#BlogTour – Fight Or Die by James Hilton – exclusive extract

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When the Gunn brothers Danny and Clay answer a call to help old friends, they are plunged into a volatile and deadly situation. Larry and Pamela Duke own one of the most popular nightclubs in the Spanish resort town of Ultima, but a local gang known as the Locos are determined to take it. Danny and Clay are hired to protect the club, but new adversaries enter the game. Against such odds there are only two choices: fight or die…

Ortega had spent two years in one of Spain’s toughest prisons, where he’d been in the company of many vicious men. He’d also been in enough street fights to recognise a dangerous prospect when he saw one. He studied the big American with practised eyes, made subtle calculations behind his unwavering façade. The man was about six-five, maybe more. His accent unmistakable. Powerful-looking with enough scars on his face to give him a sinister edge. Well over two hundred pounds. Big arms and shoulders. But he wasn’t slow: two experienced Locos had gone down in a few seconds. This Clay could be real trouble.
Got to take him out!
Ortega set himself.
Do it now!
But then the big man did something unexpected. He started to walk away. “You know what? This is none of my business; go ahead and do what you were gonna do. I’m going for a beer further down the road.”
Ortega looked at the big man’s back as he stalked away. No way was this American pig leaving here in one piece. He snatched at his knife and lurched after Clay. With deadly intent, he aimed for the kidney and slammed his blade forward—but all he hit was air.
The big man wasn’t there. He’d turned in a subtle pivot and now had Ortega’s arm caught at the wrist and wrapped up at the elbow. Ortega had been in a few arm-locks in his time but this was unlike anything he’d experienced before. When a cop had you in a hold they were trying to restrain you. This was very different.
Pain erupted in his arm, a sudden heat like boiling water in the joint of his elbow. The two men locked eyes in a battle of wills. Ortega strained against the hold.
The big man braced his arms and chest in one severe movement and Ortega felt his elbow joint first hyper-extend and then dislocate fully in a mind-numbing separation of bone and sinew. Ortega felt his legs begin to give way beneath him as his knife clattered to the floor.
“Well I guess you won’t be signing any deeds after all,” said Clay.
Ortega found his voice, but all he could emit was a high-pitched series of gasping curses.
The woman’s—Pamela’s—voice rang out from behind the bar. “You know you’re right, Mr Vincenzo Ortega. My husband isn’t a match for you anymore, but you’ll find that good men have good friends and Clay here is one of the best. Tell your boss that we’re not interested and won’t be railroaded. Any more shit like today and he’ll be the one out of business. For good.”
“You piece of shi—” Ortega’s response was cut short by an elbow to his face. A quick spin by Clay coupled with a few running steps and Ortega found himself crashing out into the street.
Seconds later Donal and Aspanu were dumped unceremoniously by his side. Clay glowered down at the fallen gangsters. “You’d better listen to the lady. If you come back again, I’ll be mighty upset. These are decent people. Bring crap like this here again and you’ll pay dearly; unlike the easy ride you got today.”
Ortega began to vow retribution but discovered that his mouth didn’t work. That fucker had broken his jaw! He struggled to his feet, both dislocated arm and shattered jaw sending a barrage of pain through his nervous system.
The big man pointed to the knife embedded in Donal’s blood-soaked thigh. “Hey, you might want to get that looked at.”
Aspanu had regained consciousness and was looking around, blinking rapidly, clearly trying to make sense of the situation. A fierce grunt and head nodding from Ortega sent him scurrying towards a black Mercedes parked kerbside. Aspanu unlocked the car and then helped Ortega into the passenger seat. Donal, still bleeding profusely and glassy-eyed, was hauled up and pushed without ceremony onto the back seats. The Mercedes then sped away, causing an oncoming car to swerve out of its path.

#BlogTour – Sweet After Death by Valentina Giambanco – Exclusive extract

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Prologue

The woods pressed into the town from all sides. The bite of land that had been scooped out of the wilderness by the original residents was barely visible from above during the day, and at night – when the only lights were a few scattered street lamps – it was all but gone.

