Books that Need More Attention Blog Hop

books need more attention

Welcome to the Books that Need More Attention Blog Hop!

Today, I’m going to focus on a couple of books that I absolutely love and that I think could use more attention. If you follow my blog regularly, you’ve probably seen these on here before. If you haven’t seen them before, check them out–they’re excellent! I’ll also be giving away an ebook copy of my forthcoming release, Sanguinary.

So check out the books, tell me about some books that you think need more attention (it’s an entry on the Rafflecopter!), enter to win, then HOP to the rest of the participating blogs for more great prizes!

Books I Love…that Need More Attention

http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Garden-Airship-Racing-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00GXUU6IC/

An opium-addicted beauty.
An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.
An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.

Melanie Karsak’s Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a steampunk romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.

It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium.

Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.

*This novel is intended for mature audiences.

___________________________________

http://www.amazon.com/Untethered-Katie-Hayoz-ebook/dp/B00C7A8YW2/

A young adult novel about jealousy and obsession.

Sixteen-year-old Sylvie isn’t comfortable in her own skin. In fact, there are times she can’t even manage to stay inside it. But if there is one thing she’s sure of, it’s her love for Kevin Phillips. She’s willing to stake everything on it — her family, her friends, and possibly her soul.

Junior year is off to a less than stellar start for Sylvie: Her parents are splitting up, her little brother is sitting at her lunch table, and she’s the target of the school bully. Plus, she accidentally astral projects, slipping out of her body again and again at all the worst times. Sylvie is cast as the class freak and a medical misfit. She wishes she were somewhere else. Someone else. But it’s only when her best friend catches the attention of the boy Sylvie’s loved in secret since the fifth grade that Sylvie makes up her mind to do something drastic.

Sylvie intends to get Kevin by any means possible — even if it involves treachery, deceit, and the insidious side of the paranormal. After years of trying to ignore her ability to astral project, Sylvie finally decides to embrace it. But she also decides to embrace the shadows that accompany her on her out-of-body experiences. Opening herself up to the shadows and their evil, Sylvie comes up with a dark plan. She is positive her scheme will give her what she wants, but she doesn’t count on it all spiraling out of control.

Untethered by Katie Hayoz explores the intoxicating and dangerous world of jealousy and obsession when coupled with paranormal ability. It is a touching, sometimes funny, sometimes heart-breaking novel that speaks to the self-doubt lurking in us all.

___________________________________

Enter to Win Sanguinary

http://www.amazon.com/Sanguinary-Night-Margo-Bond-Collins-ebook/dp/B00MR5VGV8/

Only fifty years left before vampires rule the world.

When Dallas police detective Cami Davis joined the city’s vampire unit, she planned to use the job as a stepping-stone to a better position in the department.

But she didn’t know then what she knows now: there’s a silent war raging between humans and vampires, and the vampires are winning.

So with the help of a disaffected vampire and an ex-cop addict, Cami is going undercover, determined to solve a series of recent murders, discover a way to overthrow the local Sanguinary government, and, in the process, help win the war for the human race.

But can she maintain her own humanity in the process? Or will Cami find herself, along with the rest of the world, pulled under a darkness she cannot oppose?

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HOP to the rest of the participating blogs!

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Spotlight On: Never Upon a Time, by Meredith Jade

Never Upon A Time (6x9)2

Youve always hated her, but you might not know the whole story. . .

Edith may not be brazen and enchanted like her twin sister, Ember, but in a world of dying magic, perhaps her simple desires are enough.

After a Selection Banquet gone awry, Edith is left without a suitor or a plan. Befriending a little white fox and occupying herself with a philanthropic project outside castle walls, Edith soon rebuilds morale and musters enough courage to reach out to her estranged twin sister.

But Ember’s been harboring an evil secret – and thwarted love and jealous can turn acts of merit into classic tales of wickedness in this new twist on an old tale.

