The Last Day for Rob Rhino Book Tour & Giveaway

The Last Day for Rob Rhino by Kathleen O’Donnell Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Claire’s a rich widow on a mission, who partakes with abandon from the pharmacy stored in her Prada purse. Rob’s an aging, hygiene-challenged porn star and reality show celebrity. Stuck on the same flight, bound for the same eccentric town, she hates him on sight. She thinks she knows all there is to know about him but is dying to find out more. He’s disinterested but somehow still sees right through her. But they’ve both got big problems. Hers is in the Louis Vuitton carryon in the overhead. His is in his pants. To Claire’s dismay, Rob turns up everywhere she goes, yet they form the unlikeliest of friendships. He cares for her in ways she’s never known before. He could be the best thing in her life—or the worst. In a place full of secrets, including their own, they help each other find answers they didn’t even know they were looking for, yet some questions linger. What happened to Rob’s first wife? What happened to Claire’s husband? Will they live through the answers? The Last Day for Rob Rhino is a dark, tragic, and funny novel about the bonds of family and friendship. If you’d love a Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, or Stieg Larsson novel with a humorous twist, this would be it. Goodreads * Amazon

Kathleen O’Donnell is a wife, mom, grandmother and a recovering blogger. She currently lives in Nevada with her husband. She is a two time Book of the Year finalist for her debut novel The Last Day for Rob Rhino. You can find short stories and blog posts on her website. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest * Amazon * Goodreads

CHAPTER ONE
“I bought you the hat because you’re scary bald.”
Claire held the phone away from her ear, nostrils flaring. “I wouldn’t wear a hat if Philip
Treacy sailed it over himself on the QE2.” She strolled the gateway to watch the planes take off
through the windows. Her reflection in the glass mirrored back, her head shiny, embryonic.
Her stepdaughter let out a puff of breath. “Claire, you know how much his hats cost. It’s
just lying here on the floor.”
“I don’t give a flying—” Claire caught herself, counted to five. Annabelle meant well. “I
don’t do hats. I do bald. It is what it is.”
“Listen, why don’t you take a vacation?” The wheedling commenced. “Instead of going
wherever, to do whatever, you could go to that place I told you about in Hawaii.” Annabelle
spoke
in run-ons. “They have a state-of-the-art meditation center.”
A woman wearing sweats gawked going by, smiling, nodding. Claire’s condition elicited
the sympathy of strangers. Maybe it was terminal. Whatever it was it looked bad.
“That place where I can sit around all day touching myself?”
“You can get in touch with yourself, Claire.”
“I’m halfway to Pennsylvania where I want to go.” Claire’s free hand pushed against the
window. “Me and my bald head.” Airport foot traffic hurried behind her in both directions.
“Well, you look like crap. Please reconsider Hawaii. It’s a luxurious place, the—”
“The ashram?”
“It’s not an ashram. It’s a—”
“Loony bin?” A harried traveler knocked her purse sitting by her feet. The pill bottles at
the bottom rolled and shook, cha, cha, cha, a druggist’s maraca.
“It’s a retreat center. Andrew sent Meg there for her birthday. He said she loved it.”
“Um-hum.”
“Are you listening?”
Claire suffered in silence as loud as she could.
Annabelle tried a different way. “I’m worried about you. Jordan is too. Dad—”
Claire’s sudden tears annoyed her. She stabbed her phone off with one rigid finger, rammed
it into her purse. Enough of that nonsense. You can cry yourself a river, but you can’t cry your
hair
back, or your life the way you wanted it.


Claire stared at the homeless looking guy sleeping on the airport floor and brushed the tears
from her lashless eyes.
She looked around. There were serious looking men in expensive suits waiting for their
flights. Most poking at their iPhones. Liam used to think every man who crossed her path
wanted
to sleep with her. Now if they saw her at all she repulsed them. Claire had been a beauty until
she
wasn’t. An emerald-eyed, fair-haired princess, her dad used to say. A long, tall, drink of water.
Before she’d been stared at, smiled on, envied. Now she was just stared at. Sometimes laughed
or
pointed at and almost always pitied.
The wreck on the floor moved. Propped up on his scaly elbows, nodding off, his mouth
open, eyes closed. Even in his unwashed state he looked familiar. Like someone who used to
be
famous. Claire scanned the crowded O’Hare terminal but didn’t notice anyone else looking at
him.
Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he was just another loser. She looked at her Rolex and

wondered
how late the flight was going to be. She couldn’t remember now what the voice said on the
announcement. Between the noise and the sedatives it was hard to keep up.
When she walked back to her gate the boarding had already started. She hadn’t heard the
announcement. Again. The man lying on the ground was gone. Maybe security’d shooed him
away. She noted her seat number and got in line. Sweat broke out over her upper lip. Sweating
was a problem with no hair. An added humiliation. She hoped they didn’t dilly-dally too long with
the drinks on the plane. Thank God for the three-hour jump in time going east.
She boarded then hunted for her seat—8B. She really needed to get some glasses. The
plane was a small commuter with three seats across, a single on one side of the aisle, a double
on
the other. Claire found aisle 8 and was about to sit in her seat, one of the doubles, on the aisle,
when she saw him.
The dirty hobo from the airport slumped in the window seat, 8C. Right next to her.
He sprawled out over both seats, looking fatter up close, and older, late sixties at least,
despite the desperate dye job and combover. A bushy moustache like a squirrel’s ass wasn’t big
enough to cover his pock-marked face. His gut hung over his thighs. He looked either asleep or
passed out. He reeked.
“This is a mistake.” Claire stopped, twisted around in search of a flight attendant. She
couldn’t see one. The teeming line of travelers behind her tried to keep her going. “This can’t be
right. I can’t possibly sit here,” she said like an Astor in steerage on the Titanic.
The Asian man behind her smiled, moved his head up and down.
She was about to indulge in a hurricane force panic attack when she heard, “This is a full
flight. Please find your seats. Make sure your carry-ons are stored below your seat or in the
upper
bins.”
Claire swung her Louis Vuitton bag into her seat hitting the filthy hobo’s fat leg hard. He
jiggled up with a snort and scooted over to his side. She heaved her matching carry-on into the
overhead bin, sat down, dug a little blue pill out of her bag then swallowed it dry. She made a
big
show of settling into her seat so she could turn her head to see what he was doing without
seeming
obvious. He leaned against the window, eyes closed, mouth open. She could hear him snoring.
Claire stuffed her bag under the seat in front of her then fastened her seat belt with a click.
When he opened his milky blue-gray eyes he looked at her with eyelids that appeared too heavy
for him. All of a sudden he had the hearing of a dog. One side of his mouth lifted in a lopsided
half
smile. He leaned forward to make sure his ragged backpack was still there, fiddled with the
seatback
pocket, readjusted his seatbelt. Satisfied that all was as it should be in his area, he gave Claire
another look, one that seemed to urge her to give hers another check just to be safe. She did. In
seconds he slept again.
It occurred to Claire her unwanted traveling companion hadn’t noticed he sat next to a
hairless woman. He didn’t look her up and down and then quickly look away like most people.
Nor did he insist on politically correct earnestness, meaningful, direct eye contact. Her grubby
neighbor seemed to care only that seat trays were upright, all electronic devices were turned off,
and appropriately stored until takeoff. Claire shook her bald head. Whatever drugs he was
taking
she had to get some.
The plane was almost full. Claire looked up to see a man about her age. One of the impatient
ones in a pricey suit in the aisle next to her seat. Staring. Oh no. She could feel the color begin
to
climb up her neck.
“Hey, aren’t you that guy?” the man in the suit said.
Claire exhaled. She turned to her right, startled.
“Yeah, you’re the guy from that reality show, aren’t you?” The suit wasn’t budging without
an answer.

