Book Tour: Author Guest Post & Giveaway for Hijack in Abstract (A Cherry Tucker Mystery # 3)

In the mood for a cozy mystery? Check out Larissa Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker mystery series. Today’s spotlight is her recent release of  Hijack in Abstract. Read on to learn more about the book and join the discussion with the author to share your favorite art-themed books. Be sure to enter the $25 gift card giveaway!

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Hijack in Abstract by Larissa Reinhart

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Release Date: December 18, 2013

Genre: Humorous Cozy Mystery / 257 pgs.

Humor, Hijackings and a Handful of Hunks . . . 

With a classical series sold and a portrait commissioned, Cherry Tucker’s art career is in Georgia overdrive. But when the sheriff asks Cherry to draw a composite sketch of a hijacker, her life takes a hairpin as the composite leads to a related murder, her local card-sharking buddy Max Avtaikin becomes bear bait and her nemesis labels the classical series “pervert art.”

Cherry’s jamming gears between trailer parks, Atlanta mansions, and trucker bars searching for the hijacker who left a widow and orphan destitute. While she seeks to help the misfortunate and save her local reputation, Cherry’s hammer down attitude has her facing the headlights of an oncoming killer.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway for Nevermore: A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe

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Nevermore: A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe by David Niall Wilson

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Publication Date: March 19, 2013

Published by Crossroad Press

About Nevermore: A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe

Nevermore CoverOn the banks of Lake Drummond, on the edge of The Great Dismal Swamp, there is a tree in the shape of a woman.

One dark, moonlit night, two artists met at The Lake Drummond Hotel, built directly on the borderline of North Carolina and Virginia. One was a young woman with the ability to see spirits trapped in trees and stone, anchored to the earth beyond their years. Her gift was to draw them, and then to set them free. The other was a dark man, haunted by dreams and visions that brought him stories of sadness and pain, and trapped in a life between the powers he sensed all around him, and a mundane existence attended by failure. They were Eleanore MacReady, Lenore, to her friends, and a young poet named Edgar Allan Poe, who traveled with a crow that was his secret, and almost constant companion, a bird named Grimm for the talented brothers of fairy-tale fame.

Their meeting drew them together in vision, and legend, and pitted their strange powers and quick minds against the depths of the Dismal Swamp itself, ancient legends, and time.

Once, upon a shoreline dreary, there was a tree. This is her story.

*****

  Read an Excerpt 

Chapter One

The room was low-ceilinged and deep. Smoke wafted from table to table, cigars, pipes, and the pungent aroma of scented candles. Laughter floated out from the bar, separated by a low half-wall from a small dining area, where the bartender regaled the crowd with a particularly bawdy story. In the corners, more private conversations took place, and at the rear, facing the Intercoastal Waterway beyond, the door stood open to the night, letting the slightly cooler air of evening in and the sound and smoke free.

The smoke prevented the illumination from a series of gaslights and lanterns from cutting the gloom properly. Smiles gleamed from shadows and the glint of silver and gunmetal winked like stars. It was a rough crowd, into their drinks and stories, plans and schemes.

Along the back wall, facing a window that looked out over the waterway and the Great Dismal Swamp beyond, a lone figure sat with her back to the room. Her hair was long and light brown, braided back and falling over her shoulder to the center of her back. She was tall and slender with smooth, tanned skin. She was dressed for travel, in a long, floor length dress that covered her legs, while allowing ease of motion. The crowd swirled around her, but none paid her any attention.

She paid no attention to anything but the window. Her gaze was fixed on the point where an intricate pattern of branches and leaves crossed the face of the moon.

There was a sheaf of paper on the table, and she held a bit of chalk loosely between the thumb and index finger of her right hand. She formed the trees, the long strong lines of the trees, the fine mesh of branches and mist. Her fingers moved quickly, etching outlines and shading onto her sketch with practiced ease.

A serving girl wandered over to glance down at the work in progress. She stared at the paper intently, and then glanced up at the window, and the night beyond. She reached down and plucked the empty wine glass from the table.
“What are they?” she asked.

