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Archive for December 13th, 2016

Star-Crossed Saga

Star-Crossed Saga by Braxton Cosby

 

Protostar (Book 1)

What Would You Choose, love or duty?

On the brink of civil war, the Torrian Alliance continues with its mission to obliterate Star-children across the universe in order to suppress an intergalactic evil. Following the recommendations of his council, King Gregorio Derry reluctantly agrees to send his only son William on a mission to restore honor to his family name. William seeks to complete his assignment, the elimination of a Star-child named Sydney on planet Earth, but when the assassination is delayed he begins to realize an emotional connection with his target. With conspiracy threatening his home planet, and a hidden menace on Earth seeking to secure a vested interest, William finds himself torn between irrevocable duty and sacrificing everything he stands for to defend Sydney. As William and Sydney struggle to overcome their impossible circumstances, they start to wonder if the connection of two Star-Crossed lovers will be enough to save them from certain doom.

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My Review

4 stars

King Gregorio Derry is trying to prevent civil war. His people have taken it upon themselves to destroy all of the Star-Children to prevent them from coming into their full power and destroying the universe. He decides to send his son, Prince William Derry, a bounty hunter, to Earth to destroy a Star-Child called Sydney. Sydney is seventeen and doesn’t know any of this about herself, she is just a regular teenager. William doesn’t kill Sydney right away deciding to get to know her first. But the more William gets to know Sydney, the more he finds himself caring about her. With the two of them be strong enough to face the dangers ahead?

This is a beautiful story with lots of wonderful description. It is well written, especially following along with William as he struggles to understand his emotions. IMPI is hilarious in it single mindedness to keep them on mission. I really liked learning more about the Star-Children and how they come into their powers. I think it makes you feel how there is potential for greatness even if others don’t see it that way.

This is a great story and I admit that I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, Supernova.

Protostar Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Seventeen Years Ago . . .

Sarah stood atop the mountainside, looking out into the sky. The expanse of rich darkness and scattered stars reminded her of home. She desired to return there someday, but knew that she couldn’t. Things had been set in motion. There was no way to turn back now, even if she tried.

Still, something within her body felt wrong.

Is this the right place, right time? she thought.

Maybe the details got skewed, blended together, lost amongst all the immaculate planning. Even they were known to be wrong sometimes. She hoped against all hope that they weren’t. But stars never lie. She gazed into the sky. Their configuration—constellation after constellation, linked like a chain, with the Star of David perched in the center—was picture perfect. This had to be it. All she had to do now . . . was wait.

And wait she did.

Hours passed as the moon slid by. Just as her mind began to fill with doubt, it finally happened. The ground underneath her shifted, rocking her from side to side, up and down, as the stars burned brightly. She braced herself, running down from the mountain the best she could. Her old bony legs wobbled, struggling to keep her upright as she negotiated the uneven layers of rock and grass.

A loud crashing noise like the banging of cymbals lit her ears on fire as the sky parted, sending a tiny bright shard screaming across the black canvas, growing larger as it drew nearer.

Her eyes snapped to the road—the projected point of impact. But one detail had been missed.

Unaccounted for.

Someone else was there.

A vehicle sped down the dusty road, on a straight collision course with the object, which continued to grow larger and larger as time ticked on.

Sarah waved her hands as wildly, screaming, “Hey, you have to stop!”

But her screams went unnoticed. She gasped as the object crashed to the earth, tearing the car into pieces. She squinted, filtering the heat from the explosion as she moved in closer to examine the wreckage.

A gaping hole where the roof used to be greeted her, revealing the charred remains of another passenger. Sarah scanned the rest of the vehicle for survivors, finding only the shell of the driver white-knuckled to the steering wheel.

Her heart dropped.

The muffled sound of a baby crying tickled her ears, urging her to examine the object in the passenger seat more closely. It resembled a meteor, covered in craters and black ash that sent her into a coughing panic. A small crack in the outer shell provided just enough space for her to look inside.

She grabbed the door handle with both hands—wrinkled fingers trembling as she ripped the car door free—tossing it by the wayside. With a sigh of relief, she peeled back the shell. Black smoke stung her eyes while her hands burned from the heat. But Sarah ignored them both, pressing forward with her mission. Nothing would stop her now. With wet eyes, she smiled, finally finding what she had so desperately been looking for—a baby girl.

Supernova (Book 2)

WHAT YOU CHOOSE, BECOMES YOU…
Against everything he had known as truth, William has made the choice to protect Sydney from the forces seeking to destroy her. But just as these two Star-Crossed lovers are beginning to explore their relationship and search for answers to the mysteries of Sydney’s existence, she advances to the next stage of her Star-child evolution—Supernova—and struggles not only to control her new powers, but also the emotions for her new love. William seeks to find the truth behind Sydney’s erratic behavior, while overcoming the new threat headed to Earth to destroy them. With new villains and old allies on the horizon, and chaos brewing on William’s home world, will self-sacrifice prove to be the only way for him to achieve victory and defend his love, or is there another way?

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My Review

5 stars

Sydney is struggling to understand her role as a Star-Child and her powers. She is conflicted as she returns to school and Jeff, a boy she has feelings for while trying to understand her feelings for William. Sydney is also on the second stage of becoming a Star-Child and having trouble controlling her growing powers. But there are still people hunting her down and Sydney is going to have to learn about her powers to keep ahead of those that want to kill her.

