Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blog Tour: Siren's Song by Heather McCollum




SIREN'S SONG
By: Heather McCollum
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Published By: Spencer Hill Press


Goodreads Summary: Jule Welsh can sing. She enthralls people with her bel canto voice. But it takes more than practice to reach her level of exquisite song; it takes siren's blood running through her veins. Jule is starting her senior year at Cougar Creek High when her relatively normal world begins to resemble a roller coaster flying through a carnival scare house. Her mother is diagnosed as insane and committed, a psycho-stalker is snapping pictures of her to put into his homemade Jule-shrine, her voice is suddenly putting people into comatose trances, oh and the gorgeous new guy in town, Luke Whitmore, is interested in her . . . but also wants to kill her.




~ EXCERPT ~

Luke stands next to me, and I swear I hear him inhale again. Tendrils of excitement take root in the simple brush of his arm against my hair. My heart pounds and my stomach back-flips. To hell with apathy! I spin toward him and barely control my gasp at his closeness. I lean back slightly so I can focus on his face. Time to take the offensive.

“So what? You were interested,” I throw up little quotation marks with my fingers, “the other night. But now you’re ignoring me?”

“It’s complicated.” He stares into my eyes as if willing me to just take his word for it.

I nod and repeat. “It’s complicated.” I frown. “Life’s complicated, or hadn’t you heard?”

He almost smiles. “I’ve heard that, actually.”

“So what’s so complicated that you’re not interested anymore?” Ah, the big question. I should get points for kick-ass bravery.

He shakes his head, sending the thick, perfectly casual mane swinging around his strong jawline. His dark, blue-black eyes catch mine again with an intense, hooded look. “Interested?” A low chuckle comes out more like a growl and I feel a prickle spider-walk along my shoulders. “More like obsessed.”

I blink. Did he just say he’s obsessed? With me? “O-okay. Lost here.” And a little creeped out.

“It’s better that way.” He turns to his locker and grabs a lunchbag. He walks away.

“Hey.” I can’t just let him go when he is finally sort of talking. “Did you bring me dinner last night?” A blush heats up my neck into my cheeks.

He turns back with a smile. “You like mushrooms. My mom makes a killer lasagna.”

“So, you broke into my house, fed the dog, left dinner, and turned on the lights for me. I almost called the police.”

He leans back against the lockers and glances at the ceiling like he is beseeching heavenly help. “I want to…I need to make sure you are…taken care of.”

My eyes narrow as I try to understand his words. “And you have decided to take on the assignment? Why?”
A sad smile touches his mouth as his head rolls across the lockers so he can look at me again. “I believe I mentioned being obsessed.” His face suddenly seems tired, older somehow, like he has lived a long time and is tired of the whole thing, like he is hopeless.

“How old are you?” I ask.

“Seventeen.”

“How long have you been seventeen?” I know it’s a ridiculous question, but my heart slams in my chest and I hold my breath, waiting for his answer. There is just something strange about him, something dark, and yet I’m drawn to him, want to know all about him.

He laughs and this time the smile reaches his eyes. “Since last October thirty-first.” He steps closer to me. I freeze as his warm palm cups my cheek, covering the whole expanse. “See, I’m warm.” He drops his hand. “And I eat lasagna, too. Lots of it.”

October thirty-first? Halloween? “Your cousin, Taylin, her birthday is October thirty-first, too.”

Luke’s smile fades and his gaze moves to a spot on my forehead, like he can’t look me in the eyes. “It’s complicated, Jule.” His eyes move down to meet mine. They are narrowed, fierce and sad again. He drops his voice even though the hall is virtually empty. “You and I,” he shakes his head, “we shouldn’t be together. I’m…dangerous.”

“You leave a dry towel for me on the porch, but you’re dangerous?” My eyes are narrowed right along with his now.

Luke swallows and glances away. “I can’t go into it. Just know that we,” he looks back, “we can’t be together, ever.”




~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~



Heather McCollum is an award winning, historical paranormal romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology from the University of Maine, much to her English professor’s dismay. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart Finalists.

The ancient magic and lush beauty of Great Britain entranced Ms. McCollum’s heart and imagination when she visited there years ago. The country’s history and landscape have been a backdrop for her writing ever since. She currently resides with her very own Highland hero and three spirited children in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.


