Thursday, November 30, 2023

Death by Theft

A Josiah Reynolds Mystery 19

by Abigail Keam

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Josiah is happy for her pals Lady Elsmere and Shaneika Mary Todd when broodmare Jean Harlow gives birth to a male foal sired by Comanche. The owners of both horses have high hopes the foal will become a stakes winner—maybe even win the Kentucky Derby. The foal has a broad chest, indicating significant lung capacity---important for winning races, but just like his daddy, the foal is ebony with a bad attitude.

Josiah and Shaneika visit dam Jean Harlow early one morning and are shocked to find the prized foal is missing. They frantically search Lady Elsmere’s and Josiah’s farms without success. It’s urgent they find the foal fast as he is not yet weaned and is too young to be separated from his mother. Who would snatch the feisty foal from his mother’s care? And equally important, why?


Excerpt for Death By Theft: A Josiah Reynolds Mystery

    I climbed the ladder placed under the Pin Oak tree and very carefully cut the branch holding the bee swarm—must have been over seven thousand honeybees huddled together in a ball protecting their queen.  I scrambled down the ladder holding the branch with the clinging bees, but you know I’m not good at these things since my accident.  Slowly I made it to the ground without falling off the ladder or dropping the branch.  With my right hand, I swiped the clump of bees causing a huge mass of bees to fall into my swarm box.  I shook the branch and thousands of remaining bees flew up around me and then settled on the white sheet placed under the swarm box.  The honeybees marched like little soldiers into the swarm box bottom opening, each eager to be near their queen and gobble the honey I had smeared on some of the frames.

Happy that the bees were cooperating, I put the top of the swarm box back on and watched the bees go into the bottom entrance.  Within an hour, all the bees would be in the box setting up housekeeping.  Only then would I move the swarm box to a hive where I would install frames thick with the bees and a queen.  For three days, I would keep them locked up, so to speak, in the hive before I removed grass clippings blocking the hive entrance and let them do their bee thing.  At that time, I would open the top of the hive, look for the queen or signs that she was laying eggs.  If I found no sign of baby bees, I would remove a frame from another hive which had a queen cell. 

Happy with the successful swarm catch, I left the swarm box alone and retreated to my golf cart when my cell phone rang. 

I answered, “Hello?”

“I thought you were coming to see the colt?” Shaneika Mary Todd asked. 

Shaneika was my criminal lawyer.  If you have to ask why I might need a criminal lawyer, then you haven’t lived in these parts for long.  I’m famous for stumbling over dead bodies.  It’s a curse. 

“I was.  I mean I am—but came across a swarm.  Let me finish up here and I’ll be over.”

“Don’t tarry too long.  The stable employees will be letting the horses out to the pastures soon.”

I looked at the swarm box.  The bees were hurrying inside.  “Shouldn’t be too much longer.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“I’ll be in the breeding barn.  Comanche has a cover this morning.”

“Okay.  I will meet you there as soon as I can,” I replied, hanging up.  I watched bees march into the swarm box and figured they would be okay.  I would pick the box up later.  I got in my golf cart and petted Baby, who had been waiting patiently.  “I’ll get the box after we see the new colt.  Don’t let me forget my bees, Baby.” 

My two hundred pound English Mastiff sneezed and put his massive paw on my


 “Good boy,” I said, removing his paw and scratching him behind the ear.  I

started the cart and headed over to my next door neighbor’s farm to find Shaneika and visit the colt.

The farm was owned by Lady Elsmere.  She and Shaneika had bred their horses, Jean Harlow and Comanche, to produce a colt which they hoped would win the Kentucky Derby.  It was Lady Elsmere’s dream to win the Kentucky Derby before she died.  The colt had been born a few weeks back, but Shaneika banned visitors as Jean Harlow was a skittish mother.  The fact that Shaneika had invited me today meant Jean Harlow had finally calmed down. 

I really wanted to see the colt and wished Lady Elsmere and Shaneika well on their path to racing glory in the Kentucky Derby, but I had grown disenchanted with horse racing.  Too many accidents on the racecourse.

Yeah, I know.  I’m a hypocrite.  I make money boarding race horses.  I catch the overflow of pregnant Thoroughbreds whose offspring are trained on Lady Elsmere’s farm.  I don’t take in stallions anymore as they are too difficult and high-strung.  It’s a nice income but whenever I can catch a racing official’s ear, I bring him to task about racing horses too young and the need for the Thoroughbreds’ added protections.  My advice goes in one ear and out the other.  Oh, well, I do what I can. 

I hear the horse owners have meetings about increasing the safety in the racing industry, but there are still too many spills on the racing course.  That’s why I don’t go to Keeneland Race Course during the racing season. 

Baby and I reached the breeding barn and waited for Shaneika.  I texted her that I was outside.  I don’t like to witness live covers.  I find horses’ breeding encounters to be noisy, violent, and traumatic.  The mare has to be covered in protective gear as the stallion can easily harm her with his sharp hooves and teeth.  I always feel sorry for the mare.   

I looked up from my phone and glimpsed a groom leading Comanche to a pasture.  He must be done for the day.

Shaneika came out and waved.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“Very well.”

“You’re breeding Comanche too much.  He can’t catch his breath.  The dew is still on the grass, and you’ve got him covering a mare.”

“I need the money, Josiah.”

“Too much breeding weakens a stallion.”

Shaneika rolled her eyes.  “That’s an old wives’ tale.”

“Maybe.  Maybe not.” 

“Before you berate me more, let’s visit the colt.”  Shaneika’s hazel eyes brightened.  “He’s a beauty.  Black with a white star on his forehead and four white stocking feet.”

“You want Baby along?”

“He visits the nursery barn on a daily basis.  The mares are not bothered at all by him and even Last Chance likes to play with him.”

“How does a colt play with a Mastiff?”

“Last Chance prances around Baby and tosses his head.  Baby licks him.  Sometimes they share a treat.”

It was always a mystery to me who my dog visited during the day while I worked in the bee yard. 

“How’s Jean Harlow doing?”

“Much better.  For a few moments, we thought Jean Harlow might reject her baby, but she came around.  I’m not sure Lady Elsmere will breed her again though—as a dam, she is far too nervous.”

I muttered, “I see.  The horse had postpartum depression.”

Shaneika gave me a playful slap before putting Baby in the back of the golf cart.  “Let’s go.  I need to get back to my office for my first appointment.”

I pushed on the pedals, and we moseyed over to the nursery.  Excited, I entered the barn with Shaneika leading the way.  It was still very early, and the mares were with their offspring in their stalls, quietly munching on hay.  They would be let out when the grass had dried.  However, kicking and neighing erupted from one stall.

Shaneika shot me a worried look.  “That’s Jean Harlow.  I know her cry.”