While protecting Sydney, William doesn’t know how his father is under attack and there are a couple more groups coming for them, including his friend Arrion. Learning about Noella really got me, I’m so glad that she decided to help. All the while Sydney is suffering from mood swings and more. Is this change going to kill her before those hunting her get their hands on her?

This is a great series that will suck you right into the story. I love both William and Sydney, I think they make a great couple. Although there are more people added in, I had no trouble keeping track of what was happening. Then ending left me wanting more, I’m so glad that I already have Supernova so I can start reading it right away.

Supernova Excerpt

William helped Sydney up alongside a cliff overlooking the city and settled her comfortably along the edge. The blue sky slowly blended in between the black of night above and reddening dusk below. He slipped his arm around her and pulled her close. She snuggled up against him and gazed at the horizon. Home. The place where she had lived out her make-believe life for the last seventeen years looked smaller than ever from up there. And now, standing on the brink of annihilation, all the irrelevant within it ironically seemed larger than life.

If we could only stay this way forever, she thought. Time with William made everything last forever. “With a little bit of luck, we may actually win this fight, William.”

“Luck?” William asked. “We don’t need luck. I try not to put any stock on something that I can’t see, hear, or feel.”

“Oh, yeah? Then what about love?”

“I know that’s real. I feel that with every breath of my being. And no one can take that away from me.” William’s grip tightened around her shoulder. “Nor replace it.”

“So, I guess I’ll throw away my rabbit’s foot then,” she mumbled in jest.

“Sydney, I want you to do me a favor. Please do not deny me this one request.”

“Depends on what it is . . . but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t find a way to give you what you requested. I’d give you anything right now.”

“When the fighting starts,” William began, “I need you to stay away. Don’t come anywhere near the battle. If anything were to happen to you, it would destroy me. And if I thought for a second that you were not safe, it’d break my focus. I wouldn’t be half a man, or any bit of a soldier if I wasn’t confident that you were unharmed. I asked Henry to watch over you. Can I trust you do that for me?”

She took a long fleeting breath. “Yes, William. You have my word to keep safe. But please, I don’t want to talk about fighting . . . dying, or anything else tonight. Let’s just watch the stars and the rest of the world and be at peace. The way it should be. If this is the last of anything for us, I want to savor it by remembering absolutely nothing but the sound of our heartbeats.”

Her eyes filled with tears and spilled over as she sobbed, watching the sun finally fade out of sight.

***

Henry, Jasmine, Arrion, and Noella wore solemn faces as they spread out along the front porch when William and Sydney pulled up on the driveway.

William squeezed Sydney’s hand as the engine cut off and they met everyone on the porch. “You have an update for me, I take it?”

“It’s time, son,” Henry said.

“How do you know?” Sydney asked.

“We got word from Bill over an hour ago. He didn’t want to interrupt you guys. Dodge’s space fold initiated in Earth’s orbit a little before then. Bill estimates we have a little over two to three hours before Dodge completes the transition and lands on the surface. Bill sent a message to him with the location where the fighting will take place. With any luck, he’ll heed our request and come straight to the spot,” Arrion said.

“Don’t consider luck here, Arrion. He’ll show for sure,” William said.

Sydney looked up at William. “So, I guess this is it, huh?”

The terror in her voice made it impossible to look back at her. His heart swelled. “I need a minute with Henry,” he said.

Noella came to Sydney’s side and walked her around back. Arrion and Jasmine followed.

Henry pressed his shades along the bridge of his nose. “What’ll it be, slick? How long do you think it will take you to wipe this guy out? The bets are mounting up.”

The false confidence in Henry’s voice was laughable, making William’s throat tighten. “Don’t know? Wish I did. Do you remember the plan?”

“Yeah, I do. Sydney will be safe. I won’t let her out of my sight. I got June and Ward polished up and ready to go.”

“June and Ward?” William asked.

“The Cleavers. You know, Leave it to Beaver?” William stared at him, lost. Henry huffed. “Forget it. I got the guns in the house.”

“I also need to tell you something else, Henry. Once we kill this menace, I think I may have found a way for me to live with Sydney and not harm her anymore. It will require me to do the one thing I dread the most. I need you to be strong for her.”

“I got an idea what that entails—the classic love story ending. I’ll do my best.” Henry tipped his hat. “Let’s just get throughthis first.”

“Right . . . Oh,” William said with a nod. He reached into his back pocket and held out an envelope. “And please, give her this when I leave.” He handed it to Henry.

Henry took it. “Sure thing.”

“Well . . . so long.” He turned to walk away.

Henry called out to him, “William, wait.” William met his gaze. “I’m placing all my best on you, son.”

William smiled widely. As he rounded the corner of the house, he caught Noella and Sydney nestled together underneath the tree. Half-dried streaks of tears from reddened eyes ran along their cheeks. He warily approached, grief stricken by the reality that this could be the last time he’d witness such a scene.

Noella crooned some familiar song—definitely not of Earth origin—while she braided Sydney’s hair. Something struck a chord within William. He recognized the melody more than the words. As he faded back to the past, the keys played on, each line breaking through the haze. Finally, there it was.

