Posted in Writer’s Unite!, Writing

Short Story Time!

Dearest Readers,

I once again have broken out of my comfort zone and walked into the welcoming embrace of the Writer’s Unite! Group. Below is my short story for the November prompt, but please be sure to check out the Writer’s Unite! Blog for other short stories by fantastic authors. You never know – you just might find your next favorite writer!

Road of Memories

Amber Deck

ROAD CLOSED… Those two words sounded so simple as Dr. Sparrow Malone read them to herself. She knew otherwise. Active homicides were never easy.

Sparrow looked up from the weathered road barrier — now entwined with crime scene tape — to see Detective Zane Travers walking her way. Shaggy brown hair framed the man’s handsome face, which currently showcased a grim expression. By the time Zane reached where she was standing, Sparrow had to tilt her head up to look into his hazel eyes. At five-foot-five, she looked tiny standing next to Zane’s toned, six-foot-four body.

“Thanks for coming down here, Sparrow.” Zane gave her a small grin. He lifted the crime scene tape and gestured for her to step under it. He waited until Sparrow was beside him before he continued speaking. “I know you typically don’t help out with active homicide cases, but we need you on this one. It has us puzzled.”

“Who is it, Zane?” Sparrow’s gray eyes stared up at him. Zane was making her nervous by hesitating on the case details. Sparrow gave him a playful smile. “I’m a Criminal Psychology professor, not a mind reader. I skipped that class during grad school at Oxford.”

Zane chuckled. “Really? Portland PD makes that our first class at the academy.” He ushered Sparrow to an unoccupied area as he lowered his voice. “Remember how I told you that you never had to tell me about your past?”

Sparrow’s smile faded. “I remember. It was during our first date.”

“Yes, that’s exactly right,” Zane confirmed as he took a deep breath. “Sparrow, you don’t have to share anything with me that you don’t want to. I just want you to be prepared.” He could see the multitude of questions swimming in her dark gray eyes. “The victim had your name written on a piece of paper in her coat pocket. Sparrow, does the name ‘Diona Pianza’ sound familiar?”

Sparrow froze as Zane spoke the name of a woman she hadn’t seen in years. Yes. She knew her. Diona was the daughter of a retired federal judge in Portland. She was wealthy, beautiful, and Sparrow’s identical twin. She hadn’t seen Diona in three years — since she and their mother slammed their overpriced house door in her face.

“Sparrow?” Zane took one of her hands in his. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Zane — just shocked at who the victim is.” Sparrow tucked a strand of long, black hair behind her ear. “I know her, that’s for sure. When I moved here from London three years ago, I was on a mission. Father had just passed away, and he informed me that I had family here in Portland.”

“Diane Pianza.” Zane’s eyes widened at the new information. “Then that explains why…”

“Yes. Diona and I are identical twins.” Sparrow sighed as tears formed in her eyes. “I was ecstatic to know that I still had family left. After all, Father was the only family I had in London. Boy, was I in for a surprise.” She knew Zane was not liking the way this story was going by the way his body tensed. “I arrived at Diane’s door, eager to meet my mother, and was promptly informed that she’d never wanted two children. Both have since called me a gold-digger, attention-seeker, and who knows what else. Diane even threatened to place a restraining order on me if I contacted them.” Sparrow felt tears rolling down her cheeks. “I never felt more alone than at that moment. Well, until a certain Detective Travers strolled into one of my class lectures.”

Zane pulled her into his arms and hugged her. “I’m sorry that happened, Sparrow. You don’t have to help with this case. I’m almost done here, and then I’ll take you home.”

“No, Zane.” Sparrow shook her head as she looked up at him. “Diona may have been a cold-hearted person, but she was my sister. I need to know what happened to her. I need to know why she had my name on her.”

“Stubborn, aren’t we?” Zane grinned as he released her. He took her hand in his as he led her toward the tarp-covered body. “Let’s get to work, then.”

It was more than two hours later before they left the closed-off section of the highway behind. Zane admired how calm she had been as the Medical Examiner gave them the preliminary cause of death — strangulation.

Zane was, however, concerned with how Sparrow was going to handle seeing Diane Pianza. She had insisted on going with him to do the notification.

“I can still take you home, Sparrow.” Zane glanced over at her. “You don’t have to put yourself through this.”

“Diane might know something, Zane. She might know why Diona had my name on her.” Sparrow sighed and looked out the passenger window. The afternoon sun was slowly starting to peek through the clouds. “I have to help. I need this closure.”

Zane nodded. “Alright, but we’re leaving the minute she makes you feel uncomfortable. I’ll carry you out of that house kicking and screaming if I have to.”

A small smile formed across Sparrow’s face. “You’re always there to rescue me, Zane. One of these days, I really could need protecting from something.”