We both rushed to the stall.   “What’s wrong?” I asked, seeing Shaneika’s alarmed facial expression.

Shaneika swung open the stall door and pushed a nervous Jean Harlow out of the way. 

I grabbed the mare’s halter and led her out into the barn aisle.  She was jumpy and hard to handle, so I shouted for aid.  “Can someone help us, please?”

Shaneika ran out of the stall and began checking the others frantically.

“What is wrong?” I asked again, handing Jean Harlow over to a nursery groom who led the horse back into her stall.


FIVE STARS! "Abigail Keam continues to charm with an assortment of characters that are charismatic and endearing. Josiah is a great character and her unique ability to stumble upon bodies is a great way to draw her into the mystery." -Readers' Favorite

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** Don’t miss the rest of the series! **

Death By A HoneyBee
Death By Drowning
Death By Bridle
Death By Bourbon
Death By Lotto
Death by Chocolate
Death by Haunting
Death By Derby
Death By Design
Death By Malice
Death By Drama
Death By Stalking
Death By Deceit
Death By Magic
Death By Shock
Death By Chance
Death By Poison
Death By Greed
Death By Theft
Death By Betrayal

Find them on Amazon 

About the Author

Abigail Keam is an award-winning and Amazon best-selling author who writes the Josiah Reynolds Mystery Series about a Southern beekeeper turned amateur female sleuth. Besides loving history, Kentucky bourbon and chocolate, Abigail loves honeybees and for many years made her living by selling honey at a farmers’ market like her protagonist, Josiah Reynolds. She is an award-winning beekeeper who has won many honey awards at the Kentucky State Fair including the Barbara Horn Award, which is given to beekeepers who rate a perfect 100 in a honey competition.

Miss Abigail has taken her knowledge of beekeeping to create a fictional beekeeping protagonist, Josiah Reynolds, who solves mysteries in the Bluegrass. While Miss Abigail’s novels are for enjoyment, she discusses the importance of a local sustainable food economy and land management for honeybees and other creatures.

She currently lives on the Kentucky River in a metal house with her husband and various critters. She still has honeybees.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Whiskey on Our Shoes

 Whiskey on Our Shoes

by Tonya Preece

Genre: Contemporary New Adult Romance


Q: What’s the best and worst things about being a writer?

A: One of the best things about being a writer is getting positive reader feedback, especially from complete strangers who aren’t just friends trying to be nice or not hurt your feelings. The writing community is another one of the best things about being a writer. I don’t know what I’d do without my local critique partners who’ve become great friends, and I’ve met several writers online through social media who have become friends. I think, for me, the worst thing about being a published writer is imposter syndrome. Who am I compared to “real” authors?


Author’s choice of topic:

A little “behind the scenes” of writing Whiskey on Our Shoes: In early versions, Eva’s brother, Lor, died from advanced liver cirrhosis and multiple sclerosis. His demise was unpopular among beta readers who came to love his sense of humor and sibling relationship with Eva. Also, a literary agent rejection I received during the height of the COVID pandemic suggested I try for something less devastating in those trying times. I found a different reason for Lor to be bedridden and revised accordingly. I’m very happy with the way his character arc played out, and I hope readers are too.

1.       How many books have you written, and which is your favorite?

I’ve written six novels and, while I love Whiskey on Our Shoes for its big cast and unconventional family dynamics, my favorite is my young adult book presently titled Closer to the Flame. It’s about a teen girl who undergoes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to address her panic attacks and nightmares. The story is important to me because of my own life-changing experience with EMDR for complex PTSD. I hope the book will someday bring awareness of EMDR benefits to readers.

2.       If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

There is no sequel planned…but if there was a sequel, you can bet it would include Eva and Alex taking a Pacific coast highway tour in her tiny house. Oh—and a trip to Hungary where Alex just might propose to Eva in a fantastically romantic way.

3.       Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each book stands on its own, but I sometimes include things like fictional band names in more than one.

4.       How did you come up with the title for your book?

I’m usually terrible at titles! Luckily, I have writer friends who are more creative with them. Credit for the title of WOOS goes to my fellow writer and critique partner Ashley Martin, who I met and befriended through Goodreads.

5.       How long did it take you to write this book?

The first draft came quick, in less than a year, but periodic revision took another four. So, I’d say five years in all.

6.       What does the title mean?

The title of Whiskey on Our Shoes is a nod at the meet cute between the main characters Eva and Alex. The meet cute comes about when Eva’s bedridden brother cooks up a scheme to get his hands on a bottle of whiskey, despite his promise to stay sober. The scheme involves an unsuspecting Alex, who’s just the delivery person. As Eva confiscates the bottle, it gets dropped and broken at her and Alex’s feet.

7.       What did you learn when writing the book?

With this book, I learned to get out of my head and made steps toward not worrying what people (read: my ultra-conservative family) would think. The book I’d written previously was meant for my mom and grandmother’s eyes. WOOS wasn’t, so I gave myself freedom with details of the characters’ lives and wacky situations in which they found themselves.

8.       What surprised you the most?

In hindsight, I think Eva’s brother, Lor, surprised me. He turned out more likable than I expected. This made it easier to not kill him off in the end as originally planned.

9.       Have you ever killed off a character your readers loved?

In early versions of WOOS, Eva’s brother, Lor, died from advanced liver cirrhosis and multiple sclerosis. His demise was unpopular among beta readers who came to love his sense of humor and sibling relationship with Eva. Also, a literary agent rejection I received during the height of the COVID pandemic suggested I try for something less devastating in those trying times. I found a different reason for Lor to be bedridden and revised accordingly.

10.    What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?

I listen to the music that I picture that character liking. For example, while writing Alex’s POV, I listened to a lot of country music, especially Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan. In my YA novel, Cordy is a big pop-punk fan, so I channel her through bands like Mayday Parade, State Champs, Broadside, etc.

When the attention-avoiding daughter of a celebrity couple and a Texas cowboy college student with his own troubles fall hard for each other, they must face their truths together or be torn apart by a media storm.


Eva dodges the fans, media, and gossip that follow her supermodel mom and rock star family members by wearing disguises. After an aimless gap year, she struggles to figure out what she wants from life. She moves in with her famous guitar god brother in Austin while he recovers from a drunken stage stunt accident and tries to stay sober. When a hot Texas cowboy named Alex takes Eva by surprise, she risks her safety and security of anonymity by letting him into her unconventional life.

Alex is captivated by Eva and promises to protect her privacy. Yet he has a secret of his own—the fling he had with an older woman is fraught with scandalous potential for him and now Eva. He broke free of that mistake months ago, or so he thought. As things heat up with Eva, his old flame returns and won’t leave him alone.

Just when Alex thinks he has the reins on the situation, his ex teams up with a gossip reporter hell-bent on invading Eva’s privacy. The resulting exposé, with a sly spin on a recent encounter with his ex, is Alex’s worst nightmare, and Eva’s unsure what to believe. Can she face the world with Alex at her side or will she return into hiding?


