Decoy Valentine by Shannon Kent

Blurb:

FROM FAKE RELATIONSHIP TO TRUE LOVE
A broken engagement drives Susanna Kelly back to her hometown of Sweetheart, Texas, and the arms of its quirky, lovable citizens. But her peaceful return to her roots is shattered when heart-shaped notes with sinister messages start appearing. The support of Daniel Sheppard, Asian American bestselling author and her childhood friend, gives her a much needed ally amidst the turmoil. He offers to play the role of her boyfriend to discourage the stalker, but Susanna resists. Pretending to be a couple? And with Daniel of all people? Who would buy it? 
The note writer’s mind games force her to reconsider. Susanna accepts Daniel’s crazy plan, but the make believe romance has the opposite effect intended. Harmless notes turn into life-threatening accidents, and Daniel and Susanna must find out who’s behind the chaos before they can decide if their temporary relationship is a heaven-sent gift meant to last forever.

Excerpt:

Daniel waved the pink paper in front of her nose. “What’s going on, Zanna?”

“Why were you digging around in my apron?” She snatched the note from his hand and turned her back. “It’s none of your business.”

“That’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.” Daniel stepped in front of her. “Anything that involves you is my business. We’re not just friends.” He paused with a grin. “We’re each other’s backup. We signed a contract, remember?”

“Backup?” Susanna’s mouth twisted in disbelief as she crossed her arms. “We were ten.”

“The contract was for life. Signed in blood.” Daniel shivered. “I didn’t want to, but you insisted. You even brought the safety pin.” He stepped closer and placed a hand over her crossed arms. “Don’t lock me out, Zanna. If you have even the tiniest trouble, I’ve got your back.”

Her lower lip trembled. He spotted the tears before she covered her face with her hand—the pink paper clenched in her fingers.

“It’s so stupid.” Her hands muffled her voice. “I don’t even want to talk about it. But they keep coming.”

“They?” Daniel reached over and pulled her hands down to hear her better.

“The notes.” She bent her head to rub an eye against her shoulder and sniffled. “They started three weeks ago. I thought it was a prank. Or a secret admirer.”

“What did they say?”

“Nothing too awful. They didn’t make much sense.”

The wind shook the tree branches above their heads, clacking the spindly twigs against each other. A high-wheeled truck with mud splashes on the rims drove down the street. Its headlights blinded them, and they turned away from the glare.

“Where did you find the notes?” Daniel asked.

“Everywhere around the café. On the front door. The trash can out back.” Susanna rubbed her hands up and down her arms. “That’s when it started getting creepy. They showed up out of nowhere. In fact—” She looked up at him. “Did you notice anyone in the kitchen while I went outside with Buck? Maybe through the back door?”

“The kitchen? No.”

“Did anyone come in the café while I was gone?”

“No one.”

Susanna held up the note. “I found this in the dining room after the breakfast rush.” She dug her other hand in her pocket and withdrew an identical paper. “And this was in the kitchen under a bowl.”

Daniel took the new paper and read it. His gaze jerked to her face. “Expiration Date?” He studied Susanna. The purest, kindest person he knew. Only a sick whacko would torture her like this. He crumpled the note in his fist. “This doesn’t sound like a secret admirer. More like a stalker.”

“Stalker?” She grabbed the lapel of her jacket and tugged it across her body. “In Sweetheart, Texas? That kind of stuff doesn’t happen here.”

“Weirdos aren’t confined to the big city, Susanna.” Daniel shoved the wadded note in his jacket pocket.

She gave a pitiful small laugh. “Now who’s overreacting?”

“What about the fire?”

She averted her gaze. “The fire chief said it was an accident.”

“The fire chief doesn’t know about the notes. If he did, he might have a different opinion.” Daniel set the cake box on top of a nearby bench and took out a small book and pen from his jacket pocket. “Tell me everything you can remember about the notes. When did they start?”

“Almost three weeks ago.” Susanna twisted her hands together. “It was a Monday morning. I found the first one on the front door when I came to work.”

“Did you only find them at the café?”

“Yes.”

“How many notes have there been?”

Susanna unzipped her purse and dug around until she found a plastic bag with a thick bunch of notes inside.

Daniel’s eyebrows shot up. “That many?”

“I numbered the papers and wrote the date I found each one.”

“Your penchant for organizing things finally came in handy.” Daniel took the bag and opened it. Holding up a note, he read, “Please pay attention. Don’t cause dissension.”

