Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday's Film Adaptation: The Puzzle of the Red Stallion by Stuart Palmer

Odds for Murder — Top model Violet Feverel should be a pretty picture riding the big red thoroughbred Siwash -- but the front page photo on the tabloids is ugly as death. The police dub the tragedy an unfortunate accident. But Miss Hildegarde Withers, who stumbled across the girl's body on the Central Park bridle path, knows they ... more »are, unfortunately, wrong. Just plain horse sense tells her it was murder.

Who was the stranger in the too-small overcoat?

What caused the spot of blood on the stallion's flank?

What obvious clue at the scene of the crime was a red herring?

Joining forces with New York's grumpiest homicide inspector, Oscar Piper, Miss Withers is once again off and running after a killer. Then a day at the races ends with another dead body, and Miss Withers must play a deadly game of sleuth where the stakes are high and odds are growing higher....

Known in the UK as "The Puzzle of the Briar Pope".

Chapter 1
Red Sky at Morning
IF THERE ARE GHOSTS on the island of Manhattan they walk not in its garish midnights but in the long hour before sunrise. That is the time when life's tide is said to ebb, so that strong men weaken and sick men die—the hour of the false dawn when Hamlet's restless father returned to gibber on the battlements of Elsinore.

Manhattan slept, with no dead kings to haunt her turrets and no cheerful cockcrow to send them scurrying. Business had been so bad that night that Mr. Solomon Rosen slept also, his head pillowed on his arms across the wheel of his taxicab, lulled by the diminishing patter of rain on the roof.

He awoke with a start to find an apparition beside him—a remarkably solid apparition that weighed upon his running board. A low harsh voice spoke in his ear—"Follow that hack!"

Sol Rosen peered sleepily at a man in a badly fitting blue overcoat, a harried-looking young man whose breath was heavy with stale tobacco and whose eyes were weary and bloodshot. Sol had never won any silver cups for quickness of thought and at five o'clock of ร  wet morning he was slower than usual. He blinked and asked, "Why?"

"This is why!" The man in the overcoat displayed his cupped hand. It held a five-dollar bill, and not a silver badge as Sol had somehow guessed. The stranger was pointing across Broadway to the cab rank in front of the Hotel Harthorn. "Tail him—get going!"

He got inside and Sol kicked the starter. Then he noticed that not one but two taxicabs were pulling away from the canopy at the hotel entrance. "Which one," Sol wanted to know, "the Yellow?"

"Never mind the yellow one," his passenger ordered. "Tail the Checker, the one in front, and don't lose him."

Sol got his cold motor going, roared into an illegal U-turn and rolled southward on Broadway about half a block behind the two other taxis. The rain had stopped and the murkiness of the night had paled to the point where his headlamps were almost useless. The taxis ahead passed Seventy-second, where around the deserted subway entrance the wind whipped listlessly at scattered newspapers. There were no stop lights at this hour and they went steadily on. Sol Rosen was just beginning to hope that this was to be a long and lucrative haul when the two cars ahead swerved suddenly eastward toward the park on Sixty-fifth Street.

Sol followed, with a screech of tires on the wet pavement. He put on his brakes as he saw that the foremost driver was slowing down in the middle of the block.

"Go on to the corner and pull up!" instructed his passenger hoarsely. Sol swung past the other taxicabs and stopped on the corner of Central Park West. The man in the blue overcoat stepped quickly out, handed Sol a bill and moved leisurely away. As Sol Rosen started cruising again he was wide-awake enough to notice that his recent passenger walked as one who did not want to get anywhere. He was strolling aimlessly along, pausing to scratch a match on a convenient lamppost and making it very clear that the last thing in the world which could interest him would be the passengers who were now piling from the checkered taxicab.

As soon as the door was opened a young man in full evening dress had plunged sprawling out, to the detriment of his silk topper. A fat man and a girl followed, she wearing her evening wrap of red velvet hoodwise over her blonde curls and loudly chanting that she "yoost come over from old countree."

