Dark Order Blog Tour: Harper L. Jameson

We’re taking a trip with the Dark Order Book Tour and today’s author Harper L. Jameson. What kind of shoes does one wear to the Appalachians?

The Spirit

The Appalachians are a land of mystery even today but this is a journey into their past–to a place of Native legends and rural magic, before the turn of progress stole the enchantment from our world. Where one woman will risk everything to save the people she loves. The asking price of their salvation? Her heart. Welcome to Wright’s Holler.

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BLURB:

Before the white man settled the Appalachians, he stood over the people of the Tribe, providing all they needed to flourish in the shadow of the mountains.

The many tribes have given him many different names. Wakan Tanko. Maheo. To the people that first hunted the corner of Appalachia known to later generations as Wright’s Holler, he was Weshemoneto, the Great Spirit.To Anna Madeline Wright, he would simply be Wes.

Born in the holler that bore her name, “Annie” Wright came from people that had learned to live on the land, people who believed in the magic saturating the woods around them. People who knew how to survive.

Circumstance of birth gave her power. Her skills gave her respect. Her magic gave them hope. In a town not yet influenced by the progress of the industrial revolution, Annie was a pauwau. A witch. The winter of 1836 hit the town of McAllen hard and with her people in danger of annihilation, Annie called on the spirits for the power to save them. Her desperation called Weshemoneto himself . When they collided, she had to make a choice: Lose her town or lose her heart.

What happens next would become the stuff of legend for centuries to come.

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EXCERPT:
Wes’s brows shot into his hairline, still reeling from hearing the words on her lips and not fully grasping what she was asking him until her hands moved over his chest. Her seared palm throbbing with a humming current where it lay over his heart. His lips peeled back off of teeth sharpening with his desire. “I would not take you while you are weakened, ni’wa,” he tried arguing, but it was too late. Her need filtered to his senses, a heady perfume that the animal in him wasn’t going to let go unanswered.
“You make me strong, Wes,” Annie insisted, face tipping up to brush her lips to his throat. “The first time was to trap you,” she frowned, her guilt still weighing heavy on her. “This time, I just want to love you, n’ I want you to love me. No traps. No tricks. Just us for however long we got.” Annie took a deep breath and took the chance, her hands smoothing down the muscled plane of his chest until she reached his answer.
BUY ON AMAZON: amzn.to/25ya1Fq

Author Bio

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Harper L. Jameson was born in South Eastern Ohio and raised on the stories of the family seat in the holler–a tiny hamlet nestled in the shadow of the Appalachians. Her imagination ran wild, fueled on tales of folklore and superstitions…of Indian burial sites and haunted woods where magic still runs free. Beginning with her debut novel “The Spirit”, she’s putting a new spin on paranormal romance by bringing the old legends back from our forgotten past. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and children, but she never really left the holler. No one ever does.

Connect with Harper and stay up to date on all the latest news, events and releases:

Official Site: harperjameson.com
Facebook: facebook.com/HLJameson
Twitter: twitter.com/HarperJameson
Goodreads: goodreads.com/HarperJameson
Instagram: Instagram.com/HarperLJameson
Amazon: amzn.to/29vV8xh

 

Dark Order Book Tour: L. Lombard

Today the Dark Order Book Tour introduces us to L. Lombard.

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Website: http://llombard.weebly.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ebo.lombard
Twitter: @LLombard4
Amazon Link: http://bit.ly/Ebo_Lombard

 

 

 

 

Blurb:

Josephine remains unaware of the powers that observe her. The fragmented memories and strange premonitions become stronger every day, and the sense of something missing and slightly out of reach keeps her on edge. She cannot dismiss the handsome face, the haunting eyes, or the feelings that are stirring deep inside. It’s time to seek answers. Compelled to return to Africa, she is convinced that there is more to the wild animal attack that left her orphaned as a child.

