Friday, September 8, 2017

Deadly Sins: Wrath SNEAK PEEK!

DEADLY SINS: WRATH
SNEAK PEEK: Chapters 1&2



CHAPTER ONE
  
Wrath (n.) Extreme anger, rage, fury, outrage, vexation, annoyance, crossness

It had been the dinner date from hell, the longest twenty-seven minutes of Madison “Maddie” LaFoe’s life. Before the appetizer had even made its debut, she had come to a decision: she was done with Brandon—completely. A convenient opportunity to escape her current predicament presented itself when he’d scooted his seat back, stood, and said, “You know where the toilet is in this joint?”
The joint Brandon referred to was actually a five-star Italian restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City. And from the moment he’d entered—dressed in a pair of faded jeans, a gray T-shirt with not one but two nickel-sized stains on the front, and filthy, worn tennis shoes—it was clear he didn’t fit in.
Maddie faked a grin and pointed. “The bathroom is around the corner on the left.” 
He tipped his head in her direction. “Great, I’ll be right back.”
He tossed his napkin onto the table, pivoted, and walked away, the rubber soles on his shoes squeaking so loudly on the hardwood floor that several patrons of the restaurant flashed disapproving looks his way. He was too busy staring at a painting of wild horses hanging on the back wall to notice.
Take your time, buddy. Take all time you need.
Watching him walk away, Maddie was shocked at how far off the mark her assistant had been when describing him. Her assistant had said Brandon was six-three, muscular, and funny. In reality, his look was oafish and sloppy, his humor dry, his intellect deficient—a far cry from the sophisticated gentlemen she usually dated.
The second he rounded the corner, she’d snatched her handbag off the back of the chair and stood, making a beeline for the front door. In seconds she was outside and free, rid of him forever. She leaned against the building and inhaled a hearty lungful of the city’s brisk winter air.  
            Never again.
            No blind dates.
No blind dates ever again.
She slid a hand inside her pocket, unwrapped a piece of gum, and popped it into her mouth. She walked toward her car, contemplating which of Brandon’s less-than-stellar traits she found more repulsive—his obsession for telling dumb-blonde jokes despite the fact she was a platinum blonde, or the fact he couldn’t make it five minutes without verbally slamming his ex-wife.
The man was a crazy ass.
She cupped a hand over her mouth, giggled.
Crazy ass.
Good nickname.
She clicked her key fob and the car door unlocked, but before she could step inside, a familiar sound echoed from behind. 
            Squeak, squeak.
            Shit.
            No.
            No, no, no.
            Brandon was charging toward her. “Maddie! What the hell! Mind explaining where you’re going?”
            Isn’t it obvious? Where does it look like I’m going?
            She faced him. “Leaving, Brandon. I’m going home.”
            He crossed his arms, tapped a tennis shoe on the ground. “I don’t get it. We were having a great time together. Why?”
            She thought about giving him the Look, I’m sorry, you’re a nice guy spiel, but why would she? She wasn’t sorry, and he wasn’t nice.
“We’re not a good match,” she said. “And I don’t see any point wasting your time or mine.”
            “So … what? You just decided you’d walk out without saying anything?”
            “I planned on texting you when I left.”
            He grunted a laugh. “You were going to text me? Wow, because a text would make ditching out on me all better, right?”
            His sarcasm gushed like an overflowing dam, and she detected a shift in his eyes. He was embarrassed, but he was also angry.
She opened the car door, said nothing.
He balled his hands into fists, clenching his jaw. “Oh, so you’re done talking now too? Really? You have nothing more to say?”
            Civility had never been Maddie’s strong suit, and she was fresh out of decent, appropriate ways to soothe the sting of her rejection. “If you need me to be the jerk in this situation so you can feel better, fine. I’m the jerk. Goodnight, Brandon.”
            She ducked inside the car, but was whipped backward when Brandon grabbed her arm and yanked her toward him. He slammed the car door closed and then thrust his body against hers, pinning her between him and the car.
            He pressed a finger onto the center of her forehead. “You don’t get to humiliate me and then get in your car and drive away.”
            “Back off me, Brandon. Now.”
            Back off me, Brandon,” he mocked. “You girls always think you’re so tough.”
            Tough.
            He had no idea.
            “Last warning,” she said. “Back … off.”
            “Or what? Whatcha gonna do?”
            Plenty.
            She grabbed hold of the back of his T-shirt, bundled it into a cross grip, looped it around until it tightened around his neck, and squeezed, allowing his shock of the chokehold she’d created to settle in before ramming a knee into his groin. He stumbled backward, tripping over himself and falling to the ground. He cupped a hand over his crotch, howling like his private parts had just been severed from his body.
Maddie knelt over him and blew an impressive bubble with her gum, popping it in his face. “It’s called jiu-jitsu if you’re wondering. And if you’re going to keep dating, you need to come to grips with one important fact—women aren’t weak.”
He pressed a hand to the ground, tried to stand up. “You … you!”
She shoved him back down again. “I’m leaving now, and if you’re smart, you won’t try to stop me this time. Oh, and for the record, you were a terrible date.”  
  
