For fans of Lisa Jewell, Aimee Molloy, and Joshilyn Jackson, an upmarket suspense novel from a multi-award-winning author about a tightknit group of suburban mothers who invite a new neighborhood mom into their fold, and the fallout the night of the annual block party, when secrets from the past come back to haunt them…
The annual block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul de sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plan the event for months.
Except the Ivy Five have been four for a long time.
When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet… until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.
As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They’ll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.
From award-winning author Tara Laskowski, The Mother Next Door is an atmospheric novel of domestic suspense in which the strive for perfection ends in murder…
TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics’ Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.
Ladies and gentlemen, skulls and boys: by the time our Halloween block party is over tonight, one of us will be dead.
And I don’t mean dead as in dull, or dead as in zombified. I mean dead as in gone. Dead as in expired. Killed.
You may be feeling distressed about this, knowing what you know about Ivy Woods—the great neighborhood it is, the sweet, loving families that live there. How could such a tragedy happen in such a wonderful place? You may have traveled here yourself, as a child or as a parent, lured in by the local fame of the street and its ghoulish decorations each year. The lights, the smoke, the gravestones, and the moaning. The witches, cackling and handing out candy. The swarms of little Frankensteins and cowboys and robots and ballet dancers lugging their pillowcases and plastic pumpkin buckets filled with sugar and junk.
But Ivy Woods isn’t perfect.
Far from it.
Look closer. Look under the makeup and the masks, look into the windows of the perfect houses. Dig under the surface of those freshly mowed lawns and you’ll find the worms. I’ve looked—believe me, I’ve looked. There’s something about this street. There are secrets. I know from watching through the windows, from hearing the hushed conversations, from lingering on their faces when they think everyone else has looked away.
Oh they think they are perfect. They pat themselves on the back for throwing such good parties, for raising such fine children, for living in such big houses.
But they are pretending.
They don masks on this one single night to dress up as someone or something else, but in reality they live their lives this way.
We all do.
We hate ourselves. We are too fat, or too thin. We should work hard, be smarter. We are lonely and depressed. We are worried about money. We are ashamed of the way that our friends and family treat us. But we lie about it all. We hide behind a protective façade, fragile glass figurines inside elaborate dollhouses designed to look like perfect, safe, happy places.
Tonight it will all shatter.
Watch closely and you’ll begin to see what I see. There’s trouble in the air, a cold wind blowing in from far away, and it’s settled on Ivy Woods Drive. The secrets and the lies we tell ourselves and others will emerge tonight like spirits of the dead. Lines will be drawn. Sides will be taken. Someone won’t make it out alive.
I can’t save that person, but I’ll tell the story. Turn over the rocks, expose the worms. Pull back the masks.
Because I know their secrets, secrets that will destroy them all.
I’m still working on getting caught up on these posts but we are getting closer. And I’m actually posting this on a Sunday which is a step in the right direction. We are still on books that I bought in June but I hope that by the end of this month we will be all caught up for August.
Liam wasn’t supposed to be my happily ever after. He wasn’t even on my radar. He was my husband’s best friend—forbidden.
But my husband is dead and I’m alone. I ache for him and I reach for Liam.
One night with Liam changed everything. Now I have to decide if I truly love him or if he’s just the consolation prize.
Living in the country comes with temperamental goats, an ornery next-door neighbor, and a mysterious murder…
Cassie Alberta is loving her new life in Little Leaf Creek. She is getting over the sudden death of her husband, appreciating what small town life has to offer and is enjoying getting to know the locals and their secrets. She is slowly learning how to live next to two cheeky goats and has fallen in love with her neighbor’s endearing dog. But life becomes a whole lot more complicated when she finds the dead body of an orchard owner.
Cassie partners with her antisocial ex-cop neighbor to help solve the murder. Her hands are full, as Thanksgiving is right around the corner and she is determined to try and bring her friends together for a feast, but they would prefer to remain alone. Not to mention the fact that two hunky locals have caught her attention. Cassie peels back layers of clues and suspects to try and get to the core of the murder and uncover the murderer.
Will the murderer be caught in time so that Cassie can have the Thanksgiving she longs for?
Recipe included: Lattice Apple Pie
Conflict in Little Leaf Creek is the fast-paced third book in the Little Leaf Creek Cozy Mystery Series. If you like unexpected twists and turns, lively personalities, lovable animals and a never-ending list of suspicious characters, then you’ll love Cindy Bell’s heartwarming whodunnit.
Buy Conflict in Little Leaf Creek to start solving the murder today!
Bad breakup? That’s our specialty. Trust us, post-breakup dating requires the Big O—a strong offense—usually of the extra dirty variety. Best handled by an expert.
Name’s Sebastian. And I make good business out of bad exes, specializing in giving broken-hearted women the sweet, hot revenge they deserve. Those whispered rumors about me and my methods? All true. I’m the chief executive mastermind of the only consulting firm that can guarantee your ex will beg you for another chance.
Now, whether you end up taking the douchebag back is up to you. Frankly, I think you ladies can do better, deserve more. But either way, I aim to please.
That is…until my latest client ends up being my sweet, smart, painfully-unaware-of-her-appeal assistant.
Am I going to help her? Of course. Am I going to be able to let her go when the time comes?
Note: Hot Revenge For Hire is a super sexy romantic comedy entirely from the hero’s point of view. Lots of dirty talk. Ridiculously fun chemistry. Banter that really qualifies as foreplay. And a swoony HEA. Enjoy!
Former marketing whiz Kennedy Lowell knows bartending isn’t her destiny. After derailing her life to epic proportions in one fell swoop, though, she’s content with the easy refuge of pouring drinks and keeping to herself. But the arrival of her sexy new boss and two wannabe friends who won’t take no for an answer throws Kennedy into a tailspin. Add the temptation of a homey new bakery desperately in need of a marketing genius and Kennedy begins to wonder if easy is all it’s cracked up to be.
Easy is Hunter Clayborne’s middle name. Uncomplicated is what he expects when he moves home to Nashville to take over the family business. What he finds, though, is the polar opposite of easy—a bar losing money, a family entrenched in doing things the old-fashioned way, and an irresistible redheaded bartender who keeps him at a cool distance in spite of their sizzling mutual attraction.
There’s nothing simple about the chemistry between Kennedy and Hunter. But sometimes, if you can work your way out of your comfort zone, that’s when you just might find your sweet spot.
They are the Fallen. A brotherhood of murderers whose nature compels them to kill. But guided by their leader, Gabriel, the Fallen have learned to use their urges to rid the world of those it is better off without.