Driven to protect the young woman from a shared past that only he remembers, Ashling risks revealing his nature as he follows Josephine across continents. For his entire life, time has had no meaning; with her decision to return to Africa, time is of the essence.

Drawn together by events neither can control, as well a deep connection, Ashling will discover if his stone heart will beat again, or slowly be torn apart.


LL
L. Lombard loves the power of words, possibilities, and imagination. She spends her days helping elementary and middle grade students develop a love of literacy. When not teaching, L. Lombard can be found either reading a great book, or writing her own.

Surrounded by wonderful friends and beautiful mountains, she lives in Mexico with her husband, two children, and many pets.

Dark Order Blog Tour: Martina McAtee

Say hello to today’s guest from the Dark Order Blog Tour, Martina McAtee. Don’t miss the chance to snag one of her books for free this week. Details below.

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Author Bio:

Martina McAtee lives in Jupiter, Florida with her teenage daughters, her best friend, two attack Chihuahua’s and two shady looking cats. By day she is a registered nurse but by night she writes young adult books about reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. She wrote her first story when she was five with an orange crayon on a legal pad she stole from her mom’s office. She’s been writing ever since. Her influences include Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Joss Whedon, L.J. Smith and even J.K. Rowling. Living in South Florida provides her with plenty of material for the weird worlds she writes about. When she isn’t working, teaching or writing she’s reading or watching shows involving reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures.

 

Author Links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MartinaMcAtee1

Instagram: www.instagram.com/authormartinamcatee

Twitter: www.twitter.com/MartinaMcAtee1

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/MartinaMcAtee
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/mcateem1221
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1rfcFAE

Contacts:

Personal Assistant: Amber Garcia agarcia6510w@gmail.com

Manager: Melissa Pelegrin: pelegrinmgmt@gmail.com

McAtee’s tale is a cut above most attempts in the popular supernatural YA genre.Her characters are considerably more complex than the norm, which makes them far more believable, despite their superpowers. –Kirkus Review

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 Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

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Blurb:

17 year old Ember Denning has made an art of isolating herself. She prefers the dead. She spends her days skipping school in old cemeteries and her nights hiding from her alcoholic father at the funeral home where she works. When her own father dies, Ember learns her whole life is a lie. Standing in the cemetery that’s been her sanctuary, she’s threatened by the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and rescued by two people who claim to be her family. They say she’s special, that she has a supernatural gift like them…they just don’t know exactly what it is.

They take her to a small Florida town, where Ember’s life takes a turn for the weird. She’s living with her reaper cousins, an orphaned werewolf pack, a faery and a human genius. Ember’s powers are growing stronger, morphing into something bigger than anything anybody anticipated. Ember has questions but nobody has answers. Nobody knows what she is. They only know her mysterious magical gift is trying to kill them and that beautiful dangerous boy from the cemetery may be the only thing standing between her and death.As Ember’s talents are revealed so are the secrets her father hid and those in power who would seek to destroy her. What’s worse, saving Ember has put her cousins in danger and turned her friend’s lives upside down. Ember must learn to embrace her magic or risk losing the family she’s pieced together.

Price:
E-book: $1.99
paperback: $18.99
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B012KW638S

 Dark Dreams and Dead Things

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Blurb:

17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider; like she was different. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend.Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.

Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable. An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynched on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever.

Price: E-book: $1.99
Paperback: $18.99
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B01F0MFAAW

Dark Order Blog Tour: Lora Palmer

Today the Dark Order Blog Tour introduces us to Young Adult author, Lora Palmer.

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ABOUT THE MIRRORMASTERS:

Leah Ellis never knew why she was found abandoned on the beach at two years old. Content with her adoptive family and small town life, she hadn’t thought much about it over the years. That is, until her life takes a bizarre turn when she begins seeing images in mirrors she can’t explain–cloaked figures using powers that manifest like lightning bolts, or flash-frozen beaches on another world beneath a purple sky.

