Wednesday, January 29, 2014

COVER REVEAL ♥ Until Lilly

Until Lilly Front Cover
Title: Until Lilly (Until #3)
Author: Aurora Rose Reynolds
Expected Release Date: March 5, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When Cash Mayson was forced to choose between the love of his life and his unborn child, he knew exactly what he had to do. No matter how broken it left him. When Lilly Donovan was forced to accept that the guy she loved wasn’t who she thought he was and became a single mother, she knew exactly what she had to do. Proving just how strong she was. What happens when years later you find out that everything you thought you knew was a lie? Can two people who once loved each other overcome the obstacles that are thrown at them and fall in love all over again? Cash Mayson had forgotten how it felt to be loved Until Lilly came back into his life. And now that he remembers, he will do everything within his power to keep not only the woman that he loves, but also his children. The power of love is a beautiful thing.  
About the Author
Aurora Rose Reynolds is a navy brat whose husband served in the United States Navy. She has lived all over the country but now resides in New York City with her Husband and pet fish. She's married to an alpha male that loves her as much as the men in her books love their women. He gives her over the top inspiration everyday. In her free time she reads, writes and enjoys going to the movies with her husband and cookie. She also enjoys taking mini weekend vacations to nowhere, or spends time at home with friends and family. Last but not least she appreciates everyday and admires its beauty.
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COVER REVEAL ♥ Hero by Leighton Del Mia

Title: Hero
Author: Leighton Del Mia
Genre: Dark Erotica, Standalone
Expected Release Date: February 27, 2014
Cover Designer: Cover It! Designs
Calvin Parish
They call me Hero. I defend. I protect. I ask for nothing in return, and that makes me good. Doesn’t it? That which makes me the ultimate predator also feeds dark impulses I’ve learned to control—until I bring her too close. For years I’ve watched her from afar, but what started out as duty has become obsession.
Cataline Ford
I work hard. I play by the rules. I’m content. My scars are quiet and invisible, and that keeps me hidden. Doesn’t it? One fateful walk home, I’m taken by someone I didn’t know I should fear. Captive and afraid, nobody will tell me why I’m confined to this hauntingly beautiful mansion. I’m given everything; I have nothing. He takes what he needs from me, and for that I hate him. But I might have loved him once. And just because you’re reading this doesn’t mean I survive him.  
Because I’m lost in my thoughts, I don’t hear Cataline enter the room. Her tight black dress cuts across her mid-thighs, and her cleavage teases from a plummeting neckline. She’s done her makeup for probably the second time since arriving at the mansion. “What is this?” I ask, narrowing my eyes. “What?” Jasmine drifts under my nose as she walks away from me to her seat. “I told you not to dress up for dinner.” “I thought you’d like it,” she says, lowering herself gracefully into the chair. Her back is straight as a rod, and her fingers are laced. “You don’t?” Norman decorates the table with food as I stare Cataline down. He clears his throat. “For dinner, we have—” “Leave us.” He pauses. Though my eyes are still fastened on Cataline, I know he’s watching me as he bows his head. “As you wish, sir.” I stand and slowly walk the line of the long table. My footsteps echo through the hall, appropriately menacing. I’ve just come from a burning building but am back in my suit and tie to maintain appearances. And my ridiculous glasses, which I remove and toss aside. She’ll believe I’ve just returned from the office. When I’m standing over her, she tugs up the neckline of the dress and blinks at me. I resist smirking as she tucks hair behind her ear twice. “Well,” she says, “aren’t we going to eat?” “I’m going to eat.” “I’m not?” “As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one meal at this table, and it’s you.” My ears pick up her slow swallow, my eyes the curl of her hands in her lap. “That sounds like a threat,” she says quietly. I bend over, flatten one hand on the table and wrap the other around the arm of her chair. “It’s not. This is a threat: if you’re not naked and spread out on this table in two seconds, I’m going to spank you so hard, you won’t know up from down.”   heartdividerPost  
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Saturday, January 25, 2014


