Murder in Plain Sight
Summer McCloud Book 1
by Nikki Broadwell
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Just add ghosts and stir!
Summer is an amateur sleuth with the hots for a cop on the local police force. And Jerry is on her trail, but not because he wants her body.
Summer is a suspect in a murder investigation.
When Summer dons a wig and sunglasses and disappears, her best friend, Agnes, is worried--will Summer end up being another victim?
Meanwhile Jerry is seen on the news asking her to turn herself in.
Will she heed his warning?
Find out in this fast-paced sexy and humorous thriller by picking up a copy now.
Note to readers: If you are a stickler for police procedures or read a lot of hard-boiled murder mysteries, this might not be the book for you!
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“I had to come over to warn you, Summer,” she said breathlessly. “Since you don’t own a TV I figured you wouldn’t have seen the local news.”
I flung the door wide. “Come in,” I invited, closing it behind her.
Agnes was very pretty with dark eyes always lined with kohl, her lipstick varying from kiss me red to a deep maroon color. Her hairstyle reminded me of the roaring twenties with clipped straight bangs that stopped just above her eyebrows, the rest of her straight dark hair ending neatly at her chin. Her highheeled boots made her look impossibly tall as she teetered toward the couch.
“Did you run in those?” I asked, pointing to the red ankle-high boots.
Agnes looked distracted as she pulled her heavy sweater over her head and lowered herself to the couch. “What? Yes, of course I did. Come sit, Summer. You aren’t going to like this.” She patted the couch next to her.
I stared at her bare arms, fascinated as always by her beautiful tattoos. Saraswati the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and creative arts, was depicted in sinuous and colorful detail on her right arm. On her left forearm Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of compassion, had been rendered in the traditional seated position, and above her was a satyr, an oddity that didn’t really
go with the rest of them but was actually my favorite with his goat eyes and horns.
I sat down next to her wondering what could possibly have happened. I hadn’t heard any sirens and my cell phone hadn’t alerted me to any coming storms.
“Did you have a visitor in your store today, a woman who you’ve never seen before?”
I frowned, going back over my day. “There was one woman. She was kind of unusual and the book she wanted wasn’t in the database. Why?”
Agnes sat forward, turning toward me with an intense gaze. “Dark hair? Older?“
“Her name was Serena Weatherby.”
“Was, as in past tense?”
“She’s dead, Summer.”
“That’s the funny part. No one knows. There wasn’t a mark on her.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because the only clue they could find was the receipt inside the book she bought from you.”
“I think they’re going to bring you in for questioning.”
“You’ve got be kidding!”
“Jerry was kind enough to warn me.”
Jerry Brady was a man we’d both dated in the past who just happened to be a homicide detective on the local police force. I stared at her, trying to take in the situation. “Do they think I had something to do with her death? All I did was sell her a book!”
“There’s more. One of the poison recipes included in that book was authored by your mother.”
“What? I’ve never seen that stupid book before. It wasn’t even in the inventory on the computer. And why would my mother have a recipe to kill somebody?”
Agnes picked up my crystal paperweight and turned it over in her hands. “It’s a good thing I went by the station today,” she said, placing the paperweight down on the side table. “Jerry left a wool scarf at my house ages ago and I picked today to take it back. Kind of lucky, don’t you think?”
I didn’t pay attention to what she said, my mind on my interactions with Serena Weatherby. “She mentioned that I looked like my mother.”
The dark window reflected my image back to me as I attempted to collect my thoughts. I saw two lines appear between my brows. I turned away. My heart was beating a little too fast and I felt as though I might be holding my breath. “Is it possible I could be arrested? I don’t have enough money for a lawyer.” My mind hurtled ahead like a runaway train. A vision of me in handcuffs being dragged off to jail went through my mind. This was no ordinary imagining, it
was a real vision of my future and I needed to pay attention to it. If I didn’t it, I was sure it would come to pass.
“I don’t know what they’re planning. Jerry said something about a ‘person of interest’. I guess that’s what they call a suspect these days. He knew I’d tell you --maybe he wants you to lay low?”
This was the message I needed. I had to get out of here before they picked me up. I was meant to solve this. “Agnes, you’re on vacation for a few days, aren’t you? Could you watch the store?”