She practices mirror-gazing, driven to understand these images and their possible connection to her forgotten past, and discovers that it’s kind of addictive with its wild, boundless power coursing through her veins. Soon, she learns to control what the mirror shows her.

When new neighbors move in, Leah is shocked that they’re dead ringers for the people in her visions. According to Brian, with the gorgeous ice-blue eyes, and his father, she is a MirrorMaster–an alien with a gift that lets her travel through mirrors, even to worlds light years away. Her birth parents sent them to take her from Earth back to her homeworld of Jantyr, a planet she doesn’t remember. They’ve searched for her ever since she disappeared.

But Leah’s long-lost birth sister, a sorceress, activated an ancient device to trigger a cataclysm on Jantyr as a bid to consolidate her own power. Leah must return to Jantyr, master her newfound ability in order to locate and wield crystals that will disable the device, and thwart her sister’s plans. Otherwise, the destruction will consume the entire galaxy, including Earth and everyone she loves.

THE MIRRORMASTERS is available on

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/MirrorMasters-Lora-Palmer-ebook/dp/B01EKZKP6E

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631608

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-mirrormasters

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-mirrormasters/id1109653965?mt=11

 

 

EXCERPT:

Strange things happen in Sea Cliff Heights every single year on this date, June 15th. Mysterious pulses of light flickered in the forest. Not-quite-solid figures appeared in the cemetery one second and disappeared the next. All day, I couldn’t shake the intuition that this year would bring something much worse than the usual weirdness, much worse than the usual gibes about how it began thirteen years ago, the same night my parents found me abandoned on the beach.

“Let’s watch something light — not a horror movie,” I said.

“Leah, Leah, Leah.” My brother David shook his head and scooted closer to Kara, my best friend, on their loveseat. They shared a conspiratorial grin. “Don’t tell me you want to watch some lame comedy when we can have a slasher fest. It’s tradition.”

A shiver raced down my spine at the mental image the idea conjured, one of chilling music, strangled sobs and hitching breaths, followed by silenced screams. Tonight also marked the town tragedy of the 1870s, when strangers murdered the Stanford twins, the mayor’s daughters. Of course David would insist we do something scary to commemorate the anniversary.

“Come on!” I shot him a pleading look. “I’m sure you breezed through exams, but I took three AP finals this week and fielded a million alien jokes today. Enough already — I deserve a break from crazy.”

“Just go out to the cemetery with us,” Kara said, her eyes sparkling. “We won’t do anything risky, I promise.”

Sure. Why wait for trouble to find us when we could seek it out and bring it right here?

Glancing out the sliding glass doors toward the church beyond, I couldn’t help checking for signs of unusual activity. My hands fidgeted, and I fought to still them. I thought I could just make out the sound of otherworldly voices speaking in urgent whispers outside. A gust of wind rustled the palm trees, obscuring any other noise and causing moonlight and shadows to flit across the lawn. Every muscle in my body tensed. Whatever might lurk out there, we’d be safer staying away from it.

loraAbout the Author:

Lora Palmer writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Bucks County, Pennsylvania is her home, where she resides with her wonderful husband and their mischievous cat. She has earned a graduate degree in Psychology and works at a local residential facility serving autistic children and teens. In her spare time, she also sings in a praise band, Chalice Sounds.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://lorapalmer.weebly.com

Blog http://lorarpfictionblog.blogspot.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Lora-Palmer-YA-Writer-144172288935800/

Twitter @lorareedpalmer

Instagram: lorareedpalmer

 

Dark Order Blog Tour: Danielle Rose

We’re still making new friends with the folks at Dark Order Blog Tour. Today’s author is Danielle Rose!

Danielle Rose

 

Author Bio

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Danielle Rose is a romance writer and owner of Narrative Ink Editing. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. Danielle currently resides in the Midwest, where she spends her days dreaming of warmer temperatures. When not writing, reading, or traveling, Danielle enjoys pretending she lives in California, spending an embarrassing amount of time at Hobby Lobby, binge watching Netflix, and cheering for her favorite football team (Go Packers!).