The deer raised its snout, sniffed the cold night air and took a couple of steps. It paused by the line of trees and waited. Somewhere much higher up on the mountain the winds howled and shook the firs for what they were worth, but in the hollow of the valley the town of Ludlow lay silent and still. The deer ambled into the middle of the empty road and three others followed it out of the shadows. They made no sound as they padded on the veil of snow and their reflections crossed the windows of the shuttered stores on Main Street. The town stirred in its sleep but it did not wake: a dog barked from inside a house, a porch light – triggered by a faulty motion sensor – came on and went off in one of the timber-frame homes, and one of the town’s three traffic lights ticked and flickered from red to green to marshal the nonexistent 3 a.m. traffic. And yet, tucked away in an alley, a thin shadow tracked the progress of the deer and matched them step for step. They didn’t pick up its scent because it smelled of forest and dead leaves, and they didn’t hear any footsteps because it made no sound as it wove between the houses. The deer followed a familiar route that would lead them to the woods at the other end of Main Street, and it wasn’t until they had almost reached their destination that they caught the ugly scent. It was a few hundred yards away yet sharp enough to startle them. For an instant they froze and then, one after the other, they bounded out of sight. The acrid smoke spread through Main Street, reaching into the alleys and the backstreets, under the doors and into the gaps of the old window-frames. But the car burning bright by the crossroads would not be discovered until morning, and by then the thin shadow was long gone.

A few miles away Samuel shifted his weight on the thin mattress and listened out for birdsong: he couldn’t hear any, and it could only mean that it was still pitch black outside. He sighed and tried to grasp the tail of a half-remembered dream. Something had woken him up, though, and it took him a moment for the notion to sink small, keen teeth into his mind – dulled, as it was, by sleep and the warm cocoon of his blankets. Then a rough hand grabbed his shoulder and Samuel flinched and understood. He sat up without a sound, eyes peering through the gloom.

The bedroom – such as it was – was plain, with pallets for beds and a wooden stove in the corner. Embers from last night’s fire lit the bundles of blankets lying on the other pallets, and a cold draft found Samuel as soon as he threw off the covers.

He didn’t have much time, and he knew it. His heart had begun to race and his mouth was a tight line as he pulled on his boots and snatched his satchel from the side of the bed. The tip of the boy’s finger brushed against his good-luck charm, hidden in the folds of the satchel, and he felt a crackle of pleasure.

Two minutes later, Samuel walked out into the night and the door closed softly behind him. He looked up: the sky was low with heavy clouds, and he could almost taste the snow that was about to fall. He ran across the clearing and straight into the forest. He knew each tree and boulder and rock, and the dusting of white on the ground showed him the way. They had always called him ‘Mouse’ because he was small for his age – fifteen years old the previous November – small and fast. He needed all the speed and cunning he could muster now.

Speed, cunning and the spirit of the mountain on his side. He was three hundred yards away when the bell clanged and shattered the silence. They would be waking up then, rushing and scrambling after their things, and when the door opened to the night they would fall out and come after him. And God forbid they should catch him. The black raven feather in the boy’s satchel would have to work hard to keep him safe.

In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.

Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives…but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep their secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.

As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege. And as they become targets Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.

Thin Ice Blog Tour – Exclusive Extract

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imageSnowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…

When two small time crooks rob Reykjavík’s premier drug dealer hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show.  Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.

Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eirikur and Helgi, find themselves at a dead end, investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.

Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages….

As part of the Thin Ice blog tour, here’s an exclusive extract to whet your appetite for more.

 

‘I will not get over it!’ Erna yelled at the top of her voice. ‘What’s going on? Why are we here? I don’t even believe that’s a real gun and I’ve a good mind to just walk out the door this minute.’ 

‘Go on,’ Össur hissed, ‘try it. See what happens.’ 

Erna stood up and stalked towards him, her hands on her hips, glaring down at him from the extra height two inches of heels gave her while Össur sat still, looking up at her from under heavy lids. 

‘I don’t believe you. I think you’re a petty, thieving conman, and I don’t believe for a second that you’d dare carry a gun if it was real. I’ve half a mind to give you a slap and go to that phone in the lobby and call the police.’ 

The report was deafening, and as the smoke cleared there was a rattling of metal from one of the cupboards. Össur had fired without taking his eyes from Erna’s face and he watched her expression dissolve from fury into disbelief as her hands went to her mouth. 

‘God . . .’ she whispered. 

They looked to see a hole punched neatly in the cupboard door while Erna gradually sank to the floor on her knees. 

‘I think the lady . . .’ Össur said with a sneer. ‘The lady has had a shock. So maybe she’d feel better if she went to lie down for a while?’