Control. Diel has spent his entire life under it. His childhood years were spent in the sadistic captivity of the Brethren. Now the Fallen are free, but the monster that lives inside Diel is not—can not be. The darkness within is curbed by an electric collar, the only thing that stops Diel from killing everyone in his path. Diel’s monster yearns for freedom—the freedom to tear apart Brethren priests, as many as possible, one after the other in a frenzied, liberating spree. When Diel is granted a taste of that freedom, he expects bloodlust, violence, death. He didn’t expect to find her. The Fallen are not the only ones chasing the destruction of the Brethren. They were not the only ones to suffer at the priests’ hands. This Diel discovers when he stumbles upon Noa, second in command of the Coven, a group of women who are intent on bringing the Brethren down. From the second they collide, Noa seems to understand Diel in a way that no one ever has before. She is unafraid of his rage, the bloodthirsty monster that dwells within him. Because there is a darkness inside Noa too, and it recognises the one in Diel as if it is the missing half of her soul. For years she has tried to suppress it, but as she is inescapably drawn to the fury-filled man in the collar, she starts to wonder if she can keep up the fight. She starts to wonder if she even should…
Dark contemporary romance. Contains sexual situations, violence, sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language, and topics some may find triggering. Recommended for age 18 years and up.
When young women begin mysteriously disappearing in Oregon, Police Lieutenant James Stovall leads a relentless search for a killer. With little evidence available, and the public screaming for answers, he must find a remorseless, brutal killer whose identity will shock them all . . .
In the powerful, stunning dramatic work that won August Wilson his first Pulitzer Prize, Troy Maxson has gone through life in a country where to be proud and black was to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to the new spirit of liberation in the 1960s. It’s a spirit that is making him a stranger, angry and afraid, in a world he never knew and to a wife and son he understands less and less.
William Kent Krueger joined the ranks of today’s best suspense novelists with this thrilling, universally acclaimed debut. Conjuring “a sense of place he’s plainly honed firsthand in below-zero prairie” (Kirkus Reviews), Krueger brilliantly evokes northern Minnesota’s lake country — and reveals the dark side of its snow-covered landscape.
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his “former” status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.
As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.
Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.
Debut author Tobly McSmith delivers a coming-of-age teen love story about a transgender boy who’s going stealth at his new Texas high school and a cisgender girl who is drawn to him, even as she’s counting down the days until graduation. Perfect for fans of David Levithan, Becky Albertalli, and Jenny Han.
Pony just wants to fly under the radar during senior year. Tired from all the attention he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he’s looking for a fresh start at Hillcrest High. But it’s hard to live your best life when the threat of exposure lurks down every hallway and in every bathroom.
Georgia is beginning to think there’s more to life than cheerleading. She plans on keeping a low profile until graduation…which is why she promised herself that dating was officially a no-go this year.
Then, on the very first day of school, the new guy and the cheerleader lock eyes. How is Pony supposed to stay stealth when he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia? How is Georgia supposed to keep her promise when sparks start flying with a boy like Pony?
Funny and poignant, clear-eyed and hopeful, Stay Gold is a story about finding love—and finding yourself.
Raised to rule, bred to lead and weaned on a diet of ruthless ambition. In a world of haves and have nots, my family has it all, and I want nothing to do with it.
My path takes me far from home and paints me as the black sheep. At odds with my father, I’m determined to build my own empire. I have rules, but Lennix Hunter is the exception to every one of them. From the moment we meet, something sparks between us. But my family stole from hers and my father is the man she hates most. I lied to have her, and would do anything to keep her. Though she tries to hate me, too, the inexorable pull between us will not be denied.
And neither will I.
New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter brings back Will Trent and Sara Linton in this superb and timely thriller full of devious twists, disturbing secrets, and shocking surprises you won’t see coming
A mysterious kidnapping
On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.
A devastating explosion
One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.
A diabolical enemy
Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.
From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world — where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives — a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys — she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.
Fall in love with Beachwood Bay — the USA Today bestselling series by Melody Grace!
He’ll teach her a pleasure beyond her wildest dreams…
Alicia Wright isn’t the kind of girl to make out with a stranger in a dark alley. She’s spent years playing it safe, pining after the perfect man – who’s about to marry someone else. She doesn’t know how to move on, until a sexy stranger turns her world upside down with a wickedly tempting proposition…
She’ll rescue him from the edge of oblivion…
Rock star Dex Callahan swore his days of fame and debauchery were behind him, but the spotlight keeps calling his name. Determined not to fall into his old life, he goes looking for distraction — and finds an intoxicating red-head with a mouth made for sin. One kiss could never be enough, so Dex offers her a deal: spend one week with him, and she’ll forget her old flame ever existed.
Together, they’ll ignite a passion that will change them forever…
No rules. No limits. As the whirlwind week of pleasure unfolds, Alicia discovers a desire she never knew existed – and the tortured heart Dex hides behind his charming smile. But can old loves so easily be replaced? And when the week is over, will their bond be strong enough to weather the storm?
Melody Grace returns with her sexiest book yet!
*This book contains adult situations and explicit content. 17+*
Mysterious attacks. Mischievous nieces. Can a clueless uncle catch a tech-savvy killer … and be home before bedtime?
When a freak accident hospitalizes Marty Golden’s sister and condemns him to babysitter duty, he thinks it’s just another case of hardwired bad luck in Silicon Valley. Until a suspicious murder suggests the mishap was no mere coincidence. Something must be done.
Too bad this quirky, fashion-backward uncle isn’t exactly hero material.
Convinced his sister is in mortal danger, this amateur sleuth follows clues to an oddball array of suspects. Armed with nothing but an eye for detail and powers of self-delusion, Marty tangles with gangsters, a cantankerous school secretary, and a perplexing woman he can’t help but fall for. Glitches in his investigation seem like a piece of cake compared to dinner-prep and bedtime stories with his two precocious, pre-teen nieces.
Can Marty catch the culprit, save his sister, and get his life back in order before he gets unplugged?
A must-read psychological thriller for anyone who’s fascinated by serial killers.
A 60-year old handyman goes on a murder-spree, abducting and torturing people with hand-tools.
After he’s caught, the media wants to hear his story. What made this old man snap? Why did he do the horrible things he did? What really happened down there in his basement? The public fascination in The Handyman swells.
But he’ll only tell his gruesome story to one person – his estranged son.
Full of dark twists and turns, In My Father’s Basement is a father-son story like no other.
The body of a young man fished out of the Thames is of little interest to Londoners caught up in the excitement of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Yet to Inspector Sam Blackstone, the case is as puzzling as any he has ever come across.
Why should a corpse dressed the in rags of a commoner have the face of a gentleman?
And if this man does belong to noble stock, why has no one come forward to claim the body?
As his investigation proceeds, Blackstone finds himself entering the world of the aristocracy—in which the presence of an ordinary policeman is far from welcome—and tramping the dangerous streets of London’s Little Russia—where English law and order are not welcome.
