Yesterday’s Mysteries Continue!

Sam Cheever has added another great book to this fun, unique series. A fascinating mix of historical, paranormal and cozy mystery, the Yesterday’s books are unlike anything you’ve probably read before. Here’s what readers are saying about Sam’s latest installment:

“…this is the fourth one of this series and they just keep getting better as they go. Sam is able to keep it fresh and that is one of the things I love about her writing. You SHOULD try it.” Amazon reviewer

“Wow what a mystery! Loved the characters and the story line! Sam has done a great job as always!” Charity Chimni Reviews

“Another AMAZING book from Sam! …a great murder mystery. It was very creatively written with enough twists to keep me guessing until the end. We’ll done Sam!!!” Amazon reviewer

Excerpt

Yesterday, 1850

The grand parlor was done up in its usual, breathtakingly spectacular fashion, with candles twinkling from every surface, silver silks draping the massive tree in the very center of the huge space, and the familiar scent of pine coming from yard upon yard of fresh pine boughs decorating the room. The boughs were wrapped in red velvet ribbon and sparkled with thousands of glass beads that captured the flickering candlelight and turned it into fairy magic.

Young Elizabeth Nelson hid behind the banister of the upstairs walkway and watched through the wide double doors as the graceful beauties in the ballroom swayed and flirted behind delicate lace fans, their dashing dates fawning outrageously. She sighed, her eyes tearing up with happiness at the sight.

Someday she’d be a lovely dancer, with a slender frame made perfect under the auspices of whalebone and strapping. She wouldn’t even mind the discomfort of having her innards compacted, as her beautiful cousin Charlotte liked to lament. Lissie’s nine-year-old waistline had a ways to go to even become compact-able. Eyeing the elegant dove gray silks, burgundy-toned sashes, and emerald satins on the women swaying to the waltz far below, Lissie knew she’d be the Belle of the Ball one day. The thought made her smile, despite the moisture in her eyes that made stars dance around the candles.

There was a commotion near one of the veranda doors and she turned to find Papa returning from a smoke in the gardens with several older gentlemen of a certain wealth and status. The men had rosy cheeks and were even more animated than usual, no doubt nurturing the brisk December air in the center of their well-padded breasts.

Lissie watched her Papa with a regretful gaze, knowing that if she were down there with him he’d wrap her up in his big strong arms. He’d smell of crisp clean air and his favorite pipe. She’d love nothing more than to sit on his substantial lap and watch the dancing from only a short distance away…to experience the music as the dancers were…a beautiful memory in the making.

The thought made her sigh wistfully.

A servant ran up to Papa and whispered in his ear. His handsome round face folded into a sudden frown and he nodded briskly, quickly addressing his friends before hurrying away to attend to whatever the servant had revealed. Lissie returned her attention to the dancers, her small chin propped on a pale, pudgy fist.

She was so entranced by the people and the music the first scream didn’t quite register in her mind. It wasn’t until a moment later, when one scream became several and the music stuttered to a halt, that Lissie finally turned to see what horrible consequence had occurred to mar the annual Nelson Christmas Ball.

A beautiful young woman Lissie knew all too well stumbled out of the downstairs hall and fell against the banister. She was white as a sheet and her beautiful dress was covered in a glossy splotch of vivid red blood. Lissie leapt to her feet with a gasp as she realized the woman was mortally hurt. She was ready to run down the stairs. To help in any way she could.

But then Papa ran from the shadows, his face pale as paper and his big hands covered in blood. In that moment Lissie realized her comfortable, beautiful world might have been irretrievably lost. That was when she screamed. When the nine-year-old saw a version of her much-anticipated future she didn’t want to see. And when Papa’s haunted gaze lifted to hers, it was the reason Lissie ran sobbing away from him, instead of into his once comforting embrace.

 

Present Day

Pratt’s big hands clutched the steering wheel, capturing Anna’s attention and holding it as the sun caressed the bleached blond hairs along his strong forearms and burnished his short-cut dark brown hair. She smiled, feeling lucky to be in the company of her two favorite men, heading for a party.

Pratt turned at her perusal and fixed his wide, golden brown gaze warmly on her. “You okay?”

She nodded, feeling excitement churning in her stomach as Pratt turned into the long, winding driveway. “I’m perfect.”

“Yes, you are.”

She bit her lip to squelch a pleased grin and turned toward their destination. “Oh, look at the lights!” Up ahead, perched on the top of a hill and burnished by what looked like a thousand strands of silvery lights, Nelson Hall looked like something out of a fairy tale. “It’s beautiful.”

Pratt threw her a smile, nodding. “Duncan has really done some work on the old place.”

It was true. The last time they’d visited the big, historical Hall it had been in a terrible state of disarray, with overgrown trees and grounds, a broken gate and crumbling structures everywhere. Duncan himself had been broken, a lonely man who’d given up on life. But things had changed for the better at Nelson Hall and Anna knew she and her friends had had some small part in that.

Not the least of which was returning one of Duncan’s ancestors to the fold to keep him company. With that thought in mind, Anna turned to observe the overly quiet passenger in the backseat. Joss had his trademark cowboy hat pushed back on his head and was perusing the spectacle on the hill with a slight frown on his handsome face. She took a beat to enjoy the view, taking in his long, muscular legs, thick dark gold hair and broad, chiseled jawline, complete with a permanently etched stubble that made him seem a little bit dangerous. A useful thing in a ghost from the 1800s. “Penny for your thoughts?” she offered with a smile.

Joss didn’t notice the smile, he was laser-focused on their destination. “The place brings to mind Gotham City in its day.”

She turned in her seat, giving him her full attention. “You’ve been to New York City?”

“Not directly, no.” He finally looked her way, fixing her with an intense, dark-blue stare. “Old friend of mine went there once. He described it in a post card and this here’s exactly the way I pictured it in my mind.”

Pratt eyed their friendly specter in the rear-view mirror. “I’ll bet Lissie will be glad to see you.”

Anna saw the quick concern darkening Joss’s handsome features before he quelled it. She wondered at its cause. He’d had a similar reaction every time they’d mentioned seeing the sweet but troubled ghost again. Even though he’d worked hard to hide it from her. “Are you glad to be seeing her?” she asked softly.

“To be honest, the prospect does make me a mite all-overish. The gal was a bit unpredictable the last time we saw her. I just hope she don’t hit the ether runnin’ when she finds out poor Bessy couldn’t come as promised.”

