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Excerpt from Palpitations, free for 1 more day!

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Excerpt from Palpitations

‘Yeah. She’s…’ Charlotte shuddered, and the gun dropped limply to her side as she fell to the ground, cupped her face in her hands and begin to bawl beside the now dead, undead.
He didn’t leave me. I’m not alone!
‘Ohhh… Charlotte! Hey come on now…’ Charlotte heard him rushing to her, but she was up on her feet again and backing away from him before he could lay a finger on her to offer solace.
‘I thought you were dead!’ She screamed, not caring how loud she was, not concerned that that there was anything more violently angry or dangerous on the face of the planet right then, than her. ‘What the hell happened to you?!’
‘I got knocked out!’ Will’s silhouette approached her in an unbalanced fashion. ‘Not for long but-’
‘Knocked out?! Are you kidding me?’ Charlotte’s voice pitched high enough to break class. She braced herself against the ice-cold body of the Hummer as she rose, keeping the gun trained on the centre of Will’s dirty white shirt. ‘I fucking HATE you!’
Will’s eyebrow flew up and he backed up, holding up his hands in a ‘Oh shit’ pose. ‘Charlotte! You’re-’
‘Don’t try and tell me I’m in shock! Don’t try and pretend to know for even ONE SECOND what I am feeling you son of a bitch!’ The gun trembled, but she did not let it sink below his heart. ‘You don’t know me, Will Furlough, not one tiny bit! You don’t know what I’ve gone through, who I am… I’m just another brainless follower to you, aren’t I? Well I’m a person and YOU CANT JUST GET KNOCKED OUT WHEN I NEED YOU!’
Will’s eye was wide. ‘I’m a son of a bitch for getting knocked out?!’
‘You’re a son of a bitch for getting me into this predicament! For coercing me to follow along yet again! I don’t know you either, and that makes me an idiot! You and your old pal Liam were such assholes and you hid it so well! You could be lying to me now! You were always too fucking smooth for your own good! You and your fucking milkshake! That big puppy dog eye making me feel more for your plight than my own! I mean, how freaking messed up is that? I have this awesome, wonderful, sweet guy waiting to protect me twenty k’s back and I followed the one leading me tit-first into danger instead! That’s insane! No actually; that’s shock! Charlotte Swift taking pity on Will Furlough?’ She choked out a laugh. ‘I’m just not that nice anymore, so it’s either shock or insanity, and I am done with it! Do you hear me? One flirty remark from you and a red-eye sneaks up on us! It’s pathetic! I’m pathetic around you!’
Will’s hands lifted higher. ‘Charlotte stop! I-’
‘No! I bit my tongue for four years when I liked you Will and it got me nowhere- so now that I hate you you better believe I’m gonna speak up!’ Charlotte had him in her sights. ‘You’re not Zac Efron and I am NOT dying for you!’
‘Zac EFRON?!’ Will sounded flabbergasted, taking a step towards her as though the gun trained on his chest was less offensive than the celebrity she had just named. ‘You think that he’s hotter than ME? Bitch please!’
‘What did you just call me?!’
Will flung his hands about. ‘I’m just saying, I work out five days a week! Seven, when I was locked up!’ Will’s only eye narrowed. ‘I get that the bruising isn’t very attractive but I’m working the eye-patch, aren’t I? Or I thought I was!’ He crossed his arms and pouted sullenly. ‘But you’d die for Zac Efron and not me? I’m offended! He’s like a twig!’
Charlotte wondered if she’d found herself in the middle of the weirdest possible zombie-apocalypse conversation ever. ‘Haven’t you seen that movie with Chandler from Friends? Zac is as buff as now!’
Will snorted. ‘Why would I watch that? I mean, it’s a Zac Efron movie, for Pete’s sake! I wouldn’t have lasted six days in jail if I’d owned that DVD!’
‘I LIKE that movie!’ Charlotte screeched. ‘Don’t even pretend it’s a chick flick!’
‘Um hello?! If it’s got a guy on the cover wearing clean clothes- it’s a chick flick!’ was Will’s returning exclamation.
‘Oh and you’re some big action hero? Mr beat-down-by-a-female-red-eye-and-napping-in-the bushes? Ha!’
Will cocked his head. ‘Red-eye?’
‘Yes- that thing was not a zombie! Abigail was a zombie. But the energetic ones are something else so I’m calling them-’
Charlotte was so caught-up in her rage that she didn’t have her reflexes aligned with her limbs when Will suddenly ducked, crossed the three feet between them and pinned her against the side of the car. By the time her muscles coiled, ready to smack him down, he had one of her arms trapped to her side, while his other tightened around her wrist- the wrist holding the gun, and forced it back against the passenger door of the Hummer with a hollow clacking sound.
‘That makes no sense,’ Will gasped. ‘They’ve all got-red-eyes!’
‘You’re about to have two black ones!’ She cried, trying to wriggle out of his gasp.
‘I am hotter than Zac Efron,’ Will whispered against her lips, his intense stare flicking from one of her eyes to the other rapidly. His breathing was laboured, and delicious mix of spearmint gum and tobacco made Charlotte’s nostrils flare in appreciation. ‘And I am going to get you and those beautiful big blue eyes through this alive.’ His gaze flickered over hers, burning with intensity. ‘Fuck they’re lovely. I’d forgotten just how easily those guys could lay a man out, but I’m remembering now…’
‘Excuse you?’ Charlotte wondered if she’d died and gone to heaven. Her rage fell away. Had he actually noticed her back after all?
‘You heard me.’ Will grinned. ‘You were like the ultimate jail-bait Char. It’s a miracle that I made it to twenty-four before getting locked up.’ His eyes dropped to her mouth, and it was heated. ‘Your dad probably fired me because he’d read my dirty, nineteen-year old mind…’