The same song that his mother had sung to him when he was a child to fight away nightmares had somehow traversed space and time to comfort him once more. He pulled up short to appreciate the sound. The vision of his mother materialized before him. Her majestic elegance pierced his soul. The words from her mouth merged in unison with Noella’s, and just like back then—for the moment—peace consumed him.

And finally…Just released…Solstice…

Soltice (Book 3)

The explosive finale to Braxton Cosby’s Star-Crossed Saga trilogy—perfect for fans of TWILIGHT and LEGEND!

What You Believe, Can Destroy You!
William and Sydney have sacrificed everything to fortify their love, so much so that William dares to brave the depths of space to find a cure for their deadly Supernova bond, leaving both her and Earth vulnerable to Torrian Alliance attack. But with a full scale rebellion in play on Fabricius, the reality of Sydney’s execution from Torrian hands is diminished, only eclipsed by the certainty of a more threats – The Third Faction and The Dagmas Clan – lead by Dominic and his insurgent recruits. With overwhelming odds mounting against them, William makes a desperate attempt to find the last of the endangered Star-children only to be captured by a new menace, where he is forced to compete in the dreaded Gauntlet of sport. Allies surge to free Fabricius, seeking alliances across the galaxy while Sydney tries to keep her identity hidden and trains to master the third phase of her Star-child evolution: Solstice. With Sarah’s mysterious return home with clues to unlock the future, Noella’s training and Bill’s symbiotic development hope is restored, but will it be enough to unite the galaxy and destroy evil for once and for all?

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My Review

5 stars

William and Sydney must part ways and fight to be able to save Sydney. Sydney is training to control her powers while trying to keep her identity secret from those still hunting her down. William is on the hunt for the last Star-child but he is going to sacrifice everything just to save Sydney. Everything is starting to come together as William and Sydney’s love is tested.

I love this series. The beautiful writing draws you in to a real fight as Sydney tries to train to use her powers and William tries to find the last chance to save the galaxy. I really like how things are wrapped up with story. There are several twists and turns so the ending had me guessing.

If you are looking for a great Young Adult fantasy story look no further, you need to read this series. I can’t wait to read other books by Braxton Cosby.

Reading Addiction

I received all three books in the Star-Crossed Saga from Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this series.

Excerpt

CHAPTER THREE

 Sydney and Noella walked hand in hand along the small winding path leading to the top the Mount Dothan. The dusking sky painted a sheet of orange and red light across the woodsy terrain around them, giving the impression of wading through a sea of fire. Amid the grim moment of the day and the burning sensation rising in Sydney’s throat, the tone seemed fitting. Silence accompanied them, and it wasn’t until the pair hit the peak that Sydney finally broke the ice. “So what do your people call this ceremony?” she asked.

“The time of the harvest. It’s the moment when a fallen soldier is said to join the being of the sky. I think humans refer to it as God,” Noella said, her tone as flat as the expression on her face.

“Sounds cool,” she replied as she surveyed the surroundings; a patch of flatland that housed a family of hawks who watched cautiously from above in a lone cedar tree. From here, every inch of Madisonburg could be observed without the need of telescope or binoculars. A bed of dandelions and weeping willows greeted them in the center of the field.

“This way. I’ll show you where I buried his body,” Noella said.

She could see that Noella was visibly shaken, slowly unravelling before her eyes. Her hands trembled as her eyes began to redden. She wondered how long it’d take, amazed at how Noella had not said a word since Arrion’s death a few weeks ago, only morning him in silence, which she explained was customary on Fabricius. She had done the deed all by herself, refusing to allow Sydney to assist in his burial. From scouting the plot of land to digging the hole, Noella insisted that it was protocol on her planet for a lone fellow soldier to be assigned the arduous task of preparation. Seeing as though William had departed soon after, there was no better candidate left for the job.

She took Noella by the hand and drew her close, giving her the most delicate and firm hug she could muster. Noella stood motionless, sinking into her friend’s embrace. After a few seconds, she released her, unable to make eye contact. “I’m here for you,” she murmured.

“Thanks, Syd,” Noella replied, her voice ragged.

She finally looked up at her and gave a nod, following Noella’s lead over to the place where Arrion’s body lay. Surprisingly, the disturbed clay seemed more settled than she expected, dried from the sun and already showing signs of life as Bermuda grass had slowly began to encroach along the edges. A makeshift tombstone had been erected, fashioned from metallic fuselage scraps of the Daedallus, with only Arrrion’s name and handle tatted along the surface, minus dates to hide his identity to hikers in hopes that most consider it a memorial to a lost pet if they stumbled upon it.

Noella knelt next to the grave, slid her backpack from her shoulders and began to open it. Searching her bag, she retrieved a small oval-shaped disk and a satchel filled with purple powder. “These are crushed lilacs pedals. We must first prepare the path for Arrion’s ascension by sending tribute to the sky.” She stood and sprinkled a few handfuls over the grave until a thin layer had materialized before them. “On our planet we usually use the oil of a Tonosia Tree, which is a lot thicker substance and is used for sterilization. Sarah thought it’d be a good idea to use lilacs as a substitute because it was a similar color.”

“It’s beautiful,” she replied.

