Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Murder by Mistake; Petra: City in Stone

Veronica Heley

Ellie Quicke, once a tearful widow, is now comfortably remarried to her best friend Thomas.
However, having been on her own for so long, she is inclined to act hastily, not always consulting him on matters which affect them both. When she took in a young rape victim, she guessed that the commitment might become a burden, but she didn't expect it to be an invitation to murder.
Publishers Weekly: `Intrepid Ellie injects this high-octane cozy with endearing humor and enduring style.'

Chapter One

Monday afternoon

They weren't expecting trouble. The interview at the solicitor's office was the only thing on their minds as they walked along the pavement. They took no notice of the passing traffic until . . .
Woosh! A roar from a powerful car engine, a squeal from mistreated tyres. A woman's scream. A man's hoarse shout.

Ellie staggered, cannoned into from behind. She fell. A heavy weight pressed her down, squeezing all the breath out of her.

Someone screamed.

The weight upon her was removed and she managed to lift herself enough to
see a car speed off and turn left into the traffic on the main road ahead.

Mia! Where was the girl? Was she all right? Ellie looked around, pushing herself up onto hands and knees with an effort.

Oh, thank the Lord. Mia was all right. At first glance, anyway. The girl had been thrown against the wall, was crouched there. Bewildered. Frightened.

Ellie tested her arms and legs. Everything seemed to work, after a fashion. She tried to stand and didn't make it. Went down on her knees again, with both hands on the pavement. Her pretty blue dress was no longer pretty. She'd scraped the skin down both forearms. A pity it had been a hot day, because she hadn't worn a coat. If she had, she might have saved herself grazed arms. She was trembling, but she was all right. She told herself.

Someone was screaming. Well, it wasn't her, and no, it wasn't Mia, who'd been walking on the inside of Ellie, nearer the wall. `Mia, are you all right?'

Mia nodded, over and over. Like a puppet. Speechless. In shock. Someone was still screaming. A child was crying, thinly, hopelessly.

A big black man towered over Ellie, offering a helping hand to get her to her feet. She made it, somehow. Gave him a reassuring smile. He had blood on his T-shirt and jeans.

A youngish woman clad in Lycra cycled up. She got off her bike and looked beyond Ellie and the man to where a woman lay sprawled . . . the buggy beside her, wheels spinning . . . Don't look, Ellie. Don't even think about it for the moment. Concentrate on getting yourself to stand unaided.

A car came by, slowly. Drew to a halt. Another car came up behind the first car, tooted its horn. Why the hold-up?

The man who'd saved Ellie from being run over asked, `Are you hurt?' A deep voice, reassuring.
Rough clothes, torn jeans. A workman? Big hands.

`Did you get their number?' The cyclist had a high, thin voice. She hauled her bike off the road and onto the pavement.

A man, a businessman, got out of his car. `What . . .? Are you all right, missus?'

Ellie nodded. She was, sort of. More or less. Blood was dripping off her chin onto her dress. She checked that she still had her handbag – which she'd worn across her body to deter muggers - and scrabbled inside for some paper tissues. Used them.

The child was crying, hopelessly. Ellie wished it would stop.

The businessman got his mobile phone out. The car behind him tooted again, then swung out into the road and went round him. The driver of the second car then saw what had happened and slowed right down. Traffic began to pile up behind him.

The cyclist leant her bike against the wall and bent over, retching. Ellie didn't want to look. Mia had her eyes closed. Just as well.

Two large women in their forties panted up. Dyed blonde hair strained back into unbecoming pony tails. Both were overweight, bursting out of tight sleeveless tops and even tighter jeans.

That was a prayer, not an obscenity. Please God, don't take it the wrong way. The women might or might not go to church, but they knew when God was needed in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Veronica Heley


Murder by Mistake, Severn House.
ISBN 97807278 69111

From http://www.amazon.com/ , libraries and good bookstores everywhere.
Please do not reproduce without permission.

* * *

Petra: City in Stone

By T.L. Higley

"As compelling as Francine Rivers' A Voice in the Wind!"
-Colleen Coble, best-selling author

She believed the city hidden in rock would protect her from the past – until it threatened to destroy her future.

Cassia, a destitute young woman in need of hope, seeks refuge for her little boy in Petra, home of his dead father's estranged family and capital of the flourishing Arabian empire. Surely this rock-carved city, hidden away between towering sandstone cliffs, can protect them from their past and provide for their future.But the boy's father was not the man she believed, and when a murderous queen plots to take Cassia's son, her hopes of security are ripped away.As the plot against the young Alexander unfolds, Cassia finds unexpected allies in the mysterious followers of The Way, who sacrifice everything to help Cassia rescue her son from the queen and her pagan gods. But it will take more than these new friends to save her son.It will take a power beyond any Cassia has known—and a faith that can save a city.

From Chapter 1

The streets of Rome lay barren and empty, sucked dry by the colossal Flavian Amphitheatre that had swallowed seventy-five thousand Roman citizens in a single gulp, and would hold each one captive until they had enjoyed the horrors that Julian now raced to prevent.
More time. He needed more time. Already the crowd inside the four-story rim of stone cheered for the first event.