Never Upon A Time base

Book Excerpt

The twins were ushered to their places alongside their father at the head of the table. Suspicion and unease distracted Edith as she watched her sister’s boisterous entrance, and she completely forgot to tidy herself. She had gotten ready and gone down to the kitchens at sunrise, so whatever primping she had done was most likely melted away, brushed off or wrinkled up. As was life sometimes. Her appearance may have been untended, but every meringue was torched, every cake iced and all glasses and hearts brimming. Regardless of how prepared the dinner was, though, being prepared for blind marriage at a moment’s notice was mortifying, especially for a quiet girl. Because, for pity’s sake, who wouldn’t be a little unnerved by such an orchestrated union as was about to happen? Edith was beginning to be glad she wasn’t a sorceress or soothsayer. Who could possibly face each sunrise with any amount of morale when they knew the exact affliction awaiting them?

The dinner was a whirling blur of meaningless, superficial conversation. Then, unexpectedly in a most expectant of times, three resounding knocks echoed through the hall. It was the deep, guttural sound that makes a heart quiver behind its cage. The guests, having dropped their utensils and ceased their chewing, slid to the edges of their seats.

Ember, confidently unruffled, continued cutting her elk steak into dainty, bite-sized pieces. Edith, on the other hand, could have vomited at the sound. An overwhelming feeling of dread suddenly overcame her, its tidal wave effect nearly driving her to run away from the ridiculous scene to the refuge of her garden or her mixing bowls.

Buy Links

 Amazon Paperback

 Kindle

About the Author

Meredith Jade was raised in a small town by parents who taught her to love reading. From the moment she could hold pencil to paper, she wrote. After graduating college and traveling abroad teaching English in Uttaradit, Thailand for a year, she came home. Writing was that home. Her writing has a range of inspirations, all a result of her voracious reading as a child and young adult. Anything from Victorian Literature to bird watching guides to NY Times best sellers have served as an agent for her imagination. Never Upon a Time is her first novel.

Connect with Meredith

Email: meredith.jade7@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meredith-Jade/648465681892404?ref_type=bookmark

Blog: http://thereaderproject.wordpress.com

Twitter: @meredithjade

Spotlight On: Black Atonement, by Sasha Hibbs

Black Atonement
Release Date: 09/26/14
Evernight TeenSummary from Goodreads:

The burden of Dave’s girlfriend’s death pushes Brandi, the Seraph of
Love, to abduct David Howels hoping she can protect Dave from his murderous  father, Ragnar, and also atone for all her sins. Leaving a trail of broken  hearts, will Brandi be able to show Dave that all in life is not lost in death?

Twists and turns abound as Brandi discovers her own shocking revelation: That  Dave has been her soul mate all along.

Separating Dave and herself from their allies on the threshold of the
apocalypse, Brandi turns to an old friend for help-a witch-to aid her in her
quest to prepare Dave to face his worst fears and her own. Filled with curses,
secrets that threaten to destroy everything, Brandi must find forgiveness from
within before she can find love with a boy she’s forced to hate her. In the
past, healing a broken heart would’ve been easy, but now faced with the task of
healing Dave’s broken heart while not exposing her own, Brandi learns why love is
truly the greatest gift of all.

Buy Links:
Excerpt:

“There is only one way to break the bonds that hold you, and it cannot be undone,” Brandi said.

“What?” Dave asked. “Why?”

Brandi stretched her hand out, spreading her palm against the invisible force that separated them. Dave looked at her for what felt like an eternity and then he placed his open palm over hers.

“Do you love me?” Brandi asked, not cloaking the sadness in her voice.

Dave looked at her, opened his mouth and then closed it, saying nothing.

Brandi gave a sad laugh, the sound that signaled her recognition of her love going unreciprocated. After Lucy died, in that horrifying moment, Brandi knew Dave was her soul mate. Over their time together, running and staying in motel after motel, at the Rathbone mansion, the dance they shared together, the tender kiss they shared together, Brandi knew she loved Dave. Brandi knew in her shattered heart, Dave was the only one who would ever reside there. She had braced herself for Dave not loving her back. She had made peace with that cold hard fact a while ago. But hearing his silence only sealed her decision to leave him and take comfort in knowing that what she was doing to him now was for the best.

