Cover Reveal: Solo Mission by Ava Sterling

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! As a way to kick things off today, I wanted to share an upcoming release from the one Ava Sterling! Check out below and get excited! I don’t have information for the release date yet but as soon as I do, I will come back and update you both on when you can get it and where you can pick it up! Enjoy!


There’s only one way to handle an agent who looks that good.

The evening was supposed to be simple: hold an event, have the media over, celebrate a charity, and have a few martinis in the process. These days, that’s as exciting as things get for Pearla, and she prefers it that way.

Years ago, she gave up being an operative for the agency and hasn’t looked back. She created a company using her savings and life has been treating her well. Well enough to start giving back to the community. But on the night she hosts a party for all her colleagues, her past comes back to haunt her. When she enters her office after taking a break from the crowd, she comes face-to-face with a female agent in a rather tight dress.

Minutes later, it’s a fight for Pearla’s business, her livelihood, and her reputation. They are the only things on her mind . . . that is until a new desire overtakes her, one that will suddenly take precedence over everything else.

Pearla might not be getting back to the party for a long time.

If you enjoy steamy stories about lesbian women, tight dresses, spies, and fight scenes, then you’ll love Solo Mission.


Blog Tour: Owen by Kate Darlington

Holiday Sale!! $0.99 this week only!
Title: Owen
Author: Kate Darlington (a collaboration between Alora Kate and Sarah Darlington)
Genre: New Adult Romance


When a beautiful, naked woman grabs you, presses her soft lips to yours, and strips off all her clothes … you don’t think, you act.
I had no idea my brother came early with his girlfriend to our family’s cabin.
I had no idea she wasn’t just another girl I’d picked up at the bar.
I’d been drinking.
These were all excuses. And by a stroke of luck, no one caught us together, and Joslyn didn’t seem to notice the difference between me and my twin. So maybe all is right with the world. Maybe I can pretend nothing happen and move past this.
Except…I like this girl.
$0.99 Holiday Sale!


About the Authors:
Kate Darlington is the writing duo composed of Alora Kate and Sarah Darlington. For four years now, they’ve supported each other as friends and critique partners in their separate writing careers. This past September, they teamed up, and released their debut novel as Kate Darlington. 

Book Release: Royally Yours by Emma Chase

New York Times bestselling author Emma Chase returns with a sweet and sexy standalone in the Royally Series.

Princess Lenora Celeste Beatrice Arabella Pembrook had an unusual childhood. She was raised to be a Queen—the first Queen of Wessco.
It’s a big deal.
When she’s crowned at just nineteen, the beautiful young monarch is prepared to rule. She’s charming, clever, confident and cunning.
What she isn’t…is married.
It’s her advising council’s first priority. It’s what Parliament is demanding, and what her people want.
Lenora has no desire to tie herself to a man—particularly one who only wants her for her crown. But compromises must be made and royals must do their duty.
Even Queens. Especially them.
Years ago, Edward Langdon Richard Dorian Rourke, walked away from his title and country. Now he’s an adventurer—climbing mountains, exploring jungles, going wherever he wants, when he wants—until family devotion brings him home.
And a sacred promise keeps him there.
To Edward, the haughty, guarded little Queen is intriguing, infuriating…and utterly captivating. Wanting her just might drive him mad—or become his greatest adventure.
Within the cold, stone walls of the royal palace—mistrust threatens, wills clash, and an undeniable, passionate love will change the future of the monarchy forever.
Every dynasty has a beginning. Every legend starts with a story.
This is theirs.
ROYALLY YOURS will be available on October 30th
→Google Play:
→Amazon Paperback:
→Kindle LIVE alert:
→Add to Goodreads:

Special thanks to:
Photographer: Rafael Catala
Cover Model: Fabian Castro
Cover Designer – By Hang Le (she’s so awesome!)

**The Royally Yours paperback includes the bonus short story, Royally Yours, for the first time in print!**

Book Promotion: BEAST by L Grubb

~* ON SALE *~

BEAST by L. Grubb is on #SALE now for just #99c #99p!!
Grab your copy today!
I’m a man no one fucks with. 
I’m a man all the bitches want. 

I’m also the world champion of MMA…Mafia

I don’t get my name from winning, I get my name
for my size. I am a BEAST, I’m also the one your father’s warn you little girls


Beast has had his life set for him for an early
age, he was pushed into training to fight the world’s best. His father had his
eyes on the dollar signs while he forced his son into the brutal world of MMA.
He was trained hard, and he became the best. But the bosses have changed the
rules and the rules are about to fuck him over. He will bring hell down onto
the MMA circuit and he will become top man. But will he gain the power he
deserves? Or is everything he’s worked so hard for been for nothing? 

Carlotta is a fierce woman whose life hasn’t
been quite straight cut. But she leads her path in the right direction, sort
of. When the opportunity arises to make extra money to fund her passion, she
takes it. 

She trains. She fights. She wins. 

Meeting Beast was an unpleasant experience, and
her dislike for his egocentric and arrogant behaviour rubs her the wrong way,
but her curiosity is piqued and she can’t remove him from her mind. Will their
one night of passion lead to anything? Or will being in the MMA lifestyle tear
them apart before they get started? 

Who will win the ultimate battle of hatred and
anger? Will they fight for their passion or will it come crumbling down around
them with severe consequences?


