New books for September!

Dodger

Amanda Hash
Genre: YA Gay Romance, M/M
Length: novella
ISBN: 978-1-936751-63-1
Heat Level: 1 (sweet)

First love wasn’t supposed to be this hard…

Sixteen-year-old Dodger was raised to be a thief. He’s always been good at it too, until he’s caught red handed robbing one of the most expensive mansions in the city. The kid who lives there isn’t much older than Dodger, and things get weird when the kid seems more interested in talking than calling the cops. When he tells Dodger not to forget his loot—it’s only money, and his parents have plenty—Dodger’s sure the guy’s playing him. But the cops never do show up…

Dodger’s suspicion of the wealthy Augustine Dante makes it hard to face his growing attraction. Not to mention that Dodger’s “family”—the band of thieves who took him in as a child—would freak if they caught him hanging with the “enemy.” Dodger knows he can’t keep Augustine a secret forever. The time will come when he’ll have to make a choice: follow his family, or follow his heart?

Excerpt

Once out of that bedroom, he wondered what he should do. Search another room? How long had it been? Sheila had warned each of them to get what they could, then get out as fast as possible. Would the others be outside right now waiting for him?

He had no idea of the protocol regarding house robberies. He moved stealthily toward the stairs. He didn’t encounter any of his friends. Maybe it was time to leave.

None of the others were downstairs. He went back to the big kitchen, but Rob was gone. Worse, the door was shut and bolted. From the inside.

Someone in the house was awake.

Whoever was awake would probably hear him. Shit, whoever had done this had probably already called the police. What should he do? Go around the front? That seemed like the best option.

When he turned, he saw a guy in the kitchen doorway.

Dodger almost dropped his bag. He reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around his knife.

The guy surveyed him with interest. “You’re a little young to be robbing a house, aren’t you?” he asked. “Maybe it’s me, but I always associated breaking and entering with middle-aged drug addicts at the end of their rope.”

Dodger didn’t say anything. He had spent his life on the streets, but he had never actually been in a fight. This guy was taller than he was, and built. Then again, he didn’t have a weapon. Not one that Dodger could see anyway.

“You’re not more than fourteen, I’ll bet.”

“I’m sixteen,” Dodger said and wrapped his fist more tightly around the knife.

“Sixteen,” the guy repeated as if he were contemplating the number. “Sixteen. I actually think you’re lying.”

“I’m not!” Dodger growled. What the hell was this guy doing? Trying to keep him there until the police arrived, probably.

“Right,” the guy said with a wry smile. “But you look way too scrawny to be just a year younger than me.” He walked toward Dodger. For a second Dodger thought the guy had a weapon, but he didn’t. He just walked to the door and slid back the deadbolt.

Dodger stared at him. “What are you doing?”

“Letting you out.”

“You’re letting me go? Don’t you want to have me arrested?” He set the bag down on the floor, not believing this stroke of luck.

“Take it,” the man said. “It’s just money, right? We have plenty of it.”

“You’re just going to let me rob you?”

He smiled again. “Haven’t you ever heard the saying, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth?”

“Yes, but—”

“Are you honestly arguing with getting a free pass?”

Dodger didn’t move. “I want to know what the catch is. Have you called the police?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“There’s no catch. Go ahead. Freedom.”

Dodger took one last glance at the stranger and then grabbed the bag and ran.

The car had gone. Dodger felt a moment of panic until he noticed it pulling around the curve. It stopped for him.

“Get in,” Sheila yelled. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I got held up.” He tossed his bag onto the floor and slid in next to Jane.

“No one woke up, did they?” Pam asked slightly panicked.

He briefly considered telling them what happened but it felt too absurd and…like a violation of some unspoken trust between himself and the stranger. An I-won’t-tell-if-you-won’t-tell sort of deal.

He had never lied to his family before.

Luckily Rob saved him. “Of course no one did. You don’t hear any sirens, do you?”