Death seems to stalk him, and as each new clue leads to nothing more than a new murder, Blackstone comes to realize that he is caught up in what may turn out to be the most horrendous crime of the century…
Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death is an expertly plotted Victorian mystery that will keep readers guessing to the last page.
A MAN WHO WOULD BE KING : The Duke of Buckingham and Richard III
November 2 1483. As Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingam stands on the scaffold of Salisbury Market Square, accused of high treason, he reflects on his life during the turbulent era of the Wars of the Roses. After the death of his grandfather, the old Duke, Henry (known as Harry) is sent to the court of the new King Edward IV and placed into the household of his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Harry, coming from a rich and noble line, is considered a a “prize catch” for the Woodvilles, and soon he is forced, aged ten, to marry one of the many Woodville girls, causing a burning resentment that lasts a lifetime. Throughout Harry’s youth at court, he sporadically comes into contact with the King’s younger brother, Richard of Gloucester. Upon Edward’s death, they form an alliance, which sees the two Dukes secure the young Edward V, uncrowned king, and thwart the Woodvilles, who do not wish for Richard to become Lord Protector of England. But when Bishop Stillington reveals a dark secret and Edward IV’s children are declared bastards,Harry has other ideas for himself and Richard. Henry Stafford takes upon himself the role of Kingmaker. Richard of Gloucester is crowned as King Richard III, but despite receiving wealth and lands and offices, Harry is not content. The thought of a crown for himself begins to haunt his waking dreams. How far will a man go to win a crown? Betrayal, rebellion…murder?
The story of the man Richard III called ‘the most untrue creature living…’
Told entirely from Buckingham’s own first person viewpoint, this new novel is set within the wider landscape of the author’s highly praised, I Richard Plantagenet series.
It was only supposed to be a weekend fling…but what will she do when he demands forever?
After a broken heart, Hannah Mills vowed never to offer more than her body to any Dom, but when she volunteers to be the prize at a slave auction benefitting charity, mysterious philanthropist and notorious playboy Mason Sullivan tests her resolve. The moment he sees Hannah, he’s captivated and determined to have her—at least for a weekend.
For Hannah, being claimed by Master Mason is both a dream and a nightmare. He’s devastatingly sexy, far more complicated than she imagined—and relentless when it comes to scaling the walls around her heart. No matter how she resists, layer by layer, he manages to peel her open.
When their time together draws to a close, Hannah must choose between saving her soul or risking her heart.
The New York Times bestselling author of Slow Burn turns up the heat when a sexy bet turns into so much more…
Hawkin Play, the bad boy rock star with a good guy heart, has lived a lifetime of cleaning up after his twin brother’s mistakes. Hunter’s most recent screw-up could land Hawke in jail and risk the band’s future. Hawke agrees to guest lecture at a local college to stay in the judge’s good graces—and a bet with his bandmate to seduce his sexy teaching assistant is icing on the cake.
Quinlan Westin is harder to bed than Hawke imagined. She knows his type and is determined to avoid the rocker at all costs—even if their attraction runs deeper than simple lust.
Just as Hawke might finally be winning over the girl, his brother has other plans. When Hunter realizes his twin finally has a weakness, he’ll stop at nothing to take advantage…
A hot and hilarious romantic comedy, perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jasmine Guillory, and Christina Lauren!
What happens when you wake up in a hotel suite next to a gorgeous naked man with absolutely no memory of the past twelve hours?
I guess it’s true what they say: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Or at least I hope it stays here. The Romantic Style Book convention was meant to be a weekend of raucous fun with friends, sun, and enough poolside margaritas to forget about my ex. But now, instead of meeting my fans and signing books, I’m stuck with cocky divorce lawyer Nate Wexler. He’s arrogant, infuriating, and I can’t keep my hands off of him. Judging by the state of our hotel room, last night was wild. I just wish I could remember it.
A pair of matching tattoos. A half empty box of glow-in-the-dark condoms. And a… wedding veil?
What the hell just happened?
Discover the hot and hilarious world of the LUCKY IN LOVE series from Lila Monroe!
From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
The story that I think
will be my life
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.
*No synopsis since this is the second book in the series.
When I step inside the courtroom, things happen. Opposing counsel cringes and the judges take in a deep breath because they know what they’re in for. They have held me in contempt more times than I can count, and I’ve never lost a case. They don’t call me the “Wolfe” for nothing. I’m decisive, aggressive and strong, both in the courtroom and in the bedroom. I like order and control, and everyone knows it. Everyone except for Aspen Michaelson, the new associate my mother hired to work at our firm. Her interview wasn’t the first time I laid eyes on her and her sexy body. We shared one magical night together in Hawaii. We were two strangers who only knew each other’s first names. She left in the middle of the night without a word. I never forgave her for that. I was the one who always left, not the other way around. Now that she worked for me, I would do everything in my power to make her pay for that night, to show her I was the boss both in the office and in the bedroom. But I found myself losing all control being around her and her quirky ways and I didn’t know how to stop it.
After my father passed away, I moved from Connecticut to New York City where my sister and her husband lived. Working at a prestigious law firm in New York had always been a dream of mine. Caitlin Wolfe made that dream come true when she hired me to work at her top law firm. Little did I know, Elijah Wolfe, the man I had one amazing night with in Hawaii, was her son, senior partner, and future CEO of Wolfe & Associates. He looked just as sexy in New York as he did in Hawaii, but he was different. He was cold and calculating. Not the man who seduced me and brought me back to his suite. He was my boss, and he was setting me up to fail. The one thing he didn’t know about me was that I played the game just as good as he did, if not better. I needed to stay in control of both my body and my mind, but he made it very difficult with his tailored designer suits and the cologne he wore that sent my pheromones into overdrive.
Let the games begin..
The romance your little heart’s been waiting for!
When an out-of-luck art teacher’s life collides with a dark and handsome businessman, the romance begins.
This rom-com had me laughing and swooning with each turn of the page!
-Words We Love and Blog ★★★★★
Natalie Callahan is out of luck. The family screw-up.
All thanks to the Kiss Keeper’s curse.
Yep, she’s cursed!
Honestly, it should come as no surprise that she’s been sacked from her job and dumped by her boyfriend on the way to a week-long family celebration.
But she’s done—so done with being poor Nat, the family train wreck!
There’s a solution! It’s crazy, but it could work!
She’ll do anything to prove she’s more than just a hot mess — so when her path crosses with a dark and handsome businessman Jake Teller, she enlists him to play the role of adoring boyfriend.
Will a week of romantic charades lead to something more? That all depends on the Kiss Keeper.
♥The Kiss Keeper is a stand-alone summer romance set on the coast of Maine.
Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.