“Uh-huh… yeah, I’m him.” Claire’s seatmate slurred, barely stringing the words together.
His double chins fell forward on his chest.
“Rob,” the suit said.
“Yeah, Rob.”
The flight attendant came up behind the man prodding him forward. “I knew it,” he
muttered before moving toward his seat.
That’s where she’d seen him. What’d he say his name was again? She turned toward him.
Asleep again. “Hey,” she elbowed him. “I thought you looked familiar. You were in a reality
show.
What else would I have seen you in?” She hardly ever watched reality television—at least not
on
purpose.
He eyed her Rolex and ten-carat diamond ring. “Nothing.”
“I thought you were someone famous when I saw you in the airport.” She knew she was
right. She almost always was. “What else are you famous for?”
His head swiveled toward her, jowls sagging.

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The Gap Year Book Tour & Giveaway

The Gap Year Angela’s Epistles Book 1 by Rita Kruger Genre: SciFi Action, LGBT Romance

Angela Wright might have everything her father’s money can buy, but that meant nothing to her on the night of her twenty-eight birthday. She is angry and a little bit drunk as she flees the scene of a fight with her mother. All her life she has done the right thing. But she is tired of living under her mother’s shadow. How can she ever compete with Margaret Wright, the first Human judge on the Intergalactic High Court? Within the space of a few days, Angela drops out in the last semester at Intergalactic Bureau of Investigation Academy, signs a bounty hunting contract to find the top ten criminals in the galaxy, and kisses Brenda, her best friend since childhood. She might be late, but at last she is blooming. **only .99 cents!**Add to GoodreadsAmazon * B&N * Kobo * Books2Read

Rita Kruger lives in Vereeniging, South Africa. She is wife, granddaughter, daughter, mother, and grandmother. Most of childhood happened within the pages of books. Stories conspired to carry her away from the world she knew. The places and people books introduced her to were much more exciting than her boring existence. Currently married to her personal MacGyver, she surrounds herself with what enriches her body, mind and soul. Family. Friends. Nature. Great food. Good wine. Mountains of books. She writes novels challenging major themes of her life in the genres of fantasy and gothic horror, which she loves. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Bookbub * Goodreads

“Prof. Linden!” Angela exclaimed, reaching out to shake his hand. “I didn’t realize
you were here too.”
“That’s because the red head over there basically hi-jacked me,” he slightly tilted his
head to the left, and Angela scanned the room slowly to see who he was talking about.
The red head was in fact her next door neighbour, Mrs. Jingleheimer-Smith, a cougar
by profession. Angela almost burst out laughing at the idea of the two of them together.
“And,” she asked. “Is this part of your escape strategy?”
“Hell no,” he said with a giggle, “this is me coming up for air. She is sizzling hot.

Any man trying to escape her is a fool.”
“You are older than her usual… friends,” Angela said.
“She tells me I move like an ally cat,” he said with a frown and another giggle.
“Whatever that means.”
“It means loose and limber,” Angela teased. “Like a dancer, or an ally cat.”
“I still hit the gym every day.”
“I wonder what she has planned for you,” Angela said with a wink.
“I hope it’s hot and saucy,” he whispered, leaning closer.
“You know she doesn’t come with strings,” Angela said. “No hope of tying her down
anywhere.”
“Goodness yes,” he told her. “I’m in need of some fun without attachments.”
“Well then,” she said with a wink, “get ready because your party in a box is on her
way over here.”
“Darrrrrling,” Mrs Jingleheimer-Smit said with her heavy Russian accent. “This is
such a dearrrr parrrty.”
“It is so nice of you to come,” Angela said.
“Well, I’m glad I did, or I might have missed this,” and she hooked her arm through a
beaming Prof. Linden’s, “ally cat waiting to be picked up.”
Angela reached over, gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and then excused herself
from the sight of Prof. Linden’s red blushing face. They made an odd couple, but then, both
are looking for only fun.

Picking up a beer, she made her way to a quiet corner to rest. The partygoers were
either dancing, or munching on snacks that Sarah and Bren just carried out of the kitchen.
Her mother’s absence was the only spoiler to the event. Bren had gone out of her way
to invite people, some whom Angela had not seen in years. Others, like Mrs. Jingleheimer-
Smit and the staff from the academy, which she would never have invited herself. The room
was filled with old and young, highly educated and barely able to read. Yet they all danced,
ate, drank, laughed and chatted as if they had known each other for years. This is the kind of
party her mother would never try, and neither would she. But Bren pulled it together, and
here it was, working like a charm.
Except for Margaret. “Guess she was serious about disowning me,” Angela
whispered.
A sadness tugged at her heart, and for a few long moments she felt truly alone in the
world. But then the music changed, the people all cheered, and she watched them all scurry
off to find a place on the dance floor. Under great jubilation the gyrated hips and hopped in
one place.
It was as she watched them that she knew she’d be just fine. Even without family. All
these people came to send her off into a new adventure. She never even thought that so many
people would come. But they did.
Not for Margaret, but for her.
So she finished the beer, and joined the thong of people on the floor. Things will be
fine. She was surrounded by people who cared for her. Thomas and Sarah and Bren.
Especially Bren.