Bess. Anna sighed. The long-dead saloon girl had always been …difficult…but she’d been uncharacteristically morose all week since realizing she wasn’t going to be able to attend the party with them. “I’m at a loss as to what’s holding her to Yesterday’s,” Anna said. She glanced at Joss. “You know I’d find a way to bring her if I could, right?”

Something in her tone must have reached through Joss’s weighty thoughts and yanked his attention, finally, to her. “Don’t you worry yourself about it, darlin’. I reckin’ I’ve just grabbed a rattler by the tail one too many times of late. I’m a bit horse-shy.”

Pratt chuckled. “I know the feeling. That’s why this outing will be perfect. The Apple Blossom Ball is behind us. All that ugliness is shoved into the past. This will be good for us.” He gave Anna a gentle smile. “It’ll be fun to just enjoy the holidays with friends.”

“The past ain’t inclined to stay there, Puke,” Joss grumbled. “Me and Bessy and Lissie are proof of that.” Still, when Pratt pulled around the newly repaired fountain to the base of the wide front steps, Joss did perk up and look a bit happier.

Anna shoved her door open and stepped outside, her gaze drawn immediately to the happy fall of water from the large fountain. The naked woman at its center carried a stone vessel on her shoulder and the water sprouted from the top of it, cascading over the pocked form of the ice-covered statue and splashing in silvery sparkles into the deep basin at her feet. Red and green lights, fixed on the inside lip of the basin, bathed the woman’s form in Christmas colors. The last time they’d visited Anna remembered the basin had been full of leaves and it had been dry. Certainly, there had been no cheery lights.

“I’m surprised Duncan has this thing running right now. It’s likely to be a giant popsicle before we leave.”

“I’m glad he does,” Anna told Pratt, smiling. “It’s such a happy sight and sound.”

“Much better than before,” he agreed with a nod.

“There you are!”

They turned to find Duncan smiling at them from the open door. “Come on in before you freeze to death.”

Placing a hand in the small of Anna’s back, Pratt leaned close and lowered his voice. “Dangit, I was hoping to get to use the Ebeneezer Scrooge door knocker again.”

Anna chuckled softly. “We’ll come back out and give it a pound or two later, when Duncan’s not looking.”

“If you don’t mind, darlin’, I’m gonna pop off and find Miss Lissie.”

“Of course, Joss.” She started to reach out and touch his arm, stopping just before her hand found his to avoid the snap of electricity her touch would create. “Tell her I said hi, will you? I’ll look for her later and we can have a nice chat.”

Joss inclined his head and, after throwing Pratt a look filled with meaning Anna couldn’t decipher, he disappeared.

She would have asked Pratt what the look had been about, but Duncan was frantically ushering them inside. She made a mental note to ask Pratt later. It wouldn’t be the first time the two men made a plan behind her back. Usually it involved ensuring her protection. She didn’t mind the fact that they cared about keeping her safe. It was the implication that she needed protection at a Christmas party that was making her stomach tighten.

That thought threatened to put a damper on her day. Fortunately for her the dire thought was chased completely away when she stepped through the door.

And found herself smack dab in fairy land.

~SC~

Duncan’s eyes sparkled as she stood before the thirty-foot Christmas tree, its graceful branches dipping under the weight of candle-shaped lights and silver silk. “What do you think?”

Anna shook her head, too filled with emotion to speak. “It’s beyond amazing.” She looked around the huge ballroom, taking in the rich green of the draped evergreen boughs wrapped in the vibrant red of fat cranberries, and the abundance of spluttering white candles in polished silver holders. “Everything is gorgeous. I can’t believe this is the same place I visited before.”

He nodded, clearly pleased. “I’ve tried to make it as much like it used to be as possible.”

“It looks very authentic.”

“I had an expert help me.”

She skimmed him a look and found him grinning widely.

“Lissie?”

Duncan nodded. “She’s been such a joy, Anna. I can’t thank you enough for bringing her to me.”

A ponderous knocking sound filled the space, halting Anna’s response.

Duncan held up a finger. “Hold that thought. I’ll be right back.”

She watched him hurry toward the door, noting the bounce in his step and the way he held himself. He truly did look healthier than the last time she’d seen him. She wondered if it all had to do with Lissie or if there was something else…

“Duncan seems changed,” Pratt said from behind.

Anna turned to look at him. “Yes. He’s apparently enjoying having Lissie here.”

“Well, that’s good…right?” Pratt fixed her with a speculative look. “You don’t look happy.”

Anna checked herself, realizing that he was right. She’d been frowning thoughtfully. “I am. I was just thinking…”

“Gird your loins!”

Anna rolled her gaze around to Joss, standing at her other side. “Excuse me?”

He cocked a hip, shoving his hat back on his head as he gave her his trademark lop-sided grin. “Nothin’ good ever comes from a woman’s wool gatherin’, darlin’.”

“You should talk.” She glanced behind him. “Didn’t find Lissie?”

“Oh, I found her all right. The gal’s in a rare pucker. She’s backin’ and fillin’ like the world was perched on her shoulders.”

“Maybe she just didn’t want to talk to you,” Pratt said unhelpfully.

“Shut pan, Puke. ’Sides, I ain’t no coot. I cotton when to skedaddle.” He shook his head, clearly insulted that Lissie hadn’t been happy to see him.

“She’s probably just feeling the pressure of the party. Apparently, Duncan has relied pretty heavily on her to make this event just like the ones his family used to hold here.” She twisted her fingers together before she gave in to the desire to touch him. All that would create was pain and sparks. Not exactly comforting. She’d have to rely on words. But they didn’t seem enough. Ever since she’d temporarily lost him due to a murderer’s scheming, Anna couldn’t seem to stand the thought of him being, even slightly, unhappy.

Not having him around had made her realize more than ever that she loved the handsome ghost more than she should. “Maybe you could offer to help,” she said softly. “Lissie is very proud. She probably doesn’t know how to ask. But if you offered…”

Joss scrubbed a hand over his square chin, seeming to consider her suggestion.

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt none ta ask.”

“Good luck,” she told him on a smile as he popped away.

A brisk wind filtered past as Duncan held the door open for his new arrivals. Anna shivered, rubbing her arms. Something dark slipped through her consciousness and she had a moment’s panic that the cold was more than a gust of outside air.

“I should get our suitcases,” Pratt told her, frowning. “You’re cold.”

“I’m fine.” Anna touched his arm. “They can wait until later. But thanks for offering.”

“Hey, the ghost isn’t the only one who can be gallant.”

She laughed.

“Hi, Miss Yesterday.”