CHAPTER TWO

Maddie revved the engine of her royal blue 1968 Chevy Camaro and peeled out of the parking lot. She glanced in the rearview mirror, pleased to see Brandon still sitting on the asphalt, sulking.
What a night.
The story was too good to not to share.
She pressed on the car’s touchscreen, selected the first number on her favorites list, and listened to the phone dial.
            “Hello?”
            “I had the worst date of my life tonight, Sloane,” Maddie said.  
            “Why? What happened?”
            Maddie filled her in on the details, pausing after she’d finished. “You’re quiet. Did you hear everything I just said?”
            Sloane said, “Yes,” and then burst out laughing.
            “Hey,” Maddie said. “It’s only funny because it didn’t happen to you.”
            “Oh, come on. It’s a little funny, isn’t it? Whose brilliant idea was it to set you two up?”
            “Laurel. You two haven’t met. I hired her a couple weeks ago to assist me in the lab.”
“What happened to Ron?”
“He moved last month. He’s working for a coroner in Chicago now.”  
            “Why would Laurel set you up with a guy like Brandon?”
            Maddie sighed. “I’m guessing she doesn’t know what he’s like. She told me he was a friend of her husband.”
            “Well, on the positive side, you were in and out in under an hour at least.”
            Bright lights beamed through Maddie’s rear window, flashing on and off and then on and off again.
            “Hey, Sloane, I better go.”
            “Is everything okay?”
            “Yeah, I’m fine. There’s a lot of snow on the road, and the car behind me is trying to get frisky. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Maddie ended the call and did a quick glance over her shoulder. The other car was even closer, but the headlights were solid now, emitting a constant stream of light. She sighed, wishing she’d checked the weather report before heading out earlier. If she had, she would have known to drive her SUV instead.
The road shifted, the single lane becoming two.
Finally.
Maddie drifted into the right lane, hoping the other vehicle would pass. It was large and beefy, a truck from the looks of it, which suggested the driver could be Brandon. The assumption dissipated when the truck accelerated, running parallel just long enough for her to see it was white and run-down. Brandon’s was new and black. 
It wasn’t him.
The truck cruised on past, tires spitting chunks of snow onto Maddie’s windshield as it shifted into the right lane in front of her. She needed distance. Now. She took her foot off the gas pedal and slowed her car down, maintaining the lower speed until the truck was so far in the distance the fog shielded it from view. It pained her to drive so slowly, but in ten minutes it would all be worth it. She’d be home, running herself a bath, with a book in one hand and a full glass of wine in the other.  
Even though the storm was in full effect, the blustery scene outside had a serene element to it, the thick flakes of snow evoking a peaceful calm within her. She stared in wonderment for a moment, her eyes shifting back to the road when the truck came into view again. She was shocked. She thought he’d be long gone by now.
The driver slammed on his brakes as if trying to avoid hitting something in the road, and Maddie swerved, jerking the steering wheel to keep her car from colliding into the truck’s backside. But she’d turned too fast. The car spun around, then slid off the road, diving into an embankment. Maddie’s face smashed into the steering wheel, her car coming to an abrupt stop.
Disoriented, she tried making sense of what had just happened. Pain spread across her face, throbbing like the constant beat of a drum.  
Come on, move.
You can do it.
You’ve got this.
She peeled her head off the steering wheel, leaned back on the headrest, and opened her eyes. From her vantage point, the front of her car had been crushed. She’d have to get out and inspect it to know how bad, but right now, simple movement was a stretch.
For the moment, she was alone on the road.
The driver of the truck hadn’t bothered to stop.