Blog Tour: Embers of Fire by Ally Shields

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A chilling prophecy. A child in danger.


the defeat of the vampire elders, Guardian fire witch Arianna Calin and vampire

prince Andreas De Luca are considering moving to his estates in Italy to raise

their daughter in its idyllic setting. As if being descended from two powerful

witch bloodlines wasn’t challenging enough, Rayne was born with a mysterious

star tattoo on her shoulder. Her parents suspect she is the Chosen, the focus

of the Star of Esielen prophecy. But that’s something to worry about in the

distant future. Isn’t it? After all, their child may be precocious, but she is

only five.


the murders begin. The stench of demonic activity hangs over Olde Town, and a

symbol carved in blood indicates Rayne may be the next victim. Suspicion points

in several directions: a rival vampire prince, a mysterious stranger, and a

werehyena leader attempting to break the bank at Andreas’s new casino.

<br />

Abandoning plans for a quiet life, Ari and Andreas hunt

for the killers. While Rayne may someday have to face her destiny alone, it’s

up to them to make sure she’s ready…and to keep her alive.


A crisp breeze caught

the last of the early morning fog and swirled it over the gravestones. The Olde

Town cemetery slowly emerged from the mist, its silent memorial to the dead

marred by an unusual amount of activity. A uniformed Riverdale cop completed a

final loop of bright yellow tape around several stone vaults and two small

crabapple trees. CS techs snapped photos and set out evidence markers as they

processed the crime scene.

With a hot Styrofoam

coffee cup in each hand, Arianna Calin bumped her jeans-clad hip against the

iron entrance gate, knocking it open, and slipped inside, her footsteps

crunching the brittle September leaves. When an eerie chill nudged her senses,

she swept the scene with a sharp glance.

Nothing she hadn’t

expected. Not yet. Nothing bad enough to trigger her witch alarms. But then, it

was a graveyard. The remnants of so many dead souls could mask a great deal.

She ducked under a high

section of the bright tape and focused on the blond man in jeans and a dark

gray sweatshirt crouched beside a still form. “ME’s not here yet?” she asked.

Lt. Ryan Foster, her

partner from the all-human Riverdale Police Department, looked up and stood,

his blue eyes lighting on the cups in her hands. “On his way. One of those for


A smile touched her

lips, and she handed him one, withholding further comment until he’d taken his

first jolt of caffeine. “Dispatch said it was a stabbing. Human female victim.

Is the suspect one of mine?” As a supernatural cop and guardian for Riverdale’s

Olde Town district, Ari wouldn’t be notified of an RDPD case unless the

Otherworld was involved. Usually that meant vampires or werewolves—the

predominant species in town—had run amok


“I’m not sure….” Ryan

rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Sorry to drag you out so early on a hunch, but

I have a weird feeling about this one.”

Ari nearly choked on

her coffee. “Oh, no you don’t. That’s my line. There’s only room for one of us

with spidey senses in this partnership.”

“Cop instincts,” he

corrected. His early-morning face was grumpy, displaying his constant annoyance

with things he didn’t understand. “It works for us mere mortals.”

“OK. Show me. What have

you got?” She stepped around him, the humor slipping from her lips at first

sight of the victim.

“Judge for yourself if

something doesn’t feel off.”

Vivid red blood stood

in stark contrast to the middle-aged woman’s light lemon sweater. Not a typical

stabbing…her throat had been slashed, leaving a spray pattern of arterial blood

on the fading grass around her and a glistening trail down the sides of a

gaping wound. It had soaked her neckline.

Ari’s nostrils flared,

taking in the sharp, metallic scent and seeking something more, whatever had

triggered Ryan’s reaction. All kidding aside, working with him for eight years

meant she trusted his gut feelings almost as much as her magic.


Ally Shields grew up in the Midwest along the Mississippi River, still considers herself “a river rat,” and currently resides near Des Moines. After a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time fiction writing in 2009. Her first urban fantasy, Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch #1) was published in 2012, and she currently has thirteen published novels. She loves to travel in the US and abroad and incorporates many of those settings into her books. Ms. Shields enjoys chatting with readers through her website/social media and can frequently be found on Twitter.

Author Links



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Cover Reveal: Destroying the Soul by L. Grubb & Abigail Davies

•**•.New Cover Reveal •**•.

#Destroyed #LGrubb #AbigailDavies #Dark #Romance
Title: Destroying the Soul
Series: Destroyed Series #2
Authors: L. Grubb & Abigail Davies
Cover Designer: Clarissa Wild
I’m a man with a troubled past. Growing up with a drug addict for a
mother and trying to be both mom and dad for my little brother was hard, but I
was determined for him to make something of himself, to help get him in the
best college out there and get him away from the hellhole we call home; even if
it took everything in me.

The plan was to make my business legit and make
some real money so I could make sure he had everything he needed. 

I was on a one track mission, bounding ahead with
tunnel vision.

That was until her. 
Until I saw her sweet face behind the counter of
the coffee shop and suddenly, I had another focus.

She had an aura of sadness about her that drew me
in. Her softly spoken words made me wish I could listen to her all day long. I
made it my mission to make her smile whenever I got the chance to see her. The
invisible thread that connected us started getting smaller and smaller as time
went on, bringing us closer than I’d ever been to anyone before.

