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The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II by Leonard Pitts Jr.

The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Could you find the courage to do what’s right in a world on fire?

 

Pulitzer-winning journalist and bestselling novelist Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s new historical page-turner is a great American tale of race and war, following three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States.

 

“The Last Thing You Surrender” is the intertwining story of two families from the Jim Crow South – one black and poor, the other wealthy and white – through the carnage of World War II, an ordeal that will threaten their faith and challenge everything they know about race hatred and love.

 

An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese . . . a young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war . . . a black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion.


Set against a backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation. What does it take to change someone’s mind about race? What does it take for a country and a people to move forward, transformed?

 

Nora Jean M. Goodreads 5-Star Customer Review for The Last Thing You Surrender 
This is a POWERFUL read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is an avid reader. The language is beautiful although the story is haunting. The character development is very real, and it makes the reader hurt even more for these people who become important to the readers’ lives. This is an area of history that we do not learn in school, and the author has provided an imitate portrait of this time. Read this book!

 

Reader Review from Grayson Hugh
5.0 out of 5 stars | A New Classic

The best novels not only entertain us with good characters, an interesting story and skillful prose; they show us something about what it means to be a human being. Tolstoy, Joyce , Faulkner, Hemmingway, Updike, Morrison, Baldwin, Wright, Momaday, to name just a few, have created timeless works that are timeless stories of the human experience. With “The Last Thing You Surrender”, by Leonard Pitts, Jr., we have a new classic.

It is fitting that it is a story about race, as it would seem the brains and souls of men and women, especially in America, need to continue to evolve. But this book, The Last Thing You Surrender, is more, much more, than a dry treatise on that subject. It is a love story, a human story, a story of war and peace, it is a story about the love, pain, the joys and sorrows that pass between a parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, sister and brother.

It is the story of what is learned and lost between forces of good and evil. It is eloquent, heartbreaking and beautiful. It is a new classic. Read it, America; read it, world. And learn some more about that most tremendous gift of all that the Creator gave us: the ability to see things through another’s eyes, to care deeply about someone other than one’s self, in short, to love.

 

 

Reader Review from Sheila Boyce
5.0 out of 5 stars | Powerful, compelling and important story

Since first reading Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s columns in the Miami Herald almost 18 years ago, I have found that if Pitts has something to say, I want to read it. . . in fact, I need to read it. He can put complex, often difficult, ideas into beautiful words that show the reader his point of view, educating and helping the reader gain empathy and understanding.

I ordered Pitt’s latest book, #TheLastThingYouSurrender, as soon as it was released – and it was everything I expected and more. It is a deeply researched work of historical fiction, with a compelling story that is hard to put down. I tried to keep from racing through the book, as I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters who became friends, and who showed me the world through their eyes – which is why we read!

Yes, there are parts that are very difficult to read, but part of the power of this book is to show us, to remind us of the brutality of parts of our history that get glossed over as some of us extol the “good old days.”

I highly recommend this book, and hope Mr. Pitts will write a sequel to show us how they carry their inspiration and motivation into battles to come.

 

 

Editorial Review: The Last Thing You Surrender
Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, turns again to America’s fraught history of race relations in this unflinching, gritty WWII saga. It centers on a trio of finely drawn characters, two black and one white, all from Alabama, whose worlds collide because of Pearl Harbor.

Marine Private George Simon—wealthy, religious, white—survives the sinking of his ship because Eric Gordy, a black messman, rescues him. Eric dies, and while George recuperates, he pays a condolence call on Eric’s widow, Thelma. Thelma and her brother, Luther Hayes, a bitter alcoholic, are living with the memory of their parents’ lynching 20 years earlier.

George and Thelma begin a correspondence after he returns to active duty; she takes a job in a shipyard. Luther, deciding this is a white man’s war, tries to evade the draft but ends up serving with a tank battalion in Europe. George endures horrific conditions in the Pacific as Thelma faces growing racial hostility at work, culminating in a brutal moment of violence that compels her to make a difficult decision.

While remaining true to his characters, Pitts brings the story lines to realistic conclusions even as he holds out hope for the future, resulting in a polished, affecting novel. —Janelle Walden Agyeman, Agent Marie Brown Assoc.

 

 


Chapter Excerpt: The Last Thing You Surrender

Luther stood on top of the tank. He felt his mouth fall open. He felt his mind fumble for language. But there were no words.

It was a camp of some sort, barracks arranged in neat rows. And hobbling, shuffling, tottering toward them from every direction came an assemblage of stick men in filthy black-and-white striped prison suits. Maybe some of them were women, too. It was hard to tell. The creatures seemed sexless.

Dazed, Luther dismounted the tank. His mouth was still open.

The creatures swarmed the colored tankers. It was difficult to believe they were even human. Their eyes were like those of small, frightened animals, peering out from the caverns their eye sockets had become. Their mouths were drawn tight against their bony jaws. You could look at them and see where tibia met patella, count their ribs by sight. They were little more than skeletons wearing rags of flesh.

And their eyes gleamed with a madness of joy, an insanity of deliverance at the sight of the colored tankers. They shook clasped hands toward Heaven, they smiled terrible, toothless smiles, they looked up at the Negro soldiers like penitents gazing upon the very throne of God. A woman—at least he thought it was a woman—took Luther’s hand and lifted it to her cheek. Her grip was like air. She held his skin to hers, which was papery and thin, almost translucent. Her face contorted into an expression of raw, utter sorrow, and she made groaning sounds that did not seem quite human. It took Luther a moment to realize that she was crying because her eyes remained dry, no water glistened on her cheeks. She had no tears left in her.

And Luther, who had never touched a white woman before, who had never so much as brushed against one in a crowd, who had avoided even that incidental contact with a kind of bone-deep terror accessible only to a Negro man in the Deep South who grew up knowing all too well what messing with a white woman could get you, could only stand there, stricken and dumbfounded, as this woman pressed his hand to her cheek. He was a man who had seen his parents tortured and burned to death before his very eyes at his own front door by white people. It had never occurred to him that their capacity for bestial cruelty was not limited to the woes they inflicted upon Negroes.

But here was the proof, this poor thing whose gender he had to guess, this creature whose age might have been 16, might have been 60, holding his hand in her airy grip, crying without tears.

Luther looked around. The place reeked of death and shit, a stink of putrefaction that surely profaned the very nostrils of God. Naked and emaciated bodies lay stacked in piles exactly like cordwood, only their gaping mouths and sightless eyes attesting to the fact that once they had been human and alive. Flies droned above it all in great black clouds, a few of them occasionally descending to walk in the mouths and eyes of the dead.

