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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I light this candle for baby Dakota Emily Buda ♥ Raebeth Buda and Family

Dakota Emily Buda has gone to Heaven to be a special little Angel.
I know that no words will ever be enough but we can come together to help and
Support Raebeth, Greg & Emma.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Title: Bound
Author: Jessica Chase      
Genre: Erotic
Tour Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Book Description:
ATHENA MONROE is a struggling author who has just come out of a relationship. RYDER PIERCE is a billionaire who is used to getting what he wants. But when Athena comes into his life, everything changes. Soon, the troubled Athena realizes that Ryder will stop at nothing to get her.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Branded Trailer Reveal

Title: Branded
Author: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Genre: Mature Young Adult, Dystopian
Reveal Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Book Description:
Twenty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

Author Bios:
Abi Ketner Is a registered nurse with a passion for novels, the beaches of St. John, and her Philadelphia Phillies. A talented singer, Abi loves to go running and spend lots of time with her family. She currently resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, triplet daughters and two very spoiled dogs.

Melissa Kalicicki received her bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in 2003. She married, had two boys and currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Aside from reading and writing, her interests include running and mixed martial arts. She also remains an avid Cleveland sports fan.

Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

website and blog

Chapter One

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.
The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down on it, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough.
My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back.
Death and I glare at each other through my tears.
I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here.
I’m ready to go. On the count of three.
I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.
A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand, waiting with the rope around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.
Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.
Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home.
It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.
My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name.
 On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder.
Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder.
“Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners.
Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying.
Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now.
My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest.
Gotta keep going.
“Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me.
I resist the urge to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing anything. I’m lost.
     My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell soon leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.
I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their black, leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m trapped.
Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them.
“You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave our society.”
I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them even as I shiver with fear.
“There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will be for everyone,” a guard says.
I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care.
The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts. My dignity is all I have left.
Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes.
Did they need so many guards to capture me?
 I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that.
The driver jerks the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too fast. Hours pass and the air grows warmer, more humid, the farther we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty-foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade.
To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does.
“All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to think about the things I’ve been told.
“You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face.
 Get your hands off me, you pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and I’m not positioned to defy him.
     They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole.
Few have seen the commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but an accusation.
I lose myself in thoughts of my father.
“Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my life who provided unconditional love.
The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. “Get out,” the guard orders while pulling me to my feet. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking barren in the darkness.
The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove me in line and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen white in fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny microchip.
 I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying.
“Spread your legs,” one of the guards says.
They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body.
What do they think I could possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me.
“MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up.
Five of us sit in the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens.
“Lexi Hamilton.”
A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As soon as the door closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then, they exit in procession, and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks.
“Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.”
A wet cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal collar around my neck.
Click. Click. Click.
The collar locks into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.

The Seven Deadly Sins:
Lust ¾ Blue
Gluttony ¾ Orange
Greed ¾ Yellow
Sloth ¾ Light Blue
Wrath ¾ Red
Envy ¾ Green
Pride ¾ Purple

 “Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.”
Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks.
“GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar.
He removes it and sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out.
Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in on me. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around like it’s business as usual.
I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor.
“Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire from my neck to my jaw, making me wince.
He points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my new clothes, I pull the shirt over my head and try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name.
“Nothing is allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says.
I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his hand.
“Give it to me,” he says. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg.
 “My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the golden ring to me.
“It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand. “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.
You can overcome anything… short of death.
 “You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?”
A hard blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist.
“Look at me,” he commands. I look up and he smiles with arrogance.
“What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“Nothing,” I respond, confused.
“What color are they?”
“Turquoise.” I glower at him.
“Interesting,” he says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.”
Reality slaps me across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand.
“Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides open to the outside.
“You have to wear your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead into the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on the sidewalk.
 “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice.
“Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new home.” The guard departs with a salute.
“Let’s move,” Cole says.
I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Love and Relativity Blog Tour

Title: Love and Relativity
Author: Rachael Wade      
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Tour Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Book Description:
Love, life, and happily ever after? It’s all relative.