There was loud laughter, but not from the tall young woman who now emerged from the crowded taxicab. She was incongruously dressed in a dark mannish riding coat and jodhpurs. Her auburn curls had been caught under a stiff derby and the silk stock at her throat was fastened by a gold pin in the shape of a polo mallet. She was thirtyish and pretty. She might have been more than pretty if she had taken time for a few hours' sleep, or even had lingered long enough at her dressing table to remove the make-up which still smeared her mouth and eyelids.

She stood alone on the sidewalk as the others began laboriously to pack themselves back into the taxi. "Good night, Violet darling," cried the blonde in the red wrap. "It was a lovely party!"

"Even if you did throw us out," chorused a feminine voice from within the taxi.

"Violet likes horses better than she likes us," cried a young man in a high tenor voice. "Violet's queer for long horseback rides in the rain!"

"Good night all," said Violet Feverel. She was sick unto death of her last evening's guests and her voice was thin and tired. She waved mechanically as the carload of departing merrymakers rolled away and then turned to face the second taxi which was pulling up alongside the curb.

This vehicle, too, was packed to the running boards. "Change your mind and come with us!" sang out a young man with a very red face whose whim it had been to ride beside the driver. Somewhere he had lost his black tie and somewhere he had found a milk bottle with a dime in it which he jingled as he spoke.

"No thanks," Violet told him. "Run along—the party ends right here as far as I'm concerned."

"It's our loss!" responded the red-faced youth gallantly.

"Good-bye, then—Come on, Eddie, say good-bye to Violet!" He leaned back and prodded at the protruding knee of a young man who was jammed in the corner of the taxi with a girl on his lap.

Eddie was softly singing a ballad of his own composition dealing with the further adventures of the notorious Miss Otis after she broke her luncheon engagement on account of being lynched.

"When Miss Otis was dead and safely gone to hell, madam—

They found her a spot where the fires were hot—as hell,

As she writhed in the fearful heat

She gently rubbed her blistered seat and cried, 'Madam,

Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today!'"

He was rudely shouted down by a chorus of demands that he say good night to Violet, good old Violet.

"Why should I?" demanded Eddie.

"Because Violet's going bye-bye on a big horsey!" cried the red-faced youth. "She'd rather ride a horse than make whoopee with us in Harlem."

"Violet," pronounced Eddie solemnly, "is nothing but a menace to navigation. Someday the Coast Guard will explode her with d-dynamite. She's an old frozen iceberg, that's what Violet is, But boy! Am I glad right now that it doesn't run in the family!"

Somebody nudged him quickly, but not quickly enough. Violet Feverel had heard. She came over and flung open the door of the taxi.

"Eddie—you swine! Did you let Babs sneak in here—as soon as my back was turned?"

The girl on Eddie's lap raised her head from his shoulder. Except that she wore a white lace evening dress and a last-season's bunny-wrap, she was just a later edition of the girl who now faced her accusingly. Babs had the same warm reddish curls, the same lightbrown eyes. She also had youth, lots of it.

Now she laughed nervously. "Don't be like that, Sis!"

Violet Feverel bit her lip and her voice was thinner than ever. "I told you you weren't going on to Harlem with these—these soaks! I told you to stay home and go to bed. Now come out of there!"

As the younger girl hesitated Violet leaned forward and caught her wrist, half dragging her from the taxicab.

Barbara did not resist, but her face had suddenly gone white as chalk. "I'll pay you back for this!" she said softly.

Her elder sister still gripped her wrist with long painted nails that dug into the flesh. The young man known as Eddie started protestingly out of the taxi but Violet Feverel slammed the door in his face and told the driver to go on. There was a scream of gears and the yellow taxicab rolled on after the first one.

Barbara jerked her arm free. "I'm not a baby—I'm old enough—"

"Back in Syracuse you can do as you like," Violet snapped. "But here with me you'll do as I say. And I say you've had enough gay night life for one evening … and enough of fooling around with Eddie Fry. When I left I thought you were going to stay there and clean up the apartment, and then go to bed where you belong!"