She turned at the familiar voice, which squeaked just a bit at the end of her name. Pierce Johnson shoved long fingers into his unruly red hair and grimaced, quickly patting the shiny curls back into place. He was dressed with his usual tidy perfection, in ruthlessly creased charcoal slacks, which were too short as usual and showed striped red and white socks beneath the cuffs. The socks were folded an exact and careful inch from the top. He wore a red button-down shirt whose sleeves were also creased and the tails were tucked with manic precision into the usual white belt holding his trousers around a narrow waist.

The eighteen-year-old autistic man seemed uncomfortable in the new place, his gaze downcast and his fingers twining nervously together.

“How are you, Pierce? You look very festive today.”

“I’m festive every day, Miss Yesterday. But I’m a little discombobulated. I had cranberries in my oatmeal this morning instead of banana.”

“That’s his new favorite word,” a woman laughed, coming up to him and giving him a quick hug that he shrugged off with a frown.

“It’s a good word, mother. I like good words.” He plucked at his shirt, gazing around. “There is no dirt in this place. Mr. Nelson is not negligent with his duties as a homeowner.”

Heather Johnson took her son’s rebuff and quick change of subject in good form. She was no doubt used to it. Her son didn’t like being touched. “How are you, Anna? Pratt? Isn’t this place amazing?”

“It is. I can’t believe how much Duncan’s done since I last saw it.”

“He didn’t do it alone,” Heather told her. “Scarlett’s been helping him.” She frowned. “It’s really too bad Ellie couldn’t be here. I think she’d definitely approve.”

Anna didn’t comment, knowing Duncan’s sister could have been with him if she’d considered family over her own desires.

“I didn’t know Scarlett was back,” Pratt offered. “After what happened at the Ball, I assumed she’d get as far away from Crocker as she could.” He smiled when he said it, but Anna knew the sentiment was real and she shared it.

Heather chuckled. “That was a mess wasn’t it?”

Anna thought it a weird way to refer to murder. She frowned, remembering the terrifying events. Despite the fact that she and Pratt had taken a big step in their relationship, she still had trouble sleeping and found herself jumping at the slightest thing. “I think it will affect all of us for a long time to come.”

“I brought some of my famous apple cake, Miss Yesterday.” Pierce’s gaze spun around the room, carefully avoiding being caught by anyone else there. “You have to promise not to eat it all. You know you tend to be kind of an oink around my baking.”

“Pierce Adam Johnson, you apologize right now,” Heather scolded in an urgent whisper.

He shrugged, finally skimming a quick look over her face. Anna saw the humor in his eyes and barely kept from smiling herself. “No, he’s right, Heather. I think I ate three slices at the fair. My jeans definitely suffered for a couple of weeks afterward.”

Pierce nodded, his lips turning up at the corners.

Pratt dropped a hand into the small of Anna’s back. “Your jeans fit just fine, Boss. Don’t let this rascal tease you for enjoying his delicious cake.”

Pierce plucked at his shirt and skimmed a look past Pratt’s face. “Where’s the cowboy? I need to speak to him about the pudgy lady. She’s yelling at everybody and making them nervous.”

Heather sighed. “He has such an imagination.”

Anna’s gaze locked on Pierce, willing him to look at her. “Where is the pud…erm…yelling lady?”

Avoiding her direct gaze, Pierce pointed toward the curved staircase in the center of the big room. Anna didn’t see Lissie. Or any other ghosts for that matter. The realization bothered her and she glanced at Pratt. He shook his head as if he could read her mind.

He couldn’t see her either.

“Is she there right now, Pierce,” Pratt asked softly.

“Of course. Are you needing glasses, Mr. Pratt?”

Heather looked like she was going to pass out. “Young man, you apologize to these wonderful people right now or we’re going home.”

Pierce grinned before he could stop himself and shrugged again. Anna realized that was exactly what he wanted. She de-tensed as she had the thought. He’d probably made up the whole Lissie sighting just to get his mother riled up. The autistic teen liked all his ducks in a row and he craved familiar things. Nelson Hall, as beautifully as it was made up, was definitely outside his comfort zone. “It’s all right, Heather. He’s not used to being here.”

“That’s no excuse for rudeness,” she told them, reaching into her purse for her keys. “Let’s go, Pierce.”

Pratt winked at the teen before he turned away, feigning unhappiness at being dragged back home.

Anna barely contained a smile and was glad she had when Heather turned back suddenly. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be silly, Heather. It’s all good.”

“The boy’s fine,” Pratt agreed. “Don’t be too hard on him.”

She shook her head and gave Pierce a little shove on the shoulder. “Let’s go, young man. I’m very disappointed in you.”

Pierce let himself be pulled toward the door and then stopped, resisting his mother’s enticement to leave as he turned back to Anna and Pratt. All traces of the smile were gone. “Tell the cowboy to watch out for the pudgy lady. She’s stirring up trouble and nothing good’s going to come of it.”

His words were swallowed up in the arrival of another small group of guests, but Anna felt their impact like a punch in the gut. Anna’s stomach clenched around a sudden jolt of fear. She tried to pull air into her lungs and discovered that it wouldn’t come. Her world spun and she reached out with one hand, feeling for one of the gilded, upholstered chairs Duncan had placed in conversational groups near the tree. Pratt grabbed her as she stumbled, easing her into a chair.

He leaned down as her chest started to heave under a wave of certainty that things were going to go horribly wrong again. She knew he was questioning her, trying to soothe. But she couldn’t hear a thing beneath the roaring in her ears.

Only two little words rose above the cacophony. Surging from the chaos in her mind to cause her knees to weaken. Not again. The words throbbing with fear.

Please god, not again. Don’t let her start the ugliness all over again.

Buy Links

Amazon.com: http://samcheever.com/blog/yulesofyesterday

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Kobo Books: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/yules-of-yesterday

 

From the Author

The best books yank you into their world, wrap you in a warm gauze of pleasure, and set you free to bobble upon the surface of a rich and immersive story-line. Hopefully, at the end of that experience you emerge energized, satisfied, and ready for more fun. But there are soooo many books to choose from. And you have limited time in your day for reading. You need to choose carefully. So why choose a Sam Cheever book?

  • Fascinating, three-dimensional characters you can’t help relating to
  • A unique plot that plays across your mind like a fine symphony
  • Witty, firecracker dialogue
  • A distinctive mix of humor, romance and adventure that will keep you turning pages well into the night

So, why don’t you take the plunge? Indulge that adventurous spirit. Treat yourself to a little harmless fun. You’ve certainly earned the right.

