Monday, September 17, 2018

Unlawful Desires by Pamela Samuels Young


Title: UNLAWFUL DESIRES
Author: Pamela Samuels Young
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
Pages: 198
Genre: Erotic Romance


Sparks fly when a handsome lawyer falls hard for a smart, seductive woman who thinks like a man and acts like one too.

Sharla Ratliff is done with having her heart broken. Her new dating rules are simple. No emotion. No expectation of commitment. Sex purely for her own physical enjoyment. Then she meets Marcel Dennard. The attractive lawyer has all the trappings of success: a thriving career, women at his beck and call, and enough money in the bank for the finer things in life.

Their lust for each other doesn’t just create sparks, it sets off explosions. The sexual attraction between them is so passionately erotic they behave in ways that can only be called reckless. After a shocking series of events place both of their careers in jeopardy, can they restrain their sexual desires long enough to keep everything they’ve worked for from going up in smoke?

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First Chapter

Sharla
Sharla Ratliff finally figured it out. The key to protecting her heart turned out to be rather simple: think like a man and act like one too.
All that Steve Harvey crap about not giving up the cookies hadn’t worked out for her. Her last serious boyfriend wasted three years of her life. Five months after dumping her, Paul the Prick married some skank he met at the Starbucks on La Cienega and Centinela.
Every guy after him heaped on more hurt, though in much smaller doses. Sharla blamed her dating disconnections on the overabundance of phony, self-centered, knuckleheads in L.A. After taking herself off the market for an entire year, she was now ready to dip her baby toe back into the dating pool.
At 34, she was determined not to repeat the mistakes of her past. Her new dating rules were simple. No emotion. No expectation of commitment. Sex purely for her own physical pleasure. Guys enjoyed sex for what it was without hopeful thoughts of a relationship or even a call the next day. So would she.
And in just a matter of minutes, Sharla planned to put herself to the test with the man sitting inches away from her.
As Derrick steered his Escalade into her driveway, she leaned over and started massaging the bulge in his lap.
 “Girl, you’re something else.” Derrick’s hand instantly tightened around the steering wheel. “I can’t wait to get with you.”
      Sharla winked. “Good things come to those who wait.”
Derrick’s hazel eyes pinned her with a look so hypnotically lustful Sharla had to bite her lip to choke back a whimper. His titillating gaze would’ve melted the old Sharla right out of her red lace panties. Thank goodness that girl no longer existed.
 “I like kickin’ it with you, Sharla.” Derrick’s voice had a raspy smoothness to it.
“Is that right?” She daintily cocked her head to the right. “Tell me more.”
“All through dinner I kept telling myself how lucky I was to even be in your presence. You’re beautiful. You’re smart as hell. You’re only nine years out of law school and you’re already at the top of your game. You’re every man’s dream.”
Sharla turned to peer out of the passenger window so Derrick wouldn’t see her eyes cross in skepticism.
“I bet you say that to every woman you date,” she teased.
Derrick’s strong fingers squeezed her thigh, just above the knee. “No way. I’ve never met a woman like you before. I swear.”
Normally, Sharla would’ve swatted away a hand landing that close to her goody bag on only the second date. But tonight, New Sharla was in charge.
Not that Sharla discounted everything coming from Derrick’s lips. She was pretty darn amazing. At five-eight, her body was tight and toned from years of competitive-level tennis. She dressed with the flair of a fashion model and enjoyed showing off legs even Beyoncé would envy. Her annual income topped six-figures, she owned her own home, and already had enough cash in her 401K to dump her day job if the desire ever arose. But the legal profession was a big part of her identity. She wouldn’t be giving that up anytime soon.
Derrick cut off the car, then leaned over and pressed lips as soft and sweet as a glazed donut against hers. The man deserved an A-plus in the lip-locking department.
“Let’s go inside.” He threw open the door and jogged around to help her out of his SUV.
Sharla’s feet had barely grazed the ground before Derrick curled his arms around her body like an over-anxious octopus. The firm tube jutting from his mid-section pushed against her stomach.
 They kissed long and slow for several minutes before Derrick pulled away. “We better get inside or your neighbors are going to witness an X-rated show.”
Sharla giggled as he took her hand. When they reached the front door, she handed him her keys. It was important to allow Derrick to be in control. Or at least think he was.
 Her best friend Reese didn’t believe she would be able to go through with this. Sharla wasn’t that kind of girl. She hungered for true love and longed to find her soul mate. But that hadn’t worked out. It was time to try something new.
So here she was about to get laid with no expectations whatsoever. If she never saw Derrick again, so what? At least she would have a night of fun under her belt.
Once they’d entered the house, Derrick pulled her into his arms again. He was much thinner than she liked her men. Although she found him attractive, he wasn’t her kind of attractive. Sharla preferred thick, well-built guys with a manly, not manicured style. Derrick was a pretty boy with light eyes, thin lips, and a shaved head.
For her first attempt at acting like a man, Sharla had intentionally selected a guy she wasn’t physically wild about. That, she assumed, would help keep her emotions in check.
      “I swear I’ve been dreaming about getting with you,” Derrick mumbled, brushing her ear with those cottony-soft lips. “No female has ever got me this horny before.”
Probably because your cute behind never had to wait two weeks to get some.
Sharla made the bold move of calling Derrick the day before and inviting him to spend the night at her place. The man had become so tongue-tied with excitement he could barely form the words to accept her invitation.
Taking Derrick’s hand, Sharla led him down the hallway toward her bedroom. She turned on the crystal lamp on the nightstand and a soft, blue haze bathed the room with a sexy, nightclub ambiance.
Standing on her tiptoes, Sharla whispered into his ear. “Tell me what turns you on. I want to give it to you exactly the way you like it.”
“Damn, baby,” Derrick panted. “Everything. Everything turns me on.”
Sharla set him down at the foot of the bed, then stepped back and did a slow strip tease, sliding the spaghetti straps of her black dress off her shoulders and down her smooth arms. Once her dress, bra and matching red panties lay in a puddle on the floor, she stood with her hands on her hips, allowing Derrick to admire her nakedness.
No matter what her other issues were, body image wasn’t one of them. Her D cups stood as erect as twin doorknobs, hovering over a waist so tiny Derrick could encircle it with both hands. Her proudest attributes, her legs, were as long and sturdy as a prize stallion’s.
“I can’t believe I’m about to get with you,” Derrick muttered as he unbuttoned his shirt and unzipped his pants. Still sitting, he ripped open a condom. His hands moved so fast he had trouble unrolling it and barely got it on.
What? No foreplay?
After a year of celibacy, Sharla deserved a lover with some sensitivity, not to mention skills. He hadn’t even had the decency to ask what she liked. Did he even care about her feelings?
Old Sharla was trying to resurface, but New Sharla fought her off.
Just do it. For once in your life, experience an orgasm with no expectation of anything except fun.
New Sharla was right. She should just go for it. She was about to get busy with a man for whom she felt no emotional connection whatsoever. And that was progress.
Or was it?
Derrick gazed up at her, his tongue wagging like a thirsty German Shepherd. “C’mon, baby. Big Daddy is ready. Bring it on.”
She closed her eyes and tried to psyche herself up just as Old Sharla popped back into her subconscious. Shame on you! You’re acting like a slut.
It wasn’t a good sign that her gift box was as dry as the Sahara Desert.
“C’mere, girl.” Derrick licked his lips as he reached out for her. “I’ve been dying for some of this.”
 The second his fingers grazed her waist, Sharla pushed his hands away and took a giant step backward, out of his reach.
“Um, I—I changed my mind,” she blurted out.
Snatching her dress from the floor, she covered her nakedness with a curtain of regret.
“I’m sorry. I just can’t do this!”

