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Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book Tour & Giveaway

The Frights of Fiji Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: Book 1 by Sunayna Prasad Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

A world of magic and adventure awaits… Sent to live with her strict, aloof, and uncaring uncle after her parents are killed in a car accident, twelve-year-old orphan Alyssa McCarthy longs for the life she used to have—one filled with fun and love. Then one stormy night, a message appears in the raindrops on the window that will change everything. “Your life will never be the same again, as magic will interfere.” Before long, Alyssa is kidnapped by Master Beau, a banished sorcerer with a mysterious connection to her who can only regain his power by weakening hers. Suddenly hurled into a world of wizardry filled with fantastical beasts and marvelous technology beyond her wildest imagination, Alyssa must defeat Master Beau if she ever wants to get home again. But Master Beau will stop at nothing, including using Alyssa’s friends, to ensure he is triumphant. Originally titled “From Frights to Flaws”, this story is the exciting and enchanting first book in the “Magical Missions” series. **Only 99 cents**Goodreads * Amazon

The Uncontrollable Curse Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: Book 2

History, like magic, has a habit of repeating itself It’s been six months since thirteen-year-old Alyssa McCarthy left magic behind for good. Or so she thought… Then the enchanted objects that protected her disappear. Now a skeleton named Errol has cursed her with magical powers that keep getting her in trouble. Suddenly strange things are happening with disastrous effects, and if Alyssa can’t learn to control the magic, she will lose everything she holds dear. In order to get rid of her unwanted wizardry, Alyssa will have to boost her bravery and confidence and determine who Errol really is. But every time Alyssa uses an enchantment, Errol is one step closer to getting his flesh back and becoming alive, and he will do anything to achieve his goals…even if it means destroying Alyssa’s happiness. Originally published in 2016 as “Wizardry Gone Wild”, “The Uncontrollable Curse” is book two in the exciting and suspenseful paranormal Magical Missions series. Goodreads * Amazon

Sunayna Prasad has been writing stories for over several years, starting at the age of six. Now twenty-four, she is done with college and will pursue a career in art and design as well as continue to write for children. Aside from that, Sunayna also likes to cook, watch movies, and draw. She lives on Long Island, New York, with her family. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

The raindrops darkened into black, looking as if ink fell from the sky. Alyssa leaned closer to them. She
squinted to determine the shapes they formed on the kitchen window… letters.
No! That couldn’t happen. Yet, a message spelled out as more pigments plopped onto the glass. Alyssa
gasped at what it said.
Your life will never be the same again, Alyssa McCarthy, as magic will interfere.
What? Magic didn’t exist—at least that’d been what others had told her when she was little. No one on
Orion Street could possess enchanted abilities.
Alyssa had lived here since she’d lost her parents in that car crash five years ago. She’d only been seven
then. How would she tell her uncle, Bruce, about this? He’d consider her crazy. He’d already toughened up
his attitude and rules. So he might consider it an excuse to escape this house.
Although Alyssa’s parents had designated her godfather as the first priority guardian, Uncle Bruce forbade
her to try and contact him. He’d hidden the phone number and other information about him.
Since Alyssa’s aunt, Laura, had died three years ago, Uncle Bruce had required fun to be earned. And that
took more effort than Alyssa could often accomplish.
Turning around, she spotted her babysitter, Mrs. Hutchinson, examining the kitchen floor. Alyssa’s eleven-
year-old cousin, Hailey, watched the progress. Hailey had mopped the floor. Would she earn a break now?
Ever since her uncle, Bruce, had hired Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Hutchinson had admired the way Hailey had
done her chores more than Alyssa.
“Hailey, you can take a break until your next chore,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, get back to work.
You’ve been staring at the rain for too long.”
“Okay.” Alyssa turned back—only to see the message gone and the rain back to its normal transparency.
“What did I say?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
Alyssa sighed. “Fine, I’ll finish washing the dishes.”
She scrubbed her dish and glass with soap under warm running water. Her eyes focused on just those. No
way would she want Mrs. Hutchinson to catch her looking out the window again. Mrs. Hutchinson was only
in her sixties, but she’d sometimes seem to forget that was 2010 and not 1960 with her guidelines. Yet, it
had taken Alyssa a while to realize that she wouldn’t even tolerate the mildest kind of nonsense, such as
getting distracted by a windowpane when having to perform chores.
Now that she finished washing her dishes, Alyssa put them to the side and grabbed some paper towels to
dry them.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hutchinson asked.
Alyssa stopped. “I’m just—”
“The last few times I was here, you left little bits of food on your dishes.”
“But they were stuck.”
“Let me inspect them. Also, if something is rubbery, you have to wash it again.”
“Why?”
“Because clean dishes aren’t supposed to be rubbery. And boy, did you do such a sloppy job. Look at that
stain on your sweater.”
Alyssa looked down.
“That looks like chocolate.”
Alyssa blushed and arched her eyebrows. “Hey—it’s just water.” She covered the stain at the bottom of her
sweater’s V-neck.
But Mrs. Hutchinson waved her index finger. “Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Alyssa. That’s rude. In my days, kids
respected their elders. We never would dare talk to them that way unless we didn’t mind them smacking our
bottoms.”
“Things change.”
“Not when I’m here, they don’t. Now let me do my inspection.”
Great—an inspection! How long would Mrs. Hutchinson take? She might spend a couple minutes or maybe
twenty. Alyssa crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She wanted her break now. She wished to read, rest,
do a small craft, like lanyards—anything but wait for Mrs. Hutchinson to finish her task.

“Mrs. Hutchinson?” Alyssa asked.
“Whatever you need to say, wait till I’m done,” she said.
Alyssa sighed. She continued to watch Mrs. Hutchinson run her finger down the middle of the front of the
dish. She then rubbed it back and forth. When she put it down and nodded, Alyssa figured out that the dish
had nothing on it.
Mrs. Hutchinson spent a few minutes of running her finger down the glass. She put it down and turned to
Alyssa. “You’re good. Now what did you want to tell me?”
“Um . . . if I tell you, can you not give me a hard time?”
“Okay.”
“There was writing on the window.”
Mrs. Hutchinson pursed her lips and tilted her head. “Really?”
“Yeah.”
“Nonsense.”
“No, really, it was there.”
“There was nothing there when I came, and there’s nothing there right now. So don’t tell me stories.”
“But it’s not a story.”
“I don’t want to hear any more. Now it’s time for your next chore.”
“Aw, but I wanted my break.”
“Too bad. You have to go vacuum the living room.”
Alyssa dragged her feet toward the living room and took the vacuum from the corner. She cleaned and
thought about that writing as well as how Mrs. Hutchinson wouldn’t believe her. Would a nicer babysitter
have believed her? Mrs. Hutchinson had watched her and Hailey for three years, and not once had she
smiled or assisted with anything.
After vacuuming the carpet for about five minutes, Alyssa decided that she had tidied the floor enough. So
she stopped and put the vacuum away.
“Hailey, you and Alyssa need to go get the mail now!” Mrs. Hutchinson called, facing the staircase.
“Coming!” cried Hailey.
Another rule Uncle Bruce had placed on Alyssa and Hailey was they could only go outside together. He
worried about people taking them or something, even though Alyssa would turn thirteen next month. But
that rule had been placed because a few months ago, Uncle Bruce had heard about a seventeen-year-old boy
who had been shot while skateboarding in his neighborhood. Violence could even happen here in Bursnell,
New Jersey.
Hailey and Alyssa headed to the closet and put their raincoats on until Mrs. Hutchinson said, “It stopped
raining outside.”
“Already?” asked Alyssa.
“Yes.” Mrs. Hutchinson went to the bathroom.
The girls walked outside toward the mailbox. Alyssa pulled the mail and headed back toward the door. But
mud bubbled from the ground near the house. It piled up, looking like horse manure, and grew as more soil
emerged. Alyssa dropped her jaw and stared at it.
“Alyssa, what’s going on?” Hailey asked.
“No idea,” said Alyssa.
The dirt stopped piling up, but it continued to bubble, and the effects spread throughout the whole pile. The
bubbles stopped popping up and down. Alyssa and Hailey gasped as they expanded. They kept their mouths
open as the bubbles merged together, each one attached to another, forming a single bigger shape. Alyssa
and Hailey stepped back as the now giant bubble swelled. And it . . . popped! Particles of exploding mud
landed on the girls. They shrieked.
The front door opened to reveal a glowering Mrs. Hutchinson. “What the heck have you two been doing?”
“T-the mud . . . it e-exploded,” said Hailey.
“Nonsense!” growled Mrs. Hutchinson. “Get inside!”
The girls returned inside, pulling and wiping the mud out of their hair. Alyssa could spot the mud in her
straight pale-blonde tresses, unlike Hailey, who likely needed more patience to search for globs in her

