyes grazed hers.

Ellora flushed. That and the fact that she had a December birthday made her the youngest in her class. She’d always felt awkward and she’d never really fit in.

“I didn’t even realize you worked in this building,” she said.

“Now you do. I’m going to wrap this bag around your hand.” He uttered the statement as if it were a warning. He gave her a full look.

Heated blood raced through her veins. “Zach, I don’t need—”

He took her hand and draped the ice bag over it. “Does that hurt?”

He had no idea. “A little.”

“Let’s take care of this.” He lifted his gaze to hers. “When did you start working for JRK?”

“Almost the day I graduated.” She couldn’t look away from the deep brilliant blue eyes that scooped air from her lungs. “I had planned to backpack through Europe with some friends, but when JRK offered me the job, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I mean, a chance to work on Wall Street and for one of the most prestigious firms. I accepted their offer and canceled my trip.”

“That was smart.” He said it in a way that spread warmth through her chest.

“What about you? I’d heard you were in New York.”

“Where’d you here that?”

Her throat dried. She couldn’t tell him he was the number one gossip topic whenever she got together with her high school friends.

“Somewhere.” She dragged out the word. “Which firm are you with?”

“Bell Equity.”

“The Black Knight of Wall Street?” She almost hiccupped. “Zach, they have a terrible reputation. They buy companies and fire employees. Maybe I should be afraid of you.”

“You can’t believe everything you read.” His smile seemed dry. “How does your hand feel?”

“Huh?” She’d almost forgotten why he was standing in front of her, looking into her eyes and holding her hand. “Oh, it feels better, so much better.” She pulled her hand free from his touch and took one step backwards. The void dropping between them felt as if they were floating in different galaxies. “It’ll be fine. Not damaged or anything.” Why had she said that? She wanted to slam her palm into her forehead. It sounded stupid—stuck-in-high-school stupid.

He studied her a moment. Something flickered in his eyes. “If you think you’ll need anything...”

“I won’t need anything but thank you for helping me.” She was talking too fast.

The corner of his mouth curved. “It was the least I could do. You should still keep ice on your hand.”

“I’ll do that.” She hadn’t even heard what he said.

“Congratulations on the Wall Street job. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

Her jaw froze. She couldn’t say anything.

For a moment she thought he’d touch his hand to her cheek. She could almost feel his heat.

He didn’t touch her. He didn’t do anything except nod and walk out of the break room.

And out of her life.

Ellora stared at the empty doorway. The break room felt cold and dark.

The heat in her chest had to be from the high school crush she had on Zach Lowe.

If that were true, why did it burn? She wanted to rush after him, ask him out on a date.

Date? Hadn’t she told her family she didn’t want to date? Didn’t have time to date?

But if she dated Zach...

He wouldn’t date her. His mother, Kim, had told her he’d never date her. Ellora had been high school geeky. Her family wasn’t in his class. Zach had been one of the cool kids. She’d heard about the girls he’d dated. She’d heard about how much fun he was at parties. She’d heard how all the girls wanted to be with him.

She and Zach had been in the same chemistry class and she was always helping him. Today, he’d helped her, and seemed happy to do so.

That meant nothing.

Kim’s cold words rang in Ellora’s ears. Her insides shivered. It was six years ago when Kim had cornered Ellora at her parents’ party. No one else was around. No one heard Kim’s warning. But Ellora never forgot the look on Kim’s face and the sharpness in her voice.

“Don’t get any ideas about Zach, hon. You’ll never be good enough for my son.”


About the Author

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Laura Haley-McNeil is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and women’s fiction in novel length and in short stories. Her work has been featured in several women’s magazines. She has studied piano and ballet and has been a board member for two community orchestras. She and her husband reside in Colorado. When she isn’t writing, she jogs, bicycles and crochets.





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RABT Book Tours & PR

Teaser Tuesday by ways Unseen


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Epic Fantasy
Date Published: July 12, 2018


The Provinces are falling. From the south, the immortal Knights of Galessern raid. From the north, the trees of the Kalen Woods have awoken, and are hungry for their second city. And from the east, Haydren Loren flees a childhood bully whose hate is now fully grown, and capable of murdering his way to becoming the Earl.