Agnes looked startled. “Take over Tarot and Tea? I don’t know…”
“You don’t have to sell, just be there to ring people up. Oh, and someone needs to feed the animals. And Cutty needs to be walked. You could take him to your house or maybe you could stay here?” I watched her for a reaction to all these demands, surprised when she smiled.
“And what, my little amateur detective, are you going to be doing?”
“If I tell you I might have to kill you,” I said, sotto voice, trying to make light of what I was feeling.
“Shall I say anything to Jerry?”
“I don’t want to get him involved—I’m sure it would compromise his position if he tried to help me. I have his number if I need it.”
“You’d better get to it. I have a feeling they might come tonight and if not tonight then early tomorrow. Sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. Where will you go?”
“I know a place where I’ll be safe.” I hugged her and promised to be careful.
After Agnes left, I packed a bag. Before I left I hugged Cutty. Mischief eyed me from on top of the hutch in the corner of the living room as I headed toward the back door. “Don’t worry, kitty. I’ll be back soon,” I told her. As I hurried down the dark street I heard sirens approaching. My fast walk turned into a run.
Saffron and Seaweed
Summer McCloud book 2
When the local police deny the crime and the newspaper prints nothing, Jerry and Summer realize they are on their own. But they have no idea how deep they will have to dig to find out the truth. The murder is only a thread in a web of lies that extends to the furthest reaches of political office.
Are Summer’s visions to be the only clues? Jerry doesn’t think so, his focus on good old-fashioned detective work, but when he doubts her psychic abilities the trust between them begins to crumble.
As the days pass, Jerry and Summer come to understand that not only their relationship, but their very lives are in jeopardy.
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sporting swimming pools filled with azure water sparkling in the sunlight.
As we edged closer to town the road curved away from the ocean, meandering through narrow streets filled with holiday goers. The buzz of mopeds, purr of sporty convertibles and whizz of bicyclists melded together into a clamor that said ‘weekend away’, the crowded streets slowing us to a crawl.
Here the houses were somewhat closer together but still enormous and unusual, with cupolas and glassed-in porches. Some of them had been around before cars, the carriage houses now remodeled into small cottages for houseguests. We drove by the magnificent Ocean House Hotel where room prices began at three hundred dollars and went up from there. It had first opened its doors in 1868. The newly rebuilt monolith sat on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the
view spectacular. Beyond the hotel the road narrowed and curved downhill to the right, heading by the Flying Horse Carousel, originally erected in the late eighteen hundreds, and then dropping us into the Bay Street village by the Watch Hill Yacht Club.
Jerry pulled into the parking lot and cut the engine. “What do you think? Take a walk on the beach and go for a swim?”
I brightened immediately, pulling off the hot jacket and helmet. “I have my bathing suit on under my clothes.”
He raised one eyebrow, a unique ability that I found very sexy, and then his gaze went from my T-shirt to the cut-off shorts I was wearing. “I hoped…” he began.
I knew that look and what lay behind it. “That we’d go skinny-dipping? Do you think there’s a secluded beach in this town? Look around, Jerry, and tell me what you see.”
Jerry scanned the crowded parking lot, the cars rolling slowly by the shopping strip and restaurants, the people in bathing suits going in and out of the stores and the yacht club and heading toward the cabanas. He made a face.
“Maybe there are less people out by the point.”
Napatree Point was a spit of land that stuck out beyond the harbor, separating it from Fishers Island Sound on the other side. Most beach-goers hung closer to the village where the water was calmer.
“What do we do about our stuff?” I asked, gazing down at the expensive customized leather bags he’d purchased.
“They lock, Summer. It would be pretty hard for someone to get them off.”
He looked around at the assortment of Mercedes, BMW’s, and Porsches in the lot. “And besides, who here would care to steal our stuff?”
I pulled off my T-shirt to reveal my brand new black bikini top bought especially for this trip, watching Jerry take off his leathers. He stood around six feet tall with a solid body and broad shoulders. His brown hair was windblown, his face dark from the sun. Even after a year I still got a little thrill when I looked at him.
When his gaze met mine his mouth quirked. “And what are you thinking about?” he asked, stuffing his leathers into one of the bags.