"Eddie said he'd wait for me with the second taxi after you'd started," Barbara protested. "It was going to be such fun—and now you had to spoil everything. We were going to a place in Harlem where a big colored woman fries chicken and sings songs…."

Violet knew that chicken and those songs. "You're going straight home, my darling kid sister. You can get a taxi at the corner…."

Barbara stared at the older girl, her lips hard. "I won't!" she flared. "You can't make me. I know—you're sour on everything because you went and made a terrific flop out of romance—"

Violet Feverel struck her young sister across the mouth, as hard as she could.

The marks flamed red on white skin. "Some people would say I had that coming to me," said Barbara evenly. She turned and walked swiftly back down the street.

"Babs!" cried Violet Feverel. But the girl did not turn. After a moment Violet shrugged her shoulders. She wheeled and pressed a bell marked "Office" under a faded sign, "Thwaite's Academy of Horsemanship—saddle horses boarded and for hire."

There was no answer and she pressed again savagely. Then a mild and drawling voice sounded, close enough to startle her.

"You shore got a fast right hand, Miss Feverel."

She whirled to see a long lean young man attired in blue overalls who leaned upon the lower half of a divided stable door. He had sandy hair, a face tan as a boot, and a long sad upper lip.

"Nobody in the office yet—no use ringing," he told her. He swung the stable door hospitably open. "But come on in."

Violet Feverel eyed him. "Latigo! How long have you—"

Then she broke off short. Coming across the cobbles into the dark and odorous warmth of the stable, she caught the scent of rank Burley tobacco.

"Does Mrs. Thwaite know you smoke in here, Latigo?" she asked.

Latigo Wells ground his heel upon a handmade cigarette. He flushed. "Not exactly, ma'am. But there ain't—there isn't any real fire hazard with these cement floors. I wasn't expecting any riders quite so early. You wouldn't tell her, ma'am?"

Violet Feverel pressed her lips together. "Saddle Siwash for me—quickly, please!"

Latigo nodded gravely. "Couple of minutes, ma'am. He hasn't been curried down yet."

"What? Where's that boy Highpockets?"

"Yesterday was Saturday and that's payday here," explained the other. "That colored boy just runs hog-wild when he gets a few dollars in his pants. That's why I had to come down and open up the stable this morning—that and because I figured you might be here to take your horse out. You see—" Latigo stammered a little. "You see," he began, "I wanted to explain about the other night. When you asked me up to your place, I sort of took it for granted—" Latigo seized a convenient pitchfork and sighted along the handle as if it had been a rifle. "I naturally figured—"

"So I noticed," said Violet Feverel shortly. Her wide eyes were expressionless.

"I didn't want you to think I was sore or anything," Latigo stumbled on. "I guess I must have looked pretty silly to you and your swell friends. If I'd known, why, I'd have fetched along the old guitar…."

"Forget it—and get Siwash saddled, will you?" she cut in.

Latigo moved unhappily away down a long corridor. Here and there a horse thrust its long inquiring muzzle over the top of a stall. As always they were quick to sense the mood of the human they knew best.

On the last of the box stalls sacred in this stable to the boarded horses was a card ornately lettered "Siwash." Latigo opened the gate and slapped roughly at the shoulder of the big chestnut thoroughbred who lay sprawled in the straw.

"Come on, Si—rustle out of the blankets!" As the big horse reared to his feet Latigo set about brushing the red-bronze flanks with a currycomb. "You would have to go and sleep laying down, you lazy stray," Latigo chided him. "More trouble than you're worth. If you were mine I'd have you sent to the refinery and boiled down for your grease!"

Siwash danced daintily sidewise upon tiny hoofs and then nuzzled at the man's shoulder affectionately. After a few moments they went out of the stall, when there took place a certain routine disagreement over whether Siwash was going to take the bit in his mouth or not. He finally gave in and champed on it dubiously.