elbow-length red locks. But Alyssa’s hair fell a few inches past her hips, so cleaning out the mud would
take longer, even with the shorter layers in the front.
“How could dirt explode?” Mrs. Hutchinson stomped.
“I-I think it was magic!” exclaimed Alyssa.
“There’s no such thing as magic!” screamed Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, you’re twelve years old. You’re too
old to say things like that!”
“But nothing else can make mud explode!” Alyssa said.
“Mrs. Hutchinson, we swear it did!” whined Hailey.
“Enough!” snapped Mrs. Hutchinson. “You and Hailey—go upstairs and take showers!”
Alyssa followed Hailey up the stairs and heaved a sigh. How else would the mud have splattered all over
them? Mrs. Hutchinson couldn’t have thought they’d play in the mud like small children.
“Alyssa, can I shower first?” asked Hailey.
“Sure,” said Alyssa.
As Hailey strode into the bathroom, Alyssa walked into her room. She scratched more mud off her skinny
jeans (the only jeans she’d worn ever since they’d come into style) and the back of her hand. She stood by
her bed since she wanted to keep it clean.
She considered the writing on the window and the exploding mud. Someone wanted magic to interfere with
her life, but who, and how come?
Also, why hadn’t she ever seen wizardry before? Why would her parents and others tell her that it hadn’t
existed? Did sorcery just start on earth? Had it hidden somewhere? There had to be some reason why no
one had ever believed in it.
Alyssa thought about the possibility that maybe magic might only interfere if she stayed here in her uncle’s
house. Maybe if her godfather could arrange with his lawyer to let her move in with him, sorcery would
hopefully leave her alone. However, unlike science, anything could occur with magic, which meant that it
could follow her wherever she went.
The sound produced by the bathroom’s running water ended, which let Alyssa know that Hailey had
finished. Now she could have a turn.
After about five minutes showering, Alyssa stepped out and headed back to her room. She put on leggings
and a long shirt. But she gasped at something appearing out of nowhere on her bed. Now that had to have
come from . . . magic.
Approaching it, she saw that it was a folded piece of paper. She opened it and read it.
Hello Alyssa McCarthy,
You must be wondering about the writing on your window, the exploding mud, and the note that appeared
here. Who was responsible for them? You’ll find out at some point.
Anonymous
Anonymous? How dare someone create incidents and not say his or her name! Alyssa needed to know his
or her identity in order to report him or her. She didn’t want strange, magical occurrences to keep
happening.
Regardless of that, now she had proof to Mrs. Hutchinson that the writing and exploding mud had occurred.
Mrs. Hutchinson had seen her write before, and this looked nothing like hers. She handwrote in a half-print
and half-script style. This, however, was pure print.
Alyssa jogged down the stairs and carried the note. “Mrs. Hutchinson, I have something to show you.”
“Not right now, Alyssa.” Mrs. Hutchinson left the kitchen. “You and Hailey have to go wash my car.”
“But it’s quick.”
“You can show me after you’re done with my car.” Mrs. Hutchinson turned to Hailey, who emptied the
dishwasher and put dishes away. “Are you almost done?”
“I think so,” said Hailey.
“How many dishes do you have left?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
“Uh . . .” Hailey looked at the top rack. “Four.”
“Okay, hurry up.” Mrs. Hutchinson turned to Alyssa. “Why don’t you go put that piece of paper away?”
“But this is what I need to show you.”

“Do I have to repeat what I said before?”
“But—”
“Alyssa, do as you’re told.” Mrs. Hutchinson pointed to the staircase.
Alyssa sighed. This note contained so much crucial information. Only that paper itself had evidence to
show that those incidents had occurred.
After putting the note back in her room, Alyssa headed down the stairs and walked with Hailey toward the
garage. The two grabbed sponges, buckets, and soap for washing cars. They filled the buckets with water
and scrubbed Mrs. Hutchinson’s car.
“I wish we had another babysitter,” muttered Alyssa.

“What was on the piece of paper?” asked Hailey.
Alyssa told her.
“Who wrote it?”
“There was no name on it. Just ‘anonymous.’”
A girl whistling turned Alyssa’s attention away from the car. She leaned her head toward the sidewalk and
saw her friend from grade school, Madison Jennings, riding her scooter.
“Hi, Alyssa,” said Madison. The wind blew her long dark-brown waves across her face. She stopped at
Alyssa’s driveway, and her hair went limp. Hailey and Alyssa ran up to greet her and ask how she’d been.
“I just moved onto Draco Drive a few days ago,” Madison referred to a road off Orion Street.
“So how do you like the middle school?” asked Alyssa.
“Oh, I go to Catholic school now,” said Madison. “What about you?”
“Hailey and I are homeschooled now,” said Alyssa. “I never got to tell you.”
“That’s okay,” said Madison. “So you guys want to come over to my house on Saturday?”
“What time?” asked Alyssa.
“I’ll ask my mom and let you know,” said Madison. “Okay, bye, guys. Nice seeing you again.” She rode
back in the direction she’d come from as Hailey and Alyssa waved goodbye to her.
After washing the car for another ten minutes, Alyssa and Hailey cleaned up and walked back inside. A
snore suggested to Alyssa that Mrs. Hutchinson slept. Huh? She never napped while babysitting.
Alyssa strode toward the living room and saw Mrs. Hutchinson asleep on one of the couches. Hailey
followed her. “Why is Mrs. Hutchinson sleeping?”
“I don’t know,” said Alyssa.
“Can you show me the note?”
Alyssa nodded and led her up the stairs. She opened her door but gasped at what she saw. The note that
she’d left on her bed was gone.
“Where’s the note?” asked Hailey.
“It was right there,” Alyssa pointed to the bed.
But another piece of paper appeared onto the mattress. Alyssa picked it up and read it.
Hello again, Alyssa,
I have put your babysitter to sleep to reveal magic to you. You’ll find out why she is sleeping later.
Anonymous
“Not again,” mumbled Alyssa. “Why won’t they say their name?” She showed the note to Hailey.
“Let’s go call my dad before anything happens,” said Hailey.
How much worse could this get? Alyssa thought as she followed Hailey down the stairs.

