Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.
The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.
Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of those taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.
When Ashael meets Iwan in the forest, neither realise that she is the one the Zanthar are looking for. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on her shoulders.
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Author Bio –
Shona Kinsella is the author of Ashael Rising, (Unbound, 2017) the first in her series, The Vessel of KalaDene. She is also one of the editors of the British Fantasy Society’s fiction publication, Horizons. When she is not writing or wrangling her three children, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.
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Meagan Brandy, LK Collins, Tracie Douglas,
Kim Jones, Kristen Hope Mazzola, S. Moose,
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Shantel Tessier, & Winter Travers
Genre: Romance Anthology
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Bestselling author Staci Hart brings you another installment of the Austen Series, inspired by the works of Jane Austen, with a heartfelt contemporary retelling of Sense and Sensibility.
When Annie Daschle arrives in New York City, the only thing she can control is her list.
Not her father’s death or the loss of her home. Not the hole in her heart or the defective valve that’s dictated so much of her life. But she can put pen to paper to make a list of all the ways she can live out loud, just like her dad would have wanted.
See the city from the top of the Empire State Building: Check.
Eat hot dogs on the steps of The Met: Check.
Get a job at Wasted Words: Check.
What wasn’t on her list: Greg Brandon. And just when she thinks she’s figured out where to put him, everything changes. In the span of a few staggering heartbeats, she finds herself her caught in the middle of something she can’t find her way out of, with no clear answers and no rules.
List or no list, she realizes she can’t control anything at all, not even her heart.
Not the decisions it makes, and not the moment it stops.
We chatted as we walked down Fifth to the bike rental station and unlocked one of the blue bicycles. And a little while and one park bench later, we were walking through the park in search of a grassy stretch off the beaten path.
We found what we had been looking for—a space lined with trees, somewhat shielded from the rolling, open knoll by boulders jutting up out of the grass.
“This looks good,” I said, lowering the kickstand before taking off my backpack.
She pulled off her bag, looking nervously at the bike as she took a seat in the grass. A thin sheen of sweat glistened on her cheeks and forehead, her face a little pale.
“You sure you’re okay?” I asked, eyeing her.
She smiled—her favorite way to answer. “It looks worse than it is. Promise.”
I frowned. “Really, maybe the bike is too much. Maybe we can do this after your surgery.”
“Greg, I’m fine. Come sit by me for a minute.”
I kept my arguments to myself and sat next to her.
“The cool air feels so nice,” she said, gathering up her hair and pulling it over one shoulder, exposing her neck.
“When they fix your heart, will you still feel like this?”
“No. I should be able to do anything physical I want within a few weeks of the surgery.”
My brows drew together. “Really? After open-heart surgery?”
“Really. It’s not like a heart transplant or anything. The hardest part of my recovery will be the incision and the fusing of my sternum back together.”
A shudder tickled its way down my spine at the thought of a bone saw opening her rib cage. “What all will they do to your heart?”
“Close the hole, repair my valve. I’ve had open-heart surgery before, but I was too little to remember anything about it. The scar is the only proof that it happened. Well, that and my mother’s stories. But this shouldn’t be too hard on the muscle itself, just some sutures when it’s all said and done. My body will work a lot more efficiently once the surgery is complete—like, immediately. I just have to get through the whole split-ribs thing,” she said with a little smirk. “All right, I feel better. Are you ready?”
She looked better. Her cheeks and lips were tinged with color, and the waxy quality her skin had taken on was gone.
“Ready when you are.”
We got to our feet, and I stepped to the bike to lower the seat. Once it was down, I waved her over.
“Come here and see if this works.”
She climbed on cautiously, her feet on the ground and her hands gripping the handlebars. The seat was probably too low, but I figured it’d be better for her center of gravity—plus she could stop herself easier if she tipped.
“Okay,” I started, one hand on the back seat and my other on the handlebar next to her hand, “I’m gonna hang on and hold you steady while you pedal.”
She shot me a worried glance. “And if I fall?”
“You get up and try again.”
She laughed, not looking convinced.
“Don’t worry; you’re not going to hurt yourself on the grass, but I’m not going to let you fall. I’ve got you, okay?”
With a deep breath, she nodded once. “Okay.”
“All right. Put your feet on the pedals.” My grip tightened when the balance was all on me. “Ready?”
“Ready,” she echoed with determination.
She did, moving us both forward, the bike only wobbling a little bit under her.
“Good, let’s go to that tree. Just keep it slow like this.”
Her tongue poked out of her lips, her hands white-knuckled on the handlebars until she got to the tree. And when she smiled, it was with more confidence.
“I did it!”
I laughed. “You did. Come on, let’s go back. Ready?”
She nodded, and we took off again. This time, she wobbled a little less, speeding up until I had to trot next to her to keep up.
When we stopped at our backpacks, she cheered. “Again!”
“All right,” I said on a chuckle. “I’m just gonna hang on to the back this time. And…go.”
I did just that, my hands on the back of the seat, the handlebars swerving a little but nothing she couldn’t correct. And then I let go.
She didn’t notice, wholly focused on staying upright, and I kept jogging, pulling up beside her. When she glanced over, I held my hands up in the air and wiggled my fingers.