Zane chuckled and shook his head. He knew Sparrow was joking with him, but there were strange details in this homicide that were starting to gnaw at him. Something about how this crime scene was “displayed” didn’t feel right, and Zane was praying that it was just his over-protectiveness working overtime. The only issue with his bad feeling was that he was sure this case wasn’t only about Diona.

“We’re here.” Sparrow’s voice was barely a whisper, but it managed to bring Zane out of his thoughts. “Time to face my demons.”

Zane gave her a sympathetic smile as he turned the car toward the judge’s address at Victory Lakes. Sparrow remained silent as he brought the car to a stop in front of the enormous metal gate that blocked the community’s entrance. Zane flashed his badge to the guard that peered through the doorway of a small building nearby. The guard nodded as he opened the gate — waving them through. Zane nodded to the man in response.

“Have you seen or heard from Diona lately??” Zane asked as he navigated through the neighborhood. “I just figured I might need to ask — you know, in case Diane assumes that…”

Sparrow knew why Zane wouldn’t finish his last statement. “In case Diane assumes that I killed her. I expect that she might think that, too, since I’m the daughter she didn’t want.” Sparrow sighed. “I never wanted money from them. My father made sure I was very well taken care of — even after he passed. The only thing I ever wanted was a mother.” Tears threatened to form in her eyes, but she quickly blinked them away. “Plus, you knew where I was at her time of death. I was giving a lecture to seventy-five students.”

“I know that, Sparrow.” Zane turned into the Pianza’s driveway. “I just don’t want her blaming you.”

“I’ll be fine, Zane.” Sparrow smiled as Zane brought the car to a stop. She turned to face him. “I haven’t seen or spoken to Diona in three years. I’m sure Diane thinks I’ve gone back to London by now, anyway.”

Zane gave her a reassuring grin as they both got out of the car. The two-story brick house was lit up with various outdoor lamps and security lights. It wasn’t surprising that the door was open by the time the couple arrived at it.

“Can I help you?” A petite woman in her early twenties stood by the door. Her dark-brown hair hung in a low ponytail — the color matching her eyes. Sparrow didn’t remember seeing her before.

“I’m Detective Travers, and this is Dr. Malone.” Zane took his badge out of the inside pocket of his jacket. “We need to speak with Diane Pianza. It’s an urgent matter.”

The woman stared at him before glancing at his badge. She looked at Sparrow, briefly, before turning her attention back to Zane. The young woman sighed as she moved out of the way — allowing them to enter.

“Maybe you can help us with our recent Diona dilemma.” The young woman closed the door behind the couple before leading them to the large sunroom at the back of the house. “My sister has decided to disappear again… Can you believe it? Only a week until her wedding, too!”

The bitterness in the woman’s voice would have made anyone suspicious — if she hadn’t just dropped the bombshell of being Diona’s sister. Sparrow was sure she had heard her wrong. Diane had only wanted one child — no more.

“Excuse me. You’re Diona’s sister?” Sparrow asked as they walked. “I wasn’t aware that Diane had two daughters.”

“That’s because Diona takes all the spotlight. I’m Dana.” The woman smiled at them over her shoulder. “I’m her half-sister. Our mom and my dad are divorced. I mostly stay in New York. I’m a senior at NYU.” Dana stopped and faced Sparrow. “I know who you are, Dr. Malone. I just can’t believe how much you two look alike, but, then again, identical twins means identical — right?”

Sparrow nodded. “Yes, but raised worlds apart. You can call me Sparrow, by the way. Dr. Malone is what my students call me.”

“Thanks, Sparrow,” Dana replied as she smiled at her. “I’m sorry about what happened last time. If I hadn’t been off at school, I would have loved to have met my other sister.” Dana motioned for them to continue following her. “One of my friends is taking your Criminal Psychology class this semester, and she is just raving about her awesome professor on Facebook.”

Zane chuckled as he glanced over at Sparrow — who was trying to hide her embarrassment. She never complimented herself, and she looked so adorable when others did so. That was one thing he loved about her.

“Diona!” A loud male voice boomed through the spacious sunroom as the trio entered. Sparrow looked around Dana to see a man rushing toward her. Even though he stood a few inches shorter than Zane, he was rather handsome with short, jet-black hair and blue eyes. The man grabbed Sparrow and hugged her close when he reached her. “We’ve been so worried! You were just going out for the day. You can’t just disappear like that when we’re getting married in a week!”

Sparrow managed to push herself away from the man’s crisp, dark-gray suit. The aggressive move appeared to shock him — causing his gaze to drift from Sparrow to Zane. Zane’s expression caused the stranger to drop his arms from around Sparrow and back away.

“What is going on? Who is this?” The man looked from Sparrow to Dana. “Oh, is this Dana’s date to the wedding? Isn’t he a little, um, older than you, Dana?”

“You have got to be kidding me, Greg. You can’t be that dumb. I honestly don’t believe what Diona ever saw in you.” Dana sighed and rolled her eyes. 