The woman glanced up. Her expression was startled, as if she’d been drawn back from some other place, or out of a trance. She followed the serving girl’s gaze to the paper.

Among the branches, formed of limbs and leaves, mist and reflected light, faces gazed out, some at the tavern, some at the swamp, others down along the waterway. They mixed so subtly with the trees themselves that if you were not looking carefully, they seemed to disappear.

“I don’t know,” the woman said. “Not yet. Spirits, I suppose. Trapped. Tangled.”

“You are a crazy woman,” the girl said. There was no conviction in her words. She continued to stare at the sketch. Then, very suddenly, she stepped back. She stumbled, and nearly dropped her tray.

The woman glanced up at her sharply.

“What?”

“That…face.” The girl stepped back to the table very slowly, and pointed to the center of the snarl of branches. The tip of her finger brushed along the lines of a square-jawed face. The eyes were dark and the expression was a scowl close to rage.
“I’ve seen him before,” she said. “Last year. He…he was shot.”

“Can you tell me?”

The girl shook her head. “Not now. I have to work. If I stand here longer there will be trouble. Later? I must serve until the tavern closes, a few hours…”

The artist held out her hand.

“My Name is Eleanor, Eleanor MacReady, but friends call me Lenore. I’ll be here, finishing this drawing, until you close. I know that it will be late, but I am something of a night person. Can we talk then? Maybe in my room?”

The girl nodded. She glanced down at the drawing again and stepped back. Then she stumbled off into the crowded tavern and disappeared. Lenore stared after her for a long moment, brow furrowed, then turned back to the window. The moon had shifted, and the image she’d been drawing was lost. It didn’t matter. The faces were locked in her mind, and she turned her attention to her wine glass, and to the paper. The basic design was complete, but there was a lot of shading and detail work remaining. She had to get the faces just right – exactly as she remembered them. Then the real work would begin.

Even as she worked, her mind drifted out toward the swamp, and toward her true destination. She didn’t know the exact location of the tree, but she knew it was there, and she knew that she would find it. She didn’t always see things in her dreams, but when she did, the visions were always true.

A breeze blew in through the open window, and she shivered.

The face she was working on was that of an older man. He had a sharp, beak of a nose and deep-set shadowed eyes. The expression on his face might have been surprise, or dismay. His hair was formed of strands of gray cloud blended with small twigs and wisps of fog as she carefully entered the details.

There were others. She’d counted five in all, just in that one glimpse of the swamp. She thought she could probably sit right here, at this window, and work for years without capturing them all. How many lives lay buried in the peat moss and murky water? How many had died, or been killed beside the long stretch of the Intercoastal Waterway? She tilted her head and listened. The breeze seemed to carry voices from far away, the sound of firing guns, the screams of the lost and dying.

She worked a woman’s features into a knotted joint in one of the tree’s branches. The face was proud. Her lip curled down slightly at the edge, not so much in a frown, as in determination. Purpose. From the strong cheekbones and distinctive lines of the woman’s nose, Lenore sensed she’d been an Indian. How had she come here, soul trapped fluttering up through the sticky fingers of the ancient trees?

Around her, the sounds of revelry, arguments of drunken, belligerent men, clink of glasses, full and empty, and the sound of a lone guitar in a far corner surrounded her. She felt cut off – isolated in some odd way from everyone, and everything but the paper beneath her fingers. Now and then she paused, reached out for her glass, and sipped her wine.

No one troubled her and that in and of itself, was odd. A woman – an attractive woman – alone in a place like the Halfway House was an oddity. She should have been a target. She was not. A few men glanced her way, but something about her – the way she bent over her work, the intensity of her focus – kept them away. She worked steadily, and one by one, the others drifted out the doors, some to rooms, others to wander about with bottles and thoughts of their own. Eventually, there were only a few small groups, talking quietly, the bartender, and the girl.

