Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lonestar Homecoming, The Word Reclaimed


Colleen Coble
Gracie has spent her life running from her problems. This time, it's a matter of life and death.
With nothing but five dollars, a train ticket, and the wedding dress she's wearing, Gracie Lister escapes with her daughter to the West Texas country where her family fell apart years ago.

There, Lieutenant Michael Wayne-devoted single father, dedicated soldier-gives Gracie the hiding place she needs, and a job caring for his two children. Michael and Gracie aren't looking for love, but it finds them right away.

The couple doesn't exactly see eye-to-eye, though. A vengeful druglord has put a price on Michael's head, and he's determined to face the enemy head-on. When Gracie's ex-fiance catches up to her, her impulse is to flee the danger … and the father she lacks the courage to confront.
Find LONESTAR HOMECOMING at CBD or any bookstore.


In a few minutes, she'd be a married woman. Gracie Lister tugged at the silk encasing her hips and drew a deep breath that did little to calm the flutters tapping against her ribs. San Diego traffic rumbled past her small rental house, but she blocked out the noise. Things would be better now. Cid had changed. She was sure of it.

Hope tugged at her hand. "I have to potty."

"Hurry, we need to meet Cid in fifteen minutes." Gracie smiled when she saw her daughter hiking the hem of her ruffled pink dress before she reached the bathroom. "Shut the door," she called. "Someone might come in."

Gracie rubbed her perspiring palms together and wished the ceremony were over. Soon this dump would be just a memory. Hope would have a princess room with ruffled curtains in the window that overlooked a park. Their furniture would be better than this mismatched collection of things from the Salvation Army.

When the knock came at the door, she glanced through the window and saw two men in suits standing outside. She lifted the hem of her dress off the floor. The dress rustled in a delicious manner as she went to the door. When had she last worn something so beautiful?

She opened the door. "Hello," she said, smiling. "Can I help you?"

The tall blond man flashed a badge that identified him as Roger Hastings. "Federal officers, ma'am." His gaze swept her dress. "We'd like to talk to you a moment."
She stepped aside to allow them entry. "What's this all about?"

The younger one glanced her way with something that looked like pity in his eyes, but Hastings kept his expression impersonal. "We'd like to talk to you about Cid Ortega."
Goosebumps raised on her arms. "Can't this wait? Our wedding is in just over an hour. I have several things to attend to before the guests start arriving." The few guests would be Cid's family and a few of her coworkers. "What's this all about?"

"Have you observed him transferring anything to others? A box, a briefcase, a bag?"

"No," she said. "What is it you suspect him of doing?"

The two men exchanged a glance. "Think," Hastings urged in a harsh voice. "Maybe in the park?"

"What is this about?"

"We have reason to suspect he is turning a blind eye to gun-and-drug traffic through his district."

Gracie took a step back and put her hand to her throat. The fact that she didn't spring to Cid's defense told her more than she wanted to know about their relationship. Her main priority had been to make Hope happy, no matter the cost.
"We'll know more when we talk to your fiancé. I suggest you let us take you into protective custody. When he's arrested here, the cartel will assume you helped us and may retaliate."
Protective custody. "But wouldn't that make me look even more guilty in their eyes? The minute you let me go, they'd come looking for me."

Hastings shrugged. "Then you'd better get out of town until this blows over."

Tires squealed outside, and Gracie turned to peer out the window. "It's Cid."
Hastings pulled a paper from his jacket and headed toward the door. "Stay back, ma'am, in case it gets dangerous."
Gracie backed away from the door as the men exited and approached Cid's car. With the door partially shut, she peered out into the street. Cid exited the car and turned toward the house. A battered brown van veered to the curb with a shriek of brakes, but she barely noticed with her attention focused on the exchange between Cid and the federal agents.
When the first pop, pop, pop came, she thought a car had backfired. Then she saw three men, their guns smoking, spill from the van. She slammed the door and locked it, then peeked through the open window in the entry. She didn't see the agents at first, then she noticed a shiny pair of black shoes by Cid's back tire. And a second pair of shoes. There was no sign of Cid. Was he dead too?

Gracie ran to the bathroom and grabbed her daughter's hand as Hope exited. "Be very quiet," she whispered. Keys, she needed keys. She snatched her bag from the top of the dresser.
Hope's dark eyes were huge. "Mommy, what's happening?"

Gracie put her finger to her lips. She led her daughter into the hall. Where could they hide? The voices grew closer. They'd be in the house any moment.
Staying as close to the old brick building as possible, she led Hope down the alley to where it exited onto the street. A glance up and down the crumbling sidewalk dissuaded her from stepping out. Teenagers with tattoos stood smoking in groups. They could be part of the neighborhood gang.
She ducked back into the alley. The train whistle blew again. The train. She still had the tickets to Alpine that she'd bought a few weeks ago, before Cid talked her out of leaving. If she and

Hope could get to the train, they could escape.

The teenagers ignored them as she and Hope ran across the street to the intersection. A few men whistled at her through their open windows, and she knew her wedding dress was an attention getter she didn't need. The train platform was just ahead. The strong smell of diesel fuel burned her nose but the odor signaled her escape. Passengers stared down at her from inside the train as she hurried to the steps.

She dug through her purse past the wallet, lipstick, and gum to find the train tickets. With the tickets in her hand, she and Hope boarded the train. Her wedding dress raised a few eyebrows as she walked by the other passengers. Two seats together were a welcome haven, and she sank onto the upholstery before her legs could give way.
Safe, at least for now.


Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA's RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has over 1 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana and is a proud new grandma. When she's not spoiling her granddaughter, she is teaching at a writer's conference or researching a new book. Visit her website at
* * *

The Word Reclaimed -- Book 1 of The Face of the Deep

Steve Rzasa

In the far future, the civilized worlds have finally been freed of the curse of religion. Thanks to the secret police, no one has been bothered by so much as a hymn in two generations. Son of a starship captain, young Baden finds a book preserved carefully against the ravages of deep space. Thinking he'll become rich if only for the value of the paper, he takes it. He counts himself lucky beyond all imagining. Until it begins talking to him. Amidst an interstellar war that threatens to overthrow the monarchy and drive great families to oblivion, Baden must evade the secret police and their attempts to get that book. He never had much use for religion. But, it seems, one has use of him.


September 2602 -- Eventyr star system

"Their faith is illegal."

Detective Chief Inspector Nikolaas Ryke smiled as he said it. His cold, brown eyes squinted out

of the bright comm screen. His head had been shaved bald. His skin was a ghostly white. He looked like a ghoul, save for the deep maroon uniform jacket he wore.

Captain Charlotte Ruby Bell shifted uncomfortably in her small seat. She was perched on one wall of the nearly pitch-black comm booth. She absently scratched her ragged mop of short black hair as she returned Ryke's stare, willing herself not to flinch before the young investigator. Bell curled a lip. What galaxy was this that this whelp, at least twenty years her junior, was telling her what to do? But, she thought with a shrug, she was willing to overlook such insults where money was concerned.

"You sure you want this done?" People had told Bell that her voice gave the impression she'd been gargling with metal shavings. If it resulted in better pay, so be it. "This ain't my usual line of work."
Ryke brushed lint, either real or imagined, off his immaculate coat.

Bell wished for half a second that she'd worn one of her nicer, albeit stolen, jackets in place of the patched brown and grey work jacket. But she liked the feel of this old one. It clung to her tightly muscled arms and shoulders. She liked letting everyone see that, while she was a thin woman, she was a strong one.

Even with that strength, Bell despised the tiny comm booth. The walls, ceiling, and deck were unadorned metal. She'd extinguished the only light. Her lone seat faced five small screens, two of which were blank. Ryke inhabited the middle one. The single console of flickering buttons and switches would let her speak to five people at once. The calls could be completely open or heavily encrypted. It was a complex piece of hardware. Bell always thought it was the best investment she'd made in her ship.

"Come now, Captain," Ryke said smoothly. "It is not so far afield from your sacking of the six-brace off Port Kapteyn."

Bell gripped the armrests tightly. How did Ryke know about that? If he'd learned what she'd done to the survivors…

Ryke spoke again, as if reading her mind: "Needless to say, that incident will be…overlooked…if you satisfactorily complete this assignment."

"Yeah?" Bell scowled. "Look, I don't usually go after these religious nuts. Ain't that your job? Usually no profit in it for me and my crew. Who cares if they're off their course?"
"I care, Captain." Ryke's voice was a low hiss. "We cannot allow such a threat to the Realm of Five. As I'm sure you fully believe, Captain, the belief in a single, jealous God is tyranny for the human spirit. Kesek will not allow it."

"For the stability of all. I know." Bell's eyes flicked to the Ryke's chest and the brass badge affixed there. It bore no decoration or insignia, only the words Koninklijke stabiliteitskracht. Bell knew it was abbreviated KSK, and usually pronounced Kesek. "You know, I always thought `Royal Stability Force' was a dumb name." She twisted her lip into a sneer.

"Your candor," Ryke said dryly, "is…appreciated.".
"Okay, so you want `em dead." Bell shrugged. "There's a lot of people on that ship."

"The people are a secondary concern," Ryke said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "This is a case of texts-in-violation. We have never had a printed copy of the Talmud and the Torah in one place at one time. You must seize this opportunity."

"Why me? You guys got your own ship in the area! Tell me again why we can't seem to track it…"

Ryke smirked. "Captain, I pay you the compliment of believing you are an intelligent woman."

Bell nodded glumly. That confirmed her worries. "No point in getting your hands dirty if you got someone else willing to make the mess."


"It's a lot of killing," Bell said, laying more sorrow into her gravelly tone. "Makes for a heavy burden."

Ryke didn't bat an eye. "I will double the price. Does that adequately lighten your load?"

"Oh, definitely," Bell said, suddenly eager. With that much money, she'd be able to outfit her ship in style. No more insults from more powerful pirates. "You got a deal, Mr. Ryke."

"Detective Chief Inspector Ryke," he reminded her sternly.

"Of course. You got it."
* * *
Captain Bell left the comm room and sauntered out onto the bridge of Golden Orchid.
Her spirits were brightened now, not only because of the new contract under her belt but because of the more open feel of the command section. The bridge was hemispherical, almost perfectly round. She all but bounced into her tattered captain's chair, spinning it in a half circle. From there, seated up a couple meters above her bridge crew, she could keep watch over everything going on under the sickly pale lighting.
Bell felt like she was looking down into a bowl about six meters wide as her eyes roved across her bridge crew. The main monitor dominated the bridge. It was a glowing, round-cornered rectangle of stars filling sixteen square meters, directly ahead of her chair.

"Any news on the target?" Bell asked.

"No change," the navigator replied. "Same heading, same speed. Don't think they've seen us."
One of the three monitors attached to the arm of Bell's chair flickered. She smacked it on the side with an open hand. It blinked once more and settled down. "Most likely they have, but they don't care," she said. "We look like every other navastel out there."

Now that the monitor was working, she could watch her own, smaller version of the nav chart. "Distance holding?"

"Aye, Skipper. Five light-seconds out."

Bell grinned. "Continue to match speed and course. No sudden moves. We got a big payday ahead, boys."
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Copyright 2009. Do not reproduce without permission.

Marcher Lord Press

ISBN 978-0-9821049-9-5

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