Marine biology student Emma Pierce lives in paradise—geographically speaking, anyway. Stranded on Sanibel Island, Florida, she works at a nursing home by day and spends her nights dodging the island's infamous bad boy, Jackson Taylor, at her favorite karaoke bar. Trying to heal from the loss of her sister and a failed relationship she rerouted her life for, she's ready to graduate and finally leave Florida behind.

When a run-in with Jackson and his rowdy crew goes sour at the bar one night, sparks fly and irreversible damage is done. It’s no secret that Jackson loves to get underneath her skin, but this time he's gone too far. Now all he wants is to earn her forgiveness before she's gone for good, but their ideas of closure—and the future—are enough to keep them worlds apart.

This is a stand-alone title but coordinates with The Preservation Series:

Preservation (Book One, Available Now)
Reservation (Book Two, Available Now)
Declaration (Book Three, Coming 2013)

Author Bio:
 Rachael Wade is the Amazon bestselling author of The Preservation Series, The Resistance Trilogy, and the upcoming sci-fi series, The Keepers Trilogy. When she's not writing, she's busy learning French, watching too many movies, and learning how to protect animals and the environment. Visit her at and, or come chat with her on Twitter via @RachaelWade.

Author Links:

“Emma.” Jackson’s breath stirred my hair. “Wake up, we’re home.”
“Come on, I’ll walk you to your door.”
I sat up and stifled a yawn, moving to slide to the other end of the seat. I reached for the door handle and glanced down at my feet, struggling to see where I’d dropped my purse.
“Looking for this?” Jackson stretched to the middle console and pulled out my small black clutch.
“Oh, yeah. Thanks.”
He handed it to me and gently caught my wrist, his eyes finding mine in the dim parking lot light. “I had a good time with you tonight.” I remained still, the air in the truck thick as the need in his voice. It was a statement, but something in his tone made it sound like a request. His other hand came up and cupped my thigh. He grasped hard and swung my leg around to pivot my waist, then wrenched me back over the seat toward him, the bare skin of my calves slipping around his hips until our bodies collided. He moved so fast, I didn’t know where his breaths began or mine ended, didn’t know when the space between our mouths disappeared.
All I knew was I intended to keep it that way.
His fingers threaded through my hair and his tongue slipped into my mouth. I opened wide for him and moaned into the kiss, allowing all of the night’s tension to melt there, gasping against him when he hooked one of my legs tighter around his side, digging my high heel into his back. The pressure coaxed a low growl from deep in his throat and he nipped my lip before drawing it back to his tongue, inching his fingers beneath the back of my shirt to smooth them over my spine. I was planted firmly on his lap now, my fingers clawing at the back of his neck.
There were countless reasons to push him away. Too many reasons to stop this—whatever this was—and go straight into my apartment before we did anymore damage. But my insides were on fire, my skin singing from his touch, and a vague ache deepened in the pit of my stomach, one that had wanted to know what it would be like to kiss Jackson again. This time without any reservations.
I squeezed my thighs tighter around him and sucked his tongue. He was every inch as delicious as I’d remembered, and even more so. No matter how desperately I tasted him, I couldn’t get enough. Unable to control my hands, I slipped them under his shirt to trace the contour of his chest and down the slope of his abdomen. Goose bumps shot up my arms when he leaned back to let me feel him, dropping his hands to find my ankles, rubbing his fingers against them in soothing, circular motions.
Sense dug its claws into me. I dragged my lips from his and pushed off his chest, landing on the heels of my hands.  “Jack—”
“Yeah, baby?” His voice was low, rough, fingers still playing with the skin of my ankles. “Tell me what you want.”
“Will you walk me up? You can stay...we can put more ice on that eye.”
He paused a beat and grazed his nose over mine and laughed, the husky sound making my fiery insides flare, his hot breath tickling my cheek. “Oh. Yeah, sure.” He drew his head back and cleared his throat. “Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself, Em. I’ve been dying to taste you for so long. I can’t get that night out of my head, you don’t even know, baby. I know you made yourself clear with where we stand and all, but I can’t—”
I pressed my fingers to his lips and pinched down to silence them. “Just come up. We don’t have to figure everything out tonight.” I dropped my hand from his mouth and gave him a peck on the cheek. My mind flashed forward to what would happen if I brought him upstairs, and my stomach fluttered as I focused in on his heady, tropical scent and his firm, strong body. Part of me wanted to play nurse, tend to his injuries, and keep a distance between us. But another part of me, a part that was suddenly filled with urgency, started to forget our friend/enemy status and steadily focus on our attraction. This wouldn’t be a casual hook-up or a friends with benefits deal, would it? What was Jackson to me, anyway? A single memory sparked and reminded me of the one thing I knew: he was the man with the blanket that night. The man with the strong arms, empathetic face, and soothing voice.
He was Jackson.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Seventh Layer Cover Reveal

