In the middle of the night, Claire flees her abusive, alcoholic husband Scott, taking their four-year old daughter along with her. Seeking some long-needed peace, Claire goes to her sister Annie and her family, hoping she can at last begin the process of healing.
As she embarks on this new life she meets a family friend. Buck, who seems to be everything any woman would want-successful, handsome, charming. Claire wants to let him in, but how could she be ready to love again?
And can they even survive when Scott will not stop until they are where they both belong?
This is my first time reading anything by Bobbi Jo Benz But I can say without a doubt that it will not be the last! I loved this book! I started it and had to stop for a family weekend. And don't get me wrong I love my family time but all weekend I was dying to finish this book! So come Monday morning I woke up and went straight to my Kindle and finished this amazing book!
I love Buck and knew when Clair first met him that he was going to be the man to change her life for the better. I think Clair is an amazing, strong character and was very brave to leave the situation she was in with Scott.
I also really liked how Bobbi threw in Scott's POV form time to time. And close to the end she showed you exactly what Buck was thinking with his POV chapter. This book will defiantly go onto my "favorite books" shelve and I will read it time and time again! This is a MUST READ! 5 star review for sure!
I won the book, Through The Pieces, by Bobbi Jo Bentz, from the Goodreads giveaways on here. I went to my PO Box at around 12 noon, today and just got done reading it now at 5:38 pm. I have not read a book that quick in a long time..lol..I could not put this book down. Not even to eat, I did go pee though..lol...The tears are still streaming down my face as I am writing this 'from my heart' review. Its about a woman, mostly, who was under a spell, as I like to call it, casted on her by a no good piece of s**t of a man, up until the spell is broken by the help of those at a support group(angels actually in disguise) I loved being on this journey with Claire, her sisters, brother in law, the children and a lot of others that actually LOVED Claire with their whole heart and soul. I cried a lot. I laughed a lot. I got angry to the point of actually cursing out loud at a particular character..lol..For me, when I pick up a book, any book, I can usually tell by the first few pages if it's a book for me, by the way I feel inside my gut, if it catches and grabs at me, and won't let me go. NOT until the very last page that is. And even then it is still swirling around my head leaving feelings of emotions that seem all to real. These are the kind of books I love to read.
Bobbi Jo, you are a very good author that has a lot still left inside of you to give to those of us who are anxiously awaiting for your next book to come out. God bless you always. I am officially a "lover of Bobbi Jo Bentz's books".. :)
For a debut novel, I must say I am impressed. This book has several elements to it. It is dark but also light hearted. I experienced so many emotions reading this book. I laughed so hard at times I had tears streaming down my face (Borus, you cracked me up.) Then at times I was fearful. The book grabs a hold from the very first chapter and you find yourself really rallying for Clare. I look forward to reading future work for this author.
Other books in this genre:
Her fingers touched the pages and held the quill
Lightly they pressed; a panoply of enumerations
Not mere whimsy, but tethered in grit
Fingers and palms held fast the measure of them,
The weight, infinite, She balanced these:
Her virtue, reputation, and devotion to the Divine
Juxtaposed to the demands,
Could she follow them?
Did she dare?
Her nib grazed the page
Ink blotting and boring through porous threads
Seeping down the fluted mahogany leg.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Kayla nearly tripped. The world tilted, her vision blurred, and her stomach lurched. She grabbed the handrail. Icy coldness stung her fingers and she jerked free. A miasma enveloped her senses. The smell of lavender and kelp drifted like a heavy mist through the open glass doors from the moonlit deck outside. Light fixtures shaped like seashells flickered, illuminating gold carpet and avocado green walls. She clutched a folded note between gloved fingers…
I’m not wearing gloves! Kayla thought and shuddered. A loud “ding” announced the arrival of the elevator. Expecting to see the Lady standing inside, Kayla tried to run but stood frozen in place. The doors slid open and her mouth felt too dry to swallow. Her vision blurred—and cheerful passengers walked lazily from the elevator to the sunny deck outside. A balmy breeze filled the corridor and a shaft of golden sunshine gleamed across salmon-colored carpet and coral walls.
Kayla’s knees buckled. She gripped the solid wood handrail to steady wobbly legs and gulped deep breaths. What happened to me? Glancing at her shaking bare hands, Kayla wished she’d read the note before it disappeared.
Empty nesters Charli McAntic and her husband, Pud, have settled into their golden years. Although their early days of retirement were filled with disillusion and despair, they are now ready to relax and swing upon a star. Pud continues to golf most days and Charli still organizes her closets and rearranges her collectibles, but now they are a solid team. Or are they?
Charli and Pud are no strangers to the art of creating fun. These days they spend their time sharing gourmet meals with their nieces and nephews, attending Cleveland Cavalier basketball games, and rekindling their romance. But when a series of calamities suddenly rock their world, they each meet a new friend, leaving Charli to worry if she and Pud are heading in the right direction.