“That was the first one I found on the door. It didn’t make much sense so I threw it on my desk in the back and forgot about it.”

He moved to the next note in the stack. “Someone cares about you. It’s too good to be true.” He flipped the paper over to check the date. “Two days later.”

“Yes. They were spaced out more in the beginning.”

Daniel turned to the next one. “Oh, Suzy-Q. What’s wrong with you?” He checked another. “Love is a dangerous game. If you lose, you’re to blame.” His jaw hardened the more he read.

Daniel crammed the notes in the bag. “I’ve seen enough. Let’s go to the sheriff.”

“What?” Susanna took a step back. “I don’t think that’s necessary. It’s probably a practical joker.”

“That’s why you kept them all and dated them?” He held up the bag and shook it. “Admit it. This terrifies you.”

“Okay. It’s disturbing. But I can’t go running off to the sheriff. At least not now.” She took the notes and returned them to her purse. “The cake auction starts in half an hour. How about tomorrow? The café is closed on Sunday. I’ll go after church. Deal?”

Daniel looked down the darkened street. He didn’t like it. But this was her decision. All he could do was stay close and make sure she was safe.

“Zanna, someone is watching you. He knows when to leave the notes so you won’t see him.”

Her shoulders bunched as she looked around.

“That’s right. He might be spying on us even now. Why are you downplaying it?”

She moved closer. Her eyes raised to his. “Because I don’t want it to be true. I don’t want something that ugly and scary anywhere near me. Near my home. Near my memories. I don’t want to walk down this well-known, comfortable street and have to look over my shoulder every minute.” Her voice cracked. “I don’t want things to change.”

Daniel wrapped his arms around her. He tugged her close. Her hands slipped underneath his coat and encircled his waist. She burrowed her face against his chest like she was begging him to hide her. His heart twisted at her vulnerability.

“Don’t worry, Zanna.” He pulled the sides of his coat to cover her in a soft cocoon. “Your backup’s here. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

His stomach tightened, even as he said the words. He scanned the street. Paper mâché hearts hung from the lampposts and white lights strung around iron benches and store windows. A romantic wonderland. But somewhere a villain hid. Ready to spoil the fairy tale setting. Could he keep his promise and protect her?

Dear God. He raised his eyes to the sky. What should I do?

A thought popped into his mind, but it didn’t seem Heaven-sent. It seemed crazy, even to him. His brain flashed through the other options, but he kept returning to that first idea. Susanna needed round-the-clock protection. His scenario was a little unusual. Even over-the-top. But it might discourage more than one unwanted man in Susanna’s life.

He cleared his throat and moved back. “I have a suggestion. Buck’s been bothering you. And you never know when the next note is going to appear.”

“Thanks for recapping my terrible day.” Susanna tugged at the scarf around her neck.

“I’ve got the perfect plan.” Daniel almost lost his nerve. He took a deep breath and went for it. “Let me be your valentine.”

“What?”

A cowardly inclination urged him to play it off. Say it was nothing. Instead, his mind shot a quick prayer to Heaven, and he dived into the deep end.

“I said you should let me be your valentine.” He swallowed. “Your boyfriend. Then everyone will see you’re taken.”

Susanna stared for a full five seconds. “Are you plotting another novel? That’s crazy!”

“Why is it crazy?” 

Her face scrunched, and her head tilted. “You’re kidding, right? We’ve been friends since forever. No one would buy it.”

“That’s exactly why they’ll buy it.” Daniel turned the argument around. “Give the town twenty-four hours, and everyone will brag that they always knew there was something more than friendship.”

“How long have you known me?” Susanna lowered her head and looked up at him through her eyelashes. “I’m a terrible liar.”

“Then don’t lie about it.” It popped out before he’d sent the words through his friend filter. Daniel pasted on an easy smile to hide his confusion.

“What do you mean?”

She had that same look on her face like she used to wear in Algebra class. Totally lost. He had to tread carefully. Too much pressure would spook her.

“I mean we make it official.” Daniel locked his hands behind his back, and hoped he looked relaxed instead of awkward. “Make me your real boyfriend and then it won’t be a lie.”

Buy link:

Buy your copy here.

About the Author:

Shannon Kent gains inspiration for her novels from her many travels around the world. She holds a special place in her heart for South Korean culture and loves to infuse her stories with a Kimchi-flavored spice. Her other two romances are Flower Boy Tour Guide and Reality Show Romance.