“I will now begin the ceremony.” Noella placed the disc in the center of the burial site, depressed a red button on the top and came to her side. The two joined hands as the disc began to spin and dig into the hardened clay. Noella pointed a hydrogen phaser at the site and fired a stream of fire upon it that scorched the sheet of crushed pedals. The disc disappeared beneath the flames and Noella broke out into song, in an alien dialect that Sydney could not understand. It was less about the words and more the moment that choked at her, forcing the tears to flow freely down her face. She squeezed Noella’s hand as she crooned on. By the time Noella had finished, a small fissure had opened in the place where the disc had entered and a cloud of embers swirled into the air; a mix of red, orange and yellow. It lifted high into the sky and faded into the clouds.

Noella dropped to her knees in a whimper. “It is finished.”

Sydney came beside her and held her close. “It was… beautiful.”

The two sat in silence with only sobs to drown out the sounds of the forest.

Author’s Bio

Multi-Award Winning and #1 Amazon Bestselling author Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer who transitioned his ideas on pen and paper to pixels and keyboards. He tells stories that evoke emotions and stimulate thought. PROTOSTAR: BOOK 1 OF THE STARCROSSED SAGA and THE SECT: THE WINDGATE are currently Young Adult/New Adult series he created. He has written over 10 novels, including his new Superhero adventure book, THE CAPE is book three of the Dark Spores Series. He lives in Georgia with his amazing wife and a highly energetic Morkie named StarKozy.

Contact Information

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Blog     Goodreads

 

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25492362

EARTHFALL: THE CIRCUIT (Book 3)

Rhett C. Bruno

Diversion Trade Paperback Original

$14.99/212 Pages

ISBN: 978-1682303252

The final chapter of THE CIRCUIT saga follows Sage Vollus, former tribunal spy, as she teams up with Talon Rayne, a notorious mercenary, on the search for his daughter, who has been captured by a Tribunal leader. But with Cassius Vale hot on the trail of the same person, they may have no choice but to ask one of their most dangerous enemies for help.

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Rhett C.  Bruno

Author’s Bio

Rhett is happy to hear from his fans and can be reached at rcbruno44@outlook.com. Please subscribe to his newsletter for exclusive access to updates about his work and the opportunity to receive free copies of books and shorts.

Rhett Bruno grew up in Hauppauge, New York, and studied at the Syracuse University School of Architecture where he graduated cum laude.

He has been writing since he can remember, scribbling down what he thought were epic short stories when he was young to show to his parents. When he reached high school he decided to take that a step further and write the “Isinda Trilogy”. After the encouragement of his favorite English teacher he decided to self-publish the “Isinda Trilogy” so that the people closest to him could enjoy his early work.

While studying architecture Rhett continued to write as much as he could, but finding the time during the brutal curriculum proved difficult. It wasn’t until he was a senior that he decided to finally pursue his passion for Science Fiction. After rededicating himself to reading works of the Science Fiction author’s he always loved, (Frank Herbert, Timothy Zahn, Heinlein, etc.) he began writing “The Circuit: Executor Rising”, The first part of what he hopes will be a successful Adult Science Fiction Series.

Since then Rhett has been hired by an Architecture firm in Mount Kisco, NY. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to work on “The Circuit” and all of the other stories bouncing around in his head. He is also currently studying at the New School to earn a Certificate in Screenwriting in the hopes of one day writing for TV or Video Games.

Website

If you would like to start with the first books in the series, make sure to check out Executor Rising and Progeny of Vale

25492362

THE CIRCUIT: EXECUTOR RISING: THE CIRCUIT (Book 1)

Rhett C. Bruno

Diversion Trade Paperback Original

$14.99/276 pages

ISBN: 978-1626819153

“Bruno has crafted a complex, multi-dimensional story that combines the best of his genre with age-old truths—and quandaries—about humanity, politics, religion, family, and, yes, love.” —Portland Book Review

“Space opera that fans of Firefly and its ilk will appreciate.” — San Francisco Book Review

Gravitum, found only in Earth’s core, is in high demand. The New Earth Tribunal, a powerful religious faction that presides over most of the Circuit wants control over it all, and when they suspect their mortal enemies, the Ceresians, of foul play, they agree to send one person to end the situation once and for all: Sage Volus: Tribunal Executor. Spy.

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28422549

PROGENY OF VALE: THE CIRCUIT (Book 2)

Rhett C. Bruno

Diversion Trade Paperback Original

$14.99/275 Pages

ISBN: 978-1682300848

In the thrilling sequel to THE CIRCUIT: EXECUTOR RISING, Sage Vollus, cybernetic implant freshly removed, discovers emotions she thought she’d buried too deep to be found. She must make a decision on who she truly wants to serve: Cassius Vale, The Tribune, or herself.

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Concrete Smile

Concrete Smile

by Bernard Maestas

Book Blast December 13, 2016

on Tour February 1-28, 2017

Synopsis:

Concrete Smile by Bernard MaestasA crooked conglomerate makes a move on fictional Newport City by first attempting to incite a war between its existing criminal organizations before taking over with its own “in-house” group. Hired by a major gang leader to avert the war, freelance information broker Kevin recruits his ex-enforcer, ex-con brother Chance, and Kaity, a reporter with a vendetta, to uncover the conspiracy.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime, Thriller
Published by: Rebel ePublishers
Publication Date: December 15, 2016
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: pending
Series: Internet Tough Guys, #3
Purchase Links 🔗: Coming Soon!