NEWSLETTER: Join Sam’s Monthly newsletter and get a FREE book! You can also keep up with her appearances, enjoy monthly contests, and get previews of her upcoming work! http://www.samcheever.com/newsletter.html

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ONLINE HOT SPOTS: To find out more about Sam and her work, please pay her a visit at any one of the following online hot spots: Her blog: http://www.samcheever.com/blog; Twitter: http://twitter.com/samcheever; and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamCheeverAuthor. She looks forward to chatting with you!

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NEW RELEASE! Fun Romantic Cozy Mystery by Sam Cheever

Blaise and Dolfe have their own mystery series!

Murderous Craft final

Dead End Job: When the only thing on tap is death.

A corpse in the bathroom of a popular bar. An old acquaintance still nursing a mad-on from fifteen years earlier. And a cast of characters possessing secrets they’ll do almost anything to keep. It’s enough to make reformed (sort of) party girl Blaise Runa want to quit her dead end job. But in the meantime she fully intends to grab her sexy private eye fiancé and dig into the mess. Because she might be trying to adult, but that doesn’t mean she’s gotten any less nosy!

heart

If looks could kill, the woman across the bar would have already butchered Blaise and hacked her into a million tiny pieces. Something about her seemed familiar, but Blaise couldn’t put a name to the face to save her life.

She narrowed her gaze at the woman and picked up another freshly washed wine glass, running a towel over the clear glass to dry it.

“Who you glarin’ at brown sugar?”

Blaise held the hostile gaze across the room. “That chick’s been glowering at me. I’m just trying to figure out who she is.”

Tyrese Miller leaned an arm on Blaise’s shoulder and followed her line of sight to the spot near the door. “I don’t see anybody glarin’ at you, Blaise.”

Blaise slid the wine glass into the rack above her head. “That’s because she just left.”

Her boss lifted a dense, black eyebrow. “Mm-hm.”

She turned a grin on him. “I’m not lyin’.”

He chuckled darkly. “It was probably just some woman whose husband lusts after you, brown sugar. I wouldn’t pay her no mind.”

Blaise shrugged. “She seemed familiar but I can’t come up with a name.”

“Bronislava?”

Blaise frowned. “Huh?”

“That’s a name. Here’s another one. Shampooya.” His trademark grin widened, showing a full mouth of straight white teeth except for a single gold one on the bottom. “Am I ringing a bell?”

She snorted. “I think your bell’s already been rung. Those aren’t names, Ty. Those are letters you shoved together to create nonsense.”

He held up a hand. “God’s truth. I saw ’em in a baby names book. They’re real names.”

“What in the world were you doing looking through a baby names book?” She lifted her brows. “Is there somethin’ you need to tell me?”

Grabbing a frosty glass mug, Ty pulled a draft beer and settled it on the counter for the waitress swaying in his direction. “My brother’s expecting. Well…his wife is…and they’re having trouble picking a name.”

“Hopefully they’re not desperate enough to ask for your help.”

“They have and I’m coming through for them. They now have a long, long list of intriguing names to select from. Personally, I’m leaning toward Exaltacion.”

“Good Lord.”

“Hey, it’s biblical.”

“So was The Plague of Locusts. Equally catastrophic.”

The waitress reached the bar and grinned when she saw the beer sitting there. “Thanks, Ty.” She was petite, curvy and sported a thick nest of dark brown hair which she was currently wearing loose and wavy around her shoulders. The waitress winked at the bar’s owner. “How’d you know I was coming for that?”

He ran a cloth over a wet spot on the bar. “I’ve told ya a million times, Suz, I know all and see all.”

Suzie Whotsnoggin turned a bright blue gaze on Blaise, widening it comically. “The man’s delusional.”

Laughing, Ty moved down the bar to help a customer.

Blaise grinned at her best friend. “How you doin’ Suz?”

The waitress shrugged. “Okay. Tips are good tonight. But I’m dead tired. We didn’t get out of here until three this morning. I swear, something’s changed. We’ve never been this busy.”

“I know, right? It must be this new line of local beers. I think people like the idea of supporting the small breweries.”

“Hey, gorgeous, where’s my beer?” a masculine voice called across the bar.

Suz rolled her eyes. “Doodie calls.” She picked up the frosted mug of beer. “You want to go shopping tomorrow? It’s my first day off in over a week and I want to do something fun.”

“I’ll see what Dolfe’s doing. If he’s working I’d love to go. Mama needs a new pair of shoes.”

“Doesn’t Mama always?” Suz asked before swinging away. She swayed across the bar with the beer, large gold hoops in her ears dancing with her movement. Blaise watched, amused, as she deftly sidestepped her rude customer’s groping hands.

Shaking her head, Blaise fought the coil of discomfort in her gut. She’d loved the atmosphere, lights, music and fun of working at Tyrese’s Bar. But after six months some of the bloom was starting to wear off. To her ever-growing surprise, Blaise was starting to think she’d like to do something else. Something that would leave her nights free to spend with her honey, Dolfe. At least when he wasn’t scoping out some cheating spouse or elusive thug.

Dolfe Honeybun was a private investigator who worked closely with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on the occasional case. He was darn good at his job and Blaise loved that he was that kind of guy. A big, strong man who carried a gun and an attitude and didn’t take any crap from anybody. But between his hours and hers, they didn’t get to spend nearly enough time together.

And since they’d only been affianced a few months. That was a serious problem.

“You’re Blaise Runa aren’t you?”

Blaise’s head snapped up and her pulse spiked. She hadn’t even heard the woman approach. “Oh my gosh! You startled me.”

The woman didn’t seem to care. She slid a hostile gaze over Blaise and frowned. “You don’t remember me do you?”

“I’m really trying to.” It probably wasn’t a good sign that the most memorable thing about the woman was her frown. “Did I…annoy…you in some way?”

“You could say that. If sleeping with my boyfriend can be classified as an annoyance.”

Kerplunk! The memory fell into place. Blaise leaned closer, narrowing her eyes at her accuser. The years since High School hadn’t been kind…but Blaise could almost see the pretty face she once knew beneath the bags and wrinkles. “Dierdre?”

The woman put her hands on her well-padded hips and glowered up at Blaise. “You admit you slept with him?”

Blaise couldn’t believe it was the same woman she’d been so terrified of. Voted most likely to irritate a rich husband. Head cheerleader. Came from a wealthy family who gave her everything she wanted. She seemed much smaller than she had back then.

Well…shorter anyway.

“I never slept with Roger White.”

“Of course you did!”

Blaise shook her head, cocking a hip against the bar and crossing her arms over her middle. “Nope. We were just friends.”