The Seventh Layer
New Adult Scifi/Paranormal
(Already Released – August 17, 2012)


As if growing up Amish wasn't hard enough, Sarah Miller receives information just before her eighteenth birthday about a childhood she can't remember. Accompanied by long lost friends and a few unlikely relatives, Sarah learns of her supernatural destiny and the race to piece together the jigsaw of her life begins. Amidst the whirlwind of unanswered questions, one stands prominent: will the world meet the foreshadowing doom that lingers in the near future, or will Sarah complete the puzzle in time to save her people and ensure the continuance of mankind?

Author Bio:

Somewhere amidst her forty-hour job and playtime with her three-year-old, Rachel finds time to walk the streets of worlds only existing on manmade paper. She resides in small college town Northwestern Nebraska with her young son, just across town from her parents. She enjoys socializing with adults, sipping strawberry wine, and head banging to music that doesn't carry a beat worth the effort of rock star hair slinging.




Prologue & Chapter 1 (also available on Wattpad and Scribd)


It crept down the window like an epileptic spider, jittering from side to side, pausing ever so slightly before continuing its descent.
The rain.
It always fascinated me. I often sat on my bed at night watching it shatter against my window, then travel slowly out of sight, dancing a sorrowful waltz with the low light coming from the oil lamp on my bedside table. It mattered little if I had to be up at dawn to start my daily chores with Sister. Nothing truly mattered when it rained.
Sarah, is everything alright?” Mother stood in my bedroom doorway. She was a plain woman, light brown hair lacking radiance, dull gray eyes, and thin pale lips that almost matched the color of her near-white skin. Her cheekbones curved high beneath her eyes, the lines sharp. Almost too sharp, almost masculine. But she was a kind, gentle woman. No one could deny her that. “Sarah,” she said again when I didn’t reply right away. I looked over my shoulder at her then, grinning briefly.
Everything is fine, Mother. I was simply admiring the rain.” She smiled, but there was a flash of sadness in her eyes. I knew that sadness, but we never spoke of such things. Sadness in our community was often seen as a weakness of faith. Mother sat next to me on the edge of my bed. She smoothed down her skirt until it lay perfectly across her thin frame. Folding her hands in her lap, she let out a soft sigh.
It is a beautiful sight to behold,” she said quietly, gazing out the window. When she turned to me again, her eyes were brimmed with tears. I hugged her quickly, letting her cry silently into my hair. Three days left. That’s all we had. When she finally pulled away, she dabbed lightly at her eyes and nose with the cotton handkerchief she always carried tucked in her sleeve.
I will always remember you,” I said just above a whisper before laying a chaste kiss atop her hand. “Though I know you’ll all forget me, in time.” She started to shake her head, but she knew it was true. No one remembered, the human mind was too simple to comprehend it. I had begun to notice just over the last week that people in the community were already beginning to forget. Mainly just the ones I wasn’t in contact with everyday, but they were forgetting just the same. It seemed strange to a point. They were all I had known for the last ten years. How could anyone be in your life for so long and so quickly forget who you were entirely? Yet, somehow I knew and understood it. No one ever had to explain it to me, I just knew.
Mother tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of my braid behind my ear. Her hand cupped my cheek, warm against my skin. I watched her study my face, trying to memorize it before kissing my forehead and leaving my room. I stared at the empty doorway, my heart heavy. Three more days.
Just three more days.
I had the dream again,” I told Sister as we scrubbed the kitchen floor.
It’s so strange to me that you dream so much, Sarah.” Her tone was almost spiteful, maybe even jealous. I’d noticed over the years that either no one spoke of their dreams, or no one really dreamed. I was never really sure which was more accurate. She shook her head at herself. “I apologize. Perhaps I’m not as prepared for you to leave us as I’d convinced myself I was.”