Julian's sandals smacked the black basalt road that led toward the amphitheatre. The blistering Roman sun pounded the moisture from his skin and left him panting. He had run most of way, since an old servant in Vita's house had pointed a gnarled finger toward the east, toward the Forum, toward the arena of death.

Eighty arches ringed the outside of the theatre on each of its first three stories. The bottom arches provided access to the public, and the second story's niches held statues of the gods and emperors, who now looked down on Julian as he sprinted across the large travertine slabs that paved the arena's edge.

He ran toward one of the four main entrances and fumbled for the tessera, the stone tile he wore around his neck. The designatores at the entrance would insist on examining it, to see the sector, row and seat to which he was assigned.

Indeed, the usher at this entrance was full of his own importance, and held a palm to Julian's oncoming rush as though he could stop him with only the force of his arm.

"Too long in your bed this morning, eh?" His smug smile took in Julian's hastily-wrapped toga and sweat-dampened hair.

Julian thrust the tessera before the man's eyes. "Here, here, look at it."

Still the amused smile. The usher opened his mouth to speak again.

"Look at it!"

Daunted, the man let his eyes travel over the tile, then took a tiny breath and stepped back. His grin faded to a look of regret over his own impudence, and he bowed his head. As if that were not enough, he bowed at the waist and extended a hand to invite Julian to enter.

Julian did not wait for an apology. He pushed past the usher and under the vaulted entrance, then straight through the arena's outer corridor and up a ramp that led to the cavea, the wedge-shaped sections of marble seats. This main entrance led directly to the central boxes reserved for the elite.

He exploded from the dimly lit ramp onto the terrace. The morning sun slashed across half the seats, the height of the amphitheatre leaving the other half in shade. The red canvas velarium, the awning used to shade the spectators, would be raised before it got much hotter, but for now, thousands of bleached togas on white marble blinded the eye and the smell of the masses assaulted the nose.

Julian crossed the terrace in two strides, slammed against the waist-high wall that separated him from the arena, and saw a figure dash at him from the shadows.

His mother's hands were on his arms in an instant. "Julian, what are you doing?" Her words were frantic, as clipped and terror-filled as his every movement.

"They have Vita, Mother!"

She wrenched his body fiercely to face her. Julian stood nearly a cubit taller than his mother, but Ariella had retained all the strength of her youth, along with the beauty. "There is nothing that can be done, my son."

He yanked his arms from her grasp. "Do not say that!" Julian searched the cavea behind him, full to overflowing with the purple-edged togas of senators. "Where is Father? Is he here?"

"Julian, think! You must think." Ariella's voice was urgent and low and her clutching fingers again slowed Julian's restlessness. "You will bring more harm – "

"I do not care!" His voice snagged with emotion, and he fought to harden the feelings into action.
"I must end this."

"You cannot, son."

He turned flashing eyes on Ariella. "It is my fault! Do you not understand? I should be down in those cages."

Ariella's eyes misted. "I would not lose both my son and his betrothed on the same day."
Betrothed. The word washed more guilt over Julian's stricken soul.

A senator, one of his father's friends, walked past and paused to hold out an arm in greeting to Julian. "Fine day for the games, is it not?"

Julian straightened at once, resuming the noble bearing trained into him since childhood, and returned the man's grip. He nodded once in agreement, but did not speak. The senator moved on, and Julian dropped his shoulders, ashamed that he had not made a statement.

Ariella seemed to read his thoughts. Her dark eyes held his own. "It will take more than a day to change the Empire."

Julian looked out over the yellow sand of the arena. "But this day, Mother, this day we must!" He slapped a hand against the top of the marble wall. "I am going to find Father."

"Julian, you know that he can do nothing – "

He spun on her. "No. I am tired of both of you, always moving about your circles quietly, behind closed doors, the truth spoken only in whispers." He lifted his own voice as an example. "There is a time to speak!"

Ariella's nostrils flared, but she said nothing. Turning from her, Julian stalked to the nearest break in the seating and ascended the tiers alongside his father's section. Here, the nobility did not sit on wooden planks as the rest of the citizens, but were given cushions or even chairs for comfort. He scanned the rows of seats for his father's graying head, and instead met his dark gray eyes.

Julian shook his head and opened his mouth to shout across the intervening seats, but his father held up a hand, then stood and excused himself from his colleagues. He slid along in front of a dozen other senators, and emerged at the end of the row beside Julian.

Quietly, he spoke into his son's ear. "I have just now heard. It is outrageous."
Julian's hands balled into fists at his side. "You must do something."

"What can I do, Julian? The emperor has ruled, and Trajan is not a man to be defied."
Across the arena, Julian watched as a trapdoor slid upward and a huddled band of men and women were prodded onto the sand at the end of Roman spears. Julian's heart pounded with the shortness of the time left and he turned on his father with the frenzy of desperation. "She is out there, Father!"

Read the first three chapters, watch video trailers, and dive into Tracy's new adventure,
NoPassportRequired, at http://www.nopassportrequired.tlhigley.com/.

Petra: City in Stone can be purchased at Amazon, Christianbook.com, and wherever books are sold.

© 2010 T.L. Higley

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