With the high of our publishing achievement guiding us, where do we go now?
The answer is complicated because we have at least 7 other projects in the works, but we’ve decided to focus on our paranormal novel titled The Collected.
In the coming weeks we’ll be posting snippets and sneak peeks, so stay tuned!
Thank you for all the love,
It is with much excitement that we announce our debut novel is available for purchase on Amazon! It’s been a long, winding, emotionally draining journey. Our goal for this year was to publish and we did it.
Here is the link for you all. Please read, share, and love. We hope you enjoy!
It seems to me the only way I can find out what that book is about is by playing detective. The only other person who might know about that book and about Torres is Lionel’s friend, Ashley. Lionel was suspicious when he saw Ashley hauling Torres’ suitcases into a trunk. I get the feeling Ashley is the right person to talk to.
I wait an hour after Lionel leaves. After feeding my mother some bogus excuse about meeting up with a friend at the movies, I slip out the front door and down the street to wait for the bus. On the bus I pick a seat near the back, beside the window. I brought along the photo with the message from the book as evidence that should prove to Ashley that I’m serious.
A half hour later, I hop off the bus and walk two blocks.
Taking a deep breath, I enter the hotel, the automatic doors making a swishing sound as they open. The lobby is sort of dingy with brown tiled flooring and sad yellow walls. I look around, searching for an employee as I walk to the front desk. After a moment, I ring the little bell. “Hello?”
A guy emerges from a door behind the desk labeled Manger’s office. He has dark hair with purple that obscures a large portion of the left side of his face. He cracks a smile when he sees me.
“Welcome to the Clairvine Hotel. Can I check you in?”
“I’m not a guest. I was actually looking for someone who works here, his name is Ashley.”
“Hi, I’m Cass. I’m a friend of Lionel’s.”
Ashley looks me over, his eyes softening. “Well it appears he has good taste in friends.”
I refrain from laughing and act slightly flustered. “I, uh, I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions.”
“Sure,” Ashley says. “Let’s go somewhere a little more private.”
I nod and follow him to the breakfast area across the lobby. We sit at a table tucked in the far corner.
“So, how can I help you?”
“Have you known Lionel long?”
Ashley chuckles. “We go way back.”
I consider this. “Okay, well I’m just going to cut to the chase.” I glance around quickly before continuing. “You were the one who told Lionel where Torres was staying.”
“So you know what Lionel was going to do, right?”
Ashley cocks his head. “Yes and no. I knew he was going to steal something that he thought should belong to him. I don’t know what it was though.” He leans forward, crossing his arms on the table. “How do you know about that? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t spill incriminating stuff like that to just anyone.”
“Well—“ I stammer, caught off guard.
Ashley’s eyes narrow. “You went with him, didn’t you?”
“I… that’s beside the point,” I say, my cheeks beginning to blush. This wasn’t part of the plan. “Look, he found what he was looking for but then he lost it…”
“Did you know you could be considered an accessory to murder in addition to breaking and entering?” Ashley says, his tone cool as he disregards what I just said.
“Do you like him?”
“Lionel? No!” I exclaim, my cheeks burning now. “Okay, shut up and just focus okay? And just so you know, you could be considered an accessory as well. You are the one who leaked Lionel information.”
“Touché,” Ashley says, grinning. He leans back in his chair. “What did you want to know?”
“Do you know anything about this?” I pull the photo from my pocket and slide it across the table. Ashley snatches it up and inspects it, flipping it over and reading the message. He grins.
“Good ol’ Dal Torres. Always had a sense of humour.”
“This was in the book Lionel stole. The book was a fake, it had blank pages.”
“A book?” Ashley’s eyes slide to the side.
“Do you have any idea why Torres would go to the trouble of creating a fake book?”
“Did Lionel tell you what the real book contains?”
I bite my lip, trying to come up with something that’s not as lame as the truth, but Ashley beats me to the punch.