At least, I thought we were close. I had no idea
that she was suffering at the hands of a monster. A monster who did everything
he could to keep me from her. He ripped me away from her when she needed me the
most and I was powerless to fight against the law, even if I didn’t break it.

My life was turned upside down and the worst of it
was leaving her without getting to tell her how I really felt. I never once
forgot about our connection and when I finally got out of prison and went to
check on my Ivy League brother, I never expected to see her there. 

I knew it would be hard to explain why I just up
and left without a word, but I never thought it would be near impossible to
even talk to her, to explain that I didn’t even have a choice in leaving. 

Then he turns up, the monster that haunts her memories.
I won’t let him keep me away from her again and I certainly won’t let him hurt

I’ll do anything to protect her. Torture, maim,
kill. And I’ll do it all without a second thought or conscience.

Other Books in the Series:
Destroying the
About the Authors:
L. Grubb:

Lucii is your typical British
girl, hates the sun and hibernates when summer arrives! She lives at home with
her 3 year old daughter, where they spend the day watching Frozen and playing
She started off as a regular
person, job, home life, health issues and a love of reading. After reading the
Fifty shade phenomenon, she went onto social media to seek other authors
writing the same or similar genres. She entered a world she didn’t know existed
and went on to open a successful blog.
Inspiring dreams took a back
burner while she learned the book community and met a bunch of amazing authors
and readers alike.
A year later she decided to
start writing, hoping against hope that her friends and fellow readers will
like what she brings to the table.
Author Links:
Amazon Author
Newsletter sign up:
Abigail Davies:

New Adult and Contemporary romance author Abigail Davies grew up with a
passion for words, story telling and anything pink. Dreaming up characters and
talking to them out loud is a daily occurrence for Abigail. She finds it
fascinating how a whole world can be built with words alone, and how everyone
reads a story differently. Now following her dreams of writing, Abigail has set
out on the crazy journey of being an author. When she’s not writing, she’s a
mother to two daughters, who she encourages to use their imagination, as she believes
that it’s a magical thing. Abigail loves to get lost in a good book and is
rarely far away from her kindle.
Author Links:
Amazon Author

Spotlight: Scorched Souls by Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef

Scorched Souls in the Spotlight

Welcome to The Scorched Souls Tour! Welcome to another exciting Spotlight Tour with Novel Publicity. Today, I’m sharing the spotlight for Scorched Souls, the final story in the Chosen Trilogy by Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef. Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win some great prizes including an Amazon Gift Card, a Paperback of Scorched Souls and a dream catcher!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is an Exclusive Excerpt

I lean back in my chair; he’s dumped a bucket of ice water on my head, and the chill settles into my bones. “So the Chosen were set up to fail. You’ve planted a bomb on the planet to explode when the Deltites take over.”
He nods, a smug self-congratulatory grin on his face. “A Heart Stone to be precise. It was the only logical action to take.”
Bile burns my throat. “But billions of humans live on the planet…. They will all die. They have souls.”
Still, my father’s logic is undeniable.

“Another complication has developed.” Two different human faces materialize above us and hover in front of the image of Earth. “The woman’s name is Summer Stone. She’s what humans call Native American, and is the mother to the Alpha among the Chosen. The man is not from her tribe. He’s what they call Irish.”
“So?” Why does he care?
“The calculations behind the Chosen were extremely advanced and fragile.” A third face
joins that of the others. “The Alpha’s name is Juliet Wildfire Stone. She was supposed to be born from a union between two members of the same Native American tribe. That genetic combination was the only way humans could produce a Chosen strong enough to be an Alpha and draw power from the other three. The secret order had specific rules regarding this, yet they failed to heed them. Fools! I can’t predict what the outcome will be of this particular pairing.”
I study the faces and notice that Juliet has inherited much of her physical appearance from her mother: the long straight black hair, the caramel colored eyes, brown skin and high cheekbones—all but her sharp nose, which resembles her father’s.
Her eyes seem to sparkle, but I shake my head. These are only holographic images. I can’t read too much into them or let my imagination cloud my reason. “I don’t understand the problem. Either she is powerful enough to be the Alpha, or she isn’t. Since you want them to fail, why do you care?”

My father bores his gaze into me, and an icy blade carves into my chest and twists. “There is a third possibility.”
My body turns weak. I’m lucky I’m already sitting. It’s unthinkable, but it’s the only thing that might frighten my father. “You’re afraid she’s an… abomination.”
“I can’t rule it out. Even if she is, she won’t be strong enough defeat an Elite, but we can’t take any chances. I want you to go to Earth. Make sure the Chosen fail and never find out about our plans. They can’t tell the Deltites about the Heart Stone I’ve planted on the planet. If they retrieve that crystal, all would be lost, and they could use its power against us.”
“Me.” I point to my chest. “Why me? Why not send someone else, someone who has already proven—”
“I trust no one else with this! You will succeed and return to Alpha, and when you return you will take the final test. This way we have an excuse for your… reluctance to finish the final exam.”

Two small discs fly into his hand, and he hands one to me. “This one is programmed with my brainwaves. You will use it when you have succeeded. I will keep the second here, so I can contact you… if need be.”
I sense the implied threat in his words and bow my head. “Yes, father. As you command.”
If pure evil exists in this universe, it’s sitting next to me, and I am this monster’s son. What does that make me?
I glance at the hologram of Earth above me. It’s a beautiful planet.
He’s sentenced billions of humans to die, but can I carry out the punishment?