“Just ’cause you don’t hear the police, doesn’t mean they weren’t called,” Pamela told him.

The conversation devolved into an argument over the success of their robbery. They had all found useful items, though Rob hadn’t stolen much beyond food. Not that food was a bad thing.

Once they were back home, Dodger fished the class ring he’d stolen out of his bag before depositing the rest in Sheila’s room. He wondered if it had belonged to the guy who had let him go…

Available now at all major ebook retailers.

A Spark in the Darkness

Peter Giglio
Genre:Horror
Length: novella
ISBN: 978-1-936751-65-5

On the final day of her second life, Edie returns to the family she abandoned five years earlier. Edie is not merely a vampire, she’s a Goddess…one of the vanishing race of beings the vampires need to keep their kind alive. But being dead has taught her much about life, and Edie’s determined to destroy the evil thing she’s become. For something has changed within her, something almost alive in her dead soul. But can a single spark in the darkness be enough to save all she holds dear?

Excerpt

They stopped in front of an eighteen-wheel monstrosity. RANDY’S TRUCKING, Ravenswood, West Virginia was stenciled in bloodred letters across the clean, white cab.

“Your chariot awaits, milady,” he said.

“You’re a truck driver?” Shit-faced drunk even by her own quasi-alcoholic sensibilities, she couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice. He didn’t look like any trucker she’d ever met. Not that she had anything against truck drivers. Hell, if it weren’t for the lonely working men and women of the road, she never would have made it this far.

This far? she asked herself, grimacing at her own deluded sense of reality.

“Why else would I hang out at a dump like this?” Randy said. He opened the door, and threw Edie’s suitcase into the back of the cab-over. Wrapping strong arms around her waist, he helped her into the passenger seat. “Besides, Brandi,” he said sternly, “I’m hauling freight bound for Toledo and Cleveland—Omaha’s right on the way.”

Edie admired her surroundings: black leather seats, a red cab liner, and video screens mounted above both ends of the windshield. The opulence of the cab spoke to Randy’s impeccable taste, making it easy to shake off his increasingly uneven demeanor, swinging wildly between gentleness and prickishness.

She marveled at the dark tint of the windows, barely able to see the dusk-lit prairie through them. The pleasant scent of sandalwood and cinnamon tickled her nose as she ran her fingers across the plush liner, the finest velvet she’d ever touched.

“Best digs you’ve seen in a while, huh?” he said, climbing into his seat.

Mouth agape, she nodded.

“If a man’s gotta do this work then he might as well do it in comfort.”

The engine roared. Lights dimmed. Video screens came alive with pulsing, blue-hued shapes.

Lovely, she thought.

Then the hectoring twang of country music sliced through the calm.

“Eww.” Her smile turned into a frown. “Seriously, Randy, what’s with the fucking hoedown?”

Bathed in azure light, he returned her glare, images from the monitors dancing like hell-bent angels in his eyes. “Come on now, Edie,” he growled. “I know they have country music in Los Angeles.”

A rapid series of mechanized clicks pinged through the cab.

“How did you…?”

Suddenly cold, she pressed herself against the door, desperately seeking the latch with her right hand. Trembling, she gasped, unable to breathe, unable to form words. She found the latch, frantically tugged on it. No use. It was locked.

She pressed her face against tinted glass, looking for someone—anyone—and managed a thin scream that ricocheted around her.

Above the din of her own distress, she heard a hollow cracking sound. Dead tree branches? No. Bones. Wild animals invaded her mind’s eye, pulverizing dry limbs with sharp-toothed jaws.

She whirled on Randy, ready to fight. But what she saw froze her blood. Randy’s cheekbones grew large and sharp. His eyes—silver orbs—widened, chin burgeoning downward. Hair receded. Tanned flesh quickened to pallid gray.

She screamed again, this time louder, but knew it was futile. The resonance of her voice told her the space was soundproofed.