Haydren might find safety in the west. Or, he may find himself suddenly forced on a suicidal mission: face and defeat Lasserain, the strongest mage history has ever seen.

His quest is joined by a medley of friends foolish enough to think they might succeed: Geoffrey, a former knight of Rinc Na who betrayed his country and friends, and now seeks forgiveness through this final, desperate act; Sarah, a sorceress who will do anything to prove she is worthy; and Pladt, the famed archer whose only wish is to travel as far and wide as his name.

The God of All only knows the ways they must go - He, and a voice in Haydren’s head that is constantly growing louder.

Insanity. Capture. Death. All roads seem doomed for failure. But they must quickly choose a path, for Lasserain’s full fury is descending, and no one else has been able to stop it.


EXCERPT


Haydren sighed; he needed to play. The two greatest gifts he had received since enrolling in the School were a small harp and the lessons to be able to play. Often, when frustration overwhelmed him, the music would calm him. He sat up, reaching under the bed to retrieve the instrument. After pulling it out, he leaned back and rested his fingers on the strings. He closed his eyes, and began with a familiar slow tune as he allowed his thoughts to drift.

The song took him back to a broad plain, with the wind sweeping through the grasses. He was sitting on a newly bundled sheaf, the smell of fresh-cut hay in his nostrils. A few broken bits of straw drifted on the breeze. In his mind, beside him, a man of nearly thirty worked with a scythe; a man with bright chestnut hair, and dark black eyebrows.

Haydren opened his eyes, stilling the strings. Something was tugging at him, something about the notes he had just played. Still without looking at the harp, and as he tried to return in his mind to the images he had just seen, he played tentatively.

The notes that followed were notes he had never been taught, but that rang in him with a familiarity that brought tears to his eyes. He knew there were lyrics attached to the song, lyrics about war and grief – but he could not remember them. He played the song over and over, the notes purging him of all thoughts yet leaving him with a sense of fullness that welled in his eyes. He played until exhaustion tripped his fingers upon the strings; he stopped before the discordant notes shattered the delicate construction within him. The notes continued ringing in his ears long after he stopped playing, and they continued to echo through his dreams that night.




About the Author

Daniel Dydek was born in Raccoon Township, PA, where he dreamed of living out west. So far, he’s made it to Ohio, where he lives with his wife. He began writing at age 8, and never really stopped. After three years with the US Army, he went to get his Bachelor’s degree in English Writing from Geneva College of Beaver Falls PA, and is currently finishing up a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from Virginia Tech. Besides writing, he also enjoys mountain biking, reading, coffee shops, book stores, and Durango Colorado.



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Coming Soon!



RABT Book Tours & PR
July 02, 2018

Apple of my Eye Pre order blitz


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Psychological Suspense
Date Published: 08-04-2018

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Laurie Brandon isn’t crazy. It’s a bout of panic that has her muttering indecipherable sounds and crying out like a mad woman, an attack brought on by her infant daughter’s sudden disappearance from the town’s annual Apple Festival. Not insanity. She needs help to save Emily. Someone has to see that, do something.


But her recent history of psychosis coupled with witness claims that Emily was never at the festival with Laurie isn’t helping her credibility. Neither is recent suspension from her job as a school teacher over stability concerns. Perhaps most damaging, though, is Laurie’s insistence that her ex-husband, Jake, had something to do with the child’s disappearance. Any sane person knows a dead man can’t run off with a baby.

The town sheriff believes Laurie is, at best, unreliable and possibly something much worse. But Laurie knows what she saw. She knows other things, too, details too hard to believe and even harder to accept. Now, she needs to convince someone – anyone – that Emily is in danger before the sheriff locks Laurie away permanently.


EXCERPT

Chapter One


Laurie

September 18, 2018

I’m not crazy. I know what I saw.

