Friday, February 11, 2011

Promises to Keep; A Deadly Game

Promises to Keep

By Ann Tatlock

"A lively narrative….poignant and moving." Publishers Weekly

"A wonderful read….The story threatens to break our heart with its velvet hammer truth, but sacrificial love triumphs!" Rusty Whitener

What 11-year-old Roz Anthony wants more than anything is for her daddy to quit drinking, to be the good man she knows him to sometimes be, and to take his rightful place as husband and father. He promises to change. But should Roz trust him?

Chapter 1

We hadn't lived in the house on McDowell Street for even a week when we found a stranger on the porch, reading the morning paper. Wally saw her first, since it was his job to fetch the newspaper from the low-lying branches of the blue spruce where the paper boy always tossed it. I was in the kitchen setting the table, and from there I could see Wally—tall and lanky and bare-chested in the summer heat--move down the hall toward the front door. He was grumbling about the rain as the soles of his feet slapped against the hardwood floor. He reached for the doorknob, then stopped abruptly. In the next moment, he hollered back toward the kitchen, "Mom, there's an old lady out on the porch."

Mom was frying bacon at the stove. She jabbed at the sizzling pan with a spatula and hollered back, "What's she want? Is she selling something?"

"I don't think so," Wally said. "She's just sitting there reading the paper."

"Our paper?"

"Well, yeah. I think it's our paper."

"What now?" Mom muttered as she moved the frying pan off the burner and untied her apron. When she turned around I saw the flash of fear in her eyes. It was a look I was used to; it showed up on Mom's face whenever she didn't know what was coming next, which happened a lot in our old house in Minnesota. But not because of strangers.

Mom laid the apron over a chair, smoothed back her blonde hair, and ran the palms of her hands over the wrinkles in her housedress. At the same time she tried to smooth the wrinkles in her brow enough to look confident. I followed her from the kitchen to the front door where Wally stood so close to the window the tip of his nose touched the glass. "Can you believe it?" he said quietly. "She's just sitting there like she owns the place or something."

Mom raised one hand to her lips in quiet hesitation. Meanwhile I slipped to the living room window and peered out from behind the curtain, finding myself only inches from our uninvited guest. At first glance she was one huge floral print dress straining the straps of the folding lawn chair on the porch. Her legs were propped up on the railing and her bulky black tie shoes dangled like dead weight over the lilac bush below. I couldn't see much of her face, just a small slice of fleshy cheek and the bulbous end of a generous nose, a pair of gray-rimmed glasses and a mass of white hair knotted at the back of her head. She was reading the Sunday comics and something must have tickled her because she laughed out loud.

That howl of glee sent enough of a jolt through Mom to get her going. She gently pulled Wally away from the door and swung it open. She pushed open the screen door and stepped outside. I saw the old woman's head bob once as though to acknowledge Mom's presence.

"Can I help you?" Mom asked. Her voice was strained, the way it sounded when she was trying not to yell at one of us kids. She waited a few seconds. Then, a little more exasperated, she repeated, "Can I help you with something?"

The stranger folded the paper and settled it in her lap. "No, dear, I don't think so." The corner of her mouth turned up in a small smile. "But thank you just the same."

Mom stiffened at that and all her features seemed to move toward the center of her face. "Well," she said, "may I ask what you're doing on my porch?"

"Just sitting a while," the old woman said, as though she'd been found passing the time of day on a public bench. "Anyway," she went on, "it's not your porch. It's mine."

"Uh oh," Wally whispered in my direction. "She's one of those crazies. You'd better go keep an eye on Valerie."

But I didn't want to go keep an eye on Valerie. I wanted to stay right where I was and watch Mom talking with the crazy lady.

Mom looked off toward the street like she was hoping someone would walk by and help her, but it was early Sunday morning and the streets were quiet, save for one lone soot-colored cat slinking along the sidewalk in the misty rain.

Finally, Mom turned back to the stranger and said, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave, and if you don't, I will call the police."

The old lady pulled her feet off the railing, and I thought maybe she was going to stand up and leave, but she didn't. Instead, she said quietly, "Well now, I wish you wouldn't do that."

"You don't give me any choice. You're trespassing on private property."

"I might say the same for you."

Mom's eyes widened. "What do you mean by that?"

"The law might say you own this house, but it'll always be mine."

"Mom," Wally hollered though the screen, "you want me to call the cops?"

Available from,,

Copyright © 2011 by Ann Tatlock

Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Do not reproduce without permission.