 




 
  
Sassy Sinclair, AKA Pamela Samuels Young, is an attorney and award-winning author of multiple legal thrillers. Unlawful Desires is her first foray into the erotic romantic suspense genre. Her mystery Anybody’s Daughter won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction and was a Top Ten pick by In the Margins, the best books for at-risk teens. Her novels #Anybody’s Daughter and #Abuse of Discretion are young adult adaptations of two of her most popular adult mysteries. Prior to embarking on a full-time writing career, Pamela was an associate at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP and Managing Counsel for Labor and Employment Law at Toyota. A former journalist, she also worked as a television news writer and associate producer for WXYZ-TV in Detroit and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles. Pamela received her bachelor’s degree from USC and earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law. A natural hair enthusiast, Pamela wrote Kinky Coily: A Natural Hair Resource Guide to educate women about the true beauty of their kinky coils. The Compton native is a frequent speaker on the topics of child sex trafficking, teen sexting, self-empowerment, independent publishing and fiction writing.

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Three Brothers by Joerg H. Trauboth


Title: THREE BROTHERS
Author: Joerg H. Trauboth
Publisher: Ratio Books
Pages: 581
Genre: Thriller

BOOK BLURB:
Marc Anderson and his two commando brothers Thomas and Tim are highly respected elite soldiers in the secretive German Commando Special Forces, the KSK. Together with the American Navy Seals, they successfully rescue the crew of a downed American F-15 tactical fighter jet in the Hindu Kusch Mountains under a barrage of heavy fire from the Taliban. However, their next mission – in Northern Iraq – to save two German hostages taken captive by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ends in disaster for the three brothers in arms. The perfectly laid-out strategy of Operation Eagle is betrayed, causes Marc, Thomas, and Tim to narrowly escape death. The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) starts the hunt for the informant.

The devoted commando brothers decide to leave the KSK and start a new career together as security advisors with a family-owned company based in Cologne. But the terrorist activities of ISIS continue to determine their fate. The brothers are faced with one of their greatest challenges when ISIS kidnaps company heir Johannes Ericson and his partner Karina Marie. Moreover, the terrorists demand a ransom and extort the German government to immediately suspend its military intervention in the fight against ISIS. It is a race against time to save the couple from assassination.

Joerg H. Trauboth has written more than just an exhilarating novel. Three Brothers unites the current omnipresent threat of terrorism with the author’s first-hand experience as a crisis manager and a military and terrorism expert. The result is an unrivaled political thriller. In this gripping novel, Trauboth foretells possible scenarios for our society in light of the rise of radical Islamic terrorism. Read the full chapter 1 here …

Three Brothers is the English translation of the successful German thriller Drei Brüder (ratio-books), highly appreciated by thousands of readers, as well as military organizations and government officials alike. Jörg H. Trauboth’s storytelling skills can be compared to those of Tom Clancy and similar authors as James Patterson. The German version of the novel will also soon be available as an audio book.

Drei Brüder has been translated into English by (US native) Leanne Cvetan.

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First Chapter:

