Much Awaited September 2019 Book Releases

This is the first time I have done a post like this, but I am going to start releasing a post at the beginning of each month about the book releases for the month. I know we are already eight days into September, but better late than never. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of releases.

September 3rd:

Missing Person by Sarah Lotz: “Reclusive bookseller Shaun Ryan has always believed that his uncle Teddy died in a car accident twenty years ago. Then he learns the truth: Teddy fled his home in Catholic, deeply conservative County Wicklow, Ireland, for New York and hasn’t been heard from since. None of Shaun’s relatives will reveal why they lied about his uncle’s death or why they want Shaun to leave the whole affair alone.
But Shaun has a burning need to find out the truth. His search is unsuccessful until he’s contacted by Chris Guzman, a woman who runs a website dedicated to matching missing-persons cases with unidentified bodies. Chris and her team of cold-case obsessives suspect that Shaun is looking for the “Boy in the Dress,” one victim in a series of gay men murdered by the same killer. But who are these internet fanatics really, and how do they know so much about a case that has stumped police for decades? Soon armchair sleuths and professional investigators are on a collision course with a sadistic serial killer who’s gotten away with his crimes for far too long – and now they’re in his sights.”

Wild Steamy Hookup by Piper Rayne: “It was never my plan to wake up in a Vegas hotel room as Dominic Mancini’s WIFE. The man has brought me nothing but heartache since I was sixteen. At least we agree on one thing—a quickie annulment and we can both get on with our lives. I can go back to teaching little girls to dance and he can go back to making millions on Wall Street. But sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. It follows you right into an ambush by your Italian Mamas who deliver Oscar-worthy performances when heaping on the guilt. So, we do what any good Italian kids would do. We secretly agree to pretend to give marriage a try. But our easy solution morphs into a convoluted mess and leaves us wondering—is it safe to bet on each other?”

September 10th:

Code Name: Sentinel by Sawyer Bennet: “As a former member of the United States Secret Service, I’m no stranger to putting my life on the line in the name of duty. Having left the nation’s capital to re-settle in Pittsburgh, the skills I acquired during my tenure in Washington have made me a valued member of the team at Jameson Force Security. But when the President comes seeking a favor to protect his niece, I find myself on the fast track back to the Oval Office. Simply put… she’s beyond brilliant. A nationally renowned energy scientist, Barrett Alexander is on the verge of a breakthrough that will change the world. Unfortunately, that has also made her the target of a suspected terrorist cell. And while Barrett doesn’t believe she’s in any real danger, the President isn’t willing to take chances with her life. As the threats against Barrett become more calculated, I decide taking her on the run is her best chance of survival. Danger, isolation, and attraction ensure we grow closer than I’d ever thought possible. When I realize I want to keep her safe for reasons that have nothing to do with my job and everything to do with the woman I’ve fallen in love with, no one is safe from the hell I’ll rain down on those that threaten her.”

The Institue by Stephen King: “In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute. As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.”

The Nobodies by Liza Palmer: “Charmingly candid, hilarious, and deeply moving, The Nobodies is a novel about failing but never losing the core of yourself, from a beloved writer at the top of her game. If there’s one thing Joan Dixon knows about herself, it’s that she is a damn good journalist. But when she is laid off from yet another soon-to-be-shuttered newspaper, and even the soulless, listicle-writing online jobs have dried up, she is left with few options. Closer to 40 than 30, single, living with her parents again, Joan decides she needs to reinvent herself. She goes to work as a junior copywriter at Bloom, a Los Angeles startup where her bosses are all a decade younger and snacks and cans of fizzy water flow freely. For once, Joan has a steady paycheck and a stable job. She befriends a group of misfit coworkers and even begins a real relationship, after years of false starts. But once a journalist, always a journalist, and as Joan starts to poke beneath Bloom’s bright surface, she realizes that she may have accidentally stumbled onto the scoop of her lifetime. Is it worth risking everything for the sake of the story?”

The Testaments: The Sequal to Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood: “More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’ Margaret Atwood

Akin by Emma Donoghue: “Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.”

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow: “In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.”

September 24th:

No Judgment by Meg Cabot: “When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake. But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker. But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too.”

Ruined With You by J. Kenner: “When her high maintenance boss is assaulted, manager Xena Morgan contacts the only person who can help—the sexy, arrogant, incredibly capable Stark Security agent Liam Foster. The former vigilante takes every case personally, and he’s determined to find answers—particularly since he thought he’d cleared this threat already. Xena had been thrilled when Liam completed his assignment, because he affected her in ways she didn’t want to contemplate, awakening yearnings that threatened her deepest secrets. But now she needs him, and her body won’t let her forget it.  As their attraction heats to a feverish degree, the web of lies, danger, and passion they find themselves in tangles further. Liam will stop at nothing to protect his client, even if it means sacrificing everything he holds dear … and exposing the secrets that may destroy him—and Xena—forever.”

