Blog Tour: “A New Life” by Mel Gough

LOVING AGAIN SERIES BLOG TOUR

 

January 25, 2019 – A World Apart

February 22, 2019 – A New Life

March 22, 2019 – A Broken Promise

 

NEW RELEASE

Book Title: A New Life (Loving Again Series, Book 2)

Author: Mel Gough

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: Black Jazz Design

Genre/s: Contemporary romance

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 49,000 words/188 pages

Release Date: February 22, 2019

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Blurb

New apartment, new job, new love – Ben and Donnie’s life in Atlanta is everything they dared to hope for. And when Zac, a baby in need of a home, comes to live with them, their family is complete.

But caring for a little one is hard work, and Donnie’s fragile health soon suffers. And then certain criminal elements from Donnie’s past turn up again. Ben and Donnie fight hard to preserve their little piece of heaven, but the destructive forces are determined to pull their happiness to pieces.

Can the two men prevail, or will they lose their baby son and everything they’ve fought for?

 

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Excerpt – Chapter 1

A drowsy post-lunch hush hung over the large, comfortable room. Small clusters of kids sat around low tables, drawing pictures or building models with brightly-colored Legos. Late fall sunlight dappled little faces and danced over the playful wall murals the community center volunteers kept adding to, whenever someone with a smidgen of artistic talent joined the team.

Donnie glanced through the glass doors into the courtyard. It was a beautiful day, mild for so late in the year. He planned to go outside with the kids for some sandbox playtime soon. He wondered if he could sneak into the staffroom and put the coffeemaker on for an afternoon cup before that, but just then, a small, dark-haired girl at a table near the back looked up from her drawing. “Donnie, can you help me?” she called in a stage whisper that made Donnie smile.

“Sure, Padma.” He wended his way through the other tables and kneeled next to the girl’s child-sized chair. “What’re we doing?”

She held out an orange crayon for him. “Can you draw a lion?”

Donnie glanced down at her paper. “Course. Where d’you want him?”

“There.” Padma pointed at a gray box with bars across the front. “Into the lion cage.”

The girl had drawn a zoo. There were cages for the animals, and enclosures with green grass and landscaping. A big red house had a stick figure outside. Donnie pointed at it. “Who’s that?”

Padma said proudly, “That’s the zookeeper.”

“But where are the animals?” Donnie asked. “Did they all run away?”

Padma shook her head and gave a tragic sigh. “I can’t draw animals.” Her big, dark eyes shone. “Can you do it for me?” she wheedled.

“All right, let’s see.” Donnie settled down on his haunches and pointed at a patch of gray and blue on the paper. “What’s that?”

“That’s the Arctic enclosure, where the penguins go, and the polar bear,” Padma said.

Donnie nodded, keeping his expression serious. This would take a while, but he didn’t mind. “Makes sense. Right, lion first.”

They had drawn the lion and four penguins, and were just getting started on a zebra, when Arthur came into the daycare. Arthur was the community center’s director, a retired high school teacher who had come from England to Atlanta with his wife almost forty years ago. After Bess’s death, Arthur had decided to stay. Donnie couldn’t imagine the center, and his own life, without the old man.

Arthur was accompanied by a young woman Donnie had never seen before. Arthur looked around, and when he spotted Donnie, he and the woman started to make their way to him and Padma. The woman carried a baby in her arms. They stopped in front of Padma’s table. Arthur leaned down to admire Padma’s drawing. “That’s a very nice zoo,” he said kindly. “Well done!”

“Donnie did the animals,” the girl informed him.

“Well, he did a jolly good job, too,” Arthur said, nodding.

Donnie smiled gratefully. Arthur was good with people, and he always took time with the kids, even though running the community center kept him busy. He treated the children as if they mattered as much as the adults, and Donnie tried his best to emulate him.

Arthur addressed Padma again. “I need to borrow Donnie for a little while, is that okay?”

The girl nodded, pleased to be asked for permission.

Donnie got up, shaking the pins and needles from his legs. He loved being with the kids, but maybe he was getting too old to crouch on the floor so much.