Sister,” I paused my work to sit back on my heels and look at her. She turned her youthful face to me, looking me straight on with those enchanting brown eyes. “Sister, I can’t imagine it’s easy for anyone to be prepared for what is to come this new moon. How can you, knowing they will use meidung so that no one suspects? That is not a simple slap on the wrist, Sister. I know I can never come back, and it’s not because of meidung. But it seems to give this whole situation a certain omen, does it not?” Her face was dark as she shook her head.
The Devil’s work, they will say. Cast you out like a rabid dog. Why can we not just say you left of your own volition? Is that not satisfactory? It would be truth! I do not condone this lying for you, but the elders say that God will forgive us.” I smiled then. She had been born into the community and raised according to their beliefs. Not everyone understood why meidung was going to be enforced, not truly. Sister was still young at the ripe age of sixteen. And she was female. Two strikes against her in the community, which meant she was only told that which was required of her to know.
I went back to scrubbing the floor, falling into the silence that awaited us. It welcomed me, embracing me like a long lost child come home. It was short lived. Sister was never comfortable in such an embrace.
Tell me again about the dream, Sarah. I think I need a distraction this day.” I studied her for a moment. She looked very much like all the other women in the community. Her usual white blouse was fastened up to her neck, the long sleeves shoved to her elbows to avoid the soapy water. Her black cotton skirt billowed down to her ankles even as she knelt on all fours on the floor. Her black bonnet helped tame the runaway strands of her blacker hair, the rest trailed down to the small of her back in a tight braid. She was slightly rounder than the other women, full of hips and breast. Many whispered behind her back that she was the Devil incarnate, come to tempt all of the men into transgression. I knew she’d simply been better blessed, radiated upon by someone watching over. She puffed a strand of that obsidian silk out of her vision, glancing in my direction.
It was no different than it has ever been. I stood in an open meadow. Larger than any meadow I have ever seen, covered in the brightest wildflowers, as if they’d been freshly painted on canvas. There was nothing else in sight, just meadow and wildflower and clear blue sky. The sky was cloudless, all except that one cloud just above me. It cut out most of the sunlight, leaving the world in a gray haze. Everything seemed totally gray, lifeless. Until I laid eyes on the wildflowers again. There was a loud sound overhead, like thunder clapping. The air itself became thick, so thick it seemed I could spoon it up and eat it. Then I looked up at that one lonely cloud and it split in two. Only it wasn’t a separation of cloud, but an opening. Like a door to somewhere else, Heaven maybe? And there I saw a face, shining at me. So bright was that smile, like sunlight after a spring rain. And a hand descended, coming toward me, growing larger and larger the closer it came. I felt warmth radiating down upon me. Such heavy warmth, it made me feel disoriented. Like how Mother describes the men from the city after they’ve left a brewery. The meadow vanishes and I am wrapped in white light. I smell spices and fermented grapes. Wine perhaps. And smoked meats, such wondrous aromas! But I cannot see past the blinding light. In the distance are voices and laughter…and music. I’ve never known such joyous music! I feel my body rising from the earth, toward where I had last seen that singular cloud. And in a heartbeat, I am surrounded by the blackness of my bedroom, only my racing heartbeat to accompany me.”
Sister had stopped scrubbing, her bristle brush soaking in the sudsy water pail. She gazed at me with dreamy eyes just as though she were witnessing the dream for herself. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mother walk into the house, dirt dusting the hem of her skirt and tipping the toes of her shoes. She tramped across the nearly clean kitchen floor, purposely stomping dirt where we’d just scrubbed. ‘Twas our punishment for stopping before the chore was fulfilled. Sister shot me an apologetic look. I simply smiled at her.