She ran a hand across her face. It was wet and sticky. A gash on her forehead trickled blood down her face. She pressed a finger in the center of the storage compartment where she kept change. It popped open. Grunting in pain, she reached inside, took out her cell phone, and pressed the redial button.
            “Sloane … I … I think I’m in trouble.”
            “What do you mean? What’s going on?”
            Headlights.
            Another car coming down the road.
            “Hang … hang on.” Maddie switched her hazard lights on and watched the car roll to a stop behind her.
“I’ve been in an accident.”
“What? Where are you?”
“I’m fine. Someone just pulled up behind me, but can you call an ambulance? I think I have a few broken body parts. I’m trying not to move too much until I find out.”
“Where are you?”
“Corner of Alder and Vine.”
“Okay, I’m putting you on hold. I’ll call for an ambulance and then I’ll be right back. Don’t hang up.” 
A woman approached the driver’s-side and opened the car door. She was short, no more than five-two Maddie guessed, and probably in her forties. She wore small, round eyeglasses that reminded Maddie of Mrs. Claus, leather gloves, and a hot-pink beanie with a giant, glittery silver pom-pom in the center.
            “Oh my goodness,” the woman said. “Are you okay?”
            “I … I don’t know. Thanks for stopping.”
            “Sure, sure. What can I do to help? Call someone?”
            “I’ve already done that. I’m waiting for the ambulance to arrive.”
            “Good, good.”
            “I think I’ve cracked a couple ribs,” Maddie said.
            The woman nodded. “You’re in luck. I’m a doctor.”
            “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but if you’re a doctor then you know it’s difficult to determine until I have an x-ray or an MRI.”
            Before the woman could rebut the last statement, Sloane returned to the phone line. “Maddie, you there?”
            “I’m here.”
            “The ambulance will be there soon.”
            “Do you know how long?”
            “I’m not sure. They’re hurrying. I’ll stay on the phone with you until they arrive. You alone?”
            “No, there’s a woman with me.”
            “Let me talk to her.”
            Maddie held the phone out. “It’s my friend, Sloane. She wants to talk to you.”
            The woman took the phone and explained she wanted to assess Maddie for broken bones so she could move her to her car. She then looked at Maddie and said, “Your friend agrees with me. I should at least have a look and see if there’s anything I can do.”
            Hoping to pacify both women involved, Maddie yielded. “All right. Go ahead.”
             The woman smiled. “I’m going to put the phone down while I check.”
She hunched over Maddie, placing light pressure on her chest. “I’ll be gentle. Tell me when it hurts.”
            Maddie expected the woman to move a hand across her chest. Instead the woman dug into her jacket pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief.
            Maddie looked at the hankie and then her cell phone. It appeared to be off. “Hand me my phone.”
            “You know, Madison,” the woman said. “I mean, is it okay if I call you Madison? I suppose I can call you Maddie if you prefer, but Maddie just doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know? I mean, I get it. It’s trendy and cute in its own way, but far less sophisticated than your given name, if you ask me.”
            “How do you know my—”
            “Oh, I know a lot about you.”
            Panicked, Maddie attempted to undo her seatbelt, but the pain was too great and the woman too fast. The hankie was shoved over Maddie’s mouth. Maddie clenched her jaw, kept her mouth close.
            “Don’t resist, honey. It’s too late now, mmm … kay?”
            Maddie thrashed back and forth, even though she knew the woman was right. The sweet, solvent smell was unmistakable. Chloroform.  
“It’s never a good idea to meddle in other people’s business,” the woman said. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you that? I mean, I guess they didn’t. But they should have. Anyhoo, we can talk about all that later. Night night.”