At length, the crying woman got hold of herself. Luther gently took back his hand. She gave him a shy, weak smile, touched her feathery hand to his shoulder—some sort of thank-you, he supposed—and wandered slowly away. Luther watched her go, still dazed, still failed by language. And he still struggled to understand. It had never occurred to him, not even in his angriest, most bitter imaginings, that something like this was possible.

How could white people do this to white people?

How could anybody do this to anybody?

( Continued… )

© 2019 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Leonard Pitts Jr. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.

Purchase The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Last-Thing-You-Surrender-Novel/dp/1572842458

Barnes&Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-last-thing-you-surrender-leonard-pitts-jr/1128941167

Publisher:
https://www.agatepublishing.com/titles/the-last-thing-you-surrender

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38225249-the-last-thing-you-surrender

 

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Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

 

A clash between Cherokee Indians and their former African slaves comes to a head in the tribal town of Feather Falls.

 

On the same day Sput Louie McClendon is evicted by reviled town tycoon Goliah Lynch, her husband mysteriously vanishes. Has he fallen prey to bushwhackers or timber thieves? Or is Lynch behind his disappearance?

Alone and desperate, Sput Louie turns to town elder Two Bird for help, but with racial tension between the two factions, are his intentions pure?

As Sput Louie’s frantic search for her husband intensifies, she stumbles onto a dark twisted family secret – one that could not only have devastating implications for her, but the entire town of Feather Falls.

 

 

Reviews for Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

“Seeds of Deception has characters you’ll love, a plot that pulls you in and twists you’ll never see coming.”
— Pamela Samuels Young, author of Anybody’s Daughter anf Abuse of Discretion, NAACP Image Award winner

 

“Hypnotic prose, vivid characters. I was blown away. A masterful first novel.”
— Dwayne Alexander Smith, author of Forty Acres, NAACP Image Award Winner

 

“I wish I could go back and meet all her characters again. Haven’t stopped thinking about them yet. Easily one of my favorite reads this year.” — Lisa Bobbit, reviewer, ReadInColour.com

 

“Ms. Walker’s writing is uninhibited and honest.”
— C. Knight, Book-a-licious Book Club

 


 

 

EXCERPT: Seeds of Deception by Arlene L. Walker

Goliah T. Lynch, known as Old Crow behind his back, was a man of considerable coin. He was arguably the most powerful mixed-blood in Feather Falls, being half-white and half-Cherokee. He was also the man who had owned both Sput’s and Benjamin’s families during slavery.

Sput wanted to spit bile. She knew Benjamin did as well.

That her two older sons were not around gave Sput some small solace.

“Here come the boys.” Benjamin jutted his chin towards the prairie to the left of Goliah Lynch.

She followed his nod. Sure enough, there was Hunter Big, her oldest, trailed by Archie, her middle son. They both knew of her and Benjamin’s loathing for Goliah. They’d cut their teeth on it.

Hunter Big was a bison of a man. He swung a rope-tied red fox from his left hand and carried a bow in his right.

Just like Benjamin, Hunter Big knew by heart the rise and fall of the land. He strode wide and shrewd towards them now.

Trying to keep up with him was Archie, Hunter’s twin brother. They neither looked alike nor were alike. Archie was the only member of the family who had managed to amass any schooling in his 20 years on earth. Hunter, on the other hand, saw no need for the alphabet if it couldn’t back him up in a bear fight.

The two boys flanked their parents and their youngest brother L.B. as they watched Goliah’s wagon roll to a stop.

“Osiyo.” Benjamin greeted first.

At the Cherokee greeting, Goliah flinched like he had been pinched.

“I have a hundred head of new cattle coming in,” he said, skipping any semblance of social pleasantries.

No surprise to Sput there.

“Well, suh,” Benjamin began.

What was a surprise to Sput was hearing her husband refer to this particular man as “sir.” She whipped her head around to give Benjamin a questioning stare. Was that a smile she saw stretching at his lips? A nasty shiver went down her spine, as her ire heated up. But then, she understood how desperation could make a man like Benjamin sacrifice his skin in order to save his bones.

“I — I don’t have a mule no more —” Benjamin continued.

“Cauth we ate him.” L.B. hooked his thumbs around the shoulder straps of overalls that didn’t quite reach his ankles. “He died firth. Then we ate him.”

Benjamin was not sidetracked. “But if you supply a horse,” he went on as if L.B. hadn’t said a word, “I can rope a steer, brand it, and castrate it with the best of ‘em. Never lost a steer to a snippin’ yet.”

Archie jumped right on board with the idea of any one of the McClendons being hired out. “They don’t call Pa Snippin’ Ben for nothing.”

“And Hunter here,” Benjamin pointed with a proud nod of his head, “he can break a bronco into a cow pony in no time. And Archie can rope and ride a salty one all day long,” he said, rounding out the recitation of McClendon family skills.

Goliah began a slow, guttural laugh. “I’m not looking to hire you.” His laugh grew. “I’m looking to evict you.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night 

Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night

Love Like It’s Hot Celebrates Independence Day – a day celebrated around the country – and will never be seen quite the same as six of today’s contemporary, nationally best-selling romance authors bring the heat in this box set filled with unique stories of impassioned love and intense romance!   The Fourth has never been hotter – be sure to Love Like its Hot! Available at Amazon & B&N.

Featured Authors in “Love Like It’s Hot!” Book Set:

* Love for Liberty by Ann Clay

* Heat at First Sight by Barbara Keaton

* Best Laid Plans by Deatri King-Bey

* Summer Sizzle by Donna Hill

* Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night

* The Fourth by Xyla Turner


Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night

Erin Isaacs is at the point in her career where she’s paying her dues. She’s giving her PR career everything she’s got even if it means having to deal with a harsh and intimidating boss. She’s doing all she can to prove herself in this company and the industry, which is dominated by a few who all seem to know one another. And her boss is very well known across the industry.

When Real Estate Developer and luxury hotel owner, Noah Lucas becomes her PR firm’s newest client, Erin immediately deems the sexy billionaire off limits because fraternizing with clients is a no no! Erin is supposed to go on vacation but that boss of hers makes her cancel it to take on a new assignment on short notice. Noah just happens to be the client.

Erin must travel to the pre-grand opening of Noah’s new luxury hotel to explore the resort and spa and gather research for their PR campaign. Sweet heat rises under the tropical sun heating up Noah and Erin’s desire for one another. An affair with him could jeopardize her career, but their inability to resist one another takes them on an exploration of paradise and the possibility of love. There’s so much at stake for Erin. Winning would mean that she could have Noah and her career but was winning even possible?