Checking that the wig hides all my blonde hair, I ask Mom, “Who am I today?”

Her head whips around, and she gasps. “I almost forgot. How about…Bella?”

“Works for me.” I slide on a pair of oversized sunglasses, and she puts on a floppy, wide-brimmed hat.

She’s told me before how being spotted in public doesn’t concern her unless there’s a chance of me getting drawn into the attention. On the few occasions I’ve shown up in snapshots with the celebs in our family, I looked slightly different each time, thanks to various disguises. And in those rare photos, I’m in the background, facing away from the camera.

Managers and salespeople create a subtle barrier between us and other shoppers, but my goal is to be invisible to them as well. Not so easy when they give us the royal treatment behind the scenes. I trust they won’t take pictures or video, but a lot of my energy’s spent pretending to be someone else. I’m rusty at avoiding curious stares. It’s more exhausting than I remembered.

As Mom browses from display to display, I find it easier to stay engrossed in a game on my phone. Staring at the screen, my face is shielded by the tresses of the brunette wig.

“Earth to Bella.” Mom waves a hand in front of my eyes. “Isn’t it cute?”

I glance at the summer dress she’s holding. “Yeah, it’s nice,” I say, and my gaze falls right back to my phone. She must not notice my lack of excitement and moves on to another dress, chattering non-stop.

“Ooh, Bella, check this out.” “Hey, Bella, I could see you in this.” “Bella, do you like this dress?” She won’t stop, and I have an absurd sense of not being me anymore. How the hell should I know what Bella likes?

The next time Mom calls me Bella, I wince and squeeze my eyes shut.

“Are you okay?” Mom touches my arm.

“I’m not feeling well.” I press my fingers to my temples.

She guides me into a curtained dressing room. “Try not to puke or faint or anything.” She lingers by the entry, eying me warily. “Are you good now?”

“I will be. You should keep shopping. I just need a minute.” I sit on a bench in the small space.

“Maybe you’re dehydrated. I’ll have someone bring you a drink.”

I close my eyes and lean on the wall, craving the freedom I’ve enjoyed without Mom.

My heart sinks, though. I love Mom, and I’ve missed her, but is this what Lor means when he talks about me finding independence?

“Excuse me, miss, are you Bella?” someone says.

I open the curtain. There’s a lady, mid-twenties, offering me a bottle of water. Grateful, I take it, and she has an eager, starstruck look in her eyes.

“It must be cool to hang out with Sloane Silver, huh? How do you know her?”

“She’s a friend of my mom’s.” I take a long, cold drink.

“Wow, where’re you from?”

Cornered, I mutter the first thing to pop into my head. “I’m from Budapest.”

Her eyebrows rise, probably from disbelief since I don’t have an accent.

Oops. I stand. Time to leave.

The lady moves aside, and Mom’s standing there, the color drained from her face. She stares in my direction, her eyes glazed over.

I approach her. “What’s wrong?”

She startles and snaps out of whatever made her look like she’d seen a ghost. “Oh, nothing.” Her gaze flits to the lady. “We’re good here. Thanks for your help.”

The lady makes herself scarce as Mom shoos me back into the dressing room and closes the curtain.

“Eva, what made you think of…that place?” Mom whispers.

“What place? Oh, Budapest?” I shrug. “It came to mind because of the postcard. The one in Lor’s living room.” I note the clenching of her jaw as she turns away. “Does the postcard mean something? When I asked Lor, he wouldn’t say.”

“If he didn’t tell you, it must be private.” She faces me again, with a tight smile. “You’ve hardly shopped for yourself today, and I want to buy you something. Try these on.” She hangs the dresses she’s holding on a hook in the dressing room.

I absentmindedly flip through them, waiting for her to leave before I strip.

“Ev—Bella,” she whispers. “Why are you checking price tags?”

I shrug. “I guess it helps me decide if something’s worth it or not.”

Worth it?” She eyes me, head to toe, like I’m a stranger. And I do feel strange. Maybe she doesn’t know me anymore. Do I even know myself? 

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About the Author

Tonya Preece writes romance and contemporary young adult fiction and incorporates music into all her books in one way or another. She lives near Austin, TX where she’s a small business manager for a forensic engineering firm. She and her husband enjoy traveling, live music, wine, and spoiling their fur babies.

As an active SCBWI member since 2015, Tonya has volunteered for several conferences and has served as a critique group facilitator. She joined the Writer’s League of Texas and The Author’s Guild in 2021. She served as the 2022 WriteOnCon Financial Administrator and Critique Boutique Coordinator.

Tonya’s 2022 debut, Whiskey on Our Shoes, was selected for the 2019 #WriteMentor program. One of her YA novels, CLOSER TO THE FLAME, earned her a 2020 scholarship/mentorship with Austin SCBWI and was a finalist at the 2018 Houston SCBWI conference.

An avid consumer of written stories, Tonya reads and/or listens to an average of 75 books a year. Some of her favorite YA authors include Jeff Zentner, Julie Buxbaum, Sarah Dessen, and Robin Benway. In adult romance – Kate Clayborn, Christina Lauren, Helena Hunting, Emily Henry, and Abby Jimenez. Series she tries to keep up to date on: Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Recent mainstream faves are Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Five Fun Facts about Tonya that aren’t reading or writing related:

1. She volunteers at a local food pantry, where she’s enjoyed serving weekly since 2017.

2. Her travel bucket list includes Italy, Ireland, and Bora Bora. Australia would be awesome, too!

3. She loves ziplining, indoor skydiving, and rollercoasters.

4. She’s a fan of bands like With Confidence, Broadside, All Time Low, State Champs, Sleeping with Sirens, and As It Is.

5. 5. In her free time, she can be found indulging a jigsaw puzzle habit and/or binging shows like Outer Banks, Never Have I Ever, Downton Abbey, Bridgerton, Good Girls, Veronica Mars, and iZombie.

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Finding the End Zone

Finding the End Zone

Game Time Series Book 1

by Tam DeRudder Jackson

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

 It started as fun and games. Now I’m playing for her heart—and my own.

Never date a player.

Football god Callahan O’Reilly can keep his blazing blue eyes to himself. I have a scholarship to maintain, and I do not have time to babysit a jock through a make-or-break class project. Even if one smoldering glance from him sets my panties on fire.


Time to change her mind.

Jamaica Winslow opens her mouth and spews sass like a volcano. One look at her uptight package and I want to coax the genie from the bottle, unleash all the passion she hides beneath a mop of unruly curls and a smart-ass attitude. She’s not my type, she doesn’t know one damn thing about the game that rules my life, and I can’t stop thinking about her.


Who said anything about love?