You can follow her at Facebook.com/shannonkentauthor.

Giveaway:

Shannon has graciously offered to give away an eBook copy of Decoy Valentine to one commenter.
Winner of the eBook: CONNIE QUEEN

Rocky Mountain Revenge Blog Tour

Rocky Mountain Revenge on tour with Celebrate Lit. Read how I came up with the idea for the story and enter to be in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card a copy of the book.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 9

Through the Fire Blogs, December 10

Genesis 5020, December 10

Sara Jane Jacobs, December 11

Simple Harvest Reads, December 11 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

For the Love of Literature, December 12

Lighthouse Academy, December 13

Connie’s History Classroom, December 13

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 14

Reviewingbooksplusmore, December 14

Inklings and notions, December 15

Betti Mace, December 15

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 16

deb’s Book Review, December 16

Texas Book-aholic, December 17

lakesidelivingsite, December 17

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 18

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, December 18

For Him and My Family, December 19

Pause for Tales , December 19

Artistic Nobody, December 20 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

SusanLovesBooks, December 20

Splashes of Joy, December 21

Ashley’s Bookshelf, December 21

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 22

Daysong Reflections, December 22

Northern Protector by Laurie Wood

Today I’d like to introduce you to my friend Canadian romantic suspense author Laurie Wood and tell you a little bit about her latest novel Northern Protector.

Isn’t this a gorgeous cover?

Northern Protector Blurb:

Constable Ben Koper is still healing from the polar bear attack that almost killed him. Nine months after it happened, he returns to Churchill, Manitoba, a changed man—scarred more than just physically. PTSD is his new shadow, haunting his every step, and he can’t seem to kick the pain meds he shouldn’t need anymore. He’s determined to prove, to himself and his colleagues, that he’s still up to his job. Failure isn’t an option.

ER nurse Joy Gallagher spent the entire last winter texting with a healing Constable Koper. What started as friendly concern from this single mother has grown into full-fledged romantic feelings, and she’s eager to level up their friendship and introduce him to the idyllic comfort of small-town life. Until a teenager is murdered at a summer party. The crime is strikingly similar to the cold case murder of Joy’s foster sister, stirring old trauma Joy has never fully dealt with.

When another victim is snatched in town, Ben and Joy must confront their own demons, and join forces to track down an elusive killer. The race to rescue the next victim before it’s too late will test Ben and Joy to their limits. Can they survive their encounter with this heinous killer, or will the past destroy them?

Excerpt (Chapter 1):

CONSTABLE BEN KOPER PULLED HIS POLICE truck over to the side of the road across from Ruby’s Café & Emporium. His first day back at work in nine months, and already he was running late. He slammed the truck into park and stared up and down Kelsey Boulevard, on high alert for any movement between the buildings. 

Last November, a polar bear had attacked him in this exact spot. He hadn’t been back to Churchill since then. Goose bumps skittered along his arms. Rationally, he knew that bears had been spotted along the coast and probably hadn’t made it into town yet. But his anxiety and the acid in his stomach told his brain a polar bear could be anywhere, now that the sea ice had melted. 

Ben grabbed his mobile phone with the coffee orders on it and stepped out of his truck, pulling his baseball cap down to his sunglasses. He slammed the truck door and strode to the pavement of Kelsey Boulevard. The rest of the street sat quiet, while Ruby’s 6:00 a.m. crowd was hopping with its early morning breakfast specials. He could see people eating at tables through the huge front plate-glass window. 

When he hit the middle of the street, his heart sped up, jackhammering in his chest. His feet refused to move past the centre of the road, like he’d struck an invisible wall. Adrenaline shot through his limbs. His vision tunneled into black holes. Sweat poured down his back and gathered on his forehead. He put his right hand on the grip of his service weapon, trying to get some equilibrium. His throat closed, and he leaned over with his hands on his knees. Deep breaths.  

Deep, deep breaths Trying, trying… 

Dan Sherman, his therapist, sounded in his head. “Look for five things around you to centre yourself. Repeat them to yourself. Then count them down one by one.” 

Panting, beads of sweat rolled down the right side of his face over his scarred eyebrow and ear. All he could see was the concrete road and small rocks littered about.  

There’s nothing but the road. Concrete, rocks, concrete, rocks… 

He needed five things. His boots wouldn’t move. He stood hunched over in the middle of the street, trying not to throw up his meagre breakfast. No other objects around; nothing else to see. His feet… he couldn’t move his feet. 