Find Heather McCollum Online:
Author Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter




~ GIVEAWAY ~


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Monday, March 17, 2014

Blog Tour: Siren's Song by Heather McCollum




SIREN'S SONG
By: Heather McCollum
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Published By: Spencer Hill Press


Goodreads Summary: Jule Welsh can sing. She enthralls people with her bel canto voice. But it takes more than practice to reach her level of exquisite song; it takes siren's blood running through her veins. Jule is starting her senior year at Cougar Creek High when her relatively normal world begins to resemble a roller coaster flying through a carnival scare house. Her mother is diagnosed as insane and committed, a psycho-stalker is snapping pictures of her to put into his homemade Jule-shrine, her voice is suddenly putting people into comatose trances, oh and the gorgeous new guy in town, Luke Whitmore, is interested in her . . . but also wants to kill her.




~ MEET JULE AND LUKE ~

Jule:

  1. Her mother is an opera singer and has recently been committed to a mental health facility.
  2. Jule’s voice is rich, beautiful and, lately, has the ability to entrance people.
  3. Jule is starting her senior year at Cougar Creek High School in Summit, North Carolina where she will star in the school’s production of Phantom of the Opera.
  4. Jule is an only child and lives in an old house across from a new subdivision. She loves to sit on her wrap around porch with her dog, Mica.
  5. Jule loves lasagna and the smell of lilacs.
  6. Jule has a birthmark in the shape of a dragonfly on her chest.


Luke:

  1. Luke has recently moved to Summit from Boston.
  2. Luke’s father was a pro hockey player and is now the coach for the local NHL team.
  3. Luke is very close to his “cousins” Matt and Taylin and all three of them have the same birthday, 31 October.
  4. Sometimes it looks like Luke has tattoos wrapping around his arms that look like dragons.
  5. Luke is fluent in French and can speak Scots-Gaelic.
  6. Luke has a hard time controlling his temper at times.





~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~



Heather McCollum is an award winning, historical paranormal romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology from the University of Maine, much to her English professor’s dismay. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart Finalists.

The ancient magic and lush beauty of Great Britain entranced Ms. McCollum’s heart and imagination when she visited there years ago. The country’s history and landscape have been a backdrop for her writing ever since. She currently resides with her very own Highland hero and three spirited children in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.


Find Heather McCollum Online:
Author Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter




~ GIVEAWAY ~


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Monday, February 3, 2014

Cover Reveal: Milayna by Michelle Pickett

I'm very excited to share this new cover with you! Milayna blends romance and adventure into angel lore, and I can't wait to read the story behind this gorgeous cover. And now, without further ado, I present MILAYNA by Michelle Pickett!



From the bestselling author of PODs comes an unforgettable tale of action, intrigue, and following your heart in the midst of betrayal.

It’s hard being good all the time. Everyone needs to be bad once in a while. But for seventeen-year-old Milayna, being good isn’t a choice. It’s a job requirement. And it’s a job she can’t quit. Born a demi-angel, Milayna steps in when danger and demons threaten the people around her, but being half angel isn’t all halos and happiness. Azazel, Hell’s demon, wants Milayna’s power and he’ll do anything to get it. But he only has until her eighteenth birthday, after which she becomes untouchable.

With the help of other demi-angels, Milayna thwarts the trouble Azazel sends her way. Fighting with her is Chay. He’s a demi-angel who's sinfully gorgeous and Milayna falls hard. But is Chay her true love...or her nemesis in disguise?

Because when she learns of a traitor in her group, there’s no one she can trust…not even the one she loves.




About Michelle Pickett


I'm a wife, mother, author, reader, although not always in that order. I've been an avid reader since a young child. I began writing for personal enjoyment in college, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in accounting. Why I chose a degree that didn't encourage creativity is a mystery to me.

I'm addicted to Reese's peanut butter cups and eat way too many while I write. I have a weird obsession with hoodies and can't write without wearing one. I hate to cook, but love to watch cooking shows.

I'm an unabashed romantic and love swoon-worthy happy endings that give me butterflies for days.

Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, I now reside in a small community outside Houston, Texas with my incredibly supportive, not to mention gorgeous, husband, three amazing school-aged children, a 125-pound lap dog, and a cat that thinks she's queen.

I write adult and young adult Sci/Fi, urban fantasy and paranormal romances.

I love to hear from readers and other authors, so drop me a note and say "Hi!"

Find Michelle Pickett online:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads




Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cover Reveal: Breathe for Me by Rhonda Helms

I'm very excited to be one of the blogs participating in this cover reveal! Breathe for Me sounds unique and fascinating, and I can't wait to read the story behind this gorgeous cover. And now, without further ado, I present BREATHE FOR ME by Rhonda Helms!



Isabel’s been cursed since the Middle Ages.

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage, she made a hasty bargain with a demon, asking for liberation from an oppressive husband-to-be and the excitement of travel. But the demon’s “gift” came at a steep cost. Each time he moves her to a new city, her memory’s wiped. No one can touch her bare skin without injury or even death. And she sees the lifespan of every living being (and is, in fact, immortal herself).

All a constant reminder that she’s different than other teen girls.

But New Orleans seems to accept her as she is. She has friends and a real life in this quirky, hot city. Then Isabel meets Dominic, whose deep soul and strong character draw her to him. Her growing love gives her the courage to confront the demon, insisting the curse be broken. But the demon’s price for freedom is much, much higher than she could possibly give.




About Rhonda Helms


Rhonda Helms started writing several years ago. She has a Master's degree in English and a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. She also edits for Carina Press (an imprint of Harlequin Publishing) and freelance edits.

When she isn't writing, she likes to do amateur photography, dig her toes into the sand, read for hours at a time, and eat scads of cheese. WAY too much cheese.

Rhonda lives in Northeast Ohio with her family.

Find Rhonda Helms online:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads




Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cover Reveal: Elements of Mind by Walter Hunt

I'm very excited to share the ELEMENTS OF MIND cover with you! This is an exciting urban fantasy novel coming July 8 from Spence City.



In Victorian India, a Scottish doctor, Dr. James Esdaile, finds a way to use the power of mesmerism to aid him in performing surgeries, using a remarkable artifact that enhances his abilities. The revocation of the promise to bring the artifact to Rev. William Davey, the head of the secret Committee of English mesmerists leads him to commit suicide in the center of the Crystal Palace . . . but that is only the beginning of the story.

Davey's pursuit of the object leads him across two continents, unfolding the story that has its origins two decades before - and reveals the secret world of the -chthonoi-, the elemental spirits that were banished from human lands in antiquity, and now want to find a way to open the Glass Door and reassert themselves in the world of men.





Find Walter Hunt online:
Website | Blog | Facebook


Friday, December 20, 2013

#BIR2013: Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey and Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally



ASHES ON THE WAVES
By: Mary Lindsey
Published By: Philomel
Release Date: June 27, 2013
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.

With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make a wager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial — and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem Annabel Lee, Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.


From the very first page I was transported to the mystical island where the love story of Liam and Anna unfolded. There were Poe quotes at the beginning of each chapter that set the stage and told the story in their own way, and out of them grew a wonderfully tragic narrative. The writing is both lyrical and vivid, and everything about the island came to life in a story that I didn't want to put down. Despite everything that happens, there is always an undertone of hope, reinforcing the idea that love never dies. I hated turning the final page, because even though I knew that the story was over, I still wanted more.




THINGS I CAN'T FORGET
By: Miranda Kenneally
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…


In this book, through Kate, Miranda Kenneally tackled the tougher issues about how to decide who you want to be - not just who, but what kind of person, questioning long-held beliefs, and the self-discovery that can only come when you're in a different environment from that in which you were raised. Kate's time at camp reminded me not only of my own summers spent at church camp as a child but also the first time I was away from home and surrounded by people with vastly different backgrounds from myself, and how I changed as a result. I enjoyed watching her journey and was glad to see her find something that worked for her. Of Miranda Kenneally's three books, Things I Can't Forget is a definite favorite.

"Does being in love mean forgetting everything you know? Or is it about folding that love into your life? Because right now, I have no idea how to balance that.

Love weighs a million pounds."