There was nothing more she could do. She had drawn an eerily accurate recreation of the trees over the waterway, and of the five faces she’d found trapped in their branches. She sensed things about them but knew little. She did not need to know. She knew that she had to set them free, to allow them to move on to the next level. Something had bound them – some power, or some part of themselves they were unwilling to release. They did not belong, and though she knew that most of the world either ignored, or did not sense these things at all – she did. All those trapped, helpless beings weighed on her spirit like stones. She was fine until she saw them, but once that happened, she was bound to set them free. It was her gift – her curse? Sometimes the two were too closely aligned to be differentiated.

She rose, drained the last of the wine in her cup, and gathered her pencils. She tucked the drawing into the pocket of a leather portfolio, careful not to smudge it. Soon, it would not matter, but until she’d had a chance to finish her work, it was crucial that nothing be disturbed.

The girl, who had been busy wiping the spilled remnants of ale, wine, and the night from the various tables and the surface of the bar, wandered slowly over.

“I’m in the corner room,” Lenore said, smiling. “The one farthest in on the Carolina side.”

The girl nodded. She glanced over at the bartender, then turned back.

“I will come as soon as I can.” She glanced down at the portfolio. “You have finished?”

Lenore nodded, but only slightly. “I have finished the basic drawing, yes.”

“He was a bad man,” the girl said. “A very bad man. I have never seen him there – in the trees – before tonight. I don’t like that he watches.”

“After tonight, he will not,” Lenore said, reaching to lay her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “But I’d love to know who he is – who he was. I seldom know the faces I’ve drawn. You saw him – in my drawing, and in the trees. Most see nothing but branches.”

“I will come soon,” the girl said, turning and hurrying back toward the bar.

Lenore watched her go, frowned slightly, and then turned. She had to exit through the front door and follow a long porch along the side of the building where it turned from the saloon in the center to a line of rooms on the Carolina side. There were similar rooms on the Virginia side, but her business was in the swamp, and the corner room gave her a better view of what lay beyond.

As she made her way to her room, she heard the steady drum of hooves. She stopped, and turned. A carriage had come into view, winding in from the main road that stretched between the states. It was dark, pulled by a pair of even darker horses. She stood still and watched as it came to a halt. Something moved far above, and she glanced up in time to see a dark shape flash across the pale face of the moon. A bird? At night?

She glanced back to the carriage to see it pulling away into the night. A single figure stood, his bag in one hand. He glanced her way, nodded, and then turned toward the main door of the saloon. He was thin, with dark hair and eyes. It was hard to make his features out in the darkness, but somehow she saw into those eyes. They were filled with an odd, melancholy sadness. As he passed inside, it seemed as if his shadow remained, just for a moment, outlined in silvery light. Then it was gone.

Lenore shook her head, turned, and hurried to the door to her room. She fumbled the key from her jacket pocket, jammed it into the lock, and hurried inside. She had no idea why the sight of the man had unnerved her, but it had. And the bird. If she’d woken from a dream, she’d have believed she was meant to set him free…but she was very, very awake, and though her fingers itched to draw – to put his image on paper and tuck it away somewhere safe, she knew she could not. Not now – not yet. There was not much time before dawn, and she still had work to finish – and a story to hear. The stranger, if she ever returned to him, would have to wait.

She lit the oil lamp on the single table in her small room, opened the portfolio, and laid the drawing on the flat surface. There was a small stand nearby, and another bottle of wine rested there. She had two glasses, but had not known at the time why she’d asked for them. Another vision? She poured one for herself, and replaced the cork.

Moments later, there was a soft rap on the door. When she opened it, the girl stood outside, shifting nervously from one foot to the other and looking up and down the long porch as if fearing to be seen.

“Come in,” Lenore said.

The girl did so, and Lenore closed the door behind them.

“What shall I call you?” she asked, trying to set the girl at ease. Something had her spooked and it would simply not do to have the girl bolt without spilling her story.

“Anita,” the girl said shyly, glancing at Lenore. “I am Anita.”