It’s the 1930s and a mysterious illness is spreading over Scotland. But the noble and ancient family of Inverkillen, residents of Loch Down Abbey, are much more concerned with dwindling toilet roll supplies and who will look after the children now that Nanny has regretfully (and most inconveniently) departed this life.
Then Lord Inverkillen, Earl and head of the family, is found dead in mysterious circumstances. The inspector declares it an accident but Mrs MacBain, the head housekeeper, isn’t so convinced. As no one is allowed in or out because of the illness, the residents of the house – both upstairs and downstairs – are the only suspects. With the Earl’s own family too busy doing what can only be described as nothing, she decides to do some digging – in between chores, of course – and in doing so uncovers a whole host of long-hidden secrets, lies and betrayals that will alter the dynamics of the household for ever.
Hard Sell by Hudson Lin is available in eBook, trade paperback and audiobook formats on May 25th!
One night wasn’t enough.
Danny Ip walks into every boardroom with a plan. His plan for struggling tech company WesTec is to acquire it, shut it down, and squeeze the last remaining revenue out of it for his Jade Harbour Capital portfolio. But he didn’t expect his best friend’s younger brother—the hottest one-night stand he ever had—to be there.
Tobin Lok has always thought the world of Danny. He’s funny, warm, attractive—and totally out of Tobin’s league. Now, pitted against Danny at work, Tobin might finally get a chance to prove he’s more than just Wei’s little brother.
It takes a lot to get under Danny’s skin, but Tobin is all grown up in a way Danny can’t ignore. Now, with a promising patent on the line and the stakes higher than ever, all he can think about is getting Tobin back into his bed—and into his life for good.
If only explaining their relationship to Wei could be so easy…
Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories featuring beloved romance tropes, where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.
A new Carina Adores title is available each month in trade paperback, ebook and audiobook formats.
The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover (available now!)
The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron (available now!)
Just Like That by Cole McCade (available now!)
Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters (available now!)
The Love Study by Kris Ripper (available now!)
The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher (available now!)
Just Like This by Cole McCade (available now!)
Teddy Spenser Isn’t Looking for Love by Kim Fielding (available now!)
Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish (available now!)
The Hate Project by Kris Ripper (available now!)
For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes (coming August 31)
Sailor Proof by Annabeth Albert (coming September 28)
Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell (coming October 26)
The Life Revamp by Kris Ripper (coming November 30)
Hard Sell is an emotional, spicy, heartwarming, fun romance that is exceptionally written. I fell hard for our main characters, Danny and Tobin, and as much as I loved their romance, I also loved the personal journey they both go through. Lin seamlessly weaves all the intricacies of this story together in such a balanced way that every time I put this book down I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again. Danny and Tobin are both at different places in their lives due to their age difference which makes this story feel incredibly realistic. Their personal issues brought a lot of conflict but also understanding between the two of them and I enjoyed seeing it all play out. Also, the food mentioned in this book had my mouth watering and had me wishing I was eating at the same places as Tobin and Danny. The side characters all felt fleshed out enough to add to the credibility of the story and I am eagerly waiting for the second book in this series.
About the Author
Hudson Lin was raised by conservative immigrant parents and grew up straddling two cultures with often times conflicting perspectives on life. Instead of conforming to either, she has sought to find a third way that brings together the positive elements of both.
Having spent much of her life on the outside looking in, Lin likes to write stories about outsiders who fight to carve out their place in society, and overcome everyday challenges to find love and happily ever afters. Her books are diverse romances featuring queer and disabled people of color.
Danny adjusted the watch on his wrist as he headed out. If only he didn’t need a win so god damn badly. He would love to march back into the meeting room and rip up the offer right in front of Cyrus West’s face. What smarmy remark would Cyrus have then?
Unfortunately, Danny did need a win and, even more unfortunately, WesTec was his best shot. Maybe his last shot. Jade Harbour’s financial backers were starting to notice that his once stellar track record wasn’t looking so stellar lately. His ass was on the line, which left Danny with very few options.
Outside, he stopped, still vibrating with adrenaline from the confrontation.
“That was pretty badass.” Tobin looked back through the doors they’d exited, as if Cyrus was going to come bursting through them at any minute.
Perhaps it was, but Danny saw no reason to take pride in it. His job was to close deals and sometimes the sellers needed a little encouragement.
Tobin turned to him, and suddenly WesTec and Cyrus West didn’t matter anymore.
Was he dreaming? Was Tobin really standing in front of him? Chubby cheeks had given way to sculpted cheekbones. A bit of acne scarring on his skin made Tobin look even more adult. He held himself with such self-assurance; like he’d grown into too-big clothes that now fit him just right. He was striking. He would turn heads when walking down the street. Danny’s body certainly made its interest known.
Danny took a step backward, needing the extra foot of distance between them. Seven years ago, he had succumbed to Tobin’s appeal. There may be years and geography between them, but one thing hadn’t changed. Tobin was undoubtedly special.
Did he remember that night as vividly as Danny did?
A shy smile tugged at Tobin’s lips, as if he’d read Danny’s mind, and Danny couldn’t help but return it. It didn’t matter what Tobin did or did not remember. They were…childhood friends, practically family, connected in a way Danny didn’t have words for. It’d been too long since they were in touch. No matter their reasons for drifting apart.
“Are you free for dinner tonight?”
Tobin’s smile exploded at Danny’s invitation. “Yes! Yeah,
definitely, totally. Uh…” He patted his pockets. “Shit. I think I left my phone upstairs.”
Danny reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a business card. Always be prepared. “Here. Give me a call when you’re done, and I’ll send a car around.”
Tobin took the card and ran a thumb over the embossed letters, as if committing them to memory. He clutched the card in his hand. “Oh, I, uh… I can meet you wherever.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll send a car for you.”
Tobin looked a little taken aback, almost as if he was going to put up a fuss. But then he chuckled and nodded. “Okay, sure. I guess I’ll give you a call when I’m done.” He held up the card in a wave as he walked backward toward the doors. “See you later.”
Danny nodded and watched Tobin go. At the building’s main entrance, Tobin stopped and glanced back at Danny as if checking to make sure he was real.
A gripping page turner about two young mothers, one grisly murder, and the lengths both women will go in the name of their children.
When young decorated combat veteran Travis Hollis is found stabbed through the heart at a U.S. Army base in Germany, there is no doubt that his wife, Luz, is to blame. But was it an act of self defense? A frenzied attempt to save her infant daughter from domestic abuse? Or the cold blood murder of an innocent man?
As the case heads to trial in Los Angeles, hard-charging attorney Abby Rosenberg is eager to return from maternity leave—and her quickly fracturing home life—to take the case and defend Luz. Abby, a new mother herself, is committed to ensuring Luz avoids prison and retains custody of her daughter. But as the evidence stacks up against Luz, Abby realizes the task proves far more difficult than she suspected – especially when she has to battle for control over the case with her co-counsel, whose dark absorption with Luz only complicates matters further.