Be sure to check out the Best I've Read blog to find more amazing books featured this week!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#BIR2013: Dare You To by Katie McGarry




DARE YOU TO
By: Katie McGarry
Published By: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Series: Pushing the Limits (#2)
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does...

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all...




"How many more of us are faking the facade? How many more of us are pretending to be something we're not? Even better, how many of us will have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what others think?"


Dare You To was packed with emotions, making the read quite a journey. I loved peeling away the layers of the characters and of the story to get to the beautiful essence underneath. Beth’s character absolutely broke my heart, but Ryan mended it. Katie McGarry has a knack for writing real, gritty, but ultimately unforgettable love stories. This book made me think about the course of my life and the nature of love all while reading about characters that came to be like friends.

"That must be love: when everything else in the world could implode and you wouldn't care as long as you had that one person standing beside you."




Be sure to check out the Best I've Read blog to find more amazing books featured this week!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#BIR2013: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi




UNRAVEL ME
By: Tahereh Mafi
Published By: HarperCollins
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2013
Series: Shatter Me (#2)
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: tick
tick
tick
tick
tick
it's almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.




Hope.

It's like a drop of honey, a field of tulips blooming in the springtime. It's fresh rain, a whispered promise, a cloudless sky, the perfect punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.

And it's the only thin in the world keeping me afloat.


When I finished Unravel Me, all I could think is that there aren't enough words to describe this book. It took me a long time to compose any kind of coherent thoughts on the book, and it isn't often that I read something that leaves me so speechless. If you can think of good adjectives or adverbs, chances are that they can describe Unravel Me. Just like in Shatter Me, the writing is beautiful, the characters are complex, and the story is compelling. I was amazed by all the emotions that Juliette was able to give voice to throughout the story. More than once I found myself reading something and having to pause to reread and absorb the words on the page because a feeling had been captured in writing so perfectly.

"Because sometimes you see yourself - you see yourself the way you could be - the way you might be if things were different. And if you look too closely, what you see will scare you, it'll make you wonder what you might do if given the opportunity. You know there's a different side of yourself you don't want to recognize, a side you don't want to see in the daylight. You spend your whole life doing everything to push it down and away, out of sight, out of mind. You pretend that a piece of yourself doesn't exist.

You live like that for a long time.

For a long time, you're safe.

And then you're not.




Be sure to check out the Best I've Read blog to find more amazing books featured this week!


Monday, December 16, 2013

#BIR2013: Golden by Jessi Kirby




GOLDEN
By: Jessi Kirby
Published By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: Love, tragedy, and mystery converge in this compelling novel from “an author to watch” (Booklist).

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

So much for normal.




"Where so many sunset paintings look peaceful and calm, melancholy is woven into every brushstroke of this one. It's a twilight image of the familiar dark razor peak silhouettes of the Minarets, looking icy and stoic. The only warmth in the painting comes from a barely visible sliver of golden light behind the mountains. The last of the sun. Above that the sky pales, then deepens to violet, faintly lit by a delicate wash of stars and the tiny sliver of moon. It's a skyline I've fallen asleep looking at most nights of my life, but the feeling in it is so lonely and sad it's hard to believe it's the same one."


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" This question, a quote from a poem posed by Parker's English teacher, resonates throughout the book. As the story unfolds, Parker is constantly confronted with this question, almost like a challenge - from her mother, who expects a certain answer, from her best friend Kat, who wants Parker to take a chance, from the pages of Julianna's diary, as Julianna begins to find her own path in life, and finally from herself, and she realizes that she doesn't have to have her life set in stone already. Parker is such a relatable character. Throughout the book I felt like I was reading not only about my high school self but also the person that I am now. Golden made me think in a way that few books do. I loved everything about this story, from the Frost quotes and references at the beginning of each chapter and scattered throughout the story to the diary entries from Julianna. Orion is definitely swoon-worthy, and Trevor adds some humor to an otherwise deep and poignant story.

What makes Golden so moving isn't just the story itself, but how it is written. Jessi Kirby writes scenes and interactions that are beautiful, heartbreaking, sweet, touching, and just perfect. Between her way with words and the descriptions she gives, she manages to evoke all of the feelings. Once again she's written a book that will make you think, make you want more, make you cry, but in the end make you smile. This book will be one that I recommend to everyone.