Chapter 1

I don’t remember much of my young childhood. I can recall vague details of things Sister and I did together, but everything seems to begin around the age of nine. Mother says something traumatic must have happened that no one is aware of, and it’s an instinctual defense mechanism that my mind has been using all these years to protect me. I don’t know about all that, I’m no brain doctor. I do, however, have dreams about things that are unrealistic. Sure, I suppose anyone who dreams can have an imagination wild enough to conjure up some fairly ridiculous things. My dreams, however, are too real to me. I can feel everything as if it were flesh and bone, and I can see more clearly in dreamland than I seem to while I’m awake. When I was younger, I tried explaining them to Mother, but she’d laugh until she cried, and then I’d cry because she was laughing. I learned very quickly not to divulge too much to anyone after that.
When I started dreaming of the face in the cloud, I had to tell someone. Sister seemed to be the only one willing to listen, regardless of whether or not she believed it could be real. She’d tell me more often than not that maybe it was a sign that God himself was going to bless me. Somehow I knew that God, her god, wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.
It seemed so strange that I felt no connection to the god that everyone worshiped. The one everyone in the community said was the one and only god. It never felt right to me, but I knew better than to verbalize my feelings. Feelings in general, not just sadness, were frowned upon. Feelings meant a detachment from God. Detachment meant rebellion. Rebellion was a sin; one of the darker transgressions, and punishment tended to match the level of sin.
When I turned fourteen, Mother had a heart-to-heart talk with me. At first, I thought it was going to be the birds and the bees conversation that I’d heard the older girls whisper about. Instead, it was to inform me that I was not her blood. Mother was not my mother. When I was eight years of age, a very old, very crippled woman had knocked on Mother’s door. She said nothing at all, simply handed Mother the end of a rope that had been tied around my neck like a leash, then turned and disappeared.
Back then, Father was still alive. I don’t remember anything about him, and only know his face from the few framed pictures of him that remained in the house. All I know about Father is that he never seemed to smile, he was a very handsome man, though he would’ve looked better with a beard, and Sister was a spitting image of him.
As difficult as it was at first, I accepted the news with grace. In a sense, it was a relief to know that I’d not been born into the community. It had never felt like home to me, nor was it reality. I appreciated that they had taken me in under no known circumstances of my past, but they lived in a very strange world all of their own creation and I knew deep down that it would never be home. Many things quickly fell into place then. I finally understood why it secretly bothered me that Sister’s hair was black as coal and mine was the color of wildfire as it licked through a dying forest; why she had silky chocolate morsels for eyes and mine were the oddest shade of purple-blue. We were opposites, Sister and I, but she had always been my best friend.
Six months ago, I had received a letter from a small corporation in California that claimed to have known my biological father. My first instinct was to burn the letter and run from the unknown. After much discussion, Mother convinced me that it couldn’t hurt to write back. I couldn’t remember my past so if it was just a hoax, I wouldn’t really be losing anything. When another letter came, hand written by someone within the company, I knew I had to collect more information. It wasn’t the detail given in the letter of my life before the community that convinced me to inquire, but more the penmanship of the individual who wrote the letter. It was strangely familiar to me, along with the name signed at the bottom. Ambrose Alcina. My stomach flipped excitedly when I read it over and over, memorizing the way each letter sensually curved out, like a woman’s bosom straining against the fabric of her gown. They say you can profile someone just on their handwriting. I knew nothing about profiling, but I did know one thing. This man, whoever he was, knew his way into a woman's heart.
For the next several months, Mr. Alcina and I continued to correspond through our letters. He seemed genuinely interested in my life and was humored by the news that I'd been raised these last ten years by an Amish community in Southern Nebraska. Humored, but not surprised. It even seemed like old news when I'd informed him that I couldn't remember any part of my life before or even up to coming to the community.
The last letter I received, around three months ago, requested that I contact him on the telephone. After several weeks of begging and extra chores, Mother finally conceded and I ran two miles to the closest telephone shanty.