Hedge Your Bets Banner
The City of Sin Never Looked so good...
For Jessi Jones Las Vegas has been a curse and a sanctuary for the last ten years. She loves and returns every year to the hotel she used to work at but remembers a time her heart was broken, right in the lobby, by him...
Nathan Skye might have left her in Las Vegas but now he's back, to pull off the ultimate con and he needs Jessi to complete it. He's going for the jackpot, and the stakes are his queen of hearts.
Add in a ex-model boss, the world of high fashion, some priceless jewels, and a few too many people trying to con the system for a wild ride in the city that never sleeps.
Around 40,ooo words a contemporary adult romance w/ spicy love scenes. This is not an erotic romance.
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Hedge Your Bets Cover  

“Jessi, I need your help with something.”
"Oh that's rich Nate. Really nice. Why would I ever want to help you? You were the one who left me, remember?"
"It's just one little favor. It'll be done by the end of weekend, and then you will never have to see me again. I promise."
"Look buddy, you need to get out of my room before I call security. I don't think you can sweet talk them into letting you stay."
"How are you going to do that? You are in a bathtub and your phone is conveniently located in my back pocket." She thought for a moment about what was behind that back pocket and how nice it would be to just sneak a quick squeeze before she banished the thought.
"Honestly Nathan. What is this favor you need?"
"I'll tell you tonight over dinner."
She dunked down into the bathtub muttering to herself. Dinner? Not a good idea. Not with him. She might do something stupid. Like jump him from over the table, or hit him over the head with a plate! Coming back up she slicked her hair back then gave him a killer look.
"Where is my towel?"
"Oh...I don't know. I probably picked it up and put it back in the bathroom. Couldn't let you get away without me getting what I want now could I?"
He gave her a smug grin then quickly felt it melting off his face as she suddenly raised herself out of the tub, hot water and bubbles sliding down her naked form. She stepped from the water as he jumped up and off the edge of the bed. He hadn't expected that move from her. And oh boy, what a move... she was completely grown up now. Lush curves in just the right spots rounded out ever so slightly, where a coltish twenty two year old figure had once lived.
She slid up to him with an impish look on her face, wearing nothing but a few lingering bubbles. She got real close, the steam rising from her breasts to hit him right in the face, more painful than the earlier slap he had received. Sliding her hands up his chest he inhaled raggedly, then said in a small voice that was horse with longing, "Please don't knee me again. I don't think I'd survive it." She slid her hands around to his back.
"Oh, there's only one thing I want from you right now, stud." Her voice was low and seductive while the scent of her, woman and something earthy and exotic wafted up to him as he inhaled quickly, trying to keep a grip on himself, not to mention control over his suddenly raging body that was making him feel like some untried teenager faced with Mrs. Robinson.
"And what's that?" He barely chocked out. Had he actually squeaked on that last note?!? How long ago had he last done that?
She boldly placed both hands squarely on his gorgeous derriere, and squeezed, causing his knees to begin shaking. Jessi began shaking as well, from anger. “My phone. You lied. Where is it!?”
“In the back pocket… of my dress pants.”
“Arg!” She pulled her hands reluctantly off his tush but couldn’t help a quick smack. she walked away towards the bathroom leaving him in a puddle of lust and nerve endings. She walked towards the bathroom, leaving him in a puddle of lust and nerve endings, before calling over her shoulder as he held his breath. "Fine. You win this round. Pick me up in two hours.” The door shut behind her leaving a scent of temptation that Nathan broke from with a fair amount of difficulty. He figured he'd take the ice bucket with him back to his room. It would be the perfect end to the cold shower he was in serious need of.

Kimberly Author Pic
Kim has always been a creative soul, bouncing back and forth between various crafts and arts. The only one she kept bouncing back to was writing. Being an only child meant creating her own worlds, full of characters that were a combination of people she knew and quirky qualities she thought more people should have.
She now lives in Denver while she waits on prince charming, kissing a few frogs along the way. She’s having a blast vacationing, writing, trying out the amazing culinary and beer centered landscape that is Colorado, loving the mountains, and motoring around in her little grey Barbie car convertible. Email at

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

COVER REVEAL + GIVEAWAY ♥ Finding Charley (Full Circle #2) by Casey Peeler

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]

Finding Charley (Full Circle #2) by Casey Peeler will release
February 18, 2014.
Add Finding Charley (Full Circle #2) to your TBR on Goodreads


One bottle of Jack and the words “I’m sorry” are all it takes for Charley’s world to turn upside down… again. Charley has a decision to make. Does she sink or swim?
After Dylan reminds Charley that he always has the upper hand, she decides it’s time break free. But how? She uses her past, present, and what she hopes to be her future to find her freedom.
With the help of Cash Money and the Kluft Girls, she devises a plan to take down Dylan. Will she succeed, or will she find that she will never escape his hold? Once this plan is put in place, who will be by her side when it comes to an end? And will this plan include Jackalope Joe?