His mouth grew impossibly wide. Rows of silver, razor-sharp fangs sprang like switch knives from behind his teeth.

Reflexively, she swung at his face.

He caught her arm in a tight grip, and then twisted it. Admiring the inside of her wrist, his eyes ran along the veins as if he were an archeologist studying a rare fossil. His long, pale tongue waggled like a puppy’s tail.

Her heart hammered a fierce tattoo against her chest. Nerves thrummed violently between each beat. Bile burnt a trail up her throat, and she pushed back on it. But the force of fear won. She bowed her head, gin-rich vomit cascading into her lap.

He sniffed her arm.

“What are you?” she gasped.

In response, Randy bit down on her wrist. Blade-like teeth sank into flesh and muscle with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Then, fangs planted, he shook his head. A fierce, almost mechanical, sucking hummed from his mouth.

Intense pain. Millions of jagged needles stabbed every nerve. Throwing her head back, Edie screamed and cried in spastic intervals. Soon, reduced to a writhing mass of agony and fear, gravity faded. She drifted. Tendrils of psyche shattering brutality, ravenous slurping, and steel guitar, united into a singular hum, prosaic and painless. Terror still burned at her core. But numbness ripped through every fiber of her being, extinguishing the human condition.

Growing cold, Edie thought about her daughter for the first time in months.

“Gail…”

The name fell from her lips like a dying dream, eyes rolling into the back of her head.

Then, without so much as a gasp, Edie fell into an empty, timeless sea of despair and nothingness.

Available now at all major ebook retailers.

The Destroyer

Viking Warriors: Book 4
Author: Jianne Carlo
Genre: Erotic Romance, Historical
Length: novella
ISBN: 978-1-936751-64-8
Heat Level: 4
Warnings: This book contains sexual content that may be offensive to some readers.

To Viking warrior Magnus, marriage is naught but a contract, a bargain between men for land and title. Lust, love—he scorns such notions as weak and unmanly. But three days before he’s to wed a highland princess, he falls into the maelstrom of a maid’s startled eyes. Their passionate tryst has him rethinking his notions, and he struggles to find a way to keep the beguiling Deidra while honoring the marriage contract he’s arranged with the father of his betrothed.

Deidra cannot take a walk in the forest without finding a wounded dove. Devoted to her menagerie of injured bears, peacocks, and wolves, she vows to disobey her Da when he betroths her to the Norse warrior known as the Destroyer. Until, disguised as a maid, she’s rescued from a would-be rapist by the Destroyer himself. How can any call him ugly or cruel? For he treats her as if she is made of spun glass, and teaches her the magikal pleasures of the flesh.

But Magnus is furious when he learns the woman he’s fallen so deeply for is none other than his betrothed. For there’s nothing he despises more than a deceitful female…except, perhaps, two of them…

Excerpt

The space at the table betwixt Magnus and The Falcon intended for Magnus’s betrothed yawned its emptiness. The hour grew late, the warriors restless, the brothers irate, and Magnus’s temper at the insult of his betrothed’s tardiness tripped higher and higher.

Jarvik remained as jovial as ever and Magnus felt sore tempted to douse him with a bucket of melted snow. He drained his horn of ale and wiped the foam from his mouth. “You are not alone in your impatience. Methinks The Falcon is sore annoyed at his daughter’s lateness.”

Indeed from the chieftain’s frequent squinting at the chamber’s archway and the drumming of his ringed fingers on the table, The Falcon’s infuriation spiked with each passing moment.

“At long last.” The highland chieftain rose and Magnus followed his glance. His jaw dropped.

“She is a beauty.” Jarvik’s remark carried and the lass gliding through the packed room lifted her chin, met his gaze, and smiled.

Magnus had not expected a golden goddess, a nymph with waving daffodil locks reaching mid-thigh that framed a slender but curved torso. The top of her head would ne’er even graze him midarm. She moved as if her feet bore wings, and the curious men thronging the hall went silent and stared.