Dierdre Masterson slapped her hands on the bar top and leaned closer, wafting rancid breath that smelled like garlic into Blaise’s face. “You must have slept with Roger!”

Conversations all around them stopped. All eyes turned to Dierdre and, by proximity, Blaise. Fortunately Blaise didn’t embarrass easily. She chuckled. “I’m sorry to disappoint, Dierdre. I didn’t.”

“Then why did he break up with me!” she wailed.

The curious gazes slid quickly away, clearly unwilling to witness the train wreck at the bar. Blaise figured they’d hoped for salacious details but weren’t comfortable watching Dierdre debase herself.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Blaise said softly. “You’ll have to ask him.”

“I was going to ask him,” the other woman said despondently. “But he stood me up.”

Blaise stared at the lumpy woman sitting across the bar. She frowned, and then felt anger finally rise. “You asked him here to confront me?”

Dierdre Masterson shrugged. “I figured I’d be able to tell from the expression in his face when he looked at you.”

“Good God, D, that was eleven years ago. You need to get over it.”

The other woman’s eyes filled with tears and Blaise instantly regretted yelling at her. “Would you like a drink? We have some really great local beers…”

Dierdre grimaced. “Not beer. I have enough of that at work.”

Blaise’s eyebrows shot upward. “You don’t say?”

Seeing her expression, Dierdre laughed. She swiped tears off her round cheeks, sniffling. “I work at Byerson’s Beers.”

Understanding flared. “Ah. Those beers are of our best sellers. Great stuff.”

Dierdre didn’t look like she cared. “Whatever.” She sat in silence for a long moment and then glanced at Blaise. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I keep a man?”

Blaise panicked. The last thing she wanted to do was give counseling to a woman she didn’t even really like. “Um…”

“Can I get you something to eat or drink?” Ty asked Dierdre. He winked at Blaise as he approached, nudging her to the side and putting himself between the pathetic woman on the other side of the bar and Blaise.

She could have kissed him.

“I don’t want anything,” Dierdre told him. Then she blinked and grabbed her purse. “Actually, you can do one thing for me. Have you seen this man today?”

She slid a photo across the bar to Ty. Blaise looked over his shoulder and was shocked to see a picture of Roger White in his quarterback’s uniform.

“He’s older now, of course. That was in High School.”

Ty’s lips twitched and Blaise surreptitiously pinched him below the bar. “Ow! Erm, no I don’t think…” He picked the photo up, studying it more carefully. “Actually, I think I might have.”

Blaise barely resisted blowing a disbelieving raspberry. He was clearly just humoring the woman.

Dierdre’s scowl turned upside down and she looked almost pretty as she smiled. “Really? He was here?”

“Still should be,” Ty said, jerking his head toward the restrooms. “I saw him head to the Men’s a while ago.”

“How long?” Blaise asked. “I’ve been here an hour and I haven’t seen him.”

Ty glanced at his watch and frowned. “You’re right. It’s been a while. I hope he’s okay in there.”

“Did he seem ill?”

Ty thought about it. “He seemed fine when I saw him. He was even chatting up a pretty young woman a while ago.”

Grimacing, Dierdre climbed down from her stool. “I’d better go check on him.”

“You can’t…um…ma’am…” When Dierdre ignored him, Ty widened his eyes at Blaise.

“I’ll stop her.” She rounded the bar just as the door across the room opened and a short, balding man with a veiny nose staggered out, looking like he’d seen a ghost. He lifted round, brown eyes to Ty and flapped a hand. “There’s…oh God…I think that guy in there is dead.”

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Bad HairCult – New Cozy Mystery by Sam Cheever

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If you were a “mature” individual with a mighty fine bouff, would you consider shaving your head to solve a case of possible murder? That’s the million dollar question for Flo and Agnes as they find themselves neck deep in missing Satanists, scheming cultists, and a long string of seriously bad hair days. But what’s a sleuth to do when the queen of the night comes to them pleading…erm…threatening…ahhh…pleatening them for help? If you know Flo and Agnes you already know the answer to that question. They’re goin’ in!

“This novel needs a spew alert on the cover; drinking a beverage while reading is not recommended.”

“The suspense and humor keep the pages turning. I started reading this book the evening I received it and didn’t/couldn’t stop till the end in the late hours. Well worth it. Ready for book 4 !!!”

“OMG Ms. Cheever has done it again. She has written another hilarious book, in her unique style, involving the crazy antics of Flo, Agnes and their friends at the Silver Hills Senior and Singles Residence. I laughed until I had tears rolling and my sides hurt at this zany addition to the Silver Hills Cozy Mysteries series or as I like to call them, the Wacky Adventures of Flo, Agnes and the Gang! 2 Thumbs Up for a highly recommended suspenseful yet funny read!”

Flo pumped her arms and blew air out in a gust as she neared the top of the hill. She had a decidedly unladylike sheen on her face but she was starting to feel like she might actually survive the walk.

Unfortunately, not too far behind her, an exercise failure of epic proportions was happening. In fact, as she threw a look over her shoulder to make sure the sounds she was hearing weren’t actually from a buffalo giving birth to a rhinoceros, she realized the failure had already happened. She stopped and turned back to Agnes, hands on hips. Her friend was draped over the hood of somebody’s car, her round belly heaving and quivering as she tried to force air through her lungs. “Agnes Willard, you’re in terrible shape.”

Agnes didn’t lift her head, but if her neon red face was any indication, she was at the end of her endurance. “I don’t care what the stupid doctor says, I hate walking.”

TC hailed them from a couple blocks up and Flo waved her off, realizing the rest of the group would have to go on without them. “Your blood pressure is too high, Agnes. If you don’t want to stroke out you need to get in shape and bring it down.”

Agnes shoved off the car and bent forward, her skinny legs quivering as she panted for air. “That’s what they make drugs for, isn’t it? I’ll just take bigger pills.”

“Not a good plan, fool.” Flo frowned. She was actually worried about her friend’s health so when TC had suggested they join the thrice weekly walking group she’d jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, she hadn’t counted on her friend’s rabid resistance to the idea. “You lift weights and use the treadmill. I don’t understand why walking is such a chore for you.”

Agnes fixed a bloodshot eye on Flo, her graying brown pageboy sticking up around a wide hairband that was dark with sweat. “Lifting weights only requires muscles. I have those in abundance.” She patted her well-rounded behind as if presenting evidence of muscle. “But these here are fast twitch muscles. They’re for strength more than endurance.”

Flo eyed the “muscles” her friend indicated, one eyebrow creeping skyward with skepticism. “There’s definitely some twitching going on back there, but I’m not sure it’s muscle.”