Be sure to check out the Best I've Read blog to find more amazing books featured this week!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Blog Tour: The Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A. Jones




THE OBSIDIAN PEBBLE
By: Rhys A. Jones
Release Date: Oct. 29, 2013
Published By: Spencer Hill Press


Goodreads Summary: 11-year old Oz Chambers lives in a haunted house (Penwurt). His mother wants to move, but Oz would rather do double algebra (yuck) every day for twelve months than leave. Where others see spooky, Oz sees wonder and mystery and aching reminders of his deceased dad. When he and his friends hear ghostly footsteps in the boarded-up dorm at Halloween, it leads to an exploration of the old place's eerie reputation. In his Dad's locked study, Oz finds a parcel addressed to him and posted the day before his father died. Inside is the obsidian pebble, the link to all of Penwurt's astonishing secrets. Suddenly Oz begins to change; he goes from maths dunce to A student overnight and has to deal with suspicious teachers and jealous pupils. But the footsteps in the locked rooms don't go away and slowly, Oz begins to knit together the strands of lies and mystery that tie the obsidian pebble, his father and him together. What Oz hasn't bargained for is that he's not alone in that search for understanding and that solving Penwurt's puzzles lead to other, much darker secrets that will test his loyalty and his bravery to the limit.





~ EXCERPT ~



Award winning author (OMG) Rhys A. Jones writes fantastic, funny, scary mysteries for ages 10 and up. His job is to take you where anything is possible. When he isn't writing he walks the dogs and occasionally practices medicine. He lives in an evergreen valley in West Wales with his very understanding wife.

Garret and Eldred Antiques was not in the main part of town. They had to wind their way through a couple of shopping arcades, past the Seabourne International Arena, and walk the length of St Beade’s Street to a less familiar area. Here, what once had been a thriving shopping area now had an abandoned, slightly scruffy air. Ruff, who always seemed to know his way about, led them past a shut-up pub and down a dingy side street where every other property had “for sale” signs in the windows, until at last they stood outside a double-fronted shop, where an old-fashioned sign hanging from a brass pole above the door indicated their destination. The grimy shop window was overflowing with dark furniture, bric-a-brac, stuffed animals in glass cages, and books, all coated with thick layers of dust.

“You’re sure this is the place?” Oz asked doubtfully.

“Garret and Eldred,” Ellie said, pointing to the sign as she pushed open the door.

An old-fashioned brass bell above the door rang as soon as they entered, but once they were in, the large room fell into a dusty, murky silence. Inside, it was even more jumbled than the shop front had suggested. Over in one corner, behind a hurdy-gurdy machine, lurked a taxidermy array with foxes and weasels piled on top of birds and fish. In another, Oz saw a tower of ornately decorated chamber pots, and in between was a minefield of occasional tables, old chairs, wall clocks and bed heads. But that was only as far as Oz could see, because the shop seemed to stretch back for a considerable way.

“Where do we start?” whispered Ellie.

“Perhaps if you indicated what it is, exactly, you are after, I might be of assistance,” suggested a voice from the shadows.

Ellie, Ruff and Oz all turned at once. Tucked behind a huge mounted moose head sat a wizened old gentleman, immaculately dressed, with a red spotted bow tie and a pair of half-glasses bridging his nose. He perched on a stool at a small workbench lit by a single desk lamp. Spread out on the bench, on a white cloth, was a bewildering array of tiny cogs and springs and shiny metal cases and glistening pearl dials. The man smiled and stood up stiffly. He wore a clean, navy-blue apron with “Garret and Eldred, Watchmakers and Purveyors of Fine Antiques” emblazoned on the breast. He moved towards them with some difficulty, eyebrows arched in enquiry.

“Uh, well, we’re actually looking for a dress clip brooch,” Ellie said.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place, my dear. We have a large assortment. Now let me see, do you have a particular style in mind?” He moved past them and Oz smelled a pleasant waft of after-shave, reminding him of cut grass and heather. They followed him deeper into the shop to a bank of glass cases. The shopkeeper ran a bony finger along the brass mouldings on one of the cases and peered at the faded label stuck to the glass. “Dress clips, yes. Here we are.” He looked up. “A gift, is it?”