Afghanistan

For the last five hours, a group of six men have been trudging through the dark, barren landscape of the vast Hindu Kush Mountains. The distant howling of a lone wolf accompanies them as does the cold wind, but the men don’t seem to feel the sting.One of them stops abruptly. Marc Anderson, captain of the German KSK Special Forces Commando, raises his hand to his neck and decisively whispers into his throat mic.
“George, I see her. The nose of the aircraft is at eleven o’clock, the tail at two.”
George, the short, wiry Navy Seal One squad leader from Ohio, folds down the night vision lens mounted on his helmet.
For whatever reason, the fighter jet did not explode, but the debris is still smoldering.
“Copy that, I’ll inform Bagram Air Base.” “Charlie Force from Echo Force – over.” “Echo Team – go ahead – over.”
“We found the jet – now searching for the crew – over.” “Roger Echo Team – we’re waiting for your response – over.”
As unorthodox as it is, the Navy Seals insisted on having German elite soldier Marc Anderson with them on the mission. He is one of the few soldiers who knows the area, located deep in the hinterlands of Afghanistan, better than anyone else on account of a number of earlier missions in the region. At only 27 years old, the tall, slender soldier from the southern German town of Calw has already achieved legendary status among the American and British Special Forces. Together with the Navy Seals, he has succeeded in rescuing and retrieving American soldiers from behind enemy lines, securing himself a formidable reputation as both a leader and a team player.
But Anderson refused to do the job on his own: “Only if I can take my commando brothers with me,” he told the commanders at Bagram Air Base. “Only with Thomas and Tim.”
“OK, Marc, agreed.”
The Seals know full well what “Band of Brothers” means. Elite soldiers throughout all the Special Armed Forces are not just comrades, they are brothers. On this mission – the search for a U.S. fighter jet gone missing along with its crew – the Seals have three German brothers. Nationalities play no role, however, only professionalism and unconditional trust. Marc also agreed to the mission since he and George have worked well together on previous missions.
Echo Force, made up of U.S. Seals One, Two, Three, and the German KSK soldiers Marc, Thomas, and Tim, had parachuted in during night. They chose a landing site six and a half miles from the F-15E Strike Eagle’s last known position in the hope of not being discovered by the Taliban. There were no exact coordinates of the crash site. What’s worse, they weren’t able to receive any location transmission from the crew. The pilot had only managed to transmit “No engine – Mayday – May- day – Bailing out!” at the last minute as they lost altitude.  A hasty final message, nothing more. Everything seems to have happened very quickly. The crew must have needed to abandon the aircraft immediately, there would have been no time for discussion.
After a successful landing, they spent the next five hours systematically scouring the possible search site of twelve square miles at almost ten thousand feet altitude.
Marc was a true pathfinder in this unwieldy and perilous terrain. The Americans trusted him whole-heartedly, and with good reason, as he proved once again. He immediately found the wreckage of the F-15 in the pitch-dark of night and undetected in this hostile territory. They operate meticulously together, as though they have done this a million times before: Marc out in front, checking the terrain, giving signals, the other five men following, step for step, crouched down, secure, silent. The stillness of the dark magnifies every word and any misstep on the gravel is a potential giveaway for the Taliban.
While George now relays the coordinates to the American intervention force standing by, Marc scans the crash site with his telescope. The F-15 was not shot down but crashed due to technical problems. That seemed clear. However, the crash would have been heard all throughout the Hindu Kush Mountains. It was very possible that the Taliban has already taken the crew captive and were now waiting for the Navy Seals. That’s how it typically happened at least.
“Thomas, please report.” “Left is clear.”
“Tim?”
“Right is clear.”
Slowly, and securing all sides, the spotter team moves toward the crash site.
“I’ll take it from here, Marc.”
“Okay, George, you’re in command.”
George leads the troop within 300 yards of the wreckage. The aircraft’s nose and cockpit are stuck in the ground like a giant arrow. Bent, but incredibly, still intact.
And exactly right there where there’s that tiny patch of earth, he thinks to himself.
“Can you see anyone in the cockpit?” asks Marc.
“Negative, can’t see anything through the glass, but the canopy is missing.”
“Thomas and Tim – the two of you to the wreckage and report back. The rest of you wait here,” whispers George into his throat mic.
The two Germans start to move. Just like the old comedians Ole and Axel, or like Laurel and Hardy, Marc thinks. Thomas, a tall, strapping blonde, built like the Hulk. Next to him, Tim, also in excellent physical shape, only considerably shorter and, who with his signature black goatee, looks like an Afghan.
They cautiously approach the front section of the wreckage on both sides. The rest of the group tensely watches every move their two German brothers make. It is absolutely silent, save for that wolf. The cold wind that tirelessly blows in this region goes completely unnoticed as they all lie on the ground and watch. The night is not just dark, it is black. Pitch-black. No stars shine, no light reflects off the ground. Barren cliffs, a few shrubs, no trees at this altitude. They see only whatever appears in their night vision devices. The little bit of light available is electronically magnified as a green image of the area. They are used to this artificial picture.
“Option one:” says George, “they are still strapped to their seats and then it’ll be a mess. Option two: one of them is still there and the other managed to get out. Or option three: they both made it out.”
“The only question is, why they aren’t answering,” Marc whispers in George’s direction. George whispers back, “which means option one.”
Thomas and Tim reach the nose.
“Thomas on Seal One: no one in the cockpit, ejector seats missing, the crew ejected.”
“Understood, good news, do you see their papers?” They shine a light inside.
From the distance, the three Navy Seals and Marc are blinded as the light from the two KSK soldiers flash in their goggles like bright strike of lightening.
“Maps and a kneeboard,” reports Tim.
“Okay, take that with you. Thomas, you prepare an explosive.”
First Sergeant Thomas Heinrich, a six-foot tall ball of muscle and the explosives expert takes off his 80-pound knapsack which belongs to his profile as though it has grown attached to his back. His comrades have only ever seen him with either a heavy bag or on a bench press. And always with a combat knife under his pillow.
While he lays the explosive, his shorter friend Tim secures the immediate area surrounding the jet. Neither of them speaks a word to the other. They don’t need to. They know each other better than any old married couple. That’s also the reason George sent them to the wreckage site.
In less than four minutes, Thomas prepares the cockpit with explosives for remote ignition.
“Finished, George.”
“OK men, now slowly retreat.”
A few minutes later, the group is complete again. Six men, two nations, one team.
They hide between some boulders and use their night vision devices to establish any other possible reference points. Cliffs, ridges, gaps. Where could the parachutes be? And the ejector seats? At least the seats are big enough to spot, if they are here.
George waves to Marc to come over. “What do you suggest?”
“According to the radar, the F-15 was flying on an easterly course. That means we need to look for the men to the west. The weapon systems operator shot himself out first, so we should be able to find him to the west of the wreckage, but the pilot should be here closer to it.”
George nods in agreement. The person in the rear always activates his seat first, otherwise he runs the risk of getting hit by the seat of man before him.
Marc refers to the digital map with a scale of 1:50,000. Mountains, rivers, nothing else. To these westerners, the unforgiving, cold Hindu Kush Mountain range is a barren and alien landscape.
“I think we should go this way” “Okay, boy scout, you take over.” “Affirmative.”
These standard procedures are the pre-requisites of a functioning team. One man takes the lead and the others confirm. It is the case in the cockpit and is no different in Team Echo Force, currently led by Marc Anderson.
He speaks softly to the group.
“Seals One, Two, and Three, you take the left side. Thomas, Tim, and I will take the right. I will be in the middle. Keep a distance of no more than 30 meters between you. Everyone has contact with his neighbor.”
They disperse.
“In position,” each of them confirms one after the other. They now stand in a line of approximately 160 yards across. Each one by on his own, but they can each see the soldier on either side of them. Their brothers in times of crisis.
Marc looks at his compass, 270 degrees. They start to move. After thirty minutes they reach a long, narrow ridge.
“Down,” Marc radios quietly to the others. They lay flat on the ground. Marc slowly pushes himself against a bare cliff. He lifts his head, weighed down by a heavy helmet, ever so slightly to get an overview. In front of him is an open area with large, round boulders and steep cliffs, interspersed with deep cracks that he can barely make out in the almost non-existent light of night. The white glow he sees above it through his night vision device is the snow at twenty thousand feet.
Marc laboriously searches the area. Nothing. No ejector seat, no parachute. Only this sea of rocks and sparse vegetation. A wretched green world of artificial reality through the lenses of his night vision device.
“We can’t take the straight path, Gentlemen. There is a rift two hundred meters in. The end of the road.”
The group continues westward, securing the way as they go. George suddenly stops.
“Do you hear that, Marc?”
Their radios give off a faint screeching that intensifies and then fades again.
“The distress signal, George! Gentlemen, we have contact!” The troop knows that this is the signal pilots activate upon ejecting and is only transmitted for a few minutes per hour.
“Five minutes past each full hour, that’s right, just as we discussed. That’s our man, George!”
“What’s the bearing, Marc?”
“Eleven o’clock. The source is pretty damn quiet. He must be lightyears away.”
The men of Echo Force can feel their pulse quickening. They’ve made contact with one of the crew! They keep formation and continue their search. They still do not have the location coordinates. Unexpectedly, they are forced to stop. A dark and terrifying 25-feet-wide abyss stretches out before them, like a hungry, open mouth.
The tone of the distress signal abruptly increases its shrill intensity from one second to the next.
Startled, George turns down the volume. “He must be right here.”
“Tim to Marc, I see a parachute in the opening, about 20 meters down.”
“Everyone, round up – go to Tim,” Marc whispers into his mic. “George, you take over!
“Affirmative!”
They crawl over to him, very close to edge of the rift, and shine a light down. They can see something that doesn’t belong there. The remnants of a parachute hanging from the ledges of two cliffs. The laser device measures 23 meters.
There is something else. George gasps as he recognizes it in the green light. Not that someone is hanging lifelessly from the shreds of the parachute, but the never-ending emptiness that continues below. George knows at once it will be a challenge getting that poor guy out of there without him falling completely into the abyss.
“But is he okay?”
He shines his light at the figure. “Are you okay down there?”
“Are you Americans?” answers a weak voice from the depths.
George beams. He’s alive!
“Yes, my friend, we will fly down from Heaven and get you out of there.”
“It’s about damn time! I’m freezing my ass off here!”
He seems to be all right, George thinks and calls into the cavern:
“Did you have to pick this one to fall into?”
“I love rifts, but even this is a bit too big for me!” George proudly looks over to Marc.
“That is one cool dude hanging there. Talks like a real Texan. Let’s get him out!”
George looks at his team. He would likely need two soldiers down there. One to secure against any further falling and the other for the recovery. Navy Seal One knows that Tim and Thomas have the most experience in these kinds of rappelling situations, thus, the German friends are called to take over once again.
“Tim and Thomas, start the descent.”
A few moments later, the inseparable team descend into the darkness of the rift. The Navy Seals secure them from above. Marc and George direct light into the chasm to allow the two as much orientation as possible. But the light is quickly lost in the dark. They need to be careful not to touch the parachute or the straps. Still, the descent lasts less than sixty seconds.
“We have him,” radios Tim.
The Texan is hanging freely. Completely unhindered. There is nothing there he could have grabbed onto to slow down his fall. One false move and the shreds of his parachute would flatter behind him as he fell to his death at the bottom of this seemingly bottomless pit.
Once he had stopped falling, he cautiously reached for his flashlight with a haunting suspicion. A sharp pain in his upper right arm. What was wrong? He touched his shoulder with his right hand.
Intense pain.
Fear.
No false moves!
It took him a while until he finally got hold of his flashlight. What he saw underneath terrified him. He saw nothing.
The beam of light did not allow him to even faintly guess at the depth of the chasm below. It was like the secret entrance to Nirvana. Was it 50 meters, 1000 meters? He would try banging against the wall a few times and then…
Oh, my God…
He shined the light upward. The parachute seemed to be caught pretty good between two sections of rock. He had only gradually been able to convince himself that he can trust the anchoring above him. He talked to his parachute, gently begging it with loving words to hold strong. Something clipped his head. And again. A number of times.
Bats?
Doesn’t matter, don’t move! This damn pain. The cold.
His torso felt like it was dying off under the tension of the straps. Would his rescuers even hear his distress signal?