About the Book

Fate and destiny clash in the explosive, heart-pounding conclusion to the award-winning Chosen series.
Survival is not enough.
Alliances will be formed.
Loyalties tested.
A choice made.
My name is Juliet Wildfire Stone and I’m not just a Chosen, I’m the Alpha… and the fate of Earth rests in my hands.
When I finally met the Prime Elector, he wasn’t anything like I expected. He was supposed to be our mortal enemy, a monster I needed to destroy to fulfill my destiny, yet he was nothing like that—he’s young, brilliant, and looks like an angel.
Caught in the middle of a conflict between two ancient foes, which threatens to rip Earth apart, I must do what is right at all costs. To choose my fate, and Earth’s future, I will need to navigate a new path, form unlikely alliances, and solve ancient mysteries forgotten for centuries.
Yet I cannot do it alone. Will the other Chosen follow me? Do I have the strength to make the right choice, or will the people of Earth be enslaved for all time?

About the Authors

Jeff Altabef is an award-winning author who lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of “telling stories,” he thought he would make it official. He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres.
Jeff is very happy and proud that his co-author for the Chosen Series is his teenaged daughter, Erynn Altabef. Wind Catcher, the first in the Chosen Series, has won the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Coming of Age Novels, the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best YA Fiction and a Mom’s Choice Award.
As an avid Knicks fan, Jeff is prone to long periods of melancholy during hoops season. Jeff has a column on The Examiner focused on writing and a blog designed to encourage writing by those who like telling stories.

Connect with Jeff on his website,
Facebook, Twitter, <a href="

Erynn Altabef is an avid reader, dancer, and community activist. Some of her favorite authors are Veronica Roth, Joelle Charbonneau, and her dad! (That would be Jeff Altabef.) She just started her freshman year at Connecticut College is proud to be a camel!!!

Connect with Erynn on Facebook.

Release Blitz: Flying Free by Abigail Davies

Title: Flying Free
Author: Abigail Davies
Photog: Eric Battershell
Model: Garrick Murdie
Release Date: October 3, 2016

Buy Link: ( #FREE on #KU )
One… Two… Three…

I’m a prisoner in my own mind.

Four… Five… Six… 

The painful memories hold me captive.

Seven… Eight… Nine…

He turned me into this, leaving my body riddled with scars.

Ten… Eleven… Twelve…

I don’t want to be this person anymore.

Thirteen… Fourteen… Fifteen…

I want to be free.

Sixteen… Seventeen… Eighteen…

But I’m afraid that I’ll never be.

Nineteen… Twenty…. Twenty-One…

I’ll ever be good enough.

Twenty-Two… Twenty-Three… Twenty-Four…

Never be normal.

Twenty-Five… Twenty-Six… Twenty-Seven…

There’s only one good memory scattered with all the painful ones.

Twenty-Eight… Twenty-Nine… Thirty…

My savior… My hero… Corey. 

New Adult and Contemporary romance author
Abigail Davies grew up with a passion for words, story telling and anything
pink. Dreaming up characters and talking to them out loud is a daily occurrence
for Abigail. She finds it fascinating how a whole world can be built with words
alone, and how everyone reads a story differently. Now following her dreams of
writing, Abigail has set out on the crazy journey of being an author. When
she’s not writing, she’s a mother to two daughters, who she encourages to use
their imagination, as she believes that it’s a magical thing. Abigail loves to
get lost in a good book and is rarely far away from her kindle.

Author Links: 

Cover Reveal: Flying Free by Abigail Davies

Title: Flying Free
Author: Abigail Davies
Series: Spin off for MAC Security
Cover Model: Garrick Murdie
Photographer: Eric Battershell
Release Date: October 3rd, 2016
Two… Three…
I’m a prisoner in my own mind.
Five… Six…
The painful memories hold me captive.
Eight… Nine…
He turned me into this, leaving my body riddled with scars.
Eleven… Twelve…
I don’t want to be this person anymore.
Fourteen… Fifteen…
I want to be free.
Seventeen… Eighteen…
But I’m afraid that I’ll never be.
Twenty…. Twenty-One…
I’ll ever be good enough.
Twenty-Three… Twenty-Four…
Never be normal.
Twenty-Six… Twenty-Seven…
There’s only one good memory scattered with all the painful ones.
Twenty-Nine… Thirty…
My savior… My hero… Corey.
Author Bio:
New Adult and Contemporary romance author Abigail Davies grew up with a
passion for words, story telling and anything pink. Dreaming up characters and
talking to them out loud is a daily occurrence for Abigail. She finds it
fascinating how a whole world can be built with words alone, and how everyone
reads a story differently. Now following her dreams of writing, Abigail has set
out on the crazy journey of being an author. When she’s not writing, she’s a
mother to two daughters, who she encourages to use their imagination, as she
believes that it’s a magical thing. Abigail loves to get lost in a good book
and is rarely far away from her kindle.