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[book:Palpitations|22654840]

Someone who was still in there.
Thinking quickly, Charlotte shuffled back to her driver’s door and turning the key once to get the coil working, flicked on her headlights after. Like a diamond in sunlight, the interior of the shop lit up brilliantly; so brilliantly that there was no mistaking the flurry of movement she saw behind the counter. Charlotte smiled grimly, and then twisted her headlights again, proud of how handy her high beams were proving to be when suddenly, a thin shadow leapt up from behind the counter and began waving its arms frantically. Though the action was silent, the point was clear:
‘Woman are you fucking crazy turn off your DAMN LIGHTS!’
But Charlotte flicked them instead, and when the boy vanished again she flicked them once more. When he did not re-emerge she sighed, leaned onto her steering wheel and blasted the centre with her horn. The sound was so excruciatingly loud in the evening air that Charlotte shuddered, taking her hand off it as soon as she felt she’d made her point and looking around anxiously, scanning the sidewalks, not completely oblivious to the sound of a scream in the far distance and even worse, a disembodied moan floating through the air like the end of a yawn from her left. It wasn’t so close that it represented a direct threat, but her skin blossomed with goose bumps all the same.
I can’t stand here all night waiting for this guy to do the right thing, can I? Think woman, think!
Charlotte turned back to the shop, wanting to scream or beg the boy inside to turn the pumps on- to personalize her precarious predicament and possibly evoke empathy within him or a sense of responsibility- but she couldn’t get her drama on without making a racket, and she had a funny feeling that the sounds of a woman in distress would be like zombie catnip.
Besides, what reason did the attendant have to turn the pumps on for her? He didn’t know her and for all he knew, her appearance probably made her look like a time bomb waiting to happen, because she fit the ‘danger’ age group perfectly. Survival required a certain degree of selfishness, as she’d just displayed to the hoodie guy back down the road, and the attendant was safely barricaded inside a shop packed with all the supplies one could need with no reason to see how her ‘Come eat me’ behaviour was a threat to anyone but herself so long as he remained hidden in the dark.
Nope. Polite Charlotte isn’t working for me. Wonder if the mask is a turn-off? I bet Sophia would be pumping gas by now!
The damsel thing hadn’t worked so it was clear to Charlotte that she’d have to try acting menacing instead, which was going to be a tricky part to play with a headful of curlers and sparkly lettering across her breasts. She swiveled her gaze to the gun on her seat and she wondered if she could convince the boy that so long as she remained in danger, he did too. But the idea of waving the gun around, of threatening him and getting caught on CCTV in her get-up as the purple-faced apocalypse tyrant made her feel ill. But she’d still rather be tagged as a burglar, than by her toe.
Bribery? Worth a shot yeah?
Charlotte reached back into her car and pulled a crisp, one hundred dollar note from an envelope in her glove compartment, feeling a twinge of guilt as she realised she’d had that cash handy to pay Cadence with, back at the salon. Isaac, always more prepared than a boy-scout with OCD, had given her the labeled envelope that afternoon back at the clinic while whispering that they were paying Cadence off the books to help her out of a rough month. The recollection of his kindness, and the sight of his angular handwriting on the front of the envelope made her heart skip another beat. He really was too, too good a man for the likes of her.
Isaac would never bully a service station attendant into doing his bidding because he would have had a full fuel tank to begin with!
Pushing that thought aside, Charlotte made a big show of waving around the one hundred dollar bill, and then lifted the pump lever next to the one she intended to use, placing the note in the hollow behind it and then replacing the nozzle, trapping the money there. Then, she tapped on the fuel pump and waited expectantly.
Come on, come on, come on… ! Please please please?
Another moan sounded, and down the street, there was a yelp. Charlotte’s arms had been crossed in a: ‘Your move’ sort of stance but the sound of the approaching creature had her digging her nails into the flesh of her arms. When another ten seconds passed, and the moan resonated in the air again; this time much closer, Charlotte lost her patience along with any courage she’d managed to scrape together and store in her spine. Pissed off and terrified, she got back into her car, flicked the key all the way to start the ignition and then slammed her foot down on the accelerator as she snapped the door shut, revving the car as hard as she could and hoping that it wouldn’t expose her bluff by spluttering its last.
She saw the shadow of the boy straighten, saw him step slightly closer to the window, slowly raising his hands as if to say: ‘Whoa…let’s not do anything stupid now!’ But Charlotte merely smiled, pleased to know that she still had his attention. She released the parking brake, shoved the gearstick into drive and then lurched forward, aiming her car right at the entrance doors of the service station and thinking that if this didn’t work, the cowardly teenage boy might be the last person she ever saw alive through human eyes and if he didn’t help her, she’d relish eating him first.

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Excerpt from The Harlequin Doll

‘Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Jarrah. I know these are quite unconventional circumstances and so I appreciate the trouble you have gone through already, and the trouble you obviously intend to take on, if we can come to an arrangement today.’
His brother’s voice was even when he answered: ‘Being asked to visit a beautiful woman in such a romantic place is no trouble at all, your highness.’
There was a breathy laugh then. ‘I see that my memory of your countenance has not been exaggerated in my mind by time.’ She sighed. ‘But I must say, I am surprised that you are the one the village has selected to represent them. I was certain that you would have been married off some time ago…’
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‘If I answer no to the honest and righteous ones, will that admission make them so?’
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