"Next time I'll have it flavored with wintergreen for you," Latigo promised him sarcastically. A light saddle and pad were produced and tossed over the big red rump.

Siwash winced and then leaned back and nipped lovingly at the stableman's arm. He nipped again, harder this time, as Latigo tightened up on the cinch.

"You're a plumb locoed cannibal and you'll come to no good end!" Latigo reached for the stirrup leather and then dropped it suddenly as Violet Feverel came up behind him.

She took the strap in her gloved hand. "I thought so!" she cried bitterly. "Maude Thwaite has been riding my horse, hasn't she?"

Latigo stammered a little.

"Don't bother to lie," she told him. "I'm not blind. I can see for myself that somebody had to have the stirrups taken up two holes shorter than I use them—somebody with short legs." The red mouth curved unpleasantly.

"It must have been High pockets exercising your horse yesterday," suggested Latigo in the tone of one who does not expect to be believed.

"Him? He rides a longer stirrup than I!" She took the strap and snapped the buckle back into its proper place, then crossed behind Siwash and did the same for the off side, as Latigo moved too slowly to do it for her.

"When I come back I'm going to have a showdown with Maude Thwaite," Violet said. "I know she wants this horse to give a little class to her stableful of hacks, but she'll get him over my dead body!"

Siwash was led down the concrete runway. On the right peered forth the friendly faces of the boarders, whose owners kept them in the luxury of box stalls, monogrammed blankets and bins of carrots. Across the way were the dejected tails and the scarred rumps of the rent horses in their narrow cubicles—the horses who were kept here for hire, their mouths slowly growing callous under the pull of every inexpert hand.

Siwash clattered along the concrete, ignoring boarders and hacks alike, for he was an Irish thoroughbred and knew it. He lifted his arched neck and perked up his ears at the burst of fresh moist air which swept in through the open door.

Violet Feverel stroked his nose and then mounted with a snap of her heels. Latigo opened the door wide. "Take it careful today," he advised as she sent the thoroughbred out across the cobbled driveway. "Those paths are still soggy and I'd hate to see you thrown."

She did not answer. Latigo stared after her for a moment and then hitched up his pants. He turned suddenly to see a puzzled colorado-maduro face which had thrust itself next to his in the doorway.

Highpockets' voice was thin and querulous. "Mista Latigo, why you tell me to keep out of sight in the stall? If you're sweet on that white gal, why you tell her I'm too drunk to show up here, huh? Suppose she tell Missus Thwaite and I lose my job?"

Latigo began to roll a cigarette as the stableboy ran out of breath. The big eyes widened.

"Say, you better not let that white gal see you smoke in here—she'll tell Old Lady Thwaite on you!"

Latigo scratched a match on the seat of his overalls and applied it to the handmade cigarette. "That highnosed Miss God-almighty Feverel won't tell anybody—anything!" he pronounced with great finality. "Go on, Snowflake, get busy with the pitchfork. You got work to do."

"So has you!" Highpockets retorted. But he moved disjointedly away toward the stalls shaking his head. Latigo Wells remained at the door letting his cigarette ash fall from unheeding fingers.

As the hoofs of the big red thoroughbred rang out upon deserted Central Park West a man in a tight dark overcoat moved back into the shadows of a doorway, but Violet Feverel did not notice him. She was looking beyond the park gateway to see the glimmering of dawn in the sky above the towers of Fifth Avenue. She drew a deep breath of the damp sweet air and held it.

As they went up the slope into the park Siwash bent his heavy-sculptured neck and touched a velvet muzzle to his mistress's leg, leaving a wet mark on the jodhpur cord. He whinnied softly, remembering mornings like this in earlier and better days, when at Saratoga and Hialeah and Churchill Downs he had been breezed gloriously around the track with only stableboys and handicappers to watch, and with a monkey-like little man perched on his withers and crooning soft encouragements in his ear.

Schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers matches wits with the police to solve the murder of a society bride in Central Park.