Cartwright and Hankins,” a pleasant greeting rang through. I'd never had the opportunity to learn telephone etiquette, but I'd always assumed it was no different than daily conversation. You just had to visualize the face you were addressing.
Yes, good day ma'am, would Mr. Ambrose Alcina be available, please.” I hadn't fully caught my breath, but managed to sound quite pleasant, even to myself.
May I ask who's inquiring?” Her voice was similar to the sing-song of the American Redstart birds in the early morning. Maybe not quite as high in pitch, but just as pleasantly chirpy.
Yes ma'am, my name is Sarah Miller. Mr. Alcina had requested I call, but I've been...indisposed until now.” I wasn't entirely sure that was a truthful enough answer, but then I'd never been known for always telling the truth.
Please hold.” There was a strange series of clicking sounds before soft violins commenced playing. My breathing finally evened out and I'd almost forgotten that I was on hold until the music abruptly ended.
Ambrose speaking.” His voice was like silk lightly rippling over smooth stones. He carried a light accent, though I was not familiar with any of them to make any kind of educated guess of its origin.
Good day Mr. Alcina, it's Sarah.” There was a quiet pause. “Sarah Miller? From Pawnee County, Nebraska. You'd requested I call, sir. I apologize for not –”
Sarah, yes! Forgive me, it's been several weeks since our last correspondence. I'd almost given up hope.” It was almost like he was singing me a lullaby. Such richness in his tone, deep and luscious. My body warmed through all the way down to my toes.
Yes, I apologize for the delay. Mother was extraordinarily difficult on the matter.” I heard him chuckle lightly. It occurred to me then that even his voice was familiar to me. Why did I feel like I knew this man? And why did it feel like it was a deeper knowledge than just friends or acquaintances?
Sarah, I must discuss something of great importance with you.” He sounded suddenly very serious.
Yes, of course. Anything you'd like.” My pulse stepped up a notch.
Sarah...” he hesitated. “Sarah, your eighteenth birthday is approaching, is it not?”
Yes sir, in three months time. To the day, in fact.” There was a hushed rustling on the other end of the phone. I pictured him shifting in his seat.
Yes indeed, during the new moon. Sarah, I realize that what I'm about to say to you will come as a bit of a shock, but I need you to listen closely and I pray that you can understand in full how serious this is.” I struggled to find my reply. His tone was so somber, it almost scared me. What could be so distressing? “Sarah, are you still there?”
Yes sir, Mr. Alcina. I'm sorry, I'm just a bit confused. What is it that has you so sedate?”
Sarah, listen closely. Please, please listen and understand.” That last part he said so quietly, it sounded more like a prayer to himself than anything directed toward me. “There is no time for explanations. On the morning of your birthday, you will be approached by a man by the name of Nicoli. He is a beast of a man, but he is for your protection...and transportation.” My head immediately whirled out of control. Protection and transportation? Protection from whom? From what? And where might I be going? Was it dangerous? Could I even trust this man I was speaking to? How did I know this Nicoli individual was safe? So many questions and an inoperable tongue. “Sarah?” Ambrose almost sounded as frightened as I felt.
Why?” was all I could muster. My thoughts were so chaotic, it was nearly impossible to send one little thought out to make my mouth work.
There is no time for explanations. Go back to your home and prepare. Speak to no one outside of your community. Mention this to no one you do not trust completely. Three months, and I will explain everything. I give you my word.” The line died before I could utter even a squeak.

MY REVIEW of Chica Bella by Carly Fall

This book was such a cute book. I love the story from beginning to end. A short story about a guy, Landon. Landon served many years as a Navy Seal. Seeing many people die, the images and nightmares that would not leave. Having no family made things easy to be gone for months at a time. Then Landon meets a girl, Maya. Thing didn't work out the way he wanted and had to go back to war. Not saying goodbye to her. He thought it would make things easier for her. Landon thought about Maya everyday for nine months. Finally back from war. He finds Maya. Maya has mixed feeling on how to feel about Landon. Landon not wanting to go back to war. He wants out. Maya doesn't know his plans. She loves him but don't want to give her whole heart to him in fear of losing him. Don't want her heart broken again. Knowing it will be that time when the phone ring and Landon has to leave for war. He knows he has two weeks before the call. Landon and Maya spends most of their time together. Passion heats up between them. Maya and Landon fall deeper for each other. Their future rest in the hands of his Commanding Officer Marty. Will Marty find a replacement in time before they have to deploy? You will have to read to find out. A Great Love Story.

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