In the third book of this delightful series, an empty nester is left to recalculate her path to happiness as she and her husband both discover that their golden years are full of more surprises.
As the sunset over the headland at Kings Beach, an elderly couple watched as the passenger liner “Sun Beauty” sailed out to sea on its next voyage. The couple were in the twilight of their lives, and they had shared a beautiful life together. They had earlier that day, spent time with their children, grandchildren, and their great granddaughter while they celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
They shared a bottle of Muscadean, a white wine produced from white Muscat grapes grown in Ballandean, hence the name. A light, easy drinking aromatic semi-sweet white makes it perfect served chilled for that warm summer day picnic. They discovered the wine on a weekend visiting Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region and, at once it became “their wine.” Later on, the owners of the winery opened an outlet at nearby Mooloolaba, and while he could still drive, he managed to call in about once a month.
When the sun had set, he dozed off in his favourite chair, placed to take in the picturesque outlook over the entrance to Moreton Bay. She was comfortable with him dozing off, and she knew he was at peace. Although now in his eighties, they both liked to look back at the uncertain times, at the peak of World War two when they first met, and how over time, their love grew.
Although the population considered Australia to be safe at the start of the war, as Europe and Germany were on the other side of the world. Attitudes changed with Japan entering the war. Japan shared the same Ocean as Australia. Although Japan and Australia were successful trading parties before the war, with Japan attacking Pearl Harbour and making menacing overtures towards Singapore, Australia was now at war with Japan.
When Darwin was bombed for the first time in February 1942, the government played down the damage to the public. The general population knew nothing of other bombing raids at Broome, Mossman, Derby and even Katherine.
After the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in May, it had become impossible to disguise that an impending threat became real. This became even serious when rumours began the spread about “The Brisbane Line.”
When it became seriously believed by the government and military that Japan would attack Australia, it needed to be quickly decided what areas should be protected. Because Australia was a vast island with the majority of the population confined to the southeast, in February 1942 General Ivan Mackay drew a line on the map of Australia. This line stretched from the coast north of Brisbane to west of Melbourne. Although no record of the “Brisbane Line” was being activated, many believed, (and some still do) that the line was implemented and all of the country north and west of the line was to be abandoned.
The other item kept from the public, concerned that during the twelve months between May 1942 and May 1943, 25 ships were attacked within forty miles of the New South Wales coast.
The government began to realise that unless they could control panic, large numbers of the population may abandon the major cities like Brisbane.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific battlefronts, Brisbane was the crucial point for resupplying the troops in battle. The Americans developed it as a Major Naval base, including a vast submarine base. In 1942, General McArthur set up his headquarters for the Pacific in Brisbane. Brisbane needed a civilian population to make sure the smooth running of so many essential services.
The government and the military were in a “catch 22” situation. Secrecy needed to be maintained for security, and yet, the population needed to be reassured of their safety. This, compounded by the military distrust of elected politicians, as well as the parliamentarian’s need to placate their constituents. A unique approach obviously was needed.
The member for Port Macquarie and now the defence minister, David Millar called an urgent meeting of his department heads to see if a solution could be found. Because of some of the difficulties, the meeting was held in Sydney. As it happened, in the same hotel that the defence department rented rooms, the senior media lecturer at Queensland University was with colleagues in a get together of their own. Tom Walker was the former editor of a major newspaper who also had extensive experience producing newsreel films. Tom and David were friends from the University of New South Wales, where they both studied. When the defence Minister ran into the media lecturer in the hallway, they made time to have a few drinks and reminisce about their university days.
It was during this time that the Minister started to conceive the basis of how Tom may be able to offer a solution to his problem.
Although they realised, the invasion of these cities by the Japanese would be remote; a specialist public relations unit still should be instigated. It could give reassurance through movies (newsreels) and newspaper articles that would show to the civilian population the defences were in place.
With Brisbane is becoming the headquarters for the allies command for the war in the Pacific, it would become necessary to play down the military importance of Brisbane as a target.
A by-product of these films would be to discourage a Japanese invasion, as they would show the Japanese Brisbane was too difficult a city to invade.
They finished their talk with Tom agreeing to put a concrete proposal together. He needed to show how it would also work including the resources needed. This plan was required to be able to be presented to the War Cabinet by the end of the week.
Being the driven person that he was, Tom was able to put the basis of his proposal together in just two days.
He approached the task as if preparing a lecture for his students. He defined exactly the end achievement needed. What would be the best way of achieving the result? What resources are needed? He was able to present a written proposal two days later.
To reassure the residents of Australia that there was no need to evacuate their homes and thus maintain a steady civilian population to enhance the war effort, I propose to set up the following civilian unit.
1. Reporting directly to, the Defence Minister, this unit will work, in conjunction with the military authorities, but the military shall have no control over the activities of the unit.
2. The unit would make newsreel motion pictures depicting the defence efforts of an area without divulging crucial information that the enemy may not know of.