I decide not to waste much time on my wardrobe. I grab my new jeans, a long-sleeved white tee, boots, and veto drying my hair by putting on my favorite camo ball cap. Once I’m ready, the girls and I grab a bite to eat and all go our separate ways. I crank up the radio and the heat in the Honda. It feels like minutes instead of an hour when I realize I’ve been lost in thought the majority of the way. Can we say dangerous? Note to self: focus while driving.
I pop in our drunk mix cd that Caroline always plays in her room while we drink PJ. It’s a lot more comical to listen to while sober. Seriously, the country version of “Gin and Juice” and “The Monster” by Eminem? I can’t help but laugh. It doesn’t get any better when “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera begins playing. What was she thinking? Oh, wait. She wasn’t thinking because she was drunk.
I approach Grassy Pond, and nothing has changed since Thanksgiving. It’s still stoplight after stoplight. I can’t wait to hit that gravel road. I see the farm approaching and feel the butterflies within my stomach. For once, I’m excited and relieved to be home.
Turning off the ignition, I see Blue running toward me. As soon as I’m out of the car, he attacks me. “Yeah, boy, I’ve missed you, too.” I rub behind his ears and then make my way to the house.
There’s no need to hurry, because as I glance up, Tessa and Mama are in full out sprints. I giggle inside. Tessa wraps me in a tight embrace.
“Miss me much?” I smirk.
“Char, I swear. Mama and Daddy have been workin’ me to death on this farm. If you didn’t get home soon, I might actually have had to take care of those stupid goats, not to mention sloppin’ the hogs. Yuck!”
I should have known Tessa was more excited because that meant less work for her, but that’s my sis, always missin’ when a little hard work needs to be done.
“Hey, hun, I’m glad you’re home. Your dad’s gone into town to get a few posts for the fence. I don’t know what has gotten into that bull out there. It’s like he just doesn’t know which side he belongs,” Mama says.
I pop the trunk and grab my bags. Mama grabs my laundry basket, and we make our way into the house.
As I walk through the screen door, the sound of an F250 that I’d know anywhere rings in my ears. I smile and throw my bag at the bottom of the stairs. I do a one-eighty, press the screen door open, jump off the stairs, and run as fast as my legs will go to that perfect sound. Cash opens the door and steps out in one swift motion. He has on a pair of jeans, a white plaid pearl snap, camo hat, and boots. Damn. I jump straight into his arms and hold him as close as possible.
“Miss me much?” He winks.
I begin to laugh uncontrollably. “You know, I just used that line on Tessa.” I pull him closer. He looks into my eyes, smiles with that damn dimple, and I feel complete. Cash Money makes me whole.
He finally puts me down when he hears the screen door open. I see Tessa standing there with her hands on her hips. “Um, did y’all plan that?”
“Plan what, Tess?” I question as I straighten my long-sleeved white shirt. Then, it dawns on me. Jeans, white shirt, camo hat, and boots. Cash and I look like we planned our freakin’ wardrobe.
“What can I say? Great minds think alike,” Cash says as he slaps my ass while we walk toward the house. We go inside and Mama has lunch waiting.


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About the Author

Casey Peeler grew up and still lives in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. Her first passion is teaching students with special needs. Over the years, she found her way to relax was in a good book.
After reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston her senior year of high school and multiple Nicholas Sparks’ novels, she found a hidden love and appreciation for reading.
Casey is an avid reader, blogger (Hardcover Therapy,) and now author. No Turning Back (Full Circle #1) is her debut novel released September 30th.
Her goal is to one day be an author who is recognized nationwide like Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, Tiffany King, and Amanda Bennett.
When Casey isn’t reading, you can find her listening to country music, spending the day at the lake, being a wife and dance mom, and spending time with friends and family.
Her perfect day consists of water, sand between her toes, a cold beverage, and a great book!
More about Casey Peeler
Add No Turning Back (Full Circle #1) to your TRB on Goodreads:

RELEASE DAY!! Next To Forever, S. Moose

Title: Next to Forever
Author: S. Moose
Release Date: January 23, 2014
Next to Forever is the final book in the Never Letting Go series.