“I’m glad to meet you,” Lenore said, “and very curious to hear what you have to say about the man you saw in the trees. I see them all the time, you know. In trees, bushes, sometimes in the water or a stone. It’s not very often that I meet another who is aware of them – even less often that I have a chance to hear their stories.”

“It is not a good story,” Anita said. “He was a very bad man.”

Lenore smiled again. “He’s not a man any longer, dear, so there is nothing to fear in the telling. Would you like a glass of wine?”

The girl nodded. Lenore poured a second glass from her bottle and handed it over.

“Sit down,” she said. “I still have work to do, and I can work as you talk. It will relax me.”

“I will tell you,” Anita said, perching lightly on the corner of the bed, “but it will not relax you.”

“Then it will keep me awake,” Lenore said, seating herself at her desk. “You see, I don’t just see those who are trapped, I have to undo whatever it is that has them trapped. I won’t be finished until I’ve freed them all.”

The girl glanced sharply over, nearly spilling her drink.

“Maybe…maybe it is best if this one stays.”

Lenore pulled out her pencils, and a gum eraser.

“We’ll leave him for now,” she said. “There are four others, and I can only work on one at a time. Tell me your story.”
Anita took a sip of her wine, and nodded. “His name is Abraham Thigpen. He died about a year ago but I remember it like today…”

Lenore listened, and worked, rearranging branches, shifting the wood slightly, picking the strong woman’s face to release from the pattern first. Anita’s voice droned in the background – and she faded into the story, letting it draw her back across the years as she carefully disassembled her drawing, working the faces free.

*****

About the Author

Author PictureDavid Niall Wilson has been writing and publishing horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction since the mid-eighties. An ordained minister, once President of the Horror Writer’s Association and multiple recipient of the Bram Stoker Award, his novels include Maelstrom, The Mote in Andrea’s Eye, Deep Blue, the Grails Covenant Trilogy, Star Trek Voyager: Chrysalis, Except You Go Through Shadow, This is My Blood, Ancient Eyes, On the Third Day, The Orffyreus Wheel, and Vintage Soul – Book One of the DeChance Chronicles. The Stargate Atlantis novel “Brimstone,” written with Patricia Lee Macomber is his most recent. He has over 150 short stories published in anthologies, magazines, and five collections, the most recent of which were “Defining Moments,” published in 2007 by WFC Award winning Sarob Press, and the currently available “Ennui & Other States of Madness,” from Dark Regions Press. His work has appeared in and is due out in various anthologies and magazines. David lives and loves with Patricia Lee Macomber in the historic William R. White House in Hertford, NC with their children, Billy, Zach, Zane, and Katie, and occasionally their genius college daughter Stephanie.

Guest Post by David Niall Wilson

Ancient Evil is the Best Evil

One of the things I loved most about Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods, which I consider to be a modern classic, was the concept of how men and women, no matter where they travel in the world, bring their beliefs with them, and that – with those believes – we carry the spirits and powers behind them.  The ancient gods haven’t died, they are just diluted.  Those who believe in them have migrated, moved, changed, and adapted – so why would we expect less of the gods?

It’s not a new concept in fantasy, or fiction in general, that as time passes, and the number of true believers in a religion, or deity, die or move on to something new and different, the power that deity can exert on the world is reduced in proportion.  Though most would claim not to believe in any such ancient beings, there is always that flicker of doubt, or regret, that accompanies their denial.

The old gods were a lot more interesting than what remains.  Odin and his one eye, those magnificent ravens perched on either shoulder, Zeus with his lightning bolts, watching from Olympus for some unsuspecting human woman to deflower.  Hercules, and Perseus and the heroes who give us hope in the future and dreams to aspire to. They are still with us, and in small pockets of the world, they are still worshipped, though probably not in the same way, and definitely not at the same level they were once accustomed to.

There were other gods.  Darker gods.  In the early churches of Europe you would often find the carved head of a ghastly hag tucked just inside the door, in an alcove on the inside.  Temples and lodges display antlers and horns almost as if they were sacred, as they once were, symbolizing the Great Horned God who – along with the various incarnations of the Earth Mother, brought fertility to the land for the price of sacrifice and belief.