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
BUSINESS HOURS
Lost somewhere in Newport City’s densely crowded, late-night skyline, six bulky bodies packed into some unimportant restaurant’s musty storeroom.
Bulging with prison muscles and bulletproof vests, their dark skin branded with black tattoos broadcasting their gang affiliation, the men were silent. They crowded around a single rickety card table, the room’s only furniture, and toiled under the dim glow of a single yellow bulb dangling from the ceiling. A masonry bucket full of glittering brass ammunition sat centered between them. None spoke. The rhythmic clicking of guns and bullets was the only soundtrack accompanying the tension.
Aside from their silence and the grim, practiced precision with which they pressed the unstamped cartridges into their magazines, they each had one other detail in common: Each man, whether dangling from a pocket, knotted around a wrist, or cinched across his brow, displayed a deep crimson bandana. That bandana, the gang flag of The Reds or Red Nation – the umbrella under which all the African-American gangs in Newport City fell – was the most crucial accessory.
Durel Rivers, better known as Bones, set aside his last loaded magazine and grabbed his weapon. Exceedingly illegal, the fully automatic Tec-9 machine pistol, with its taped grip and folding stock, actually had a Federal law banning it by name. A loud slap cut the stifling air as he locked a magazine into the receiver and jacked the first round into the chamber.
Bones covered his body armor with a baggy sweatshirt, loose enough to conceal the illicit firearm beneath it, its papoose pocket stuffed with the ready reloads he’d prepared. Behind him, the rest of his crew wrapped up their own loading tasks, donned jackets and hoodies of their own and then followed him out of the storeroom.
The creaky storeroom door swung open into the deep gloom of a deserted kitchen. The restaurant’s legitimate business hours long over, the white-coated cooks and staffers long gone, Bones and his crew had special access. He led them past the stainless steel appliances and shelves to and then through the back door.
Windows down, keys in the ignitions, a pair of black SUVs waited in the greasy shadows of the narrow alley behind the restaurant. Bones climbed into the shotgun seat of the leading truck while the rest of the crew split up between them, wordlessly sliding into their plush leather seats.
Bones gave a simple and wordless nod to the man who took the driver’s seat beside him. Engines came to life with deep rumbles but the music that came on in the cabins was low. They were on a mission and there would be no distractions.
As one, the pair of SUVs rolled out of the alley and onto the darkened Newport City streets. While the bustling city of nearly five million had plenty of nightlife, Bones’ crew stuck to the quiet streets of closed businesses, darkened storefronts, and slumbering apartment dwellers. It was late, or more precisely, early in the morning, and only the creatures of the night were out haunting the streets. Moving patiently, always five miles per hour over the speed limit – no more, no less – they rolled to their first stop at the fringe of a housing project complex, a U-shaped cluster of old tenement towers.
Silent and pensive, Bones scanned every inch of the block around them, scrutinizing each of the people who made up the sparse nighttime populace. A pair of teenagers with Reds’ flags
on display occupied one corner while a homeless man wandered the block further down.
No police, no “jackers,” Bones was as certain as he could be of that. He twisted in his seat and said it all to the gangster in the back with another wordless nod.
The back door popped, as did that of the trailing SUV, two men emerging into the street and crossing, their hands beneath their shirts and gripping the handles of their guns. As they disappeared into one of the building lobbies, Bones let his attention slip for just a moment. He plucked a cigarette from his pack, set it between his lips, bringing it to life with the click of his lighter, and blew the fumes from his nose.
He had only taken two deep drags when the gangbangers emerged. The one from the trailing truck led the way, alert and ready. The man behind had a small gym bag slung over his shoulder. Bones turned to look as the man climbed back aboard the SUV.
“All there,” he said simply, ripping open the zipper to give Bones a look inside at the bricklike bundles of cash.
Bones straightened in his seat, his cigarette hand pushing out through the open window and waving the trailing SUV forward. Together, they pulled away from the curb and rolled off into the city.
It was after three when they finally pulled away from their last pickup in East Charity, a sleepy neighborhood on the southeastern side of the City’s eastern borough. Bones lit up a third cigarette and then threw a glance into the backseat. Aside from the burly gangster riding with them, more of those bulging bags of cash now packed the seat to shoulder height. Over the last hour and change, they had stopped everywhere from drug dens to basement casinos, collecting the week’s deposits.
With the trucks laden with money, the first half of the job, in some ways the easy half, was done.
Alert, mind focused, Bones allowed himself to relax just a little, let the flood of nicotine calm his blood slightly. From here on, it was a straight drive to their final destination where they would turn over the money to be cleaned. No more stops, no more tense minutes of waiting on the street like sitting ducks. That said, he also knew that the best time to hit the convoy would be
now, when it was flush and the crew had backed off the razor’s edge of their nerves.
The bold glow of their headlights swung down a street heavy with shadows, most of the streetlights out except for some pale yellow ones at the far end. Bones’ hackles came up and he was just about to order them off the street when shrieking tires sang their discordant chorus into the night as something flashed out of the driveway ahead. No headlights had offered any warning.
“Shit!” Bones’ driver seethed as he stood on the brakes, grinding them to a hard halt.
In the glare of their SUV’s headlights, Bones now made out the form of the battered minivan that had darted across their path and stopped. He was already pulling his Tec-9 from beneath his shirt when the van’s sliding door scraped aside with a raspy grind of worn metal.
Crouched tightly in the back of the van, shoulder-to-shoulder, a pair of masked men took aim and opened up torrents of fully automatic gunfire.
The driver beside Bones jerked and flopped violently, his body riddled with relentless fire. Bones himself managed to duck down below the dash, behind the protection of the engine block, the only part of a normal car that would actually stop a bullet. Jagged pebbles of shattered glass rained down on the back of his neck.
Behind Bones, the back door kicked open and the armed gangster ducked out as he sprayed the van with his own vicious rake of fire.
Without rising from behind the dash, Bones reached out, shoving open the driver’s door and rolling the bloody, shredded corpse of the driver into the street. He was halfway over the center console when he saw his doom.
From behind the row of parallel-parked cars lining the far side of the street, cloaked in the heavy shadows, more gunmen popped up, bracing and steadying their rifles on the hoods, trunks or roofs of the parked cars. Bones threw his machine pistol into line but it was too late.
The last thing Bones ever saw was the hellish strobes of the muzzle flashes popping in the darkness as they poured another withering hailstorm of copper-jacketed death into the street.