The past will always come back to haunt you and hidden truths are uncovered, as darkness looms over the lives of Erin and Connor on their journey to forever. Filled with love and happiness, as well as a baby and a wedding on the way, Erin and Connor seem to have it all -until life throws them a twist. As tragedy strikes, Erin and Connor have to make one of the toughest decisions in their lives. Will they have their happily ever after or will they have to say goodbye forever?

Out of nowhere, Sophia drops her fries and her mouth hangs open. “Soph?” Her eyes grow wide, and I wonder what she’s looking at. Vander and I turn around, and suddenly I feel my world rock. How can Connor do this to me? The tears threaten my eyes, and my heart beats a million beats a second. Vander holds my shoulders, but I push him away and get up from the table. Marching over to my idiot fiancé and his whore, my fists are clench at my side, and I’m ready to raise hell. “Connor! What the fuck?”
 His eyes open and he lets go of Olivia. She turns around and smiles at me. Why is this bitch smiling at me? This isn’t a fucking social call. “Erin, it’s so good to see you.”

 Everything in me screams to punch this bitch in the face and break that ugly fake nose. “Bitch, get your STD infested hands off my fiancé and back the fuck up.” I push her away and get in Connor’s face. “How could you?” He’s speechless and doesn’t answer me. “Oh, no, you asshole! Tell me now! Why are you with Olivia?”

 I graduated from St. John Fisher College with my BA in 2011. I love writing and it's always been a dream of mine to publish my work. Reading is a passion of mine and the recent self-publishing authors have inspired me to do the same.
I want to inspire others with my words the way I have been inspired through countless works of literature. I think that everyone has a purpose in life, it just takes time to find it.
Goodreads Author Page: 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BLOG TOUR ♥ GIVEAWAY ♥ It's Not Over, A.L. Zaun



The Do Over

 Life doesn’t look like it’s supposed to for Dani Ruiz, a hopeless romantic. After a painful and sudden break-up with Rick Marin, Dani hides away from reality, retreating to a world of fiction where she prefers book boyfriends over the hassles of a relationship.

Almost two years later, Dani’s friends are tired of watching her in a holding pattern, so they stage an intervention, forcing her back into the real world of dating.

Unexpectedly, Dani meets Liam Lucas, a down-to-earth firefighter. He might be the person to show her she’s still worth something. Dani’s hesitant to trust her heart with another man, but their instant and electric chemistry is something she can’t deny.

As Dani starts to believe that she’s found her real-life book boyfriend, Rick decides that he’ll go to any lengths to get her back. Seeing Rick as a changed man makes Dani question everything. 

Can Dani trust her patched-up heart with Liam? 
Or has Rick transformed into the man she’s always wanted? 

Written from various points of views, The Do Over is a story of second chances and new beginnings.



 It’s Not Over

“If I let go, will you catch me?”

He had wanted her to help him win his ex-girlfriend back. She had wanted to teach him a few lessons on how to treat a woman. Neither one had planned for the unexpected.

I couldn't stand by and watch. It hit too close to home. I had to run fast and far to get away and forget him. He weaseled his way into my life, making me question rules I lived by and turned my orderly life upside down. I'm falling apart and coming undone. I don't do that. I'm Madison Stuart. I live life by my rules. I won't be derailed by a man. I won't...I can't.

She's gone. I'm desperate and going insane. I'll do whatever it takes to find her. I don't know when it happened, but I won't let her go, not like this. What has she done to me? I'm Rick Marin for crying out loud. I don't chase women, but she's not just a woman. She's Maddy--my Maddy--and I need her.
Follow Rick and Madison’s story, The Do Over’s most notorious couple, as they learn that It’s Not Over.

We hit a little turbulence, and reality set in at thirty thousand feet. I was on an airplane, holding Madison in my arms, on my way to New York City. I looked around, taking everything in, and I caught the flight attendant, sitting across from us, eye-fucking me. She smiled as she lowered her eyes to my dick. I wondered if she was imagining a threesome. What else could she be thinking, gawking at me, while I’m holding another woman? Somehow, I knew that my conclusion would land me in a new category of asshole. Surprisingly though, I wasn’t the least bit interested in even entertaining the fantasy. I want Madison exclusively.