3. The movies are to be processed and scripted before handing over to the distributors, who will then add the scripted soundtrack using their staff.
4. Regular newspaper and magazine articles are also to be produced.
5. Staff required would be
a. A General Manager to oversee operations and report to the Minister
b. A Cinematographer, who would produce the movies and supervising a cameraman. He would also act as the second cameraman.
c. A Journalist to write articles and the scripts for the movies.
d. A personal assistant to the General Manager who would also act as a secretary and other duties when needed.
e. A driver who must be competent in small boats and all types of motor vehicles. Would also be an aid in labouring and any other tasks as required?
6. The budget would be set by the Minister and vehicles, camera and other equipment to be supplied by the military where available. But the unit would buy directly when needed.
7. The Military are to supply accommodation including living, office and workshop space independently from the military accommodation. The Military is required to provide security for this area.
To his surprise, Tom received a call from the minister that afternoon is telling him it had been approved without alteration. A meeting was set up the next day with the minister and his senior staff. The chief of the defence forces would also be attending.
David told him the cabinet wanted this unit to be operating within a fortnight.
David arranged for Tom to use a parliamentary office in Canberra to enable him to get the ball rolling. Some of the minister’s staff members were allocated to generate all the legal and performance documents needed so that Tom could start with the recruitment. His first need would be for a personal assistant.
David suggested Jill Robertson, 32-year-old, a career public servant with the defence department. She had previously worked for David Millar before he entered politics.
She was married to Colonel Bob Robertson, an Australian military liaison officer attached to the British Air Ministry in London.
Her knowledge of the public service, politics and military protocols would make her invaluable in dealings with government and defence personnel. Not having any ties would enable her to travel as required.
David assured Tom that, as he would be operating a division of the Ministry of Defence and all members of his unit would be paid by the department, so would all expenses. In fact, even though there were shortages of materials and other supplies, Jill would order everything under the auspices of the department. Therefore, all suppliers would, under the wartime regulations, have no alternative than to supply the unit in preference to all others. This would also mean that the unit had priority over the three military branches.
All accounts would be forwarded to the department for payment. This also meant that all the unit’s civilian staff would be treated as Commonwealth Public Servants.
Tom was relieved that he would have no supply problems to hinder the operation.
Ministry Communications Unit
David arranged for an interview and within two minutes, Tom decided that she was ideal, and she wanted the job. Jill transferred to Tom’s unit that afternoon. Jill was an extremely good-looking woman. She stood about six feet tall with a body would make most Australian women envious.
Tom, hearing that the famed Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, was in Canberra that afternoon, had one of his staff arrange for them to meet at the Canberra Hotel.
Although Tom couldn’t reveal much about the unit, he told Charles enough, so it was possible to ask if Charles knew of any suitable candidates for the Cinematographer's role. Charles had no hesitation in recommending Bill Munro, who had worked as an undergraduate cinematography assistant to Charles.
Bill, raised up, on his parent’s farm in central Queensland near Roma, went to boarding school at Toowoomba Grammar and a cinematography graduate from Queensland University. Being 22 years old and single would also be helpful.
As Bill was in Sydney, Tom met with him on Monday morning at an office that Jill acquired near Victoria Barracks.
In two short days, Jill arranged for working offices in Sydney and Brisbane, while the Army provided living and working accommodation near the Eagle Farm racecourse. The army also supplied a car in Brisbane and when required in Sydney and Canberra.
Over the weekend, Jill moved into the Brisbane accommodation while Tom, taking advantage of being in Sydney, met up with his two daughters. Both were staff car drivers at Victoria Barracks, which made it easy to catch up when he was in Sydney.
The meeting with Bill concluded remarkably successful, although he advised Tom that he needed a week to tidy up his current projects. He did, however, know of a young cameraman who would be ideal for them. Tom agreed to give Bill the week to tidy up and then, he was to join him at Eagle Farm the following Monday.
Tom also gave Bill the approval to employ the Cameraman, who lived in Clayfield, the next suburb to Eagle Farm.
On Tuesday when Tom arrived at the Eagle Farm property, he was impressed with what Jill had been able to organise, on such short notice.
She heard of an experienced journalist, Joe Grady. Joe, a feature journalist for the last ten years with the Brisbane Sun, had resigned from the paper with the intention to join the army.
Joe was thirty- years old and married to Joan, a nurse working in the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Ninety percent of her patients were R.A.N. and RAAF personnel, injured while on duty in the Pacific. Both were career orientated although, Joe wanted to join the army. Jill met Joan several years ago at a conference, so on Saturday when she arrived in Brisbane, Jill gave her a call. She heard about Joe resigning, and she asked if he would see Tom before he enlisted. They made an appointment to meet with Tom on a Tuesday afternoon. Tom, being familiar with Joe’s work, looked forward to meeting him.