“Nothing,” I answered, looking away. Maybe it was the heat or maybe it was because we were away from Ames and all our responsibilities, but right now I wanted to run my hands all over his naked body and have him run his over mine. I thought about the privacy of water. “Let’s go,” I said, pulling him across the parking lot toward the dunes in the distance.
The sand was hot and I ran toward the surf, slowing to a walk once I reached the shallow water and sea-drenched packed sand. Seagulls wheeled in the sky above us, the calls strident as they begged for food. I saw one steal some bit of sandwich or cracker, rising into the air as a child of about five chased after it. A lot of people were out today, the high-pitched cries of children, barking dogs and the thunder of waves crashing suddenly on the beach mingling into a summer
medley in my mind. I jogged up the beach away from the crowd, heading toward the barrier beach and the point.
“Wait for me!” Jerry called, hurrying to catch up. He grabbed my hand.
A few people were meandering around the fort in the distance taking pictures. Fort Mansfield, or what was left of it, had been a coastal artillery installation built around the turn of the nineteenth century. It stood at a curve in the narrow peninsula and beyond it was Sandy Point, a thirty-five acre island that had been turned into a nature reserve. Until the 1938 hurricane these two landmasses had been connected, but now the ocean raced between them, a hazardous place for boats. Once we reached the ruins we continued on, searching for a more private place to swim.
The wind came up suddenly, whipping our hair and sending stinging sand against our skin. I bent my head and watched the sailboats coming in, sailors hurriedly bringing down the sails as they navigated from ocean to bay looking for their moorings. The staccato blast of the horn took my attention—skippers calling the harbormaster to bring them to shore.
The peninsula ended and I raced down to the beach away from Jerry, plunging into the cold water. He was right behind me and I heard his shocked cry as he dove in. We swam out beyond where the waves were breaking and then floated lazily on our backs for a while until Jerry grabbed me and pulled me under the water.
I opened my eyes as he pressed against me, our lips meeting in a kiss.
Everything was green and translucent, sunlight slanting through the water and casting rippling shadows across our skin. We bounced together as waves moved past, our bodies undulating loosely like flotsam. I could hear the deep muffled rumble of the waves, see the tendrils of my honey-colored hair waving like seaweed, feel Jerry’s body bumping against mine. His leg hooked around one of mine as his hands moved under my bathing suit top. I felt it slip off and drift
away. We rose to the surface laughing and gasping.
“My top!” I yelled, trying to locate it. Jerry grinned as I dove to find it. I let the waves take me closer into shore hoping it was being washed along with me, but when I reached the beach I didn’t see it. I searched in the shallows, trying not to expose myself, but when I looked around there were no people close by. I giggled when I felt Jerry’s leg press against mine, turning to grab him, but when my fingers closed around something squishy I let out a shriek that could have been heard back in Ames. It was not Jerry’s leg. It was the arm of a person who was very dead.
Jerry swam toward me. “What’s the matter?” His gaze went from my horrified expression to the body at my feet. The woman looked almost alive as she moved gently in and out, slack limbs undulating as the tide rose and fell. But the grayish cast to the skin, the bluish lips and the tangled hair filled with seaweed told a very different story.
Black and White and Red All Over
Summer McCloud Book 3
When Summer has a visit from a ghost she’s left wondering...could someone long dead actually heft an assault rifle?
Along with the furor over the murders, Summer is falling for Jerry again, despite his obvious deranged state of mind. Add to that the upcoming wedding between Sam and Agnes, and include a smattering of ghosts and possible psychopaths to the guest list, and you have a recipe for disaster.
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The turn-of-the-century Victorian building had been a project of Agnes’s since the fall and now it was nearly completed. I was pleased that all the ghosts wandering around town could finally settle into their new/old digs. Douglas, a ghost and also Agnes’s father, had remarked to me earlier today how glad he was. “The place is just the way it was nearly one hundred years ago,” he’d told me when he came into Tarot and Tea. He would know, I’d thought to myself, trying to suppress a giggle.