...


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Thursday, February 2, 2017

For Writers: A Place to Promote Your .99 - $2.99 eBooks - 2017




As part of my Author Advice section on this blog, I've put together an alphabetical list of websites where you can promote your sale books at a discount price. I've geared this list toward .99 to $2.99 sale days rather than free days. I recommend contacting the sites below at least two to three weeks prior to your book sale. 

Where I can, I've included site stats so you know just how far your dollar is going. While browsing, if you notice a site I've left off the list, feel free to EMAIL ME and I'll get it added. 

One last thing, sites with the word BEST next to the site name are my preferred sites, meaning they're the ones I feel offer the biggest bang for your buck and what has worked out well for me in the mystery/thriller genre.


PAID PROMOTIONAL SITES



To list your books on this site, you have to purchase a "supporter pack" for $15. Once this is done, you fill out a form and submit your books. To be honest, I've haven't tried their services yet.


You can list your book as the book of the day for $50, and they offer a few other options as well. They have 18K members.

Awesome Book Promotion - NEW 2017

Awesome Book Promotion is a combination of five websites where they stack your promo. You can see the sites they promote to HERE, and you can see their social media reach HERE.

Betty's Book Freak

Most features are $12/$15

Book Angel
UK site. Cost is $5 to advertise. 


On this site, they only feature one author each day. The cost is $22 and you'll need to book at least a month in advance. I was just on their site and the next opening isn't for five weeks. A bit of advice here. They allow you to run up to five books for the same price, so take advantage of that. Running just one may not give you a big ROI. Books must be on sale for $2.99 or less. 

BookBub  BEST--AS IN THE ULTIMATE

BookBub is, of course, the crown jewel of all advertising sites. And it may be difficult to get accepted, but if you don't, keep trying. The cost is expensive, but I've always made much more than what I paid initially, even when paying $800 for a .99 mystery ad. They do have specific requirements which must be met. Pricing depends on genre.


You won't get the same results as you do from a BookBub ad, but the ad is a fraction of the cost, so take that into consideration. The last ad I ran in the mystery category was $50 and had 200 downloads, so it was still well worth it for me personally. I have heard other authors say they didn't do as well.

Book Reader Magazine *NEW TO THE LIST*

$20 to advertise to 27k twitter followers and 1k Facebook fans.


BookRunes *NEW TO THE LIST*

20k Facebook fans and a decent subscriber list, and a reach of 50k readers daily. Cost is $25.


Booksends   BEST 
I absolutely love advertising on Booksends. They're fast, easy to work with, and accommodating. And the ROI has always been worth it for me. They even allow you to use your affiliate link if you have one (and you should have one). The number of subscribers in each genre is listed right on their page with mystery being the cream of the crop. Advertising is between $10 and $50.

Book Lemur *NEW TO THE LIST*
It's around $35 to advertise, and they have a 12k subscriber list and about 8k followers on their Facebook page.

Book Tweeters *NEW TO THE LIST*
This is a tweeting promo service. They have over 400K followers, and packages start at $19 for 1 day/36 tweets.

Books Butterfly

Several options here. A bit on the pricey side, but they do offer a guarantee and a refund if your sales aren't that great. You pay based on the subscriber list you choose.

Booktastik
They have about 3,000 subscribers in most genres, and it costs $5 or $10 to advertise.