***
Don’t shit where you eat. Words to live by in Kevin Wyatt’s book. So, even at three in the morning, making the drive across the Admiralty Bridge into the peninsular eastern borough was just smart business. Polished black paint gleaming, throaty engine growling melodically, Kevin’s ’67 Mustang fastback made short work of the trip, weaving only occasionally around slower moving traffic.
An oasis in the night of closed businesses on an otherwise nondescript street in East Charity, a brightly lit parking lot snipped off the corner of the block. It wrapped around two sides of a large diner that, despite its size and popularity with the late-night crowd that knew of its existence, still looked like a greasy hole in the wall.
Kevin had grown fond of the place, though. Referring to it as his office, he conducted those meetings there that required a certain degree of public exposure mixed with only a modicum of privacy. He’d chosen the spot for the food initially and had quickly adopted it as a regular haunt. Despite this, no one greeted him by name as he entered and left the biting air of the early November chill in the parking lot.
The diner was warm inside, full of the aroma of food frying in grease. At least a half-dozen parties of three or four twentysomethings in nightclub attire were scattered among the booths and tables. His regular booth, the one at the far back corner, just on the fringe of the last overhead bulb’s halo of light, was unclaimed, he noted with a smile.
Kevin took another moment to scan the diner’s patrons and confirm that his clients hadn’t arrived yet. He pivoted and swung down the row of booths running along the diner’s storefront of greasy picture windows. As he went, he sloughed his black leather jacket, a dark T-shirt with a stylish designer logo beneath.
Though he could have melded into one of the packs of club goers in the diner with his age and good looks, he wasn’t here to socialize. He had a narrow face of mildly chiseled features decorated with a light dusting of freckles that went appropriately with the rusty copper color of his short hair. He was above average height at just under six feet, but his fit and trim frame was not particularly remarkable.
A waitress, mopping the countertop with a rag, glanced up as he passed her. She made
contact with his bright hazel gaze and a faint smile of passing recognition turned up the corners of her mouth. “The usual?” she asked, getting a nod and a smile in reply.
Kevin dropped into his booth’s far side, his back to the wall, his face to the door, and slid into the corner. It was a good spot, behind the wall and out of the frame of the big window while still giving him an excellent line of sight into the parking lot and the establishment.
Kevin scanned with intent while taking care to seem oblivious, just another late night customer out for a midnight snack. A nondescript sedan, gray, neither old nor new enough to be noteworthy, coasted to a halt outside. Three young men, cautious and patiently panning their gazes over every angle of surrounding night, sat in the car for a few long moments before dismounting and approaching the diner door.
The waitress returned and slid Kevin’s order in front of him just as the trio filed through the front door. She turned and left the table while he raised an arm, brushed with a sleeve of freckles, and waved them over.
In a moment’s pause of prudent appraisal, they sized Kevin up from the door before sliding down the row. They were dressed to slip under notice, plain jeans and plainer hooded sweatshirts, but that didn’t fool Kevin for a second.
“You the guy?” the first, a deeply tanned Hispanic in his late twenties, asked with no discernable accent.
“I am,” Kevin confirmed with a nod. “Have a seat.”
“How’d you know it was us?” asked the second, a black man of the same age as the first, as the whole trio – rounded out with a smaller and younger Asian man for diversity – took the opposite side of the booth.
“Lucky guess,” Kevin replied plainly. He lifted his steaming cup of black coffee and nursed a sip, careful to keep his eyes above the rim to watch the three of them. “You have something for me?” He set the cup beside the plate holding his so far untouched “Heartstopper” sandwich.
The trio exchanged glances before the leader threw one back over his shoulder at the rest
of the diner. Kevin didn’t have to look so obviously to know no one was paying them any mind. Satisfied, the leader nodded at the Asian at the end of the booth. He slipped an envelope from the papoose pocket of his sweatshirt, laid it on the table and slid it across.
Kevin took the envelope and peeled it open in his lap, leafing through its stack of crisp twenty-dollar bills. He kept his poker face firmly in place as he did, lifting his head to nod to his clients in approval. He reached across the booth, stuffing the envelope into the inner pocket of his jacket and slipping out a coin-sized SD card. He slid it across the table the same way he’d received his payment.
The Asian man took it, plugging it into a small tablet and scanning through it.
“As promised,” Kevin said, his focus on the leader. “Truck routes, communications protocols and duty rosters for Allied Armored Couriers. Good until the end of the month.”
The leader looked from Kevin as he finished, to the Asian, who had completed his scan and nodded. Kevin scooped up his mug and took another sip of his coffee, watching as the leader turned back to him.
“How’d you get this?”
Kevin smiled a thin smile that didn’t reach his eyes as he lowered the mug. He offered his hand across the table for a shake. “A pleasure doing business with you.”
The leader’s eyes narrowed, but he clasped Kevin’s hand in a brief squeeze before he and his crew exited the booth. He watched them leave, as did the waitress, who glanced over at him and met his eyes. This time, his smile was a little warmer as he offered her a shrug and dropped his attention to his plate.
***
The Heartstopper was an egg sandwich, in simplest terms. To be more exact, however, it was a heaping serving of scrambled whole eggs capped with a slice of full-fat American cheese and enclosed in two slices of grilled and buttery bread. It was decadently delicious and so worth the bloated feeling in Kevin’s gut as he left his booth, leaving cash, including a generous tip, on the table top and exited the diner.
He mounted up the Mustang, kicking it to grumbling life, and swung out of the parking lot, aiming for home. Business for the night finished, it was late and, crucially, he had a very early and very important errand awaiting him in the morning.
Blue and red strobes blazed through the Mustang’s rear windshield as the howl of a siren drowned out even the healthy rumble of his powerful engine. Kevin’s heart nearly stopped as his eyes flicked to the rearview mirror framing the police sedan rushing up on his bumper.
“Fuck me,” he breathed, hands tightening around the wheel. For half a second, he considered running. Lean fingers coiled around the shifter, his dress boots settled over the pedals, and Kevin sketched out a plan for his flight for freedom. It started with a downshift and a ferocious bellow of acceleration but he had no idea where it went from there. Instead, he reminded himself he wasn’t carrying anything illegal, nor did he have any warrants out for him. At least, as far as he knew. Easing toward the first gap in the row of cars lining the curb, Kevin blinked as the patrol car blew past him.
Before he had a chance to relax, crack a smile of relief, three more cops in roaring sedans, their emergency lights screaming their urgency, sirens wailing, blasted down the road. They were moving fast, fast enough that their passing rocked Kevin’s heavy car as they went.
Kevin stared after them as they faded into the distance before whipping around the corner at the end of the next block. His hands squeezed the wheel tightly and his mind reached, pondering the possibilities. Slowly, his thin lips spread in a smile.
Something big had happened. He had a pleasant influx of new business to look forward to.From CONCRETE SMILE, A novel, By BERNARD MAESTAS
© BERNARD MAESTAS