In my novel Ancient Eyes, I wrote about one such old world deity grown powerful and out of control.  In several of my novels I’ve mentioned another- an old woman named Nettie who has, as far as anyone can remember, always lived in The Great Dismal Swamp.  She is always – generation after generation – accompanied by a young girl.  She often travels in the company of a stag.  Even today, in small towns near the swamp, they celebrate the Harvest Festival – though it is nothing but a pale shadow of what it once was.

Farmers and priests take their fertility seriously, it seems.

In Nevermore – a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe, I deal with a number of ancient things.  There are clues to a curse, and its solution, buried in a fairy tale.  There is a sorceress still mad with the desire for power and revenge after centuries. There is a princess in need of a hero.  These are elements, and they wind and twine and take root in the legends and folklore of The Great Dismal Swamp.

Since I have always believed that poets see things more clearly, and that artists connect with the world most deeply, I chose Edgar Allan Poe and his lost love Lenore as my protagonists.  I chose The Raven because it is dark, and it has left the world with half-remembered quotes, and mysteries.  The identity of Lenore, for instance.  The significance of the raven, normally a psychopomp – a messenger from, or guide to, another world.

While at its heart Nevermore may seem a simple tale – it is not.  There are levels, and symbolic passages, ties firmly connected to books of mine that have been written, and to others that will be.

I live near The Great Dismal Swamp, and while it is a beautiful place, it is also deep, dark, and filled with shadows.  It has depths that no one has fully plumbed.  It has secrets that would amaze if they were uncovered, and others that could chill the blood.  Men have been finding their way into her depths for centuries, some returning, others never to be seen again, and around the side of her closest to the coast, The Intercoastal Waterway winds up from Florida like a long, sinuous serpent, bringing its own history and secrets.  It’s a place I’ve come to love, and that I’ve written about often since moving near to her border.

I hope you’ll come and visit through the pages of my novel.  I hope you’ll love and fear her as I do, and that you’ll be swept away to another time – a time when a thing could happen in one place, and never be known in another.  Before phones and the Internet shrank the world, there was more magic.

Once, upon a shoreline dreary, there was a tree. Nevermore is her story.

Thanks for reading…

You can find more about me, and my work at: http://www.davidniallwilson.com

You can connect with me on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/david_n_wilson

You can find me on Facebook at:  http://www.facebook.com/David.Niall.Wilson

*****

David will be lowering the price of the e-Book (on Amazon) to $2.99 during the book tour.

Purchase Links

Click on the book cover to purchase from Amazon

 Audible.com | Barnes & Noble | Crossroad Press

*****

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Spotlight, Author Guest Post & Giveaway for Come Hell or High Desire

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Come Hell or High Desire by Misty Dietz

Come Hell or High Desire

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: August 12, 2013

Published by Entangled Publishing – Suspense Imprint

Book Description

Torn between dangerous desires…

Framed for a series of brutal murders, rebel-turned-CEO Zack Goldman must go to ground. When he discovers that sexy boutique owner Sloane Swift has a shocking gift—terrifying visions that connect her to his mentor’s missing daughter—he can’t believe her refusal to help him. Nor can he believe he’s actually falling for the frustrating woman.

Their chemistry will either find its perfect equation…

Helping an accused killer ranks low on Sloane’s to-do list, no matter how hot the attraction burns between them. But putting to rest her overwhelming guilt over the missing girl’s fate proves more difficult than she ever imagined…that is, until her heart and conscience begin to align.

…or detonate everything in its path.

