Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Pit Road by Anah Crow & Dianne Fox

True love has no brakes.

Running Under Caution #1

Denny Clay never had much going for him, until the racing circuit took him out of the trailer park and away from his bigoted family. Luck smiled on him, and now he’s settled down—in the closet—with his crew chief and boyfriend, Sully Price.

Though they’re winning races and the fight to keep their relationship secret, Denny can’t shake the feeling he’s going to have to pay up for all this happiness. He never imagined reckoning would come in the form of a rare medical condition that might cost him his career. And maybe Sully too.

For once, Sully’s at a loss, with nothing in his fix-everything toolbox designed to repair his broken lover—or stop Denny’s inevitable slide into a black hole of self-loathing. With a little creativity and a few kinky accessories, Sully shifts into overdrive in the race to get Denny turned around. And prays that his stubborn persistence doesn’t drive their love into a ditch.

Warning: Broken heroes, hot sex, and one man’s hardcore determination to keep his lover in one piece.

Chapter One
In the days before the race, Denny’s mood had been in the gutter. He’d snapped at everyone, even Sully, the way he hated when other drivers did it. Sully’s muttered suggestion that they should take off and grab a motel room somewhere didn’t help. It had been the last straw, pushed Denny from antsy to about as nervous as a leaf in a tornado. By the time he got himself buckled in nice and safe—well, everyone else was safe from him—he was ready to spit nails.

“Breathe.” Sully leaned in the window and tugged at one of his belts. Denny wanted to bite him, and not in the good way. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“Don’t say things like that.”

That was the whole problem. Denny was too damn happy. He’d made top ten in the last five races. They had money coming in, had a sponsor who owned more than one local business. The car was perfect. They had the cash for tires. The backup car was perfect. All week, he kept praying for something to go wrong. Here they were, waiting for the start signal and nothing had gone wrong.

“Since when did you get superstitious?” Sully smacked the side of the car as he straightened up. “Behave yourself out there.”

“You want me to behave or you want me to win?” Denny glared at him but good before pulling his helmet on.

“Both. Whatever’s eating you, leave it at the start line.”

Easy for him to say. Denny went through his usual start-up ritual, checking everything twice, making sure he wasn’t forgetting anything.

Maybe something would go wrong tomorrow. Maybe he’d forgotten to pay the phone bill. He still wasn’t so good at this whole home-ownership thing.

He’d probably forgotten a condo-association fee. That would do. He’d take anything right now. A wreck. That would be even better.

He needed something to go wrong, just a little something. Wrecking Sully’s perfectly balanced masterpiece would do nicely. A wreck wasn’t what worried him. What had him all wound up was the idea of getting busted for being Sully’s lover. He could take anything but that. Jesus, anything at all.

But nothing went wrong.

Not even a dropped lug nut on a tire change. Sully would kill him for speeding on pit road, so he didn’t try to go there, though he was damn tempted. Five laps from the end of the race, and he was running smoothly in third, staring at the back end of the second-place car. Michaelson was a temperamental bitch to pass, but Denny was better in the turns than anyone on the track—and that wasn’t being vain.

God, he loved driving. And he loved driving Sully’s cars. He could feel Sully’s touch every time he drove down into a corner, that magical thing Sully could do that made the car cling to the track no matter how Denny pushed its limits. He could feel it through his hands, his feet, his spine. Sully’s magic let him downshift coming out of turn three and into four, tires gnawing along the low line. Coming out of four, he saw the numbers of Michaelson’s car, the big red 08, slide through his peripheral vision and fall behind him.

His car—their car—bit down on the straightaway, and he opened her up to put some distance between him and Michaelson before he hit traffic up ahead, guys struggling to get a lap back by passing the lead car. Kennedy. Denny wasn’t too interested in catching Kennedy unless the chance offered itself up, he was more interested in staying ahead of Michaelson. Kennedy hadn’t finished top ten in two months and racked up DNFs like he was starting a collection. Michaelson, on the other hand, was a pain in the ass.

The next lap was like running an obstacle course. He got three-wide with Michaelson and some kid four laps down who didn’t know when to step aside and let his betters through. Almost done with the race. Almost done and then he’d have nothing ahead of him for days except beer, takeout and Sully. If they got through this in one piece, maybe that meant the universe, or the Good Lord, or whoever was in charge, was gonna let Denny get away with being in love with Sully. Wouldn’t that be good?

Denny was deciding whether or not to downshift into turn two when the world went sideways, upside down, and then did it again. All he could think was how damn loud everything was. Deafening.

Just as suddenly, everything was still. He put his hands back on the wheel belatedly—he wasn’t moving. His head was spinning, and the air was full of dust and smoke. His brain wanted him to slow down for the caution flag, like it hadn’t caught on to the fact that he was the damn caution.