Bernard Maestas

Author Bio:

Bernard Maestas lives in paradise. A police officer patrolling the mean streets of Hawaii, he has a background in contract security and military and civilian law enforcement. When not saving the world, one speeding ticket at a time, and not distracted by video games or the internet, he is usually hard at work on his next book.

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Legacy of Dragonwand: Book 2

Legacy of Dragonwand: Book 2 by Daniel Peyton

He Who Seeks Destruction, Wields Evil…

As the search for the legendary Dragonwand continues, Markus and his trio of travelers find themselves in unfamiliar territory traversing the countryside for clues to its whereabouts, while Hallond persists with his plans to rule the Kingdom. But the closer they get to obtaining it, evil lurks around every corner and even those creatures that seem the most unassuming are a threat to the group. Captain Morris persists in his effort to foil their plans of freeing Gallenor from imminent destruction, aligning himself with the Shlan. As a lighthearted romance between Markus and Crystal blossoms and Markus begins to understand his destiny, they soon learn that love may just be even more powerful than any magic ever foretold. But will their collective efforts be enough to vanquish the wicked for good?

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Author’s Bio

Daniel Peyton is a fresh author whose talents includes, writing, sketching and dreaming out adventures in faraway places that he seeks to bring to paper. He lives in East Tennessee where he draws a great deal of inspiration from the unique landscape. He has been featured in short story e-zines as well as flash fiction blogs. Legacy of Dragonwand: Book I is the first book in the Dragonwand Trilogy. Outside of authoring books, Daniel is an award winning cook, artist, and embroiderer. He is a distinguished member of the Sigma Alpha Iota, and often can be found teaching classes at his church. Before he began seriously devoting himself to becoming a published author, he spent over ten years traveling the country as a member of the Miyagi Ryu Nosho Kai dance school, performing Okinawan classic and modern dances.

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My Review

5 stars

Markus, Crystal, Kiin, and Treb continue on the quest to find the dragonwand. They find there is more to the codex than what Markus can initially see. He finds a map to a citadel and makes plans for them to get there. But Morris is hot on their tails and the four gets separated. Markus and Crystal find some gnomes that are not as helpful as they seem. But then they find the citadel and Markus learns the truth about the dragon counsel, the dragonwand, and what his role in this world is going to be.

This is a great story with lots of action, a great plot, and a little romance that won’t make you sick to your stomach. I loved how everything fit together and had some little surprises that keep you on your toes.