As the real killer locks in on Sloane, Zack will stop at nothing to keep her safe. And as they earn each other’s trust—with danger in hot pursuit—they may just lose their hearts in the process…

 

About the Author

Misty Dietz

Misty’s love affair with words started in middle school when she penned dark stories set in exotic locales she knew nothing about. In college, her boy-angst spilled over into disturbing reams of poetry. After grad school, real life hit, and the writing went into hibernation until she found her own happily-ever-after with an ultra linear man who is the long-suffering counter-balance to her zig-zagging tendencies. Now, she spends her days writing emotionally complex, adrenaline-fueled stories, teaching Zumba, and praying her children don’t come home with math homework.
Author Links

Purchase Links for Come Hell or High Desire on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Books

Why Book Covers are Like Dating
By Misty Dietz

 A big thank you to Barbara Ann for having me on Sun Mountain Reviews today! Love the blog name! Even though I’m from the flatlands of eastern North Dakota, I’ve spent time in the mountains because my parents live in the foothills of the Rockies. Super fun to explore…like shopping for books!

We’ve all heard it before…don’t judge a book by it’s cover, yada, yada. And we know we shouldn’t, but we do…all the time. It’s human nature. So of course, authors are very concerned about the window dressing of their stories. Because let’s face it, sometimes that’s all readers have to go on when they’re faced with twenty other covers. It’s like that initial attraction when you’re dating.

Say you’re on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and you see that hot cover that gives you chills. Is it looking at me, you think, does it want me? LOL. But for real, if you’re in a room full of men or on a website full of books, which ones are you going to select to move to the next phase of “dating”?

The ones that physically appeal to you. This is a subjective thing, but in books it is the right blend of colors, images, typography, and mood that release feel-good chemicals and inspire your curiosity. Enough so that you’re intrigued to move to the next phase, which is usually reading the book blurb, or back cover copy.

Sure, people (and books) can come to be more attractive the longer we get to know them, but first impressions definitely count—and it’s usually a gut-level, split second decision.

So, needless to say, authors are very concerned about the end result.

Fiona Jayde is the graphics goddess who did the cover of COME HELL OR HIGH DESIRE, and that sexy beast on the cover is totally Zack!! When I saw that man’s image while surfing the graphics website Entangled uses for their cover art, my heart practically stopped. I couldn’t believe there would be a model who would so much match up with the character I envisioned, yet there he flippin’ was. Entangled is so awesome for so many reasons, but the creative input they offer their authors is particularly fabulous.

In addition to Zack’s image, I suggested they use either a river background or something grungy and industrial to reflect where a lot of the action goes down in the book. Fiona went with the industrial theme, and I think the end result is THE BOMB. 🙂

So what do you think? Are you strongly influenced by a book’s cover? What’s one of your favorite covers?

At the end of my blog tour we’ll be drawing the name of two commenters from all of the blogs to gift not one, but two fantastic prize winners. See below for details, and thanks for being here! xo, misty 😉

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Spotlight, Author Guest Post, & Giveaway for Curse of Passion

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Curse of Passion by Melissa Bourbon Ramirez

Curse of Passion

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: August 12, 2013

Published by Entangled Publishing – Suspense Imprint

Book Description

The ghost of la Llorona is said to haunt the riverbanks, always searching for her drowned child. She also haunts high school teacher Johanna Rios, whose own mother believed so deeply in the legend she tried to drown her daughters. And now the ghost has become real, a young woman murdered, and the safe world Jo created is falling apart.

Since returning home from his last tour of duty to become a school principal, Ray Vargas has fought his attraction for his employee, the sensual woman who’d once been the girl next door. But the Llorona Killer will not stop until he claims his final victim—Johanna—and Ray will do anything to protect the woman he’s come to love.

With a serial killer out to prove the curse is real, will Ray and Johanna’s future be drowned in the ghostly waters of the past? Or will the power of their love give them the strength to stop a killer…and heal their wounded hearts.