Brandi lowered her hand, her fingers trailing slowly down the invisible wall. This was goodbye.

“The only way for you to get through is to love me,” Brandi gave a sad laugh, her heart breaking over and over again. “And I’ve made sure that will never happen.” Brandi’s voice was barely above a whisper, “You were perfect. Goodbye Dave.”

Brandi turned quickly, walking away toward the gate.

“Don’t do this, Brandi! I’ve not had the chance! You know this isn’t fair,” Dave screamed after her, but Brandi wasn’t listening.

She reached the gate. Placing the key in the lock, she heard the gate groan, the ground below rumbling, Dave’s screams diminishing.

She thought of Dave, touching her lips where his had been, and plunged herself into her worst nightmare.

 
Books in this series:
(Covers linked to Goodreads)
About the Author
By age 5, Sasha Hibbs’ favorite movie was Gone With the Wind. By age 12, she completed her 7th grade book report on the sequel, Scarlett. By 18, she met and married her very own Mr. Rhett Butler and as it turns out, she never had to worry about going back to Tara to win the love of her life back. Fortunately, he stuck with her.  
With a love of all things paranormal, the ambiance of the South with its gigantic antebellum mansions and canopies of Spanish moss, and a love for her husband’s rich storytelling of blacksmiths and the mythology surrounding their origins, it wasn’t long until the world of her debut novel, Black Amaranth, was born.
When not working her day job as a nurse, you can find Sasha dreaming of her next beach trip, reading the latest YA novel, and drinking more white chocolate mocha than she should.  
Sasha lives in mountainous West Virginia with her husband, Tim, and their two daughters, Aeliza and Ava. She is currently hard at work on her next novel in The Vulcan Legacies series.
 
***Author Links***
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Spotlight On: Loving is Good by Brenda Moguez


Title: Loving is Good

Author: Brenda Moguez

Genre: Sweet
romance / new adult

Celia
Mendoza is not living La Vida Loca. She put her graduate studies on hold after
her father died. Now she dishes out advice in her e-zine column, Luna Love,
Loving is Good. The problem is, she hasn’t had a second date or a kiss in over
a year. Then Gabe Mercer, a modern-day Adonis, shows up, daring her to take a
chance. The string of broken hearts in his wake turns Celia off, but his
relentless encouragement to pursue her dream of becoming a serious journalist
contradicts his reputation, making it hard to fight the pull of his topaz,
come-hither eyes. He’s everything Luna Love tells her readers to take a chance
on, but Celia can’t decide if a chance encounter is worth the gamble. But life
has a will of its own, and hers is pushing Celia to accept the uncertainty and
run towards her destiny. 

Author Bio

Brenda Moguez lives in San Francisco. She writes fiction with
quirky, strong women, with non-formulaic endings because life isn’t always
perfect. She writes by the light of the moon and between conference calls. She
has aspirations for a fully staffed villa in Barcelona and funding aplenty for
a room of her
own. When she’s not working on a story, she
writes love letters to the universe, dead poets, and Mae West. You can find her
at
http://www.brendamoguez.com and https://www.facebook.com/BrendaMoguez, where
she explores passionate pursuits in all its forms.

Social Media
Twitter:  @BrendaMoguez
Email:
brenda.moguez@gmail.com

__________________

“Celia!”

I wished for lightning to strike me dead. Alone with a sexy man and being summoned by my mom made me feel five all over again.

“Mommy’s calling. I wouldn’t mess with her if I were you. She’s feisty like you.”

“Why are you here? Don’t you have a job, a life, a woman to string along?” My bravado was waning, and the grip I had around my upper chest was cutting off circulation to my heart and making it difficult to breathe.