Joe and Tom hit it off at once. Joe could see the importance of the role and, even if he wasn’t to add a by-line to each article he wrote, he was allowed to keep copies for his resume after the war.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister arrived in Brisbane and called on Tom. He was impressed with the speed the unit set up. Tom explained that they could not arrange for film equipment until Bill came on board, the following Monday. He explained to David that the only position not filled was the driver.
David suggested that Alf Watson may be suitable.
Alf, a 23-year-old single man, grew up in Port Macquarie and worked on fishing boats. He had driven semi-trailers to market and is a good 'bush mechanic.'
When Alf was rejected by the army on medical grounds, because of his flat feet, he appealed to his local Member of Parliament and family friend (David Millar.)
As David had known Alf as the son of a friend, he never hesitated in recommending him to Tom. “Alf will be an ideal member of his team because of his driving ability, knowledge of the sea and his mechanical ability as well.”
When Tom called Alf, he jumped at the opportunity as he realised, it would be far more interesting than in the army, and he would still be contributing to the war effort.
Alf was on the next train north.
During the first week, Jill set up important meetings with the local Military commanders, where the Minister explained what was about to happen. He instructed them to brief Tom on the entire military (army, naval and air force) tasks surrounding Brisbane. They all agreed the first movies would centre on the sea approaches to Brisbane.
They felt most of the strategy for the defence of Brisbane seaways would be known to the Japanese anyway. There is only one shipping channel into Brisbane, and they were sure that the Japanese would have extensive charts. These would’ve been gathered before the war while Japanese cargo ships regularly carried cargo in and out of Brisbane.
Knowing the shipping routes, it would be a simple exercise for the Japanese intelligence to estimate where shore defences would most likely be located. Tom arranged for the Navy to take him on board for a journey between where they met incoming convoys and the Brisbane River.
This survey journey took place on Tuesday after Bill arrived. The first task he needed Bill for was to make a list of the photographic equipment he needed.
Jill would use her talents to make sure it was all available within days. Tom become amazed at what Jill could organise. He often wondered if Jill knew there was a war on and led to equipment being in short supply. If Jill asked for material, Jill got equipment. The acquisition of a truck and small boat created no problems for Jill.
The rest of that week the unit worked together and settled into their new roles. It was decided that they should wear army style work wear, and they were given “All Area” passes. This allowed them to enter restricted areas at any time. The unit was given the imposing name of “Ministry Communications Unit.”
They all now signed the Official Secrets Act and to make their job easier when moving around they were given talks on a broad range of military subjects covering all three services. They needed to be able to recognise all badges of rank for both Australian forces as well as American forces. They also needed to know operational requirements of the Navy as well as the army.
Their quarters at Eagle Farm consisted of a separate room for each person with shared toilets and showers except for Jill, who had her own. Joe had a room, although he usually stayed at home when not required. In the office block, they all had their workspace.
Alf was allocated an area allotted for his truck. This would be where he parked it, and could do any services that the army didn’t do. He also used a general store room that he stored any timber or other supplies that may be needed.
Bill had a comprehensive workshop where he could store all his equipment and prepare the film stock. All the processing of the film would be carried out at the Milton Kodak Laboratories.
The film, by its inflammable nature, was required to be stored in a special fireproof vault that somehow Jill found.
An American Air Force unit, being next to the Eagle Farm compound was ideal for meals. Jill arranged for breakfast and dinner to be taken at their Officers Mess while, lunch was sandwiches that Alf would collect after breakfast. They often joked about Alf being probably the only driver who ate in an Officer’s mess anywhere in the world. Jill had also arranged for tea making facilities to be available at their compound.
They started the day that they were to have their first journey with the Navy, by having the whole unit being assembled on the Hamilton wharf.
This was the same day that their cameraman, Fred Williams, joined them from the south coast. He signed the “Official Secrets Act” paperwork on the dock. Their vessel, a harbour tug, usually travelled through the channel with every convoy in the case of an incident.
As they departed the port, they looked at Fort Lytton on the southern side of the river. The fort had been erected to protect Brisbane from the Russians in the 1870s. The tugs captain pointed that the North West shipping channel ran from the Brisbane River to Caloundra. After leaving the river, the channel runs northeast to around Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, and then it turns North West to Bribie Island where it then rounds Wickham Point at Caloundra and heads out to sea.
They saw defences at Cowan Cowan and again at Skirmish point on the Southern end of Bribie Island, and again towards the northern end of Bribie.
At the high points of Caloundra, they could see lots of activity and undoubtedly, a lookout or two. The tug captain told them of the trenches, barbed wire and other measures that extent to well past Currimundi.
On the return journey, they observed the tight formation of the ships in the convoy, and how the escorts weaved in front of the convoy. This was to make sure that no submarines were amongst them. The same procedure took place at the rear of the convoy.
Tom thought that the journey well worthwhile, but he knew a lot more knowledge of the defences would be needed. Before the planning of the projects could start he needed to be more familiar with all the activities around the Caloundra and Bribie Island regions.