Read an Excerpt

Johanna paced and turned toward him, but still hadn’t noticed Ray in the doorway. He catalogued her features. She was thirty-two, with honey-colored skin, cheekbones that gave her an exotic look, long, dark hair…As it often did, his gaze hitched at her full, red lips. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d kissed lips like that. Maybe never.The sliver of skin showing between her sweater and her pants drew his eyes. She looked far hotter than any teacher had a right to—certainly hotter than any teacher he’d ever had. Thank God, or he’d never have graduated.He felt his eyes pinch and blinked hard to break the drugged feeling that suddenly slid over him. He’d done his best to steer clear of her for years, and after this conversation, he’d go back to staying away.“Who is this? What do you want?” Johanna’s voice held fear, tinged with anger.That was not a tone Ray associated with Johanna. He froze in place. He’d been trained well by the Army. Freeze first. Assess. Decide. Then move.She spoke again, her voice rising in pitch. “Would you just stop calling?” she demanded, her voice shaking.Distressed. Johanna was distressed. Time to act. Ray moved then, coming into the classroom, bumping a desk as he came toward her, startling her.She whipped around, gasping as she saw him. Her face paled, and a second later she dropped her cell phone on her desk. She speared her hand through her hair, her fingers bending until they looked like claws digging into her scalp.

His heart pumped hard. What the hell? “Johanna,” he said, aware his voice was gruffer than he’d intended. “What was that about?”

She stared at him, her eyes wide, like a damn deer caught in the headlights. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds.

“Prank caller,” she finally said, snapping out of her trance.

Ray ran the pads of his fingers over his goatee. Prank caller, my ass. She’d been engaged in that conversation, had been responding to the person on the other end of the line. But her eyes stayed wary and he decided to let it go. He was here for a purpose. Marianne’s murder needed his attention, and he wanted to know Johanna’s secret.

“Sorry for barging in,” he said, “but I’d like to continue the conversation we started back in my office.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “You mean about Marianne? Are the deputies coming back?”

He shook his head. “They’re gone.” She looked puzzled as he continued. “You brought up la Llorona.”

“Yes,” she said flatly.

Her voice had lost the shaky edge it had held a moment ago on the phone. Hell, now it almost sounded like it could freeze water. Her own form of self-preservation, he supposed. “You wrote your master’s thesis on her?”

Johanna slumped against her desk and ran one hand over her face, down her neck, let it settle on her chest. “Yes.”

“Why?”

She hesitated, and for a moment looked like she wasn’t going to respond. Then she spoke, her voice softer, more thoughtful. “My mother believed in her.”

Odd. Johanna had placed a strange emphasis on the word believed. Hadn’t her mother simply known about the story? Why would she believe in a ghost tale? “La Llorona is a legend,” he said.

“A legend based on a real woman who lived five hundred years ago.”

“It’s a kid’s story. Like the boogieman and the chupacabra.”

Johanna shook her head. “My mother believed la Llorona was real. Because of that, I’ve always been…curious…about the legend.”

She started when her cell phone rang. Her sudden jerk sent the tips of her fingers slipping under the vee of her sweater. His eyes followed the path as her hand settled on the swell of her breast. He swallowed, narrowing his eyes as he forced his gaze back to her face. Her phone, playing a traditional cumbia rather than a regular ring tone, continued for a full ten seconds while she stood frozen. She didn’t even look at where it sat on the desk.

He tried not to think about whatever might be going on in her personal life that warranted heated phone calls. A bad break-up, maybe? He hadn’t heard she was dating anyone, but she might be. Much as he hated to admit it to himself, he didn’t want her to have a personal life. It messed with his fantasy.

Enough. He had to get his head back in the game. Had to focus on why he was here —and that reason was not to stare at her breasts or get jealous over imaginary lovers or remind himself of the fantasies he’d had of her—fantasies featuring her naked. Her hot mouth on his. Her skin sliding sinuously under his.\

About the Author

Melissa Bourbon Ramirez

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, gave up teaching middle and high school kids in Northern California to write full-time amidst horses and Longhorns in North Texas. She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationship with yoga and chocolate, is devoted to her family, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams.

She is the Marketing Director with Entangled Publishing, is the founder of Books on the House, the co-founder of The Naked Hero, and is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur and Entangled Publishing, and A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL. She also has two romantic suspense novels, and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox, all to be released in 2012/2013.

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