Or maybe that was Gabe. I wasn’t certain. I released my arms and gave my body a little wiggle.

Gabe’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s not a very nice thing to say. You don’t know me, either.”

“Bite me!” I snarled.

“I’m trying. You’re not letting me close enough to sniff.” His smile only widened.
I gave him one of Mom’s evil-eye glares, hoping it would bore holes in his chest, but he only laughed again.

“You’re sexy when you get mad. What are you like when you’re purring like a kitten?” His eyes were blazing, and his smile sparked of sensuality.

I was losing it. My hormones were off the Richter scale. “That’s pathetic. Is that the best you have? I’m not one of the admins at the office, Gabe. Give it up. I told you before. I’m not interested in an office fling. I’m a serious journalist.” I wasn’t able to get that last line out without smiling.

“Uh-huh. You’re not very convincing.” His square shoulders and slightly tilted head thawed the last of my reserve.

I weakened. “OK. Why are you really here?”

“Honestly, to see if my photos helped your mom and aunt. I had a good time last week, took a few photos, got Jackson to write up a blurb, and we ran it. Looks like you’re going to have a busy night.”

A Dinner Invitation from Mack Hansen of The Tycoon’s Convenient Bride . . . and Baby (+ Giveaway)

Invitation from Mack Hansen (The Tycoon’s Convenient Bride…and Baby):

Our sunset dinner in Cabo would’ve been even better if only we’d been naked, eating from each other’s fingertips…
Let’s redo it, shall we?
Tonight.

  • Burgundy wine, because I love how it tastes on your lips
  • Marinated grilled asparagus with fresh rosemary, garnished with lemon
  • Shrimp flambé in pineapple boats (remember how we applauded when it was served on the yacht? I hope I can do it justice)
  • Chocolate ganache truffles, covered in powdered sugar and drizzled with raspberry syrup, and fresh-picked raspberries.
  • Please note: Dessert will be served on our bed, since it will be followed by a tasting tour of your delectable body. You know how hungry I get…
____________________________
To learn more about Mack, check out The Tycoon’s Convenient Bride…and Baby

After her brother and his wife go missing and are presumed dead, Lauren Peters plans to raise their infant daughter. Her brother’s will, however, stipulates that baby Callie can only be raised by a married couple. Lauren’s as single as they come.

Mack Hansen can’t stand idly by while his business partner’s baby is thrown into a foster home. As he sees it, there’s only one solution—he and Lauren will marry for the sake of the baby—and he’ll keep his attraction to her at bay.

Lauren knows that Mack is all about business, including their marriage of convenience. But her unexpected feelings for him have her turned upside down. With passion sizzling between them, can Mack keep Lauren from stealing his heart…and becoming his wife for real?

Available now from Entangled Indulgence:

Amazon, Amazon UKB&N, iBooks, Kobo

_______________________________

Excerpt

“I know you love that little girl, Lauren. And I know you love your brother enough to not want his daughter to leave this family. Joe wanted us to take care of her. He said so in his will.”

“He didn’t mean us, together,” she said. “In fact, I’m pretty sure Joe would freak out if he thought you were making a move on me. He’s been warning me away from you since you guys were roommates in college.”

Mack waved his hand as if to clear away her concerns. “I’m not making a move on you. This is business. And Joe would understand that extraordinary circumstances warrant unusual solutions.”

“But we’re not married, Mack.”

“It’s just a piece of paper,” he said, shrugging. “We can go down to the courthouse this very afternoon and make it official. It won’t be a real marriage, of course. It would be in name only.”

“It wouldn’t be a marriage in name only, Mack,” she said. “Don’t you see? If we’re living together to raise Callie, it’ll be…it’ll feel very real. At least to me.”

He leaned in so close she had to tilt her head up to keep looking into his eyes. “Is that a problem? We’ve known each other for a long time. I think we could take care of Callie together, at least until Joe and Marisol return. We don’t need to really be in love to get a piece of paper that says we’re man and wife.”