The Braid by Laetitia Colombani: “In India, Smita is an untouchable. Desperate to give her daughter an education, she takes her child and flees her small village with nothing but resourcefulness, eventually heading to a temple where she will experience a rebirth.
In Sicily, Giulia works in her father’s wig workshop, the last of its kind in Palermo. She washes, bleaches, and dyes the hair provided by the city’s hairdressers, which is now in short supply. But when her father is the victim of a serious accident, she discovers that the company’s financial situation is dire. Now she must find a way to save her family’s livelihood. In Canada, Sarah is a successful lawyer and twice-divorced mother of three children whose identity is wrapped up in her work. Just as she expects a big promotion, her life is shattered when she’s diagnosed with cancer. A moving novel of hope and renewal, The Braid is a celebration of womanhood and the power of connection and perseverance.”

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht: “The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning. These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.”

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman: “In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be. What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never-ending.”

Enchanting Sebastian by Kristen Proby: “Turning thirty-five doesn’t mean much to most men. For Sebastian Wakefield, it’s the end of life as he knows it.
When your father is the King of England, thirty-five is the year that a marriage will be arranged, a suitable bride cementing a future you didn’t choose. The obvious solution for escaping the archaic laws of the throne is for Sebastian to leave the country. And where better to go than America? Nina Wolfe has spent her career avoiding scandal. As a Hollywood publicist and minor celebrity in her own right, she knows exactly what it takes to keep the media at bay—and what will send them into a frenzy. Prince Sebastian hiding out in Cunningham Falls, Montana is an unlikely story. Ending up in his bed, even more so. And keeping their arrangement out of the press might just be impossible. The ring on her finger is about to spark a firestorm that will change her life, and no professional spin will help Nina fit into the world of royalty. Only love could write an enchanting new beginning—if they’ll let themselves fall.”

FYI:

Make sure you grab your copy of Loved by Death here. I am going to make it available, soon, on other sites as well.

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On This Day… September 8

Let’s take a look at some writing-related historical events.

  • 1830 Frederic Mistral is born
  • 1873 Alfred Jarry is born
  • 1930 First appearance of comic strip “Blondie”
  • 1933 Michael Frayn is born
  • 1947 Ann Beattie is born
  • 1948 Thomas Mofolo dies
  • 1960 Penguin Books in Britain is charged with obscenity for trying to publish the D.H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • 1999 Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban  is published in the US

FYI:

Make sure you grab your copy of Loved by Death here. I am going to make it available, soon, on other sites as well.

Marked – My Thoughts

I haven’t done a “book review” in a while. I put that in quotes because I don’t consider it a review. I don’t really go through the good and the bad of books that much. I simply share some thoughts about books. I don’t consider myself a book reviewer, but if you are an author and have self-published some books, reach out to me because I am willing to help other Indie authors. I know how hard it can be to get reviews.

Alright, Marked is the first book in the Hous of Night series by PC and Kristin Cast. I started reading these in high school when a friend of mine let me borrow her copy. She was also the one that told me I should read it considering my other literary interests (Twilight).

Unfortunately, I only get to the third or fourth book when I couldn’t go any further. See, my friend had lent the books to another student as well, but that student had one of the books and then moved to Las Vegas taking the book with her. So, 10+ years later, I mentioned these books to my mom and she started giving them to me for Christmas. (I love my mom, for she enables my book addiction.)

*SPOILERS ARE BELOW*

The House of Night series gives a new take on the world of vampires. A young woman, Zoey Redbird, is marked with a crescent moon on her forehead, which immediately causes her to become an outcast amongst her family and friends. She has to get to the school, otherwise, she will die, but her step-father and mother want to pray the vampire away.

She escapes and goes to her grandmothers, and long story short winds up at the House of Nigh school with a gash in her head and her mark already colored in. This makes her stand out amongst her new classmates.

This entire book takes place over just a few days, the days leading up to Samhain. She easily makes friends with what would probably be considered the outcast group, but she also, sort of, forced into joining the dark daughters.

Of course, any good book has to have an antagonist, and that would be the leader of the dark daughters, Aphrodite, or as Zoey’s group of friends so lovingly call her, “Hag from Hell.”

The Zoey is determined to fix the problems within the school because Nyx has chosen her. She also wants to knock Aphrodite down a peg, which does accomplish, to an extent, by the end of the book. There are plenty of other problems that she will have to face, I’m sure, but she is off to a great start.

I’ve read a few reviews on this book, it has a four-star rating on Goodreads, but some of the most negative ones talk about the way the book is written. People seem to have a problem that the style of the book is very informal. There are “asides,” colloquialisms, and slang throughout the book. I suppose, for some, that might be a problem, but that’s part of the reason why I love the book so much.