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The Bulwark Anthology Book Tour & Giveaway

The Knowing The Bulwark Anthology Book 1 by Brit Lunden Genre: Paranormal Thriller

Bulwark- a wall or stockade that protects or sometimes hides the truth from the outside world. Bulwark, Georgia, isolated, hidden. Who knows what strange things can happen when the rest of the world can’t see you? JB Stratton is alone in the world, and all he has left are the memories of his beloved Ellie. Dirt poor JB and wealthy Ellie feel an instant connection that is as intense and primal as the blood red earth of their home. Unseen roots connect them, pulling them into an impossible relationship. Will the memories of past lives help or hinder the path of their love? Based on the original novella Bulwark, by Brit Lunden, The Knowing continues the story of a town isolated from the rest of the world where the impossible becomes plausible, and logic is determined by reality. **ONLY .99 CENTS!!**Goodreads * Amazon

The Illusion The Bulwark Anthology Book 2 by DJ Cooper

Things are not what they seem in the small American town of Bulwark. Hospital lights flicker for no reason. Townsfolk are overcome with a salacious appetite for the demise of others. Accompanied by would-be boyfriend Deputy Terence Blake, Dr Peter Kent is caught in the middle of mind-bending events. A café opens in town. The food is great. It’s the unexpected distortions in time and the surrounding world that make Peter question his mind and his grip on reality. Goodreads * Amazon

The Craving The Bulwark Anthology Book 3 by R.L. Jackson

Bulwark a wall or stockade that protects or sometimes hides the truthfrom the outside world. Savannah Daniels is looking forward to spending some alone time with her longtime boyfriend, Marshall. Everything during this fun-filled spring break was moving along fine, until his awkward cousin Stefano, and his equally weird girlfriend, Sheena decide to crash the party. It didn’t take a college graduate to realize something was definitely up with these two blood-sucking intruders, and it isn’t long before the true intentions about what they are and what they want become clear. Savannah is powerless to stop their attack on Marshall but with capabilities passed down from her grandmother, she finds the tools she needs to stop them and hopefully prevent Marshall’s transitioning. When all three disappear before she can act, Savannah jumps into high-gear tracking their every move. Finally, her journey takes her to Bulwark, Georgia where she learns things are equally as complicated there, and more than just vampires go bump in the night. Goodreads * Amazon

The Window The Bulwark Anthology Book 4 by E.H. Graham

Brianna Scott has nothing but her window and pet cat to entertain her. Stuck inside for more years than she can remember with a degenerative disease, she has become invisible and has retreated from her small community. Only Jim, the town grocer and old high school friend, seems to care about her lonely existence. However, when the window in her living room provides her a front row seat to the latest mysteries haunting her small town, Brianna discovers that some things cannot be unseen. Based on Bulwark, a paranormal thriller by Brit Lunden, The Window is the fourth volume in the multi-author Bulwark Anthology. **ONLY .99 CENTS!!**Goodreads * Amazon

The Missing Branch The Bulwark Anthology Book 5 by Kay McLeod

Trapped in a tedious job without fulfillment, ambitions, or a boyfriend, Izzie Murray’s only passion is researching her ancestry. But the beautiful mural of her family tree switches from a distraction to an obsession once she hits a mysterious gap in the timeline. Why would an entire family just disappear? With an intense craving to find the last pieces of the puzzle, Izzie ditches her life in England to investigate the last known whereabouts of the family – the little town of Bulwark, Georgia. Between the unnatural behavior of the local wildlife, tales of witches, and the overpowering draw of a puddle of weird goo, she’s only finding more questions to answer. The instant attraction to the one resident in town that seems to be on her side isn’t helping either. Bulwark does not give up its secrets easily. And sometimes things were hidden for a reason. **ONLY .99 CENTS!!**Goodreads * Amazon

The Body The Bulwark Anthology Book 6 by Kate Kelly

Small town values. Big time secrets Troubled is an understatement when it comes to Rudd. He’s a cage fighter with a sordid past, and has no family or any friends to his name. He does, however, have one enemy—Vic, his ultimate rival in the cage. But even a match with Vic isn’t enough to stir any emotions in the 28 year old man. He may as well be a shell. Body only, no spirit. It’s the anniversary of his sister’s death when he takes a walk through Bulwark’s strange woods and wanders a little too far. It’s there in the dense, secluded gloom that he meets a glowing, transparent woman named Lili. She isn’t real— she can’t be real, except that she’s the only one that makes him feel anything at all. The two form an unlikely friendship that quickly morphs into an attraction neither can act on. As his final fight draws near, Rudd must face the demons of his past, solve the mystery of Lili’s murder and deal with the inexplicable love that is growing in his heart for someone who can never be his. **ONLY .99 CENTS!!**Goodreads * Amazon

The Battle of Bulwark The Bulwark Anthology Book 7 by Del Henderson III

Outside of being the sheriff’s daughter, Claire Finnes’ life was the same as any other 15-year-old. However, recurring nightmares and an encounter with dead civil war soldier send Claire and her friends on a journey that makes her question if those nightmares really were just dreams. As she uncovers the dark history surrounding her small town Claire begins to wonder, can a doomed future be changed? Based on Bulwark, a paranormal thriller by Brit Lunden, The Battle of Bulwark is the seventh volume in the multi-author Bulwark Anthology. **ONLY .99 CENTS!!**Goodreads * Amazon

The Darkness The Bulwark Anthology Book 8 by Brittney Leigh

Bulwark- a wall or stockade that protects or sometimes hides the truth from the outside world.Bulwark, a quiet town… or is it? Four best friends, Sophia, Scott, Chloe and Chris, are just trying to manage their senior year at Bulwark high school when Sophia realizes that her feelings for Chris are really meant for Scott. Before she can deal with that though, the four friends then stumble upon Bulwarks darkest secrets when a spell is cast on Bulwark High. Students have been disappearing and no one has any clues as to their whereabouts. With a town curfew set and parents on edge, the four friends decide to take things into their own hands. Will they break the spell, or will Bulwark High and the town be changed forever?Based on Bulwark, a paranormal thriller by Brit Lunden, The Darkness is the eighth volume in the multi-author Bulwark Anthology **ONLY .99 CENTS!!**Goodreads * Amazon

Brit Lunden is a prolific author who’s written over 50 books in assorted genres under different pen names. Bulwark was her first effort in adult fiction and was chosen by several of her fellow authors as the basis for a new series, A Bulwark Anthology. Using her characters, they are creating new denizens in spin-off stories to this bizarre town. Brit Lunden lives on Long Island in a house full of helpful ghosts. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

Having grown up with a love of everything futuristic, space and macabre, DJ Cooper developed a vivid imagination and is known for a warped sense of humour. Desperately clinging to the real world, DJ has been known to cry: Why can’t cars fly yet? Weren’t we supposed to teleport by now? In-between large mugs of annoyingly lukewarm coffee, DJ enjoys walks with earbuds full of loud music and ponders what it is Cossie the fire-breathing, flying pet bearded dragon thinks about all day. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