 


Excerpt from Chapter One:  Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night 

“Who is that?”

Erin Isaacs looked up just in time to get a peek at the gorgeous man walking into the conference room with her boss.

“He’s beautiful,” her co-worker Janel continued in a dreamy voice as she leaned against Erin’s desk.

Erin’s hand was back on her keyboard. “I have no idea, and with all the work piled on my desk I don’t have the time to find out.”

She pretended to be unfazed, but she saw the man. She saw every inch of his tall, dark, handsome presence, with skin that looked as though he’d been freshly dipped in caramel. The Douglas Group had a strict rule about fraternizing with employees and clients. So, whoever he was, it didn’t matter. He was off limits. Besides, with the hours they worked, who had time to date anyway?

Despite Erin’s dismissal of the gorgeous stranger, Janel folded her arms and continued to stare in the direction of the conference room. By now the door was closed.

“What are you trying to do, use x-ray vision to see this guy?” Erin teased.

“No, I’m trying to fasten the image of him to my mind so I can see him in my dreams. That’s as close as I’ll get to having a man in my bed. Ha!” Janel barked out one of her short, high-pitched laughs.

Erin shook her head and couldn’t help but smile. Janel was always good for squeezing a laugh out of her. She was also one of the few fellow public relations associates Erin believed she could trust. PR was a competitive environment with one associate constantly trying to outdo the other.

“I guess I’ll get back to work. Hopefully, they’d be out of there before I go to lunch. I need to see him one more time to perfect the impression of him in my mind.”

Erin looked up from her computer and tilted her head. “Really, Janel, you need to get out more. That way you won’t have to imprint images of good-looking men on your mind at work.”

“Pfft. Like you have a life.” Janel playfully waved her off.

“We’re so pathetic.” Erin slouched her shoulders into a dejected posture to emphasize her point. Both women burst out laughing.

“No, but really,” Janel said through her laughter, “we are pathetic.” She pushed away from the side of Erin’s desk. “Just let me know when that door opens up.” She rounded the short wall dividing their cubicles and sat down. “I want my last glimpse. I have to get my excitement somehow.”

Erin shook her head. She knew Janel’s life because she lived it. Every now and then, she’d get out to a movie or dinner. Other times, she’d invite her besties over to binge watch shows with her. “Dammit!” she feigned anger. “Could we be more pathetic?”

The women laughed again. Janel took a loud bite of an apple. “Nope. I don’t think so,” she said through a mouthful.

After more laughs both women set their attention back on work, but Erin’s mind wandered to her lonely existence. She spent a lot of time alone, but wasn’t necessarily lonely. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone out on a date. Erin allowed her mind to wander back to the many woeful attempts at dating she’d endured before taking a hiatus from those misadventures; back to the beginning when she’d put her profile on a dating site and was notified she had a match.

She’d excitedly tapped through the screens to see who it was, wondering if he was good-looking. Was he American? She loved men with accents—loved men of different cultures. And there he was, pictured next to her profile shot with the app encouraging her to respond to him before time ran out. Below that encouragement was a red ‘X’ and a green heart. Later she found out she’d been matched with a cheater and went back into the site to delete her profile. This time she jabbed the red ‘X’ under his picture so hard she almost broke a nail. Erin wondered if his new wife knew he was married but still looking.

If it weren’t for Erin’s two closest friends, Simone and Tori, she would hardly leave the house. Erin kept long hours and by the time she got home all she wanted to do was eat and sleep. And then there were the events. In PR, there were always events to attend—breakfast events, lunches, meetings, receptions, cocktail parties, galas, launch parties, grand openings. When she first started at The Douglas Group—one of New York City’s premier full-service PR firms, those events excited her. But now the honeymoon was over. It was work. The non-stop, overly competitive environment sharpened her skills but proved to be exhausting at times. It was a good thing loved her job and the world of PR in general. Her calendar was filled, which was why she didn’t stress over not having a boyfriend. She simply didn’t have the time.

“Focus,” Erin mouthed to herself and returned to the work in front of her. An endless list of unread emails awaited her attention.

Every few seconds her cell phone buzzed with text notifications. Erin zoned out the noises of the office—telephone conversations, easy listening music flowing from the built-in speakers, employee chatter, nails clicking against keyboards—and dug into her current assignment. She was working on developing a few media pitches for a new client. After cranking out a few more emails to media contacts and finishing up changes to a contract her boss had requested, Erin was about to stand when Janel popped up from her cubicle. Erin craned her neck toward Janel’s towering body.

“Shh!” Janel put her finger to her lips but kept her eyes on the conference room. “The door is opening.” A hush came over their side of the office.

Erin shook her head. “I can’t believe you, Janel.” Erin waved her off, collected the documents sliding out from her printer and placed them in a folder.

“I hear them. He’s coming out!” Janel whispered.

Erin chuckled, stood, and gathered the folder along with some other papers in her hand and walked through the cubicle city toward her boss’s office. After placing the files where she’d been directed to put them, Erin walked out of the office hoping her boss wouldn’t demean her changes too much. She’d been hailed as a great writer by everyone but her Kristin Douglas. That woman had never uttered a nice word to Erin since the day she said, ‘You’ve got the job.’ With her mind on the condescending feedback she anticipated, Erin failed to see the conference room door open wider.

Before she could stop herself, she had collided into the gorgeous man Janel had been waiting to see. His body was so taut she bounced off him. The man reached out and quickly caught her by her arms to keep her from falling back. The feel of his strong hands sent a jolt of energy squiggling down her arms. Embarrassed, she jerked away, apologizing profusely. In her peripheral, she caught Kristin’s annoyed expression—eyes so tight they narrowed to slits.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.”

“It’s no problem at all.” His voice…low and velvety. The accent. Caribbean. Melodic. Beautiful. It seemed to travel slowly down Erin’s spine. She could close her eyes and listen to him all day.

Erin’s core tightened. She swallowed. Until this point, she had yet to look into his face. She lifted her eyes and the next apology caught in her throat. His eyes, brown, kind, seductive, held her hostage. For a moment she couldn’t look away. Her gaze slid down the rest of his perfectly set face. Dimples deep enough for her to place the tip of her finger in. Lips that framed teeth resembling precious pearls. This dude was a masterpiece. And he smelled amazing. Erin wanted to take a long whiff but was afraid her eyes would involuntarily close.