I can’t speak for other authors, but I like writing because I can break the rules. I like to take liberties that some people may find as wrong, but there is nobody saying that you can’t. That’s what draws me into the writing of the Cast’s. It is very easy to get lost in their book, at least for me. The books are meant to be young adult, and I think that writing plays very well into that genre.

Anywho, I think you should give it a read. I will be doing one of these for each of the books. But FYI, the book I am currently reading is Psycho, so that will be the next “My Thoughts” post.

“You know how it is with cats: They don’t really have owners, they have staff.”
― P.C. Cast, Chosen

FYI:

Make sure you grab your copy of Loved by Death here. I am going to make it available, soon, on other sites as well.

A Question For My Readers

Today’s post isn’t going to be about writing. In fact, I have a question for my readers. Would you like to see blog posts about ghost stories?

I’ve always been a big fan of ghost stories. I’m talking real ghost stories, not just horror books. I’m talking about stories like The Portrait of Theodosia Burr, The Pink Lady at the Grove Park Inn, Ghosts of the USS Constellation, and The Hawthorne Hotel.

I think ghost stories are helpful for writers, especially those of us who want to write horrors or similar genres. Of course, whether you believe they are true or not isn’t relevant. The point is they are fun to read and can give you some clues as to what makes a good spooky story.

I spent a lot of time in high school and college reading books about ghost stories in my state of North Caroline. Trust me, we have A LOT. In the town of Asheville alone, which is about five minutes from me, there are 10+.

My proposition is, would you like a couple (or five) blog posts that share ghost stories from around the world each week along with the regular blog posts. I wouldn’t be replacing my normal writing tips and tricks with the ghost stories. I would simply be supplementing them with some fun spooky stories.

I wanted to get my readers opinion since you guys are the reason I do this. Please let me know what you think if you want me to or not.

If you have your own ghost story, let me know, and I may share it on the blog. With your permission, of course.

“I’ve got quite a vivid imagination and I’m easily overwhelmed by sensations and things that are beautiful or scary. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ghost – I think I’m probably haunted by my own ghosts than real ones.” – Florence Welch

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Get Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles today.

How to Embrace Vulnerability and Write Your Truth

We’ve spoken about writing your truth before. As you have probably noticed, it can get very convoluted as to what it really means to write your truth. The reason for that is because everybody has their own truth.

Today we are going to look at vulnerability, which I believe is the key to writing your truth. If you can bare your emotions on the page, then conveying a truth is going to be very hard to do.

Emotions play a huge role in writing. Not only in the act of writing a story, but in everything that surrounds it; publishing it, sharing it, getting feedback, everything.

I would say that I have only been a true writer for a year. While I have been writing for most of my life, it was only last year that I buckled down and chose this as my life. Last year was when I shared my writing for other people to read. Last year was when I put myself out there to be loved or rejected. Last year I experienced more emotions than ever before. In fact, it feels like it has been longer than a year.

When I first started this blog I said I was going to go the traditional route when it came to publishing my books. I was going to an agent and all that, but I switched to self-publishing. One, because I am a bit impatient. Two, I wanted to get my book out there for people now. That doesn’t mean I have given up hope on getting an agent, it just means I’m doing things on my own for now. Emotions played a huge role in this.

There are weeks where I feel confident and excited. Then I will have doubts and thinking about a back-up plan. But I know in my heart of hearts, writing is the only career that is going to make me happy. (That and acting, but let’s not get started on that tangent.)

The reason I am sharing this is that, as a writer, you can’t be afraid of emotions. I would hazard a guess that most writers are introverts. We don’t do well speaking out emotions out loud, thus we write them. So, if writing is how we express our emotions as introverts, how can we express our self if we don’t show vulnerability.

But What Will Others Think?

This is probably the biggest roadblock in showing vulnerability through writing. Everybody is worried about being judged. I could say, “get over it,” but that’s rude and annoying. You can’t just simply get over things. Everybody has to work through their own problems in their own time. That doesn’t mean that you can’t work through them faster, but you still have to work through them on your own.

Too often people write off these types of issues as just being in your head. They don’t think there is a real issue. But fears are fears. They are all important and everybody has the right to be afraid of things. The important thing is that you figure out what those fears and work through them so they don’t hold you back in life.

I will dedicate another post on working through these types of issues. For now, let’s look at some of the best ways to show vulnerability in your writing.

Be Open

The key to showing vulnerability is to be open. You can write a one-sided story. Even children’s books have a good side and a bad side. You can’t have light without the darkness. There is no good without the bad. A day always has a night.