The woman by Arthur’s side gave Donnie a quick, nervous smile, and Arthur said, “Donnie, this is Celia.” He indicated the baby. “And this is her son Zac.”

Donnie gave Celia a nod and a smile. Small-boned and no taller than five-two, she seemed to be barely twenty. Donnie had worked at the center for long enough to know that her slenderness and pallor were due to drug abuse. But her eyes were clear, and she seemed alert. She clutched her child to her like a shield. The little boy watched Donnie with big brown eyes for a moment and gave a happy chuckle. Donnie estimated her son to be about six months old.

“Celia has a new job,” Arthur explained. “She’s starting at JFK High tomorrow, with the school lunch team. Zac will be with us when she’s at work.” Arthur took hold of Zac’s foot and jiggled it. The baby grinned at him with toothless gums.

“Thanks, Arthur,” Celia said in a quiet, musical voice. “I’m so grateful. This’ll work out, I promise.”

“Of course it will, my dear,” Arthur said.

So Celia was another one of Arthur’s foundlings. Whenever the old man wasn’t at the center, keeping an eye on things and leading the AA meetings, he walked the streets of downtown Atlanta, talking to homeless young people, junkies and anyone looking as if they might be in need of a square meal and a bed. He would find them a shelter place and then, once they were willing and able, a spot in a detox program or a job, depending on their wishes. Arthur had the biggest heart of anyone Donnie had ever met. He had saved Donnie’s life in more ways than one, and Donnie would be forever grateful.

“Now, then,” Arthur said, turning to Donnie. “Can you show Celia around the daycare? And explain to her about the medication protocol, too. Zac’s positive.”

The protocol held details of all the medication and healthcare needs of the kids at the center. The daycare had been established as a safe place for the children of drug users, rough sleepers and low-income single mothers, and many kids brought their very specific challenges. Several were HIV positive, or suffered from developmental problems related to fetal alcohol syndrome, or showed severe signs of ADHD. No child was ever refused a place, if they had room.

“Sure thing,” Donnie said, and beckoned to Celia. “C’mon, I’ll show you the place.”

“Thanks, Donnie, I appreciate it,” Arthur said. “I’ll leave you to it.” He nodded at Celia, patted Padma on the head, then left.

Donnie showed them around the large main space first. He pointed out the play areas, the row of cots where the smaller kids and the toddlers slept after lunch, and the outside yard with its playsets and swings. He introduced the other volunteers by name, and everyone exclaimed over Zac, who smiled at everyone and babbled away happily.

Only when they went into the quiet staff room and stopped before the medicine cabinet did the little boy begin to fuss. He seemed to miss the attention from the other volunteers already. Donnie held out a finger. Zac took it and put it into his mouth. A warm feeling flooded Donnie as the tiny, wet mouth closed around his knuckle. “He’s a cutie, all right,” he said to Celia.

“He’s my heart,” she said very quietly, more to herself. “I have to make it, for him. He needs a better life than what I can give him right now. The shelter…well…”

She wouldn’t meet Donnie’s eyes, and her face crumpled as if she might start crying. Donnie felt uneasy. He didn’t have a lot of experience with women, or people he didn’t know well. He had no problem relating to kids, but adults were a different matter. He would’ve liked to say something nice, but nothing appropriate came to mind.

“Err, right…this is where we store the meds,” he said, hoping Celia would be okay. He pointed to the locked cabinet. “I’ll add Zac onto the protocol. When you bring him in tomorrow, bring all his meds along, all right? I’ll help you figure out which ones we need to keep here. Then I’ll give you a receipt. At the pharmacy down the street they’ll give you extra refills with that.” That arrangement was another of Arthur’s triumphs. He was amazing at finding donors for the center children’s particular needs.

Celia nodded, back in control. “Thanks, Donnie. You and Arthur, you’re real nice. Do you,” she hesitated. “Do you get a lot of kids with HIV?”

“We got a couple at the moment,” Donnie said. He was about to tell Celia not to worry, that the volunteers were all trained to handle kids with special health needs, and that he was positive himself. But Arthur stuck his head through the door.