Erin cleared her throat and stepped back. “Again, my apologies. I didn’t see you coming out of the door.”

“Again, no problem.” His cadence was like a song.

The glare Kristin tossed in her direction made Erin want to hide under a desk somewhere. She started walking away.

“Noah Lucas.” The beautiful stranger held out his hand.

“Oh!” Erin let out a nervous chuckle. “Erin. Erin Isaacs.” She shook his hand. Behind him, Kristin glowered. “Pleasure to meet you Mr. Lucas. If you’ll excuse me.” Erin hurried back to her desk, plopped down and huffed.

“Wow!” Janel leaned over the top of the cubicle. Erin could tell she was on her toes on the other side. “You touched him. How did it feel?” Janel giggled.

Erin snickered. She needed that laugh. “Great, actually. He’s muscular. Kristin gave me the look of death though.”

“Of course.” Janel scoffed and rolled her eyes. “At least you got to touch him.” She chuckled.

“And it felt amazing,” Erin said. The women snickered together. “I need to get back to work.”

Janel remained standing, her eye trained in the direction of Kristin and the guy, Noah. Erin turned back to her computer. She refused to look. She didn’t want to see Kristin’s nasty glares. She’d hear enough about it once the man was gone. Kristin would find just the right words to express how inappropriate that situation was. If her student loans weren’t so much…if this wasn’t the top PR company in the city…if her rent to live in this expensive city didn’t cost a mint…perhaps she’d quit.
PR was a small world, so she couldn’t afford to mess up her chances of moving up the ladder at The Douglas Group or other prospective agencies. She dealt with Kristin’s antics and chucked it up to paying her dues. One day, she would no longer have to answer to Kristin or any other unbearable boss.

Moments later she noticed Janel was no longer standing.

Kristin appeared by her cubicle with Noah at her side. Through a slick grin, Kristin introduced Noah to each of them and proceeded to parade him around the entire office as if she were introducing her new fiancé instead of The Douglas Group’s newest client

Erin waited until things quieted before asking, “Is he gone yet?”

“Unfortunately.” Janel slid her chair back and peered around the wall. “That was awkward, don’t ya think? Kristin seemed a little sweet on him, huh?”

“A little.” Erin nodded, playfully waved Janel off, and braced herself for Kristin’s return. Once Noah was gone, she knew Kristin would round her cubicle spewing her discontent for bumping into their new client. But time passed—nearly a half hour. Erin kept her head down and her eyes on the screen of her laptop. Then she heard Kristin’s voice, muffled loudness carrying itself through the walls of her father’s closed office door. Janel stood and looked at Erin. Erin shrugged. They had no idea why Kristin was so upset. Her yelling wasn’t new to them. Erin sighed, knowing she’d soon have to deal with the brunt of whatever made Kristin mad.

Another few minutes passed and Kristin still hadn’t shown up at Erin’s desk. Just as Erin’s shoulders started to ease from the anticipation of Kristin’s pending tirade, she heard the woman’s harried footsteps. Erin knew that walk—short, hard strides meant she was livid. Here it comes.
Kristin appeared like a harsh wind, slamming a manila file onto Erin’s desk. “Your new assignment,” she said, folding her arms across her chest. “Have Ariel make your travel arrangements. You’ll need to fly out on Friday morning. Got it?”

“This coming Friday?” Erin’s eyes widened.

Kristin tilted her head, seemingly annoyed by the fact that Erin inquired about the day. “That’s what I said.”

“But my last day is Thursday. I leave for my vacation Friday morning.”

“Cancel it!” Kristin spun on her heels and marched away.

( Continued… )

© 2019 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Nicki Night. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.

 

 

 


Meet Nicki Night

A born and bred New Yorker, Nicki Night delights in creating hometown heroes and heroines with an edge. As an avid reader and champion for love, Nicki chose to pen romance novels because she believes that loves rocks and she delights in writing contemporary romances with unforgettable characters and just enough drama to make readers clutch a pearl here and there.

Nicki has a penchant for adventure and is currently working on penning her next romantic escapade. Nicki is a member of Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) and the New York City Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America.

 

BPM: How was writing a short story different than writing a full-length novel?
Writing short stories and full-length novels is completely different to me. I’m definitely a full-length kind of girl. It took work and lots of maneuvering to make the story happen and make their love unfold in a shorter length. I ended up enjoying these characters immense and love the story, but it was challenging for me.

 

BPM: Do you prefer full writing length-novels?
Yes! I definitely prefer writing full-length novels. I like getting into the stories, digging into the backgrounds of characters to reveal interesting and telling details to make them real. I have another novella that I’m working on, but my preference is definitely full-length novels.

 

BPM: What inspired you to become a romance writer? How long have you been writing?
I love writing and love being able to write about love because I feel that it doesn’t get enough spotlight. There’s also no secret that romance is still the highest earning genre of all book genres.

 

BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
You can say that. It’s what I was put here to do besides work with kids. It’s my gift and operating in my gift is gratifying and it glorifies my God. There’s so much that is spiritual about it, but I don’t think of it that way. It’s simply part of who I am.

 

BPM: How has writing romance novels impacted your life?
I love these stories because they highlight the fun, beauty and chase of finding love. As far as the impact, my novels and I have been well received and that’s humbling. It’s such a blessing.

 

BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your body of work?
That my voice with regards to writing novels is completely different than my voice when writing regular fiction.

 

BPM: How do you find or make time to write? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
I’m a mixture of plotter and panster—I’m a plotster! I plot and sometimes, run off the plotted road allowing my characters to surprise me. I try to stick to writing in the evenings and on weekends because my schedule is so busy. I lock myself in my home office or head to a local Starbucks, plug my years with headphones and disappear into my story for several hours at a time. All of my books have their own playlists.

 

BPM: Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night is your story on the boxset. What is your story in Love Like It’s Hot about?
Erin Isaacs is at the point in her career where she’s paying her dues. She’s giving her PR career everything she’s got even if it means having to deal with a harsh and intimidating boss. She’s doing all she can to prove herself in this company and the industry, which is dominated by a few who all seem to know one another. And her boss is very well known across the industry.

When Real Estate Developer and luxury hotel owner, Noah Lucas becomes her PR firm’s newest client, Erin immediately deems the sexy billionaire off limits because fraternizing with clients is a no no! Erin is supposed to go on vacation but that boss of hers makes her cancel it to take on a new assignment on short notice. Noah just happens to be the client.