Jamaica does her best to keep me at arm’s length, but I’m not a pro prospect because I let the plays come to me. With the game on the line, I always want the ball. When an alum with deep pockets and delusions of grandeur makes demands that threaten my NFL chances and Jamaica’s scholarship, I have no choice but to man up and do the right thing no matter the cost.

It started as fun and games. Now I’m playing for her heart—and my own.

Game Time.

**Only .99cents!**

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About the Author

Tam DeRudder Jackson is the author of the paranormal romance Talisman Series and the contemporary romance Balefire Series. Her favorite “room” in her house is her patio where she dreams up stories of romance and risk. When she’s not writing her latest paranormal or contemporary romance, you can find her driving around in her convertible or carving turns on the slopes of the local ski hill. The mom of two grown sons, Tam likes to travel, attend rock concerts, watch football and soccer, and visit old car shows with her husband. She lives in the mountains of northwest Wyoming where she spends most of her free time trying to read all the books. Her TBR piles are threatening to take over her office, and she’s fine with that.


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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Merry Ghostmas

Merry Ghostmas

A Baker City: Hearts & Haunts Christmas Novella

by Josie Malone

Genre: Holiday Paranormal Romance

The holidays are the best time of the year in Baker City, Washington especially when the town ghosts, led by newcomer, Army Ranger Moises Pride decide to wreak havoc and do their own version of A Christmas Carol. They’ll attempt to redeem Nick MacGillicudy, the incompetent horseshoer who’s been hurting two and four-legged folks for years. He needs a lesson not only in manners, but also in empathy and what the haunts consider decency.

Along the way, they’ll also help Kyra O’Neill, local riding instructor find love, light and happiness with a ‘real man’. Orphaned at a young age, Derek Waller found a new life in the US Army. Thirty years later, he’s ready for something more than camos and combat boots. A home of his own in Baker City won’t be complete without the woman who runs the pool table in the cocktail lounge at Pop’s Café and defeats him on a regular basis.

There’s no place like home for the holidays in Baker City – thank heaven! And it’s Merry Ghostmas to one and all!



Moises Pride drifted through the cocktail lounge at Pop’s Café in Baker City, Washington. It wasn’t super busy on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Most people had other commitments, shopping, cooking, visiting their relatives, but he wasn’t one of them, not anymore. That’s because I’m dead, dead, dead! Sorry, Momma. Another year of missing the family and your sweet potato pie.

He spotted a few of the other ghosts hanging out, watching the action between the living patrons. An old-time holiday movie played on the big-screen TV in the corner. He floated toward the corner booth where Mayor O’Connell, a middle-aged fellow in a black suit sat talking to Zeke Garvey and Raven Driscoll-Barlow, two former soldiers who’d died in ambushes in Afghanistan. Their war might not be his, but it didn’t mean they didn’t have a lot in common when it came to paying the ultimate cost for serving their country. Nodding respectfully, Moises waited to join the conversation. 

Raven, a thin, dark-haired wraith in camouflage fatigues and combat boots, gestured at two of the people sitting at the bar, focused on their conversation and one another. “You have something to do with that, Pride? Are you following Garvey’s example and playing Cupid the way he did with Ann Barrett and Harry Colter?”

“I just gave them a little nudge.” Moises followed her gaze toward the lovely ash-blonde woman in a red dress and the soldier next to her. Derek Waller was a solid, muscular man whose worn features looked as if he’d won more fights than he’d lost in his thirty-plus years of military service. A ‘high and tight’ style for his receding salt and pepper black hair, dark brown, almost black eyes, he was all man. “I’ve hung out at the barn for the past few months, and I’ve seen Kyra O’Neill busting her butt. She deserves someone decent, not that candy-assed horseshoer who bullies the animals when he’s sure nobody’s watching.”

“These two were betting on how long she’d wait for some guy tonight.” Raven frowned thoughtfully. “Is that him?”

“Not the Sergeant-Major,” Moises said. “I already told you. She’s hung up on Nick MacGillicudy and I’d like to do something about the jerk.”

Mayor O’Connell frowned thoughtfully. “What do you have in mind, Pride?”

“Oh, let’s get in the holiday spirit.” Moises pointed at the TV. “We could do our own Christmas Carol on Nick MacGillicudy and teach him what he needs to know.”

“He might even move on and leave town,” Zeke agreed. “I never liked the guy when we were in high school. Do I get to be the Ghost of Christmas Past?”

“You’re not the only one who has issues with Herman MacGillicudy and his son,” Mayor O’Connell said. “That banker has been running Baker City into the ground for years. He tries to get his grown kids to help him rip off our kin.”

“He won’t be happy until he levels the place and turns it into one of his gravel pits,” Zeke said. “His daughter, Dominique, the realtor may say she’s on the same page, but that isn’t true, not when she finds buyers for the houses and businesses here. She helped my wife purchase the bakery after I died. ”

“She restores the places that need it before she sells them,” Raven pointed out. “I like Dominique. She did right by my bestie and her hubby. They love the home she found for them.”

The mayor nodded. “She takes after her momma, one of the O’Leary women.” He paused, obviously considering Moises’ suggestion. “Most of our folks will be here tomorrow when Pop sets up his holiday meal. Let’s get everyone involved. Things have been downright dull since the haunted town festival last month and the Veteran’s Day Parade a couple weeks ago. We need something to do now.”


On Wednesday night, Thanksgiving Eve, the lounge at Pop’s Café in Baker City wasn’t as busy as it would be on the upcoming holiday weekend. When she’d arrived an hour ago, Kyra O’Neill had glanced around the room but didn’t see her date waiting in any of the booths against the walls or at the tables in the middle of the room or playing pool in the alcove near the restrooms. He wasn’t standing at the bar either. Oh no, not again! Nick MacGillicudy had a habit of being late and not showing up at all when he promised to meet her.

She sighed. For this, she’d hurried through the horse chores at work when she finished her last equitation class. She’d hustled into the barn manager apartment, nabbing the shower before her room-mate, Trina Sweeney could. Kyra turned down the offer of a microwaved pasta dinner, saying she’d eat in town with Nick. They’d arranged to meet at the café. Okay, so it was more her idea, than his, but he’d agreed. They could eat and then spend the night out at his trailer. She wasn’t comfortable taking him back to the carriage house style apartment above one of the barns at Miracle Riding Stable.

Her comment earned a pitying look from the other riding instructor, but she hadn’t shared the criticism both of them often heard from Nick’s younger sister. She claimed he only made piecrust promises, easily made, and easily broken. When she heard about Kyra being stood up once again, Dominique would have a lot to say and none of it would be positive.