Cover Reveal: Meddling with Murder by Ellie Campbell

Meddling With Murder by Ellie Campbell
Pages: 350
Series: Crouch End Confidential
Publisher: Across the Pond
Release Date: 9th April 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery


Crouch End Confidential, the agency started by
housewife, Cathy O’Farrell, with ex-cleaner Pimple, is failing badly. Hardly
surprising when their only clients are little old ladies seeking lost pets.
Until the strange case of the missing dog…

Soon Cathy’s multiple problems include stolen bikes, a
possible murder weapon, the sabotage of her friends’ new shop, drug-dealing
yobbos targeting her children’s primary school and being forced to pose as the world’s
most inept maths tutor. Worse, best friend Rosa hires her to investigate fiancé
Alec and – horrors – Cathy’s husband Declan is intent on moving himself, Cathy
and kids to the safer climes of rural Norfolk. Suddenly Cathy is endangering
her marriage, friendships and her life to untangle these messes. But
that’s what you get for meddling with murder…

 Add-To-Goodreads: Meddling With Murder by Ellie Campbell



Chapter 1

What the fudge?
The branch creaks alarmingly as I test
my weight against it. For a second I think it might snap but then my foot slips
and we part company anyway. Bark scrapes another layer off my grazed skin and
to my horror I find myself tipping backwards, falling, falling…
Far beneath me my daughter Sophie gives
an unwitting squeal, Henrietta’s twins shriek in unison and I hear son Josh
call out ‘Mummeeee!’ when as much by luck as design my left arm catches a
forked limb long enough for me to grasp it and come to a bone-jolting,
shoulder-wrenching stop. Sweat drips down my body, my knees shake
uncontrollably and something’s poking between my ribs like a sharpened spear,
causing an actual hole through clothes into flesh.
Dangling, I somehow hook one leg round
the main trunk and cling there like my life depends on it. Which, for the
record, it does.
‘Hang on, Mum!’ Sophie yells for perhaps
the fifteenth time. She’d wanted to climb up here but I’d told her it was too
dangerous. When will I listen to my own advice?
I stop panting long enough to call down.
‘I’m OK, sweetheart. Perfectly safe.’ How long since I last clambered up a
tree? Me, an overweight, unfit middle-aged, mother-of-two in not so skinny jeans.
And what did I promise my family – that I’d avoid potentially risky situations?
That any cases I took on would absolutely not involve capturing murderers or
exposing criminals? Not that our patch of North London known as Crouch End is
inundated with killings, just that I’ve somehow succeeded in entangling myself
with two in the last eighteen months. And now the simplest of mundane jobs has
turned an everyday school drop-off into what could possibly be my final
A terrified glance below shows Sophie
clutching on to her younger brother’s arm, their long-standing feud forgotten
as they contemplate their mother’s plight. Lauren, Henrietta’s eldest by two
seconds, is hopping from foot to foot, pale with anxiety while her sister’s
nervously studying her watch. I wonder what’s upsetting them most – the thought
of Aunty Cathy’s untimely demise or being late for class. Yet again.
Three feet above me, inches from reach,
a tortoiseshell cat stares down with baleful yellow eyes. I hold out a coaxing
hand. ‘Here, Fluffy. C’mon, kitty. Pishhh whishh.’
Disregarding me entirely, he licks his
paw before stalking further out, balancing on a twig, with the arrogant grace
of a tightrope walker. Oh how I wish I’d ignored him when I saw that
distinctive white-tipped tail swagger across the zebra crossing. But I’d spent
weeks scouring backyards, crawling on hands and knees, peeking under parked
cars, over hedges, listening to sweet old Mrs Thompson choke back sobs as I
admitted failure.
I’m gathering my courage and strength to
scale higher when my mobile rings. I wedge my bum into a crevice between branch
and tree, tighten my hold and, with a few contortions worthy of the great
Houdini, extract my phone from my pocket to peer at the screen.
Caller’s number withheld. Should I
answer it?
Am I in any position to answer it?
Could be urgent.
‘Hello?’ I venture.
‘Is this…?’ A woman. Middle-aged at a
guess, posh sounding. She drops to a muted whisper so low I have to crane to
hear. ‘The HP…um…WS…um…thingy?’
Several months back I’d been donated
this money, you see, ten thousand pounds, which was kind of hot, but gone cold.
Semi-illegal – not to be returned. Brilliant timing as my husband, Declan, had
recently re-evaluated what he wanted from life: Rhode Island Reds and a less pressurised
career, I’d been suspended from work and my house cleaner, Pimple, was tired of
domestic duties. I was thinking maybe it’s time I should do some soul-searching. So we, as in Pimple and myself,
decided to start up a business.
‘That’s right,’ I say briskly, with
enough softness to encourage conversation. ‘The H.P.W.W.O.C.S. Helping People
Who Would Otherwise Commit Suicide. Or even H.P.W.M.O.C.S. – People Who Might
Otherwise…but we’re called Crouch End Confidential now.’ Impromptu market
research among friends had ended up with tongue-tied repetitions and lots of
‘You whats?’
We’d originally substituted the would for might, because after all, how can one predict who’ll kill
themselves? Some people threaten it with no intention of going through with it
and others, not a word and then boom – lives are devastated. Then there’s those