When you write with openness, you allow the story to guide you. It will naturally show you where it needs to go. I don’t know how many times my outline has changed once I started writing the story because what I had planned didn’t feel right once it was put on paper.

Trust

Writing with openness and vulnerability means that you trust the process of writing. If you can’t trust the process, you will end up holding yourself back and censoring yourself. I’ve already talked about how censoring yourself is bad for writing your truth. You have to trust that the story is going to lead you to where it needs to go.

This could mean that characters you hadn’t planned on killing are going to die. Your story could plummet to depths you never imagined, but as you work your way back out, your story is going to be better for it. Trust is hard, but it’s what makes for a good story.

DO NOT CENSOR

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you can’t write your truth and censor yourself. This is also one of those fine lines. There is a way you can go too far with your writing where it can end up causing a lot of backlash. This, in my opinion, is when you write with the purpose of being mean and hateful. If this is you purpose going into a book, do us all a favor and stop. There is enough hate already, there is no need for any more.

With that said, you can write without censorship and not be mean and hateful. If your story tells you that it needs something that many people would consider taboo, put it in there. It will be a better story for it. It can be written in a tasteful manner as well.

A big taboo subject that people are sometimes afraid of touching on is abuse. This could be domestic, sexual, what have you. It’s a touchy subject, but if stories about these things aren’t shared, then nobody is going to learn about them. People who aren’t afraid to write about these things are people who help to change the world for the better. The same goes for injustice as well.

These three tips are heavy subjects, and I understand that. Being vulnerable isn’t something anybody likes feeling. But it is a fact of life. If you don’t feel vulnerable at some point in the writing process, then you need to take a step back and see where you are holding back. Be vulnerable and change the world with your writing.

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” – Wally Lamb

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

A Quick Christmas Wish for You and Yours

Today’s post is going to short and sweet. I just want to stop by and wish everybody and Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (sorry, I know this one is already over), Happy Kwanza, and a Happy New Year. Hey, even Happy Boxing Day if you celebrate it. Whatever your preferences are, I wish you happy whatever you celebrate. I hope it was or will be filled with love, happiness, good food, a family you like to be around, and presents galore.

In the video above you can see how I decorate and everything.

My tree went up the day after Thanksgiving, and presents were put under shortly thereafter. My parents and I tend to go overboard with gifts. Books will always be given to somebody, my mom and I are big readers (duh). On Christmas Eve, we go to visit my grandparents on both sides. On Christmas Day, it’s just my parents me. We open presents and eat a big meal.

We do New Years in a “big” way as well. We always watch the Rose Parade, and we always have ham, greens, and black-eyed peas. I love the holidays, any holiday really.

I would love to learn what you guys do for the holidays and what some of your favorite traditions are.

Happy Holidays everyone. Have a great end of the year and I will see you in 2019.

“I celebrate everyone’s religious holidays. If it’s good enough for the righteous, it’s good enough for the self-righteous, I always say.” – Better Midler

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Short Story – Her Little Secret

The church was filled with family and friends. All of their solemn faces watched me as I walked up the aisle. The summer breeze coming in from the windows whipped my dress around my ankles. My hand reached out and touched the cold wooden coffin.

I shouldn’t have left. No matter how important it had been for me to go to school. I knew my parents were going to have problems, but I hadn’t imagined it would be this bad. I’d only been gone for three months when I got the call from my brother, Charles, Jr.

“Richard is dead,” Junior said.

I didn’t believe him, but I still rushed home. I wasn’t met with a kiss. I didn’t get asked how my trip was. Nobody said I love you. Richard, my husband, was dead. A week before I had left for classes a new ‘family’ had moved in. Vinnie Rio and his wife Maria had introduced themselves to my parents the day I left. They didn’t do or say anything wrong at that time, but I could tell.

My parents, Charles, Sr. and Rebecca, own a deli shop in a nice Italian American neighborhood. That was until the Rios moved in. It was the way they acted. The words they used. The way they walked and dressed. I knew they were part of the mob. What I didn’t know was that Vinnie was the head and that he was willing to do whatever it took to get my parents deli.

He wasn’t interested in making money selling meats. Instead, he wanted the back of the store. The large walk-in freezer to be exact. It was the perfect place for ‘business.’ He hadn’t said anything that day he introduced himself. He waited. He had dropped hints for a few weeks, according to my brother. My dad stayed strong and wouldn’t budge. Richard got involved when Vinnie hit my dad. He started talking for him, and that’s how he ended up dead. But, lucky for me, Vinnie never saw me that day when he came to town.

Junior put his arm around my shoulder leading me back out of the church. A young boy came running up with a phone in his hand. Junior took the phone.

“Hello,” Junior said.

I couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end, but I knew wasn’t good. Junior turned white as a sheet. His hand gripped hard into my shoulder.

“Can I speak to her?”