With a wave of dizziness, I hunch forward, my head hanging low, my palms pressing against a cool, hard surface. The evening sky blackens before my eyes and the chill in the air raises goosebumps on my arms despite my fleece lined sweatshirt. I can’t think straight, can barely breathe.

The silhouette in the darkness…that posture, poised to take action…

I didn’t need to see a face. I’d know that stance anywhere. But it isn’t possible.

I chew on my lip, try to gnaw the panic away. It has to be possible. I saw with my own eyes.

I can’t just stand here and wait, need to do something, find help. No one will believe me, though. It’s hard enough for me to believe me. It won’t help that everyone seems to think I’m out of my mind.

A tingling sensation shoots through my head like a strike of lightning and heat spreads through my body, starting in my head and washing through my chest. My heart beats so fast I fear it will burst. I remind myself to breathe. It’s just a panic attack. I’ve had plenty before and right now, it’s no wonder. Soon it will be over. I’ll be back to normal, get help, make someone believe me. Someone will help. They have to.

Breathe in, one, two, three. Out, one, two, three.

A fog settles in my head, sprinkling over my mind like chalk dust. I find myself gasping, my heart racing faster and harder. This symptom is new. I blink, trying to focus on the brick surface of the street but it’s a blur. The dust is growing thicker, an eraser materializing, brushing over my mind and randomly choosing which memories to wipe away.

Not my memory. I must remember.

My palms slide farther over the surface of…a table, counter…I’m not sure, but it’s rough like a sheet of unfinished wood. I lean hunched over it, struggling to breathe as I peer beneath my arm to look behind me.

Emily. My sweet baby girl.

She sits in her stroller, kicking her feet and cooing at the plush doll in her chubby fist. Cold flushes her cheeks pink, but the fleece bonnet tied beneath her chin keeps her head warm.

She’s here. She’s safe. I think. I’m not entirely sure. The fog is getting thicker, her image waving in and out as if it may not be real. I have no way of knowing. In this state, I can’t trust my eyes.

Maybe I can’t trust what I saw before either.

No. That was different. Not panic induced. Real.

A high-pitched shrill slices my skull, piercing my eardrums before fading to a crackle. Light flashes, then dozens of white stars appear.

“Laurie?” A voice slices through the static.

I force myself to stand up straight and blink. Lights swim before a backdrop of blackness and voices echo around me. Screaming. But in a happy way. The scent of grease lingers in the air, mingling with a sweet and spicy smell, like sugared cinnamon.

The lights twirl and I blink again. A Tilt-a-Whirl spins, masses of people passing in front of it. My eyes are drawn to one man, not because I know him but because he looks like a marionette, his arms outstretched, pulled by strings. My gaze follows the threads to four little dogs, Teacup Pomeranians, the kind Jake would never let me have.

“Ankle biters. Useless yippers.” I hear the rage in his voice, the unwarranted anger I’d become accustomed to. “Food for real dogs, that’s what they are.” That’s my translation, the clean version with every other word removed.

“Laurie, are you okay?” That voice again, soft and feminine, though drowning in background music.

I bring my vision in, notice a woman standing on the opposite side of a counter before me. I know her, Rochelle, a good friend of my mother’s. Two pies sit on the counter between us and she holds a wad of bills in her hand. A cool breeze brushes my skin, whisking the aroma of the pies toward me. Apple.

A memory washes over me, replacing Rochelle’s current image with one of her in my mother’s kitchen from many years ago. I see Rochelle pressing dough into pie tins, hear my mother counting with me as I measure sugar and sprinkle it over a huge bowl of sliced apples. “One…two…”

I’m five years old and wearing my favorite apron. Mom made it for me, complete with an embroidered apple on the chest. In front of me mom’s apple shaped clock ticks on the wall. Except for Christmas it’s my favorite time of year, being with mom in the kitchen and baking pies for the festival.

I blink, focus on Rochelle. Present day Rochelle. I remember. The Apple Festival. I’m in a booth selling pies to support the school. I brought Emily. My friend, Josie, came too. I look beside me, but Josie isn’t there. She must have stepped away.