“Celia, the AA meeting’s about to start. Do you want to come upstairs and attend?” He nodded at Zac in her arms. “You can leave the little guy with Donnie for an hour. Like a trial run?”

Celia glanced up at Donnie, uncertain. “That okay with you?”

“Course,” Donnie said. “Me and Zac, we’ll get to know each other, and he can meet some new friends, too.”

“Okay,” Celia said, still hesitant. But then she squared her shoulders and handed Zac to Donnie. “He’s had his lunch, he shouldn’t need anything, really. Oh, except this…” She dug in her bag for a moment and pulled out a purple stuffed dinosaur toy. “It’s his favorite. If he gets grizzly, that’ll calm him right down.” She also pulled out a small baby bottle with water and handed that to Donnie, together with the toy.

Donnie held the dinosaur out to Zac, who grinned happily and put the toy’s head into his mouth right away.

“He sure is precious,” Arthur said, smiling.

Donnie nodded. “Yeah, he is.”

Arthur beckoned to Celia. “Let’s go up. Zac’s in safe hands.” Celia took one last, nervous glance at the baby, then let Arthur lead her away.

Donnie watched Zac’s expression as his mom disappeared from sight. The little guy seemed unperturbed, and looked around with interest. It was a nice feeling, holding him. Donnie liked babies. The daycare didn’t often have the very small ones, and Zac was cute. Donnie stroked his back. “D’you wanna meet your new friends, huh?”

He walked back into the main room. One of the volunteers, a bright, bubbly woman called Sonia, was gathering the kids for story time. They clustered around her chair on the floor, fidgeting and nudging each other. Donnie sat in a threadbare armchair to one side. Some of the kids observed Zac with curiosity, but it was Padma again who spoke up. “Who’s that, Donnie?”

Donnie turned his upper body, so Zac could see the children. “This is Zac, everyone. Say hello!”

Many of the kids called, “Hello Zac!”, a few waved, and one of the older girls said, “Aww, he’s so cute!”

Zac grinned at them for a moment, but then twisted in Donnie’s arms and, suddenly shy, buried his face against Donnie’s shoulder. Donnie rocked him, and stroked his soft curls. He could smell baby powder. The little body relaxed.

“All right, everyone,” Sonia called, and the children’s attention returned to her. “Who wants to hear the story of Toothless the dragon?”

Donnie settled down to listen. Zac had snuggled up against his shoulder and seemed very content there, sucking on his purple dinosaur.

It was peaceful, sitting in the sunlit room and listening to Sonia’s cheerful voice as she read the story. When Arthur and Celia returned after the AA meeting, Donnie was amazed to find that an hour had passed. He found it hard to let Zac go, and had to remind himself that it was a very short separation. The little guy would be back the next day, and every day after that.

 

About the Author

Mel was born in Germany, where she spent the first twenty-six years of her life (with a one-year stint in Los Angeles). She has always been fascinated by cultures and human interaction, and got a Masters in Social Anthropology. After finishing university she moved to London, where she has now lived for ten years.

If you were to ask her parents what Mel enjoyed the most since the age of six, they would undoubtedly say “Reading!” She would take fifteen books on a three-week beach holiday, and then read all her mom’s books once she’d devoured her own midway through week two.

Back home in her mom’s attic there’s a box full of journals with stories Mel wrote when she was in her early teens. None of the stories are finished, or any good. She has told herself bedtime stories as far back as she can remember.

In her day job, Mel works as PA and office manager. No other city is quite like London, and Mel loves her city. The hustle and bustle still amaze and thrill her even after all these years. When not reading, writing or going to the theater, Mel spends her time with her long-time boyfriend, discussing science or poking fun at each other.

 

 

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Blog Tour for “Darkness Dawns” by Zakarrie Clarke. Rafflecopter Contest Giveaway included.

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Darkness Dawns

Author: Zakarrie Clarke

Publisher: MLR Press

Genre/s: Contemporary/Humour/MM/Disability (Blindness)

Length: 65 000 words/150 PDF pages

Release Date: February 1, 2019

It’s a novel with a sequel. The first 43 chapters form Darkness Dawns; it concludes on a HFN and the sequel completes the novel.