In truth, I had no idea how old the man was, only that I liked him very much and that he had an elegant and old-fashioned way about him. He and Agnes’s mother, a woman who’d been murdered here in Ames two years ago, had reconnected just before her death. Agnes still spoke about Serena Weatherby in hushed tones, gasping over the enormous inheritance Serena had left her. I figured she and Sam would buy some mansion to live in once they were married.
I only hoped they would stay in Ames and not move to some swank section of New York too far away for me to visit. But then again I had a hard time imagining Sam quitting the police force. Being a detective was his life.
Douglas and Serena, Agnes’s parents, had loved each other and apparently conceived a child after Douglas left the land of the living. Even with my own burgeoning psychic abilities I found this revelation disturbing. I wondered why Serena had never appeared to any of us after her demise. I had yet to ask Douglas if he ever saw her.
A hundred guests were coming to the wedding, Sam’s friends and family who made up a cast of thousands, as well as Agnes’s college friends she’d lost touch with who were now married with children. She told me she was hoping to reconnect now that she was about to join them in the respectable institution of matrimony.
Agnes had always been a free spirit and that’s why we’d become such good friends. This new side of her, that seemed to think that getting married placed her in an entirely different social stratum, bothered me greatly. She was my best friend and I relied on her to continue in that regard. We still went to our monthly coven meetings on the full moon, and I hoped we would continue to do so after her marriage.
We had consumed half the bottle by the time Sam arrived, his expression grim.
“What’s wrong?” Agnes asked, jumping up from the couch.
He rubbed a hand across his clean-shaven face. “There’s been an incident,” he began, slanting a glance toward me. “There was a shooting a couple of hours ago at Riverview Elementary.”
My mouth dropped open in horror. These school shootings had been happening all over the country but I never thought they would occur in our sleepy village of Ames, Connecticut. I clutched my glass and tried not to see the ravaged faces of the poor children.
“Five kids and three teachers were shot today,” he continued, slumping onto the couch. “It was a bloodbath.”
Agnes’s pale face turned whiter than usual, tears welling in her eyes. She sat next to Sam and turned toward me. “Summer, have you seen…?”
I knew what she was referring to and shook my head. Ghosts often talked to me but I had had no visits, at least not yet. “What happened?” I asked Sam, girding myself for what he would say.
“Some maniac came into the school with an assault rifle and just shot up the building. We have no motive, no name, and no understanding of where the shooter came from and or why he or she did what they did.”
“Which teachers?” Agnes asked in a small voice. We both knew several teachers at the elementary school.
“Linda Moser and Gabby Cozens were killed—Maggie Johnson was shot but survived.”
Agnes let out a wail. “I know them!”
“I do too,” I said, moving next to her. She turned to face me and then we hugged, both of us in tears.
“None of the witnesses can remember what the shooter looked like or even if it was a he or a she. I find that odd, especially since two other teachers and Maggie witnessed the entire thing, not to mention the other twenty children who were in the classroom. The only thing they said was they thought the person had brown hair.”
“Well, that narrows it down,” I said.
Sam shot me a look. “It’s a start and we have a sketch artist working with the witnesses.”
“Linda and Gabby were coming to the wedding,” Agnes said, pulling away to look at Sam again. “Did they die quickly? Don’t tell me,” she said a second later, holding up her hand. “Do you think we should postpone the wedding?”
“The wedding is over a month away, Agnes. I’m sure this will be wrapped up by then. And even if it isn’t I don’t think we should.” Sam took hold of her hand, twining his fingers through hers. “I’ve got to get back to the police station. Jerry and I are leading the investigation.”
So he and Jerry were partners again. Last I’d heard Jerry wasn’t even back to full duty. But then again it had been months since his mental collapse after the last case we’d worked on together. I wondered if the chief had insisted he see a therapist.
“And Summer, you may be called in.”
“Your psychic skills. The chief mentioned you during our planning meeting.”
I shook my head. “Unless one of the ghosts contacts me I can do nothing. It isn’t like I go into a trance and know what happened.”
“Sorry to hear that,” he said, regarding me with a somber expression. He kissed Agnes before he stood and headed for the door. “But please let me know if you dream anything or one of them visits you. We could really use some help on this one.” He opened the door and closed it behind him. I heard the squad car start up and then the squeal of one of the belts as he put it in gear and headed away.