Rochelle is still staring at me, her eyes wrinkled with concern. I force a smile and straighten my back, pulling myself off the countertop. “I’m fine,” I tell her. “Just getting a migraine.” I can’t tell her the truth. Everything I love is already in jeopardy; Emily, my job. Thanks to Jake, rumors of my supposed insanity spread over town as quickly as softened butter over a slice of bread.

I’m fine. I am. Postpartum psychosis, the doctor called it. My-wife’s-an-effing-nut-case, Jake called it.

Ex-wife. Almost. He forgets that part.

As I blink my thoughts away and hone in on Rochelle, I can’t help wondering what she thinks of me. Does she believe I have a migraine or is she waiting for the right moment to make an emergency call to the mental hospital?

“You scared me for a minute there,” Rochelle says, handing me the bills in her hand. “Keep the change. For the school.”

I force another smile and take the bills from her, my hands trembling with the aftereffects of my attack. I’m still trying to get my bearings, breathe in and out, slow the hammering of my heart.

Rochelle hoists her purse on her shoulder, a huge tan bag that causes my shoulder to ache just looking at it. “You sure you’re all right?”

I nod and force my mind to focus. My name is Laurie Brandon. I’m a second grade teacher. I’m in Jackson, Ohio at the Apple Festival. My hometown. I glance at the surface of the street where the booth sits, the brick street confirming my location. A few blocks away, lights illuminate the water tower hovering over the town, painted red to resemble an apple and embellished in a green leaf with a pipe protruding from the top as the stem.

I live on Mountain Valley Road. My parents are Gary and Paula Barreau. Emily is nine months old.

My heart rate slows and my body relaxes, the routine stabilizing me. I take a deep, long breath. I’m okay. Everything is fine. I’ll call the doctor in the morning. The medication she gave me has been working well. It’s just the extreme stress, my psychopath-almost-ex-husband worsening my psychosis, if that makes sense.

I remember. There’s more. I let out a gasp.

“I can tend the booth for you if you want to head home to lie down,” Rochelle offers.

I don’t hear Emily behind me. It shouldn’t surprise me. I can barely hear Rochelle over the crooning country band a block down the street. Still, I spin on my heels to check on my daughter.

She isn’t there.

My eyes shoot left to right so fast the plywood walls of the booth seem to flail. Emily… She was there just a moment ago in her stroller, wasn’t she? I saw her. I looked behind me, under my arm… I thought she was there.

My heart races again, my stomach turns, fog swirls in my brain. I can’t help questioning myself, replaying the day through my mind to make certain I brought Emily with me. I picture Josie in the booth and Emily right behind us in her stroller, just like I saw her earlier.

It was today, wasn’t it? My breathing grows faster, intensifying the dizziness. I’m not sure. The fog needs more time to clear. I force a deep breath. In, one, two, three. Out, one, two, three.

“Laurie?” Rochelle’s voice jumbles with my thoughts.

I just need a moment to get through this and then everything will make sense. Maybe I’m remembering another day. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.

In, one, two, three. Out, one, two, three.

But I spot something on the street. I lean in, force myself to study it, make sure of what I see.

There is no mistaking; it’s Emily’s soft pink doll. If she wasn’t here, where did the doll come from?

The next scream I hear rolling over the crowd is my own.


About the Author

 photo IMG_466003_zpsounsymm0.jpg
Christine Barfknecht has a passion for weaving the darkest bits of the human psyche into page-turning fiction. She’s been crafting stories since before she printed her first word and credits her overactive imagination to a lifelong love of reading. She seeks out books that keep her hiding beneath the covers at night or turning pages long after her eyes begin to cross, and strives for those qualities in her own writing.

Christine lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, children, and pets where she is also a virtual bookkeeping entrepreneur. In addition to reading and writing, she enjoys gardening, crafts, time with family, and traveling. APPLE OF MY EYE is her debut novel.


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