Release Date: April 17, 1936
Release Time: 66 minutes

James Gleason as Police Inspector Oscar Piper
Helen Broderick as Hildegarde Withers
Louise Latimer as Barbara Foley
Owen Davis Jr. as Edward "Eddie" Fry
John Arledge as Joey Thomas
John Carroll as Latigo Wells
Leslie Fenton as Don Gregg
Christian Rub as Chris Thomas
Willie Best as "High Pockets"
John Miltern as Patrick "Pat" Gregg
Spencer Charters as Warden Sylvester Mahoney
James Donlan as Detective Kane
Gustav von Seyffertitz as Doctor Bloom
Frank Reicher as Dr. Peters


Author Bio:
Stuart Palmer (1905–1968) was an American author of mysteries. Born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Palmer worked a number of odd jobs—including apple picking, journalism, and copywriting—before publishing his first novel, the crime drama Ace of Jades, in 1931. It was with his second novel, however, that he established his writing career: The Penguin Pool Murder introduced Hildegarde Withers, a schoolmarm who, on a field trip to the New York Aquarium, discovers a dead body in the pool. Withers was an immensely popular character, and went on to star in thirteen more novels, including Miss Withers Regrets (1947) and Nipped in the Bud (1951). A master of intricate plotting, Palmer found success writing for Hollywood, where several of his books, including The Penguin Pool Murder, were filmed by RKO Pictures Inc.



๐Ÿ“น๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ“น๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ“นAmazon & B&N are part of the Hildegarde Withers Collection๐Ÿ“น๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ“น๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ“น

Magic of Books Promotions Birthday Bash Part 5: Horror

Authors: Alathia Paris Morgan, Suzanne Jenkins, Mackenzie Flohr
Genres: Paranormal, Horror, Psychological Thriller

Magic of Books Promotions hosted its first tour during the month of November three years ago.

The company was created from the passion and desire of its owner, Tami Adams, because of her experiences as an author. From her struggles to have her books viewed and appreciated she knew there had to be another way.

Three years later Tami no longer writes but is determined to show the world the magic that lies within the pages of all books.

The following authors are helping Magic of Books to celebrate its birthday. Enjoy.

Message from Tami:
The last three years have been an incredible journey. I've made so many friends who began as bloggers, readers, and authors. I have been privileged to present and showcase new and old books from seasoned and new authors. I've learned so much I didn't even realize I should know prior to getting into this business. And after three years I can honestly say I'm still learning, I'm still growing, and I'm still making friends. I love and appreciate all of you who have supported my little slice of heaven. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

✯ ✯ ✯ ✯


Horror is a genre of fiction whose purpose is to create feelings of fear, dread, repulsion, and terror in the audience—in other words, it develops an atmosphere of horror.

Please enjoy these books that focus on horror and all the sub-genres. The list is available in alphabetically order by title.

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter.

Mom's Against Zombies by Alathia Paris Morgan
Emma Jackson is an army wife and new mom with all the uncertainties that come with it… until that fear is pushed in a different direction. Instead of worrying about diapers and feeding schedules, her only objective is to keep her child alive after being chased by a man who looks entirely too dead.

Trish Walsh thought her day was bad when she had to drag all four of her children on an errand, but she rethinks the meaning after what she can only hope was someone dressed up like a zombie beats on her car door. Yet, the bloody mess left behind is anything but reassuring.

Cooper Walsh’s job is top secret. When criminals break in to steal his company’s secrets, he overhears the conspiracy devised to create chaos as a cover-up. Knowing he must do everything in his power to right the wrong, he sets out on a mission.

Surviving long enough to reunite with their families is all that matters. That… and stopping the zombie apocalypse before it destroys them.

The Savant of Chelsea by Suzanne Jenkins
Psychological Thriller
After the death of her mother, New York surgeon Alexandra travels to New Orleans to face the secrets and tragedies of her youth. A mystery is solved leading to a journey to madness.