“What is it?” I whispered.

He waved me off and continued to listen intently. I eased him over to the paisley covered chair before he fell down.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I knelt in front of him, trying to read his face. He looked right at but didn’t see me. I could hear the guests filing out of the church, all of them looking at us with concern. As the last person left, Junior jumped up.

“Put her back on! No! I want to talk to my mother. I…”

“What’s wrong with mom?” I screamed.

Again, he waved me away. He held the phone tight to his ear. The air in the room tense. I couldn’t breathe. Something was wrong with mom and he wasn’t telling me anything. I didn’t like this, but taking the phone from him wasn’t an option. I had to wait, no matter how long it took.

“Okay,” he whispered, before hanging up the phone.

“What’s wrong?” I said, cornering him.

“They have mom and dad.”

“Who?”

“Vinnie.”

“Vinnie? Vinnie Rio?”

“Yes. Dad still wouldn’t give up the shop after they killed Richard. Now they’ve taken them, hostage, until I turn over the shop.”

I wrapped my arm around his shoulder and lead him outside. The sun dipped under the horizon casting everything in shadows. The moon peeked through the red clouds as we walked to my car. We drove to the shop in silence.

Everybody from the funeral would be piling into my house soon enough and I wasn’t ready to deal with them. I had something else on my mind.

Junior and I walked into the deli shop. He grabbed a plate and filled it with different sliced meats and cheeses. We quietly nibbled at the food. Neither of us wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. With a sigh, I broke the silence.

“Let them have the store.”

“What?”

“Let them have the store.”

“I can’t do that. Dad would kill me.”

“If you don’t, they will kill dad. Trust me. Call Vinnie and set up a meeting tomorrow.”

“Why? I don’t know how you could let those people use our shop for their work.”

“I don’t want them in here any more than you do, but it’s the only way this is going to end.”

“I’m not going to do it.”

“Charlie, if you don’t you will never see mom or dad again. Besides, I’ll call him myself if I have to.”

“You wouldn’t.”

I glared at my brother. I was four years older than him, and I had seen and done things that he would have never imagined. I had a secret that none of my family, not even my late husband, knew. He might have felt better if he had known, but I couldn’t risk it.

***

The next morning I hid in the back of the store. The office sat behind the meat counter and had a perfect view of the entire store. I stretched up on my tip toes to look out the window. Junior wasn’t happy. He had repeatedly begged me to reconsider after a while I stopped listening to him.

The front bell jingling and in walked a tall lanky man in a three-piece suit. A little overdressed for a Monday morning. Francis Capo, or as his friends called him, Little Frankie, sauntered up to the counter where Junior stood. He twirled a toothpick between lips before taking it out and tapping the tip on the counter.

“The boss wants to know if you have reconsidered,” Little Frankie said in a thick Italian accent.

Junior took a deep breath and stepped back from the counter. He hesitated too long. Little Frankie slapped the counter.

“Can you hear me? The boss wants an answer.”

“I…” Junior stumbled.

I slipped out of the office. None of the family knew I existed and I was going to use that to my advantage. I had slipped on my most form-fitting little black dress. My breasts poured out the top and my butt looked perky with the help of my sky-high heels. I glided up next to my brother, drawing Little Frankie’s attention.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

“Who are you?” Little Frankie asked.

“Veronica.”

“You related to him?”

“I’m his older sister.”

“Older sister, huh? I didn’t know they had any other kids. So, you the one in charge here.”

“Looks that way.”

“Vinnie wants an answer. He wants your freezer.”

Junior slipped further away from the two of us. He fiddled around with some of the meats, trying his best to disappear in the shadows of the store. I hated seeing him this scared.

“If the freezer is all he wants, he can have it.”

“I see there is one smart person in your family. It’s a good thing you agreed. I would have hated to mess up a pretty face like yours.”

“You wouldn’t have really hurt me, would you?” I asked, sliding closer to him.

Little Frankie cleared his throat. He rubbed his finger across his pencil mustache with a smile.

“I could think of a million better things to do to you than hurt you.”

“I bet you could.”

Junior coughed. I glanced over to see him glaring at me. I rolled my eyes back to Little Frankie who hadn’t stopped gazing at me since I walked out of the office.

“How about I come back by tonight and take you out.”

“Sounds great.”

With a grin, Little Frankie turned and sauntered out. I could feel Junior’s eyes burning holes through me. Turning my back to him, I strolled into the office saying,

“You have customers.”

***

Late Monday evening Little Frankie pulled up outside a large white mansion. This had to be the Capo house. I had been under the impression that we were going to a restaurant. I didn’t think I’d have to impress the entire family this early on.