The men nearest her collapsed onto a bench gawking. One wizened man wiped his grimy cheeks with a stained tunic. Another drained his goblet and reached for another.

“‘Tis a fairy.”

“Aye.”

Whispers and murmurs of agreement rustled and echoed.

Valan the Viper dismounted the dais and captured the female’s hand.

“My lord, my compliments on the improvements in the hall. ’Tis a pleasant miracle. I shall be happy to break bread with the assembled company this eve.”

Valan’s bronzed complexion reddened. “‘Tis glad I am you are pleased, lady.”

The damsel glanced pointedly at their joined hands and Valan promptly released his hold. “I am cert you would greet your father and the high table.”

“Aye, my lord.”

Magnus and Jarvik exchanged glances. “‘Twould seem your betrothed has cast a spell over Valan.”

“Aye.” Magnus studied Valan as he returned to his seat. The warrior stumbled because while he moved one way, his gaze stayed fixed on the woman.

“Good eve, Father.” She sank into a flawless curtsey, spine and carriage one a queen could not better. “Brothers.”

“Where is your sister?” The Falcon fair hissed the question.

“Fiona has taken to her bed, Da.”

The lass lifted on tiptoe, cupped a hand, and whispered in her father’s ear. The man’s complexion ripened to that of a roasted beet.

Magnus braced for an explosion.

“My sister, Fiona, begs you excuse her this eve.” The sprite strolled to stand beneath Jarvik. “She will join us to break the fast on the morrow. I am Deidra, your betrothed.”

Jarvik flushed scarlet. He sputtered.

Magnus levered to his feet. “I am your betrothed, Lady Deidra. You address my brother, Jarvik.”

She turned to face him. Aghast couldn’t begin to describe the expression on the haughty beauty’s face. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened. She scooted back, bumped into a table, and listed. She grabbed the wood with both hands and swayed.

The roses in her cheeks faded, and when the whites of her eyes showed, Magnus swore and jumped over the table. He caught her before she crumpled to the floor.

He didn’t know what to do with the limp female in his arms and glanced briefly at her features. Some faint memory niggled his mind and he returned his gaze to her delicate features. For ’twas a cert familiarity he could not identify to her nose and lips.

Available now at all major ebook retailers.

The Vendetta

Kecia Adams
Genre:Romantic Suspense
Length: novel
ISBN: 978-1-936751-66-2
Heat Level: 3
Warnings: None

A missing painting, a family legacy, a blood oath of vengeance…

Italian businessman Nick Carnavale has spent his life seeking revenge for his father’s murder. So when an old woman—with an agenda of her own and access to a rare painting—contacts him with a proposal, he jumps at the chance to launch his plans for vengeance, no matter the cost.

Ski-town barista Lisa Schumacher meets sexy NIck when she serves him espresso in the small art gallery-café where she works. Intrigued by her unusual customer, and ignorant of Nick’s connection with her grandmother, Lisa shares dinner and a heart-stopping kiss with him.

Spurred by temptation and an unexpected invitation, Lisa takes up Nick’s challenge to follow him to Rome and reunite with her one remaining family member. But when Lisa’s grandmother unexpectedly dies, and her will dictates a marriage-of-convenience to Nick, Lisa must weigh her family’s legacy against her dreams for her future. And as Nick draws ever closer to his revenge, they both must decide if love is stronger than the blood oath of vengeance—la vendetta.

Excerpt

Lisa Schumacher placed the customer’s order—large caramel latte, no whip, soymilk with five, count them, five shots of decaf espresso—on the counter of the coffee bar. She called out the drink, and a harried-looking woman in a thousand-dollar ski jacket claimed the sleeve-wrapped paper cup and whirled out the door with barely a nod in Lisa’s direction.

Lisa shook her head as she wiped down the counter with her bar rag. How did a person rationalize five shots of decaf paired with soymilk and caramel? That wasn’t coffee—that was an exercise in self-delusion.