 

Places to Find Danielle Rose

Website: www.danielle-rose.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/1sUJBQo

Narrative Ink: www.narrativeinkediting.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/DRoseAuthor

Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/daniellerose

Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/authors/danielle-rose

If List: www.iflist.com/stories/bloodroseabloodbooksnovel

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/DRoseAuthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DRoseAuthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/DRoseAuthor

Instagram: www.instagram.com/DRoseAuthor

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/DRoseAuthor

YouTube: http://bit.ly/1UjHi3n

Press Contact

Danielle Rose

Danielle@Danielle-Rose.com

 

Series

Blood Books Series

  1. Blood Rose | Synopsis & Buy Links
  2. Blood Magic | Synopsis & Buy Links
  3. Blood Promise | Synopsis & Buy Links
  4. Blood War | Synopsis & Buy Links

 

Sins & Secrets Series

  1. Break On Me | Synopsis & Buy Links
  2. Sins & Secrets #2 coming summer 2016!

 

Standalone Short Stories

  1. Daemon Academy | Synopsis & Buy Links

 

Blood War Book BlurbBloodWars_Boxset_Mock10

The Blood Books trilogy is The Vampire Diaries meets Charmed that fans of Harry Potter or Twilight will enjoy! Readers are praising this “must read” trilogy as “unputdownable” and “purely addicting.”

 

The Blood Books trilogy follows the harrowing journey of Avah Taylor, a mortal witch in the midst of a centuries old war against the immortal vampire species. Avah’s intense journey is fueled by blood, sex, jealously, betrayal, murder, and revenge.

 

This omnibus edition includes all three books in the spellbinding Blood Books trilogy! It’s over 700 pages of vampires, witches, and hybrids!

 

DIGITAL: Kindle | Kindle UK | Kindle CA | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

OTHER SITES: Goodreads | Bookbub | If List

Dark Order Blog Tour: Lila Felix

 This week we’re pumping new blood through these old veins via the Dark Order Blog Tour, which kicked off yesterday with Sandra Bischoff. Today we meet Lila Felix.

About the Author:

lila

Lila Felix is full of antics and stories. She refused to go to Kindergarten after the teacher made her take a nap on the first day of school. She staged her first protest in middle school. She almost flunked out of her first semester at Pepperdine University because she was enthralled with their library and frequently was locked in. Now her husband and three children have to put up with her rebel nature in Louisiana where her days are filled with cypress trees, crawfish, and of course her books and writing. She writes about the ordinary people who fall extraordinarily in wild, true love.

burden image from amazon
BLURB:

In the depths of the Louisiana swamps, clans of bear shifters roam freely. Hawke Turnclaw, the Alpha over all of his kind, is drowning in the legacy left to him by the Alpha before him, his own father. When he goes on a rescue mission to save a rogue Black bear from the clutches of a Grizzly clan, he finds more than just a Black bear, he finds his mate.

Echo has always been told she’s an anomaly, a fluke. She’s the only bear of her kind and that makes her a hindrance to her clan. She’s tried to run away, but they keep her tethered through guilt and a shock collar around her neck.

And then someone shows up claiming he’s her mate.

Now belonging to a new clan, will she ever be able to understand that she’s so much more than just a burden?

Dark Order Blog Tour: Sandra Bischoff

Sandi is a huge reason I’m still writing, as I’ve said before. Recently, I loaned her part of my malfunctioning brain while she redesigned the covers for her series. Here’s the fruit of her labor, and my smart-assed comments. (Really, she did all the work and I nodded a lot.)