R.L Jackson is an independent filmmaker, magazine editor and screenwriter who writes romance and romantic suspense with an aim for readers to, “Get Lost In Intense Passion and Diverse Worlds.” She lives in south Florida enjoys binge-watching Netflix, uses her treadmill as an over-sized coat hanger, but loves to dance to the Fitness Marshall videos on Youtube. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

Stepping into the world of adult fiction and penned under the name E.H. Graham , The Window is the debut novel of this award-winning children’s author. Whether reading or writing, Graham enjoys the escape into worlds of mystery, fantasy and suspense. Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

Kay McLeod Confession time, I’m a fantasy addict! For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the concept of magical worlds. I was the kid with dragons doodled around the edge of her school work, the one with her head constantly buried in a book. As a teen, I shunned partying to play Magic the Gathering and DM Dungeons and Dragons games. Through the years, I’ve always made up stories and took characters on amazing adventures, in the privacy of my own mind. Now I want to share them with other people. I live with my husband and cat in Nottinghamshire in England. When I’m not writing (or planning something I’m writing) I’m usually working, reading, playing bass for my church’s worship team, playing computer games (World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Pokemon, Minecraft) or drinking tea. Mmm, time to put the kettle on… Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

Kate Kelley is a writer of epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance. She spends her days banging on a keyboard and chugging coffee while two small, feral children run around her feet. Website * Facebook * Amazon * Goodreads

Del Henderson III, born and raised in Illinois, enjoys writing, fueling his passion and love for the noble art of putting pen to paper, or more appropriate, keyboard to computer. Diving into pure imagination he has produced works that grip his reader’s minds with mystery and suspense as they are brought into the fascinating world of fiction. Website * Facebook * Amazon * Goodreads

Brittney Leigh is gracing the Bulwark anthology as a debut author. She is a proud graduate of SUNY Old Westbury College, with a bachelors degree in Media & Communications. Gifted in singing, acting, and dancing, she finds her voice reaches its highest ground in writing. She resides in Long Island where the darkness of New York City comes to sleep. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

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The Redemption Duet Book Tour & Giveaway

The Rose The Redemption Duet Book 1 by Sheritta Bitikofer Genre: Sweet Paranormal Romance

Belle lives her life from day to day, nearly crippled by her social anxiety. But if you ask anyone in Levi about it, they’d say she’s a sweet, quiet girl who works hard to keep up her family’s small ranch while holding down a job at the bookstore. No one knows that beneath her smiles lay a shy introvert who wants nothing more than to stay at home. It was easier to stay alone, stay isolated. That’s when she was the happiest. But during one thunderstorm, all of that changed and she met the first man she ever actually wanted to spend time with. Leo made a habit of avoiding people when at all possible. Getting tied down, making friends, having a life only meant suffering. The darkness that followed him since his adolescent years never left, not really. It’d show up and ruin any hint of happiness that came his way. Running from his past and the brother that cursed him with this demon, Leo never expected to find something like home in the little country town of Levi. And he didn’t expect one storm to bring him to the barn of a girl with fire in her eyes and a face as beautiful as a sunrise. A sunrise that could chase away all the shadows. Goodreads * Amazon

The Lion The Redemption Duet Book 2

Belle Clearwater’s prayers had been answered, but there was still so much left to discover. Now determined to reject her mental illness, she’s decided to be brave and not let her anxiety disorder take her away from what matters. With the help of her friends and her faith, she’s sure that she can finally have her life back. Something greater is stirring in her heart and the man that had served as her solid ground might just send her world off kilter again. All it takes is one moment of honesty. Against every bit of common sense, Leo Thompsons has chosen to stay in Levi. The Darkness and his murderous brother are closing in, but he believed that as long as he has Belle, he can find a way to break the curse upon his soul. With the power of love and prayer, he’s finally fighting for his life and the chance to share that life with the beautiful farm girl. Fate brought them together, but is he strong enough to rebel against the forces of evil that have hounded him for so long? Can he, once and for all, defeat his demons? Goodreads * Amazon

An author of paranormal and urban fantasy fiction, Sheritta Bitikofer lives for the deep, engaging stories that enthrall readers from cover to cover. As a wife and fur-mama of eclectic tastes, she can be found roaming Civil War battlefields, perusing the romance section of the bookstore, or relaxing with a plate of chili cheese fries. Take a look at the books she has available and stay tuned for new releases. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

The heaviness continued to drop onto his chest as Leo drove further and further away from Levi.
Further away from Belle. It always happened every time he distanced himself from her or the farm. The
only way he could reason it was that it must have had something to do with all that praying she did.
Ever since that night when she first dispelled the darkness with one small, impromptu prayer,
Leo began to see the pattern. On those days she prayed, the darkness stayed away. His nights weren’t
tormented by dreams of fire and death. His soul didn’t feel as weighted and burdened. So, each
morning, he asked if she prayed and if she said she hadn’t yet, he would slyly drop a hint that she
should. Of course, she didn’t complain. Why should she? It was nothing to her. Just a string of words
sent up to God to protect them and the farm from evil.
But to Leo, it was everything.
It meant the difference between walking around with an easy smile, because he had finally
settled where he wanted to stay, or looking over his shoulder and starting at every loud noise, thinking it
might be the demon coming to collect his payment.
It took a great deal of courage to mount his motorcycle and head south toward Little Rock, far
away from Belle’s protection and deeper into the world he had tried to leave behind. It was all for her,
though. If he didn’t do this, it’d take that much longer for Belle to achieve her dreams.
One call to an old acquaintance – the only one he had left that would still speak to him – sealed
his plans for the evening and with a little money in his pocket and a change of clothes in his duffle bag,
he left in the late afternoon.
The two-and-a-half-hour drive did little to settle his nerves or clear his head. He used to love
riding on the highway. Of all the vehicles he had ever driven, the maneuverability of a motorcycle
appealed to him the most. He could weave in and out of traffic, zoom on and off exits and effectively
lose whoever might happen to be chasing him. On those drives when he could relax, let the wind pound
his face and feel the grind of the wheels on the blacktop, Leo could zone out and not think so much. He
didn’t have to think about his past or his future. Just this moment with only him, the road, and the
deafening rumble of the engine beneath him.
He could do anything but relax now, because he knew exactly where he was going and what
he’d be doing that night. Something he thought he’d never have to do again after he arrived in Levi.
It didn’t take long to find the place. Mack gave detailed directions that a toddler could follow.
Even over the roar of his bike, he could hear the multitude of voices and music booming out of the
warehouse just outside of town. The parking lot was packed, but he managed to find a cramped spot on
the side closest to the river.
Leo didn’t make eye contact with the people he passed as he made his way toward the
entrance. Smokers, groups of men with beer bottles in hand, couples displaying their affection in
obscene ways, bookies, dealers, and thugs. It wasn’t so long ago that he knew this scene by heart. Being
in Levi had cleansed him somehow and as he approached the bouncers at the door, he began to
question himself again. The darkness practically lived here, and in places like it where sin went
unchecked. He could feel its pull, like a black hole that Leo had once dangerously skirted the edges of
not so long ago. And here he was again.
Did he really want to do this? He was capable of it. He was completely capable of winning the
money for Belle’s stallion. But there was no turning back now. He had already called the man in
Fayetteville and made the deal. He was expecting the money first thing in the morning.
“Mack called me in,” he told the two bouncers who were just a hair bigger than him.
The bald one flipped through his clipboard while the other sized Leo up, taking in his jeans and
leather jacket. Leo could admit that he didn’t look like he was ready for a fight, but he never needed a
fancy rig to pound another man into the dirt. He learned bareknuckle boxing when he was just a teen in
Brooklyn. Most who did this for a living couldn’t say that.