I’ve written both, but thought it best to split it, or it would be over 140 000 words long.

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Blurb

Darkness Dawns is a love story. It also tells the tale of one man’s war with himself, brought onto the battlefield of his blindness. Leo Ferrar suffers from diabetic retinopathy and lost his sight two years ago. Unable to bear the scrutiny of strangers or the impact of his blindness on those he loves, Leo has determined on shutting the world out ever since. This is the man Ben meets on his first day at work as Mr Ferrar’s care assistant.

A former heroin addict, Ben was sentenced to six months community service as punishment for his crimes by a judge entitled to condemn him to a seven-year stretch. Far too charming for his own welfare, Ben proves unaccountably brilliant at ‘bulldozing the blind’.

When fate sees fit to dispatch Ben to the home of the man he has dubbed Mr Ferrarcious; it is with the words of the last five unfortunates who’d dared darken Leo’s doorway ringing in his ears. A door that is opened by a man who might be Lord Byron himself. Drop dead gorgeous and as hot as hell, Leo Ferrar has the most beautiful eyes Ben has ever seen.

Never has an irony seemed so cruel. Nor fate so fortuitous.

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Excerpt

Leo knew he should have opted to use the cane, instead of the arm Ben offered him for their unexpected walk. Should. Every time that word left someone’s lips, Leo wanted to scream; fists clenched in a screech of hopeless, helpless rage. The fact that everything he should do was For-His-Own-Benefit, made it so much worse, which was as ludicrous as it was true. Independence was the only thing he had left to aspire to. So, why the fuck did should rub Leo so raw it obliterated any inclination he may have had to do whatever it prefaced? He ought to want to do the things he should. But what if he tried…and failed? What if Leo couldn’t master any of them? Then he would lose even the hope that he might, one day, be able to. Even more galling, that loss would be down to him, because he was so bloody useless. He did want to show Ben that he was quite capable of managing…didn’t he? Very much, although why that mattered, Leo had no idea.

Why care what this latest in a long line of functioning eyeballs thought of him? It was probably more politic to say, ‘visually unimpaired’. Visually Impaired. Leo had to stifle the urge to punch people who described him thus. Impaired? Adj: weakened or damaged. Weak. Weakened. F’fucksakes. He was still chewing that particular wasp when Ben asked for his wrist.

Does he intend to lead me by it, as if I’m a toddler?

Leo found himself holding it out anyway. Christ knows why he was going along with all this. It was just that…being in Ben’s company was rather like sitting in the passenger seat of a snow plough driven by a drunk. Far preferable to standing in its path…and yet, somehow more appealing than staying behind, wherever the hell it was off to.

Nevertheless, he was still relieved when Ben clasped the proffered wrist—not to cart Leo off as he’d feared—but to plant his hand on top of Ben’s head. The fact that Leo could have changed the lightbulb without stretching a whole lot further, did seem to suggest he’d been addressing Ben’s nipples for the last half hour.

Quite how Ben then contrived to claim fault for something that was Leo’s mistake was less clear, but this was pulled off with such disarming charm, it would’ve been churlish to argue otherwise. Why the hell did the notion of calling Ben’s bluff feel as brutal a prospect as drowning his cat? If he had one, of course. Cat? More to the point…nipples?

“Thank you,” Leo managed to mumble, which was something of a result itself. Half an hour with Ben and he’d started to feel several sandwiches short of the proverbial picnic. He’d also begun to suspect that Violet had been a sweet little old lady—and quite sane—when she’d met Ben.

So off they went. The blindingly daft leading the blind off on a stroll around Camden.

In a bid to distract himself from well, pretty much everything he’d thought for the last five minutes, Leo decided to ask Ben to describe himself. For some reason he was intrigued, not only to know what Ben looked like, but to hear the picture he drew. Leo had an inkling this would prove more unmissable than an aural tour around the National Portrait Gallery. Unmissable? It was a bloody masterpiece. There most definitely were not any renderings of Steptoe’s six-four daughter there. The last two years might have felt a damn sight less soul-destroying if Ben had voiced Leo’s DVD visual descriptions.