Hmm. What he said made sense. They didn’t need to be in love to get married, not really. Love. It would be so amazing to find a man who’d love her, who’d want to stay with her forever. Not someone like her ex-boyfriend Steve who had waited until his sister had a baby to realize he wanted his own children, something she could never give him. Or any man.

Could this be her only chance to get married?

“For as long as I’ve known you,” she said, “you’ve always said you’d never settle down. Ever.”

“I never thought this would happen, either. Things change. I have a penthouse in Manhattan—plenty of room for you and Callie to move in. We only need to be married until her parents come back. Then we’ll have to be legally separated for a year before we can divorce.”

Divorce? “How do you know about that?”

He laughed. “Thomas schooled me on the legalities of marriage when Joe and Marisol got together, and what it would mean for our joint assets. But it shouldn’t be a big deal,” he said, “unless you have some boyfriend I don’t know about waiting in the wings, wanting to marry you, instead?”

She blushed. Damn him, he always made her blush. “No. But—what about Callie?”

“We’ll share joint custody, of course.” Mack smiled at her as if that solved everything.

“No.” Lauren shook her head resolutely, tearing her eyes away from his handsome face. “This is crazy. People don’t do this kind of thing anymore.”

“What kind of thing?” he asked, amusement creeping into his voice.

Why did he have to be so good-looking?

“A…a marriage of convenience.”

“Stop thinking of it as a real marriage,” Mack said. “Joe was my best friend. I have an obligation to do what he would have wanted me to do. So just marry me and help me raise Callie, like your brother wanted.”

He tilted her chin up, forcing her to look in his chocolate-colored eyes. “Please,” he said softly.

“Marry me, Lauren. For Callie’s sake. Put up with me for one year.”

“Everything’s just business with you, Mack.”

Mack’s lips curved into a small smile. “It sounds like you don’t want to miss out on the other benefits of matrimony.”

“Other…benefits?” The words came out breathlessly as images from her dream of him ran through her mind.

He ran one large hand down her cheek, smoothing her hair behind her ear. The light touch tickled her senses, lighting a fire deep within her. “You know,” he murmured. “Benefits.”

“I can’t…I can’t think of any benefits.” Her skin tingled where his hand lingered. His mouth, mere inches from her lips, became the focus of her world.

“I can.”

_______________________________

To win a copy, answer this question:

If you could add one of your favorite foods to the menu, what would it be?

_______________________________

About Shoshanna Evers

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Shoshanna Evers has written dozens of sexy stories, including The Man Who Holds the Whip (part of the bestselling MAKE ME anthology), Overheated, The Enslaved Trilogy, and The Pulse Trilogy (from Simon & Schuster Pocket Star).

Her work has been featured in Best Bondage Erotica 2012 and Best Bondage Erotica 2013, the Penguin/Berkley Heat anthology Agony/Ecstasy, and numerous erotic BDSM novellas including Chastity Belt and Punishing the Art Thief from Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

Her two bestselling non-fiction writing anthologies include How To Write Hot Sex: Tips from Multi-Published Erotic Romance Authors, and Successful Self-Publishing: How We Do It (And How You Can Too).

Shoshanna is also the cofounder of SelfPubBookCovers.com, the largest selection of instantly customizable, one-of-a-kind, premade book covers in the world.

Shoshanna Evers has been listed on Amazon as one of the “Most Popular Authors in Romance,” as well as on the Contemporary Romance, and Erotica “Most Popular Authors” lists.

Reviewers have called Shoshanna’s writing “fast paced, intense, and sexual…every naughty fantasy come to life for the reader” with stories where “the plot is fresh and the pacing excellent, the emotions…real and poignant.”

Shoshanna used to work as a syndicated advice columnist and a registered nurse, but now she’s a full-time smut writer and a home-schooling mom. She lives with her family and two big dogs in Northern Idaho. She welcomes emails from readers and writers, and loves to interact on Twitter and Facebook.