After another look around the lounge, Kyra took a deep breath and sauntered toward the bar. She’d dressed for romantic success in a cranberry red, heirloom lace dress with tight-fitting, three-quarter lace sleeves. The double-layer handkerchief hem swirled around her knees and her fashion boots tapped out a rhythm on the tile floor. She’d pinned her long ash-blonde hair into a loose bun, leaving sexy tendrils around her face, ears, and neck. Throw in the cosmetics and jewelry and she looked damned hot tonight, nothing like a 38-year-old woman who was shoveling horse pucky two hours ago.

Most of the tables appeared to be empty, not an unusual sight in Baker City. The corner booth had a cord across the end and a ‘Reserved’ sign hung from it. Pop MacGillicudy, the owner had said his grandfather always held the place for the mayor and his cronies. Granted, all of them had died years ago, but in this town, the ghosts were real and treated with respect. Or else!

Kyra decided she’d order a glass of white wine and wait a little longer. A somewhat successful farrier, Nick could be busy shoeing a horse for a client. She reached into her purse and drew out her cell phone. No messages. She hesitated before she texted him. She didn’t want to appear desperate even if she was. She pasted on a smile and hoped it looked genuine when the bartender, Pop’s daughter, Linda, a plump, brown-haired woman in a flowered shirt and black slacks approached.

There were a few years between them and way too much history, but then again Kyra knew she was too snarky to make friends easily. Sarcasm was always a good offense and defense, for that matter. She’d hitched up on a stool. “A glass of Chardonnay please.”

“You look ready for the holidays.” Linda smiled and reached for a goblet in the rack. The soft brown eyes warmed her pretty face. “How’s life at Miracle Riding Stable? Are Debbie and her family off to eastern Washington for Thanksgiving?”

“They left early this morning.” Kyra put her small red purse on the antique bar. “I’m in charge while she’s gone.”

“Of course you are. Debbie says she doesn’t know what she’d do without you. She’s so grateful you stayed on after she bought the place last spring.”

Pleasure flooded through Kyra. Granted, she often heard sincere praise from the retired Army sergeant, but it was even more special knowing the woman shared her opinion in the small town. “The housekeeper only does the daily stuff and is off for the weekend. Debbie has a special project for your cleaning company on Friday. Her grandmother is coming to visit after the holiday and Debbie hoped you’d have time to prepare the guest suite off the kitchen for her.”

“No worries, as her daughters say. I’m grateful she kept me on after she hired Lupe Gonzales.” Linda placed the glass on the bar. “Would you like something to eat? The kitchen’s still open.”

Kyra hesitated. She was supposed to have dinner with Nick, but she was hungry, close to starving. Her day started with morning chores, feeding forty equines while her boss loaded her Jeep. She and the three girls left early to meet Debbie’s husband at the army base. From there, they’d head over the mountains to Pullman where Debbie’s stepsons attended college.

Once they’d gone, Kyra groomed and saddled the string of lesson horses. She’d taught horsemanship classes all day and afterwards, it’d been time to muck stalls, water and feed those same horses once again. Granted, she didn’t have to do it alone. Trina always did more than her share, plus they had a high school boy to help. The younger woman promised to look after the cats and dogs at Debbie’s house since their boss preferred to leave the pets at home, not take them on a road trip.

“Dinner?” Linda repeated. “Dad made chicken fettuccine, and I know it’s one of your favorites.”

“That sounds good.” Kyra lifted the glass, sipped chilled wine. “Have you seen Nick anywhere? He was going to…”

Linda froze for a moment before she picked up a damp towel to wipe the counter between them. “He hasn’t been in since last night.”

“We’re supposed to have dinner together,” Kyra said. “Everybody in town eats here at the cafe. Are you sure you haven’t seen him?”

The silence grew between them. Linda reluctantly shook her head. “He was hustling some gals playing pool last night and he left with one of them. You can do so much better than my cousin’s son.”

Kyra nearly admitted the truth. She didn’t want a different man. She wanted tall, blond, muscular Nick MacGillicudy, the raunchy, sexy man whose kisses set her on fire. She blinked hard, determined not to cry in the middle of a town where she was related to far too many of the citizenry. “Is there garlic toast to go with that pasta? Since I don’t have to worry about my breath, add a couple pieces along with a small house salad. Ranch dressing on the side, please.”

“You bet. I’ll order your dinner right now.”


Sergeant-Major Derek Waller hadn’t wanted to stop on the way to Baker City from Seattle. It’d been difficult enough fighting the rush-hour, followed by the holiday traffic. He appreciated the invitation to spend the weekend and have Thanksgiving dinner with Harry Colter, one of the other sergeants from Fort Bronson, the Army Reserve base in Seattle, and his family.

Otherwise, it’d be another plastic meal at a restaurant because there was no longer a dining facility at the old historical fort that protected the city for more than a century. Now, the different units were transitioning to various sites throughout Liberty Valley and the army post would become a park. Only the military cemetery would remain at Fort Bronson along with two buildings designated as a museum.

An orphan raised in a series of foster homes, Derek enlisted as soon as he could. He’d dreaded retirement after being in the Army for more than twenty years, so he joined the Active Guard-Reserve program and was in charge of various part-time military units for another eleven years. Harry was one of the newest liaisons assigned to the post after his career in the elite Army Rangers, and their experiences in combat ensured they had a lot in common.

Parking outside Pop’s Café, Derek headed into the lounge rather than the restaurant. He recognized the perky, middle-aged woman behind the bar as the owner’s daughter. The tall, classy blonde in a brilliant red dress sitting on a stool at one end definitely drew his attention. He didn’t know her, but he’d like to have the opportunity. He deliberately angled closer to where she sat, a nearly empty glass of white wine in front of her.

Derek eased onto the stool next to hers. “Are you ready for another one?”

“Not from someone I don’t know.” She turned an icy gray gaze on him. “Go away.”

“I just got here.” He grinned at her, entertained by the rejection. “How will you get to know me if I leave?”

“I’ll handle it.” She signaled the bartender. “Linda, I’m ready for my check.”

“I’ll have it for you in a few minutes.” Linda turned her attention to Derek. “Twila Garvey dropped off those cheesecakes Ann Barrett ordered and said you’d be along to pick them up. Bad traffic, huh?”

“And a late night at the base,” Derek agreed. “I barely made the PX in time to grab the case of wine her husband, Harry Colter wanted.”

“I’ll get those desserts. Meantime, Kyra O’Neill, play nice with others. Sergeant-Major Waller works nearly as hard as you do.” Linda paused. “Have you had dinner, Derek? Or do you want Pop to throw a burger on the grill for you?”

Grateful for the half-assed introduction, Derek nodded. “Sounds good. Then I won’t have to impose on Ann and Harry for a meal.” After the bartender walked away, he eyed the other woman again. “So, what do you do, Kyra?”

She picked up the glass in front of her and he admired the fact that she didn’t wear polish on her extremely short fingernails. He never had liked claws on women, especially red ones.