Her face opened up with joy, and a whoop passed her lips—just before she swerved into me.
A string of expletives hissed out of me as I tried to grab her, but it was too late. She tumbled into me, bike and all, taking us down to the cold grass.
Annie was lying on top of me, her hair tossed across her face. The ground was cold and damp under me, and the handlebar of the bike was jammed into my ribs, but I barely even noticed. Not with Annie sprawled out across my body, her green eyes sparkling and her laughter ringing in my ears.
My own laughter met hers like an old friend.
“Are you okay?” I asked, sweeping her hair out of her face to tuck it behind her ear.
She flushed but made no move to pull away from me. “I’m fine. Are you okay?”
We watched each other for a moment through the rise and fall of my chest, the movement carrying her like a rocking ship. And then she giggled again, climbing off me before reaching for the bike.
It was then that I began to fully comprehend the depth of the trouble I’d found myself in.
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About the Author
Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey.
From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.
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Andy Simpson never expected to be raising his teenage twin sons alone.
Then again, he also never expected to walk into his house and see his wife with another man. In their bed. Or that it wasn’t her first time.
Bitterness threatened to wrap around his heart, darkening every part of his life.
But a brightness he wasn’t even looking for entered their lives and wouldn’t let it take hold.
Christine Jameson knew all about being a single parent. But she was holding a secret. A secret she wasn’t willing to allow anyone to find out. One she’d held tight for years.
But one look at Andy, and she knew that she needed to be honest with him. That he deserved to know he wasn’t alone.
They both needed friendship. Needed someone who understood, who had compassion without judgement.
What they didn’t imagine was for it to become something more.
That they would come to share something they never thought they would experience again.
They didn’t expect for it to… Feel Like Home.
I reach across the cushion and grasp her hand in mine, squeezing once. “I’m sorry you went through that.”
She squeezes my hand once in response. “I’m sorry you’re going through it now.”
“So, want some advice?”
“Eat more lemon pound cake?”
She releases my hand and sits back, giggling, and again I’m hit with how much I love hearing the sound of her laughter. “Well, that, too. I could even say it’s healthy because it’s made with Greek yogurt.”
“You trying to tell me something?” I tease her.
She smiles, a cross between sad and sort of resigned.
“My advice? Be happy.”
“Be happy. I promise you. First of all, it will drive Heather nuts knowing you are moving on without her. But second of all, and this is the most important part of it, you’ll be happy.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“I’ve had a lot of practice. When Todd was at his sickest, we practiced a lot of happiness. Happiness because we had good days, or we had quiet moments to spend as a family when he could barely get out of bed. Happiness when we were able to celebrate holidays. After he cheated, one of the things we discovered was that we could either give in to the ugly that it brought on, or we could move on. We moved on. And he had to do the same. We both had guilt. Guilt for how we got there. I questioned if I wasn’t giving him what he needed. He questioned everything. I’m not going to lie… it’s hard, and most days you’ll have to dig deep, but you’ll get there. Trust me. The light is always better than the dark.”
I lay my head on the back of the couch and turn to look at her. She’s so gorgeous it almost hurts to look at her. I’ve always thought so, though I would have never done a thing about it. She has always been the mom who turned heads.
“What was he thinking?” I murmur.
“Todd. What was he thinking?”
“When he stepped out.”
She doesn’t respond, just simply smiles before biting her lip and looking away, her long, dark, silky hair falling over her shoulder. She ducks her head and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear.
“I’m sorry,” I tell her, though I don’t know what I’m apologizing for. Almost admitting how gorgeous I think she is? Her husband cheating? Her husband dying? Me laying my shit out for her? All of it, probably.
“I’m sorry Heather’s such an asshole,” she replies with a shrug.
I bark out a laugh. “She is definitely an asshole.”
“She forgot rule number one.”
“Never mind… it was in a book I read.”
“Ahh. Good book?”
“More than good.” She gives me a ghost of a smile and reaches over to grip my hand, squeezing once before letting go. “So, what are you going to do?”
“Honestly? I have no clue. I need to find a place for the boys and me to stay, talk with a lawyer… that part I know for sure. I can’t stay with her. As sad as it sounds, and maybe it’s kind of a little mean, but I think we fell out of love a long time ago. We’ve been hanging on by a thread for years. I’m sure part of it was my fault, but still…”
“It’s no excuse. This has nothing to do with you, Andy. This is all Heather. You’re a great guy. It’s Heather’s loss.”
“I appreciate you saying that.”
“It’s the truth.”
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From the Ground Up was Jennifer’s first published novel and now that she was bitten by the writing bug, has no intention of ever stopping. Jennifer makes her home in small town Iowa with her high school sweetheart, three beautiful, hilarious and amazing kids, one crazy Jack Russell terrier. This is where her love for all things reading, baking, and cooking happen. Jennifer’s family enjoys camping, boating, and spending time outside as much as possible. You’ll be her best friend if you can make her laugh and follow up with asking her what to read next. When she’s not writing, you can find her cheering the loudest at her kids’ sporting events (read as: embarrassing them), sipping coffee or iced tea out of a mason jar with her Kindle in her lap or binging on Netflix.
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