Sexily *Evers* After… 

Email: shoshannaevers@gmail.com
Website: www.ShoshannaEvers.com
Blog: www.TheWritersChallenge.com

Twitter: @ShoshannaEvers

Interview with Ruth Silver, Author of Orenda

Interview with Ruth Silver, Author of Orenda:

What books inspired you to write in your genre?

The Hunger Games is the first YA book that I read that really made me want to read more YA novels. Shortly after I read 100 different dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal titles that inspired me to write my own stories in the YA genre.

Do you prefer a certain point of view in fiction?

If written well, third person can be as engaging as first person point of view. I love third person because you can focus on multiple scenes throughout a story. New writers just have to be careful of head hopping.

How do you get your book into a library?

Contact local librarians and offer them a review copy. Ask them if they’d like you to speak with their group (teens, book club etc).  If you live too far from the library, consider Skype or Google Hangouts. I’ve met a lot of great librarians this way.

Can you give some advice or tips on how to write a book review?

Be constructive. Don’t rehash the entire plot (or give away spoilers). This isn’t school where we’re told to write a book review and prove we read the book. Instead give comments on what worked for the story (plot, characters, theme, writing style, etc) and what didn’t.

Audiobooks, love them or hate them?

Narration can make or break an audio book. I thought The Fault in Our Stars was well narrated. It captivated me, drew me into the story. There have been other audio books that made me want to fall asleep. Three chapters in and I couldn’t tell you one thing that happened.

Orenda (Orenda #1)
Release Date: 04/13/14
Patchwork Press
Summary from Goodreads:
Join forces with a parallel universe. 

Dark forces, magical creatures, and the world Lil thought she knew collide when a dream transports her to the strange world of Orenda. Stunned and terrified, Lil comes face to face with her doppelganger, Willow, who possesses the ability to travel between the two worlds. Everything Lil knows logically says that Orenda can’t exist, but a small clue may be proof that it was more than an ordinary dream. With the threat of her sister in danger, Lil crosses dimensions but it may cost her even more than she bargained for. 

A sword wielding girl, the eternal suit, and a parallel universe come together in this action- packed Young Adult fantasy adventure that will keep readers of all ages turning the pages. Orenda is the first novel in the Orenda series.


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About the Author

Ruth Silver first began writing poetry as a teenager and reading heaps of fan fiction in her free time. She has written under three unique pseudo names and penned well over a hundred stories.

She attended Northern Illinois University in 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communication. While in college she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, “Deuces are Wild”, which she self-published in 2004. Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.

Her love of writing, led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. Silver enjoys reading YA novels and sharing her favorite books with other readers. She runs her own book blog and also enjoys photography and traveling.

Her favorite YA genre is a mix of Dystopian & Fantasy which is evident in the upcoming release of her latest book, Aberrant. Slated for release April 2013 by Lazy Day Publishing, it is the first in a trilogy.

***Author Links***
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Chasing the Dollar by Ellie Ashe


Chasing
the Dollar
Ellie
Ashe
Gemma Halliday Publishing
Romantic Mystery @75k

Miranda Vaughn has spent the last year and a half fighting for her freedom. Arrested for a fraud scheme involving her supervisors, she’s lost her job at a prestigious investment firm, her fiancé, and her reputation. She walks out of the courtroom a free woman, only to find that life has a few more curve balls to throw her way. The jury may have found her not guilty, but Miranda is broke, in debt to her beloved aunt, and can’t find a job because of the cloud of suspicion still swirling around her.

She can’t move forward with her life until she finds out who set her up. Buried in the evidence against her, Miranda finds a larger scheme, one involving far more money than the $37 million her boss fleeced from unsuspecting investors.

Determined to uncover the truth, Miranda begins her own investigation—leading her to Macau and Belize, and into the arms of one sexy FBI agent, who has his own agenda. When the danger heats up, Miranda finds herself in a race against time to find the person behind it all. Before he finds her…

Buy Links:
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Excerpt: (Chapter 1)
“Not guilty.”