As he looked up through the narrow window-like opening to the sky and saw a few stars, he started to find hope. They had practiced a rescue mission behind enemy lines a number of times. He knew that the CSAR team must be on their way. And here they are! Thank God! They were able to locate him in this godforsaken rift.
“Nice to meet you!” Tim calls to him and grabs his straps to latch him on to his own. But the Texan can only stare at Tim, whose fuzzy, black goatee sprouts out over the chin strap of his helmet.
“You are not an American, you’re a Taliban!” Tim laughs.
“No, I am your friend Tim from the German Mountain Rescue Team!”
The American looked dubiously at Tim’s face.
Then Thomas joins in. “And I am Thomas, old friend! You can call me Tom, but just for today. Nice place you got here.”
“I’m going to free you now from the parachute,” says the suspected Taliban, “and then I’ll hook you to the elevator going up. Hold on to me. Are you ready?”
The American nods.
He jolts downward and lets out a scream so loud it must have woken up all of Hindu Kush.
“Fuck, something’s wrong with my shoulder, watch out.”
The burly Texan clings to Tim’s slender frame, his face is twisted in pain.
“Thomas on George, dislocated or broken right shoulder. No blood.”
Tim grabs him by the hips and uses his feet and back to repel off the walls of the cavern.
“Let’s go, Cowboy! Bringing you up to mama!”
The three arrive at the top only a few moments later. As Echo Force secures the area behind them, George and Marc welcome the rescued man.
“I’m George, Navy Seal. You are among friends. Are you the pilot or the weapon systems operator?”
“Les Miller, WSO. Have you found my pilot Buddy already?”
“Negative. How much time was there between you each ejecting?
“Two seconds at the most.”
George thought for a moment. Buddy was not at the wreckage, at least not in a direct line with Les.
“Then Buddy must be here in the vicinity. We need to search again.”
“Charlie Force from Echo Force. We have Les.” “Copy that, Echo Force – we are standing by.” “Can you run, Les?”
“How fast do you think you could run after having your balls crushed for the past seven hours?” He casts an eye at Tim: “Watch your Taliban there, I don’t trust him!”
He then pulls a clump of something out of his pocket and gives it to his new friend from the German Mountain Rescue Team.
“What is it?” “Chocolate, Taliban!”
“How’s your shoulder, Les? Do you think you need a shot?”
“Depends on what you plan to do with me. I certainly can’t crawl on the ground.”
Buddy McAllen is not far away. In fact, they almost trip over his ejector seat. The wind fills his parachute, causing it to pull away from the long, slender body of the American pilot and then deflate again. Buddy is shaking. The right side of his head along with his short blond hair is covered in blood. George sees a large dark stain on Buddy’s olive-green flight suit just above his right hip and, underneath him, a rather large pool of dried blood on the ground.
“That doesn’t look good,” George signals to Marc, “he must have hit against that sharp rock in the dark.”
“Buddy, can you hear me?” George jiggles him. Thomas takes a water bottle out of his knapsack and carefully pours a fine trickle of water over his neck. The American does not move. Marc smacks him gently on the cheek and tries talking to him.
“Buddy, we are your friends, can you hear me, you are almost home. I will just take a look at that leg.”
“Charlie Force from Echo Team. We have Buddy – need a medic – ASAP!”
George reads off the coordinates from his mobile GPS and waits for confirmation.
“It’s our lucky day, boys! We have both men, secure radio communication, and Charlie Force will be here in fifteen minutes.”
He looks at Buddy, who is badly hurt, then adds: “But we’ve got a real bad situation here.”
The troop is highly-visible from the front. There is no natural protection. Behind them is a hill with an unobstructed view of them from above. Buddy is sitting out in the open, propped up against a large rock as though he were a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s a miracle he hasn’t been discovered already.
The rest of the squad lays flat on the ground while Thomas attends to Buddy’s wounds. He inspects the deep wound on Buddy’s thigh, dresses it with a compression bandage, and wraps him in a thermal foil blanket. He’s lost a lot of blood and could suffer a circulatory collapse. Thomas is a medic, but Buddy needs more than Thomas has in his first-aid kit.
“His pulse is very low, George.”
“Buddy, don’t fall asleep. What is your wife’s name?” George asks.
Buddy opens his eyes slowly. For the first time. “Linda…my girlfriend.”
“Where does Linda live, Buddy?” “New Jersey.”
George’s face lights up. Buddy is pale, moaning, and breathing heavily.
“Tell her that I love her,” he whispers.
“You can tell her that yourself when you see her at Bagram, Buddy, do you hear? What do you think about that, Buddy? Buddy, say something!”
Buddy looks at George with blank eyes. His lips start to make a shape. George put his ear to Buddy’s mouth.
“Les…is he okay?”
George waves WSO Les to come to him. “Keep him awake, Les, and encourage him.” Les’ brawny stature leans over his pilot.
“Buddy, man, don’t give up, Linda needs you. I need you in our fucking F-15. You aren’t going to leave me hanging, are you, Buddy? How do you want your hamburger when we get back to Bagram, Buddy? How about a big Texas burger with cheese and peppers and Mexican toppings? Do you want mustard on it, or ketchup?”
Buddy opens his eyes again slightly and softly smiles. After all, Les, whom he has been flying with for the past six months just described his absolute favorite dish.
Then his eyes close again. Thomas and Marc nod to each other. His condition is critical. Buddy must get an IV within the next thirty minutes, or that’ll be the end of it.
Tim’s green goggles wander over the horizon from right to left, left to right.
“We are not in a good location, not good at all.”
“We can’t move,” whispers Marc, “Charlie Force is expecting us to be at these coordinates.” Marc additionally scans the area which appears more like the ugly landscape of an alien planet through the infra-red residual light amplifier.
Marc is not interested in the regular green hue of his night vision device. He is looking for a glaring green, the white of clothing, and black. People.
“Oh man, we are not in a good location, not at all. Like sitting ducks,” Tim repeats himself.
Marc shivers.
“Taliban at ten o’clock!”
In the telescope he could see  the outline of a group of  men approaching. Five, six? They seem to be searching for something and were gradually coming closer.
The faint lull of voices could be heard through the hazy early morning sunrise.
“Charlie Force – Tangos in the area,” George radios quietly to the approaching troop.
“Roger – Five minutes to go – Stay where you are.”
The Echo Force lies as flat on the ground as possible, partially protected by a handful of small boulders. Thomas pulls Buddy down, he groans loudly. It can start at any minute. The Americans are individually equipped with rapid-fire weapons from the Navy Seals’ secret weapons arsenal, the Germans with G 36KA2s. Encounters with the enemy are practiced a thousand times. But it still causes their blood to race through their veins, and their pulse to increase, the adrenaline runs high.
George sees one of the Afghans throw his arm in the air. A sign?
Now loud shouts. More Afghans!
George contemplates when it’s the right time. “Fire only at my command!”
He doesn’t like long-distance fighting. The others don’t either. They all nod to their leader.
“Two tangos at three o’clock, behind the rock, thirty yards,” Seal Two radios.
“Okay, I have him.”
“Four tangos at ten…,” adds Seal Three.
Suddenly, the cracking sound of a missile being shot from a rocket-propelled grenade breaks the silence. It misses Echo Team by only a few feet. George studies the situation. That was close. Really close! A moment later, Taliban fighters abandon their concealment positions and charge the men.
“FIRE!”
The elite soldiers systematically take aim at each individual enemy fighter.
Bull’s eye! A direct hit!
Dark, black blotches appear in Marc’s night vision goggles 20 meters out.
Blood. Blood is black. Aim. POP!
Tango at three o’clock! The information is conveyed through hand signals and head movements.
Precision shots.
Short drumfire. The casings rattle out the right side like a waterfall.
Targets to the front, on the side, upright, crouching, jumping.
Just like in the training room. Only now with short screams. The team acts with clockwork precision.
The distance between them and the enemy fighters is becoming shorter and shorter. There are too many, many too many…
“Gentlemen, they want us use up all our ammunition,” Marc says. But a guy like Marc always has enough.
He, along with Tim and Thomas, are regarded as best sharp shooters in Calw, the hometown of the German Special Forces. And he never wastes magazine cartridges with sustained fire. Even if thirty men were attacking him. That would cause his G36 to overheat and lose accuracy.
Marc does not like inaccuracy.
One of the Taliban kneels against the side of a rock. He’s looking for a target. Through his night filter 80 attachment, Marc only sees the warhead of the bazooka. An ugly, spiked, green tube. About a hundred yards out.
Short artillery fire from the bar magazine. Directly to the head. The Afghan whirls through the air. In the green visor, black blotches. His head is gone.
George nods to him.
He knows that killing people is a very disconcerting legal problem for the Germans. Germans do not shoot to kill suspects. But this is a fight for survival! The rules of engagement are fulfilled – and they are alone among themselves.
Buddy groans and tries to sit upright. Thomas forces him back down.
“He needs an IV, George, or he’s gonna die!”
“Tell him he’ll be on his way home to Linda in five minutes.” Shots scream over their heads.
“Did you hear that, Buddy? We’re gonna be on our way in a few minutes, just hold on. Linda’s waiting for you.”
George and his two Seals fire to the front, the Germans cover the hill behind them.
They are surrounded. It’s getting pretty damn close!
George feels fear creeping up inside of him that his troop won’t make it out of this goldfish bowl. He has no solution. They need help immediately.
“CHARLIE FORCE – ECHO TEAM IS UNDER HEAVY FIRE!” “ROGER ECHO TEAM – WE ARE…”
The sentence gets swallowed by noise. The sound of a helicopter! The most beautiful noise an elite soldier can  ask for in a desperate situation. From out of nowhere, two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters appear in the sky over the valley. They are rather more heard than seen. Air-to-ground missiles whoosh out of the missile pods on either side of the helicopters at the small groups of Taliban fighters, followed by bursts of fire from the 30-millimeter aircraft cannon. George’s anxiety from a moment ago instantly disappears now that his fire-spewing dragons have arrived. Special night vision sensor, target acquisition system – don’t look directly at it or you’ll go blind!
A new roar of thunderous noise.
The long silhouette of a monster appears and comes closer. The Chinook transport helicopter hovers heavily some feet above the ground. Rattling bullet fire percolates from the behemoth. Fifty life-saving yards away from the elite soldiers. Each yard is one too many! There are still too many Taliban. The pull of the tandem rotors kicks up stones and dirt in the air.
Why always these huge machines? Marc wonders, I hope this works out.
The leviathan lowers itself to the ground, first landing on its rear wheels, then the front.
It hits the ground, bounces, and finally comes to a halt on the lightly sloping, rocky ground. Charlie Force troops immediately jump out of the Chinook equipped with their night vision devices.
They kneel on one leg and take aim.
The Apaches rotate toward the target like remote-controlled robots to provide Echo Force cover from the fire.
Marc flips onto his back and assesses the situation for the forces. Next comes the most dangerous endeavor among all this pandemonium for them and the helicopters as this is a potentially perfect opportunity for an extraordinary ball of fire from only one of the Taliban rocket launchers.
The three Seals carry Les and Buddy, who in the meantime has lost consciousness, to the Chinook amidst the fire from the Apache helicopters.
Mission accomplished.
The medic rushes to Buddy with an IV and oxygen mask in hand. Buddy now has a chance of survival. Hopefully.
One of the Americans outfitted with a wire waves hectically at the door of the Chinook.
“GET IN, GET IN!”
“TIM, TANGO BEHIND YOU!”
Marc can’t help him. His brother is standing directly in the line of fire.
As sprightly as a cat, Tim shoots from the hip. The Taliban throws up his arms as he falls to the ground. His AK-47 flies into the air like some grotesque circus act.
“Thanks, Marc.”
Tangos on all sides. Echo Force runs, bent over, toward the helicopters.
Look, assess, shoot, new magazine, go!
Each of them secures a radius of sixty degrees.
Six times sixty. No sector is left unsecured. One for all and all for one.
Only more ten yards to the Chinook.
Charlie Force and Navy Seals One and Two are in and give cover to George and the three Germans, with assistance from the two death machines hovering nearby.
Thomas kneels down under the protection of the helicopter and activates the mobile device. In the distance they hear  a massive explosive and the entire valley quakes. The echo reverberates for a long time as though the entire Hindu Kush is about to burst.
Mission accomplished.
Anything that was hidden must be destroyed now. The U.S. jet fighter would be reduced to only a heap of metal shards.
“HURRY UP, HURRY UP!” one of the Americans was still waiting in the door of the Chinook, wildly waving his arm. The giant monster is in danger. It wouldn’t be the first time soldiers had to be left behind.
Tim and Thomas make it in with a powerful leap, George and Seal One are right on their tails.
Marc is still on the ground. As always. First his troops, then him.
The monstrous helicopter starts to ascend. George waves to him in desperation.
Marc throws his weapon over his shoulder and sprints to the door, George grabs hold of his arm and pulls him in. Half hanging in the doorway,  Marc shoots his last rounds  of ammunition in the direction of the muzzle flash from the ground.
The three helicopters with Echo Force and the rescued F-15 crew disappear through the hazy valley.
Seal One proudly slaps his German friend on the shoulder from behind in acknowledgment.
Marc Anderson is currently at the zenith of his career, albeit unaware that his biggest challenge still lies ahead of him and that his luck as an elite soldier has now, as of today, just run out.