Erin must travel to the pre-grand opening of Noah’s new luxury hotel to explore the resort and spa and gather research for their PR campaign. Sweet heat rises under the tropical sun heating up Noah and Erin’s desire for one another. An affair with him could jeopardize her career, but their inability to resist one another takes them on an exploration of paradise and the possibility of love. There’s so much at stake for Erin. Winning would mean that she could have Noah and her career but was winning even possible?

 

BPM: What inspired the story Sweet Heat Rising?
I’m a work-acholic that loves to travel and love stories the provide complicated work situations and amazing locations. I like writing about different places because it’s like traveling to those locations.

 

BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters in Sweet Heat Rising. What makes each one special?
Noah is rich but didn’t always have billions. He’s handsome, smart, hardworking and has a dream. Erin lives in a tiny apartment in NYC and works at one of the city’s top PR firms. Having come from near poverty and a troubled family he’s determined to succeed. She doesn’t mind working hard and has already sacrificed so much to be successful and now she’s finally on her way.

 

BPM: What was your hardest scene to write, the opening or the close?
The closing scene is always harder than the opener. I always like to close in a way that leaves a little something to the imagination, while bringing some closer in a way that is satisfying to the reader.

 

BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
Traveling. I love traveling. It’s so cool to explore locations through books and I do lots of research especially for locations that I haven’t had the pleasure of traveling to personally. As much as I love traveling, having to do it for work can sometimes be challenging.

I don’t always get to go to places I really want to go. I don’t get to choose when I can go and it’s difficult to have to travel for work at time when you’d prefer to be home or somewhere else. I’ve had to travel for work around family member’s birthdays, my anniversary and if I had my choice, I wouldn’t leave my family. I’ve had to travel for work at times when my girlfriends were away on girls’ trips.

Erin had a vacation planned and had to cancel her vacation with her friends for this business trip. I can totally relate to that.

 

BPM: Is there a specific space/state that you find inspiration in?
It varies. I love being isolated to allow my ideas to flow and I can even act things out. Yes, I do that.

 

BPM: Do you want each book to stand on its own or do you prefer to write series?
I like both but do prefer to have books stand on their own.

 

BPM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
Hmmm, Paranormal is not my strong suit. You will never see a paranormal book by Nicki Night.

 

BPM: What’s changed in publishing and how are you responding to those changes?
The list of changes goes on forever and constantly changes itself. How much people read, the way they read, how publishers interact with authors, how authors interact with readers—all of this has changed. At the end of the day, I’m a writer, and I must write. I hope to remain agile and savvy enough to manage the changing tides and remain relevant and published. One key is staying informed and close to the industry to know what’s happening so you can best navigate the trends. It’s also important to know that it’s important to roll with the changes or be pushed out.

 

BPM: What else are you working on as Renee Daniel Flagler?
So many things. I have a new book out July 1st along with this anthology. It’s a double book with Donna Hill and our last book with Harlequin Kimani. The title of my book in that double set is Sealed With a Kiss.

After that my future books with Harlequin will be released under their Desire line. I also have a nonfiction book coming this summer called Dream Journey: 7 Steps for Professionalizing Your Passion. It’s about using your gifts, talents and passions to create a career path so that you can get paid for doing what you love.

 

BPM: What projects are you working on at the present as Nicki Night?
I’m working on several projects at once. Most importantly, I’m working on the next romance book for a 2020 release.

 

BPM: Tell us about your most recent work beyond this collection.
I write romance as Nicki Night but everything else under Renee Daniel Flagler. My first audio book came out this year and I’m excited about that. My book Society Wives is now available in audio. I’m also working on Dream Journey: 7 Steps for Professionalizing Your Passion will be out this summer as well and I have several other novels in the works. Dream Journey means a lot to me because it’s all about teaching people how to make a career path out of their passions. I do a lot of speaking engagements on this subject and I’m so excited about finally getting the book out there.

 

BPM: What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you?
I’m available on social media, (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and via email at http://nickinight.com
Readers can connect with me and find out more about me through social media and my website: http://nickinight.com

 

Love Like It’s Hot Featured Authors

* Love for Liberty by Ann Clay
* Heat at First Sight by Barbara Keaton
* Best Laid Plans by Deatri King-Bey
* Summer Sizzle by Donna Hill
* Sweet Heat Rising by Nicki Night
* The Fourth by Xyla Turner

 

Catch up on Nicki Night’s work while you wait for the release of Love Like It’s HOT!
 

Miami Beat III: Illusions by Frederica Burden

Mirror, mirror on the wall… someone’s shooting star is bound to fall. Will one go down, or will they all?

Sidney Stevens has a front row seat to the destruction of everyone she loves. Her family is poised to drive her absolutely crazy as she runs from one person to the other, extinguishing fires. Sidney faces the ultimate betrayal when her brother exposes the love of her life and his heinous crimes. Now she is forced to decide between what her heart feels and what her mind knows to be true.

Chief of Police Marcus J. Mystic has his hands full with a maniacal wife who is hot and heavy on his heels. Vondra has escaped the North Florida Mental Hospital with a plan and a purpose. If the authorities don’t capture her soon, they will all be doomed. Mystic also grapples with his love affair with Sidney. Their once sizzling union has now been doused with ice-cold reality due to accusations levied against Mystic by Randy Jr. Sadly, Mystic’s list of critics is growing longer by the minute. It’s a race against time to see who gets to him first.

Can Mystic convince Sidney of the truth before it’s too late?

Locked away in prison, Randy Jr. faces his own version of hell as he stares down a hefty sentence for murder. He is desperate to get out of prison and settle the score with his enemies. Will prison be the distraction that he needs to get his life together or just another place for his sins to incubate?

Spencer thought that he was off the hook for Linda’s murder, but now he finds himself in a battle for his own life. Spencer has to prove to everyone that he isn’t the killer, but he isn’t entirely convinced of his own innocence. Luckily, he has Artie in his corner.

Artie Garcia has been an integral person in everyone’s life, but deep within the recesses of his heart, he holds secrets that threaten to destroy him. As he vies for Sidney’s affections and aspires for a higher position on the force, Artie tests the bounds of friendship and loyalty to see his goals manifest. The games that he plays will put his life in jeopardy. Only Artie can determine if it’s worth the risk.

Join the characters of Miami Beat III: Illusions as they return for another action-packed journey guaranteed to have you questioning whether what you see is the truth or merely an illusion.