About the author

Sandi

Sandra Bischoff lives in the historic town of Cornwall, NY with her extremely patient husband and teenage son, she affectionately calls the Demon. She is a Pharmacist by profession but found her true calling in a simple twist of fate. A friend approached her to write in a forum on a popular networking website. Over the next five years her passion had found its niche. She went on to compose a few poems and short stories which she would post on her homepage at the same networking site.
Her debut novel, Beyond the Sun was published April 2013 by Bayou Brew Publishing. She recently was named to Amazon’s best seller list in the Fantasy/Epic category. Sandra’s second book in this series entitled Beyond Time was released earlier this spring in time for the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans where she was a featured author at the Book Fair.
She has since left Bayou Brew Publishing to embark on the next chapter of her writing career, Independent Publishing. As of this time she has re-released both books in e-book and paperback formats. They can be found on Amazon.com. Sandra is currently working on her third book in her Dark Order of the Dragon Series.



Contact me

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSandiBischoff

Website: http://sandibischoff.webs.com/

Twitter: @sandibischoff

Personal Asisstant: Lola Kyle- lolakylepa@gmail.com



Beyond The SunBTS Cover

A Dark Order Of The Dragon Novel

Blurb
Fifteen years ago Jared Bonatelli had it all. The youngest son of
one of the founding families in the Conservatorship of The Dark Order he lived
a life you only thought existed in novels and nightmares. After becoming
engaged to his childhood sweetheart, he loses it all in one violent act. Since
that night he has suffered reliving his fiancé’s murder repeatedly in his
dreams. After an emergency meeting of the Conservatorship, Jared finds that the
comfortable world he lives is beginning to crumble at his feet.
Alexandra Toscano has been searching for the one assignment that could catapult
her journalistic career. When her editor Gene O’Hanlon drops a manila folder in
her lap, Alex is immediately skeptical. At first glance the information he
hands her seems like a publicity piece that is till she comes across an article
he wrote some fifteen years ago about Vampires murdering a young woman in
Central Park. But that isn’t what intrigues her the most. It’s the photo of the
woman’s fiancé that captures her eye, Jared Bonatelli.
Now as Alex begins to dig deeper into Jared’s life she begins to question her
own past. Could the answer she seeks be found in the glowing eyes of the one
person she is sworn to expose? Or will they both find themselves torn apart by
a world Beyond the Sun?
Buy link ~Amazon ~ https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OTRRM2Y

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A Dark Order Of The Dragon Novel

Blurb
Christian Lancelot Du Lac was never one to take a situation seriously. Growing up he had always been the comedic relief to Jared Bonatelli’s brooding nature. Now, just as The Dark Order welcomes Jared as its new Prince, Du Lac is informed that he must become a first in command the future King can truly rely on. When he repeatedly fails in his attempts to prove himself, Lance is thrown back in time to where his life began, Camelot. What he finds there is more than he could have bargained for.
Drawn to the forest surrounding Camelot, Lady Elizabeth Payne searches for something that seems just out of her reach. Tormented by a pair glowing eyes in the mist she steals away in the middle of the night to find their owner. Thieves, a wolf and the most infuriating savior she has ever met turn her simple world upside down. But it’s the attraction she feels to the newcomer that truly takes her by surprise. Learning that he is Christian Du Lac, the long lost son of the First Knight himself peaks her curiosity even more.
Now on the cusp of meeting her betrothed for the first time, Elizabeth’s heart has been claimed by another. But even a betrothal written in blood is no match for fate.
For Lance and Elizabeth, the odds are stacked against them. Their worlds are destined to remain forever apart. Can time heal all wounds or will the fates change their course and let the star crossed lovers find each other once again?
Amazon buy link ~ https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PKV8P8I

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Professional Bitching Suffers Zombie Attack

So . . . I take it you guys noticed there’s no new podcast this week. To put it simply, I ran out of time. This week I’ve been with Hobb’s Grove working at a haunted attraction inside a baseball stadium. Weird concept, right? We scare while they play. The fans are the real winners. But after prep days to build a new (read: cleaner) costume, an early-morning news appearance, and the two-day event, there was not much brain matter left to speak about anything coherently. But, I can steal a little time to type.