Bookzio
$19 gets you in their newsletter, with over 24k subscribers.

Choosy Bookworm
$18 to be included in the newsletter and on their site for the day. They say they have thousands of email subscribers, but I am not sure about the exact number. 70 page minimum, 4.0+ or better on 8 reviews. 

This site is a mere five bucks to advertise on. I've never used their services. The ad runs through Fiverr. According to the page, the reach is 15K. 


There are several advertising options on this site. Their email subscriber list is over 13K and they get about 22K visitors to the site each week.

Discount Books Daily
$10 to advertise most genres.

Early Bird Books

Fairly new. Generally run books from .99 to $2.99. Slots are $200. They have 500k subscribers, and the average downloads for thrillers (as an example) is 300-400 copies. 


$10 to be the featured book of the day. 1K email subscribers, 6K Facebook fans, 500 Twitter followers. Requirements: 8 reviews, 3.5+ ranking, $4.99 or less.

eBook Booster  BEST

IMHO an absolute must when you're running a sale. This site is $25 to advertise your book deal on 25 of the free book deal sites. Trust me when I say the time you save is well worth the money.

eBook Deals for Nook & Kindle

For five bucks they'll promote your book on their Facebook page with almost 8k readers. Must have a minimum of 5 reviews, a 4* or higher rating, and more than 100 pages. 


58K Facebook fans, 4K visits to their site daily, 2K email subscribers. $20 to advertise a bargain book. Books must be $2.99 or less, have at least 10 reviews, and a 4.0+ average ranking.

eBook Juice *NEW 2016*

This is for books running a sale with KDP Select/KU. Prices vary depending on genre size, and they list subscriber numbers when you sign up. Prices are between $40 and $200.

eBook Soda

$10 to promote.

eBooks Habit

Different pricing here, but the guaranteed placement is $10. 


Their visibility is 80K and the cost is $35 to be the featured book of the day. Books needs to be at least 100 pages, have a minimum of 3 reviews, and a 4.0+ average ranking. Right now they are two months out, so you need to book way in advance.


9K Facebook followers, The Book of the Week feature is $49. I honestly don't know much more than this. Navigating their site was confusing. 


Books must be 125 pages or more, and you cannot promote the same book within a three month period. Pricing is based on the genre of the book and the price of the book, which seems to run between $15 and $100. They have started getting pickier about books they approve (2016).


This is a site I haven't used for a while, so I can't speak to its current effectiveness, but it is a good way to gain exposure. Prices run between $10 and $100. They feature your book and your bio, host a giveaway, etc. all depending on the package you choose.   


For books priced .99 or less. For an $8 donation, your book will be promoted to 1K eBook subscribers and 31K Twitter users. 


They start at $15 a day to promote your book, and $20 to add social media. Their social media outlets include Google+ (800), Facebook (3K), Pinterest (4.8K), and Twitter (16.8K), with the bulk of their reach coming from Twitter.

Free eBooks Daily

$25 to be the .99 book of the day. They have over 15K email subscribers. 


One of my favorite places to advertise outside of BookBub. Up to now, I've always done their $25 ad for their regular book posting, but next month I have a featured book posting priced at $100. Each day's post goes out to approximately 750K people, and of that, he estimates 100K take a look at the the post that day (not purchase, just look at the post), but I am pleased with the ROI on this site and use them monthly. You need at least 8 reviews and a 4.0+ ranking to advertise.

Genre Pulse *NEW TO THE LIST*
A new site for 2015. Options are $15 and $40 to advertise at the moment.

Good Kindles

They have gold, silver, and bronze packages, starting at $8 and going to $20. With all three your listing is put into their daily newsletter. I'm not sure about their subscriber number. They also have banners for $50 and $100. They have 74K followers on Twitter, almost 3K on Facebook.