Little Frankie walked around the car and opened my door. I eased out, making sure my tight dress didn’t rise too far. I hadn’t changed my dress from earlier, but I had added a leather jacket and pulled my long brown hair back in a ponytail. Frankie took my hand and led me up the stone stairs to the glass front door. A tall bleach blonde woman met us at the door.

She had curves in all the right places, but every inch appeared to be fake. The only thing on her that was real was the diamonds. She smiled the best she could, but her face wouldn’t allow anything to move. Escorting use in, she motioned towards two large red velvet chairs on either side of a long mahogany table. The woman sat at the head of the table, the other end was occupied by who I guessed was Vinnie. The meant the woman had to be his wife. The other two seats were filled by another man and woman. I wasn’t interested in either of them.

“Welcome, Veronica,” Vinnie said, motioning to a maid to fill my glass with wine, “You’ve met my wife, Maria. I hope Frankie has been a gentleman.”

“He has,” I replied, taking a sip of my wine.

“Good. I was extremely glad to hear that you had allowed us access to your store. Your father was quite a hard nut to crack. I’m glad you are smarter. What I was really interested in, though, is why I hadn’t ever met you before.”

“I’ve not been in town for the past few months.”

“I see. Why?”

“I was taking some classes.”

“For what?”

“You do ask a lot of questions.”

“I like to know who I’m dealing with. Your brother, Junior, is it? He’s an easy read. But you, you’re different. You don’t follow your father’s rules.”

“I’ve always done my own thing. I didn’t understand why he so against giving you access to the freezer.”

“Smart girl. Enough talk, let’s eat.”

We ate. The entire night, whatever Vinnie said, we did. Nobody questioned it. The dinner was good, though. Once we finished, with a snap of his fingers, the maids cleared the table and brought us coffee. After some idle chat about nothing in particular, Vinnie turned to me.

“Maria is going to show you around the house. I like you, and I have a feeling you will be around a lot.”

Maria took my hand and led me out of the dining room. Their house was vast and full of expensive furniture, appliances, and decorations. Rooms upon rooms lined the halls of the mansion. Most of which had never been used. Maria stopped short at the top of the stairs. I screeched to a halt barely avoiding her.

“You cannot tell anybody about what I’m getting ready to show you.”

I nodded. We eased down the staircase. Our steps echoed off the white walls. We stepped into a hall that paled in comparison to the rest of the house. I figured the area wasn’t frequented by guests. Nothing was decorated and the air smelled stale. My parents had to be around here somewhere. Maria tapped my shoulder, causing me to jump.

“Now, Vinnie probably wouldn’t want me to show you this, but I thought you might need to know. This is where we keep our little secrets. Promise me you won’t say anything.”

“I promise.”

“Good. Now, let’s get back upstairs before the boys get too lonely.”

***

I sat at the small table in the office of the deli shop and sipped my now cold cup of coffee. Junior had frozen me out. The most I could get him to say was a grunt. Before I left Vinnie’s home the night before they told me they would need the freezer today. I was dressed to the nines again to keep my charade up.

The front door slammed open and the bell clanged. The sound of stomping and shuffling feet sounded through the store.

“What are you doing?” Junior yelled.

A hard thump vibrated the floor under my feet. I ran out to find Junior on the floor of the store. Little Frankie disappeared into the freezer. I crouched next to Junior to make sure he was okay. He yanked his arm away from my touch.

“I told you they were coming,” I whispered.

Junior glared at me. He wasn’t hurt, but his ego was bruised. He pulled himself up and moved to the far side of the shop. A scream rang out of the freezer. I glanced around the door to see Little Frankie and Vinnie roughing up a small wiry man.

“What did I tell you last time?” Vinnie barked into the man’s face.

“I don’t think he understood you,” Little Frankie quipped.

Vinnie nodded at his henchman. Little Frankie raised a skinny arm and drove his fist into the small man’s face. Blood splattered out of his mouth. In a split second, Little Frankie’s fist drove back into his face. Blood burst out of his nose. The tiny man groaned.

“What was that?” Vinnie said, leaning down to the man, but making sure he didn’t get blood on his shirt.

“Trunk. Money … trunk.”

“I think he’s saying the money is in the trunk,” Little Frankie interpreted.

Vinnie turned on his heel and bounded out of the store. Little Frankie turned his attention back to the small man. He drove fist after fist into him until he slumped over in the chair, barely breathing. I felt Junior’s breath on my shoulder.

“Aren’t you going to stop him?” Junior barked, loud enough for Frankie to hear.

I pushed Junior into the office and shut the door.

“Look, I don’t like this any more than you do, but if you don’t keep your mouth shut, you are going to be in worse shape than that man in there,” I whispered.

“You’ve lost your mind.”

Junior stomped out of the office and right into Little Frankie. Frankie slammed Junior against the wall. Frankie’s arm drew back preparing to hit Junior. With a touch of my hand, Frankie dropped his.