who talk about it all the time and no one gives a hoot because they’re labelled
attention-seekers and before you can say boom again – they carry out what
they’d always said they’d carry out.
‘But you are that organisation? The ones
who help with, uh difficult problems, like er…’
‘Lost pets?’ I finish for her, looking
up again at Fluffy. ‘Yes, we do a fair amount of those.’ Far more than
intended. ‘What kind do you have?’
‘Well, I-I…’ She seems at a loss.
A strange wailing fills the morning air.
At first I think it’s the cat, but it’s clearly a siren, volume increasing as
it draws closer. Exceptionally loud now. Anyone would think it—
‘Is that the police?’ There’s a fearful
edge to the woman’s voice. Or perhaps she’s merely anxious to be heard over the
I glimpse through the branches, hearing
cotton rip as I lean forward. A huge red vehicle’s speeding this way, lights
‘Fire engine,’ I report back. ‘Can’t see
smoke but it must be nearby. They’re slowing down. They’re—’
Stopping right beside the kids…
What the blazes?
Sophie’s small face gazes up at me,
expression distraught in the strobe lighting, finger pointing in my direction.
‘PERHAPS I’D…’ I find I’m screaming into
the phone as the siren abruptly cuts out. I turn away from the cluster of
grinning helmeted and booted firemen assembling at the foot of the tree as
someone cranks up the ladder. Fluffy takes one look, turns tail and bolts down
the other side. I modulate my voice to more professional tones. Perhaps I’d
better ring you back I’m about to suggest politely, but too late. She’s gone.
‘Calling Cathy O’Farrell. Hello? Can you read me?’
‘Yes, I’m here.’ I swiftly hide the nail
polish, climb into my swivel chair and wire myself up to the Skype headset.
‘Where exactly, lovey?’ Pimple’s
bespectacled eyes scan the computer screen. They travel left and right, until
they finally focus on where I’m now perched facing the webcam, sporting a big
beaming smile. ‘Found you. Hang on a jiffy.’
She ducks down, sits back seconds later
clutching a wide-toothed comb and starts tugging vigorously at her tight curls,
turning them into a helmet of grey frizz.
‘That’s better.’ She drops out of sight
again, emerging with pencil in hand. ‘Now update on yesterday?’ She licks the
lead tip.
My business partner, former cleaning
lady and long-time friend. I both love and hate her enthusiasm for news. Love
that she’s still interested in our work even though she’s travelling the globe
on that luxurious cruise ship. Hate that I’ve nothing of interest to convey and
am very likely letting her down, business-wise.
‘Shouldn’t you be in bed?’ I say, having
lost track of the various time zones she’s travelled through.
‘Gosh, no. It’s only just gone
midnight,’ she says cheerfully. ‘I’ve a card game booked in an hour and then
I’m off to the casino. Thought we might have a catch-up in between.’
‘OK,’ I say, reluctantly clicking onto
my spreadsheet. ‘You remember that petrol station cashier with the lost
‘Sure do. How’s that going?’
‘Good. We fitted him with a tracking
collar. Discovered he not only had two homes but three. All the owners met for
coffee. Arranged a feeding rota. She was very grateful.’
‘How grateful?’
I scroll through the columns – last on
the right – Income. ‘Oh Pimple, I just couldn’t ask her to cough up.’ I drop my
head in shame and twist the headphone wire round and round my finger until it
turns bright pink at the tip. ‘She was skint, stony broke. Only got the cashier’s
job recently. Five kids to feed as well as the cat and still claiming benefits.
And that’s what the fund’s about isn’t it, helping those in trouble?’
‘But Cathy, we’re meant to be running a
viable concern here,’ she says. ‘Fair do’s, we agreed to support a few charity
cases, but we need paying ourselves at some stage.’
‘I know.’ I’m totally feeble at fee
chasing. ‘Oh but I did find Fluffy this morning. Owned by Mrs Thompson.’
‘Pensioner. Harringay Ladder.’
‘That’s right.’ I’m always amazed by her
memory for detail.
‘Marvellous. We got paid for that then,
I groan. ‘I was going to charge her, I
swear. But then she pulled out this ancient threadbare purse—’
‘Phooey!’ she scoffs. ‘Oldest trick in
the book, that one. Bringing out the ancient threadbare purse. You’ll need to
wise up, Cath. Those houses on the Ladder are worth a bomb. What else?’ Her
pencil’s poised above her pad.
I run through our list of jobs, which
takes precisely three minutes as apart from our two ex-clients, there’s only
the newsagent who contacted me yesterday to ask if we’d investigate who’d been
stealing his papers and a schoolkid called Ben who’d rung Monday to say his new
mountain bike had been nicked and the police weren’t doing anything about it.
I’d asked him to wait a few days and if
no joy to call back.
‘That’s it?’ She wrinkles her brow.
‘For now.’
‘Looks like I’ll need a new mop when I
get home, after all.’ She lets out a sigh that sounds like a steamship in heavy
Worse thing is she probably will.
Money’s haemorrhaging faster than I can spell the word. We had to invest in the
computer because mine was horrendously slow. Then there was the cost of
stationery, surveillance equipment, etc. – all the paraphernalia needed in
setting up. At least office space is free. We’re based in Pimple’s Edwardian
semi-detached home, couple of miles down the road from Crouch End. Seemed daft
forking out when she had a spare room – perfect to shove two desks in. It’s
where I am now.