About the Author
Joerg H. Trauboth (Wikipedia) was born just outside of Berlin in 1943 during an air-raid. He discovered his love for writing early in his career as an officer and was awarded top honors by the General Inspector of the German Bundeswehr. Along the way, he flew over two thousand flight hours as a Weapons Systems Officer and instructor in the Phantom RF4E (in which he survived two critical lightening strikes). After a training in George AFB (CA), Major Joerg H. Trauboth flew the  Phantom F4F  and finally – followed by another conversion training in Cottesmore (UK) –  the Tornado aircrafts. Trauboth became a General Staff Officer in the Military Academy of the German Armed Forces in Hamburg-Blankenese and enrolled as LtCol  in the NATO Defense College in Rome. He has served in the German national operational headquarters as well as in the NATO Headquarters in Brussels as the German representative in the areas of Crisis Management, Operations, and Intelligence.

At the age of fifty, he retired early from his post as a Colonel in the German Air Force to become a Special Risk Consultant at the Control Risk Group in London. He was trained and engaged in negotiating extortion and kidnapping situations in South America and Eastern Europe.
The former Colonel, eager to start making money on his own soon founded the Trauboth Risk Management company. He received a startup award and quickly made a reputation for himself internationally as an top-notch crisis manager in Europe. During his time as CEO, he conceptualized crisis prevention strategies for a number of European companies and employed a 24-hour task force to protect them from product tampering, product recalls, kidnappings, and image crises. He was also a co-founder and the first president of the European Crisis Management Academy in Vienna and wrote a standard reference book on the subject of crisis management for companies at risk of threat.
Today Joerg H. Trauboth is an author, filmmaker with more than 75.000 youtube clicks, and an enthusiastic Grumman Tiger pilot. (See this latest night flight-video here. And if you want to know who his favorite Co-Pilot is, have a look here.)  The crisis manager and active pilot has served as the European Director and President of the US – based international American Yankee Pilots Organization.

His advice on crisis management is continually sought after and he is present as expert in radio and television interviews regarding his opinion on  international crisis situations.