“I manage Miracle Riding Stable outside town,” Kyra said. “It’d serve Linda right if I did the ‘dine and dash’ routine, but she’d just send half my relatives after me. And because we barely speak except at holidays, I’m not in the mood for a lecture from the likes of them.”

He chuckled. “And being the perfect gentleman I am, I’d volunteer to pay for your drinks.”

“I also had dinner and a piece of Twila’s New York cheesecake for dessert.” Slight amusement flickered across her face, then faded. She scowled, but still looked amazing even when she was slightly pissed. “It hasn’t been a good night. I shouldn’t take it out on you.”

“Guy’s an asshat.”

She blinked, shocked. “How did you know I was stood up?”

“Dump him. Anyone who’d blow off a date with you isn’t worth your time or effort.” He paused. “I bet you know little Princess Devon, Ann’s daughter.”

“She’s one of my best students,” Kyra admitted. “The girl has talent. She’s never a princess in my barn. She’s only seven and impresses me most of the time. You’re talking a kiddo who’s happy to brush, clean hooves and saddle up for herself. She even grabs the plastic fork and scoops poop if one of the horses takes a dump in the arena. Oh, crap. I probably shouldn’t have said all that.”

“Hey, I enjoyed it. Tell me more." 

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 Kindred Spirits

Baker City Hearts & Haunts Book 5

by Josie Malone

Genre: Paranormal Ghost Military Romance

Two soldiers devastated by heartache, Debbie Ramsey and Rex Sinclair decided to rescue themselves with a mutually supportive endeavor, a “marriage in name only.” He wanted a guarantee after a tumultuous divorce. Betrayed, rejected, and abandoned by her family, she wanted a safe harbor. Amazingly, their scheme actually worked and oh, what adventures they had along the way.

Eight years later, she’s leaving the U.S. Army behind, trading her camos and combat boots for blue jeans and cowgirl boots. Now, the owner of Miracle Riding Stable near Baker City, Washington, Debbie intends to have a riding good time at her new home. Does having a new life mean leaving Major Rex Sinclair behind?



May 2011

“Sir! We need to talk!”

Recognizing the low, feminine voice as that of the new noncom in charge of the warehouse he operated, Captain Rex Sinclair glanced over his shoulder at the woman in camouflage fatigues standing behind him.  “No good conversation ever started with those words, Sergeant Ramsey.” He gestured to the seat next to him. “Pull up a stool before you tell me what an asshat I am, and I’ll buy you a drink. I’m having boilermakers. Want one?”

     “No thanks. At least we agree on something, sir. Your behavior is execrable, sir and unbefitting an Army officer.” She sat down, next to him, carefully placing her regulation handbag on the bar. She narrowed the electric-blue eyes that haunted him twenty-four, seven and glared at him.  “You bailed on me, sir. You know there’s an I.G. inspection at 0800 hours tomorrow. You should have stuck around, sir, and helped prep for it, not hightailed it before closing formation.”

“I’m getting a divorce and the call from the lawyer today pissed me off. My going to be ex-wife wants beaucoup bucks. Beyond child support for the kids, she isn’t getting a dime.”

“Everything pisses you off, sir. Ranting, raging and yelling obscenities at the top of your lungs is inappropriate, sir, when we have work to do.”

Rex winced, reaching for the shot glass of whisky in front of him. Sergeant First Class Deborah Ramsey was tired. He saw the exhaustion in her pale, lovely features. She’d undoubtedly been working ever since he stormed out of the warehouse. In the past month while assigned to his section, she always arrived before he did and stayed long after he left. She hadn’t gone to the barracks to change out of her camouflage fatigues before tracking him down at this ramshackle tavern. “You’re not letting this go, are you, Ramsey? Are you sure about that boilermaker? You probably need it.”

“No, thanks. I’m not drinking whisky and following it with a beer chaser.” She folded her arms and frowned even more fiercely. “It’s ‘sergeant’s business’ to train junior officers. You know that’s second lieutenants fresh out of college. If you need somebody to wipe your tail or your nose, it’s not me. Man up, sir!”

He tossed down the whisky and took a hasty swallow of the waiting beer, struggling to collect his thoughts. He’d been drinking since afternoon and now it was well into the night. “Cut me some slack, Sarge. My wife, soon to be ex-wife introduced me to what she said was my six-month-old daughter when I got off the plane three months ago. Made a big splash on national TV.”

“You’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who cares, sir. I don’t. Not about your piddly personal problems – .”

“I’d been gone for a year and a half. When I had a week’s R & R, she wouldn’t meet me in New York and now, I know why. She told me she couldn’t get anyone to stay with the other four kids, that the housekeeper was away on vacation. My wife lied to me. She was pregnant with someone else’s kid.”

“Again, I don’t care.” Sergeant Ramsey held up her hand. “You have choices, sir. Divorce her. Reconcile with her. But stop throwing tantrums. You’re grown. Put on your big boy panties and act like a commissioned officer up for promotion.”

“And it’s an ‘embrace the suck’ moment, isn’t it?” He finished his beer and signaled the bartender for a refill. “You deserve a better C.O., Ramsey. If you want a transfer, I’ll sign the request.”

“We can’t both run away, sir. You requested the job here in Texas instead of returning to California after your last combat tour – .”

“Everybody knows my business there. I wanted a fresh start.”

“Then act like it.” Sergeant Ramsey nodded at the bartender when she approached, carrying another two glasses, his next boilermaker. “What kind of white wine do you have?”

  “Put it on my tab,” Rex said. “If the sergeant’s gonna keep ripping me a new one, she needs dinner to go with it. I know she skipped lunch and I’m pretty sure she hopped supper too. Better give us a menu.”

“It’s almost 2300 hours,” Sergeant Ramsey said. “Isn’t the kitchen closed?”

“Not yet. You have ten minutes to select a burger and fries.” The sturdy, gray-haired older woman handed over a grease-stained sheet of paper. “Choose fast, honey.” She glanced at Rex. “Might want to sop up some of that booze with food, Captain.”

“Good idea.” Rex waited until they had fresh drinks before he gestured to a table on the other side of the room. “Let’s move over there to eat. You can bring me up to speed on what still needs to be done for the inspection.”

“It’s hopeless, sir.” She followed him across the tavern, bypassing the men at the pool table. “I could only clean up so much of the mess in the month I’ve been at the warehouse. Your previous N.C.O.I.C. retired. Scuttlebutt is he didn’t want to put up with you a moment longer.”

Rex pulled out a chair and waited for her to sit down. “Unfortunately, there’s more truth than fiction to that story, Ramsey. We’re both fairly new at this base. How do we salvage the situation?”

“I don’t know.” She heaved a sigh. “If it’s like other posts where I’ve served in the last ten years, the senior Army officers won’t care about the crap-fest in our section. They’ll want optimum results whether it’s reasonable or not. So, I’ll get the proverbial ass-chewing tomorrow. It’s annoying, but it can’t be helped.”