Ellie and Oz replied at the same time. Unfortunately, Oz said, “No,” while Ellie said, “Yes.”

Ruff made eyes to the ceiling and said, “Sort of.”

“I see,” said the shopkeeper, amused. He seemed well-used to muddled shoppers. “Well, there’s more than enough choice here. I’m sure you will find something suitable. We have six trays of dress clips in this case.” He beamed up at them. “My name is George Eldred, by the way, and I am familiar with where most things are in the shop. Just ask if you need any help.”

“We do,” Oz said, deciding to take the bull by the horns. “We saw something advertised online—”

“On the interweb?” asked Mr Eldred. “My nephew has been helping me, you know. Amazing what you can do these days.”

“We saw a black scarab brooch.”

“We have quite a few of those,” said Mr Eldred knowingly.

“But this one had a missing clip.”

“Ah.” The shopkeeper held up a finger. ”That would be in the imperfect tray.” He leaned over very slowly and pulled out a tray from the very bottom of the glass cabinet, while alarming popping sounds emanated from his knees and back. He straightened gingerly, his face a grinning mask of effort, and laid the tray on top of the cabinet. It was completely full of black, scarab-like shapes.

“Do you mind if we look?”

“Help yourselves,” said Mr Eldred.

It took them ten minutes to find it, mainly because everything was covered in dust. But when Ellie held it up and gave it a quick polish, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was the exact same item pictured on Oz’s laptop. Oz peered at the tiny label attached to it.

“How much?” Ruff asked in a whisper.

“Five pounds,” said Oz, pleasantly surprised.

“You can have it for four,” said Mr Eldred magnanimously from the workbench, where he’d gone back to sit.

Ruff, who had seemed a little on edge even before coming into Garret and Eldred’s, said, “Right, I saw a secondhand game shop on Gavel Lane. There were some real bargains in the window. I’ll meet you outside in about ten, okay?”

“Him and his bloomin’ Xbox,” Ellie said huffily as Ruff hurried away.

“Mr Eldred,” Oz said as he watched the shopkeeper carefully wrap the dor in some tissue paper, “have you any idea where this came from?”

“I know exactly where it came from. I know where everything in this shop came from. But I need to know who I’m talking to before I divulge that sort of information. Can’t be too careful, you know,” he said sternly, but his eyes twinkled as he spoke.

“Oz Chambers,” Oz said, holding out his hand, “and this is Ellie Messenger.”

“Delighted to meet you, Oz and Ellie,” said Mr Eldred. “The curse of working here for sixty years is that I remember every purchase and sale.” He held up the scarab brooch. “This came to us from a spinster who had recently inherited a property in Seabourne. The previous owner had been a collector and had not catalogued things very well. I remember going up to the house to evaluate.” He looked off into the distance. “Such a lovely property. Her name was Miss Millichamp, and the address was…now, what was it? I can see it now, used to be an orphanage at one time…”

“Penwurt, Number 2 Magnus Street,” Oz said in a flat voice. “And the lady was Bessie Millichamp.”

“Exactly right,” said Mr Eldred, smiling with delight. “Do you know it, by any chance? Not long ago, I sold a clock to a very nice man who lived there; it was also part of Miss Millichamp’s clear-out. I always felt the clock belonged there, myself. Now, what was the man’s name?”

“Chambers,” said Oz, feeling a knot of excitement tighten in his stomach.

“Chambers, that’s it. Nice chap. Very knowledgeable. Is he an acquaintance of yours?”

“Sort of,” Oz said truthfully.

“May I ask why it is that you want this particular brooch? Professional interest, you understand. I mean, it is of an unusual design, I’ll admit. But we have far nicer ones for the money. And they might even have a clip attached.”

“It’s exactly the right—”

“Colour,” said Ellie quickly. “It’ll match her shoes exactly.”

“Ah, an accessory. I see,” Mr Eldred’s smile was indulgent.

“Did great aunt Bessy sell you anything else?” Asked Oz, trying to sound as casual as he could.