Great Books Great Deals *NEW TO THE LIST*

New site from what I can tell as of 5/15. I am not sure about the size of their newsletter list. I can't seem to find it anywhere. $5 gets you a front page post.



Hot Zippy encompasses three different sites in one: Bargain eBook Hunter, Pixelscroll, and Romance eBook Deals. Each site is $15 to advertise on, and you can run them at the same time, one the same day. I have seen a good ROI on both Bargain eBook Hunter and Pixelscroll each time I use them. Pixelscroll alone has 43K Facebook fans. 

I Love Vampire Novels

If your book is not a vampire or paranormal novel, it won't be accepted. If it is, you're in luck. This is an excellent site to promote on with over 125K fans. You need at least five reviews. They have several different promo options.

Indie Book of the Day

There are seven different package options. Their Bargain Bookshelf option is the most popular at $50.00. Your book stays on their site for a month. They have 10K monthly visitors and a Google PageRank of 3.

Just Kindle Books

$18 to promote your kindle book on social media, including their Facebook page with 20k followers.

KDROI

Promotes to over 31 sites for $47.

Kindle Nation Daily

KND is actually linked to BookGorilla, and you can choose the free slide-over to get your book listed on both for an additional fee. They connect with about 170K readers each day. Prices range from $100 to $160.

Many Books

This site has over 60K on their email list. They offer both free and paid ads. I haven't placed an ad with them, but I am getting ready to. I shall return and report the results! Requirements 10+ reviews, and a 4.0+ average.

My Book Place *NEW TO THE LIST*

$25 to advertise for one week, which includes a featured spot on their homepage and a shout out in their newsletter and on their social media channels.


New In Books *NEW TO THE LIST*

So this is spendy and is a good site to use when releasing a new book. Price is $500, and clicking on the link above will give you an idea of what's included in their book launch package.

OHFB

All the site stats are listed on their page. Their silver package is $75 and their gold package is $100.

PeopleReads

They have several inexpensive options ranging from $8 to $30. I'm not sure what the reach is.

Pixel of Ink

Yep, you read it right. POI is now back in business on a very limited basis via BookSends. 270K readers. $50.

Planet eBooks

Three different options here starting at a $20 price point. 125K US/UK followers.

Read Cheaply

Right now they're after cross promotion, I expect while they're building a fan base, and I believe you can advertise for free.

Reading Deals

$29 pays for tweets to 120k followers, and a mention in their email subscriber list. which has now reached 35k (10/15).

Riffle Books *NEW TO THE LIST*

$25 to $100. Books must be discounted at least 50%, and 150 pages or 50k words.

Robin Reads  BEST

An up-and-coming site that's excellent to advertise on considering it only costs $10 to be included in an email that goes out to 30K subscribers.

Storyfinds

All of their sites stats are on their advertising page, including their email blast which goes out to over 5.6K subscribers. Several different advertising options including theme weeks, most under $50.

The Books Machine

Fairly new site. The cost is $20. 26k Facebook followers and 4,900 email list.

The Daily Bookworm

Different options here starting at $20 to be included in their email blast, on their website, and posted to Facebook, Twitter, etc. They have 3K on Facebook, Not sure about their email subscriber number.


The Fussy Librarian 

Their email list is 115K and cost depends on the genre you select. The price list also gives you the number of subscribers, which is nice. Requirements: 10 reviews, 4.0+ ranking, book priced at $5.99 or less.

The Kindle Book Review

The Kindle Book Review has a lot of different options for advertising which you can see HERE. They have a newsletter, but I'm not sure of the size.

The Kindle Romance Review

Several different price options and price points starting at $25.00.

Wanton Reads

I don't know much about their site stats. The offer a few different options between $15 and $45.

World Literary Cafe

Partnered with Author Marketing Club, they will promote your book on .99 Fridays.

Written Word Media

Formerly known as Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy, they now offer several options to authors, including New in Books, A Year in Books, Red Feather Romance. On the individual pages they clearly post how many followers they have. Currently the subscriber counts are: Freebooksy 172K, Bargain Booksy 142K. Prices have increased a bit from what they were before.