“Be nice, Dana.” A sharp voice came from behind Greg. “Everyone, come take a seat.”

Sparrow and Zane followed Dana to the middle of the sunroom. She led them to a bright yellow sofa before joining her mother on the loveseat across from them.

“It’s been a while, Sparrow,” Diane said calmly. “I’ve heard that you have made quite a name for yourself at the local university.”

“Yes, I have,” Sparrow answered coolly. She gestured at Zane beside her. “I also help Portland police with cases. This is Detective Zane Travers.”

Diane glanced at him and nodded. “Hello, Detective Travers. I assume you have news regarding Diona?” She sighed as Zane nodded. “I had a feeling that something was wrong. Do I need an attorney present for this conversation?”

“Only if you believe you do, Mrs. Pianza,” Zane informed her. “I am sorry to have to tell you this, but we found Diona’s body this morning. She was murdered.”

If Diane was shocked or saddened, the woman was doing an excellent job at hiding it. Sparrow had never seen a person with such a flawless poker face. She found it odd that Diane was acting nothing like the woman who’d thrown her out three years ago.

“You’re probably wondering why I’m not surprised to hear this.” Diane’s voice was steady and quiet. Beside her, Dana broke into silent sobs. Greg gently helped her out of the room. “Diona had always been a handful. She’s made enemies, bad decisions, and who knows what else. I knew this visit would come one day.” Diane sighed again. “Last year, I had a heart attack. I had to retire from my career, so I told her to grow up. She decided to get engaged instead.”

“That explains Greg,” Sparrow mumbled. She winced as Diane nodded. “I’m sorry, Diane. It’s not my place to judge…”

“No, Sparrow.” Diane shook her head. “You have every right. My heart attack made me rethink how I talked to you. I have been so ashamed since then. I didn’t even think about you having no one but us. I only learned last year that Albert had passed three years ago, but I do not doubt that you tried to tell me that night you came here. I just acted so….”

Sparrow smiled at her. “I forgive you, Diane. That’s all in the past, but we do need your help. Detective Travers needs to ask you some questions.”

“Mrs. Pianza, do you know your daughter’s plans for yesterday?” Zane took out a notepad and pen from his coat pocket. “Was she meeting anyone in particular?”

“Please, call me Diane.” The older woman gave him a small smile. “She said that she was running errands then drinks with her friends. When she didn’t arrive for her dress fitting this morning, I called her friends. They said she never showed up last night.” Diane thought for a moment. “Every call went straight to her voicemail.”

“We didn’t find a phone on her or at the scene,” Zane informed her. “We found Sparrow’s name on a piece of paper in Diona’s pocket. Was she looking to reconnect with Sparrow, too?”

Diane nodded slowly. “As much as I love Diona, I raised her terribly. She is — was — spoiled, and she always saw Sparrow as a threat. When I wanted to apologize to Sparrow, Diona got very angry. Unless she was planning something, I cannot understand why she would have Sparrow’s name on her.”

Zane nodded as he wrote everything down. He glanced at Sparrow to see how everything was affecting her. He was amazed at how strong she remained throughout this whole conversation.

“How about her relationship with Greg?” Sparrow asked. “He was quick to think that she was having an affair.”

“Diona was Greg’s world — even though she called off their engagement multiple times to have flings.” Diane frowned. “He would always take her back. I never understood why, but I guess he loves her.”

“Correction… Diona was my world.” The sound of Greg’s irritated tone floated through the air. As the trio swiveled in their seats to look at the sunroom’s doorway, Zane’s hand immediately went to his gun at his hip. “I must admit that I strung her along for longer than I meant to, but she had tortured me enough in our previous relationships. I figured there would be no harm in keeping her around to get what I wanted.”

“What do you want, Greg?” Zane remained calm as he spoke to Greg. The man was unarmed, which meant Zane could reason with him better. “Was she spending too much money?”

“No!” Greg exclaimed with a scowl. “It’s your fault, Detective Travers. You’re the reason Diona’s dead.” The surprised look on everyone’s face made him grin. Greg faced Sparrow and walked a few steps closer to the couch. “You see, Sparrow, I thought Diona was cheating on me — you were right about that. So I followed her one day — or, at least, I thought I followed her. It turns out that I was following you. I got so angry when I saw you with the detective, but then again, I thought you were Diona. So, I followed you to the University to confront you. I realized my mistake when I listened to your lecture. I wrote your name down so I could go back to another one.”

“That is why you murdered my sister?” Sparrow’s eyes widened. A combination of shock and anger swimming through them. “You liked my lecture?”

“I liked more than that.” Greg grinned. “Diona had gone through my jacket before she left to run errands. I don’t know what she was looking for, but she found where I had written your name down. We had a huge fight, and I just snapped.” He scowled at Diane. “You knew that your daughter was a terrible person. She was going to confront Sparrow and make her miserable. I couldn’t allow that.”