A two-day fact-finding mission was arranged to take place on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week.
Tom wanted to have the cameras rolling by the following Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were meetings to be had with the printed press, as well as with the two newsreel companies.
Tuesday morning Tom met with the editors of the two local newspapers and explained his mission to them. They both agreed they would take and publish the articles Joe would write and give them by-lines of a staff journalist. They also knew that being a War Cabinet mission, secrecy of the source along with the need not to alter the transcripts were vital.
After lunch, Tom arranged for the team to meet at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. This was a “getting to know you” exercise. Tom stressed the importance of their job and he could take the luxury of relaxing for the first time since he had run into David. In only eighteen days the unit developed from a concept into a fully functional branch of the defence ministry. Jill commented that, in all her years in public service, she had seen nothing happen so fast.
At the beginning of a semester at the University, Tom had used the following exercise many times. It involved getting everyone to tell their life story to the group. They adjourned to a private room that Jill had organised and with jugs of beer on the table and a supply of nibbles Tom started the ball rolling.
“After I gained my degree at the University of New South Wales, I started out my working career as a cadet journalist with the Cumberland group in Parramatta. As a young man I met my wife, and we had two lovely daughters within two years. I became a feature editor for the whole group in less than ten years. When I was preparing an article to focus on the benefits of the new Harbour Bridge, I happened to stand right in front of the official party. I was amazed at the audacity of Captain de-Grout in cutting the ribbon. This led me to think words could never adequately describe the mood and reactions of the Premier and all the official party. The looks of amazement mixed with anger could not be captured in words alone. This led me to think about exploring the possibilities of working with film.”
“The following year I became editor of the Daily Telegraph and even though I enjoyed the work, I still had this nagging feeling about the inadequacy of the printed word.”
“I stayed there for three years before I joined the Cinesound Company as a journalist working on the scripts for newsreels. This led me to become a producer supervising the story choice and managing the film crews for them.”
“It was about this time that my marriage collapsed, probably because of the long and odd hours I worked, and it left me with the task of raising two teenage daughters by myself.”
“I realised that to bring up the girls, my life needed to be more organised, and I needed to be home far more than in the past. It was around this time that the media studies faculty at the University of New South Wales was put into place. I applied to join this faculty and became the first media lecturer.”
“War came along, and the girls were now young women. They both joined the WRAAC on the same day and now drive staff cars around Sydney.”
“About a month ago I was in Sydney for a meeting when I ran into David Millar, whom I had known from my student days. David suggested we have a few drinks, and it was during this time that the formation of this unit developed. David went back to Canberra and asked me to put a proposal together. Within two days David had presented my proposal to the Cabinet and Cabinet approved it unanimously.”
Jill was next to telling her story. She was apprehensive at first being acutely aware of her husband’s position and careful not to infer that her position in the public service had anything to do with her husband’s station in life.
“I was born in Sydney and spent most of my teenage years at the beach. I love the surf, and I am extremely motivated to be the best of whatever endeavour I undertake.”
“I went straight from high school into the public service as a clerk. I noticed those around me who sought a career in the public service had university degrees. This led me to enrol in a business studies program with a major in government studies.”
“An opportunity arose to transfer to Canberra that I jumped at. After all, Canberra was the place for an ambitious public servant to be.
Canberra was good for me as I started to get promotions even though still studying for my degree.”
“Canberra was also good for me as this is where I met my husband, Bob, a cadet at the Duntroon Military College. We married later that year and made a firm commitment not to start a family until later on.”
“Bob was more of an administrative officer and as it turned out the army is short of young administrators. They had plenty of leaders and field officers but, short of those with highly developed administrative skills. This was good for us as it meant Lieutenant, and then Captain and finally Major Robertson worked at Army Headquarters in Canberra.”
If Mark Wilkerson had to listen to any more of that morbid organ music, he was going to throw up. A migraine beat against his temples and tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood propped against his crutches, his dislocated shoulder aching. Through bleary eyes, he viewed the three closed coffins at the front of the viewing parlor. Gold glitter on white satin ribbons across the caskets read, “Devoted Father,” “Loving Mother,” and “Baby Sister – Sabrina.” She was only six.
Ornate floral arrangements surrounded the closed caskets, their florist shop fragrance adding to Mark’s migraine. He ran his hand across the smooth surface of his mother’s coffin; fingered the satin ribbon. She was in there, at least what was left of her, but he would never see her again. Never again would he feel the warm touch of her lips on his cheek when she kissed him good night.
His weepy eyes abruptly gushed with tears. What happened? He still wondered, shaking his head. Even though he’d somehow survived the accident, he still didn’t know anything about it. All he knew was what the County Sheriff’s deputy and the doctor at the hospital had told him; that he and his family had been in a tragic, fiery accident on the Carquinez Bridge on Christmas Eve.
The doctor also told him his memory would probably return, but it could take some time. He’d called it “dissociative amnesia," whatever that was. He said it was often caused by severe emotional trauma.