Running shoes, white and pink running shoes… Where did they come from? 

“Ben? Ben,” a lilting, female voice broke through his fog. “Are you okay?”  

A hand touched his shoulder, his sore right shoulder, and he flinched. Finally. He could move. He reared his head up and collided with the face belonging to the voice. 

“Ow.” The woman let go of his shoulder and grabbed her nose while he staggered sideways. 

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he stammered. He reached forward to steady himself with his right hand but dropped his phone on the ground with his other hand. The woman dove for the phone and swiveled around to give it to him.

Buy Links:
Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3femV6Y
Amazon.ca:    https://amzn.to/2KfyoYq
Anaiah Press: https://bit.ly/3pGPrD6 (Print copies)

Laurie Wood lives in Central Canada and writes inspirational romantic suspense with an edge of danger. She’s also a military wife who’s raised two wonderful special needs children to adulthood. They’ve lived all over Canada and are still on that journey. When she’s not writing she can be found at her spinning wheel, knitting, or hanging out with her dogs in the garden. She loves to hear from readers and always replies so feel free to get in touch with her.

Connect with Laurie on Social Media:
Website: https://www.lauriewoodauthor.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/lauriewoodauthor
Twitter:      https://twitter.com/LaurieJeanWood

Giveaway:

As part of this blog tour, Laurie is giving away the complete e-book set of her “Heroes of the Tundra” series to one lucky reader (USA and Canada only). Enter here for a chance to win.

Additional Stops on the Blog Tour:

December   4: Rosie Somers            http://www.rosiesomers.blogspot.com

December   7: Sally Shupe               http://www.sallyshupe.blogspot.com

December   7 : Toni Shiloh                https://www.tonishiloh.com/blog

December   8: Preslaysa Williams  http://www.preslaysa.com

December   8: Melony Teague       http://www.melonyteague.com

December   8:  Jenn Pierce              http://www.jenniferpiercewrites.com

December 9:  Christina Sinisi         https://www.christinasinisi.com

December 10: Sherida Stewart     http://www.SheridaStewart.com

December 11: Sharee Stover        https://shareestover.com

December 14: Patti Jo Moore      http://catmomscorner.blogspot.com

December 15: Nola Lorraine        https://www.nolalorraine.com.au/

December 16: Catherine Castle   https://catherinecastle1.wordpress.com/

December 17: Joy Avery Melville  http://www.joyaverymelville.com/

Jackie Layton’s Latest Book

Book three in Jackie Layton’s Low Country Dog Walker series releases on Oct. 30th, and I couldn’t wait to share a bit of the mystery Andi Grace and her friends get tangled in this time.

Does one good turn deserve a murder?

Despite all her good intentions to focus on a healthy lifestyle and leave crime solving to the professionals, Andi Grace Scott has run right smack into another investigation—literally. Who’d have thought caring for stray cats and a healthy morning beach run could lead to murder?

Andi Grace has found another body and a young woman who needs help. Solving this puzzle will come with a cost. This time, catching the killer will require Andi Grace to confront her past relationships and truths about her deceased mother.

Excerpt:

The sheriff dug a little notepad out of his shirt pocket. “Consider
this a preliminary interview, but I need to speak to each of you
separately. I may have more questions later. Who first?”

“Andi Grace, you go ahead.” Marc reached for Sunny’s leash and
attached it to her harness. Our hands touched, and tingles danced up my
arm.

Every day I made decisions about my life and business. For years
I’d stood on my own two feet, but when it came to the law, I appreciated
Marc’s support. The sheriff had grown up in the area and even attended
high school with me. Still, I didn’t want to give him a reason to arrest
me—again.

Wade clicked his pen. “Andi Grace, tell me what happened.”

I took a deep breath and silently counted to ten in French as I
exhaled. What details could I report? “There’s not a lot to tell. Marc and
I were running with the dogs, and we found Tabby’s body. End of story.
Where’s your Toughbook?” After two murders in Heyward Beach, I’d
learned the sheriff liked to use his small computer when solving crimes.

“At the office. It’s too sandy out here to risk destroying the thing. Is
there anything else you remember?”

“We passed a few other runners, but they were dressed in athletic
gear. Nobody looked suspicious. There was a boat out on the water.” I
crossed my arms. “I feel like Tabby might have been killed on the beach.
I’ve been watching crime shows, and her body isn’t bloated. Dirty, yes,
but not ruined by the salt water. Although I do think the tide reached her
body.”