“So, you killed her?” Sparrow stood up — balling her hands into fists. Zane stood up beside her. “She was just spoiled, and your best solution was murder? Tell me this: did you purposely leave my name on her to lead me here? Is that why you left her body out in the open?”

“I think that you can answer those questions better at the precinct.” Zane stated intensely at Greg — keeping his tone low and direct as he spoke. He could see Greg tensing up at his suggestion. “Let’s just relax, Greg. You don’t want to do anything that will…”

Whack!

Before Sparrow could blink, Greg was on the floor. Dana stood behind him with a silver platter in her hands. The petite woman glanced from Greg to Sparrow and Zane.

“He has a gun in his waistband. I saw it under his jacket.” Dana leaned over him and flipped up the bottom of his jacket. She waited as Zane came over and retrieved the small handgun from against Greg’s lower back. “I heard someone yelling. When I got here and heard him confess, I… I knew I had to help. He was going to hurt you.”

“It’s okay, Dana. We’re all okay.” Sparrow hugged her sister. She glanced over at Diane — motioning for her to join. The woman gladly accepted the invitation. Sparrow glanced at Zane as he handcuffed Greg and stood up. She smiled at the grin Zane gave her. “We are all just fine now.”

“Let’s start over, Sparrow,” Diane told her after their hug ended. She glanced at Zane. “I would like to get to know my daughter’s boyfriend after all this.”

Sirens blared in the distance — signaling the arrival of the backup that Zane had called minutes ago. He propped a groggy Greg against a wall and put his arm around Sparrow’s waist.

“I’d like that… Mom?” Sparrow’s smile widened as her mother smiled in approval. She snuggled closer to Zane as the sirens came closer. “I think we’d both like that quite a lot.”

Thank you all for reading and your continued support!! Please follow GatorGirl’s Writer’s Nook on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!

Posted in Blogging, Novel, Writing

Defining The Possibilities

Dearest Readers,

I sincerely apologize to you for the neglect of my blog. I have had a great deal going on, but that is no excuse. I am a little hard on myself when it comes to pleasing people. Okay – I’m very hard on myself, but acknowledgment is the first step. Right?

The thing is, fellow readers, that writing makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I have a voice in this crazy world – even if it is a fictional voice. Every time I offer a piece of advice on Writer’s Unite!’s FB page, I feel like I’ve made a real difference. I feel like my writing is being taken seriously.

So, I shall try to spend more time working on my passion. It helps my stress level, helps me focus, and makes me happy. My books may never make me rich, but that isn’t why I write. I write because it’s something that I love. I get to incorporate my criminal justice knowledge and training with my writing abilities to create fictional stories. What is more fun than that??

Therefore, I close with this: I will continue to write as much as possible. I will finish editing my novel and publish it. It might just take me a little longer than expected. I am enjoying the process – if I do say so myself! I hope each of you writers out there does, too, as you continue your literary journey during this insane time. As for now, fellow readers, stay safe!

Thank you all for reading and your continued support!

Please follow GatorGirl’s Writer’s Nook on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!

Posted in Blogging, Writer’s Unite!, Writing

Apologies…

Dear Readers,

I offer my sincerest apologies for not blogging lately. A lot of changes have been happening which have resulted in my absence from blogging. Nonetheless, I have not neglected my writing! I am still working on a short story for you all to read and enjoy, and I will have it published on here as soon as possible.

This particular story will not be on the Writer’s Unite! Blog or FB page, but I still encourage each of my fellow readers to check out the amazing stories on there. With all of this being said, I hope everyone is staying safe and having a pleased week!

Thank you all for reading and your continued support!

*For more news on GatorGirl’s Writer’s Nook, please follow my site on Twitter and FB!*

Posted in Novel, Writer’s Unite!, Writing

Enjoy…

Dear Readers,

I will be posting my stories from Writer’s Unite! on here as well. I hope you all enjoy them as you await my novel’s reveal!

Through the Diamond-Coated Lens

It was typical of him to do this. He was a world-renowned photographer – known for his breathtaking landscape and wildlife photographs. He’d been there on the front lines with the troops to photograph the danger of war. He had been praised in every journal and magazine around the world for the last decade, which gained him worldwide fame. Never had any danger stooped him or even slowed him down.

Until now, that is… Will Kraithe was missing in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

White-Collar Crimes Agent Lexi Kraithe knew something had happened to her twin brother. He never let anyone use his beloved camera, but here it was now – sitting on her desk at the FBI’s San Francisco field office. All that had come in the box was that precious camera he loved and an ominous note he had scrawled out on a scrap of paper. His terrible penmanship had proved it was his writing – at least to Lexi it had.

Lex. Develop this film. Please hurry. I need your help. I love you, big sis. – Will

Will never called her that unless something was wrong. She was only four minutes older than he was, but he didn’t like to be reminded of it. That is how she knew something was wrong, and she had to help him – somehow.