The low level of beans in the coffee grinder caught her attention, and she squatted down to dig out another bag of the espresso roast. As she poured hand-roasted coffee into the big machine, she looked around the café. Comfortable chairs vied with little round tables for space in the long, narrow store. Local art, all for sale, decorated the walls, forming an impromptu gallery and adding dashes of color to the somber coffeehouse hues of dark gold, green, and brown.

Her late-afternoon clientele was a combination of après-skiers and between-meal snackers. The store’s patrons currently included an older man dressed for skiing (cappuccino, extra froth), a mom and her two kids (black coffee-of-the-day and two hot chocolates, extra marshmallows), and an elderly woman in a full-length mink (now there was a surprise—mint chocolate mocha with a double shot). People could learn a lot about each other just from the type of coffee drink they ordered.

One thing was certain—at this hour no one came in for the art.

The bell on the entrance jangled, and she cast a quick glance at the door. A dark-haired man in a cream fisherman’s sweater, jeans, and boots stepped into the gallery. Well, hello, gorgeous. Here was a shot of espresso, unless she missed her guess.

“Welcome to Art and Bean. What can I get for you?”

The man stepped toward her, and without saying anything, tipped his head back to read the menu above Lisa’s head. The strong, tanned column of his throat drew her eyes.

A flush bloomed in her cheeks, and she bit her lip. Get a grip, Lisa.

He met her gaze, holding up his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. “Espresso? A small one?”

She held back a grin to ask, “Single or double?”

He smiled, and her heart skipped a beat.

“Single, definitely.”

She turned to the big Cimbali espresso maker that took up almost the whole wall behind the counter. “Paper or china?”

His hesitation surprised her, and she glanced back over her shoulder. At his scowl of confusion she held up a little ceramic cup and raised an eyebrow.

Comprehension dawned on his face. “China. Please,” he said.

His voice had dropped from smooth to growly, and Lisa guessed his subsequent deep study of the artwork on the gallery walls was a cover for his embarrassment.

While she waited for the espresso machine to heat up, she cast a couple more looks in his direction. Her grandmother would have called him troppo bello—too beautiful—with his longer-than-civilized haircut, lean body, and gray eyes framed by dark lashes. Beautiful or no, dark parts of her had throbbed to life in his presence.

Her cheeks heated again and she frowned. Down, girl. Just because she’d been going through a little dry spell this month—OK this year—didn’t mean she had a right to drool on the customers. But, jeez, this guy really did it for her. When she got past the sheer, sexy impact of the man, he seemed oddly familiar. Probably famous. Telluride usually crawled with celebrities during the ski season.

Or maybe it was his accent, which put her in mind of her mother.

Shrugging off that thought, she dispensed the dark, thick espresso. She stretched up to retrieve a saucer from a small bin overhead but couldn’t quite reach it. A low drawer filled in as a step stool.

“You have so many choices here.”

An electric jolt shot through her at his voice, and she bobbled the saucer but luckily didn’t drop it. Her penny-pinching boss would have charged her retail to replace it.

She looked at Gorgeous Foreigner over her shoulder. “Yes. We pride ourselves on choices. Where are you from?”

“Italy.”

Startled, Lisa yanked her heel out of the drawer and bashed her knee on the lip of the counter.

She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Are you all right?” The smooth, velvety voice raised goose bumps on Lisa’s skin.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Come on, Lisa, get it together, for God’s sake.

She opened her eyes. The Italian stared at her with a concerned look on his face.

“Yep. I’m fine.” Lisa cleared her throat. “Sorry, no one ever asks for ceramic. Americans usually want it to go.”

As the Italian opened his luscious mouth to reply, Kimmi, Lisa’s fellow barista, breezed in from the back room.

“Hey, Lisa. I just talked to Ty. He said you need to put the coffee order in tonight instead of tomorrow. Some kind of…” Kimmi’s eyes darted between Lisa and the interesting customer. “…vendor thing.”