Your Book Promoter *NEW TO THE LIST*

245k subscriber list, 42k followers on Facebook. Their cheapest package is $49 for three months of advertising.


FREE PROMOTIONAL SITES


Amazon Author Forum

Awesomegang

Best eBooks Free

Book Boost

Book Goodies

Book Hippo - UK

Book Pinning

Books on the Knob

Discount Book Man

eBookasaurus

eBook Lister

eMystery Bargains

eReader Utopia

Feed Your Reader

Free 99 Books

Galley Cat's Facebook Page

Ignite Your Book

It's Write Now

Kindle Book Promos

Kobo Book Hub

Korner Konnection

KUF (UK)

Pin Your Book

Pretty Hot

Reading Deals 




Friday, January 13, 2017

Hickory Dickory Dead - Chapter One Sneak Peek


Hickory Dickory Dead - Chapter One Sneak Peek 


At ten minutes past three in the morning a shrill, hair-raising scream woke seventy-year-old Maisie Fezzwig from a semi-sound sleep. Over the last half hour she’d drifted in and out of consciousness, trying to get some shut-eye while the male counterpart sleeping next to her sounded off like a wheezy, broken-down foghorn. It wasn’t his fault, of course. It was hers. She accepted the blame. After all, she’d broken rule number one: never, ever, under any circumstances, allow a man she was sleeping with to stay the night. Up to now, Maisie had never broken that rule, but after one too many glasses of red wine, she’d lost track of time and dozed off unintentionally.
            To rectify her mistake, Maisie decided swift action was the perfect remedy. She switched on the lamp next to her, and, using two fingers to remove the arm her date had draped over her chest, she lifted the hand cupping her right breast and deposited it back on Daniel’s chest. When the gesture didn’t wake him, yawned loud enough for the neighbors to hear. And when that didn’t wake him, she stabbed his shoulder repeatedly with her finger, aligned her mouth with his ear, and said, “Daniel, wake up!”
            Daniel partially lifted one eye, closed it, and rolled onto his other side. “What is it, Maisie? I’m trying to sleep.”
            “Did you hear that noise?”
            “What noise?”
            “It sounded like someone screamed.”
            “Maybe you should turn off the TV.”
            Maisie looked at the flat screen on the wall, failing to see why he didn’t see what she saw. The television wasn’t on. It was off. “The noise didn’t come from inside the house. It came from outside.”
            “If you really want me to get up and look around, I’ll do it.”
            Although the offer had been made, he made no attempt to get up, which suited Maisie just fine. She didn’t need him to do the dirty work. She was more than happy to do it herself.
Maisie rose from bed, walked to the dresser, and opened the top drawer. She pulled out a pair of binoculars, walked to the window, and peeked through them, canvassing each house in her neighborhood.
Daniel propped himself up on one arm, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “What in the hell are you doing, Maisie?”
            She shooed a hand in his direction. “Shh. Stop talking. I’m trying to concentrate.”
            “There’s no need to get snippy with me. Come on now. Come back to bed.”
            Come back to bed?
He’d said the words like it was an order, as if the lackluster moment of passion they’d shared an hour before gave him permission to treat her like they were more familiar than they were. It was the very reason rule number one wasn’t meant to be broken.
            Maisie set the binoculars down, picked Daniel’s pants up off the floor, and hurled them in his direction. She attempted a smile, but felt certain it wasn’t very convincing. “Time for you to leave.”
            “What are you talking about?” He patted the side of the bed she’d just risen from. “Come on, baby. I could go for another round? Whadd’ya say?”
            Baby.
A word she hadn’t been called in some time.
A word that was just eww for a woman of her age.
They’d only been together twice. Both times his bedroom prowess had been mediocre at best. “You need to go, Daniel.”
            “Maisie—”
            Maisie pointed toward her living room door. “Out.”
            Daniel stood, taking his time pulling his pants back on like he was giving her a minute to change her mind. “I like you. We have a good things going here. Can I at least see you again?”    