“Agent Kraithe?” Penny, a young lab tech, approached her desk. She laid a blank folder on Lexi’s desk. “Here are the photographs from the film you sent to the lab, including the negatives. Do you need anything else?”

“No, Penny. Thank you.” Lexi smiled and waited for her to walk away before opening the folder.

Lexi opened the folder slowly – taking out the negatives and setting them to the side as she did. Glancing through the first few photos, she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. A herd of zebras, a pride of lions, a crocodile, and a group of American mercenaries with machine guns guarding a truck.

“Wait. What?!” Lexi exclaimed. She looked around to see if anyone heard her outburst. Luckily, no one seemed to notice. “What have you gotten yourself into, Will?”

Lexi sighed as she leaned back in her chair. She knew who she had to call – if he would even help her. They hadn’t ended on the best of terms, after all. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a choice. She needed the expertise of a Navy SEAL. She needed Damien Hawke.

It took thirty minutes for Lexi to get to where Damien wanted to meet. A small bar near the bay – owned by his best friend. Lexi should have known he would only go someplace where the drinks are free.

“Agent Lexi Kraithe. To what do I owe this pleasure?” Damien said, grinning as she approached his table. He motioned to a wine glass in front of him. Its contents were a deep red. “I ordered your favorite.”

Lexi scowled at him as she sat down across from him. No one knew about her choice of drink – except herself and her brother. After working one case with Damien, that had changed.

“You’re looking good, Lex.” Damien continued talking as she sat there in silence. “It’s been what? Five years?”

Lexi eyed him warily. Damien was a smooth talker, and she knew that. He was tall and good-looking – with intense green eyes, broad shoulders, and short, brown have that she loved to run her fingers through. Correction: she used to love to run her fingers through it.

“Still angry with me, Lex?” Damien cocked his head to the side and looked at her – frowning. “I thought I explained everything.”

Lexi held up her hand. “I get you were trying to find a mole in one of the agencies during our investigation. I understand that even I was a suspect. What I still don’t get is why you didn’t plan to tell me about Gia.”

“That relationship was already over with. The only thing I had left to do was break the engagement. I had to wait until after the investigation was complete. I couldn’t blow my cover, and I didn’t want to lose you.” Damien sighed. “I messed up, Lex. Maybe you can eventually forgive me. I guess, right now, it’s time to get down to business.”

Damien knew this meeting would have been easier if Lexi had changed in the past five years – even just a little. From her long Auburn hair to her big blue eyes, she was the same. His team often joked about how it was that a petite woman like her could make a six-foot man back down with just a glare. They didn’t know her feisty side like he did…

“Did you hear me, Damien?” Lexi was glaring at him with one raised eyebrow. She sighed as he shook his head. “I thought so. Will is missing. He sent me his camera with a note that said to develop the film. That’s why I called you.”

“Why haven’t you told anyone about your agency about this? Was Will involved in something?” Damien knew Lexi’s brother could be a bit careless at times. “Stop looking at me like that, Lexi. Sometimes Will has a knack for being in the wrong place.”

Lexi shook her head. “No. Will is a good person, and you know that.” She pulled a file folder from her leather tote bag beside her chair. “Here are all of the pictures on the camera. I’m sure you’ll know the ones of concern.”

Damien took the file folder from Lexi as she slid it across the table. He flipped through the various photographs of animals and landscapes until one photo stopped him. Will was in trouble, alright. If he wasn’t already dead…

“When and where did you last speak to Will?” Damien continued looking through the photos – putting several to the side as he did.

“Five days ago, Will called me on his satellite phone from his camp in northeast Nigeria. He was traveling to Sierra Leone to do some landscape photography work for some nature magazine.” Lexi closed her eyes briefly before looking at Damien. “That is the last I heard from him. I wasn’t concerned about his lack of communication. That’s normal. The arrival of his beloved camera is what worries me.”

Damien furrowed his brow. He picked up the photos that he had set aside and placed them side-by-side in front of her.

“Before I tell you what I know, I need to know the truth.” Damien stared directly into her eyes. “Why me? You and I both know that you have enough pull with the Bureau to have a team go after your brother.”

Lexi let out the deep breath she had been holding. “You’re right. I can get a team full of agents together in a matter of hours, but that is not going to help me track down Will. You have been in situations like this, Damien. You know how to get people out of them – alive.”

Damien had to struggle to hold back a grin. That was as close to a compliment as he was going to get from Lexi.

“Alright, Lex.” Damien pointed toward the photos. “The first photo is a military-grade delivery vehicle. Armored siding, reinforced locks on the cargo door, and bullet-proof glass indicate that this truck is ready for anything. The guys carrying around the heavy artillery are ex-Navy.” Damien tapped his finger on the second photo. “My team met these two in Baghdad. They were already working for a military contract company at the time. Their contract was abruptly terminated after that mission.”