As the trial careens toward an outcome no one expects, readers will find themselves in the seat of the jurors, forced to answer the question – what does it mean to be a good mother? A good lawyer? And who is the real monster?
This book has an interesting premise but unfortunately it was a little too heavy handed with the “bad mother” message/trope and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This book could have been a lot stronger if it had focused more on the courtroom and less on the personal lives of the characters. The characters in this book have very outdated ways of looking at women (mothers in particular) and make very questionable choices and infuriatingly, there was no real consequences for them. However, I really enjoyed the courtroom scenes and Bazelon did an incredible job of making the trial come to life. I loved the back and forth nature of the lawyers and how the witnesses helped to form our opinion of what really happened between Luz and her husband. If you are a fan of legal mysteries then this might be one that you will be interested in if you can get past all the other stuff happening outside the courtroom.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lara Bazelon is an attorney, journalist, MacDowell Fellow, former public defender, and professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she holds the Phillip and Muriel C. Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy. She is also the author of Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction, as well as the upcoming nonfiction book, Ambitious Like a Mother: Women, Ambition, and Motherhood, and her writing has been published widely in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Washington Post, and many others.
I’m excited about today’s post because the first week of Stitch Maynia is in the bag and I have a week of starts to share with you! You can see the days where I was feeling good/had more time to stitch because a couple of days I barely did anything. I wasn’t sure if I was going to want to cross stitch every day but I have really been loving everything that I have been working on. That may change since there is still a lot of month left so I may work on other stuff during the month but for right now I’m enjoying Stitch Maynia more than I thought I would. I also am finally going to be sharing my completed Pajama Cardigan. But first let’s go over what I stitched on this week.
May 1- Stitching with the Housewives 4th of July Cup
May 2- Sew Berry Sweet by WhiteHouseStitchery
May 3- Peep by Stitching with the Housewives
May 4- Hallow’s Eve Haunting by Autumn Lane Stitchery
May 5- 12 days of Christmas by Plum Street Sampler (freebie chart)
*I will link the blog post where the pattern is shared here so you can go check it out if you are interested in stitching this one. I have decided to stitch each day separately and make them ornaments. I also am not going to stitch the Dec 25 date for the first day block and instead I will put the year I finish it instead.
May 6- Spring by Little Stitch Girl (freebie)
*I will link here where you can see all of Little Stitch Girl’s freebies.
May 7- Up on the Housetop by Stitching with the Housewives
*I need to rip out that little part on the snowflake right under the U because I miscounted.
My first finished garment! It isn’t perfect but I’m so proud of it and I can’t wait for Fall to roll around so I can start wearing it. My cardigan ended up being more of a flyaway cardigan because I somehow made the two front panels longer than the front. The pattern doesn’t specify if it is for a beginner or intermediate knitter but I think you should be a pretty confident knitter to attempt this pattern because not a lot is explained. My sleeves came out pretty well but they are supposed to have a section that is the same textured pattern that the back and pockets have but the way I interpreted the pattern I ended up knitting the whole sleeve before I got to that part. It also had no instructions on how to stitch it together so I ended up using my other cardigan pattern to help me finish this one. For a paid for pattern I would have hoped to have everything clearly explained especially since my other cardigan pattern is one that I paid for and it is extremely basic and yet has way more instructions.
I know that last week I was hoping to finish my other cardigan but I am still working on the last sleeve. I didn’t expect my infusion to take so much out of me and I am slowly building my strength back up and mornings have been especially hard. I am needing to sleep more to recover but sleeping for more than five/six hours makes my spasticity worse which is frustrating. Hopefully as the month progresses my spasticity will continue to improve and I will be able to do more. With that I am going to say that I will have my Uptown Cardigan done next Saturday because that gives me a goal to work towards. Plus, I am almost done with the second sleeve so there really isn’t a lot left to do on this one.
Sorry to be posting this so late but I had a busy last few days and I am feeling it today. I’m also slightly disappointed that I can’t show off my Pajama cardigan that I fully finished last night! It isn’t perfect but I’m really pleased that I can wear something that I made. The weather has been so beautiful where I live but today is the start of a multi day storm so there was no sun to take pictures. So, I’m going to have to wait until next Saturday to show it off. Which maybe works out better since I plan on wearing on Monday to my infusion so I will have a better idea of how comfortable it is. I will also review the pattern next week because I do have some critiques. For today I thought I would share what I plan on starting next month.
I have been talking about Stitch Maynia for so long and it is finally almost here! I ended up creating a separate wheel on my Tiny Decisions app where I put the cross stitch pieces I want to start into categories. Like Christmas stitching, ornaments, Stitching with the Housewives, Etsy charts and a couple of other categories. For the month of May I will also be sharing what I start each Saturday (unless it’s a gift) since I won’t be going back to the them again until Maynia is over.
My 9 year old son, Hunter, asked me to make him something and he is big into stuffed animals so this is what he picked. It is a free pattern that can be found on Ravelry (if you click on the picture it will take you to the page). It is called Henry’s rabbit by Sara Elizabeth Kellner but I’m obviously going to rename it Hunter’s rabbit. I’ve been getting more comfortable with DPN’s (double pointed needles) and I just stitched my Pajama cardigan together so I feel fairly confident that I can make something that will at least somewhat resemble a rabbit.
I bought this 3 pack of chalkboard inspired diamond painting on Amazon and I’m excited to work on them even though I haven’t worked on diamond painting in about six weeks since it never comes up on my wheel. This might be the last diamond painting that I add to my wheel since I’m about to add 31 cross stitch patterns to it so the chances of diamond painting coming up are even slimmer.
One thing I haven’t figured out is how I’m going to incorporate extra knitting and diamond painting into my schedule next month. I will still be doing my morning knitting so I need to work out which pocket of time I will try to work on extra crafting. I feel like I want to work on Maynia throughout the day but I also don’t want to burn myself out so I guess I will just play it by ear and if I need a break I can work on something else.
Happy Weekend everyone! I thought it would be fun to share some of the shows that I have been watching while I knit and/or cross stitch. I do watch Youtube half the time but the other half of the time I am working my way through one show or another. I have really enjoyed all the ones that I watched recently so I thought I would share them in case you are also looking for a new show. Which, if you are a crafter, you probably are since there is no better time to watch something then when your hands are busy.
Before we get into that though I did want to share that I am (almost) officially done knitting my Pajama Cardigan! I say almost because I haven’t decided if I want to add the button band or not. I want to see what it looks like all put together first but I’m so excited to be nearing the finish line. I am going to work on stitching it all together this weekend and then block it. In a couple of weeks I get my first infusion of medicine for my disease, MOG, and I am fully planning on wearing this cardigan with some leggings since it is a six hour appointment. If all goes to plan then I will be sharing my finish of this next week.