The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove by Mackenzie Flohr 
Paranormal Horror
Graves Grove isn’t your ordinary town…

Nestled within the folds of the Canadian Rockies, Graves Grove probably isn’t the picturesque place you’d like to stay for long. Peculiar things happen here. The citizens seem normal superficially—they function well enough. But each one is deeply disturbed, wrapped in secrets and neuroses which drive them to strange behaviors.

And then there are all the missing children. And why is everyone afraid of that sycamore tree?

The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove is an anthology of stories taking place throughout the history of this mysterious town, from its founding to its future. Read them…if you dare.

Alathia Paris Mogan
Alathia is known to those around her for having an a long time love affair/obsession with Dr.Pepper, she has asked to be buried with a can so that it never runs out in the after life. Always bossy, she uses her mothering instincts to help others and share awareness of abuse in child and domestic situations.

A B.S. in History and English gave wings to her vivid imagination in book form. A supportive and loving husband has given her the chance to make her dreams a reality. Their three daughters and three dogs keep her busy while writing is a great way for her to wind down and destress.

Suzanne Jenkins
Suzanne writes page-turning contemporary romance, mystery, and women's fiction with passionately gripping characters that stay with readers long after they turn the last page. The Detroit Detective Stories, beginning with The Greeks of Beaubien Street are a reflection of American fantasy with historical reality. Pam of Babylon books consistently rank in the Top 100 Best Sellers in American Drama with over 500,000 downloads. A retired operating room nurse, Jenkins lives in Southern California.

Mackenzie FlohrMackenzie Flohr
Mackenzie Flohr grew up in the heartland of America, chasing leprechauns and rainbows and dreaming of angels. Her parents nurtured a love of fantasy and make-believe by introducing her at a very young age to the artistic and cultural opportunities that the city of Cleveland had to offer.

From the time she could hold a pencil, Mackenzie was already creating pictorial interpretations of classic stories, and by the age of nine, she and a childhood friend were authors and reviewers of their own picture books.

While following her love of adventure, Mackenzie found a second home, the Beck Center for the Arts Children's and Teen Theater School. It was there that a world of wonder was only a script and a performance away.

Yet it wasn't until she was on a trip to Indiana, viewing a Lord of the Rings exhibit, that the innermost desire of her heart became clear to her. She wanted to write a fantasy of her own, one that could inspire imagination in others and lead them into a magical world of their own making. She hopes The Rite of Wands will do just that.

Wherever we live and wherever we come from is our individual heartland. Anything is possible and everything can happen. Pure imagination is in all of us—we only need to discover it, and sometimes story telling helps.

Alathia Paris Morgan

Suzanne Jenkins

Mackenzie Flohr

Mom's Against Zombies by Alathia Paris Morgan

The Savant of Chelsea by Suzanne Jenkins

The Whispered Tales of Graves Grove by Mackenzie Flohr

Brought to you by:

Review Tour: Beauty & the Guardian Beast by Rhys Ethan

Title: Beauty & the Guardian Beast
Author: Rhys Ethan
Series: Queerky Tales #5
Genre: M/M Romance, Fairytale
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Cover Design: Ethereal Ealain
The classic tales you know, the characters with secrets you don't.

Ayo is a lonely boy, bullied and withdrawn, until one day his father sends him away to the kingdom of Azizi, to study under the king’s advisor, Issa, a fearsome tiger, that thinks and talks like a man. Ayo misses his father and one day he takes it out on his new companion. The next morning he wakes up to find he is starting to turn into a beast himself and if he’s to ever turn back into his human form, he has a lot to learn.

Queerky Tales is a series of classic fairy tales retold with LGBT characters. Based on the French classic, Beauty & the Guardian Beast is a tale about oppression, kindness and forgiveness.

For children and adults alike.