“Please, Frankie. He’s my brother. I can handle him. He’s just upset about our parents.”

Little Frankie looked at me; a small smile drew across his face. He released Junior’s shirt. I glanced at Junior. He took off to the front of the store. I rubbed my hand down Frankie’s arm.

“He’s lucky you were here.”

“I know. I’m sorry he doesn’t understand your line of work. I’ll do my best to keep him in line.”

“If you can’t, I’ll have to.”

“I know. Just, give him a little bit. He’ll come around. I promise.”

“You’re going out with me tonight.”

“Okay.”

***

That night Little Frankie took me to a real restaurant. The food was beyond delicious, and it should be for the price they charged. Everybody took extra special care of us. We had no reservation, and the restaurant was full, but we only waited five minutes before the best table in the place was open. Nobody ever brought us a check. After dessert, we left.

Little Frankie wrapped an arm around my waist as we walked down the street. The night air was cool, so I didn’t protest his touch even though I wanted to. A figure moved to the right of me. I didn’t think anything about it. A moment later, Little Frankie was on the ground. A large man threw punch after punch at Little Frankie not giving him a chance to get in a hit.

I grabbed the man by the collar and pulled. He didn’t budge. I swung a fist into his side. Still, he didn’t budge. I stepped back and drove my foot into his gut. He grunted and tumbled off of Little Frankie. A glass stomach, good to know.

Little Frankie struggled to stand. His left eye swelled shut, and blood poured out of his nose. I didn’t like the man, but I could let him die tonight. Once he had his footing, he turned back to the hulk of a man that was still on the ground grasping his stomach. He stomped the man’s stomach causing him to writhe in pain. Little Frankie looked at me, nodding his head, inviting me to help him.

We took turns kicking and stomping him into the ground. Once he passed out, Little Frankie collapsed against the wall. It was my turn to wrap an arm around him. I led him back to the car and sped off towards Vinnie’s.

***

They had their own in-house doctor. This sort of thing must happen a lot. As soon as we stepped inside, we were met by a short man with a stethoscope. He took Little Frankie to another room, leaving me alone at the door. Vinnie stepped beside, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. Some large man came out of nowhere and attacked him.”

“Sounds like Bubba. That’s not his real name, but he won’t share his real name. He used to work with us, but when I met Little Frankie, I sent Bubba on his way. He’s tried to get the drop on him before but never succeeded. How did you get him off?”

“He’s got a glass stomach.”

“Figures. Big guys always have an easy to reach weak spot. Come with me. I have something to show you.”

Vinnie led me back to the staircase that Maria had taken me down the other day. This time we walked the long hallway. I glanced in some of the open doors. They were small furnished bedrooms, big enough for two people. One door along that hallway was closed. It had to be where my parents were.

The hallway emptied out into a large office space. On the far wall set a large vault, one that should be in a bank. The door was opened a crack. It looked like it was filled with gold and cash.

“This is where it all happens,” Vinnie said in a grand fashion, “Not just anybody gets to see this room. Besides myself, Maria, and Little Frankie, you’re the only other person who has been shown this room without a gun pressed to their head.”

“Why are you showing me the room?”

“Your one special lady. Little Frankie likes you and you proved yourself useful today. I want you to help me. I’ve got a new store, much like your father; he’s a bit reluctant to let me help him with business. I think you can help.”

After explaining the situation, Vinnie left me alone in the office. I had everything that I needed to bring an end to the Rio family. In just a couple of days, I had done what the other officers on the force hadn’t been able to do for years. Every time the police got close, the Rio family would move. This time I had insisted that I take the lead. The guys didn’t like that a woman would be taking over their case, and I suspected that they would be extremely upset that I had finished what they couldn’t.

***

Back home, I slipped to my room unnoticed by Junior. He had been staying with Richard and me long before all of this started. He was watching TV when I came in. I slipped out of my cumbersome dress and slid on my PJs. Grabbing the phone, I called my boss.

“Virgil speaking.”

“Virgil, it’s me, Veronica. I’ve got them.”

“You got them?”

“Vinnie took me to his office today. I have all the evidence we need to put him away. We can take them tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive. We wait any longer and they could end up getting suspicious, and we know what happens when they get suspicious.”

“All right. I’ll get the guys together. You go in and signal us when you’re ready.”

“Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow.”

“See you then.”

“Bye.”

“Oh, Veronica.”

“Yes.”

“Good work.”

I hung up the phone with a smile. Unbeknownst to me, Junior has slipped upstairs and had overheard my phone call. He slammed my door open and stormed in.

“Cops! Cops were not supposed to be involved.”

“I’m a cop, Junior. Cops have been involved since the beginning.”

“They’re going to kill them.”