Agnes blew out a breath and limped toward Flo. “What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m a sprinter rather than an endurance runner. I’m out of my league with this long, drawn-out walking stuff.”

Flo slid her gaze down the street to the Silver Hills Senior and Singles Residence, the other eyebrow creeping northward to join the first one. “You know we’ve only gone a block, right?”

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USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes romantic paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense, creating stories that celebrate the joy of love in all its forms. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 50+ books and has been writing for over a decade under several noms de plume.

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Freezer Bernie – New Cozy Mystery Release from Sam Cheever

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3 Winter chickens against a cadre of thugs? Yeah, the bad guys are definitely in trouble!

When a dead guy turns up in the freezer of Flo and Agnes’s favorite Italian restaurant, the ladies quickly discover the corpse had connections to one of their friends. Celia Angonetti’s husband owns Gioppino’s Italian Restaurant, as well as the gun lying next the frozen body with bullet holes in his chest. What he doesn’t own, according to Celia, is responsibility for the kill. Against their better judgement, the ladies get pulled into the mystery of how the dead guy got dead in the freezer…why he’d been killed with Massimo Angonetti’s gun…and how Celia came to the unlikely conclusion that her thug of a hubby was innocent of the crime. Some might think it was an impossible task.

Some probably haven’t met Flo and Agnes.

5 stars

Flo rounded a long, stainless steel counter and found Celia and Agnes staring down at something on the floor. Expecting to see a man’s body, she blinked in surprise at the long sheets of brown paper with blood seeping out from underneath. “Is that butcher paper?” she asked softly.

Celia looked up, her mouth puckered worriedly. “It was all I could think of to cover him with.” She shrugged, her frown deepening.

Flo stopped beside Agnes and stared down at the paper, willing it to rise and fall in breaths that wouldn’t come judging by the amount of blood on the floor. “Do you know who he is?”

Celia didn’t respond. Flo glanced quickly up. “Celia?”

“Yes.” She sighed. “His name’s Bernie. He sold Mass a car last week.”

Agnes wandered away from the corpse and stepped into the freezer, eyeing the series of holes in the door. “Why would Mass kill a car salesman?”

Celia snorted. “Why wouldn’t he?” She shook her head. “Besides, he didn’t kill this man, Agnes. Mass wouldn’t kill anybody.”

Flo’s eyebrows climbed north but she didn’t say anything. From what she’d heard about Massimo Angonetti’s temperament and business dealings, he had no trouble at all killing things.

Agnes shrugged, stepping more deeply into the freezer.

Watching her friend’s movements, Flo felt the need to give a warning. “Don’t touch anything Agnes, the police will be fingerprinting everything.”

Agnes’s head popped around the door. “Even the gelato?”

Flo shook her head. “How did he die?”

Celia twitched a hand toward the butcher paper. “You should uncover him and look.”

Flo’s mouth came open. “Whatever for?”

“To look for clues of course.”

Flo shook her head. “I’d have no idea what to look for.”

Celia sobbed.

Flo immediately felt bad. “Okay. Don’t cry. I’ll see what I can…um…see.” Flo carefully lifted the paper and peeked underneath. The man’s face was a strange blue color and his eyes were wide. They were cloudy from death and Flo shuddered. His mouth was open wide as if he’d been shouting something when he died.

“There’s no foam around his mouth.”

Agnes’s heavy footsteps came from inside the freezer. “You and your foaming mouth.”

Flo didn’t look up. “No petechial hemorrhaging.”

Agnes snorted.

“Petechial what?” Celia asked.

Warming to her examination, Flo peeled the paper back more. It stuck to his chest and she grimaced as she realized it was glued to his shirt by drying blood. “Broken blood vessels in the eyes from strangulation.”

“Ah,” Celia said. “See, Flo, I knew you were the right person to call. You know all about this stuff.”

Agnes snorted out a laugh. “She knows those two things and that’s all.”

Flo glanced angrily at her friend. “Says the person not helping…” Her voice trailed off in horror. “Please tell me you’re not eating gelato at the crime scene?”

Agnes looked down at the small carton of lemon gelato. Then she shrugged, sticking the flat, wooden spoon back into the frozen dessert. “Flo, I’m not eating gelato at the crime scene.”

Celia looked horrified. “How can you possibly eat with a dead body right in front of you?”

Agnes shrugged again. “I have a very strong constitution.”

“Yeah,” Flo stood, “that’s one way to refer to it.” She looked at Celia. “Do you have the weapon he…erm…the killer used?”

“No,” she said much too quickly.

Flo crossed her arms. “Celia.”

Celia flushed guiltily, then folded like yesterday’s laundry underneath Flo’s substitute school teacher glare. “Okay.” She marched over to a big, stainless steel pot on the stove and pulled off the lid, reaching inside.

“Wait!” Agnes screamed, starting forward as Celia jumped and her arm hit the side of the pot, sending it clanging to the floor. A big, black gun flew out of the pot and skidded toward the body, landing right next to Bernie as if the killer had dropped it there.

Flo’s heart was pounding in her chest. “Good Lord in Heaven, Agnes. What are you screaming about?”

Agnes strode over to the gun and inserted the wooden spoon under the trigger, pulling it off the floor with a grin. “No fingerprints. Pretty smart, huh?” A glob of gelato fell off the spoon and landed on the body.

“Very smart, fool. If only you hadn’t thrown your stolen gelato at poor Bernie in the process.”

Celia and Agnes looked where Flo was looking and Agnes frowned.

The shiny glob of frozen sweetness was perched on Bernie’s bloody shirt, in the vicinity of the three tightly packed bullet holes.

“Oh my,” Celia said. “Should we try to clean it out?”

Agnes took a giant step backward, which put her back inside the walk-in freezer. “I’m not touching him.”

Glaring at her friend, Flo nodded curtly. “The last time you touched a corpse he ended up with a broken wrist and a lampshade on his head.”

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A Tense New Mystery by Sam Cheever

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*A Note from the Author:

The Smart Investigations, Inc. series is not your typical mystery series. There are two things you might like to know about it. First, the pace is fast, like a great suspense novel, and the mood is tense…a bit darker than your average cozy mystery but not too dark. The romance in the books is sweet, with sensual overtones, like an old time murder mystery from film noire days. And of course there’s a cute little dog named Max, a dachshund, who pees on bad guys because…well…he can! And because he’s a dachshund and they always have an opinion.

And secondly, you’ll notice a second author’s name on the cover. Edric Honeybun is one of the brothers from my popular Honeybun Heat series. In the Heat, Edric is a thriller/suspense writer and the Smart Investigations, Inc. series was originally his before I stole it. So I thought it was only fair to give him some credit. Thus the co-authorship.