Engine off. Everything off. Breathe.

Sully’s voice kept nagging at him. Shut up, Sully. Just. Shut up.

“Talk to me.”

“I will once I’m out of this damn car.” Jesus, what was wrong with Sully that he sounded so messed up? Denny unbuckled and tried to climb out of his seat, but something was caught around his legs. “Or not.”

“Can you breathe?” That wasn’t coming from his helmet, that was from outside the car. The bright flash of an orange jumper blocked his view out the side as someone leaned into the car. “Let’s take that helmet off so we can have a look at you. Gloves too.”

“I’m fine.” He ripped the helmet off and tossed it—and Sully’s voice—aside. “Just can’t get out.”

“Can you feel your feet?” The paramedic clipped something onto one of Denny’s fingers.

“Yeah.” And his legs hurt like hell. “Help me out of here. I need to get out.”

“Don’t know if we can do that yet.”

As the world resolved into something Denny could understand, he looked beyond the safety grating that served as a windshield in sprint cars to see a post in front of him. Lamppost. Retaining wall. He was facing the center of the field inside the track, a few feet from the entrance to pit road. That was a long way from where he’d been last time he’d known where he was.

The hood of his car was gone. Hell, a lot of his car was gone. What was left looked like a smashed beer can.

“I need to do this.”

Denny realized he was pushing away hands that kept trying to touch him. “Sorry. Then can I get out of here?” He dropped his hands. Now that everything was still, he was starting to panic.

“As soon as we haul those saws over here. I need to listen to your breathing.” The paramedic started to undo his jumpsuit. “I want you to think hard about if anything hurts, especially in your legs or your belly.”

“How long will that take?”

“I’ll find out. Stop talking.”

Denny did as he was told, closing his eyes while he thought about what hurt. Everything. Not helpful. Narrow it down.

Right knee. Left ankle. Hips. Chest. Jaw. It didn’t hurt too much to breathe, though. No more than he’d expect out of a wreck.

“You look okay,” the paramedic said, once they’d done the song and dance. “The way you hit the wall has you caught, but I’m not seeing any blood. If you can feel everything, you’re a lucky guy.”

“Too lucky,” Denny muttered.

“I’ll find out when we can cut you free. There’s a few other cars wrecked that get priority over yours. I’ll be back.”

The paramedic was gone, then, leaving Denny in his little metal cocoon, an oasis of stillness in the flurry of lights and urgency outside. He closed his eyes again and tried to ignore the pain in his leg. Damn thing better not be broken.

Something finally went wrong. At least now he could relax.

“Taking a nap?”

Denny opened his eyes to see Sully leaning in. He looked as wrecked as the car, face bleached out until his freckles were nothing but paint splatter on his face.

“That’s better.”

“What happened?”

“Michaelson got dumped, caught your right rear coming off the wall behind you. Someone T-boned you in the smoke and you went ass over tea kettle into the wall here.” Sully’s callused hand found one of Denny’s and held on way too long. “They’ll cut you out soon.”

“What’s the hold up?” Denny tried not to pull his hand out of Sully’s, but he couldn’t help it.

“Michaelson. He’s out cold. It doesn’t look good.” Sully crossed his arms on the rear tire and squatted to put his chin on them, looking in at Denny. “I’ll stay here until they can get to you. Just tell me if you need anything.”

“I need a beer.”

Sully snorted and shook his head. “I’ll buy you one as soon as you’re checked out.”

By the time they cut him out of the car, he could barely straighten his legs, but he was damned if they were gonna put him on a stretcher. After he took a swing at the guy trying to put a collar on him, they let him do what he wanted, with dire warnings that he was going to end up paralyzed or something.

He wasn’t buying it. He got his arm around Sully’s neck and both feet on the ground once he was out of the car. Sure, he was walking off to an ambulance but, damn it, he was walking. It felt like he’d been through a huge test and come out on top. All he wanted now was a shower and Sully and a beer. Sadly, he was going to the ER.

Going there didn’t mean he had to stay there, though. He refused the offer of x-rays to check for broken bones and everything else they wanted to do to him. He let them give him some OTC painkillers and a once-over, then he limped to the waiting room. Sully was slumped in a chair by the door, looking miserable.

“Why the long face?”

“You’re done?” Sully pushed himself up and met him halfway, stopping just before he touched him.

“Yeah. Signed myself out. Nothing’s broken, I don’t need any damn x-rays. And you owe me a beer.” He was sore, but it was nothing a few drinks and a hot shower wouldn’t cure. And some time in bed. Maybe even a little of the time sleeping.

“You sure?” Sully looked so worried, Denny wanted to smack him.