I felt ill as I pictured Linda and Gabby lying on the classroom floor in a pool of blood. They were both my age, late twenties. It suddenly occurred to me that I was turning thirty this year, a milestone I wasn’t looking forward to. But then I thought of them again, their lives cut short, and I mentally reprimanded myself.
And Gabby had a little girl, Mary. Was her child one of the five victims? And what about Maggie—did her boy survive? I raced to the door and flung it open, but Sam was long gone.
Summer McCloud Book 4
Finlay Ross McCloud, a ghost in the Ames graveyard, has sent her on this fool's errand, his facts confused. And when Summer discovers the truth she's already in over her head.
Will she succumb to the charms of the handsome highlander she can picture running across the moors in a kilt, or will she pull herself away before it's too late?
Find out in this fast-paced romantic tale of love and loss.
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I entered the rocky uneven section of the graveyard through a small creaky gate, my gaze going to the ancient gnarled trees that looked like skeletons waving their arms in the breeze. The waxing moon was close to half full, the gravestones casting elongated shadows across the silvery ground. Limbs complained as they rubbed together, sending dry leaves swirling to the ground,
where they moved and spun like something alive. Ghost-like shapes flitted here and there, shimmering for a moment before disappearing again.
Why had I decided to come here? But just as I turned to leave, Cutty gave a sharp bark and I saw my ghost. The lower half his body was in shadow, the upper half, bright in the moonlight. He looked corporeal where he sat on the edge of the gravestone, a smile of welcome on his face when he saw me. I moved toward him, stumbling on rocks and roots.
“Hello,” I began, not knowing what to call him—Mr. McCloud? Finlay?
The last time I’d seen him he hadn’t said anything. Could he even speak?
That question was answered when I heard him say, “Hello, lass,” in a deep brogue. “I hoped ye would return.”
“Time means something to you?” I asked, moving closer. He was dressed as he had been the last time, his clothes varying shades of gray in the moonlight.
“Time is of no importance where I am. But seein' ye here before brought me into your world. I had something to say to ye that night, but you and your man got away before I had the chance.”
I sat on the edge of the gravestone next to his, watching Cutty sniffing around his feet. My dog looked up at him and gave a little woof. “Cutty can see you? How is that possible?”
He shrugged. “Animals are far more sensitive to the departed than humans. Ye happen to be a special case, lass.”
“Did you know we’re related?” I asked him. “I’m a McCloud too.”
“Aye. ‘Tis why I wished to talk with ye. Judging by how I’m stuck here, it seems my death needs to be resolved before I can move on.” I stared, surprised. “I’m not a detective.”
He chuckled. “I saw ye here that night diggin’ up some old bones to solve yer case. I heard ye talkin’ to yer copper. The two o’ ye were in it up to yer eyeballs. ’Tis nae as though I can go to the local constabulary and ask them to solve it.”
“For your information there weren’t any bones in the casket. All we found were rocks.”
He laughed. “’Tis naught to me, lass. I am merely pointin’ out yer proclivities.”
“But if you were murdered it was a long time ago. The person who did it is long dead.”
He nodded, reaching down to rub Cutty’s ears. His fingers went right through. Cutty wagged his tail. “It will be a merry chase for ye, to be sure. It all started back in the Highlands. ‘Tis where ye’ll need to begin.”
“Scotland? Are you kidding? I have a business to run and no money for a trip.”
“County Sutherland in the Highlands, to be exact,” he continued, ignoring me. “Up in the northwestern corner. Canna rightly remember it now, but there’s a castle, and…” He stopped and scratched his head. “Stones…built of gray stone, ye ken.”
“If you were killed there, why are you here in Ames?”
He frowned, seeming confused. “The murder must have happened here. But whoever did it was from the old country.”
“How do you know?”
“Must have been the manner of it. The only part I recall is that it came from behind,” he said, his dark eyes puzzled.
“So you think maybe someone snuck up on you from behind and stabbed you. Is that it?”
He brightened, as though my words brought it all back. “Now ye have it…a cowardly way to kill a man. Must have been a lad from the Highlands who had a bone to pick.”