 

Miami Beat: The Secret Society by Frederica P. Burden
Listen to a chilling audio excerpt from Miami Beat: http://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CTgGTxsX

Miami Beat II: Dilemmas by Frederica P. Burden
Listen to a dramatic reading from Miami Beat II: Dilemmas: https://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CCmvBHQX

Miami Beat III: Illusions by Frederica P. Burden
Listen to a dramatic reading from Miami Beat III: Illusions: http://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CwmNTyfX

 

 


Excerpt: Chapter 11

Marcus Mystic appraised his reflection in the mirror with a smile. His bright green eyes sparkled with charm and charisma. His skin was the color of café au lait, and his smile could make any woman melt. For years he got by on his looks and his charm. He did climb through the ranks of the Police Department rather quickly, based on his experience and knowledge which he so prominently displayed, daily.

He thought about Sidney every minute of the day when he was apart from her. It bothered Mystic that he couldn’t get through to Sidney. He loved her desperately, but he also knew that he couldn’t say but so much. Although he cared about Sidney, he also cared about his job and his lifestyle that he worked so hard for.

Mystic hated keeping secrets, and he despised scandal. Currently, he was involved in a huge scandal. He still had Killa Dre’s hand in his possession. He knew that the heat would come down on him hard if someone found out that he knew who was behind the slaying of Killa Dre.

Killa Dre’s death was a great benefit to the community because the drugs he sold and controlled in the neighborhood was to their detriment. Mystic knew that Killa Dre’s murder wouldn’t wholly eliminate drug abuse in the community, but it would slow it down considerably until a new gangster took over.

Mystic didn’t miss Killa Dre, but he knew that someone would. He knew personally that a few officers were on Killa Dre’s payroll. He surmised that they would try to investigate the death of Killa Dre to avenge him.

Killa Dre’s criminal empire kept food on the table for some of the most unlikely individuals. It unnerved Mystic that he had to actually cover for Randy Jr., but Mystic couldn’t think of another way to fix the situation with the love of his life and winning her trust back.

Mystic couldn’t win.

Sidney was pissed with him, and he didn’t know how to get her to believe in him again. Mystic considered that if he turned in Killa Dre’s hand and affirmed where he located the hand, Randy Jr. wouldn’t stand a chance. He would never be let out of prison with an additional murder charge on his record.

Mystic considered the idea. Randy Jr. hated him. He knew a few things that Sidney didn’t. Mystic wondered if he let Randy Jr. rot in prison how long it would take before Sidney forgot about the accusations he hurled at Mystic during the prison visitation. He wondered if he would ever get Sidney back in his arms.

That was only one of his troubles.

Vondra was posed to cause him some serious issues if she didn’t calm down in the mental hospital. He estimated locking her away at the North Florida Mental Hospital was a great temporary solution to his troubles, but he could tell that something wasn’t working correctly. Vondra called him daily, nonstop.

Vera called him just as often as Vondra. Mystic ignored her incessant calls. He blocked the hospital number from his cell phone and told himself that he would deal with it when he was ready. Mystic couldn’t tell his aunt about the issue because he really didn’t want to speak with anyone at the hospital. So, he ignored every call that came through his phone, unless it came from his office.

Mystic wanted to just bury Vondra at the hospital and walk away, forever. He begged his aunt for help, and Vera quickly jumped into action. He considered contacting Vera to tell her that Vondra had somehow obtained telephone privileges. That way he could stop the incessant phone calls. She left him messages, over 100 per day. Mystic simply deleted the messages he received from the hospital.

He no longer cared.

Now that he was the Chief of Police he had real things to worry about. He didn’t have time to chase behind his wife to make sure that she was taking her medication and abiding by the law. It was too tiring for Mystic.

The two women in his life were both driving him crazy.

( Continued… )

© 2019 All rights reserved. Miami Beat III book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Frederica Paremore Burden. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.

 

 


Read the rest of this entry »

 

Books by Natasha D. Frazier

Shattered Vows: Love, Lies & Consequences Book 3 by Natasha D. Frazier

Rico gambled with his marriage when he cheated on Chloe. Breaking his vows and risking everything for temporary pleasure, he lost his wife’s respect and trust.

Rico returns to God, searching for a quick fix to win Chloe’s heart back, but his heart is the one that is changed. He is a self-proclaimed changed man, willing to go the extra mile to restore his marriage, but he just may be too late.

Has Chloe given up on him? She has forgiven him before, but this is different. “I’m sorry” isn’t enough when vows have been shattered. With the law and the Word of the Lord on her side, she finally gathers enough courage to walk away.

But then tragedy strikes. Is it enough to make Chloe stay, or will she start a new chapter in her life?

 

Listen to a reading from Shattered Vows: Love, Lies & Consequences: https://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CPR8L6bk

 

REVIEWS – SHATTERED VOWS (LOVE, LIES & CONSEQUENCES BOOK 3)

“With this being book 3 in the series, the book definitely kept your attention. There was a great balance of happy, sad & keeping God involved in your decisions. I like the way author takes us through the view of both husband & wife.”

“Loved the interwoven storylines and how everyone seemed to learn from their mistakes. The way forgiveness is expressed is inspiring.”

“It is tough to read books that end the way Shattered Vows ended. When we pray for God’s help, we must trust that His ways are greater than our ways. I am truly convinced that it is nothing but the love of God that gets us through the tough times. The love of God is what caused each character to have a heart of forgiveness. Thank you Natasha for sharing the love of God through your writing.”

 

EXCERPT: SHATTERED VOWS (LOVE, LIES & CONSEQUENCES BOOK 3)

“I want my wife back,” Rico said after careful contemplation of his question.

“Umm hmm. Well seeking direction from God is definitely the best start, but much is going to be required of you; so let’s start from the beginning. Tell me what happened. What is it that brought you to this place? Your wife leaving you and all. And please tell the entire truth. These sessions will only work if you’re honest,” Pastor Lewis reminded Rico.

Rico leaned back in his seat, blew out a chestful of pent-up air, rubbed his hands along his pants and thought for a moment. Sessions? Plural? He had been hopeful that he would get his answer today, but he was more than desperate, so he was willing to do everything it would take to start anew with his wife.

“Long story short, I met this woman who was absolutely breathtaking. I took her out a few times, talked to her on the phone repeatedly and I began to fall for her. She seemed so perfect. When I realized what I was getting myself into, I ended it. But I guess it was too late because she ended up pregnant with my baby,” Rico shared shamefully.

Pastor Lewis studied him for a moment. He noticed Rico’s eyes were lit up when speaking of this woman and that concerned him. He jotted down some notes on a pad.

“What compelled you to start seeing her even though you were married?”

“Man, I mean, sir, I don’t even know. It was never supposed to go so far. It was casual at first, but she became serious.”