‘Oh I’m sure that won’t—’ I stop.
Because there’s a ploppy sound and she disappears into the ether, like Endora
from Bewitched.
I wait a few seconds, see if she’ll
reconnect, but nothing. No need to call back. We’ve both said what we had to.
The phone, the one all prospective clients are meant to call, is staring at me
I pick it up. Check it’s still working.
Could be a fault and hundreds of sad souls have been trying to connect. Crying
out for help.
I listen a second. Strong, healthy brrr.
By the time I turn into our drive around five
thirty, I’m bushed. Rest of the afternoon had been spent clearing up the
newsagent’s problem. I’d arrived at his shop, introduced myself, politely
listened to his plans for an elaborate stake-out and then suggested we first
have a good delve around the shop floor, back room and the flat above. Bingo.
Turned out, his elderly widowed mum was nicking the papers and hiding them
under her bed. Early signs of dementia at a guess but at least that’s that one
solved. For us anyway. Frankly it was too bloody efficient. Less than an hour’s
work but the poor guy’s got a long hard journey ahead. How could I possibly
charge him?
On the other hand, I scold my
ineffectual self, I need to toughen up. Do I really want to start again on a
I hang up my jacket by the porch and
trudge through to the kitchen.
Declan’s standing over a saucepan which
is bubbling away on the six-ringed range cooker which dominates our good-sized,
somewhat country-style, kitchen. A heavenly tomato-ey aroma permeates the air.
Everything’s worked out great for him. He’s ridiculously happy with his new
postman’s job. Has to leave home at five a.m., but he’s always been an early
riser so never minds. Gets bags of exercise on his assigned pushbike, and he
finishes mid-afternoon, in time for the school run. Never mind that it pays
half what he earned before. It’s the quality of life that counts, right?
Plus, best part, I have dinner waiting
for me every weekday evening. All those years of wedded bliss with me muddling
along, running out of recipes and not really being faffed and now he’s
completely taken charge of the cooking. Wondrous.
I put my nose in the air and sniff.
‘Mmm. Smells delicious. You do know I’m out later?’
Once Weekly girls’ night. How could I forget?’ He turns to peck my cheek.
‘Thought I’d make a big stew anyhow. We can eat some over the next few days and
freeze the rest. Much more economical. Talking of which…’ He opens the fridge,
pulls out a used cardboard carton and lifts the lid with a cheesy grin. Five brown
eggs, still with a few feathers attached, smaller than shop-bought but hey.
‘Ta-dah. Even Pocahontas delivered. Fresh, free range, and best of all free.’
He always says this and I always tut and
do an exaggerated who-gives-a-monkey’s shrug. Not that I’m averse to owning
chickens. Can be rather relaxing squatting outside their coop, watching them
scratch the earth and vie for pecking order. And Josh and Sophie wake
themselves up early each morning to see which hen’s laid what, which is a heck
of a lot better than me screeching at them to get out of bed. Plus free
anything’s great with my almost non-existent wages, but I don’t like admitting
it, because he bought them without consulting me – his wife. Then again, at
that time, he was acting weird and buying other things without consulting me
too. Like our super-expensive oven, which we’re still paying off. Male
menopause, my insurance broker reckoned. But we’re over that. Back on an even
keel. Perhaps not financially but definitely hormonally speaking.
‘Where’s the kids?’ I slump onto a chair
and watch him stirring, tasting, stirring again.
‘Upstairs. Sophie’s watching TV. Josh is
on the Xbox, where else. He’s done his spelling homework, though he needs help
with reading later.’
‘OK, I’ll cover that.’
I watch him as he adds a spoonful of
paprika, dash of Worcestershire sauce then a variety of fresh and dried herbs.
He’s tall, few inches over six foot, gingery-brown hair, blue eyes. Irish born
and bred, although you’d never believe it from his London accent. His body’s
still good for his forty-three years. Actually, tell a lie, his body’s
fabulous, but that’s only because he gets to spend afternoons in the gym while
I’m slogging away in my office.
We’ve been married a little over eleven
years. Not saying there’s been no ups and downs in that time, but the ups far
exceed the downs. My friends all consider him Mr Wonderful and sometimes I do
too, even though I maybe don’t say it often enough.
‘So how was the gossip at the school gates this
afternoon?’ I ask.
Just after eight and I’m sitting back at
the kitchen table, now set for one sole diner, after doing the
bath-bed-book-lights-out routine. Declan’s preparing a salad and I’m enjoying a
quick cuppa before heading off.
‘Drugs,’ he says, dicing a carrot.
‘Who’s on drugs?’
‘Feral youths supposedly.’
‘So what’s new?’
‘That.’ He nods at a letter on the
sideboard behind him.
I pick it up and begin silently reading.
Dear parent…
‘Says there,’ he starts chopping up tiny
cherry tomatoes into even tinier quarters, ‘two teenagers were spotted hanging
around Princes Road Primary. Offered a pupil some substance. Guess which one?’
I can’t imagine. Love my kids’ school
but they’re famous for blowing the slightest unsettling ripple into a tsunami
of alarm.
‘No, stop. Let me think.’ I hold my hand
up and screw my forehead in concentration. ‘Heroin? Ketamine? Miu Miu?’