“You trying to get outta buying me a beer?” Denny headed for the door, trying to walk normal so Sully wouldn’t give him any crap.

“Hell, no. You actually gonna let me?” Sully caught up to him, keys to the truck jingling in his hand.

“What else is gonna go wrong tonight?” Denny felt better as soon as the doors opened and the night air hit his face. Nothing else, that was what.

They were gonna head to the bar, get drunk and celebrate coming out of that crash in one piece.

Half an hour later and halfway through his second beer, Denny knew he was wrong. Very wrong. His right leg hurt like nothing he’d ever felt before.

“You okay?” Sully’s voice sounded far away. Denny couldn’t tell if he shook his head or nodded in response.

“Sore.” He dug in his pocket for the white tablets and took them all—he couldn’t count—with a swallow of beer. Please, God, let ’em work. His hands shook and his stomach did flips. Felt like something was tearing his leg apart. When he reached down to feel it, he was sure his hand was going to come away bloody, but there was nothing on his skin.

“Denny.” Sully was talking to him, but he couldn’t hear any words other than his name. His blood howled in his ears, and it was all he could do not to scream.

Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.

He’d been fine. Everything had been fine. He’d looked normal. Nothing could be wrong.

“Sugar.” Sully never called him that in public. For a moment, Denny’s focus locked on to Sully’s face. He could see fear there. Terror. Then his stomach rolled, and he barely turned away in time to puke all over the floor—beer, bile and half-dissolved little white tablets.

Everything Denny knew about himself, believed about himself, sheared away as the pain broke him into pieces. He never cried, except that he was crying now. Never begged for anything, from anyone, yet the words kept coming up like he was still vomiting. Please, make it stop. Do something. Anything. Please. He knew pain, but this wasn’t pain, this was what he deserved for everything he was.

Sully hung over him, and Denny was vaguely aware that he was on the floor. All he could feel was betrayed. Why wouldn’t Sully help him? It would be so easy, and yet Sully just kept talking, like Denny was burning to death and Sully was trying to put out the fire with his words.

“God, Sully, help me.”

There was no help. Not from anyone. Not in the ambulance, not in the emergency room, not until everything went dark.

Author Bios:
Anah Crow 
Anah Crow has been writing with Dianne Fox since 2003. Her job in their partnership is to spew out ideas, hammer out prose, and bomb, drown, incinerate, and otherwise torment their characters. Fortunately, she has Dianne to channel all that energy into something publishable.

When she isn't writing with Dianne...she's usually writing. She lives in Canada with two dogs, her partner, her teenager, far too many craft supplies, and a small herd of computers -- Macs and PCs (don't tell Dianne about those).

Dianne Fox
Dianne Fox has been writing with Anah Crow since 2003. Her job in their partnership is to organize their shared toys, herd cats (shorthand for keeping Anah's brain on track), and polish everything they produce. She manages to keep sane -- or something like it -- with help from her unnatural affection for list-making.

When she isn't writing with Anah, she's working as a nanny, taking a break from chasing Anah by chasing children. She lives in the USA with her partner, her two cats, far too many craft supplies, and her beloved Macs.

Anah Crow
GOOGLE PLAY  /  KOBO  /  B&N  /  ARe

Dianne Fox


Ghost Hope by Ripley Patton

Title: Ghost Hope
Author: Ripley Patton
Series: PSS Chronicles #4
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Thriller
Release Date: June 15, 2016

***Ghost Hand #1 is FREE and #2 & #3 are on
sale for 99cents until the end of June***

Olivia Black does not feel safe. Nightmares plague her sleep and haunt her days. If she has to endure one more minute stuck in a safe house in rainy Portland, she’s going to lose it. When Mike Palmer sneaks off to find her sister Kaylee without her, it’s the last straw. She has to do something.

Then Palmer’s hackers find the Dome on a satellite feed: dark, abandoned and smack in the middle of the Oregon desert three hundred miles from where it started. If they can reach it before anyone else, they can crack the computer systems and access every piece of information on PSS the CAMFers and The Hold have ever collected.

But in order to do that, Olivia must return to the origin of her fears in a race against all the forces that have ever pitted themselves against her. She must unravel decades of deceit to reveal the true origins of Psyche Sans Soma to the world at last.

"Olivia!" My mother's voice jolted me awake.

I sat up in the rental van's passenger seat, wiping drool from my cheek. Chase and T-dog's Westfalia had stopped in front of us at a massive gate rising out of the darkness, topped with barbed wire and sporting several Danger: High Voltage and No Trespassing on Federal Land signs.

We had arrived at Umatilla, and I'd fallen asleep, like I always did in a moving vehicle, before I'd explained to my mother that I'd lied about our destination. We were not on a scenic over-nighter up the Columbia River Gorge. That had just been a cover story.