The Legacy of Dragonwand is meant for young adults but I feel any one of any age would like this book. If you like a great fantasy quest you have found your new favorite book. I will be honest, make sure to read book one first otherwise there is a little catching up to do.

I do have the first book in the series but didn’t get the chance to review it in time for this post. Make sure to keep watching for my review of book one shortly.

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I received Legacy of Dragonwand from Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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Giveaway

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Excerpt

The Rakki representative decided he might address the King in person, in private. His people had been asking him for almost a year now to negotiate the return of their wizards from the Pale Labyrinth. He would be returning home soon, and he wanted to at least go back with the knowledge that he had tried everything he could.

Norl approached the throne and asked the Chief of the Palace Guard for an audience with the King, as procedure dictated that the Chief must escort any who ask for an audience. Chief Alex quickly agreed and walked Norl back toward the King’s personal chambers. Few courtiers were more respected or well known as Norl of the Rakki. He was wise, calm, humble, and, above all, intelligent. The Palace Guards held him in high regard and would often give him allowances not granted to others. In fact, Norl was escorted to the King’s chambers. It was not customary for anyone to stand there to wait. If the King was speaking with anyone else, the person waiting was usually asked to wait by the throne until called upon. Not even the Guards stood so near the King’s chamber doors, but Norl posed no threat to security, and surely the King wouldn’t mind.

The dog man stood there quietly. Being a courtier meant a lot of waiting and patience, which Norl demonstrated often. As a Rakki, he had superior hearing over most humans or any of the other races. Right then, this keen hearing picked up on the conversation within the King’s chambers all too well. The King was speaking with Wizard Hallond. Norl attempted to ignore the conversation for their benefit, but their words drew his attention.

“Do you think we can keep them at bay for much longer?” the King asked Hallond.

The wizard responded coolly, “Yes. By the time they finally realize what is truly happening, it will be far too late.”

“The Shlan ambassador was in to see me a day ago about freeing her people, and I’m sure the others will not be far behind. Keeping up the pretense about the wizards is not easy,” the King lamented.

Hallond calmly replied, “History supports our story. Wizards did dark deeds during the War. If it had not been for the dragons, the dark wizards could have taken control of everything.”

“Are you sure this will work?” the King asked the question as though he had asked it many times before.

“As sure as I am a wizard. Once we have the Dragonwand and can finally destroy that horrible statue, my real students will be able to put to rest all the pathetic leaders of the people and make you supreme lord of all. Then, with the combined magic of all the prisoners, I can finalize the spell that will grant you and all my followers immortality.”

“What of Tolen’s plans?”

Hallond’s response was quick and sharp. “Tolen is dead, and with him died any possible resistance. I have waited for over a thousand years for that old fool to die. I cannot say I did not try to help him along a few times. How amazing that time itself finally did him in.”

“The dragon statue still stands and keeps your powers at bay. Tolen’s statue should be dead if he is dead!” The King was angry.

“Rest assured, My Lord, the statue’s seal over me and my followers is waning quickly. Once we have the Dragonwand in our possession, the statue will be rubble and a new age of Gallenor will rise.”

The King let out a tired sigh. “I don’t know, Hallond. I’m still having second thoughts about all of this.”

Hallond put on the convincing tone that politicians attain for such situations as the present. “Sire, you must not let those foolish ideas enter your head. We are too far along with this to have second thoughts. Besides, we are doing this for the good of the kingdom.”

“I know. But, it is just so many lies. We have told the people of Gallenor nothing but lies for years now.”

Hallond comforted the King. “Is it not the duty of every citizen of Gallenor to work for a better tomorrow?”

“Well, yes,” the King answered.

“You have no heir, and, pardon me, but at your age, you are unlikely to produce an heir. So, my plan is the best thing for our future. You will be granted immortality, along with a few others with real power. Gallenor will have a leadership that will not age or die, and a brighter future will be ahead. All it will cost are the lives of a few loyal citizens of Gallenor.”

“Do we have to kill all of the wizards for this?” When the King said this, Norl whimpered a little outside the door, but it did not draw attention to him. The Rakki quickly covered his mouth and though his tail was between his legs, he stayed to keep listening. He had to hear this.

“I am afraid that it has to be.” Realizing the King was in need of more convincing, Hallond asked a leading question. “Would you not ask your soldiers to die for Gallenor?”

“Of course. But, this is different.”

“I don’t see how. Do not worry. In time, the brilliance of this will truly sink in. Once you are granted immortality, all the answers will be made perfectly clear. Trust me.”

The King asked the question that was on Norl’s mind. “Won’t the people resist this once they find out the truth?”

Hallond calmly answered, “Have faith in me, Sire. All will work out according to my plans.” He paused and then said, “I think I hear someone.”

Norl’s ears perked up and he started to step back. When he realized Hallond was approaching the door, he bolted. Hallond opened the door to find exactly what he hoped: nothing. So, he returned to the King, after making sure the door was securely closed.

Standing on the other side of a square column, Norl’s heart was pounding and his breath was trembling. In all his years of service to Gallenor and his people, he had never expected to hear such hideous things. A deep part of him begged for it to be a dream—a terrible, horrible dream. But, the reality was that it was no dream and he had to tell someone. But who could he trust? He had to go home. He had to bring this to his own leaders. The head of the Rakki people was a wise and honorable man. He would know what to do next.

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