Mark’s grandmother, Emily Wilkerson, told him he’d performed with the family at a rest home earlier that night, but he couldn’t remember that either. He felt, more than remembered his father had been angry about something. Then there was Amanda Bonfili. What happened on their date? Or did they have a date? He just couldn’t remember.
Mark moved to his father’s casket. How could he live without him? His dad had been his greatest inspiration, his best friend. He looked down at the casket as his tears rolled. How could he live with the guilt of knowing their last words may have been spoken in anger? He’d never even had a chance to say I’m sorry, if he’d done something wrong or even good-bye. Somehow, he felt he might have been at least partly responsible for the accident. “Forgive me, dad.” His cries escaped his lips in a whisper, “for whatever I did. I’m sorry.” Tears stung his eyes and he wiped them on his sports jacket sleeve.
He wished he could see his family just one last time, but the undertaker had told him their bodies were too charred. The thought horrified him and Mark agreed it would be better to remember them as he’d last seen them alive.
At least his sister, Amy, was being spared the funeral ordeal. But she was still in a coma and her condition was serious. The doctors said she could have brain damage if she survived. That sounded worse than his amnesia.
The accident had only been three days ago and tomorrow, after the funeral, the coffins would be lowered into the cold ground. Is that all there is to life? Mark wondered, To live your life then be discarded like some trash. Hanging his head, he wished he could have died in their place, or at least with them. How Amy and he had survived was a mystery.
Moving to Sabrina’s casket, he laid his forehead against her tiny coffin. “Dear God! Please make this go away. Make them come back.” But even as he prayed, he knew God couldn’t make that happen, assuming He was even real. After all, why would an all-powerful, loving God take away the people he loved most; his parents and his six-year-old sister who had so much to live for, the family Amy and he needed?
Why? The question kept repeating over in his mind, as he wiped his eyes again. Why did his parents have to die and of all people little Sabrina?
SABRINA! Mark wanted to shout, as if it would bring her back.
He missed his baby sister every bit as much as he missed his mother and father.
“Sabrina,” he whispered.
He would never see her again. Tears rolled down his cheeks as Mark thought of her charred little body inside the tiny coffin and the pain she must have endured in the fire. She didn’t deserve to die.
Mark felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Straightening with his crutches, he leaned into his grandmother’s arms. “Go ahead and cry,” she said. “It’s good to let it out.”
Mark leaned down and laid his cheek in the hollow of her neck. He could smell her sweet, old ladies perfume. “Why?” he asked. “Why didn’t God protect them? Why did He let Sabrina die and not me? She didn’t even get a chance to live her life.” He turned away and tightened his fists on the crutch’s handgrip.
He felt his grandmother’s warm fingers turn his chin. “Mark, I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for me too and it will be hard on Amy when she comes home.” His grandmother choked on her words then blotted her eyes with her hankie, “if she does. Son, we don’t always understand why He allows things like this to happen, but my mother always told me, ‘what we see today as a tragedy, we may look back at tomorrow as a blessing.’” Emily hugged him tighter and stroked his hair.
“A blessing? How can losing almost my entire family ever be a blessing?” Mark huffed and pulled away. His head throbbed even more. Then looking back at his grandmother, he said, “If I ever find out who caused the accident, I swear… I’ll… I’ll kill him…. I promise that.”
“No, Mark. Don’t think like that. It was just that, an accident. You need to forgive them.”
“I can’t, Grandma. I just can’t.”
One night Aaron Tyler has his world interrupted by a knock at his front door. He finds himself confronted by a broken and bloody girl unconscious on his doorstep; he makes the snap decision to help her, something that goes against his reclusive behaviour – a decision that will transform his life.
What ensues is an unlikely friendship between two people, but why is Sophie there? Over the course of several weeks Aaron’s life is reawakened by the seductive powers of Sophie. She realises early on that her hidden agenda could ruin everything, her family are manipulating her for their own gains, dysfunctional at best, violent and abusive at worst. She is torn between doing what they want and her new found loyalty to Aaron – and what roll does the mystery man play in the scheme.
At fifteen Sophie has no business living in the home of a forty year old man, but she convinces him that she has no family, nowhere to live and no other options. Aaron for his part only wants to help the poor girl.
Sophie brings out a side of Aaron that even those closest to him didn’t know existed. For twenty years he has not left his house, as he gets to know her he realises that he would do anything for her, even die for her. As her seduction progresses she uses his infatuation with her to entice him out of the house, baby steps at first before breaking his tether from Sotherby House.
Happy with her new found life, she decides to abandon her families plan for her. The plan was that after they placed her in the midst of Aaron’s universe she was supposed to manipulate him into sleeping with her which would then trigger their scheme of blackmail.
Before she undertook the task she had been warned that Aaron Tyler was a pervert who likes underage girls, what she discovered was the sweetest man she had ever met. For the first time in her life she feels like part of a family.