“Ah,” he says, his face a mix of interest and dark intent. “That’s what you’re really here about, isn’t it.”
This isn’t going how I thought it would at all. I need to get out of here, before I give away too much, plus this guy is starting to creep me out with his mind reading B.S. I stand from the table. “You know what, I shouldn’t have bothered you, you clearly don’t know anything.”
Ashley grabs my wrist as I pass. “Why don’t you ask Lionel about all the sporting events he accompanied Torres to. That might answer your question.” He lets go and I walk quickly away. “See you around, Cass,” he calls after me, sending a chill up my spine.
I hold the book in my hands as I leave Cassidy’s house. She wasn’t happy about my sudden departure after lunch, and even less happy about my asking to take the book with me. After I explained she wasn’t going to be able to do anything with a fake book anyway, she let me go, though not before casting me yet another clouded glare.
I left her the photo with the message though, it’s of no use to me anyway.
I can’t shake my suspicions of Ashley, no matter how much I try. He’s up to something, but I can’t figure out his connection to Torres. Maybe if I pay him a visit, show him the book, and gage his reaction, I might make some headway.
With the idea in mind, I walk faster, heading towards the nearest bus stop. Then something occurs to me. If I show up at the hotel hours after I just told him I lost what I stole, that would look weird. I should wait a day or two.
What an annoying word. Wait.
I let out a huff and take a seat on the bench at the bus stop as the wind picks up, blowing leaves and garbage around in a little circle on the sidewalk. I guess the only place I can go is home for now.
After lunch my mother finally lets me go up to my room. It was agony trying to eat at a normal pace while I could feel the book pressing against my skin beneath my jacket. I close the door and pull the book from my jeans, holding it with both hands as I cross the room to my bed.
I wonder what it could hold. Maybe government secrets? Details about a drug smuggling operation? Incriminating photos?
My heart races as I crack open the cover. The first page is blank. I flip to the next page. Same thing. In frustration I thumb through the entire book. Every single page is blank. What the hell? I hold the book upside down and shake it. Something flutters out and lands on my covers. Picking it up, I realize it’s a photo of Dal Torres holding up a middle finger to the camera. I turn the photo over and there’s a message scrawled in sloppy writing that reads: “To the idiot who thinks it’s easy to steal from Dal Torres, think again.”
“Why do you have the book?”
I look up startled to find Lionel standing in my doorway. “What are you doing here?” I sputter.
“I came to check on you, I felt bad about what you saw last night,” he says, striding into the room, “But that’s beside the point. Why do you have the book?”
“I found it when we were searching for it. I wanted to know what the big secret was. Surprise, it’s a whole lot of nothing.” I hold up the photo and Lionel snatches it from my hand.
He studies the picture, then flips it over, reading the message. His faces blanches and he tosses the photo down and picks the book up off the bed, flipping through the pages.
“I don’t understand,” Lionel whispers.
“What’s not to understand? You thought you were smart, but Torres was smarter.”
Lionel closes the book, staring down at me. “But if this was just a fake, why did Torres act so upset when he saw us in his room? Why wouldn’t he just let us get away, why start a fight when he saw I had a knife? It doesn’t make any sense.”
I draw my knees up. “I don’t know.”
Lionel sits down beside me, his eyes far away as he contemplates. “Is it possible Ashley was involved…?”
“You keep mentioning Ashley. Why would he want to screw you over? Aren’t you friends?”
“I thought so.” Lionel leans back, resting on his elbows. “If I tell you about Ashley and Dal Torres, will you promise not to freak out? I mean, you’re already involved, more than you should be.”
“You’re regretting bringing me along in the first place, aren’t you?” I guess.
Lionel grimaces. “A little. Why did you agree to come along? I mean, you don’t really seem like the kind of girl who enjoys breaking and entering.”
I laugh. “I’m not. I just needed to do something exciting.”