 Read the reviews, check out the blurb and if it sounds like something you might enjoy, I hope you’ll give this exciting new series a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Fractured love, treachery and cold-blooded murder…

A nightmarish new case plunges Alex and Matthew into personal and professional chaos as they pursue a killer who traffics in the most vile of human traits. They quickly learn that the current killings are somehow tied to a decades old murder, which comes with a hefty mix of suspects. As they begin to dig into the cold case, they start to realize that one of their suspects is hiding an evil so horrific it can barely stand the light of day.

Unfortunately, the evil they stalk is only one side of a multi-sided problem. Twisted around old loves and never forgotten treacheries, the case threatens their growing feelings for each other and dangerously undermines their professional relationship, while pitting them against a killer more deadly than any they’ve faced. Can they survive the dual threat? Will they reach for each other when things get rough? Or will they let misunderstanding and menace kill the future they’ve started building together?

heart

Tandy Smart clicked blood-red nails on top of Alex’s desk and tugged on a shiny blonde curl as she talked into her pink phone. Alex watched Matthew’s twenty-something sister with a mixture of awe and disbelief. She, Alex, had never been the flirty girl sort. She’d always been driven by the need to learn and, as such, had somehow threatened the tender psyches of any men she might have formed attachments with.

Before Matthew, there had been only one other man who’d seen past Alex’s brains and acerbic sense of humor to the slightly insecure, loving woman beneath. But, watching Tandy do her thing, Alex realized the younger woman’s modus operandi was a mature one, no doubt built over years of flinging out test bubbles to see what worked and then adjusting strategy to get what she wanted. That was where the awe came in. Tandy Smart was as good as her last name. She was no ditzy blonde, though she carefully crafted that persona when interacting with her victims. She was every bit as smart as her sexy brother, even if their methods were as different as night and day. Alex saw what none of the young girl’s brothers seemed to see. Tandy Smart was as savvy as the most dogged femme fatale. And every bit as dangerous because of her ability to hide it.

“Would you do that for me? Aw, that’s so sweet. You’re just the best. Thanks, Roger. I’ll owe ya one.” Tandy hung up the phone and threw Alex a smug grin. “Dandy Joes at two o’clock Wednesday. Back booth as requested.”

Alex shook her head. “You’re amazing.”

“Thanks.” Tandy surged from her chair, seemingly already focused on her next task. Her quick changes of mood and high energy were only two of the things that made Tandy exhausting to be around. “I’m meeting some friends for lunch. Can I bring you something back?”

“No thanks. I brought my lunch.”

Tandy grabbed a cute little clutch and headed for the door.

Alex eyed both the purse and the tiny behind swaying away from her, thinking she’d give anything to have a butt or a purse that small. But then she realized she’d have to give up carbs and store her gun in her bra. Nope, not worth it. “Enjoy your lunch.”

Tandy stopped at the door, turning back with a frown. “You know, my brother is an idiot.”

Alex felt the statement like a physical blow. Blood crawled into her face and turned her cheeks hot. She shook her head, unable to respond. Heading for her desk, she flung a hand dismissingly over her shoulder. “Have a nice lunch, hun.”

The door closed and Alex took a deep breath, her gaze sliding to the closed door of Matthew’s office. Sadness tugged at the sight, regret flared. Alex looked determinedly away, refusing to give in to the despair threatening to drag her down. She’d made a good run at it all. The relationship. The job. The last few months with Matthew, working at his side and sharing his life, had been the best days of her life.

But she’d made a decision and she was determined to live with it.

The office door reopened and Alex spoke without looking up. “Forget your lipstick again?” When Tandy didn’t respond, Alex glanced up from her computer. Her world tilted. Her lungs seized. She stood too quickly and thought she might faint as stars burst before her eyes. “Ben.” Her gaze slipped over him. Over the blood-shot blue eyes and the rumpled clothing. His face was whiter than the t-shirt he wore under the filthy hoodie. His baggie trousers were wet, the knees black with filth. But it was the trail of dried blood on his face that had her rushing forward. “Oh my god. What happened?”

The man she used to love more than anything let her take his arm and walk him toward a chair. His legs buckled out from under him more than once during the short trip. He groaned, clasping his head as Alex grabbed her client chair and pulled it over to the sound of wood screeching against wood.

When he was seated, Alex crouched before him, her hands over his on the arms of the chair. “Who did this to you?”

He frowned down at her, his sexy blue gaze filled with confusion and pain. “I…I don’t know exactly.”

Max yipped behind the closed door, his nails clicking across the floor in Matthew’s office. A beat later he was throwing his tiny body against the scarred wood, whining plaintively. Alex skimmed a quick glance in that direction before returning her gaze to Ben. Something inside her rebelled at the idea of asking Matthew for help with the man she’d once thought she’d marry.

“Ali, I think I’m in trouble.”

She sucked in a small gasp at the sound of that name. No one but Ben had ever called her Ali, and it had usually been in the most intimate of situations. Panicking at the flood of disconcerting memories, she stood up and moved away from him. Alex perched on the edge of her desk and crossed her arms. She knew even as she did it that the distance and the crossing of arms were both protective, shielding mechanisms, but she didn’t care. If there was anyone Alex needed to protect herself from it was the man sitting a few feet away from her. “Tell me what happened.”

His story was fractured, with small blank spaces his injured brain couldn’t fill in. But the gist of it was that Ben had been trying to help what he’d assumed was a homeless guy and had gotten himself caught in the crosshairs of the person who’d attacked him. “Have you gone to the police?” she asked him.

“No.” He shook his head and grimaced, his blood-covered hand flying to his head. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

He lowered his hand and looked at it, seeming to see it for the first time. He didn’t speak for long enough to make Alex think he hadn’t heard her question. “Alex? Why haven’t you gone to the police? The man who hurt that homeless guy and you is still out there. He might hurt someone else.”

“The police already have their suspect.” Ben’s gaze slid to hers and darkened with fear. “It’s me, Ali. They think I killed that man.”

Though her stomach twisted painfully at the news, Alex made a dismissive sound. “That’s ridiculous, Ben. Why would they think that? Because you tried to save him and couldn’t? Ben, was that what happened? If so, we can help you.” She realized the word “we” had flown out of her mouth all too easily and, truth be told, she wasn’t entirely sure it was a true statement anymore. It was highly likely Alex was no longer a “we”. So she quickly amended her words. “I can help you.”