The bouncer made it to the final page and tapped at the bottom of the sheet. “He penned you
in.”
“Realized he couldn’t leave out his best guy.” Leo gave them both a cocky smile and they
reluctantly let him through. In a place like this, arrogance was the common language.
The stench of cigarette smoke and beer hit him, making his eyes water a bit before he could
adjust. The bass from the speakers beat against his ears and made the fabric of his clothes vibrate, once
more dazing him before he could get a handle on his senses. He squinted against the flashing strobe
lights as he pushed his way past the throngs.
The tip of his boot hit something on the floor and sent it rolling. He didn’t have to look to know
it was a syringe. His arms reflexively jerked away from the seductive touches of the women who tried to
grab his attention as he looked for Mack in the crowd. The fight was still a quarter of an hour away. If he
guessed right, the man would be near the bar, taking more bets and organizing the tournament tree one
last time.
Leo felt something brush at his pockets and he turned just in time to seize the hand that tried to
make off with his keys. What he didn’t expect was for his fingers to connect around a small wrist. The
boy looked up at him, the colorful lights like a kaleidoscope across his youthful face. He couldn’t have
been more than ten years old.
He snatched away what was his and set the boy free, knowing he would just steal again from
someone else. As much as he hated it, the boy wasn’t his responsibility and it wasn’t his place to correct
him. With a sigh, he skimmed the crowd again and found the Red Socks ball cap bobbing lively across
the sea of strangers.
Leo pushed through a cluster of drunken college students and edged past a tight grouping of
ladies in leather skirts dancing with martini glasses before he could put his hand on Mack’s shoulder.
The manager jumped and spun around, wide eyes looking through a pair of tinted glasses. When
he saw who had grabbed him, he let out an exaggerated breath.
“Scared me, man!” he shouted over the trap music. “Lookin’ good!” Mack reached out and
squeezed Leo’s bicep in the kind of way that reminded him of a man who looked to buy a piece of
livestock and wanted to test its sturdiness.
Leo smacked his hand away, effectively startling the manager. “I need a place to put my stuff,”
he said, jerking his chin toward the duffle bag slung across his chest. Mack recovered and offered out his
hand to take it there for himself. “Someplace no one will get to it,” he clarified, unafraid to sneer at him.
It didn’t pay to be friendly in a place like this.
Mack’s throat worked when Leo dropped into that serious tone and then nodded. “All right. All
right. I’ve got a locker in the backroom. You can put it there.” He handed Leo the tiny padlock key and
gave him his usual thorough directions.
“When’s my fight?” Leo asked, making the key disappear in his fist, so no one would try to pinch
it.
“You’re my first matchup!” Mack announced proudly, his one gold tooth blinking in the club
lights. As if to prove that he wasn’t lying, he took the dry erase board he had been working on at the bar
and showed him. The column of names on one side of the tree didn’t matter to him. The one blank spot
where the winner’s name would be written did.
“Rules?”
Mack began to list out the scant regulations set down for the tournament. The only restriction
appeared to be the usual. No eye gouging and no groin shots. Everything else was permitted until his
opponent tapped out or passed out.
“Kicks and grappling?” Leo asked.
The manager grinned. “All fair game.”
“Payout?”

“Six Gs.”
More than enough. Leo nodded in approval and pulled out his wallet to count out the bills.
“Buy-in’s five hundred.”
He froze in the middle of his count and shot Mack a glare that could peel paint. “You told me it
was four.”
The wanker only shrugged. “Must have misspoke.”
Leo feigned a smile. “Must have.” He stacked what bills were needed to get him into the fight
and held them out for Mack between his two fingers. Before the manager could take them, Leo grabbed
for his shirt collar and pulled him in close. “You better not cross me on this,” he growled in warning. “If I
find out you skimmed my winnings again, I will find you.”
And Mack knew Leo could. He didn’t have connections, but he had his demon who loved a good
fight. The bookie’s hairy brows shot up and he nodded quickly, hands raised as if he had already been
caught in the act.
“We’re clear,” he assured. “But I didn’t cross you that time, you know. It was – “
Leo shoved him against the bar counter, knocking over a few beer bottles in the process as
Mack’s feet were nearly lifted off the floor. He could have easily snapped this weasel’s spine if he
wanted to. Good thing for him, Leo still needed the money.
“I know it was you,” he snarled, getting close enough, so only Mack could hear him. “Be grateful
I’m in a forgiving mood tonight. Otherwise, you’d be in the river by now.”
Before Mack had a chance to open his mouth and dig himself a deeper grave, Leo tucked the
wad of bills in his front shirt pocket. Under the watch of several patrons to the bar, he let Mack nearly
crumble in a heap and strode away to find the locker room.
He regretted nothing. Mack was a snake, no different than any of the other managers and
bookies he had met across the country. They would sooner double-cross someone they thought
wouldn’t notice and take a bigger portion of the payout. Leo wouldn’t be fooled. Not tonight. Not ever
again.
Once more, he had to maneuver his way through the crowd, upsetting plenty and spilling drinks
along the way. The long hallway to the locker room might have been the only empty place in the club.
Can lights lit the path that stretched in a straight line toward the back of the complex, but shadows lined
the walls and spaces between.
Leo gave himself permission to breathe again, but the darkness was close. He could tell in the
subtle drop in temperature and the way the lights flickered and dimmed. It didn’t surprise him that the
demon would show up here. Away from Levi, away from his lighthouse of calm, Leo was vulnerable
again. But this was what the darkness wanted. Pain, fear, blood.
“I almost thought we’d never be here again.”
The voice scratched at the corners of his mind, slinking with him along the corridor. He knew, if
he cared to look, what he would see. Either a floating immaterial orb of black mist, or a form that
appeared much less sinister, like a swindling gambler or underhanded dealer ready to make bargains on
souls. By the more substantial presence in his peripheral vision, he knew it was the latter.
“Don’t get excited,” Leo said. “I’m not staying.”
The demon edged closer in the form of a man wearing a neatly pressed suit and jacket, jet black
hair and coals for eyes gleaming in the fluorescent light. “Oh, come on. You know you miss this.”
Leo scoffed. “Yeah, I totally miss the smell of piss, alcohol, and weed. Such a pleasant smell.”
A disturbing laugh bubbled up from the demon’s throat. “There’s that humor I missed. See,
we’re so much better off here than in that little town in the middle of nowhere.”
He slid a scathing glare to the darkness, but wouldn’t slow or protest. “Here to collect
payment?”
“You’ve had a week off, Leo. Thanks to that little – “