I have never read Rhys Ethan before but I will certainly be keeping my eye out for future stories.  Beauty & the Guardian Beast may be a short story but its long on content.  Issa and Ayo's journey is a fairy tale retelling but its also a lovely refreshing look at a story as old as time.  I don't think I have ever read a short story with so much packed into it.  Some might label Beauty as cliche and maybe it is but just because cliche might come to mind doesn't mean its not entertaining. Truth be told, just like the fairy tales of our childhood, Beauty reminds us of important lessons that most of us tend to forget.  Definitely worth the time to read.


Author Bio:
Writer of the LGBT retellings "Queerky Tales". Author of fantasy and sci-fi. Also writes queer adult romances under the pen name "Chris Ethan".

Struggling actor and a juggler of graphic design, book covers, photography, filmmaking and too many hobbies to be considered a sane person.

Rhys welcomes you into his digital home where you can find out everything he's up to and explore the life of a professional crazy person.


Beauty & the Guardian Beast #5


November 13 - Valerie Ullmer
November 17 - Padme's Library

Brought to you by: 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Release Blitz: Texas Gift by RJ Scott

Title: Texas Gift
Author: RJ Scott
Series: Texas #8
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: November 15, 2017
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
A gift for every single reader needed to know what happened next for to Jack and Riley…

When Hayley arrived on the steps of the D, Riley and Jack knew life would never be the same.

Told through Riley and Jack’s eyes, this is ten years in the life of their family and watching Hayley grow up, fall in love, and start her own life. Hurricanes, illness, babies, happiness, sadness, work, play, the barn, the office, horses, friends, enemies, and above all love.

Chapter One
Riley needed to apologize. Right now.

He’d fucked up big time, and he should have seen it coming, because everything he did went in cycles. He and Jack hadn’t argued in so long and maybe the tension that had been building inside Riley had needed an outlet; he’d provoked the argument. He’d pushed and prodded and sulked and shoved at Jack until Jack had snapped.

Not in loud, shouting temper, or anything like what Riley deserved. No, Jack had gone deathly quiet.

Absolutely. Utterly. Quiet.

Riley shouted at him, got everything out of his system, felt the weight of it all lessen by throwing it at Jack and what had happened? He’d stood there at first, confused, and then steadily calmer. Weirdly calmer.

They argued; no normal marriage went without arguments over things as important as the kids and as trivial as picking up wet towels. But they resolved things, Jack/Riley was a unit that worked. They sometimes bickered and teased, they shouted rarely, and on the odd occasion there would be sulking. Mostly from Riley. He considered it as thinking time but Jack just called him on his sulking like a child.

Their arguments always ended in love; talking, kissing, complete forgiveness that could only come when two people understood and loved each other.

This morning though, he’d made Connor cry, Lexie scowl, and Max hide under the table with Toby. Jack hadn't even stayed for that. The crying, scowling and hiding had happened after he’d left.

“Why are you shouting at Pappa!” Connor shouted back at Riley. “Stop shouting.” Then he’d started to cry, and Riley’s heart had broken into a million pieces. He’d sat between a crying Connor, and a sullen, angry Lexie and tried to explain that he had a bad headache and he didn’t mean to shout. For headache, read migraine, tight painful migraine that blurred his vision and made him feel sick. He’d taken meds and the sharp edges of the glass in his head were easing, but he couldn’t think straight. Connor stopped crying.

“You were so mean,” Lexie summarized, but she did give Riley a hug and kiss him on the forehead to make it all better.

Max on the other hand, while not angry with Riley and the shouting, was still under the kitchen table with Toby. The black lab, Riley’s black lab, was between Max and Riley in a protective furry wall.

“It’s okay Tobes, I got this,” Riley tried to fold all six-four of himself under the wood. He got caught on a bench, his neck burned, his stomach was in knots, but nothing was going to stop him from getting to Max. Toby did eventually move to one side but not too far. Toby may well have been Riley’s dog at the start, but he and Max were inseparable now.

“Max, buddy?” he began, and Max at least looked up at him for a split second. “You okay?”

“M’okay,” Max said. “You’re noisy.”

At least he wasn’t rocking, or stimming. He was just sitting with his dog in his favorite place under the kitchen table.