Walking outside had lost all its appeal when the world became a giant landmine lying in wait to blow up in Leo’s face; every step into the unknown, a potential public humiliation. Despite this, and Ben’s partiality to lamp posts, they somehow arrived in Gloucester Crescent, alive and well. Even more shocking, was that Leo hadn’t fretted about…anything really, along the way. He’d just drifted along, listening to Ben weave words too beguiling to question where embellishment waved farewell to the truth. But who the fuck would want to, when that would feel as blasphemous as punching a fist through a Picasso?

About the Author

When Zakarrie was little and dreamed big, she wanted to be a writer. Just like Enid Blyton. Or p’raps not…having been most remiss on the lashings of ginger beer front. After moving to London at eighteen and flitting about for far too long, she finally settled, as blissy as can be, by the sea. When her castaway dreams resurfaced, they were believed into being by the warm words of friends who breathed life into her own. Her one wish now is that someone, somewhere, might enjoy the misadventures of her miscreants as much as she adores writing them.

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Continue ReadingBlog Tour for “Darkness Dawns” by Zakarrie Clarke. Rafflecopter Contest Giveaway included.

Blog Tour: “Loving Again Series” by Mel Gough

LOVING AGAIN SERIES BLOG TOUR

January 25, 2019 – A World Apart

February 22, 2019 – A New Life

March 22, 2019 – A Broken Promise

NEW RELEASE

Book Title: A World Apart (Loving Again Series, Book 1)

Author: Mel Gough

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: Black Jazz Design

Genre/s: Contemporary romance

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 51 000 words/197 pages

Release Date: January 25, 2019

The first book in a series of three, but can be read as standalone.

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BlurbBen’s life appears perfect. He has a career to shine in and a beautiful family. But his marriage has broken down, and being a small-town cop is turning into a dead-end job.Hot-headed troublemaker Donnie is used to being side-eyed by the fuzz. Getting dragged into the station for a crime he didn’t commit is no big surprise – but a cop who gives a damn sure is.Ben has no clue how much a second encounter with the secretive redneck will shake up his life. Donnie’s sullen vulnerability arouses a passion Ben hasn’t felt for a long time. Soon, nothing matters but helping Donnie fight his demons. Can they carve a new life together out of the ashes Buy LinksUniversal Amazon LinkAmazon US Amazon UK