Wade shook his head. “You’re not investigating Tabby’s death, but
for kicks, explain your theory to me.”

“I didn’t spot blood on the stones, and one shoe is missing.” I
pointed to the structure designed to protect the shore from erosion and
to trap sand. Not to ensnare dead bodies. “It’d be easy to imagine she
slipped and struck her head on the boulders, but maybe she was killed in
the sand. It’s possible her body drifted to the groin and stopped there, or
she could’ve been dragged so we’d believe she’d fallen. Depending on
when she was killed, the tide would wash away the drag marks and
footprints.”

“Duly noted. Do you need to tell me anything else?”

I racked my brain but came up empty. “No, that’s all.”

“Good. I want to make sure we’re on the same page. We’ll
investigate and determine if Tabby Malkin’s death was an accident or
murder.” He pointed his pencil at me. “Are we clear?”

“Yes.” I wouldn’t argue and try to defend my past actions. “You’re
the sheriff, and your department plans to solve the murder.”

“First, we’ll determine how she died.”

Preorder Your Copy Today:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/34NtLvv

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/y3f8g2vt 

Bares & Noble: https://tinyurl.com/y4crbcnf 

Google: https://tinyurl.com/y4a6gwu6 

Meet Jackie Layton:


Former Kentucky pharmacist Jackie Layton loves her new life in the Low Country. When she’s not writing, Jackie enjoys walks on the beach, bike rides and collecting shells. The first two books in Jackie’s Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series are Bite the Dust and Dog-Gone Dead. Jackie always enjoys hearing from readers. 

I asked Jackie to tell us a little about her hobbies and this is her response:

Rhonda, when I go on vacation or even leave town, I always want to check out the local bookstores. I enjoy discovering the local authors in the area I’m visiting, and I always buy something before leaving the store. If I go to an estate sale, I also look for books. Finding an autographed book is even more exciting. I also love to find Bibles that have been written in by the owner. I had a huge book collection before we moved from Kentucky to South Carolina. Downsizing meant I had to give away some of my beloved books, but you’d probably laugh if you could see my bookshelves now.

That sounds like my kind of fun, Jackie!

Find Jackie at the Following Places on Social Media:


https://jackielaytoncozyauthor.com/
http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com
Twitter: @Joyfulje
https://www.facebook.com/JackieLaytonAuthor
https://www.facebook.com/Joyfuljel
https://www.pinterest.com/jackielaytonauthor/
https://www.instagram.com/jackielaytonauthor
https://amzn.to/2Z8VsMp

Theresa Hall’s Debut Love Inspired Suspense Novel

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Theresa Hall and share with you her debut Love Inspired Suspense novel which released this month.

Accidental Target

On an icy road in the dead of night what she sees might get her killed.

Allison Moore can’t deny what she sees—a lifeless hand sticking out of a tarp in the back of a crashed pickup truck. Seconds later, she’s on the run with a murderer on her heels. Nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted…except police sergeant Jackson Archer. But with someone set on silencing her, can Jackson keep his promise of protection?

Excerpt from Accidental Target:

“These guys won’t stop till you’re dead.”

He regretted telling her but there was no denying the facts. Facts he had to keep to himself. The dead woman she’d seen was a DEA agent, and the man in the truck was a cartel member, a cold-blooded killer. Now that Allison could ID him, she had a hit on her.

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Allison. I promise.”

“Jackson, I’m terrified.”

Before he could reply, headlights closed in on them. An oncoming vehicle on their side of the highway. Jackson veered onto a side road and watched the car make a U-turn.

“Get down!”

He floored the accelerator but the vehicle followed them. A gunshot hit the car. Allison screamed.

He had to get her away. But this road led to a dead end—in more ways than one.

“Can you shoot?”

“No.” Her eyes widened with fear.

“Tomorrow I’ll show you how. For now, you’re getting the crash course.”

“What if we don’t make it till tomorrow?”

Get Your Copy Today!

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Harlequin

Barnes and Nobel

Walmart

Meet Theresa

Theresa Hall is an award-winning author of Christian fiction whose stories include military, law enforcement, and first responder heroes. As a native Texan, she loves to write suspenseful stories that happen in small Texas towns with old fashioned Southern values. She’s also a first grade teacher who loves to cook, read a good suspense, and binge-watch episodes of Dateline and Discovery ID. She is a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America) and ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

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