Joerg H. Trauboth has been  53 years married with Martina. They have two sons, three grandchildren, and both live near Bonn, Germany. In addition, Trauboth voluntarily contributes his expertise to the Crisis Invention Team of the German Federal Foreign Office in Bonn and reads from his fiction and non fiction books on readers’ tours followed by discussions with his readers about the dramatically changing world.
Joerg’s latest book is the thriller, Three Brothers.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wyoming Tryst by Charlene Whitman


Title: WYOMING TRYST
Author: Charlene Whitman
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press
Pages: 360
Genre: Sweet Historical Western Romance

BOOK BLURB:
Two ranching tycoons. A decades-old feud. A sheriff bent on ridding the town of lawlessness . . .
In the midst of the trouble brewing in Laramie City in 1878, Julia Carson yearns to be free of her parents’ smothering and wonders whether she’ll ever find a man worthy to love in such a violent town rife with outlaws.
But when Robert Morrison sneaks onto her ranch the night of her sixteenth birthday party, Cupid shoots his arrows straight and true. Aware that their courtship would be anathema to their fathers, who are sworn enemies, Robert and Julia arrange a tryst.
Yet, their clandestine dalliance does not go unnoticed, and forces seek to destroy what little hope their romance has to bloom. The star-crossed lovers face heartache and danger as violence erupts. When all hope is lost, Joseph Tuttle, the new doctor at the penitentiary, is given a letter and a glass vial from Cheyenne medicine woman Sarah Banks.
The way of escape poses deadly dangers, but it is the only way for Robert and Julia to be together. It will take the greatest measure of faith and courage to come through unscathed, but love always conquers fear.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon


Chapter One

November 5, 1878
“I don’t care what it costs—get it done! Stop lollygagging, and make Morrison sign that paper. Rohrbach has other offers, and he knows I’m chomping at the bit—”
Julia Carson cringed at the sound of something heavy smashing against the wall adjoining the sewing room, but a glance at her mother showed that Lester Carson’s histrionics ruffled her not at all. When did they ever? But Julia knew that was the only way her mother could successfully navigate around her husband’s outbursts.
Her mother, with her lustrous back hair piled atop her head in perfect fashion, pulled another straight pin from between her teeth and said, “Stop wiggling, Julia. How will I ever get this hem pinned if you keep swiveling about?”
Julia sighed, feeling the familiar constriction and barely telltale rattle in her chest. But thank the heavens autumn was here. A glance out the wide windows showed a bright, crisp morning, though menacing clouds were gathering in the distance. She wouldn’t be surprised if the first snow fell later that day.
This summer had been the worst yet, and twice her parents had flown into a panic when Julia had awoken in the middle of the night unable to breathe. The tonics the doctor had given her did little else but make her woozy, and though Reverend Charnel urged her to give her burden to the Good Lord, it seemed He wasn’t all that keen on lifting it from her shoulders. Predictions over the years said she’d never make it to her sixteenth birthday, but yet, here she was.
“—Get out! Just git!”
Her father’s boorish directive followed on the heels of two short, fastidious men in three-piece suits making a hasty exit from her father’s study. Upon noticing Julia standing on the round dais and her mother squatting with pins in her mouth, the solicitors nodded brusquely from the hallway and muttered their farewells, their hats clenched in hand.
Julia’s mother muttered, “Heavens, your father is putting those poor men through the wringer.” She shook her head and finished pinning the last section of hem of the elegant white satin party dress. Then she took a step back, her petticoats swishing under her toile skirt, and admired her handiwork.
Though her mother could easily afford to hire the finest dressmaker in Wyoming Territory, she made all of Julia’s dresses and blouses, spending her quiet evenings, especially in the winter months when snow piled up the windows, bent over her tiny stitches. The sewing room in which they stood overflowed with bolts of lace and strings of seed pearls that her mother painstakingly added in beautiful detail to Julia’s party dresses.
And this dress would be the most magnificent yet, for, as her mother kept reminding Julia, “No one must outshine you on your sixteenth birthday.”
But there was more in her mother’s eyes than admiration for her handiwork and pride in her only child—her only living child, Julia noted. Because, wasn’t that at the heart of this celebration? That Julia was the only child of Danielle and Lester Carson to have survived into adulthood.
And that was what Julia read in her mother’s eyes. Pain and loss. Three stillborn babies lay in the nearby family graveyard. Alongside the small coffin containing Julia’s older brother, who’d succumbed to the influenza when he was four—two months before Julia was born.
Julia could never be free of her mother’s loss, never be absolved. Her parents stifled and smothered her with love and protection and worry because, as her mother often lamented, “We couldn’t ever bear to lose you. It would kill us both.” Though her father never voiced such sentiments aloud.
And it was hard to interpret his heavy hand and unfair restrictions as fear of loss. No, her father’s actions seemed anything but fearful, and his protection anything but loving and concerned.
But no matter. She would soon find a man to wed, and though she’d been so sheltered, hardly even permitted to say hello to any unhitched young man, even at church, she secretly hoped she’d get her chance at her party. A party that would make the high-society columns in papers all the way to the Mississippi, if her mother had her way. Her parents were sparing no expense for an event that would no doubt be hailed as the most extravagant gala Laramie City had ever seen.
Julia’s throat tightened at the attention that would be heaped upon her that night, for crowds of people made her terribly claustrophobic, often exacerbating her asthma. Her rigorous protests for a small family gathering had been lost on unresponsive ears. Though, why was she surprised? This party really wasn’t about her, or for her, for that matter. It was, in essence, a way for her father to show off his opulence and success as Laramie’s foremost cattle rancher. And to flaunt that success before the Morrisons, who, as a matter of course, were not invited and never would be.
“Oh, you are such a beauty,” her mother crooned. “Spin around and show me.”
Julia dutifully spun, the layers of eyelet-lace-edge skirts whirling and fluttering like snowflakes on a breeze. Wearing such a gorgeous dress made Julia feel beautiful indeed. But she wondered if any dress could negate her flaws. Her pale complexion that freckled terribly in the sun. Her long lifeless hair the color of bark that constantly slipped out of her pins. And worst of all—her height. She stood over her mother by four inches. What man would want to look up to his wife? At five feet eight, she was taller than most of the ranch hands on the farm. Except Ty, her much-older cousin, who was like a brother to her. And, of course, her father, who towered a head above every man in town. The Carson men had always stood out prominently in a crowd—due to both height and propensity for bluster. But, unlike Julia’s uncles, Lester Carson was more the quiet but intense type who believed in an economy of words. Except when someone sparked his anger.
Julia stepped down from the dais and turned so her mother could fuss with the button loop at Julia’s neck. The spacious sewing room with its floor-to-ceiling windows spilled warm light across the thickly varnished oak floorboards that shone like glass. Dust motes danced on the air.
“Mother, why has Father been meeting with his lawyers so often? And what is he so crotchety about?”
Her mother’s sigh blew warmth onto Julia’s neck, making a shiver run down her spine. “It’s nothing to concern yourself with. Another land deal. He wants to acquire the thousand-acre parcel to the northwest.”
Julia shook her head. “But why? Doesn’t he own enough land? Aren’t fifty thousand acres sufficient for his purposes?”
“It’s the water access. You know in late summer Dead Man’s Creek is the only source of water for the cattle. That property has the only year-round spring for miles around.”
“So? Father has always moved the herds north in the fall.”
“And it appears he doesn’t want to be bothered to do so any longer.”
Julia fell silent. Once her father got a hankering in his craw, there was no pulling it free. But this was something different than his normal dealings. He’d been downright perturbed these last months, working himself into a frenzy, more apt to snap at Cousin Ty and Sheldon McManus, his ranch foreman, than ever before.
“Is . . . Father ill?”
Her mother turned Julia to face her. Julia saw close up the tired lines etching her mother’s still-beautiful face. Dark splotches sagged under her eyes, and her mouth drew into a tight line.
“No,” she said, then hesitated. “Though, I daresay if he keeps up like this”—she gestured to the now-closed door to the study, where Lester Carson was tromping across the floorboards so loudly, Julia feared he might bust through them—“his heart just might succumb from the aggravation.”
But there was something her mother wasn’t telling her. Something—Julia knew—whose source went way back, before Julia was born. Something neither parent ever mentioned, but on occasion Julia caught a whiff of, like the scent of a moldering dead carcass carried on the wind. In the late hours Julia sometimes heard terse words spoken behind closed doors. Words that often included the name Morrison.
Her father hated Stephen Morrison. That was a fact everyone in Wyoming Territory knew well. And Morrison hated Julia’s father. But no one seemed to know what had started the feud that had been going on between the two men—and that had dragged both families through the mud of hate and threats—for decades. Ty had once let slip words that hinted at a card game and someone cheating, but for all Julia knew, his words were little more than grist for the rumor mill in town.
And she’d heard her father tell his lawyers to make Morrison sign the papers. Did Stephen Morrison own that land her father coveted? If so, he had to know Morrison would never sell—not on his life.
Oh, all this land wrangling and vying for power made Julia more than weary. She felt like a prisoner in her own home. Her upcoming party was the only bright glimmer of hope on the horizon. If only it held the promise of escape. Would she ever be free of her father’s heavy hand?
The door to the courtyard swung open, and Ty came in, a grin on his sun-baked face, his unruly wheat-straw hair splaying out from under his floppy hat. He touched the brim and said, “Ladies,” then knocked on the door to the study. As Julia’s mother gathered up her scissors and pins and spools of thread, Julia felt a sudden urge to change out of her fancy dress, throw on a riding skirt and blouse, and race across the range on Little Bit. The house seemed to be closing in on her, and the glorious late-autumn day was passing her by.
Her father opened the door and exchanged quiet but terse words with Ty. Then, without another word or a glance at his wife or daughter, he strode past the open doors of the sewing room and down the hallway, his footfalls echoing loudly.
Ty turned to Julia and her mother, his soft gray-green eyes thoughtful and intense. “I’m headin’ to town with the wagon to pick up supplies at Harold’s. Need anything at the mercantile?”
“Milkman Mary should have our order ready for pickup,” her mother said. “I’d be obliged if you stopped in and picked up the milk and cream.”
“May I go with you?” Julia asked. She’d rather stroll the shop windows than saddle up her mare and ride, alone, with no one to talk with. And Ty, always so funny and cheerful, was just the company she needed right now.
“Dressed like that?” He pointed at her. “You’d ’bout give every fella apoplexy if’n they saw you saunterin’ down the street.” He sashayed around the room, making Julia laugh, as he stroked the wiry goatee on his chin.
Though Ty was her cousin and fourteen years her senior, he had come under the wings of her parents when he was twelve due to a mudslide that had left him orphaned. The two of them had been raised like siblings, and Julia couldn’t imagine having more affection for Ty if he’d been her brother. Or Ty having a fiercer sense of protectiveness for his younger relation.
“There’ll be no town visit today,” her mother said sternly.
“Why not—?” Julia tried to keep the whine out of her voice. It wasn’t fair.
“Because I said so.”
Ty frowned. “I’d keep her safe, ma’am—you know that—”
“No, Ty. It would be highly imprudent . . . at this time. This discussion is over.”
Ty promptly shut his mouth, as he was wont to do when her mother spoke in that tone.
Her mother hastily stuffed the remaining notions into her sewing box and latched the cover. She looked over at Julia. “Have Edna help you out of that dress, and hang it up in my parlor so I can hem it.” Her tone brooked no argument or even a reply.
“Yes, Mother,” Julia said anyway, keeping her tone even and respectful, though she held back what she really wanted to say. I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself. I’m not your sick little baby anymore. How will I ever live in the world if I’m sheltered from it?
Ty stood and watched as Julia’s mother exited the room, then turned to Julia, kneading his hat in his hands.
“She’s only bein’ protective.”
Julia scoffed. “I know Laramie’s a rough town, but surely—”
“You didn’t hear the news? What happened last night?”
Julia shook her head as a chill settled on her neck. She’d seen the Daily Sentinel lying on the credenza in the dining room, but she hadn’t glanced at the headlines. Fights and trouble plagued the streets of Laramie, always had. Most people—decent folk—knew to stay away from Front Street at night, where the brothels stretched for blocks and drunken men poured out of saloons to fight, cheered on by equally drunken crowds. And no decent woman would wander the streets of downtown past dark unchaperoned.
“Two fellas were shot, right in the middle of Grand Street. One o’ the fellas had a woman on his arm, and in the brawl that ensued, she was . . . trampled to death.”
Julia felt the blood leave her face. “Was . . . she someone I knew?” She swallowed at the reticence evident on Ty’s face.
“Lola Peterson—”
“Mrs. Peterson? The school marm?” The young woman who’d taught Julia her letters and read her first primers with her had recently wed. Oh, Lord, it couldn’t be . . .
Ty nodded. “Your ma hadn’t told you.” It was a statement, an observation. His lips quirked in an expression of empathy. “I’m so sorry. I know how much ya liked her. I did too.”
Julia had a flash of memory—of Ty putting a frog on their tutor’s chair and guffawing when she squealed in shock. A rock lodged painfully in her throat.
“And her husband?” Julia brought to mind the sweet-faced man with the thick black hair and beard who had a little gap between his front teeth—a grocer by trade.
Ty shook his head slowly. Julia’s throat clenched, and she struggled to draw air into her stubborn lungs.
“Why doesn’t that blasted sheriff bring order to this town? He and his hooligan deputies don’t seem to do anything but drink and cause their own kind of trouble.”
Ty’s severe expression said it all.
If there was someone her father hated even more than Stephen Morrison—if that were possible—it was Sheriff Thomas Jefferson Carr. And it seemed the feeling was mutual. Julia had only met the beefy unpleasant sheriff on a couple of occasions, at public affairs that she’d been allowed to attend, such as the Christmas concert at the Grange Hall and the Fourth of July picnics in the park, where all the politicians and public figures made their appearances—especially on election years.
When Sheriff Carr was elected, he said he would “put fear in the hearts of evildoers,” and he’d certainly made true on his claim. But from what Julia gleaned from overhearing the men on the ranch, the sheriff was a scoundrel and as corrupt as they came, always flanked by his posse of Irish thugs. Which contributed to Laramie’s reputation as the most lawless town in the West.
Julia’s heart weighed heavy as her thoughts drifted back to Mrs. Peterson. The news sucked out her restlessness and filled her with melancholy. Now she just wanted to run up to her room and bury her face in her pillow.
“I reckon I should git goin’,” Ty said quietly.
Julia nodded, glancing down at her white satin gown with the lyrical waves of shiny pearls and layers of lace. It felt so wrong to be standing there, wearing something so pristine and pretty, when the news couldn’t be more gloomy and dark. She couldn’t wait to get out of the dress. Maybe a long gallop across the prairie would do her some good. Maybe being unmarried wasn’t so deplorable a condition.
How horrible to finally find a man to love and wed, only to lose him—and your own life—to such senseless violence. Like many women, Mrs. Peterson had come to Wyoming, and Laramie specifically, because of its radical views of equality for women. Not ten years ago, Laramie became the first town in the West—maybe in the whole country—to let women serve on a jury and vote in elections and hold jobs as court bailiffs and other county positions.
But, judging by the way Julia’s father smothered his daughter with his overbearing protectiveness, you’d never know she lived in such a progressive community. Oh, she was so tired of being kept in a box.
“I’ll bring ya back a licorice stick,” Ty said with a wink, then slipped out the courtyard door, leaving Julia alone, silence filling in the space around her. She could hear the beating of her heart as she stood and looked out over the Front Range through the windows. A few flakes of snow swirled around the glass.
Someone had named Laramie “The Gem City of the Plains” because at night, when a person gazed down from atop the Black Hills to the east, the lights of the town looked like precious stones nestled in a black velvet jewel box.
Julia wondered if that person had ever walked the streets of Laramie at night, when the whoring and shooting and drunken brawls erupted. She doubted the person who penned that sublime description would be inclined to give her town such an appellation then.
Thinking about her lawless town made her thoughts settle back on her father and the never-ending feud between the Carsons and the Morrisons—a feud Julia neither wanted nor understood. Yet here she was, in the midst of it, her party just one more piece of wood to throw on the fire of contention. She hoped it wouldn’t add to the blaze and worried that rather than enjoy her sixteenth year celebration, she would suffer the heat of her father’s ire for Stephen Morrison, and it would leave her scorched.