The two words sliced through the thick atmosphere in the courtroom, and my heart leapt. The boa constrictor of stress that had been wound around my body for the last year and a half eased a tiny bit. Next to me, my attorney, Robert Fogg, tensed. We weren’t remotely done, his body language warned.

“As to Count Two, wire fraud, the jury finds the defendant—”

A pause. Why was the clerk pausing?

“Not guilty.”

The breath escaped my lungs, but Rob put a cautious hand on my arm warning me not to get too excited yet. He’d spent much of the last fourteen months explaining the odds, explaining the process that I’d face if I insisted on going to trial, comparing the risk I’d face with the known quantity of the plea offer—a mere four years in prison if I agreed to a plea deal and admitted to defrauding clients of the investment bank where I’d been an analyst, compared to ten years or more I risked if I was convicted at trial. And I’d almost certainly be convicted, Rob had assured me. Even if the witnesses against me were convicted felons, liars, conmen who would say anything to get a break on their own prison sentences. The documents were undeniable, incontrovertible evidence of my guilt.

“As to Count Three, wire fraud, the jury finds the defendant—”

Damn her, why the dramatic pause?

“Not guilty,” she finished.

This time I glanced over at the jury and made eye contact with several of them, my heart still in my throat. Instead of the impassive expressions they’d worn in the last two weeks, they looked relaxed. Friendlier. Less scary. And they were looking at me.
That was one of the signs Rob told me might signal a favorable verdict. If the jury walked in and wouldn’t look at me, they probably had convicted me. When they had filed in with their completed verdict forms, I was too nervous to look in their direction.

“As to Count Four, wire fraud, the jury finds the defendant not guilty.”

No waiting this time. The clerk flipped the page to the next form and continued reading, her pace picking up. She must have realized that if she kept pausing before the big reveal on each charge, we’d be here until dark.

“As to Count Five, wire fraud, the jury finds the defendant not guilty.”

I couldn’t relax yet, not quite yet. There were still ten more opportunities to hear I was going to prison.

Fifteen fraud charges. Fifteen chances to hear the clerk announce that the jury had believed my former boss, his former boss, and the government’s accountants and investigators who had testified that I, Miranda Vaughn, participated in a conspiracy to defraud banks and investors. That I, with my business degree from a state school still freshly inked, managed to find a way to outwit regulators for the entire six years I worked at Patterson Tinker Investment Strategies to reap huge profits at the expense of the most established investment advisors in the industry.

Rob’s hand gripped my arm, and I realized that the clerk was done reading the verdicts. The room was blurry, and I felt the wet tears running down my cheeks for the first time. The stress of holding those tears back in the last year had caused me to lose sleep, lose hair, and develop a nasty habit of grinding my teeth when I finally managed to close my eyes at night. But I knew that if I had let loose those emotions, I’d never be able to rein them back in and would have ended up in a stark white room with no interior door knobs where I’d spend my days rocking back and forth and waiting for my next round of pills.

“We did it, Miranda,” Rob whispered, putting an arm around me in an awkward hug.

I looked up to see the judge watching me. Instead of the stern glare I had grown accustomed to, he was almost smiling at me. I blinked. It must have been the tears in the way. But when I wiped my eyes, there it was—Judge Smith’s softening expression, looking like someone’s granddad instead of the dour arbiter of my fate.

The judge addressed the jury, thanked them for their service, directed them to the jury commissioner’s office to turn in their parking passes, and then looked back at me.

“The bond is exonerated. You’re free to go, Ms. Vaughn. Court is recessed.”

He stood, and everyone in the room followed suit. The jurors filed back into their room off the side of the courtroom to collect their belongings. Several of them smiled at me, and I smiled back but could feel my lips start to tremble. I swallowed hard and tried to pull myself together. Rob began gathering the legal pads that littered the defense counsel table.