To learn more about Ann and her books, please visit her website at

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A Deadly Game

By Virginia Smith

It began as a harmless game, a competition of wits between ten wealthy businessmen. But when one of them is killed, Susanna is drawn into a nightmare like she never imagined. The only person she can rely on is someone she vowed she would never trust: the son of a billionaire, very much like the man who ruined her life three years earlier. And though she hasn't talked to God in years, she must now pray that Jack can help her figure out the clues in an ingenious game with the highest stakes of all — life and death.

An exciting and suspenseful story with some intriguing twists. – RT Book Reviews


The moment she rounded the corner of the building, Susanna Trent knew something was wrong. To her right, darkness shrouded the wooded area that ran the length of the building housing Ingram Industries. Tiny frozen daggers of sleet sliced through the nighttime sky to fall onto the crowded evergreen branches, the contact goading the trees into an eerie dance. To her left, slivers of light peeked through the cracks of closed blinds in the floor-to-ceiling office windows. Sleet stung her cheeks and slapped at the nylon hood of her jacket as she skidded to a halt on the sidewalk.

Behind her, Jack Townsend didn't stop quite as quickly. He bumped into her, and almost knocked her off her feet.

Jack slipped a strong hand under her arm to steady her. "Sorry about that."

Susanna acknowledged the apology with an absent nod, her stare fixed on the windows. A finger of disquiet tapped at the edges of her mind. She'd expected to see her boss standing there, waiting for her to arrive with his new Corvette. Mr. Ingram had been ecstatic when she called him after the auction ended to tell him that she'd succeeded in buying the car he wanted. Why wasn't he watching for the moment she arrived, ready to dash outside to see it? Something definitely wasn't right here.

Jack's head turned as he followed her gaze. "Is something wrong?"

Susanna shook her head, as much to dislodge the uneasy feelings as to answer. "It's just that the blinds are closed. They're never closed."

"Maybe he wanted some privacy."

"From what?" She pointed toward the desolate woods. "Nobody ever comes back here except him and me."

Jack peered into the ice-covered evergreens, then shrugged. "Why don't we ask him?"

His smile tilted sideways, and Susanna couldn't help but admire the guy's strong jaw, chiseled nose and short-cropped dark hair. They'd just met a few hours ago, at the car auction, and she'd noted his wholesome good looks right off. Normally she would have found him attractive, but Jack Townsend was exactly the kind of man she made a point of avoiding. He shared too much in common with someone she hoped she'd never have to see again.

Still, he was doing Mr. Ingram a favor by delivering the new Corvette. She had to admit that was a nice gesture, especially when he had been bidding against her for the same car. Unusual, too. In Susanna's experience, the sons of billionaires were far too self-centered to do something nice for someone else.

She glanced again at the closed blinds and couldn't completely dismiss the feeling of foreboding that bloomed. Hurrying to the heavy metal door, she shrugged the strap of her voluminous handbag from her shoulder. The cavernous interior of the purse held a wealth of useful personal items, with plenty of room for the envelope containing the papers for Mr. Ingram's new car. But it also ate keys. She rummaged inside, shaking to listen for the telltale jingle. Finally, she found them. Her gloved fingers fumbled to locate the right one, and she shoved it into the lock.

The hallway inside was empty, but it would be at this time of night. Susanna led Jack down the short corridor and around the corner. A quick glance toward the front of the building showed that the main lights were off in the accounting department. Stillness filled the office, normally bustling in the daytime. A few safety lights cast a dim glow over the empty desks.

She didn't pause when she entered her own work space, but hurried across the carpeted floor, past her tidy desk. The door to Mr. Ingram's private office had been pulled almost closed. Was he on a phone call, maybe? She halted for a moment, but didn't hear any noise from inside.

"Mr. Ingram?" She tapped on the wood, the sound muted by her gloves. "I'm here with your car."

No answer. Alarm crept like spider legs up the back of Susanna's neck. Something was wrong; she could feel it. She exchanged a glance with Jack, whose brows had drawn together over eyes dark with concern.

"Mr. Ingram? Is everything okay?"

Susanna laid a gloved hand on the solid door and gave a gentle push. It swung inward, and she slipped through the enlarged opening. The desk chair was empty, but her gaze was drawn to the floor.

A body lay halfway hidden behind the big wooden desk. But the head was visible. The image seared into Susanna's brain like a hot brand, and she knew she would remember it as long as she lived. Mr. Ingram's face was purple, his eyes bulging from their sockets to stare at something no living person could see.

A scream tore from her throat.


Copyright © 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises

Copyright © 2011 by Virginia Smith

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.

For more information about A Deadly Game and Virginia Smith's other books, visit

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