Since I am done knitting on my Pajama Cardigan I had to decide what I wanted my next morning stitch to be and I ended up going with my Uptown Cardigan. I was going back and forth a lot on if I wanted to work on another cardigan but it is my oldest WIP (work in progress) and so I decided to just go for it so I can get it off my needles. I finished the first front panel and I started the second one since picking it up in the mornings a couple of days ago. I almost picked my Slipstravaganza shawl since I not only really want to wear it but I think Stephen West does yearly mystery KAL’s (knit a-long) every August or September so I would really love to be done with this one so I can fully concentrate on participating in the next one.
This is an Apple TV original and very creepy and well done. This has turned into one of my favorite shows I’ve ever watched. I took a break after watching the first season but I plan on starting the second season this weekend. I’m a little nervous that I won’t like the second season as much as the first which is why I’ve been putting off watching it. Fingers crossed I love it just as much!
This Netflix show gives me Stranger Things vibes so if you are missing that show as much as me then I highly suggest giving this one a watch. It is a supernatural Sherlock Holmes show and I really loved all the characters so much. The ending had me crying and I hope they announce a second season soon.
I also really love PBS shows and I haven’t taken the time to watch them in the past few years so I have been going back and watching some of them. This is a great crime solving one and they take two episodes to solve one case. There will be a second season of this one but I don’t know if they have a date for filming it yet.
This PBS show has three seasons and I have recently finished the first season. This show has a lot of political intrigue and machinations but it also focuses a lot on some of the pop culture things that came out of Victorian times. I don’t know how factually accurate it is but the episodes fly by and I will be going back and watching the second season soon.
Happy Saturday! I don’t have much to share this week since I just shared all my progress last month. I have already cross stitched more this month than I did last month and I’ve been enjoying that. Today I thought I would share a few more charts that I’ve purchased and also my StitchMaynia plans.
*These all come from Etsy.
I don’t think I have shared any of these before but these are all the seed packets I have purchased from Stitching With the Housewives. I was originally planning on finishing them all as seed packets but I don’t know how I would display them all together so I think I will just take some inspiration from the way Priscilla shows them finished. These are a part of their tiered tray tidbits series but I think they would look cute in a few different places in my house. I also bought one more Housewife charts since their designs fit my style so well.
StitchMaynia can be done in a multitude of ways but the way that I’ve decided to do it is to have a new start for everyday in May. Which is a lot considering it’s one of the longest months of the year! But since I’m new to cross stitch and there are SO MANY THINGS I want to stitch I figured I might as well start them so I can continue to work on them on and off until they are done. The biggest issue I’m having is that I need to narrow down all the things I want to start to a list of 31. I have found a ton of patterns that I want to use as Christmas gifts (which I’m not going to be sharing until after Christmas because I’m not sure who I know that actually reads my blog and I don’t want to spoil anything) so those will for sure be a part of the 31. Although I think I will be doing Jolly July and that’s when I will start working on Christmas presents both knitting and cross stitching. I’m also thinking that I will start my Christmas shopping and planning then because Christmas is my husband’s busiest time of the year at work and since I can’t do as much as I used to it would be awesome to just be able to focus on activities with my boys when the holidays roll around.
Happy Saturday! Today I want to share what projects I’m adding to my wheel* for April. I like to add one knitting project, one cross stitch and one diamond painting every month. But because they are on a wheel that randomly decides it doesn’t always mean that it comes up. My diamond painting project I added for March still hasn’t come up although there are a few more days in the month so it might happen. Next Saturday I will be sharing all my progress I made in March with before and after pictures.
*I use the Tiny Decisions app if you are looking for something similar. I love every project that I’m working on so it is impossible for me to choose which one I work on each day.
This sweater is called Pritchard and it is a free pattern on Ravelry. I just learned how to do magic loop in knitting and while I don’t know if this pattern calls for that on the sleeves I do feel confident now that I can make this sweater. I’m really looking forward to knitting my first sweater and if it comes out well then I can use this same pattern to make some sweaters for my kids if they want one.
I want to start working on these seed patterns from Stitching with the Housewives. I love all of their designs but I recently saw Made By Michelle McGraw finish these into seed packets and I really want to do that. This is an ongoing series from them so there will be more (I don’t know how many) that they release and I plan on stitching them all up.
I bought this on Etsy from OurCraftAddictions because I had previously favorited it and it went on sale (it still is!). I think this picture is just gorgeous and I know exactly where I want to hang it in my house when I finish it.
New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s newest thriller again features an edgy young female LAPD detective and an ambitious special agent, both part of a mobile FBI unit that is brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its alleged ties to high stakes crime in the desert Southwest.
Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.
Brennan’s latest novel brims with complex characters and an ever-twisting plotline, a compelling thriller that delivers.
About the author:
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.
Billy Nixon had been waiting his whole life to have sex with Emma Perez. Okay, not all his life. Two and a half years. It just felt that way since he’d fallen in love with her the day they met in Microeconomics, on his first day of classes at the University of Arizona. Love at first sight is a cliché, and until that moment in time Billy didn’t believe in any of that bullshit. His parents were divorced, his older sister had been in and out of bad relationships since she was fifteen, and his friends slept around as if the apocalypse was upon them.
But in the back of his mind, he remembered the story about how his grandparents met the day before his grandfather shipped off to the Korean War, how they wrote letters every week, and how three years later his grandfather came home and they married. They were married for fifty-six years before his grandfather died; his grandmother died three months later.
That’s what Billy wanted. Without having to go to war.
It took Emma two years before the same feeling clicked inside her. They’d been friends. They both dated other people (well, Billy pretended to date because he couldn’t in good conscience lead another girl on when he knew that he didn’t care about her like he cared about Emma). But it was three months ago, when Emma lost her ride home to Denver for the Christmas holidays and he found her crying in her dorm room, that he said, “I’ll drive you there,” even though he was a Tucson native and lived with his dad to save money.
From then on, she looked at him differently. Like her eyes had been opened and she saw in him what he saw in her. From that point on, they were inseparable.
The morning after they first made love, Billy knew there was no other girl, no other woman, with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Call him a romantic, but Emma was it. He had started saving money for a ring. They were finishing up their third year of college, so had a year left, but that was okay. He did well in school and had a part-time job. He already had a job lined up for the summer in Phoenix that paid well, and he could live there cheaply with his sister—though the thought of spending two months with his emotional, self-absorbed sibling was a big negative. And the idea of leaving Emma for two months made him miserable. But if he did this, he’d have enough money, not only for a ring, but to get an apartment when they graduated. And—maybe—his job this summer would be a permanent thing when he was done with college next spring, which meant he’d have stability. Something he desperately wanted to provide for Emma.