“Is everything okay?” Carol said from behind him. He scrambled back and brushed himself off. “Riley?”

“I shouted,” Riley explained simply.

“At the kids?” Carol asked, aghast, as if that was the ultimate sin in her eyes. Which, to be fair, it was in Riley’s as well. He and Jack didn’t shout, they cajoled, and bargained, and ran a happy house. Most of the time, anyway. Just not this morning.

“No, at Jack.”

“Is Max okay?” she peered under the table and smiled at Max. He adored her, the kids all loved their nanny, probably quite a bit more than they loved their dad today.

“He seems fine.” Riley peered out of the window at where Jack had gone. The damage had been done, but Connie and Lexie were chatting to each other, Max was with Carol and he needed to go and make things right with Jack.

“I think we’re okay in here,” Carol said, “Go find Jack.”

Riley shot her a grateful glance, and as he left the kitchen he heard Lexie telling Carol that her Pappa had a headache and that she’d kissed it better. When he closed the door it was just him and the ranch and finding Jack. It didn’t take him long; he was outside their barn, looking up at the siding, with his feet apart and his arms crossed over his chest.

Riley inhaled the fresh morning air and pulled back his shoulders. He could do this; he could ignore the pain in his head now it had lessened a little, he could push back the nausea, and he could go and apologize to Jack for being a fucking idiot.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, coming to a stop next to Jack, only a few inches separating their arms. Jack didn’t move.

“It’s okay.” Although it didn’t sound okay at all. Okay was one of those words that meant nothing in the context of an argument, it was a word that plastered over cracks in a relationship. Okay was quiet and tight-lipped silences and Riley recalled okay from when he was a kid.

He hated okay.

“It’s not okay, I have a headache and I didn’t mean any of what I said.”

“You didn’t mean to say that life would be easier if you didn’t have to listen to me?” Jack’s voice was low and serious, and Riley winced.

“You were saying too much, and I couldn’t think.”

Their discussion had started in the bedroom.

“I asked if you’d made an appointment to see someone about the headaches.”

“I know—”

“And why you were limping again—”


“And why you weren’t sleeping, and why you spent so much time at the office, and why the fuck have we not used the barn in over a month?”

The barn wasn’t just the barn, it was a euphemism for sex. They hadn't been together in a month, over a month now. How did Riley explain that he’d been at the office, sometimes with the blinds shut, closing out the light, sleeping? How did he explain he didn’t want to see a doctor because the headaches scared him? And how the hell did he tell Jack he was limping because every single one of his muscles hurt, because he was tired, because it was all too much?

“Jack, I’m sorry.”

“You’re not, Riley, because you won’t listen to me.” Jack pointed at the barn. “I’m thinking we turn this into a games room for the kids.”

Riley gripped Jack’s arm. “No, what the hell?” His tension fled and in its place was panic. This was their space. Sometimes they came out here to talk, to hide away from the world, but it was also the one place they had the hottest sex he’d ever experienced. He wanted that again, but he was so tired, every time he turned over in bed his neck hurt, and his head pounded, and his leg ached, and he was fucking tired of it all. “Jack, I’m sorry, don’t…”

Jack turned to face him, and his expression wasn’t angry. “Either you go to the doctor, right here, right now, or I start clearing the place for a pool table.” He looked deadly serious, and Riley couldn’t tell if this was an empty threat. Then Jack softened, cradled his face and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Riley, please.”

Just those two words pierced the fear in Riley, he couldn’t stop the pain, or the threat of being sick, or not sleeping, but whatever was wrong, Jack would be there for him.

“I’m scared,” Riley murmured.

Jack gathered him close. “You think I’m not?”

“Please don’t,” Riley said against Jack’s neck. His words sounded slurred and fear made him sway. What the hell? “Please don’t let me chase you away.”

“I won’t.”

And that was the last thing he heard as his world went to black.

Author Bio:
RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.


Texas Gift #8


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