“Yeah. You thought it would be some elaborate explanation?” I smile, gathering my hair over one shoulder and finger combing the knots out. “Plus my friend needed some help. Anyway, before we get any more sidetracked, you were going to tell me about Ashley and Torres. Spill.”
Lionel casts me a dubious look before staring up at the ceiling. “You are one strange girl, Cass. Okay, where do I start?”
“Cassidy?” my mother asks, popping her head inside my room. “I was wondering if Lionel would like some to eat. There’s still some leftover souvlaki from lunch.”
Lionel perps up, his eyes smiling of their own accord. “I’d love some. I’m starving.”
I give Lionel a dark look. He’s clearly thankful for the interruption. He really doesn’t want to tell me what’s in that book. But I’ll find out one way or another. I smile at my mother. “That’d be great. Thanks, Mom.”
We get up and follow my mother downstairs. I whisper to Lionel on the stairs. “We aren’t done talking about the book.”
Lionel offers me a small grimace and averts his eyes.
The lobby is a moderately sized space, with a tiled floor and small breakfast area to the left. Ashley stands behind the front desk in his beige polo with the hotel’s logo on the front. He looks up from his computer as I approach, his black hair, streaked with purple, falling lazily over one eye. His lips quirk up at the corner.
I cross my arms over the raised counter and play it cool. I don’t want to let him know I suspect him of anything. “Ash.”
He looks around quickly before lowering his voice. “How did things go last night?”
I laugh. “How do you think it went? Torres is dead.”
A couple descends the stairs nearby, talking loudly to each other. They come to a stop at the desk a foot away from me. Tourists have no sense of personal space.
“Yeah, can I get a city map?” The balding man says.
Ashley flashes them his best customer service smile. “Sure thing. Can I get you a popular sites pamphlet as well?”
“Didn’t you hear him?” The wife asks in a nasally voice. “Just get a map.”
“Right away.” Ashley pulls a folded map from a drawer and hands it to the husband. “Have a great day.”
The wife rolls her eyes as the husband grabs the pamphlet and they head out the automatic doors. I wait until the doors close before speaking again.
“Things went badly.”
“Did you at least get what you were looking for?”
I frown. “Well yeah, but then I sort of lost it…”
“You lost something that was important enough to kill for?” Ashley laughs incredulously. “Jesus.”
“Were you working last night?”
Ashley sobers. “I had a morning shift yesterday.”
“So you weren’t here when the cops showed up?”
“Just wondering, in case you had heard anything they said. If they had any leads or anything.”
“Oh,” Ashley nods. “Sorry. But this might help you out.” He reaches under the desk and pulls out my pocket knife, handing it over the counter.
I snatch it from his hand. “Where did you find this?”
“Behind the hotel earlier when I was taking out the trash. I recognized the handle and thought I better get it back to you before someone else found it and put two and two together.”
“So what are you going to do about the lost thing you stole from Torres?” Ashley asks.
“Honestly? I have no idea, but I’ll figure it out.”
“Let me know how it goes.”
“Sure. I’m going to get going though. I don’t want to be seen around here for a few days.”
“I understand. Best of luck.” Ashley dips his chin and grins as I cross the lobby and exit the hotel.
Outside, I flip the knife over and over again in my hands, staring down at the snakeskin pattern printed on the handle. I hadn’t even noticed I’d dropped it. I suppose I should be grateful to Ashley for returning it, but I still can’t shake the feeling he’s crooked. What was he doing loading up Torres’ suitcases? Why didn’t the police collect them as evidence?
But what about Cassidy? I’ve been so caught up in finding that book that I’ve completely forgotten Cass’ feelings. She wasn’t prepared for me killing someone and I haven’t even talked to her about it. She’s got to be freaking out. I should drop by her house and talk to her. That’s what a friend would do.
I tuck the knife into my back pocket and catch the next bus at the stop down the street.