Emma rolled over in bed and sighed. He loved when his dad was out of town and he had the house to himself, since they had no privacy in Emma’s dorm. Billy kissed the top of her head. He thought she was still sleeping, or in that dreamy state right before you wake up. It wasn’t even dawn, but how could he go back to sleep with Emma Perez naked in his bed?
“Billy?” she said.
“Can I ask you a favor?”
“Anything.” “I need to go to Mount Wrightson today. The Patagonia side of the mountain.”
An odd request, but Emma spent a lot of time these days in the Santa Rita Mountains and surrounding areas. She was a business and environmental sciences double major who worked part-time at the Arizona Resources and Environmental Agency—AREA, as they called it—the state environmental protection agency.
“For work, school or fun?” he said.
“Last week my Geology class went out to Mount Wrightson and we hiked partway down the Arizona Trail. I noticed several dead birds off the trail. My professor didn’t think it was anything, but it bothered me. So I talked to my boss, Frank, at work, and he said if my professor didn’t think it was unusual, then it wasn’t. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so went back a couple days ago on my own. One of the closed trails has been used recently. And I found more dead birds, more than a dozen.”
“Which means what?”
“I don’t know yet, but birds are especially vulnerable to contaminated water because of their small size and metabolism. Remember when I told you my boss got an anonymous letter two years ago? Signed A Concerned Citizen and postmarked from Patagonia? The letter writer claimed that several local people were being made sick and that the water supply was tainted. Frank tested the water supply himself after that, but he didn’t find anything abnormal. So he dismissed it. But no one has been able to explain why those people were sick.”
“And remember—there was no evidence that anyone was sick,” Billy said. “The letter was anonymous. It could have just been a disgruntled prankster. Didn’t Frank talk to the health center about the complaint? Didn’t he investigate the local copper refinery?”
“Yes,” she said and sighed in a way that made him feel like he was missing something. “Maybe two years ago it wasn’t real,” she said in a way that made Billy think she really didn’t believe that. “But now my gut tells me something’s going on, and I want to know what.”
“You told your boss about the dead birds. You said he was a good guy, right?”
“Yeah, but I think he still thinks I’m a tree hugger.”
“You certainly gave that impression when you first started there and questioned their entire record-keeping process and the way Frank had conducted that original investigation.”
“I’ve apologized a hundred times. I realize now how much goes into keeping accurate records, and that AREA uses one of the best systems in the country. I’ve learned so much from Frank. I really believe I can make a difference now, and be smart about it too. All I want is to give him facts, Billy. And the only way I can do that is if I go back up there.”
Billy didn’t have the same passion for the environment that Emma had, but he loved her commitment to nature and how she continued to learn and adapt to new and changing technologies and ideas.
“Whatever you want to do, I’m with you,” he said. He’d follow her through the Amazon jungle if she asked him to.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” she said, as if he needed encouragement to do anything for her. “I just want to check out the trails near where I found the second flock of birds. We can have a picnic, make a day out of it.”
“Good call, bribing me with food.”
She smiled. “I can bribe you with something else too.” Then she kissed him.
* * *
An hour later the sun was up and they stopped for breakfast in the tiny town of Sonoita, southeast of Tucson where Highways 82 and 83 intersected. Emma had been quiet the entire drive, taking notes while analyzing a topo map.
As they ate, Emma showed him the map and her notes. “The dead birds I found last week with the class were Mexican jays. The ones I found after that on my own were trogons. I’ve been studying both of their migration patterns. The jays have a wider range. The trogons are much more localized. It seems unlikely that they just dropped dead out of the sky for no reason. I’m thinking, logically, they might have been poisoned. I don’t see any large body of water near where I found them, but there’s a pond here that forms during the rainy season.” She pointed.
While Billy couldn’t read a topo map to save his life, he trusted her thinking.
“That pond, or this stream—” she pointed again “—are right under one of their migration routes. I’ve also highlighted some other seasonal streams, here and here.”
“That seems like a huge area. North and south of Eighty-Two? How can we cover all of that in one day? Where are the roads?”
“We can hike.”
He frowned. Hike, sure. But this looked like a three-day deal.
“Emma, maybe you should talk to your boss again, show him the map and tell him what you suspect.”
“But I haven’t found anything yet—just on the map!”
Tears sprouted to her eyes, and Billy panicked. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. “Okay, what are we doing, then?”
“If you don’t want to help me, Billy, just say so.”
“I do, Emma. I just need to know the full plan, and I don’t understand your notes. I don’t even know where exactly I’m going.”
“This is the town of Patagonia, see?” She trailed her finger along one of the paths that went from Patagonia up the mountain. “And this is Mount Wrightson, to the north.”
Billy had hiked to the peak of Mount Wrightson once. He wasn’t into nature and hiking like Emma, but he liked being outdoors, so he took a conservation class that doubled as a science requirement. His idea of being outdoors was playing baseball or volleyball or riding his bike.
“We need to hike halfway up Wrightson. I found a service road that I think we can use to get most of the way to the trailhead. Okay?”
“If you’re sure about this,” he said.
She frowned and looked back down at her map. He hated that he’d made her sad.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s fine.”
“You don’t want to go.”
“I do. I just don’t want us to get lost.”
She smiled sweetly at him. “Stick with me and you won’t.”
That was the smile he needed. He took her hand, interlocked their fingers. “I trust you.”
“Good.” She gave him a quick kiss, and they left the café and got back on the road.
Several hours later, Billy wasn’t as accommodating. They’d parked at the end of a dirt road near the trailhead halfway up the southeastern side of the mountain and been hiking through rough terrain ever since. The landscape was dotted with some trees and pines, but not as dense or pretty or green as on the top of the mountain. The land wasn’t dry—the wet winter and snow runoff had ensured that—so the area was hard to navigate, and the paths they were on weren’t maintained. Billy doubted they were trails at all.
The hiking had been fine up until lunch. At noon, they ate their picnic, which was a nice break, because then they had sex and relaxed in the middle of nature. It wasn’t quiet—they heard birds and a light breeze and the rustling of critters. A family of jackrabbits crossed only feet from them as they lay on the blanket Billy had brought. Afterward, Billy suggested they head back to the truck. He was tired, and they had already walked miles, which meant as many miles back to the truck.
But Emma didn’t want to leave. He was pretty sure she didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but that she had this idea that if she walked long and far enough, she’d find evidence to support her theory that something nefarious had been happening out here to kill all those birds.
So Billy kept his mouth shut and followed her.