About the Author

The author of "heart-thumping" Western romance, Charlene Whitman spent many years living on Colorado's Front Range. She grew up riding and raising horses, and loves to read, write, and hike the mountains. She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an English major. She has two daughters and is married to George "Dix" Whitman, her love of thirty years. 

The
Front Range series of sweet historical Western romance novels (set in the 1870s) includes Wild Horses, Wild Hearts, set in Laporte and Greeley. Colorado Promise, set in Greeley, Colorado; Colorado Hope, set in Fort Collins; Wild Secret, Wild Longing, which takes readers up into the Rockies, Colorado Dream (Greeley), and Wyoming Tryst, set in Laramie, WY.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Claire's Last Secret, by Marty Ambrose



Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Marty Ambrose
Publisher: Severn House

Find out more on Amazon


About the Book:

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the haunted summer of 1816 Lord Byron/Mary Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty.  The appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings Claire hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece, Paula.  But Rossetti’s presence in Florence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816—when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives collided—to a tragic death. As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she must go back to that summer of passion to discover the identity of her old enemy.

EXCERPT


Florence, Italy, 1873

                  His letter came just at the point when I thought death was my only option.
                  Poverty had been creeping in like a shadow edging out the light, and it was only a matter of time before it engulfed what was left of my life and snuffed out any prospect that fate would offer another way. I could no longer envision a road that led to some lost, yet cherished land of dreams – especially when I was too old to pick up and start over on some adventure that would lead me into a new dawn.
                  It was too late for that.
                  Those were the youthful regions where fortune bestowed some great, golden happiness on anyone who had the courage to live with soulful purpose – hardly the reality of my present circumstances.
                  Yet, the letter brought a glimmer of hope . . . a wild fancy that I might, even at this late stage, turn things around. What I did not realize was that it would take me back to the early days and expose a labyrinth of deception and lies that had altered the course of my existence.
                  But I digress . . .

                  I must start at the beginning because the echoes of one’s origin never fade to silence, no matter how much it is desired. I did not know my own origin because I never knew my father – not that I needed to learn his identity, but it would have centered my world at the very least with a beginning point. A compass for my life. A moment when I first became aware that I drew breath.
                  Sadly, it never happened.
                  My last name is Clairmont. A melodic sobriquet to be sure, but my mother simply chose the name like someone would choose a ribbon for the bodice of a dress:  – it seemed appealing and created just the right effect of class and respectability – but it was for show, nonetheless, since she never married a man named Clairmont. Not that I particularly minded her choice. I love showiness. In my opinion, modesty in a woman is highly overrated, though no one in my family agreed with me. But I, Clara Mary Jane Clairmont, always went my own way – even without the compass – and I am more proud of that than anything else in my seventy-five years on this earth.
                  Just as I claimed my version of my name: Claire Clairmont.
                  Il mio nome.
                  ‘Aunt Claire, don’t overtax yourself,’ my niece, Paula, said as she strolled into the warm, slightly stuffy room, a cup of my favorite oolong tea in her hand. It was late morning – not terribly hot yet, but by afternoon the midsummer Florentine temperature would soar and everyone would take refuge inside, resting and praying to St Clare of Assisi for a breath of air. My rented apartment faced the Boboli Gardens – a lush, open space on the outskirts of Florence, perched on a hill – that often provided a slight breeze, whispering through the centuries-old cypress trees and hidden grottos.
                  Paula set a delicate blue-and-white patterned china cup on my tea table, already cluttered with letters, books, and an inkwell. ‘You need to move around more, Aunt. Your ankle is starting to swell again, and, if you cannot walk, I will have to call in Raphael to carry you to bed.’ My niece’s voice took on that familiar combination of love and exasperation of the young who are tethered to the old; she cared for me deeply, but I tried her patience as well when I refused to heed her advice, which occurred quite often. I wasn’t ready to give up my independent ways yet.
                  Besides, she would not mind calling our domestico, Raphael; I’d seen the sweet longing in the glances that she cast at him when he was distracted by some task in the kitchen. Paula might be the daughter of my dearly-departed brother, Charles, but she was also my niece, after all. Spinning romantic fantasies around a handsome face was embedded in her nature. Certainly, I had done that a time or two in my life – sometimes finding regret in my impulsive feelings, sometimes not. But always true to my passions.
                  Quickly, I slipped the letter under the stack of books, shifting in my chair and smoothing down my faded blue cotton dress.  I was not ready to share it with her yet.
                  ‘Is that the missive you received this morning?’ she asked absently, leaning down and plumping the delicately embroidered pillow under my sprained ankle, which was propped up on a footstool.
                  ‘Nothing important.’ Assuming an air of nonchalance, I shrugged. ‘Just a letter from one of my many old friends, Edward Trelawny, inquiring as to our well-being.’
                  Paula straightened with a sigh. ‘Do we have any old friends left who have not abandoned us to our state of poverty, except Trelawny?’
                  ‘Thank you, my dear, for pointing that out. I am well aware of our impoverished state of affairs since my last ill-conceived investment in that farm.’ Folding my wrinkled hands in my lap, I echoed her sigh. Investing in my nephew’s farm in Austria was a foolishness that I could ill- afford, but I never could resist helping my family, even though it had pushed me to the brink of bankruptcy.
                  ‘I apologize – that was unkind, Aunt.’ She placed a hand on my forearm, glancing down at me with her dark eyes clouded in guilt.
                  ‘You are forgiven, even though I must remind you that friendships can ebb and flow during the years regardless of one’s financial status – even those who are closest to us can disappoint us.’ Of course, I meant the members of the sacred Byron/Shelley circle of my youth: Byron, the great poet who broke my heart, and Shelley, the husband of my stepsister, Mary, whose brilliance lit my life and whose small annuity protected me in my advanced years. I had loved them all – especially my accomplished and beautiful stepsister, Mary. Even though Mary had created a hideous monster in her novel, Frankenstein, she herself possessed that kind of tranquil loveliness that made everyone gravitate to her.
                  Serenità, as the Italians would say.
                  Unlike me.
                  I could never sit still.
                  I talked incessantly.
                  And I never let my head rule my emotions, which caused me more heartache than I can say. But my life was never dull.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Marty Ambrose has been a writer most her life, consumed with the world of literature from the time she first read Agatha Christie mysteries and British Romantic poetry.  Marty pursued her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, both in the U.S. and the U.K. so she could teach students at Florida Southwestern State College about the writers that she so admired.  Three decades later, she is still teaching and has enjoyed a writing career that has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, and Thomas & Mercer. Marty Ambrose lives in Florida with her husband, ex- news anchor Jim McLaughlin.  She plans to travel to Italy in the Fall to research A Shadowed Fate, the next book in the trilogy.

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