Excerpt From Chapter One“WHAT HAVE WE got, Lou?” Ben asked the gray-haired desk clerk at Corinth Police Department. He glanced at a handcuffed man who sat on a nearby bench, staring down at the scuffed linoleum floor. The man’s dark hair was disheveled, falling low over his forehead and brushing his long eyelashes as his eyes flicked up at Ben. He looked to be in his mid-twenties. One knee jiggled with nerves, and his jaw worked as if he was biting the inside of his mouth over and over. His dark blue eyes were mistrustful, almost pained.“That guy was driving the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run yesterday,” Lou said. “Browne and O’Donnell brought him in. They’re with the captain.” Just that moment, the door to the inner sanctum of the station opened, and Jason Browne strode out of Captain Buckley’s office. The sleeves of his uniform were rolled up as usual, to show off his muscular, tanned arms. “How was court, brother?” Jason sounded cheerful, but his gray eyes were cold. In Ben’s partner and best friend since high school, that was never a good combination. Ben gave Jason a long look, then shrugged. “As expected.” He didn’t want to think about the peculiar effect Mr. Abbott’s words had had on him, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to discuss it in front of a suspect, or Lou. “You missed all the excitement.” Jason gestured toward the handcuffed man, who had his gazed directed at the floor again. “Saunders here knows some pretty colorful language, and he was none too happy to accompany us, neither.” “Hence the handcuffs?” Ben asked, his tone dry.Jason nodded, smirking.“Wasn’t me that hit that kid,” Saunders muttered, his dark voice shaking with suppressed anger. “Told y’all I wasn’t in town.”Jason sighed, folding his arms across his chest with exaggerated impatience. “And I told you this: We got witnesses placing you at the scene, smart-ass. It’s your word against theirs. Who’re we gonna believe, some deadbeat, or the boy’s mother?” Ben frowned at his partner. They had been in the radio car on their usual route the day before when the call about a hit-and-run near Corinth High had come over dispatch. O’Donnell and Myers, the department’s other two sergeants, had been closest and responded to the call. Last night, back at the station, O’Donnell had told them that the boy had a broken leg from being flung off his bike, but that he would undoubtedly survive. There really was no need for Jason to be so aggressive about the issue. Saunders sat up straight on the bench, glaring at Jason. “It wasn’t me! Why’re you not listening?” His eyes were wide with fury. Ben, knowing Jason’s thought processes and impulses almost as well as his own, stepped in his partner’s way. Gaze fixed on his friend, he said loud enough for Lou and any bystanders to hear, “Why don’t you and I take Mr. Saunders through to the interrogation room for a statement?” He put special emphasis on the last words, hoping Jason would get his meaning: Anything other than a polite request for an official statement from the suspect would be out of order at this point. Taking Jason’s reluctant jerk of the head as assent, Ben turned around, intending to escort Saunders to the interrogation room. But as soon as his back was turned, Jason stepped nimbly around him and grabbed the man hard by the upper arm. Saunders flinched, but Jason’s grip on him was like a vise. Saunders’s eyes met Ben’s, and there was pure animal fear in them, as well as something Ben couldn’t quite place. Anguish, perhaps? He stepped up close behind Jason. “If you dislocate his shoulder there’ll be an awful lot of paperwork to fill in for both of us, brother.” Ben kept his voice quiet and even, but Jason knew him well enough to detect the steely undertone. After a moment, Jason huffed, then let go of Saunders and took a step back. There were finger-shaped marks on Saunders’s bicep, just below the rolled-up sleeve. Now Ben stepped forward, and Saunders looked at him. His breath still came fast, but the fear began to fade from the indigo blue eyes. Ben motioned at Saunders to stand, then pointed down the corridor. “Would you come this way, please?” Good cop, bad cop. Ben hated playing this game, but Jason had left him no choice. Saunders got up. He was no taller than Ben, who just about scraped five foot nine. Jason towered over them both, still glowering. Saunders gave him a quick, disgusted look, then preceded Ben down the dreary-gray hallway, handcuffed arms held stiffly behind him. His narrow back was tense, the shoulders hunched. At the door to the interrogation room, Ben let Jason draw ahead. He followed the two men inside and closed the door. Jason approached Saunders, who had backed up against the one-way mirror. “Turn around,” Jason growled. Saunders ignored him and stared straight at the bottle-green linoleum floor. Ben spoke before Jason could get angry again. “Sir, the sergeant will move the handcuffs to the front so you can sit down more comfortably.” The eyes that met Ben’s were still full of mistrust, but after a moment, they softened and Saunders turned around. “Sit,” Jason said when he had shackled Saunders’s arms again in the front. Saunders flopped into the single chair on one side of the square floor-bolted table. Ben and Jason took the two chairs opposite. Leaning forward, Ben waited until he had the suspect’s attention. “Do you mind if we record this conversation?” “You’re arresting me?” The narrow blue eyes were suspicious again, but Saunders sounded more wary than belligerent. And he ignored