“No, they’re not. At least not anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you honestly think they were ever going to release them? They were just biding their time until they got everything they wanted from us.”

“Yes, I do.”

“This is why I didn’t tell you, or anybody for that matter, what I was doing when I went away.”

“I thought you were a secretary.”

“That’s what everybody thought. That’s how going undercover works. It’s my little secret. I need you to calm down. Mom and dad are going to be fine as long as you don’t do something stupid.”

“I can’t do this. You’ve messed everything up.”

“I’ve mess nothing up. You were never going to give them access to the shop. You were going to get yourself and our parents killed. Richard already sacrificed himself. I’m now a 30-year-old widow. How do you think I feel? I’m taking down the Rio family, and if you don’t promise me that you will behave, I will tie you up in your room until everything is over.”

Junior stayed quiet. He eased back to his room and didn’t say anything for the rest of the day. The next morning was just as quiet. That was until I started to leave.

“Be safe,” Junior said, making his way back up to his room.

“I will.”

The entire family was at Vinnie’s. It seemed as if it was a tradition to gather together when somebody got jumped on the street. Little Frankie could only see out of one eye, and his breaths were shallow from his bruised ribs.

As the festivities picked up, I slipped away from the crowd. I knew my team was waiting just outside of the Rio fortress. I stepped out onto one of the several balconies and stretched. A whistle sounded off in the distance letting me know they had seen my signal.

I reached in my dress and pulled out my gun. After checking the gun, I eased back inside. A second later, the front door busted open. With the distraction on my side, I took off to the staircase. Somebody reached out and grabbed my arm, yanking me around. One of Vinnie’s men hovered over me.

I swung my arm around. He grabbed my arm, causing me to drop the gun. I continued to fight him off, but he deflected every swing. An explosion ricocheted through the house. The giant looked away. I grabbed up a large ceramic vase and smashed it over his head. He took a few steps and tumbled to the ground. I grabbed up my gun and took off downstairs.

“Mom. Dad.” I screamed.

Muffled yells came from down the hall. I took off towards the closed door. I grabbed the knob but it wouldn’t turn.

“Mom, dad, if you can hear me, I need to you move to the far wall.”

Shuffling feet sounded on the other side of the door. I took a step and aimed my gun at the lock. Firing off a shot, the lock blew apart and the door swung open. I stepped inside and saw my mom and dad holding each other in the far corner of the room. When they saw me, they ran and grabbed me up in a hug. For the next minute, I was covered in kisses.

“I love you too, but we have to get out of here,” I said.

“Why are you here?” my dad asked.

“That’s a story for another day.”

I motioned for them to stay behind me as we eased upstairs. Shots bounced off the wall beside us. Ducking against the opposite wall, I glanced around the corner. Little Frankie stood behind a column and fired another shot. I readied my gun and fired at his leg. It glanced off the column missing my target.

Frankie shot at us again, missing by a mile. Having only one good eye made his job a lot harder. I fired again, this time taking out his right knee. He dropped to the floor. I raced to him, never dropping my aim. Kicking the gun away, I turned him on his stomach and shoved my knee into his back.

“I knew you were too good at being bad,” Little Frankie wheezed.

“You kidnapped my parents. Did you honestly think I liked you?”

The house went quiet. My boss stepped around the corner with two officers following him. The house was in shambles. Most of the decorations had been destroyed. The couch was riddled with bullets holes. One of the officers stepped up and handed me a pair of handcuffs. I secured Little Frankie’s hands and stood. Mom and dad eased their way into the room.

“Did you get them?” I asked.

“We did. We took most of them alive. A few were injured, and a couple had to be killed. They hit a couple of our men, but they’ll be fine.”

“Good.”

“Where’s this evidence you found?”

“Down those stairs and all the way at the end of the hall. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take my parents home instead of hanging around here.”

“Go ahead. I’m sure Junior is worried.

***

The three of us stepped up on the curb outside of the deli shop. I could see Junior inside scrubbing the counters. His face was wrinkled in a frown as he scrubbed away his anger. I motioned for my parents to stay outside. The bell rang when I opened the door, bringing Junior’s attention to me. He frowned.

“Why are you here? I thought you were working.” Junior stated, anger rising in his voice.

“I thought I’d bring you present. Especially after everything I’ve put you through this week.”

“What?”

The bell rang again as mom and dad stepped inside. The frown on Junior’s face dissolved into a smile. Racing to mom and dad, he wrapped them in a hug before reaching over to pull me in. We stayed in our huddle for a few minutes more.

We closed the store for the day and spent some much-needed family time together. I explained my whole story and why I had to lie for so long. Unfortunately, Richard never got to find out my secret. He had been a causality that I hadn’t planned on. He wasn’t supposed to get so involved, but the people that killed him were in jail and there was no chance of them getting out.