My heart pounded faster, and my mouth went dry. I hadn’t admitted that to myself or any other living soul. I grabbed the bottled water and drank it in one gulp. I can’t stand her half the time. She drives me crazy. She infuriates me like no one else. But I felt something for her that I couldn’t describe. It was more than wanting to bury my dick in her and fuck her hard…I couldn’t live without her. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

She shifted against me, sliding her hand inside my jacket. Reclining my head back against the seat, thoughts of her flooded my mind. Somehow, along my quest to win Daniela back, Madison had become my best friend and something more.

Liam Lucas’s words hit me like a tsunami. Your friend is more than a friend. You don’t go up against your brother over a chick unless she’s under your skin, and if you aren’t sleeping with her, then you’ve got it bad.

About the Author:

A.L. Zaun graduated from Florida International University with a degree in English Literature when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and cellphones were the size of a brick. Her impressive degree did absolutely nothing for her professional endeavors in health care management but did stir her imagination and opened up the world of books in a new way.

Armed with a large bottle of Diet Pepsi and a multi-pack of Extra Sugar-Free gum, A.L. Zaun spends her evenings bringing to life the characters that dominate her thoughts and interrupt her sleep.




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BOOK BLIT & GIVEAWAY ♥ Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak


Chasing the Star Garden
The Airship Racing Chronicles I 
Genre: Steampunk Romance, Alternative History
Novel description:
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 the reader on an exciting adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem colored waters of the ancient world, introducing us to Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and a shattered past.

Lily Stargazer is having a bad day. 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.