“Wait one moment. I am a pastor but I’m also a man. So you and I both know that if she was becoming serious, you were giving her a reason to be. Did you tell her you loved her? That you would leave your wife and marry her? What was it?”

Rico shook his head at the thought of everything he’d told Raegan. It felt awkward to share those things with the pastor. Actually telling someone everything he did made him feel dirty, because he knew he was wrong. He didn’t want the pastor to think of him as some dirty womanizer, because that wasn’t who he was. He was just a guy who got caught up in the moment, in his opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Heat at First Sight by Barbara Keaton (Love Like It’s Hot Boxset)

Heat at First Sight by Barbara Keaton (Love Like It’s Hot Boxset)

Prince Ahbeh Mensah Ahmed Kwasi is going to be king of Libertad Island whether he likes it or not. To add to it, he must marry on his county’s Independence Day. An infamous playboy, the soon to be king realizes that he has no real prospects and doesn’t want the ones his mother has selected for him. He changes his mind once he sees the stunningly beautiful Trinity Nehemiah, someone he knows is his match in every way. The thing is, how to get her to marry him within 30 days.

Dr. Trinity Nehemiah is searching for a bacterium that is impacting the beautiful aquatic life of Libertad Island. Finding its source and coming up with a cure is her only charge, not the island’s handsome playboy who is set on getting under her skin and in her bed. Little does Trinity know, the soon to be king is more than interested in her bedroom skills.

 

 


 

 

Excerpt: Heat at First Sight by Barbara Keaton

CHAPTER 1

Thirty days. Mensah ended his prayer with the last words he’d heard from his father. He had thirty days to marry. Never mind that he didn’t have one female in mind, while he knew his mother had at least two. Mensah blanched at the thought – he wasn’t into marriage, couldn’t see what his brothers did – one woman, love, and eventually children running afoot. He then thought of his oldest brother, Helem, the next in succession, or that was until he’d dropped the bombshell a week ago – he and his wife were planning on moving from Libertad Isle to London. Helem didn’t want to be king. Their father had announced a year ago that he would retire the next Independence Day and Helem would rightfully take his place. That was how it had always been, since Libertad and its surrounding islands had been founded nearly three centuries ago. Then a month ago, Helem broke the news to his parents and officially abdicated leaving him to be the next in line – next be sworn in as king of Libertad Isle, but in order for him to assume the crown, he had to have a wife.

Mensah wasn’t like his two brothers – Helem had settled down at the tender age of 21, marrying the only woman he’d ever dated – a woman from the island who had been born and raised to marry royalty. That was nearly fourteen years ago. Then there was his baby brother, Olabisi, who was about to marry his childhood sweetheart. While she hadn’t been raised for royalty, she was beloved by their parents, who were already talking about the children they would have.

“What do I do?” he looked up into the sky. He was a playboy, loved women, the very shape, color, smell and sway of their hips. He wasn’t ready to settle down and he knew that there was no one who would ever capture his heart – he’d seen too many women vie for his attention, not because they liked him, or were willing to get to know him, but because they knew that 29-year-old Prince Ahbeh Mensah Ahmed Kwasi was not only rich, but in line for a throne and a country he never thought he’d reign over.

As he turned from the balcony, he stopped. Movement captured his attention. He trained his obsidian-colored eyes across the varying hues and types of plush tropical foliage and flowers that rested several feet from the crystal blue terrain of the Caribbean Sea. Mensah spotted a lone figure as it swam toward the shore. He watched intently as the figure reached the shore line, then rose slowly from the pristine water. He blinked, turned his head slightly to the right then narrowed his dark eyes, his full lips pursed. The figure had on a black wet suit that allowed him to make out the outline of hips and ample bosom. Reaching for his cell phone, he paused. His thick eye brows rose as the female pulled the wet suit down to reveal a white one-piece that stood in amazingly stark contrast to her mahogany skin. Absently, Mensah licked his lips. He loved mahogany.

He depressed a single digit then finally placed the cell to his ear. “Imam? Who is swimming on the east side of the island?”

Mensah absently nodded, his dark eyes fixed on the well-built female, as he listened to the head of security describe the stranger who had just slid out of the azure blue ocean and began crossing the isolated beach of white sand. “I see. Thank you, Imam. No. No, there are no problems. I will see father later. Shalom.”

The loud clang of the phone hitting the top of the railing before coming to rest on the marble flooring of the terrace momentarily stole his attention from the vexing view. He returned to his fixation, watching intently as she pulled the band from her hair, loosening twisted tresses to rest on her shoulders as she walked further from the ocean. Mensah even smiled when he noticed a large dog rush to her side. He watched as she knelt down, taking something from the animal’s mouth, looked it over, shook her head and then pitched the item over her shoulder. She rose, signaled with her hands toward the dog and then headed into the lush green foliage.

He had things to do. Heads of state to meet with concerning some additional business expansion for the island, lunch with a potential client, a tour of a newly opened resort and a dinner date with a woman he had met in the states who was coming to visit.

“Mensah?” from behind he heard his name called and recognized the voice as that belonging to his older brother, Helem. No matter the recent news, he smiled at hearing his brother’s voice.

Older by five years, Helem was always considered the most level headed of the three of them as evidenced by the types of business ventures he secured that would bring greater wealth to the already rich island. Mensah’s youngest brother, Olabisi, had been a child prodigy, playing over ten various instruments by the time he was five. Olabisi was a genius and a scientist, and was truly their mother’s favorite – only because mother had never had to scold him like she had Helem and Mensah. Especially Mensah.

Mensah smiled at that thought – he and his brothers were adventurous in just about everything – from sports to business; but one thing they didn’t share with Mensah was his adventurous spirit when it came to chasing women. Hands down, Mensah was a master.

“I’m on the terrace, brother,” Mensah responded, reluctantly turning his head from the mahogany beauty as she disappeared into the brush.

“Shalom,” Helem greeted his brother, wrapping him in his arms, kissing him on both cheeks. Mensah returned the loving gesture. “Have you eaten breakfast?”

“No. Have you?”

Helem shook his head. “Let’s go across the island and grab something. There’s much we have to discuss to get you ready and then I want to show you something on one of the other islands.”

Mensah absently grabbed his sun glasses and picked his cell phone up from the terrace floor. His curiosity, momentarily interrupted, had returned with a vengeance. He immediately wanted to know who the mahogany beauty was and he wasn’t willing to wait to ask his father.

“Go ahead. I’ll catch up with you in an hour.”

Mensah watched his brother as he narrowed his eyes.