While she deviates from the plan the friction between her family increases. The pressure and strain on her parent’s relationship results in a violent split and her dad taking things into his own hands having realised they put their daughter in harm’s way. He decides that he will do anything to get her back and to punish anyone that gets in his way.
With her dad prepared to do anything, things get eventful at Aaron’s house when he turns up to retrieve his daughter, a man on a mission who will stop at nothing to protect his family.
The story highlights society’s stereotypical ideas about love and life, how a married couple with a fifteen year old child would appear to be the idyll. While a man living a lonely existence of exclusion from the world seems to be living a wasted life. At its heart ‘Hard Candy’ is a forbidden love story between Aaron and Sophie – a love that turns out to be pure, and the abusive marriage of her parents which on the surface is good and wholesome but below is toxic to the core.
Society’s need for material possessions is a driving factor for why Sophie’s family do what they do as well as the mystery man. Elements of jealousy and a sense of being owed by the world are also highlighted.
Why read 7 short stories?
7 is a special number for people all over the world. There are 7 days in a week; 7 deadly sins, 7 virtues; 7 colours of the rainbow; 7 Wonders of the Ancient World – and, of course, the 7 year itch!
These 7 stories are special, like the number itself.
Why an extra ½?
We all like a little extra and this extra comes with a bonus.
You get to decide how the last story ends. ‘The Night Before Christmas’ leaves Emily with a choice – and it’s not an easy one! Read her story and go for what you want to happen. Wonder what you’ll decide.
Grimly he shuffled forward a decisive five centimetres. Nothing was ever going to change the world or his place in it. Just one second of courage,then it would be over. He would be over, on his way to the pavement and certain death.
The Public Be Damned
Someone tapped my shoulder as I waited for the light to change on the corner of 23rdand Park. "Excuse me, said a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman from today's Political Science class at Manhattan University. "Your name is Kevin, right?"
"Why are you wearing that shirt?"
I glanced down at the image of Shannon Kistler on the front. "Oh-I like her."
"Why?" She winced.
"Adam liked Eve, Romeo liked Juliet, Anthony liked Cleopatra .. .it's a tradition, I guess."
"But her music is juvenile."
"So I've heard."
The streetlight changed, but my classmate stared at me as we crossed Park Avenue. I walked up 23rd Street to the bus stop at the Flatiron Building, my backpack full of newly purchased textbooks. Halfway up the block, a guy in a three-piece suit who talked on a cell phone glanced at my shirt as he walked toward me. "Wait a second," he muttered. "Man," he snarled at me, "I can't believe someone like you put on that shirt."
"And I can't believe someone like you got off your phone to tell me so."
He frowned and walked away as I continued toward Broadway. At the Flatiron Building 1 stood in my usual nook, watching for my express bus home. The sidewalk was practically empty, but I caught the attention of a curly-haired guy, maybe a year or two older than me, strolling toward Union Square with a friend. The guy tapped his friend's shoulder and pointed at me, but I waved him off before he yelled at me.
The traffic on Broadway was as thin as the pedestrians on the sidewalk. The other Staten Island-bound express buses stopped by the building regularly, but my wait for the X12 was always longer for one stupid reason or another. I already spent a whole year waiting for many things, including the bus, and I knew that wouldn't change any time soon, especially with everything I still had to learn about accounting before I got my BBA
An early September breeze blew through my hair as a black limo stopped at the light on 22nd Street. I couldn't guess who was inside-a bridal party, a foreign dignitary, or a corporate big shot. But I was hypnotized by the long car, watching it roll down Broadway and onto 21st Street after the light changed.
"Excuse me," a black man in a parka and a wool hat said, "you got any change to spare?"
"No, I don't. I'm sorry."
"Hey, you don't gotta be sorry, okay? You don't got it, you don't got it. That's all. You don't gotta be sorry for nothin'. People always gettin' into trouble 'cause they sorry for stuff they can't control, and we got all these world problems because people do a lotta shit they sorry about later. And that uses up a lotta energy, you know? They can use that energy to do other stuff."
He clamped a hand on my shoulder, to my horror. "Look, man," he continued, pointing, "you a young guy. You don't need none ofthat shit, okay? You don't gotta worry about nothin' but the rest of your life. You got lotsa time to do whatever you please, and bein' sorry ain't gonna help you. So you don't got the change, you don't got the change, and that's the way it goes. You don't gotta be sorry about it, okay? Don't be sorry. You got it, don't you?"
Yeah. I'm sorry I apologized. I nodded slightly, trying not to roll my eyes.
"Yeah, you get it." He smiled, showing off his yellow teeth. "You get it. You a good guy. Go get yourself some nice pussy." He slapped my shoulder and marched off.
Oh, no, you did NOT use the P-word on me...
"Hey, mister," a girl's voice yelled, "you got a nice shirt on!"