About the author:
Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there wasn’t much to do but read books and go for hikes. She wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. Today, Melanie, a steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.
Media Links:
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Novel excerpt:
Chapter 1
I was going to lose-again. I gripped the brass handles on the wheel and turned the airship sharply port. The tiller vibrated in protest making the wheel shake and my wrist bones ache. Bracing my knees against the spokes, I tore off my brown leather gloves to get a better feel. The metal handgrips were smooth and cold. My fingers tingled from the chill.
“Easy,” I whispered to the Stargazer. I looked up from my position at the wheelstand, past the ropes, burner basket, and balloon, toward the clouds. They were drifting slowly left in a periwinkle blue sky. There’d be an updraft as we passed over the green-brown waters of the canal near Buckingham House. I locked the wheel and jumped from the wheelstand onto the deck of the gondola and looked over the rail. The canal waters were a hundred feet away. I ran back to the wheel and steadied the ship. If I caught the updraft, it would propel me up and forward and give me an edge.
“Cutter caught it, Lily,” Jessup yelled down from the burner basket below the balloon opening. “Up he goes,” he added, looking out through his spyglass. The gold polish on the spyglass reflected the fire from the burner.
“Dammit!” I snapped down my binocular lense. I saw Hank Cutter’s red-and-white striped balloon rise upward. At the top, he pitched forward with great momentum, catching a horizontal wind. I could just make out Cutter at the wheel. His blond hair blew wildly around him. He turned and waved to me. Wanker.
I was not as lucky. Just as the bow of the Stargazer reached the water, a stray wind came in and blew us leeward. The balloon jiggled violently in the turbulent air. I missed the air pocket altogether.
“No! No, no, no!” I cursed and steadied the ship. I had chased Cutter from Edinburgh across the Scottish and English countryside. He had been off his game all day. I’d had him by half a mile the entire race. With the bottom feeders lingering somewhere in the distance behind us, I’d thought the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix would be mine. That was until St. Albans, where Cutter caught a random breeze that pushed him slightly in front of me. Cutter had a knack for catching favorable winds; it was not a talent I shared.
“We’re coming up on Westminster,” Jessup yelled down from the basket. “Lily, drop altitude. Cutter is too high. Come in low and fast, and you might overtake him.”
The airship towers sat at the pier near the Palace of Westminster along the Thames. A carnival atmosphere had overtaken the city as it always does on race day. Colorful tents were set up everywhere. Vendors hawked their wares to excited Londoners and international visitors. I could hear the merchants barking from their tents even from this far above. I fancied I could smell roasted peanuts in the wind.
I jumped down from the wheelstand, ran across the deck, and pulled the valve cord, opening the flap at the top of the balloon. Hot air released with a hiss. I kept one eye on the balloon and another eye on Tinkers’ Tower. At this time of day, the heat coming off of the Palace of Westminster and Tinkers’ Tower would give us a bump. I looked up. Cutter had started preparing his descent. It would be close.
I ran back to the wheel.
“Angus, I need more speed,” I yelled down to the gear galley, rapping on the wooden hatch that led to the rods, belts, and propeller parts below.
Angus slapped open the hatch and stuck out his bald head. His face was covered in grease, and his blue-lense monocle glimmered in the sunlight. He looked up at the clouds and back at me.
“Let’s giddyup,” I called to him.
“You trying the Tower sling?” he yelled back.
“You got it.”
He laughed wildly. “That’s my lassie,” he yelled and dropped back down, pulling the wood hatch closed with a clap. I heard the gears grind, and the propeller, which had been turning nice and steady, began to hum loudly. The ship pitched forward. Within moments, we were coming up on Tinkers’ Tower. The airship towers were just a stone’s throw away.
I aimed the ship directly toward Tinkers’ Tower. Just as the bowsprit neared the clock, I yanked the wheel. The warm air caught us.
“Whoa!” Jessup yelled as the balloon moved within arm’s length of the tower.
The sound of “Ohhs!” echoed from the crowd below.
A mix of warm air and propulsion gave us some go, and seconds later we were slingshotting around Tinkers’ Tower toward the airship platforms. Gliding in on warm air and momentum, we flew fast and low.
Cutter had kept it high, but now he was dropping like a stone toward his own tower. Damned American. I didn’t blame him; I would have used the same move. His balloon was releasing so much air that I wondered if he would be able to slow down in time, not that I would have minded seeing him smash to the ground in a million pieces.
“It’s going to be close,” Jessup yelled as he adjusted the heat pan.
I guided the helm. The Stargazer was temperamental, but we understood one another. A shake of the wheel warned me I was pushing too hard. “Almost there,” I whispered to the ship.
The Grand Prix Marshalls were standing on the platform. Cutter and I had the end towers. I was going to make it.
“Cut propulsion,” I yelled toward the gear galley. On the floor near the wheelstand, a rope led to a bell in the galley. I rang it twice. The propeller switched off.
A soft, sweet wind blew in from the port side. It ruffled my hair around my shoulders. I closed my eyes and turned the wheel slightly starboard, guiding the ship in. Moments later, I heard a jubilant cheer erupt from the American side and an explosion from the firework cannon signaling the winner had been declared. My eyes popped open. I tore off my goggles and looked starboard. Cutter’s balloon was docked. I threw the goggles onto the deck and set my forehead against the wheel.