Ben Phillips continued to stare at his bloodied hand, his face the very picture of confusion. “No. You can’t.” He lifted a terrified gaze to her. “Because I’m afraid I did kill that man.”

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Smart Alex – Elegant Mystery Fiction with Sweet Romance

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A killer finds himself behind the curvy on getting what he wants.

Matthew Smart has lost his Assistant, Cameron, in a brutal killing. Devastated, Matthew has to find out who murdered his employee while interviewing potential replacements. Strangely, the applicants all seem to be blowing off their interviews. So when a bold, softly curved beauty named Alexis McFadden shows up in his office looking to fill the position, he’s tempted to hire her just because she’s the only one who wants the job, although he doesn’t believe she’s a good fit. Lucky for Alex, a tricky new case convinces Matthew that he can really use her help. But what if Alex is smart enough to get herself hired against all odds, while in the eyes of a cold-blooded killer, she’s too smart by half?

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All Hoale-ows Eve by Declan Sands

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A Hoaley Addictive Halloween!

Adam and the gang are just out for a fun night of trick or treating when a dirty devil plows into Mink and leaves a surprise in his candy bag. Next thing they know, Mink’s in jail and they’re hunting for an international jewel thief named Monkey. Will the trail of tricks end in treats for everyone involved? Or will they all end up with egg on their faces and TP on their shoes? There’s only one way to find out!

heart

Mink stumbled over his cape and nearly pitched face first into a water-filled ditch at the side of the road. Clinking like the tin man, Delf grabbed hold of Mink’s pitchfork and kept him almost upright. His overflowing bag of candy tipped dangerously, causing Mink to shriek in a decidedly unmanly way.

Adam lifted the patch off his right eye and peered out from underneath it. “Avast ye, matey. Ye’re ballast appears to be unbalanced.” The sound-activated parrot on Adam’s shoulder squawked, causing Maddy to jump and shriek. “Good god, Ads!” I swear I’m gonna pinch that parrot’s head off before the night’s over.”

Mink slammed the bulging bag against his chest, turning a fiery red face in Adam’s direction. “You’d better watch the talk about my ballast, Ads.” He grinned widely, his teeth nearly glowing white against the cherry red of his face. “Delfie likes my ballast, don’t you honeybuns?”

The giant, red-haired knight of the round, or square, table, Adam wasn’t entirely sure, lifted a creaky arm and shoved the hunk of metal covering his handsome face upward. “You’re lucky if I can find your ballast wearing this outfit,” he groused.

“I think you might have enough candy Minks.” Adam lifted his own, much less bulky bag. “You have easily four times what the rest of us do.”

Dressed as Wonder Woman, Maddy adjusted her fake boobs and cocked a padded hip, her mink-brown pageboy dancing under a sparkling gold lame headband. “That’s because everybody can tell we’re adults and they all think he’s a child.”

Mink frowned in her direction, looking a little scary since he had horns and a pitchfork. “I beg your pardon. They’re more generous with me because I’m so damn loveable. You…” he swung an accusing finger over his three friends. “You’re all cranky. Nobody wants to give candy to a bunch of sour pusses.”

Adam gave up on the patch and tugged it up to his forehead. “Sorry to burst your bubble Suzie Sunshine, but they’re shoving candy into your bag as fast as they can because Delf’s always standing behind you looking like he’s going to run them through with his staff.”

Mink’s eyebrows danced and he twirled an invisible mustache between his fingertips, using his best Groucho Marx voice, “I’d like him to run me through with that staff, yuk, yuk.”

Delf’s armor shimmied and Adam decided he was either having a seizure or he was laughing. There was no way to know for sure because his handsome mug was completely obscured by metal.

“Whatever. Wonder Woman’s feet are tired. I’m heading back to the bar.”

Mink crossed his arms over his chest, looking demonic until he stabbed himself in the cheek with his pitchfork. “Ow! Spoil sport.”

Delf clanked. “She’s right, gumdrop, we’ve been out here for hours. I think you’ve done enough damage.”
Sighing, Mink nodded. “Okay, but don’t come running to me when you run out of candy. You’re not getting any of mine.”

Turning toward the flashing neon sign of the distant bar where they’d started the night’s adventure, Adam threw an arm over Maddy’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. “I’m really glad you’re back, Mads. I’ve missed you.”

She lay her head on his shoulder, sighing. “Me too.”

The sidewalks were full ahead of them and some of the celebrants were getting a little rowdy. The crowd shifted suddenly, somebody giving a little scream as they were shoved aside.

“Hey, you poked me with that thing!” a woman shouted.

Mink chuckled. “That’s what he said.”

Delf clanked in response.

A wiry figure dressed all in red shoved free of the crowd, running down the street right at them. He kept looking over his shoulder as more shouts rose up behind him.

“What’s going on?” Maddy asked.

Adam shook his head. “Looks like somebody got too much into the spirit of his costume.”

The devil running toward them looked enough like Mink that Maddy and Adam both turned to make sure he was still behind them.

“Minks, looks like one of your people is up to no good.”

Mink opened his mouth to respond just as the devil runner stepped off the sidewalk and seemed to stumble, pitching forward and slamming into Mink. The two devils went down in a pile of horns and pitchforks and there was some unattractive rolling around and grunting.

Delf was concerned enough to tug off his helmet. “Hey, watch out.” He reached an enormous paw toward the topmost devil and hesitated. It was nearly impossible to tell which one was Mink.

Adam waded in, grabbing hold of the devil on the top and pulling him carefully to his feet. “When he was looking into the guy’s face he could easily tell it wasn’t Mink. The newcomer’s face was slender with high cheek bones and his lips were plumper than Mink’s. “Are you okay?”

The guy nodded, sending a quick look over his shoulder.

“Look what you did to my candy!” Mink was scrambling around picking up candy from the wet, dirty street. “It’s gonna be ruined!” he whined.

“Here let me help.” The other devil dropped to his knees and grabbed Mink’s bag, shoving handfuls of candy back into it. “I’m so sorry, man.”

The invading devil dropped the last handful of candy into the bag and pressed it toward Mink, pushing to his feet. “I gotta go. Sorry about the mishap.” He took off running, disappearing into an alley just as four guys in suits with guns drawn shoved free of the melee in front of the bar and pounded toward them.

“Oh crap,” Adam said. He pointed toward the alley. “He went that-a-way…”

The big guys pushed Delf aside and he stumbled backward, sounding like a tin roof in a hail storm. One of the men tackled Mink to the ground, clamping cuffs on him before Adam’s parrot could shriek, “Avast ye, maties” into the chilly night.

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