Without looking at Kimmi, Lisa slid the Italian his coffee. “Here you go. Single espresso. China cup.”

“What do I owe you?”

Lisa smiled. “On the house. Italian special. Welcome to Telluride.”

He grinned back and saluted with his cup. She couldn’t help peeking at the stranger’s very fine rear view as he walked over and positioned himself on a barstool near the window to peruse the Wall Street Journal and, apparently, sip at leisure.

“I didn’t realize…” Kimmi whispered to Lisa, leaning in close, “I mean, that’s Nick Carnavale.”

A tingle of awareness brushed the back of her neck. Unsettled, Lisa raised an eyebrow. “Who is Nick Carnavale?”

Kimmi kept her voice low. “Oh, come on, Lis’. As if you don’t know. I read in Vogue yesterday that Nick Carnavale, native of Rome, Italy, just bought some old painting for, like, a zillion dollars.”

The tingle became a more persistent prickle that swept down her arms. Lisa put a hand to her nape. Oh. That Nick Carnavale. The one who’d bought the Titian for a cool $22 million. Lisa had read about it too.

“Kimmi,” Lisa said, her voice also pitched low, “you’re going to have to get used to the fact that we cater to the Nick Carnavales of the world. It’s our business to sell them expensive coffee and even more expensive art. Discreetly.”

“Oh, I know.” Kimmi took out a tray and began piling on clean napkins and sugar packets. “Movie stars and so on don’t faze me. But this guy, my God, he must be worth billions. And he’s kind of a mystery man, you know.” She looked up to toss a grin at Lisa. “Besides, if we’re selling expensive coffee, why’d you just give it away for free?”

Available now at all major ebook retailers.

The Bird with the Broken Wing

DL Richardson
Genre:Young Adult Fantasy
Length: novel
ISBN: 978-1-936751-67-9

Angels may not reveal themselves to mortals…

But when the mortal Rachael’s watching over is hurting, how can she stay hidden in the shadows?

Guardian angel Rachael becomes trapped with the mortal she’s been assigned to watch over. Unable to watch him suffer, she decides the only way to free him of his inner demons is to break the rules about becoming involved, revealing her true identity, and applying divine intervention. But what choice does she have? Without her help, his soul will be trapped forever. Then a stranger appears, giving Rachael reason to wonder if his is the only soul in need of saving…

Excerpt

The DANGER sign was normally enough to keep Jet away. Not tonight.

She peered into roiling seas below, seeing only moonlight dancing on the waves trapped in the Warriewood blowhole. She’d never been so close before. Usually she watched the crashing waves from the safety of the road, fifty feet above, where cautionary signage warned the unwary of slippery rocks and certain death.

She stood with her back against the cliff, bare feet gripping the slick ledge while sweaty hands clung to the rope tied there by thrill seekers or, perhaps, potential suicides. When the waves flicked up and turned, diving toward the rocks, they cracked as loud as gunfire, but she didn’t flinch or loosen her grip. Instead, she closed her eyes and waited, like a lover bracing for a kiss.

A wave shot up, slapping cold, wet fingers against her cheek.

“I guess I deserved that.” She swiped at the salt water stinging her cheeks, laughing until she remembered her mission. What was funny about contemplating her final dive?

Waves came in sets of seven, building up in strength each time. She wiped the salty water from her eyes and returned to staring into the blowhole. What if the next set carried the wave strong enough to take her? Would she sink into the abyss below and disappear into a world where breathing underwater was necessary? God, she hoped so. And not because she wanted to be a mermaid.

Not that she’d ever get to be anything whether actress, singer, or flight attendant. All her dreams were shattered, thanks to Lucas.

Gazing up to a sky filled with pinpricks of twinkling light, she whispered, “Star light, star bright, tell me what to do.”