By four that afternoon, Billy was pretty sure Emma had gotten them lost. They had seemed to zigzag across the southern face of Mount Wrightson. He was tired, and even the birds had gone quiet, as if they were getting ready to settle in and nest for the night, even though sunset was still a few hours away.
He stopped next to a tree that was taller than most and that provided much-needed shade. It was only seventy-six degrees, but the sky was clear and the sun had been beating down on them all afternoon. He was glad he’d thought to bring sunscreen, otherwise they’d both be fried by now.
He dropped the large backpack he’d been carrying that contained their picnic stuff, blanket, water, first aid kit and emergency supplies. He knew enough about the desert not to go hiking without food and water to last at least twenty-four hours. Like if his truck didn’t start when they got back, they needed to be okay. So he had extra water—but he didn’t tell Emma that. It was for emergencies only.
“We’re down to our last water bottles,” he said. He’d paced himself so he had two left, whereas Emma had gone through all six of hers.
He handed her one of the two. “Drink.”
She sipped, handed it back to him. “Thirty more minutes, honey. See this?” She pointed to the damn map that he wanted to tear into pieces now, except without it he was positive they would be lost here forever. “That’s the large seasonal pond I was talking about. It’ll dry up before summer, according to the topo charts.”
How she could stay so cheerful when he was hot and tired and, frankly, bored, he didn’t know.
“Down this path, not more than two hundred yards. Three hundred, maybe.”
He looked at her. Implored her to let them start heading back.
“Why don’t you stay here and wait,” she said.
“You don’t mind?”
She smiled, walked over and kissed him. “Promise.”
Twenty minutes later she was back where Billy waited. She looked so sad and defeated. “I’m ready to go,” she said.
“We’ll come back next weekend, okay? We’ll bring a tent and food and camp overnight.”
She looked surprised at his suggestion, a smile on her face. “You mean that?”
She threw her arms around him. “I love you, Billy Nixon.”
His heart nearly stopped. “I love you, too,” he said and held her. He wanted to freeze this moment, relive it every day of his life.
“We’re actually closer to your truck than you think—we made a circle. First we went north, then west, then south, now we’re going east again. When we get back to the main trail at the fork back there, we go left rather than right, and the truck is about half a mile up.”
He was impressed; he had underestimated her. Maybe they weren’t as lost as he thought; maybe he was the only one with a shitty sense of direction. But that was okay, because Emma loved him, and they were going to be together forever. He knew it in his heart and his head, and she’d always be there to navigate.
They drove down the mountain, the road rough at first, then it smoothed out as they got near town. They headed west on 82, deciding to drive the scenic route back to Tucson. Emma marked her map to highlight where they’d already walked, when suddenly she looked up. “Hey, can you get off here?”
“Have to pee again?”
“Ha ha. No. There’s several old roads that go south. Sonoita Creek, when it floods, cuts fast-flowing streams into the valley. We had a couple late storms this winter. I just want to check the area quickly—we’ll come back next weekend. But if I see anything that tells me the streams were running a few weeks ago, I want to come back here first. Okay? Please?”
Billy was tired, but Emma loved him, so he happily turned off the highway and followed her directions. They drove about a mile along a very rough unpaved road until they reached a narrow path. His truck couldn’t go down there—there were small cacti sprouting up all over the place, and the chances of him getting a flat increased exponentially.
Emma got out, and Billy reluctantly followed. She was excited. “See that grove of trees down there?”
He did. It looked more like overgrown brush, but it was greener than anything else around them.
“I’ll bet there’s still water. This is on the outer circle of where the birds could have flown from. I just want to check.”
“The path looks kinda steep and rocky. You sure about this?”
She kissed him. “I’m sure. Stay here, okay? I won’t be long.”
“Ten minutes.” “Fifteen.” She kissed him again, put her backpack on and headed down the path.
He sat in the back of his truck and watched Emma navigate the downward slope. He doubted this “path” had been used anytime in the last few years. From his vantage point, he saw several darker areas, plants dense and green, and suspected that Emma was right—this valley would get water after big storms.
Emma was beautiful and smart. What wasn’t to love?
He watched until she disappeared from view into the brush.
He frowned. He should have gone with her. Was he just sulking because he was tired and hungry?
Predators were out here—coyotes, bobcats, javelinas. Javelinas could be downright mean even if you did nothing to provoke them. Not to mention that these mountains bordered the corridor for trafficking illegal immigrants. Billy had taken a criminal justice class his freshman year and they touched upon that topic. He didn’t want to encounter a two-legged predator any more than one on four legs.
What kind of man was he if he couldn’t suck it up and help the woman he loved?
So he grabbed his backpack and headed down the path Emma had taken. He was in pretty good shape, but this hike had wasted him. Emma must have been fitter than he was, because she’d barely slowed down all day. After this, they’d go to his place, shower—maybe he could convince Emma to take a shower with him—and then he’d take her out to dinner. After all, they had something to celebrate: the first time they said “I love you.” They’d go to El Charro, maybe. It was Billy’s favorite Mexican food in Tucson, not too expensive, great food. Take an Uber so they could have a couple of drinks.
He wished he were there right now. His stomach growled as he stumbled and then caught himself before he fell on his ass.
He was halfway down the hill when a scream pierced the mountainside. Billy ran the rest of the way down the narrow, rocky trail. “Emma!”
He yelled louder for her. “Emma! Emma!”
He slipped when the trail made a sudden drop as it went steeply down to a small pond—the seasonal one that Emma must have been looking for. The beauty of the spot with its trees and boulders all around was striking in the desert, and for a split second he thought it was a mirage. Then all he could think about was that Emma had been bitten by a rattlesnake, or had fallen into the water, or had slipped and broken her leg.
But she didn’t respond to his repeated calls.
He stood on the edge of the pond, frantically searching for her. Looking for wild animals, a bobcat that she may have surprised. A herd of javelinas that might have attacked her. Anything.
Movement to his right startled him, and he turned around quickly.
In the shade, he saw someone. He shouted, wondering if Emma was disorientated or had gone the wrong way. But whatever he thought he saw was now gone.
Then he saw her.
Emma’s body was half in, half out of the pond, a good hundred feet beyond him, obscured in part by an outcrop of large rocks on the water’s edge. He ran to her and dropped to his knees. His first thought was that she had slipped and hit her head. Some blood glistened on her scalp.
“Emma, where are you hurt? Emma?”
She didn’t respond. Then he saw the blood on a hand-sized rock on the edge of the pond. And he felt more blood on the back of her skull.
“No, no, no!”
He saw her chest rise and fall. She was alive, but unconscious. He pulled out his phone, but there was no signal. He had to get help, but he couldn’t leave her here.
Billy picked Emma up and, as quickly as he could, carried her up the steep hillside to his truck.
As he drove back to the main road, he called 911. An ambulance met him in the closest town, Patagonia.