"Thank-YOU!! HOLY SHIT!!" It was Shannon Kistler herself, calling to me from the limousine sitting at the light a few moments ago. She laughed, ducked inside and rolled up the window. I snatched my backpack and chased after her, but the heavy textbooks slowed me down, and she made a swift getaway.
Two minutes later an X12 finally pulled up. "How you doin'?" asked the driver after he opened the doors.
"Hanging in there, thanks," I fumbled, paying the fare.
"School started again?" he asked, pulling away from the curb.
"Yeah," I muttered.
"You don't seem happy about it."
"I had a long day." 1 would've said why 1 really didn't seem happy, but he'd never buy it.
"Well, pick a seat and take a snooze," he said. "You look like you could use it."
''I'm way ahead of you."
He chuckled as I grabbed a window seat and followed his advice.
"Hello, everyone," I said, entering and dropping my backpack on the stairs. "Hi, Kevin," my sixteen-year-old brother Russell and fourteen-year-old sister Stacy sang while they watched television. "Hi, Kevin," Mom said from the kitchen. "How did the first day go?" "Like the last day of last semester." I hung up my sweatshirt, hearing Dad yell on the phone upstairs. "Dinner will be ready soon," Mom announced. "You can take a quick shower." "I did-this morning," 1 said, walking toward the basement door with my backpack. "Another one will make you feel better after today," she said, stirring the tomato sauce.
Isn't she blunt.
In my bedroom a poster of Shannon hung on the wall above my bed, but I still had no idea why I was smitten with her. Last summer's hit "Dream World" was so cheesy, my stomach spun whenever I heard it on the radio. The lyrics contained no creative thought, and I decided it sounded like a rush job. As the hits came off her first CD, though, I became impressed when I found out she not only wrote songs, but she also had a recording studio in her basement.
Although I was surrounded by thousands of other fans at her concert at the Garden State Arts Center this past July, I never felt so isolated in my life. But when Shannon hit the stage, singing with passion and dancing with enthusiasm, I felt like 1 got my money's worth. Some company would've cheered me up about seeing the show, but my friends weren't interested.
I was drawn to a career in the recording industry, so I took a guitar class as a high school freshman and spent the next summer teaching myself more than I already learned in the class. I believed I could hit it big despite the stories I heard of recording artists busting their asses for success. But 9/ 11 reminded me my head belonged on my shoulders instead of in the clouds, so I chose to crunch numbers without giving it much thought.
I still had a flicker of hope for a musical career, but I was astounded by Shannon's confidence and determination, two qualities I sorely lacked if I wanted anyone to respect me as a performer. Of course, being cute as hell didn't hurt her either.
But those qualities I saw in Shannon didn't matter to some Jewish Society members at school. Avi Cohen and Yaakov Friedman, for example, wouldn't shut up about my shirt when they laid eyes on it. Whenever someone entered the office while the three of us were there during the day, Avi and Yaakov pointed me out. They didn't welcome any other members back or ask them about their summers or their classes. The first words out of their mouths were about my clothes. When I left the office in the afternoon for my Political Science class, they were deep into a conversation about Shannon because 1 saluted her.
Whatever their gripes were, I figured they were disappointed because I didn't want to roll in the hay with Shannon. Back in high school I enjoyed talking about girls with my friends during lunch. But when some explicit details crept into the discussion, I was reminded those views of girls would be useless to me in winning someone over. 1 didn't care if the next man let his libido control him, as long as he didn't expect me to behave the same way. After today, though, I was sure Avi and Yaakov wouldn't be the only ones to hold those values against me.
Nor was it the first time anyone instantly disliked me because I followed my heart. When my family and I moved into the condominium in 1991, Russell and I made friends with the other kids while Stacy was still discovering the world around her. Our arrival inspired the other parents to gather the kids together for activities we might do in summer camp: sing-a-longs, arts and crafts, and games like Duck Duck Goose and Red Rover. I ate it up.
THE MANCINI SAGA. A family of six close Italian siblings each has a compelling story of romance, danger and mystery that could tear them apart or bring them together.
What if the woman you love is kidnapped from your vehicle during a traffic accident?
When famous actor Antonio Mancini meets famous paparazzi Candace Moore, he doesn’t expect to fall in love with the beautiful, passionate photographer of the rich and famous. Candace is thrilled when Antonio embraces her and the demons in her closet.
On the night that Antonio proposes to Candace, their car is involved in a massive car accident. When Antonio wakes in the hospital the following morning, the investigator tells him that he was alone in the car at the time of the accident. Against medical advice, Antonio flees the hospital and starts to search for the woman who accepted his proposal. One clue after another brings him closer to discovering the truth and proving his sanity.
Alex and Oliver live in worlds, poles apart; new worlds shaped by a terrible world war and the emerging freedoms of the Sixties. A killer stalks, and five people are drawn into the intrigue surrounding a serial murderer; a series of events set in the Seventies, influenced by the past… a string of events—a daisy chain.
Daisy Chain; an erotic thriller from the masterly pen of Mark Montgomery.
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