I planned to discuss Damien and it’s first season. I’ll be honest, if it gets a second season, I’ll be surprised. It’s okay horror. There’s some striking moments and character choices. However, it’s utterly frustrating for them to have the lead character more or less a pawn, even in his defining moment during the finale. Damien makes no coherent decisions. Everything’s manipulated or coerced. Pair that with their insistence in trotting out the over-used selective amnesia crap and I switched from watching the story to waiting for the next death gag. The show needs to take a step back and look at the big picture—one producer swears they wrote it to tie every moment to Damien’s ultimate decision in the finale, but that’s not what I’m seeing. I see the writer’s hands too much. Good television makes you forget it was written, though may the gods help you if you just dismiss those writers who did a Very Hard Job and made it look easy.

And we won’t go too deep into how flat and uninspiring the women on the show have been. One is there to be dragged around with no real purpose. Another is CrazyPants Sycophant. We have Religious Nutjob, played by one of my favorite actors and given such bullcrap motivation, I just wanted her to die so they’d quit beating that dead horse. One was there just to be blonde, cute, and then die. Any other woman on the show is background, silent, or slated for death. We can do better nowadays.

That’s Professional Bitching Lite for this week. To make up for it, click this link for the news footage where I played zombie at an ungodly hour in the morning.

Just Another Day

It’s been a while since I dropped a random story. Here’s the catch: I don’t have a lot of time today. So what I’m going to do is scribble for an hour and see what comes of it.

And here we go….

The pigeon outside Hank’s window wouldn’t shut up. The bastard settled there at sunrise, cooing until the alarm clock played static-garbled oldies. It paused long enough to turn around and resumed chatting away to it’s reflection, or whatever the hell birds talk to when they’re all alone.

Better than talking to yourself all the time.

Touché, self.

Hank grabbed the book on his nightstand. His fingers slipped off the slick cover. He settled for dumping the hardcover on the wood floor. Thump. The pigeon scurried to the ledge and flew off.

“Coo, coo, motherfucker.” Peace at last.

His neighbor turned on their radio, gifting him with the nerve-grating top forty hits playing in every club, bar, and department store in the United States. Original thought and creativity flew out the window with the digital age. What happened to bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest? Hank cringed. His taste in music was as old as his favorite jeans. No wonder he was stuck dating online. One look at his dated clothes, one peek into his CD collection, and women wrote him off as daddy material. Not the sugar kind. He couldn’t afford an extra large coffee by the end of the month, let alone buy a hot young thing whatever she desired.

Rolling out of bed took way too much effort. Monday morning blahs threatened to send him diving under the covers for just another hour. Rhianna sang about work from the neighbor’s. What a great idea. Go to work and get away from the incessant hip-hop droning.

“Next time I move, I’ll make sure a wannabe go-go dancer isn’t in the building.”

Shit. Shower. Shave. Suit-up. Same routine he followed every work day.

Hank dropped a spare shirt and tie in his messenger bag. A date after work on a Monday. He was insane to accept the request. Who in their right mind wanted to do anything except kill a bottle of bourbon after eight mind and ass numbing hours at a desk job? Karen was gorgeous. That was motivation enough. Hank never lied to himself when it came to dating. She was hot. He was as handsome as a canker sore. The date probably came from pity or the vain hope that his personality was better than his face and soft gut.

Apartment door secured, he took a moment to flip the bird at apartment 412. Her music swapped to some house mix with a rhythm to make people shake their ass. He’d seen his neighbor three times in the year he lived there. She had plenty of ass to shake.

Outside, he hailed a cab. It took three frantic arm-waving sessions to catch a cabbie’s eye. Climb in. Hold on. Pray the guy didn’t rear end a school bus or hit a nun in the crosswalk.