“Oh, let me see,” Mr Eldred massaged his chin in concentration. “Of course, we were not the only valuers she contacted, but I think there were a couple of bracelets and four pairs of earrings, some of them really quite nice. One of them pink pearl if I recollect. Then there were a handful of brooches, not valuabe, but of some interest to collectors of the unusual, like you two clearly are.” His eyes twinkled.

“But you don’t remember her selling you a pendant?” Oz persisted.

“A pendant? No, I don’t recall anything of that nature, why do you ask?”

The little bell above the door tinkled. Oz looked around to see a man in an overcoat enter the shop. He turned towards the collection of stuffed animals immediately so that Oz didn’t see his face.

“My, my, turning into quite the busy afternoon,” Mr Eldred chuckled, his eyes crinkling. “If it’s pendants you’re after, of course, we have a splendid collection.”

"No, it’s okay,” Oz said quickly. “I was just curious.” He was suddenly very conscious of the fact that the person who had come into the shop, who still had his back to them, would be able to hear, quite clearly, everything that was being said.

“Ah, yes, understandably so. Well, there you are.” Mr Eldred handed over the tiny parcel and gave Oz his change.

Outside, Ellie and Oz headed back the way they’d come.

“So this definitely comes from Penwurt. Do you think Morsman found it somewhere?” Ellie asked.

“He must have. Maybe Great Aunt Bessie didn’t know what it was. If Morsman died suddenly, perhaps he hadn’t had time to sort things out, or leave a will or something. Shame someone came into the shop. I could have asked more questions.”

“Let’s have a look at it in daylight,” Ellie said, pointing at the parcel.

Oz stopped and was about to undo Mr Eldred’s wrapping, when they looked up and were surprised to see Ruff coming back to meet them, walking quickly.

“Shut, was it?” Ellie asked.

Ruff shook his head, making large eyes at them. “You should see that place,” he said, with loud and exaggerated delight. “It’s brilliant.” And then, without moving his mouth, he added in a low voice. “Do not open that parcel. Just shut up and follow me, no questions asked.”

He turned and began describing just how brilliant the game shop was again as he hurried up the street. “It’s got a copy of Wolf Ripper 1. I loved that game.”

Three minutes later, they stood in the sparsely stocked shop. It looked run-down and almost about to close.

“Are you completely mad?” said Ellie, looking about her with obvious distaste. “This place is rubbish.”

“Just hang on,” Ruff said as he positioned himself so that he was half-hidden behind a rack of tacky birthday cards near the window. He picked one up and moved his head so that he could look out into the street through the gap the card left in the stack. When he was happy, he pulled Oz and Ellie around behind him. “Look,” he said, pointing out to the almost empty street.

“Lovely,” Oz said. “Does that fish and chip shop do curry sauce?”

“Next door to it, you buzzard,” hissed Ruff. “The charity shop. Red and black coat.”

Oz and Ellie peered through the space in the card rack and as they did, the door to the charity shop opened and a familiar figure emerged and looked up and down before staring directly across to where Oz, Ellie and Ruff were hidden.

Oz gasped. “Lucy Bishop?”

“Almost bumped into her when I left Garret and thingy’s,” Ruff explained quickly. “She pretended not to see me and veered off. But I’ve been watching her. She’s just hanging about, waiting.”

“For us?” Ellie said.

“I’d put a cheese and ham nine-inch baguette on it,” Ruff said, ducking back down as Lucy Bishop sent a glance across towards the shop.

“You think she knows we went to Garret and Eldred’s?” Oz asked, perturbed.

“Must have seen us go in.” Ruff nodded.

“Bet she goes in and asks him what we bought,” Ellie said.

“I told you she’d been acting funny around me,” Oz said, his mind now racing. ”But why is she following us?”

“Obvious, I’d have thought,” Ellie said. “She’s probably after the artefacts, too.”

Oz wanted to scoff at this suggestion, but there didn’t seem to be any other explanation that fit. “I’ll have to hide the trinket box and the dor,” he said suddenly. “Soon as we get back to Penwurt.”

“Why don’t we split up and meet later? Try and throw her off the scent,” Ellie suggested.

They stood in the run-down shop discussing their options. It was Oz who finally came up with the plan. He realised that it was likely to be him, more than anyone else, Lucy Bishop would follow. He quickly gave the dor to Ellie and, in hushed tones, explained what he had in mind.



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