‘Meow meow, you mean. Miu Miu’s an
Italian designer, but I wasn’t meaning which drug, I was meaning pupil.’
‘No idea.’
‘Pip Henfield.’
‘Sheryl’s Pip?’
‘Yep, and William was with him.’ He
tosses the tomatoes into a bowl, adding a drizzle of olive oil.
That confirms it. ‘My oh my. Knowing
that family, I’ll bet it was something hideously toxic – like a Diet Coke. Or a
powdered doughnut.’ I’m not too familiar with Pip, but I’ve seen him around,
being the elder brother of Josh’s ex best friend, William. Once inseparable
they’ve recently gone their separate ways, or rather Josh dumped William for
another classmate. Slightly mortifying because I often bump into William’s mum
at morning drop-off. Truth be told, though, if someone’s heart had to break
over an early bromance, then I’d rather it wasn’t my kid’s.
‘School’s taking it seriously. Pip ran
back in and told his teacher.’
‘Of course they are.’ I scan greedily
through the rest of the letter but the details are amazingly vague. ‘They’ve
got to, don’t they, to protect themselves. Besides Sheryl’s running the PSA.
And the way that woman overreacts, it ought to be the drama club. Remember when
she saw Custard lick William’s mouth and went into hysterics about intestinal
worms, giardia and rabies injections? And then when I’d finally calmed her down
and convinced her the poor dog had barely made contact and not to call an
ambulance, William piped up, “It’s OK, Mummy. He does it every time.” I’m sure
Sheryl was gloating like a goat.’
‘Too right she was.’ He fetches a
cucumber from the fridge and slices it into paper thin layers. ‘Holding court
when I arrived. Gaggle of parents hanging on her every word.’
I tap the letter in my hand. ‘Says here
that we should keep vigilant. Talk to our kids.’
‘And so we must. They’re guarding the
gates at pick-up time. The teachers rushed out but the “yobbos”, as Sheryl
called them, had disappeared by then and there was nothing on CCTV.’ He digs
his fingers into an iceberg lettuce and expertly tears it apart. ‘Becoming
worse round here for sure. Honestly, I feel sorry for Josh and Sophie. Probably
have better survival chances with a pack of ravenous wolves than inner cities
today. Drugs at primary school, vandalism everywhere, fourteen-year-old
pregnancies. And that’s without random crazies, potential terrorism and the
local crime…’
Is it my imagination or does a cold wind
suddenly whistle through the kitchen?
‘They love it here. And they’re a darn
sight better adjusted than William and Pip, with their allergen-free,
sugar-free, gluten-free cotton wool existence.’
‘You might be right.’ He opens a bottle
and pours himself a rare glass of wine. I mean rare for him, that is, rather
than vintage. For an Irishman his alcohol intake is shockingly moderate. ‘So
how was your day?’ He eyes me shrewdly. ‘Any more enquiries? Prospective
‘One, but the caller got cut off.’ I
feel obliged to sound a bit more positive. ‘Terrible line but she was definitely
interested. Sounded right up our alley.’
‘Uneventful otherwise?’
‘Pretty much. Managed to close a couple
of cases.’ Hopefully he’ll assume that means money in the bank.
‘Good for you. Hang on a second, what’s
that?’ He leans towards me and begins tugging at my hair, emerging with a tiny
twig between his fingers.
‘Thanks.’ I take it from him. ‘Very
blowy outside today. Oh what’s that?’ I pick up a magazine lying on the Welsh
dresser and leaf through pages of bucolic landscapes, slightly uneasy at the way
he’s watching me – kind of sideways, mouth quirking.
‘Got dropped through the letterbox.’ He
brings the saucepan over to the table and ladles a portion onto his plate.
‘Advertising houseboats. Miles cheaper than conventional houses.’
I put the magazine down. ‘No wonder.
Who’d want to live on a leaky old barge with no room to swing a cat?’
‘Speaking of cats,’ he’s still wearing
that weird expression, ‘not seen any lurking around lately, have we?’
‘Well, there’s doubtless loads lurking
around.’ I stand up so I can avoid his eyes, grab a dessert spoon from the
drawer and dip it into the bubbling mixture. ‘They say you’re never more than
six feet from one in London.’
‘Isn’t that rats?’ He laughs.
‘Rats too.’ I blow fast at my spoon,
like a silent flautist. ‘Stands to reason, where’s there’s rats there’ll be
cats. Supplement their Whiskas.’
‘Only…that was the other thing parents
were chattering about. Fire brigade had to rescue a mum who’d chased some cat
up a tree. All on YouTube. Children arrived at class forty-five minutes late.’
‘Talking about being late…’ I leap up,
pointing at the oven clock. ‘Holy Christ, is it really quarter past? Meant to
be meeting the girls at eight thirty. I’ll never
be ready in time.’


Meet the Author:

Ellie Campbell is a pseudonym
for sisters, Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, who write together from their
respective homes in Surrey, England (Pam) and Colorado, USA (Lorraine). After
years of selling short stories independently, they began their Ellie Campbell collaboration
with a first novel, How To Survive Your Sisters, followed by When Good Friends
Go Bad, Looking For La La, To Catch A Creeper and Million Dollar Question. They
write contemporary women’s fiction laced with humour, romance, and mystery.
Meddling With Murder is their 6th novel and follows Looking For La La and To
Catch A Creeper in the funny, cozy ‘Crouch End Confidential’ mystery series.



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