I stood next to the table, still stunned and unsure what I was supposed to do now. Part of me expected to be found guilty, even knowing that I hadn’t done what the prosecutor accused me of. I had prepared myself for that. Studied the post-conviction proceedings, the deadline for filing a notice of appeal, researched sentencing procedures and even federal prisons. I hadn’t planned what would happen if I were acquitted of all the charges, and I was at a loss as to what to do now.

Turning to the nearly empty courtroom, I saw my lone supporter. The entirety of my cheering section was blowing her nose noisily into a hankie. She came toward me, pulling me into a warm hug over the low railing that separated the gallery from the attorneys and defendants.

“Aunt Marie, when did you get here?”

She gripped me harder. “Somewhere around count seven,” she said. “Rob sent me a text when the jury came back. I hot-footed it right down here.”

I relaxed into her embrace. The familiar scent of Chanel and baked goods that always permeated her clothing soothed me and took me back to the safety of my childhood. She had come straight from work because she was still wearing her apron with the Sugar Plum Bakery logo.

“Miranda, I’ll take care of the bond paperwork,” Rob said, interrupting our family reunion.
I pulled away from Aunt Marie and nodded. Rob’s face was flushed, and he looked two decades younger than his sixty-three years. He seemed incapable of suppressing the huge grin on his face. Suddenly I felt awkward, unsure how to tell him how grateful I was.

“I don’t know what to say,” I said. “Thank you, Rob. Thank you so much.”

The words were inadequate. During the fourteen months since my arrest, I always felt that he believed I was guilty of something, but despite that, he had done an admirable job defending me. He gave me a crooked smile.

“You’re welcome,” he said. “We’ll talk soon. I’m going to see if I can catch a few of the jurors and talk to them. Come by the office later. We’ll celebrate.”

He leaned across the railing to shake Aunt Marie’s hand and was pulled into a tight embrace. When she finally released him, he gave her a kiss on the cheek and smiled as he gently wiped a tear from her face. Then he turned back to the counsel table and continued clearing it of folders and notepads and his laptop computer, sliding the whole mess into the large black case that he’d been wheeling into court every day of the trial. He zipped the case, gave me another quick hug, and walked over to the other counsel table.

I turned to see how the prosecutors were handling the news. My tormentors—an older, brittle veteran prosecuting attorney named Donna Grayson and Matthew Reese, her younger co-counsel, a clean-cut young man who looked like he was my age. Neither of them would look at me, and their expressions were grim as they shook Rob’s hand.

Finally, Matthew Reese made eye contact with me and gave me a nod. “Good luck to you, Ms. Vaughn,” he said.

I almost believed his words were sincere, but then I remembered three days earlier when he called me a thief in his closing argument. I returned the nod without a word, not trusting myself to hold back if I spoke to him—something I’d been forbidden to do for well over a year.

I slipped through the low swinging gate and took Aunt Marie’s arm, leading her out of the dark courtroom into the bright, wide and empty hallway. When I had been arraigned on the fraud charges in this courthouse, the hallway had been packed with reporters clamoring for a comment. But since then, they had lost interest. The prosecutor’s office wouldn’t be putting out a press release on the loss, and I wondered if anyone would even care that I had won. That the woman the government had called “a slick con artist and one of the masterminds of the greatest financial fraud ever seen in this state” was walking out of court and not heading to prison.

I was free to go. No longer facing a decade in prison. Not under a cloud of allegations that had cost me my career, my good name, and my peace of mind. That had driven off friends. Led to the break-up of a five-year relationship. Cost me every last dime of savings and most of Aunt Marie’s retirement as well. I walked up to the wall of windows and looked down on the city, the busy intersection by the federal courthouse, the people jaywalking to get to the Starbucks across the street. A normal day, with everyone bustling about in the bright afternoon sunlight, enjoying a typical California summer day.

I was free to go.

Free.

To go where?

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