            “Your fifty. I’m seventy. It was nice, but let’s call it what it was, shall we?”
            He scratched his head. “What was it?”
            “A one night stand. A bootie call. A hook up as the teenagers say.”   
            His eyes widened. “You’re not serious?”
            “Quite.”
            She escorted him to the front door, opened it, and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re very sweet, Daniel. Thanks for a nice night. Goodbye.”
            Daniel stood with his arms crossed in front of him, dumfounded and confused, making it all the more awkward for her to look him in the eye, so she didn’t. She offered the same smile she’d offered before and closed the door. As soon as his Subaru backed out of the driveway, she scurried back to the binoculars again, scanning the neighborhood a little longer than she had the first time. All was quiet now. Everything appeared normal except for one thing: Sylvia Frazier’s house was black, and Sylvia never retired to bed without switching the front porch light on.
            Maisie threw a robe over her short silk nightie, a coat over the robe, slipped into a pair of rubber-soled slippers, and opened the top drawer of her dresser once again. Besides the binoculars, the velvet-lined drawer also contained several relics left to her after her late husband passed five years earlier. Once such relic was a revolver. And not just any revolver. A Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum.
After completing a bullet check, Maisie scampered across the street to Sylvia’s place. Finding the front door unlocked, Maisie walked in, letting the revolver in her outstretched hand lead the way.
“Sylvia? Are you there? I’m coming in!”
As someone who’d familiarized herself with all of her neighbors, Maisie knew the layout of each house on the block. She paused for about ten seconds. When there was no reply, she flipped on the hall light and showed herself to Sylvia’s bedroom. Halfway down the hall it occurred to Maisie that Sylvia might not have replied when she’d called her name because Sylvia was sleeping. It further occurred to her that Sylvia may have forgotten to illuminate the porch light this one time. If true, the appearance of a gun-toting neighbor in the wee hours of the morning was likely to give the eighty-four-year-old woman a heart attack. Adversely, the lack of an illuminated front porch light was one thing; an unlocked front door was quite another.
Maisie entered Sylvia’s room, feeling her way up the wall until she felt the light switch. She flicked it on. A terrified Sylvia sat straight up in bed, yanking her blanket over her face like if Maisie was an intruder, she believed she could protect herself with it.
Sylvia looked at Maisie then the revolver. “Maisie? What the hell are you doing here? And what are you doing with a gun?”
Maisie lowered her weapon. “I apologize, Sylvia. I thought you needed help.”
“I’m in bed. Sleeping. What help could I possibly need?”
“I heard someone scream earlier, and when I saw your front porch light wasn’t on, I thought it may have been you. I called your name when I came in. You must not have heard me.”
Sylvia inserted her fingers into her ears, pulling out a pair of plugs. “I’m wearing these tonight. I don’t hear anything. My nephew’s staying here this week. He blasts the television. Without ear plugs, I don’t get any sleep.”
Maisie assumed Sylvia’s nephew was also to blame for the front porch light being off as well as the unlocked door. “I suppose it wasn’t you who screamed then.”
 She sighed. “Of course it wasn’t. And, by the way, you can’t just walk into my house whenever you want without knocking.”
“The front door was unlocked.”
“That’s not the point. This isn’t your house.”
Maisie stuffed the revolver into her jacket pocket and turned. “You should tell that nephew of yours to lock the front door.”
Sylvia grunted an inaudible reply.
She walked back down the hall confused. She had heard what sounded like a woman’s scream, and not just any scream; a desperate cry for help.
Stepping outside again, the air seemed staler tonight, like the atmosphere had sucked it all in and zipped it up tight.
Maisie may have been wrong about Sylvia, but someone, somewhere was in trouble.
She didn’t know how she knew.
She just knew it.

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