The Stargazer settled into her dock. Jessup set the balloon on hover and, grabbing a rope, swung down to the deck. He then threw the lead lines and anchors onto the platform. The beautifully dressed crowd, gentlemen in suits and top hats and fancy ladies in a rainbow of satin gowns carrying parasols, rushed toward the American end of the platform to congratulate the winner.
I was, once again, a national disgrace. Lily the loser. Lily second place. Perhaps I would never be anything more than a ferrywoman, a cheap air jockey.
“Good job, Lily. Second place!” Jessup said joining me. He patted me on the shoulder.
I sighed deeply and unbuttoned my vest. The tension had me sweating; I could feel it dripping down from my neck, between my breasts, into my corset.
“You did great,” I told Jessup. “Sorry I let you down.”
“Ah, Lily,” he sighed.
Angus emerged from below wiping sweat from his head with a greasy rag. He pulled off his monocle. He frowned toward the American side. “Well, we beat the French,” he said with a shrug and kissed me on the cheek, smearing grease on me.
“Good job, Angus. Thank you,” I said, taking him by the chin and giving him a little shake as I wrinkled my nose and smiled at him.
Angus laughed and dropped his arm around Jessup’s shoulders. They grinned happily at one another.
“You stink, brother,” Jessup told him.
“It’s a wee bit toasty down there. Besides, I pedaled this ship across the entire fucking country while you were up here looking at the birds. That, my friend, is the smell of success.”
I laughed.
“You pedaled the ship?” Jessup asked mockingly. “Like Lil and I were just up here playing cards? If I didn’t keep the balloon aloft, your ass would be kissing the ground.”
“Now wait a minute. Are you saying your job is more important that mine?” Angus retorted.
I could see where this was going. “Gents.”
“More important? Now why would I say that? Just because I’m the one . . .” Jessup started and then his mouth ran.
“ . . . and another thing . . .” Jessup went on.
“Gentlemen! Our audience awaits,” I said cutting them both off, motioning to the well-shod crowd who waited for us on the loading platform outside the Stargazer.
I grinned at my crew. “Come on. Let’s go.”
I patted the rail of the Stargazer. “Thanks,” I whispered to her, and we exited onto the platform.
A reporter from the London Times and several race officials stood waiting for me.
“Well done, Lily! Well done!” the British race official congratulated me with a pat on the back. “Second place! King George will be so proud. One of these days you’ll have it, by God.”
I was pretty sure that the last thing I needed was the attention of George IV, the extravagant, unpopular lush. But I bit my tongue and smiled politely.
“Lily, how did Cutter beat you? You led the entire race,” the reporter asked. She was a round woman wearing a very thick black lace collar that looked like it was choking her. Her heavy purple walking dress looked hot under the late afternoon summer sun, and the brim of her black satin cap barely shaded her nose. I noticed, however, that she had a small clockwork fan pin attached to her chest. The fan wagged cool air toward her face.
I pulled off my cap, mopped my forehead, and thought about the question. “Luck,” I replied.
“Lily, that was some move around Tinkers’ Tower. How did you learn to do that?” another reporter asked.
“My father,” I lied.
“Make way, make way,” one of the race officials called, ushering a Marshall forward.
The Marshall looked like someone who lingered an hour too long at supper. The gold buttons on his satin, marigold colored vest would take an eye out if they popped. His overly tall top hat was adorned with a ring of flowers that matched his striking orange colored dress coat.
“Miss Stargazer, congratulations,” he said, shaking my hand. “The Spanish airship is coming in now. Will you please join Mr. Cutter at the winners’ podium?” he asked politely as he guided me forward by the hand.
From below there was a commotion. A man dressed in an unusual costume rushed up the stairs. The London constables, a full squadron of the Bow Street Runners, chased him. When he got to the loading platform, the man pushed through a crowd of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, many of whom were gentry. It was then I could see he was dressed as a harlequin. He wore the traditional red and black checked outfit and a black mask. He scanned the towers until he caught sight of me. He jumped, landing on the tower railing, and ran toward me. A woman in the crowd screamed. Moments later the constables appeared on the platform. The race Marshalls pointed toward the harlequin who was making a beeline for me.
I let go of the Marshall’s hand and stepped back toward the ship.
“Lily,” Jessup warned, moving protectively toward me.
Angus reached over the deck of the Stargazer and grabbed a very large wrench.
Was it an assassin? Christ, would someone murder me for winning second place? I turned and ran toward the Stargazer. A moment later, the harlequin flipped from the rail, grabbed one of the Stargazer’s ropes, and swinging over the others, landed on the platform directly in front of me. Any second now, I would be dead.
He panted and muttered “Lily?” from behind the mask.
“Stop that man! Stop him!” a constable yelled.
“Get out of my way!” Angus roared at the crowd that had thronged in between us.
The masked man grabbed me, tugged on the front of my trousers, and leaned into my ear. The long nose of the mask tickled the side of my face. “Go to Venice,” he whispered as he stuffed something down the front of my pants.
“We got you now,” a constable said, grabbing him, raising his club.
The man shook him off, took two steps backward, and with a jump, leapt off the tower.
Several people in the crowd screamed.
I rushed to the side of the tower to see the harlequin lying at its base. His body was twisted, and his arms and legs bent oddly, contorted into three distinct points. Blood began pooling around him.
“Miss Stargazer, are you all right?” a constable asked.
“A man just killed himself in front of me. No, I am not all right.”
“I mean, are you harmed? Did he hurt you?”
I shook my head and looked down at the mangled body which lay in the shape of a three-sided triskelion. It was the same symbol that was painted on the balloon of the Stargazer.

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