The hotel looks different in the daylight. Of course, that might also be because I get to see it from the street, not the roof. For some reason I still expected police to be here, considering they would have found Torres’ body last night, but there’s not an officer in sight.
Lionel and I walk around the side of the hotel to where the fire escape is. It turns out the blackness below it yesterday is the employee parking lot. Various shiny black and silver cars are lined up along the building. A couple of city dumpsters are huddled below the fire escape. Lionel looks to me dryly.
“So, are you going to check the dumpsters or am I?”
“I’m not dumpster diving for a secret book that you won’t tell me anything about.”
“I’ll take that as a no,” Lionel says, striding to the dumpster and hoping up swiftly, using the side as leverage to propel himself up and over.
I stare at him for minute. His white blonde hair drifts around his face like dandelions in the breeze. He’s the one that got us into this mess. I don’t know why I’m still helping him. Some small part of me hopes I can be the one to find the book, that way I can peek inside and see what the big secret is.
I leave Lionel to rummage through garbage and search through the shrubbery skirting the hotel. I crouch in the grass and survey beneath the bushes, pushing branches out of the way. Nothing. I walk a few feet down and try again. Still nothing. I check the whole perimeter and frown. Nothing.
Lionel is jumping down from the dumpster as I return. “Any luck?”
I shake my head. “Nothing. Maybe it landed on a lower level of the fire escape?”
“That’s possible. I guess we’ll have to check. Here stand on my back, you’ll have to jump to bring the ladder back down.”
Lionel bends over so I can step up. Just then, voices sound nearby. The back door to the hotel begins to open.
“Quick,” Lionel grabs my sleeve and we scurry to crouch behind the nearest car. He peers through the windshield and his eyebrows knot together.
“Who is it?” I whisper.
“My buddy, Ashley and some other guy. He’s got Torres’ suitcases and he’s loading them into a car. What the hell is he doing?” Lionel wonders.
“Wouldn’t the police that those as evidence?”
“Can you hear what they’re saying?” I ask, craning my neck to get a look. Lionel pushes me back down gently by the shoulder.
“No, but I bet it’s fishy.” His gaze remains locked on his friend.
Something flashes under the car in the spot next to us. Beside the back wheel, the black book glints in the sun. You’ve got to be kidding me. Lionel remains oblivious, I can’t let him get the book just yet. I pull my ring off and drop it on the pavement.
A moment later Ashely and the guy head back inside the hotel.
We stand and Lionel looks pissed.
“Do you think we should come back later?”
“They probably won’t be coming back out for a while. Let’s check the fire escape.”
We start to head towards the escape when I pretend to realize I lost my ring.
“Oh shoot! I dropped my ring,” I say holding up my hand. “It’s probably by the car. I’ll be right back.”
Lionel tells me to hurry as I rush back to the car. I pretend to look around until I find the ring beside the book. I tuck the book into the waist of my jeans quickly, pulling my jacket down over it. Then I grab the ring and jog back over, slipping it onto my finger.
He looks bored and motions for me get on his back. After a couple of attempts, I finally reach the ladder. I hang from it for a few seconds as Lionel grabs my legs and pulls. The ladder slides down and I land lightly.
Fifteen minutes later, after an unsuccessful search, Lionel huffs and calls off the dogs.
“I have no idea where that book could be. Maybe Ashley found it? He’s clearly being shady.”
I nod. “That’s possible.”
“I might have to pay him a visit.”
“Do you want me to tag along?”
Lionel shakes his head, starting down the ladder. “No, I don’t want him seeing you.”
“Alright. We’ll I’ll head home then?”
Lionel lands with a thud on the grass. “That would be best. I’ll meet up with you later.”
I follow down after him. My sneakers slips off the last rung and I let out a yelp. Lionel reaches up to steady my legs. I jump down. “Thanks.”
He grins. “Later.”
I watch as he disappears around the corner before touching the book through my jacket. When I get home I’ll finally be able to see what the secret is.