I laughed. “A bone to pick? Sounds a bit more than that. Who did you piss off?” He stared at me, uncomprehending.
“Sorry—who did you anger enough to make them want to kill you?”
Finlay suddenly looked around, his eyes widening. “Must gae now. Make yer plans and we’ll talk again.” He disappeared, leaving me staring at his headstone. Cutty whined.
I clipped on the leash, my senses picking up some entity that I did not want to tangle with. There was a glow on the other side of the graveyard, and I noticed that any other ghosts who’d been hanging around had disappeared. I wondered if it could be the guy who killed Finlay. I shivered and hurried through the little gate and jogged toward home.
The Night of the Jaguar
Summer McCloud Book 5
Akumal is beautiful, but without Jerry, Summer's hopes of sunbathing, margaritas, and rolling around in bed together, are ruined.
But it's the dead body in the cenote that clinches it. Jerry is working on a case that he never mentioned, and Summer is left out-- that is until she decides to do a little sleuthing herself.
Even with the help from ghosts and a jaguar Summer is out of her depth. And when her life is put in in danger it is up to Jerry to save her. Will he make it in time?
Find out by reading this fast-paced supernatural thriller.
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When a gunshot rang out my mind went as blank as the cloudless sky. I ran for my life.
How I had come to be out in the middle of Mexico running from banditos trying to kill me was a question I couldn’t even ponder at the moment. My legs were tiring, my heart rate way above anything resembling normal, and when I glanced over my shoulder I saw two bulky men heading my way on foot, guns drawn.
Jerry, you bastard! The words that rang through my mind were not the best way to think of the man I’d just married—and where was he now that my life was about to be ended by two thugs in riot gear?
This entire scenario was Jerry’s fault, and if I lived long enough to see him again I would murder him with my bare hands. Why in god’s name had I said yes? A bullet winged my ear—blood trickled down my cheek and along my neck as I felt the ground give way. A moment later I was falling into darkness, my fingers clutching at air. I hit the water and sank.
I've traveled a lot over the years, finding inspiration wherever I go. Scotland holds a special place in my heart, hence the setting for "The Moonstone". I had to make a 4th trip there to do research as I was putting the book together!
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I have astral traveled—only once, but it was enough! (terrifying)
Something really interesting that’s happened to me:
I lived in Berlin as a child, during the time the wall between east and west Berlin was going up (my father was army) I ran away and couldn’t seem to get very far because the bridge I went over had a chain link fence in the middle of it! I peddled home after that and no one had even missed me! *sigh* such was my childhood.
Facebook groups who won’t answer my questions. Dog owners who yell, kick or harass their dogs. Hunters who kill for the fun of it.
Ten favorite authors or books?
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Steinbeck—Peace Like a River, all of Iris Murdock, The Night Circus (fabulous) Daughter of the Forest series by Juliet Marillier, MJ Rose, Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. C.S. Lewis. Joanne Harris Blackberry Wine.
What inspired me to write these books?
I was working on a serious story about my father and mother and his life in prison camp—it was emotionally exhausting and I began a little fantasy story to relieve my stress using a couple of writing prompt words—three books later I came up for air!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am keeping up with several series—the 5th in my Summer McCloud ghost mystery series is in progress, I’m considering a 3rd coyote book, (shape shifters) and my time-traveling witch series is just taking off—2 is nearly completed and it leads into a third.
Do you have any side stories about the characters?
I have interviews with the characters from Moonstone. Will be sharing on my blog, www.nikkibroadwellauthor.com--click on blog at top of page.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Diplomacy first, good education with low costs, and healthcare for everyone. Jails would still exist but there would be less people in them because of services provided for rehabilitation and education—EPA and environment would be top priorities. Those in the highest income bracket would pay higher taxes to pay for these services for less wealthy individuals.
Describe your writing style.
I write from the seat of my pants—no outlines. This has worked for me through 17 books, the one I’m working on now the first exception. I usually begin with a sentence that comes to me—like: ‘beware of darkness’. Kind of like a writing prompt. The characters usually take over sometime around page thirty.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I like to drink wine, I walk with my dog, I do yoga—I also enjoy watching sci-fi and fantasy series on TV and, of course, I love to read!
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