“Who are these people, Damien.” Lexi kept her tone low.

“The one on the left is Zane Bresk, and the one on the right is Josh Frank,” Damien told her. “They work for a man named Isaiah Mischa. Isaiah proves difficult to find information on, but Zane and Josh have records. Both were dishonorably discharged for inappropriate conduct, including assault. The MPs even suspected them in several thefts. No evidence of that was ever found.”

“What do I do, Damien? It’s clear that Will stumbled onto something these guys were doing.” Lexi rubbed her forehead with her hand before looking at him. She was desperate to get her brother home safe. “Will is the only family I have left.”

Damien was one of the few who knew about Lexi’s parents. They had kicked the twins out when each refused to work for the family law firm. Their parents’ ultimatum had been to leave or attend law school. The two decided on the former.

“Damien?” Lexi was looking at him with concern. She was afraid he was going to tell her to take a hike. “I have already contacted the Director and got my time off approved. I’m going to the airport tonight to get a flight. Are you coming, or did I waste your time?”

“I need to get my team together for this, Lex,” Damien told her. “Two of us aren’t enough for this operation. It’s just too dangerous.”

“I don’t want to get your NCIS team involved,” Lexi informed him. “It’s too risky. What if someone leaks something to your boss or mine?”

“I don’t mean that team, Lex.” Damien grinned at her. He turned toward the bar. “Troy! Come over here!”

A tall man with jet black hair and blue eyes walked around the bar towards them – pulling up a chair to join them at their table. He smiled at Lexi before scanning his eyes over the photos in front of her. A flair of recognition shown in his eyes as he landed on the picture of the two men.

“What you need, Damien?” Troy asked as he looked over at his friend. “It looks like you two have stumbled on to some trouble.”

“We have a rescue mission. Lexi’s brother, Will, is missing. Those are the last photos he took in Sierra Leone.” Damien gestured to the photographs. “Can you round up the guys and have them meet us at the airport in an hour?”

“Sure thing, Commander.” Troy nodded as he got up from his seat. He smiled at Lexi again before heading back behind the bar.

Damien picked up the photos – placing them in the folder. “I’m assuming you are already packed, so we’ll need to stop by my place to get a few things. Follow me there, then we’ll take your car to the airport.”

Lexi nodded as she got up and grabbed her bag before following Damien out of the bar. She knew her brother was still alive. She could feel it. Lexi just hoped that feeling didn’t go away as they looked for him…

Several long hours later, Lexi, Damien, and his team were in Sierra Leone. Damien had introduced her to the rest of the team during flight. Despite just meeting her, the team seemed to consider her as one of them within a few minutes. It wasn’t long until they were all joking with Lexi – trying to make her feel better.

“We’ll find them, Lex.” Cal Johnson – the “tech guy” – told her with a reassuring smile. He was a tall, muscular, African American man with a deep voice, but his light brown eyes gave away his kind nature. “I’m sure your brother is just fine.”

“Yeah, he’s probably hiding out – waiting for his sister to come to his rescue.” Sebastian Cartwright chimed in as he ran a hand through his shaggy, dark brown hair. As the team medic, he always tried to see the positive in a situation. It helped him get through his job a little easier. A humorous glint shown in his dark brown eyes as he continued speaking. “Where do we start, Commander?”

“For the last time, Sebastian, we are not in the SEALs anymore. Call me by my name.” Damien chuckled as his friend nodded and saluted him. “Let’s ask around and show Will’s picture. We might get lucky.”

Lexi was really hoping Damien was right because the knot in her stomach was growing. She chalked it up to worry and slight terror at being in the proximity of highly trained killers. Lexi glanced over at Damien as she followed him – watching him as he showed various people Will’s photo. She was surprised when they got a promising lead in less than two hours.

“Yes. I saw this young man.” A tall, pretty woman informed him at the local hotel. “He was staying here until yesterday.”

“Did he say where he was going when he left?” Damien asked her gently. She was eying him warily – unsure if he was with the mercenaries that were occupying the city. “We are not here to hurt him. This is his sister. She is looking for him.”

Lexi stepped forward as the woman’s eyes widened – a smile appeared on her face.

“Yes, yes! Will told me about you. His twin sister – Lexi, right?” The woman’s smile grew as Lexi nodded. “My name is Cheyla. Your brother left right before two terrifying men came looking for him. These men – they are no good. They terrorize our city.” Cheyla reached behind the counter and pulled out a folded sheet of paper – handing it to Lexi. “Will said to give this to you when you arrive. He said you would come. He knew you would!”

Lexi thanked the woman and turned around – walking over to the seats in the hotel’s lobby. She sat down as she opened the note and read what her brother had hastily scribbled down.