“If you call her anything but a lady, I’ll – “
“What?” he snapped. “Punch me? Strangle me? You forget that you can’t do anything, Leo.
You’re powerless and always will be.”
He didn’t need to be reminded. Whatever the darkness wanted to do, he could do it. Except
when Belle prayed. That was his only saving grace, but there was no way her prayers could reach this
far. Could they?
“Just pay attention during the fight and you’ll get all the payment you need,” Leo directed,
slamming the door in the demon’s face as he walked into the locker room.
It did little good. The darkness rematerialized beside him as he worked the padlock with the key
he had been given.
“I know why you’re doing this,” the demon said, grinning to show his perfectly straight white
teeth. “You’re trying to make your girl happy. It won’t work.”
“Watch me,” he dared.
“I’ll make you throw the fight. Take you out of the first round before you can get anywhere close
to the semi-finals.”
“You won’t do shi-“ Leo stopped himself and bit back the word he wanted to use. “You won’t do
anything. Think of all the lads I’ll beat into the floor tonight. You need that payment. Remember our
deal?”
Leo stripped off his shirt and wadded it up before zipping open his bag to shove it inside. He
then set to taking off his shoes and socks to join his shirt.
“And you remember what I told you? I need more than the typical payment, especially since
your brother is getting closer.”
One thing about demons, he had learned, was that they didn’t have an ounce of loyalty in them,
not even for the man who had tethered them to a victim. Twelve years he had lived with this curse, the
darkness serving as the constant thorn in his side. But he did have one useful thing going for him. He
told Leo when Matthew was catching up.
Leo shot a look to the demon to see if he was lying just to get a bigger blood payment. That was
the agreement they had made months ago. If he did his part and gave the darkness what he wanted, Leo
and Belle would be left alone. Of course, the game changed when Leo decided to pursue her. Now that
they were living together in a hotspot that the darkness didn’t care to be in, the cost of their protection
went up.
“How close?” he asked, hoping for an honest answer.
“Very. And I would rather not be around when he does come. Think of how mad he’ll be when
he finds out I’ve been masking your trail for the sake of an extra fix.”
That was laughable. “You poor wee thing,” he mocked. He crammed his duffle bag in the locker,
thoughtless to how the luggage would damage Mack’s package of cigarettes or the tiny bundle of
cocaine tucked away in the back. Leo hoped he busted the plastic bag.
“Why don’t we stay in Little Rock? It’s such a fun town,” the darkness suggested as Leo began
the methodical process of wrapping his hands in the gauze and athletic tape to protect his knuckles. By
the end of the night, they would be stained red with blood.
“After this is over, I’m going to Fayetteville.”
The demon came around to face Leo. “There’s nothing in Fayetteville worth seeing.”
“And then I’m going back to Levi,” Leo stated impatiently, as if he had been saying it all night in
one way or another. He wouldn’t leave Belle, no matter how much the darkness wanted him to. Like she
said that day when he almost skipped town without telling her, he needed to take control of his life, one
choice at a time. This choice, though made for odd purposes, was what he wanted, and the darkness
would not pressure him into returning to this way of living – if it could even be called that.

“Why not stay a few days?” he said, almost whining like a child who was denied candy and was
one refusal away from throwing a tantrum. “We could use some of the winnings to get a hotel, order
room service, order some girls and – “
Leo shot daggers with his eyes that instantly made the vile mouth shut tight. He would have
threatened to leave Little Rock right then if he thought it would do him any good. The darkness was
smart enough to know that Leo needed this money just as badly as he needed the blood payment.
He finished wrapping his hands and left the locker room just as he heard the music dim for a
minute to allow the presenter to publicize the first match. He didn’t care if the darkness followed or not.
He’d be in the crowd, watching, absorbing the pain and misery of Leo’s opponents. It’d be just like old
times.
Unceremoniously, Leo entered the main hall where the fighting would take place. His bare feet
slapped against the cold concrete floor, wetted by the spilled beer and liquor from earlier that night.
Mack was by his side as if he were a personal sponsor and hyped up the crowd when his name blared
over the intercom. Men roared and cheered while women let out whistles and offers that were lost in
the din.
He was led to the center of the room where one bright light hovered over the space sectioned
off for the tournament.
Spectators leaned on the rope partitions to get a look at Leo as he swaggered forward to meet
his first opponent. As always, his stomach tangled, but then he reminded himself that as long as his
brother’s curse tarnished his soul, there was little man could do to him. He was kept alive to suffer and
cause suffering for others. He’d get hurt, but death wasn’t in his near future. Not yet.
The ropes were closed behind him and he raised his fists, keeping his stance easy and light. The
other man, leaner and an obvious novice, blew air past his protective mouthpiece and hopped about like
an eager boxer.
Don’t waste your energy, he told himself. You’ve got a long night to go.
When the bell sounded, and the crowd shouted for their favorites, the thinner man came
charging forward with a wild hook. Leo dodged and sent an uppercut into his ribs. The guy recoiled and
put a hand to his side, eyes wide like he had never expected to be hit.
Leo shook out his hands and flexed his unpracticed knuckles. His fight with Drake was the last
time he’d ever hit bone that hard. He readied himself again for the next assault, but was disappointed
when the man came at him again with a similar greenhorn move.
He left himself open and Leo took the opportunity. He ducked and wrapped him in a chokehold
from behind. One kick to the back of his leg buckled him to the ground. For a minute or two, they
grappled with one another. Leo saw stars each time a punch connected with his head, but he willed
himself to stay conscious during every reversal. Limbs twisted as they rolled across the concrete,
scraping the skin of their arms and backs along the way.
Each time he thought the guy would tap out, he kept coming at him with more desperate jabs
and kicks. Leo felt a bit of blood trickle from his nose after an elbow slammed into his face. He could
taste its metallic essence on his lips.
He was kicked off and stumbled backward, giving his opponent time to jump to his unsteady
feet. Leo wouldn’t give him the chance. He landed one solid punch to the jaw. He heard the crack, but
didn’t care. The man finally crumbled to the floor and he waited for a hand to smack the pavement.
When it did, Leo spat a bit of the blood from his mouth and looked up. His eyes instantly met
the devilish stare of the darkness in the crowd. The black pits that bore through him told enough. This
tournament wouldn’t be a walk in the park for him like it used to be. The demon would drag this out and
make the poor boys he fought think they had a chance against him.

The darkness wasn’t just in the business of making Leo’s life a living hell. He’d also drag along
any other susceptible soul with him. That was why he needed to protect Belle, the only thing he cared
about anymore.

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