“You’ve done your best to rectify a bad situation.” Rex gestured to her wine. “Drink up. I’ve got your six, Sarge. I know I haven’t been doing my share, but it isn’t reasonable to expect us to clean up something this broken in such a short amount of time.”

“It’s not the troops’ fault. They’ve done their best with the minimal, erratic leadership they’ve been receiving.”

“I know that as well as you do. You need more support from the non-commissioned side of the house, so let’s see what we can do to get it.”

She hesitated. “I’m not here for much longer, sir. This is a transition assignment. I’ll be shipping out to Afghanistan before the end of the year. I don’t have my orders yet, but they’ll be coming through soon enough.”

“You’ll be missed.” He paused, waiting for their meals to be placed in front of them. “Let’s eat and then we’ll work out a plan.”

“That’s do-able, sir.”


More than once during the next half-hour, Debbie Ramsey reminded herself to focus on the cheeseburger and fries in front of her, rather than staring at the broad-shouldered, dark-haired man in combat fatigues sitting across from her. It’s not my fault he’s a hunk and a half. She couldn’t help admiring his rough-hewn features, the strong cheekbones and, from an earlier combat tour, the broken nose. His previous noncom had told her Sinclair was injured from an I.E.D, but luckily all his troops survived the assault. If they hadn’t, she’d have heard about it. Army bases ran on gossip too.

She hadn’t expected him to admit he'd been irresponsible at the warehouse or to buy her dinner. Granted, he was in a ‘sticky wicket’ as her best friend would have said. Debbie knew that long before she’d heard him shouting at a lawyer through a closed office door today. The conversation ended with Sinclair roaring he wasn’t paying his ex-wife the alimony she wanted. He’d demanded DNA tests on all five of the kids she’d foisted off on him, especially the daughter born when he was away for more than eighteen months in Afghanistan, the one obviously conceived when he was out of CONUS and his wife’s mind and life.

Debbie swirled a French fry in a pool of ketchup. It wasn’t as if Sinclair was lying about his failed marriage. She’d heard yet another sad story from a different noncom. The captain’s wife was a serial cheater who’d slept around on more than one base and when her affairs resulted in pregnancies, Sinclair ended up with his name on the birth certificates.  Still, he needed to do his job just like she did. If he yelled, ‘bullshit’ one more time when everything went from sugar to shit in less than a heartbeat, she’d tell him again to freaking ‘man up’.

After he slammed down the phone this afternoon, he’d stormed into the warehouse and raged at a civilian driver delivering a load who’d unfortunately parked in the wrong space. The poor woman burst into tears which meant it took even longer to get the semi-truck moved to where it should have been in the first place. Debbie had stepped in and smoothed over the situation.

It hadn’t gained her any points with the man in charge. Everyone around heard another stream of repeated ‘bullshits’ and ‘f-bombs’ before he swept out of the building, shouting his favorite words at full volume.  She’d worked the rest of the day and most of the night, grateful not to deal with his tantrums or so-called supervision. When she couldn’t finish everything that needed to be done at the warehouse in time, she’d decided to tour the small town near the base and track him down at his favorite watering-hole.

“All right. We’ve eaten.” She sipped the remains of her favorite Zinfandel. “What’s it going to take for you to step up and do your job, sir?”

“I’ll do my best not to lose it from now on, Ramsey.” Rex lifted the glass of beer. “I’m worried. I miss my kids. I need a guaranty I won’t go back to California. It’s hard to deal with Averill cheating on me when I never chippied on her. Not in fifteen years.”

“That’s a better track record than most men have.” Debbie met his golden-brown gaze. He’d shown his vulnerability and she could do the same. “Tell you the truth, sir. I’m apprehensive about going back to the sandbox this time. I don’t have anyone in CONUS to look after my business matters.”

“No family?”

Debbie shook her head. “My grandparents have health issues, and I don’t want to burden them. They’ve been looking after my horses and I’m not sure if they’ll be able to handle them for the next year and a half.”

He paused and studied her. “Maybe, we could help out each other.”

“How do we do that?”

“I need a new wife when my divorce is final in September. If I’m married, I won’t do something stupid and get reeled back into more drama. And if I’m your husband, you can trust me to look after your concerns.”

“Are you serious?” She stared at him, hoping her jaw didn’t hit the table. “Sir, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You may want a wife on paper, but I can’t see how a ‘paper’ husband could help me.” She paused, recalling her turbulent life before she enlisted. Then again, it could resolve a few issues I don’t like to remember.

“Well, at least you didn’t refuse.” He chuckled, finished his beer, and then stood. “Come on, Ramsey. Let’s call it a night. I have a few months before my divorce is final and you leave the States. I’ll convince you it’s a life-saver for both of us.”

“Not happening, sir.” Still, the idea made her smile.



October 2011

They’d deliberately honored the thirty-day waiting period required by Texas after his divorce was final before they married. Rather than let anyone know their plans, she’d used two weeks’ leave to visit her grandparents before she shipped out. She’d told them about Rex Sinclair, so they’d know how to contact him if she didn’t make it home. Then, she met him in Las Vegas.

She’d always wanted an “Elvis” wedding and luckily, Rex was willing to go along with the plan without bitching about the kitschy ceremony or the minister happily singing Elvis songs. Of course, she laughed her backside off when Rex demanded equal time and the opportunity to reserve a honeymoon suite at the luxury Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Turnabout was fair play as the saying went. They’d spent two days together after the ceremony enjoying gourmet meals, gambling, dancing and of course making love in their suite.

She always woke up early, a leftover habit instilled in childhood when she lived on her parents’ ranch in Montana. Debbie eased out of the king-size bed leaving him to sleep. She had to pack and be downstairs in an hour to catch the shuttle to the airport. On her way to the ensuite, the vintage sapphire and diamond claddagh wedding set on her left hand caught her eye.

He’d told her it belonged to his grandmother, and she’d made him promise to give it to his ‘real’ wife, or save it for his oldest daughter, because his granny and Averill were always at loggerheads. After a quick shower, Debbie opted for comfortable civilian clothes, jeans, a light blue sweater, and flip-flops. She braided her hair, added makeup, and returned to the bedroom.

He must have heard her soft footsteps because he opened his eyes and sat up, the blanket still covering his lower body. “You’ll be gone by the time I get back to the base, won’t you?”

Debbie nodded. “Yes, but I’ll call whenever it’s possible.”


When he held out his hand, she crossed to him. She leaned down and kissed him. “Stay safe.”

“That’s my line, Ramsey. I’ll see you when you get home.”

“You know it, Sinclair.” And she kissed him again. “I’m counting on it.