Lex. I hope you get this message. I am hiding in a village about five miles outside of town. Please hurry, Lex. I don’t know how long I will be able to stay here. Ask for Lenji at the produce stand near the entrance to the village. They will know what that means. I love you, big sis. – Will

“Everything okay, Lex?” Damien was looking down at her from where he stood beside her. “Did Will leave us any clues?” He glanced over the note that Lex handed to him. “Alright. Looks like we’re heading out.”

Fifteen minutes later, Troy had located the produce stand on the outside of the village. After a quick conversation with the owner, Lexi had the location of the house of Lenji Aboudi. It took only a few more minutes for the small group to pull up in front of a small home surrounded by a chain-link fence.

“Can I help you?” A tall, slim African man asked them from the front yard. He narrowed his eyes as he squinted against the afternoon sun. “What business do you have here at the Aboudi household?”

“Are you Lenji Aboudi?” Lexi got out of the beat-up jeep – meeting the man at his fence. “I’m Lexi Kraithe. My brother left me your name on a note in the village. His name is Will – Will Kraithe.”

“Come with me.” Lenji opened the gate, letting the group into his yard. He continued speaking as they followed him to the house. “I assume that these are people you trust, Miss Kraithe, which is why I am allowing you all inside. Will is here – hiding from people who wish him harm.” Lenji stopped at the front door and turned to face her. “Will saved my son’s life. Kai got too close to the camp of some diamond searchers. They are ruthless people – these men. They threatened Kai, and Will heard them. He took photos of what they were doing, and he told them that the photos would be sent to the authorities if the men tried to harm anyone.”

Lexi could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Will was never one to back down from helping someone in need. The fact that he put himself in danger to help a little boy made sense. Now, it was up to her to save her little brother from trained killers.

Lenji opened the door – motioning the group inside. “You’ll find a trap door under the rug beneath the kitchen table. Will is hidden in there. Once I received word from Kovi that someone asked for me, I had him hide until I knew you could be trusted.”

“Thank you, Lenji, for keeping my brother safe,” Lexi told him before entering the house. The man nodded before shutting the door behind the group. It only took mere minutes to uncover the trap door in the kitchen, but it felt like an eternity for Lexi. “Will? Are you down there?”

“Lex?” A voice came up through the wooden door on the floor. It was followed by the sound of a lock sliding and the door being pushed open. Eyes the same color as hers greeted her as Will climbed out of the hole. “I knew you would come, sis. I can always count on you to bail me out of trouble.”

Lexi didn’t know whether to punch her brother or hug him. She decided on the latter – taking her brother in a fierce, protective hug. When she released him, Will ran his fingers through his shaggy auburn hair and shook the dust from his clothes.

“I should strangle you for getting yourself into this, but I can’t.” Lexi placed her hands on her hips. “Your heart was in the right place, Will. I would have done the same thing.”

“Thanks, sis.” Will glanced at the group she had brought with her before his eyes landed on Damien. “I see you brought a whole rescue squad to find me. Did you bring the photos?”

“No, she didn’t,” Damien answered. “We turned them over to a special team that has been trying to locate Isaiah for a long time. Your evidence will help them find him and put him away for a long time.”

“Well, that is good news.” Will put his arm around Lexi’s shoulders. “How about we go home them, Lex? I could really use a nice long shower and about three weeks of sleep.”

Lexi laughed at her brother. “I agree. Let’s go, Will.”

During the long plane ride home, Lexi was able to find out that Isaiah and his team has been found. Luckily, the entire operation was going to be shut down for good – with each member facing multiple charges. She had to admit that Damien had proved himself during this entire operation, which meant that it was time for her to finally forgive him.

“Damien?” Lexi turned to face him after her brother had fallen asleep in the seat beside her. “I am sorry that I held our past against you for so long. Can we start over?”

“Does this mean you forgive me?” Damien grinned as she nodded. “Then, sure. We can start over, Lex. On one condition.” He chuckled as she gave him a curious look. “Have dinner with me when we get back, Lex.”

“Okay,” Lex replied with a smile as she leaned her head back on the seat.

Damien had helped her rescue her brother, and he hadn’t thought twice about the danger it would put him in. She could do a dinner – or two. After that, only time would tell…

Thank you all for reading and your continuous support!
Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook at GatorGirl Writer’s Nook!
Posted in Writer’s Unite!, Writing

A Change… A New Beginning

Dear Readers,

I came across a fantastic blog one day filled with stories from writers near and far. That blog, my friends, is called Writer’s Unite! Please take a look at the fantastic stories featured on their site: https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com. You might even see one from an author you know – who has recently started sharing short stories (hint, hint). Check out my next post for a special treat that can be found only on this blog and Writer’s Unite!

Thank you all for reading and your continued support!

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook at GatorGirl Writer’s Nook!