"Olivia Anne Black," she said, pointing at the gate. "What is that?"

"Um—I don't know," I stammered. "We must have taken a wrong turn."

"Is this the motel?" Grant asked groggily from the back. It sounded like I wasn't the only one who'd taken a nap.

"No, it's not," my mother answered testily. "What the hell is he doing?"

She was referring to T-Dog, who had gotten out of their van carrying something bulky under his arm. When he set it down and started fiddling with a controller in his hands, I realized it was one of those personal drones. Suddenly, the little thing lit up and went whirling into the air, kicking up dust and flying over the gate. On the other side, it dipped down and stopped, a green light flashing on its undercarriage as it hovered over some kind of control panel. As I watched, a green light began flashing on the panel too, like they were communicating with one another. Because they were. T-dog was hacking into Umatilla. He was breaking into a federally-owned chemical depot.

I could feel my mother turning toward me, a question in her eyes, her lips parting to ask it.

Headlights, high and wide, flashed in the rearview mirror, blinding me. They were barreling down on us, but I only heard the rev of the engine just before the crunch of impact.

The whole van jerked forward, shoving us toward the back of the Westfalia and stopping only inches from its rear bumper.

"What the—?" Grant yelled, and I heard cries of alarm from Passion and Samantha.

My seatbelt dug into my waist and my shoulder, but the airbags hadn't deployed, so that was good.

In front of us, T-Dog scrambled back into their van and slammed his door. The gate started to open, the drone hovering on the other side, still blinking green.

There was another crunching sound and a slight tug backwards. Then, more revving.

"Hold on. They're coming again," my mother said, jamming the van into drive and laying on the horn like a mad woman. We couldn't go anywhere. The Westfalia was right in front of us and some lunatic was behind us, gearing up to rear-end us a second time.

"We have to go through," I told my mom, gesturing at the gate.

"I know," she said, glaring out at the windshield and revving our engine now. "Get out of my way, you two. What are you waiting for?" she mumbled under her breath, laying on the horn again and not letting up.

The vehicle behind was almost upon us. I could hear it coming.

Up ahead, T-dog glanced at me in his side view mirror, but it was too dark to read his expression. Had he and Chase set us up? Was this their doing?

The gate was open wider now, maybe wide enough for the Westfalia, but would it be enough for our bigger van?

"Hold on," my mom said, glancing in the rearview mirror and slamming her foot on the gas.

I braced myself, this time for impact from the back and front, but it didn’t come.

We surged forward, gently kissing the back bumper of the Westfalia, both of us racing through the still opening gate. I heard a horrible sound, metal screeching against metal, and sparks flew in a shower away from us as the huge closures of the gate scraped down both sides of our van.

As soon as we were free and clear, Chase veered off to the right and pulled to a stop. As we drove past, I could see T-Dog holding the drone remote out his window, working it frantically, trying to close the gate before our attackers made it in. But he wasn't fast enough. The pick-up truck that had rear-ended us roared forward, squeezing through just like we had. For a moment, I thought it had a really weird hood ornament, but then I realized it was the drone, flying low and toward us in front of the truck.

"Get higher," I murmured to the little thing. As if hearing me, it did, rising above the front of the truck only to plummet a second later just as the vehicle overtook it.

And then it was gone, sucked under the huge wheel of the big truck with a soft crunch and a shower of shrapnel spraying from its undercarriage.

"Stop the van," I told my mother, but she'd already turned and was pulling up alongside the guys.

"Who is that?" I shouted out my window at Chase, pointing at the truck as it pulled up, headlights blinding us all, the gate clanging shut behind it.

"I have no idea," he shouted back. "But I think we're about to find out."

A truck door slammed.

A dark form moved, crossing the dusty swathe of its high beams, and a man emerged, tall, wrinkled, and tan, a long rifle dangling from his right hand.

Author Bio:
Ripley Patton lives in Portland, Oregon with one cat, two teenagers, and a man who wants to live on a boat. She doesn't smoke, or drink, or cuss as much as her characters. Her only real vices are writing, eating M&Ms, and watching reality television.

Ripley is an award-winning short story writer and author of The PSS Chronicles, a young adult paranormal thriller series. The first book in the series, GHOST HAND, was a semi-finalist for The Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Awards and a Cybil Award Nominee.

The second book in the series, GHOST HOLD, was released in September 2013.

The third book in the series, GHOST HEART, was released in October 2014.

And GHOST HOPE, the final book of the series will be released in the Spring 2016.

You can find out more about Ripley and her fiction on her website.


Ghost Hope #4

***Ghost Hand #1 is FREE and #2 & #3 are on
sale for 99cents until the end of June***

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