Master Sergeant Debbie Ramsey stopped halfway across the parking lot in front of the warehouse to watch the August sunlight brighten Mount Rainier’s beautiful snowcapped peak. No matter how often she’d seen it in the last ten months she’d been stationed at Fort Clark, the sight always made her feel at peace, that everything was right with her world. Yes, she knew the ancient mountain was a volcano, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and sleeping before it erupted again. Sometimes, she felt like that herself.

She drew a deep breath of the warm afternoon air and continued to stroll toward the large building where she’d work for the next three days until her current enlistment ended. She’d taken two weeks off in April to close the deal on the riding stable she’d bought near Baker City in the Cascade foothills, then taught horse camp for two weeks in June and three more in July. She was running out of leave, but that didn’t actually matter since she wasn’t staying in the Army.

On Saturday morning, she’d be free to follow what she often thought of as an impossible dream. Now, she had to find a way to share her upcoming departure with the soldiers she supervised. They’d be fine, but what about her commanding officer? He’d certainly notice she was gone when he wanted something. He’d begun complaining about her using up her leave in what he called “dribs and drabs” rather than taking it all at once, but she told him it was easier to pick up the slack after short spurts rather than cleaning up various messes when she was gone for an extended period of time.

Smiling, she hurried up the concrete stairs near the end of the long building. Inside, she paused long enough to remove her camouflage cap. She glanced at the loading area and breathed a sigh of relief when she noted the last delivery of military supplies from the night before had already been stored. One less hassle. She headed for the hallway that led to the offices at the far end of the warehouse.

She’d barely reached the entry door when a familiar bellow assaulted her ears. Debbie grimaced. She’d only been away two hours. How did hell break loose so soon?

“Damn it, Petrie. This is bullshit. Where’s Ramsey?”

“She left for an appointment.” The other man sounded perfectly calm. “What was I supposed to do when the MP’s showed up, Major Sinclair?”

“It’s bullshit, Petrie. You’re giving me bullshit.”

Debbie pushed open the door, glimpsing the vintage sapphire and diamond claddagh ring she always wore on her left hand. She stepped into the large room that doubled as her office and that of the young company clerk who thankfully had a dentist appointment and wasn’t here to see the major make a fool of himself again. Silently, she watched the broad-shouldered man in combat fatigues rampage toward her desk, still chanting his favorite word.

A taller, slighter, younger officer with perfectly styled black hair wearing the Army service uniform, their version of a business suit, turned to face her. Lieutenant Petrie annoyed her on so many levels, not the least of which was his insistence on refusing to wear the same uniform—camo fatigues that she and everyone else did to work in the warehouses.

Petrie nodded at her. “Sergeant Ramsey, do something with him.”

“Is that an order, sir?” Debbie opted for her most professional tone but didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, she walked across the room, stopping where she’d be in the major’s way.

For a moment, she allowed herself to admire how he filled out his fatigues and then met his golden-brown gaze when he swung around to face her. “Excuse me, sir.”

“Ramsey, where have you been? Don’t you know better than to leave a college-trained, moron in charge of my warehouses? He can’t even keep the latrines stocked in toilet paper. It’s bull—”

“Major Sinclair!” Debbie exclaimed, keeping a straight face. “You wouldn’t swear in front of a lady?”

Red seeped into his rough-hewn features, edging the strong cheekbones and from an earlier time, the broken nose. “Sorry, Ramsey. I forgot you were female.” Rex Sinclair ran a hand through his short, salt and pepper hair. “Where were you? That damned Petrie—”

“Major!” One of these days, Sinclair might catch onto the fact that she could out-swear any and all of the soldiers working in the supply company, but luckily, he hadn’t yet.

“I’m sorry.” Rex repeated his apology and fired a glare in the direction of his so-called aide. “Lieutenant Petrie had me called off the golf course. I had to leave the general before we finished our game, and it made me irritable.”

“Yes, sir.” Debbie sank her teeth into her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “I’m sure the first lieutenant didn’t remember how much the general depends on you, sir.”

“Watch it, Ramsey.” Humor replaced the anger. “I may have been making a fool of myself, but you don’t have enough rank to tell me so.”

“It’s never stopped me before, sir.” She met his gaze and smiled up at him.

He wasn’t a big man, only four inches taller than her five feet, six inches, but he carried himself as if he were ten feet tall and bulletproof. Just by looking she could tell he was a warrior in every sense of the word, the kind of man who picked himself up when he was knocked down, ready to fight again. At forty-two, he wasn’t a spring chicken, but then again at almost thirty-five, neither was she. No wonder she preferred experience.

She folded her arms. “I don’t know what’s going on here, sir, but I’ll take care of it.”

“I know you will.” He paused. “Where were you?”

“My current enlistment ends in three days, sir. I was at the Recruiting and Retention Office for my appointment with the non-com in charge there. I asked the lieutenant to let you know if you returned before I did, but—”

Rex nodded. “Did you get everything you wanted in your re-enlistment contract? A bonus, a guarantee that you’ll stay here instead of being transferred or sent overseas, a promotion? Do you need me to make some calls to ensure you get everything you want?”

“It will be fine, sir. There’s quite a bit of paperwork to finish, so I get what I need, but we can discuss that later.” Debbie glanced at the junior officer waiting by the door to his office. “Why don’t you get back to your golf game? Like I said, I’m here now and I’ll stick around to handle any problems that arise.”

“All right.” Rex frowned before he stepped around her, his attention on the exit door. “Wait for me to make the command decisions, Ramsey. If the general could discuss this in his office, he would.”

“But the two of you can’t be overheard on the golf course.” Debbie inclined her head. “We both know how this game is played, sir.”

“I couldn’t do it without you, Ramsey.” He flashed the sudden smile that always charmed her, although he didn’t realize it. “I’ll be back for closing formation. If I’m not—”

“I’ll handle it,” Debbie repeated.

“Thanks, Ramsey. I can always count on you.” Rex started for the door.

“If I’d known how important the game was, I wouldn’t have had you paged, Major,” Lieutenant Petrie said. “I’m glad Sergeant Ramsey was able to use her womanly wiles to calm the situation.”

Before Debbie could respond, Rex did with a bark of sharp laughter. “Ramsey doesn’t have any of those, Petrie. She’s been in this man’s Army longer than you have—almost eighteen years—and has more combat experience. When she tells you to do something, I suggest you try listening to her and actually do it before you end up in a pine box.” He strode out the door, closing it behind him.

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About the Author

Josie Malone lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington State. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses, she finds in many cases, she's taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her Masters in Teaching degree, being a substitute teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve - all leading to her second career as a published author. Visit her at her website, to learn about her books.

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Reaper of Chaos

Blood of Saviors Book 1 A Reign of Goddesses Spinoff Series by C.D. Britt Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance She loves death. He  is  Dea...