Posted in A Stalker’s Obsession, Novel, Writing

Acknowledging Is The First Step

Dear readers, I have come to realize something during the path of self-publishing… There is a reason that writers have editors. It is not only to be able to have someone to check your work and assist in formatting, but it is also a matter of lifestyle choices. Let me explain…

I love to write – novels, short stories, poems, etc. Oddly, I am horrible at writing music. My point is that writing is my escape, my passion, and my way of expressing my creativity. Even though the formatting of my novel is not complete, I am already working on another novel – as I simply want to write!

That doesn’t mean that my novel’s formatting is being placed on hold or going to be terrible; it just means that it is taking me a bit longer than I suspected. I am getting the novel completed, but I sometimes have to take a few moments to ”keep my creative flow in motion.” Besides, I have half a notebook and several notes on a phone app with book ideas. Therefore, it looks like I will need to be working on two (or three) projects at a time.

Maybe at some point, dear readers, I can ask for someone to assist me in the editing/formatting phase of my novels. My business, however, is not yet equipped to handle another person’s assistance. Also, this person would have to be discreet and not show my manuscript to anyone at all – not even family. That might happen one day, but, as of right now, I am the writer/editor/publisher. I am okay with that, too, and I will have my novel published soon. I am incredibly grateful for my reader’s patience as I work diligently on both projects!

Thank you all for reading and your continued support!

Posted in A Stalker’s Obsession, Novel, Writing

Promotions

Readers, I know it has been a while since I have blogged about my novel. I want to thank every one of you for your continued support throughout my ”vacation” from writing. Like I had said in my previous post, I had to take a break as my novel was starting to feel like a job more than a passion. I refuse to let it turn into that!

So, dear readers, I can now say that I am back to working on my novel as much as possible. Formatting takes a little more time than I thought, but it’s getting there. In the meantime, I have designed the item that part of the contest once the book is published! It is not on my site – as it is being kept a secret. It is quite good, though! (Okay, I may be a little bias.)

Aside from this, readers, I need some assistance from you. To get the word out, I ask that each of you share my blog, FB page, and CafePress shop to promote my upcoming novel’s release. I also encourage everyone to take a look at my shop, https://cafepress.com/gtrgrlbksllc. I have added two new designs that I believe you all will like!

With all of this being said, this post is not to sell anyone anything. It is to simply ask for assistance from my readers. As a new author, I wish to succeed, but I cannot do so without the help of my wonderful and supportive readers. I do appreciate each of you as you make writing and blogging so worthwhile! I will continue to keep you updated on my progress, dear readers!

Thank you for your continued support and reading!

Posted in A Stalker’s Obsession, Novel, Writing

The Flame

Readers, I must admit that I have not been working on my novel’s formatting. That is mainly the reason I have neglected to post on my blog. I haven’t lost the passion for writing or my novel, dear readers – which is the main thing! I just needed a moment to rest, restore, and reflect… A break, so to speak.

While I initially felt a sting of guilt for this break in formatting, I began to realize it was necessary. To keep the flame of my passion for writing ignited, I had to let it simmer for a little bit. Otherwise, I would burn out before the novel even made it to publication. I had to take this break because my novel was starting to feel like a job.

I refuse to let my passion be ”just a job.” That is why I have taken some time off. I am still creating things for my shop, still creating book ideas, and still mentally for strong my book every day. Rest assured that I will be working on it again very, very soon!

Thank you all for reading and your continuous support!

Posted in A Stalker’s Obsession, Novel, Writing

The Process

Last night, I got back down to business. I was able to continue to focus fully on formatting my novel, readers. I had to admit that I had slacked off from working on it, but a 37-page proposal and a 36-slide presentation for my last Grad school class has to take center stage for a bit.

I do appreciate all of you checking in on my blog posts when I could do them! Also, I appreciate you all who took the time to check out my store. The store is just a means of promoting my novel and business, readers. It is not my main goal, I promise. That has not shifted.

My heart will always be set to publish my novels, which is getting extremely close. I am so excited and a little nervous. I never realized how much this meant to me until I started the process over a year ago. I am eager to see the response my novel has, and I look forward to my readers being able to finally read it!

Thank you all for reading and your continuous support!

Posted in Novel, Writing

Apologies

I apologies, readers, for not blogging lately. I have had other things consuming my time, but I have not journeyed away from my goal! I am continuing to work on my novel, as well as adding things to my shop.

With that being said, I have some wonderful news! I have added new and improved designs on my shops website, https://www.cafepress.com/gtrgrlbooksllc. Please, take a look and help a writer spread the word about her new business!

Also, none of those designs will be the prize that will be awarded when my novel is launched. When that contest is announced, a new, customer design will be made for the two winners (one FB follower and one blog follower). For those who do not win, do not fret! That design will be made available at a later date for purchase. This company makes high quality material and prints. I appreciate all of your support in announcing my business and novel to the world!

Thank you all for reading and your continuous support!