Jason, his gaze never wavering from Ben. “No, we’re not,” Ben said in an even tone. “But having a record of what we talk about will aid your cause.” Saunders chewed this over, trying to decide whether Ben told the truth. Eventually he gave a small shrug. “Sir,” Ben said. “Please state for the protocol: Do you mind if we record this conversation?” Forcing the police procedural on this man was distressing. The tension vibrating off him made Ben wince. Saunders gave him a pained look. “Go ahead.” Jason pressed the digital recorder button on the small panel in the tabletop to his right. But it was Ben who spoke again. When they interrogated a suspect together, Ben usually started off the interview. His milder, calmer demeanor tended to relax the atmosphere better than Jason’s hot temper. For now, Jason seemed to have gotten all his anger out by playing scary cop in front of Lou and sat back in his chair without interrupting. “Statement protocol, September twenty-second, eleven forty-five a.m. Officers present: Sergeant Ben Griers and Sergeant Jason Browne.” Ben nodded at the suspect. “Please state your full name for the record, sir.” “Donnie Saunders.” The man’s voice was quiet, and he sounded tired. Ben waited for Saunders to look at him again, and nodded his thanks. Then he glanced at Jason, eyebrows raised, reminding his partner with his most level stare to act appropriately. “Officer Browne will now ask you a few questions.” “All right,” Jason said. Ben took this as the opening of the interview and an affirmation that he would stay calm. “Mr. Saunders, your pickup truck was seen driving away after hitting Dennis Mallory on his bike while he was riding home after school yesterday afternoon at about three thirty p.m.” “I told y’all three times now, it wasn’t me. Why is it that you can’t hear me?” Saunders’s voice had risen again in volume, but there was a strange quiver in it, too. He leaned back in his chair as far as he could, regarding Jason from eyes narrowed in anger. Before Jason, who looked ready to explode again, could respond, Ben said, “Let’s rephrase the question: Sir, where were you yesterday at three thirty p.m.?” Saunders didn’t immediately reply. His eyes darted around the room, never meeting Ben’s, and still ignoring Jason. Then they settled on the shackled, tightly folded hands in his lap. Is he trying to come up with a lie?At last, Saunders said, “Was in Atlanta. Had an appointment at the DFCS.” His voice was very quiet, and he didn’t look up. It didn’t sound like a lie, but a truth the man was reluctant to share. Ben decided not to press for details. It was none of his business why the guy had been summoned to the Division of Family and Children Services. As long as he could determine that Saunders had been forty miles away from the scene of the hit-and-run, he had done his job. “I need to know who you were there to see,” Ben said just as quietly, and wasn’t surprised when his gaze was met with one of suspicion again. He added in explanation, “A phone call to the person you had the appointment with will clear you.”Saunders gave a small jerk of the head in understanding. “Stacy Miller.”“Thank you.” Ben looked at Jason, considering his options. Could he leave these two alone for a few minutes? His partner’s steel gaze never wavered from Saunders, and Ben could feel Jason’s tension. But if he told Jason to make the phone call, would he try very hard to get at the truth? No, Ben would have to call the DFCS himself. He’d just had to be quick. “Jason, stay with Mr. Saunders. I’m going to call Ms. Miller.” Not waiting for Jason’s acknowledgment, or asking permission from Saunders to make the call on his behalf, Ben got up and left the room. He went back to the front desk. “Lou, find me the number for Atlanta DFCS.” The desk clerk looked grumpy for a moment but then started hacking away at his keyboard without a word. Finally he picked up the phone, dialed a number, and held the receiver out to Ben. “DFCS switchboard,” a tinny voice announced in Ben’s ear. ���How can I help?” “Stacy Miller, please,” Ben said, ignoring Lou, who tried hard to look like he wasn’t listening in. “Hold the line.” Ben half turned away while he listened to the annoying phone queue music. After a few moments, there was a click and a crisp voice said, “Medicaid assessment team. How can I help you?” About the Author

Mel was born in Germany, where she spent the first twenty-six years of her life (with a one-year stint in Los Angeles). She has always been fascinated by cultures and human interaction, and got a Masters in Social Anthropology. After finishing university she moved to London, where she has now lived for ten years.If you were to ask her parents what Mel enjoyed the most since the age of six, they would undoubtedly say “Reading!” She would take fifteen books on a three-week beach holiday, and then read all her mom’s books once she’d devoured her own midway through week two.Back home in her mom’s attic there’s a box full of journals with stories Mel wrote when she was in her early teens. None of the stories are finished, or any good. She has told herself bedtime stories as far back as she can remember.In her day job, Mel works as PA and office manager. No other city is quite like London, and Mel loves her city. The hustle and bustle still amaze and thrill her even after all these years. When not reading, writing or going to the theater, Mel spends her time with her long-time boyfriend, discussing science or poking fun at each other.

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