“Ummm, uh. Okay. But do not stand me up, Mensah.”

“I won’t. I just got something to look at … I’m mean, look into.”

The sound of Helem’s laughter trailed behind him as he headed out of his brother’s living suite.

“Come on, Cousteau,” Trinity called out to her dog, a Cane Corso Mastiff, which she had gotten from her father as a puppy. “You can’t eat everything on this island. What are you trying to do, get us deported?” She tugged at her dog’s large jowls and smiled when Cousteau responded with a loud whine. “Oh, no, there will be no begging today.” She motioned with her hands, using sign language, to indicate she meant “no.”

Trinity shook her head, picked up Cousteau’s leash and the remaining samples she had retrieved from the sea. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what was killing off the jelly fish in large quantities and decided to ship several carcasses to a colleague in San Diego. As a result of the jelly fish dying, larger marine habitat was being affected as well. Just today, she had encountered what she thought was a rather lethargic bottlenose dolphin. To Trinity, the behavior of the mammal was more than odd – this species exhibited a natural curiosity of their surroundings. She had come across this female dolphin several times during her exploration, recognizing it from others she’d encountered by the deep marks on her dorsal fin. She had named the dolphin Dolly and found her to be quite curious, swimming and diving alongside and jumping up and out of the water over Trinity. On this day the playfulness and curiosity were missing – instead Dolly just swam alongside her.

She slipped her wet suit from her body down to the white one-piece bathing suit she wore underneath. Pulling her hair from its band, she paused. Cousteau stood by her side. She looked up just as the lone figure left the expansive terrace which overlooked the ocean. She had never seen anyone standing there, even though she had seen lights on when she would come out at night. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Love For Liberty by Ann Clay (Love Like It’s Hot Boxset)

Love For Liberty by Ann Clay (Love Like It’s Hot Boxset)

Mayor Liberty Kennedy is hell-bent on preserving Versa Village’s legacy, but that’s not why she agrees to Rani Brooks’ proposition. Everyone knows that she and the city councilman are feuding rivals. His proposition at first is far-fetched, but it doesn’t take long before his blazing kisses are the only expansion she yearns for.

Councilman Rani Brooks will move mountains to win Liberty’s love, even if it means backing her village development project. He could care less about the public works expansion at first, but if it will get him what he wants, Liberty as his own, he’s all in.

Versa Village is in for an unforgettable Independence Day treat. Kisses by day, and fireworks by night.

 

Excerpt: Love For Liberty by Ann Clay

 

“Mayor.” Rani’s eyes lowered to meet hers. She saw the fire in them, and it stirred the part of her she worked hard to ignore whenever he neared. After last night at the Bergman Fundraising Gala, the gentle touching and sweet kisses, the mere remembrance had her longing for more than his scalding glance.

“Councilman,” Liberty responded with a slight raise of her chin. What is he doing here this early in the morning? Man, you’re going to be the end of me. I just know it. He towered above her with broad shoulders, massive chest, and powerful arms bulging against his fitted, heavily starched shirt. His clean-shaven face drew her attention immediately; high cheeks and unforgettable eyes, hidden behind heavy dark lashes, lured Liberty into his hold without effort.

Rani garnered a lot of female attention: Being single with no children, the head of his family-owned business, and extremely handsome made him one of the most desirable men within a hundred miles of Versa.

He’d won the chair of the city council at the same time she was elected mayor. Until then, they’d practically moved in different circles. And like every other member of the council, with the exception of the city manager and herself, he worked for the village part-time. He didn’t normally come to city hall until the day of the monthly council meeting.

She moved past him as quickly as her clicking heels could take her across the marble floor. She would not be tortured by Rani Brooks. She had too much on her plate today. Once she escaped Rani, she sighed, but her relief would be brief. She saw the small crowd gathered at her office door once she turned the corner. She released an audible groan. “Lawd, give me strength.”

She picked up her pace and shifted the folders she carried from one arm to the other, momentarily shoving Rani to the back of her thoughts. She smiled as she neared the cluster. “Good morning. It’s always a pleasure to see you all. What brings you here at such an early hour?”

The lie struck a nerve in her head; she knew full well that she would much rather have arrived at her office without drama. And where was her assistant, Justin? He usually ran interference for her. She groaned. The interruption did not fit into her plan for the day. She’d hoped to jot down some notes before the Economics Development tiger team meeting this morning. The planning team needed her signature before the proposal went to the city council in a couple of days. If all went well and the council and the residents agreed on the proposal, she would plan a ground-breaking celebration in time for the Fourth of July to denote a landmark celebration for Versa.

Justin appeared, out of breath. “Sorry, Mayor Kennedy. I tried to man the front entrance. Apparently…”

So where did all of these people come from? Liberty tried not to frown. Instead she smiled and prayed it looked genuine.

“Not a problem, Justin. I have an open-door policy, and I’m here to serve.”

But she did have a problem, at least this morning. She hoped her displeasure didn’t show on her face. “Please, come in.” She tilted her head toward the closed door and dumped the folders into Justin’s waiting arms. “Just give me a minute to grab a pen and pad.”

The sound of grumbles followed her into the reception area, where cool air greeted them. The late spring weather in the southern region of the country seemed hotter than usual, and wilted everyone bold enough to stay outside for more than an hour.

Liberty reached across Justin’s desk and grabbed a pad and pen before turning to meet the crew now clustered in the room. She put on a smile as she glanced across the faces of each person. “All right! Good morning, again. What can I do for you?”

Mel Worrell spoke first. He moved closer than she liked. She almost stepped back, but stilled.

“We see the need for the development in Versa, but,” he turned and pointed to the people behind him, “we want to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact our community, especially our businesses.” He looked down into her face. “Sure, we can use some of the improvements you’re talking about. We came to make sure you know where we stand.”

Liberty paused before speaking. “Certainly I understand your concerns, and of course you’ll have the opportunity to voice all of them at the next council meeting.”

“That’s just it!” Maxine Oliver moved forward. “Seems to me there’s a whole lot of fussing and not enough discussing at these darn meetings. It’s just plum crazy. Now, here’s what we need you to do, young lady. In this proposal of yours, you need to make sure you’re not putting the burden on us. We pay our share, and we want to be sure this won’t hurt our businesses.”

Liberty raised a brow at the woman’s reference to her, as if she were a wayward child being reprimanded. She had to admit that since Rani Brooks joined the council, things hadn’t progressed as she’d liked. Their behind-the-scenes bickering had been recounted by those who witnessed it and was now public knowledge. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 
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