The office building was at the north edge of town. Everyone and their ailing granny swore the big money migration would take everyone from downtown to just inside the north-most border in the city. So far it was the one building, a Starbucks, and three mediocre Chinese restaurants. The building was home to six small businesses, each with their own floor. Though only three years old, it had plumbing problems. Toilets ran dry, leaving crap in the bowl. Sinks leaked—they should just run hoses from one to the other, that’d fix the problem. Then there was the elevator only the brave used.

Hank huffed and puffed to the sixth floor. “Eight hours and I’ll see you again, nemesis,” he grumbled as he left the stairwell.

It was more like eight hours and fifteen minutes. There was always that one last caller who couldn’t decide if she wanted to cruise to the Bahamas or one of the trendy Alaskan treks and asked every imaginable question about both. If he had to talk about snow or sand again that night, he’d jump off the roof.

Down, down, down he clomped.

In the lobby, Hank stepped into a corner near the front doors and pulled out his phone. Karen texted while he finished with the last caller.

See you soon. I’m wearing the green dress. 😉

Hank’s hands trembled. His phone slipped. He caught it and jammed it into his coat pocket. She sent a photo of the dress the night before. The front plunged so low, half of each breast showed. He didn’t anticipate her wearing it, thought the picture was to entice him into actually showing up.

He checked the clean shirt and tie in the shiny metal around the support beam to his left. His outfit was nowhere near as enticing.

At least I’ve got a somewhat tolerable personality. If he didn’t hate himself after fifty years, it had to be a sign he wasn’t a bridge troll.

Outside the building, it took another three attempts to flag a cab. Most of the time he swore they didn’t think he really wanted a ride and waved his arms for shits and giggles.

“Seventh and Hamilton, please.”

The driver’s left brow rose, but he put the car in gear and off they drove, leaving the north side in favor of the slowly dwindling downtown area.

Of course the driver took the longest route. Of course he took his sweet time counting out the change. Of course he parked near a damn puddle. Hank still tipped the guy. It would’ve been another ten minutes before he got a car to stop. He didn’t have the patience to wait another ten minutes. Karen was in the dress. That thought alone obliterated his ability to wait for anything.

Mother’s Kitchen sat on one corner at the intersection with a Walgreens, Taco Bell, and Vons. White folk heaven, he called it. They could get good steak, rubbers, food that’ll make you shit water for a week, and overpriced produce. The nearest Starbucks was one block east. Three more were within a mile radius. Everyone under thirty who passed clutched a Frappichino.

Hank played Frogger to cross the busy sidewalk, bumping a teenage guy who couldn’t walk right with his saggy pants around his knees. “Sorry,” Hank said.

“Whatever.”

Orange is not your color, man. Don’t smack the kid for trying to be a badass. The pep talk didn’t slow his heart rate.

Neither did the blonde woman waving at him through the restaurant’s front window. She beat him to the door, opening it.

“I’m so glad you came.” Karen didn’t waste a moment. She wrapped him in a hug the second she released the door. Her breasts pushed against his chest. He was afraid when they parted, the risqué gown would slip and show nipple. To his surprise, it stayed in place.

They followed the host to their table. Karen ordered drinks. Hank hadn’t found his voice after convincing his dick to calm the fuck down.

“So, uh, you come here a lot?” He draped the napkin on his lap. That’s what people did on dates, right? Pretended they had table manners? At home he ate wherever he happened to be in the apartment when hunger struck.

Karen laughed. “Yes, I do.” She paused and chewed her bottom lip. Miraculously her lipstick didn’t end up on her teeth. The woman was pure magic.

“What’s on your mind?” The way she watched him shifted. He had a feeling their night would end before they finished their salads.

“I don’t want to be rude.”

Hank reached across the table and clasped her hand. “I’m a hard guy to offend. Go for it.”

She chewed her lip again. Deep breath. “Okay. I have to ask . . . Why does that bearded guy have a hand in your back?”

Time’s up! Well, that went weird. How the hell does a puppet end up on a dating site?