Sometimes the little voice in her head gave her advice, but not this time. Or maybe the pearls of wisdom were silenced by the frantic beating of her heart, banging against her eardrums.

The sea offered no resolution, but continued to dance, aloof and beautiful under an audience of stars. All that was necessary for her to join the dance was to let go of the worn rope. Maybe fate would creep in with the tide and make the decision for her. Maybe the slow scrape of rock against rope would part the aging strands. But the rope was strong. It wouldn’t break. The decision was hers and hers alone

She might’ve let go, and falling might or might not have made her happy, but she never got the chance to find out. Up above, a car door slammed and a cackle of voices broke the solitude.

Available now at all major ebook retailers.

Fixed

Tristram La Roche

Genre: M/M Romance, M/M
Length: novella
ISBN: 978-1-936751-68-6

A spin of the wheel can change everything…

Mike had it all. A business in the south of France, money, and a handsome boyfriend. But when the world’s economies nose-dived, he lost the lot—including Kurt. With nothing left, he finds himself back home in the north of England, living in a broken-down rented flat, alone.

When the boiler breaks down, the repairman turns out to be an old acquaintance—one who was never Mike’s social equal. Now Pete’s the one with money and security, his own thriving company and a collection of classic cars. Pete’s joie de vivre is impossible to resist, but how can Mike face being a kept man?

Excerpt

The boiler man arrived at eleven. He seemed somehow familiar to Mike, a face he was sure he’d seen before but couldn’t imagine where. His name was Pete, and Mike assumed they were both about the same age, but Pete was shorter and fitter than Mike. He also had a full head of chestnut hair with no gray. Maybe he had no worries.

Mike left Pete to work his magic on the boiler while he set about cleaning and unpacking. At least he had electricity, and with any luck, tonight the place would be more like…be more comfortable. He might even get up to the pub, which he now knew was called The Plough, and have his first British pint in years.

The thought of beer dried Mike’s tongue and he went to make some tea. Pete was bent over with his head deep in the boiler. His firm ass stuck out into the kitchen and Mike scooted around it, sneaking a look out of the corner of his eye.

“Will you have a cuppa?” asked Mike, switching on the kettle.

“Thanks, I’d be glad of one.” Pete withdrew his head from the boiler and stood up. His expression foretold bad news.

“Oh, problem?”

“You need a new pump. I can fix most things, but this is well and truly done for.”

“So, how long will it be? I have no hot water, you see. There’s no back-up immersion heater.”

Pete shook his head and looked at the nameplate on the top of the boiler. “I carry parts for most models in the van, but this is old.”

Mike threw his hands in the air. “Don’t tell me it’s obsolete.”

“Oh no, not at all. But it might take a couple of days to get my hands on parts for it.”

Mike felt like he’d fallen through the floor. “A couple of days? Aw, shit. What am I supposed to do?”

“Hey, I’m sorry and all that, but it’s not my fault, you know.”

Mike sighed and raised a palm. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m just pissed off with that agency. They should have had this checked before I got here.” He passed a mug of tea to Pete.

“You’re a gentleman.” Pete slurped at the tea and stared at Mike. His brown hair fell forwards to cover his forehead.

“I’m sorry, do you need sugar?”

“It’s fine, thanks. Couldn’t be better. I gave up sugar in tea years ago.” Pete slurped again without taking his eyes off Mike. “It’s just that I have this idea I know you from somewhere.”

“Really? I can’t imagine where. I’ve been abroad for years.” Mike shifted from one foot to the other.

Pete’s eyes widened. “Mason. Mr. Mason the agency said.”

Mike nodded. “And?”

“That’s it!” Pete’s face broke into a wide smile. “Michael Mason. It is, isn’t it? Michael Mason.”

Mike almost spilled his tea, but now as he looked more closely at Pete he began to understand that earlier glimmer of recognition. The blue eyes were the same. And if the hair were longer… “Peter Bickerdyke? Peter?”

Available now at all major ebook retailers.

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