Contemporary Fiction



Mapped Out Murders — Murder Mystery

Sarah Groben’s an LAPD Homicide Detective and a Pastor’s wife. But she’s got six murders she hopes to solve by Sunday. Members of a fledgling group for 10-40 transplants seeking Christianity are being killed. A Muslim charity interested in better relations with Americans seems to be connected by the death of a former financial manager. Family members of the victims might also end up in the crosshairs if Sarah is right about a “Persecutor for Hire.”

Sarah’s partner is down with the flu and her husband Don seems like a tailor-made substitute with his knowledge of Middle eastern languages and cultures. But the case keeps getting more complicated by the minute, and Sarah and Don might not be able to crack it before the killing starts again.

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Fall On Your Knees — Christian Romantic Suspense

Reference librarian Karin Arthur’s quiet life changes forever when she accepts an invitation — A Christmas Eve blind date with a man she knows only from online research projects. Murali Nanda seems handsome, intelligent, accomplished, and passionate about Christian causes she also loves. Turmoil descends when Karin and Murali plunge into a plot to torture and murder espionage operatives and disseminate a computer infection that could bring vital intelligence agencies to their knees.
A courtship beyond whirlwind and a desperate race to stop a cyberkiller leave Karin reeling and feeling she has no choice but to accept the protection of this virtual stranger — whom she knew only in the safe, virtual world of her research work. Can Murali protect her and solve the mystery? Can she help him do what no one else has accomplished — root out the spreading threat that could lead to cyber destruction?
“I couldn’t have come this far without your help.” This was not a lie, and salved his conscience about the cover for the transfer of the information for this last operation.
“Almost finished,” Murali said to the library employee as she approached again. It was taking too long to make the transfer. Had something gone wrong? Was it being intercepted – rerouted –? “Ex Libris, please confirm you are receiving my package.” When Karin didn’t respond right away his panic started to build. No matter how many times he had done this, he couldn’t swallow the choking knot in his throat, the fear of theft, and of discovery, especially if it occurred on Karin’s end.

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 In association with The Edge Books.

The Great Thirst Book One: Prepared

Small town science teacher Keith Bradley climbs into a red Tesla with English teacher Talia Ramin for the field trip of a lifetime. At stake is a missing copy of the Scriptures on gold tablets. At risk is the trust of an ancient order sworn to keep the tablets safe.
Talia’s archaeologist aunt and uncle may have lost their last clue to artifact thieves. A government ultimatum might undo every lesson they have taught their students about keeping the Word safe.
“What?” Keith jumped up. “What are you saying? We’re supposed to take the kids’ Bibles away from them? Their prayer journals? Their memory cards?”
“There’s no need to be defensive.” Doctor Williams glared up at him. “Please be seated. You will only be borrowing them, to get them scanned. And we want materials from everyone in the community. Parents, grandparents, ministers – Anyone who studies the Bible. Don’t you see? This will become a resource people all over the world can use, for all time. Mr. Bradley, your prayers, your thoughts, your study of the Bible could teach someone in Thailand, Mali, Alaska – someone in a spaceship traveling to Mars – these insights will become eternal.”
“But it’s voluntary, right?” Talia asked. “People don’t have to give us their Bibles, do they?”
“This program fails if it doesn’t accomplish the critical goal of gathering all the possible data,” Doctor Williams insisted.
“What exactly do you mean by ‘this program fails’?” Keith’s dad demanded.
“It doesn’t fulfill the requirements,” Doctor Williams said. “It doesn’t qualify for the grants.”
“You mean we lose everything we’ve gotten from implementing the Bible as Literature program?” Principal Bradley choked.
“Really, there’s nothing scary or unreasonable being asked for here. Are your Bible studies secret? Why does the idea of sharing them with the world disturb you? Are you that selfish?”

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 The Great Thirst Part Two: Purified

The mystery archaeologists suddenly appear and Keith learns firsthand about the quest for the Golden Testaments. He finds himself with more questions than answers. What do these people want with him? He doesn’t see how he can travel to Greece, Turkey, and who knows where without neglecting his family. The lure of ancient technology and the chance to unravel a mystery like no other can’t make up for the deadly peril of an underwater attack and a terrifying phone call. Is he really ready to pay the price for preserving and spreading the Word if it means putting his family in danger?
Two divers swam fast and hard toward them. Naddy had hired a couple of men to generally help as needed, and at first Keith thought those two had suited up and joined them for some reason. One of them drew a knife and swiped at Keith.
Talia streaked past him in a blur of motion and Keith saw a rod-like object appear in her hand. A shockwave pushed him aside as she shoved it against the man’s side. The man cartwheeled away in a storm of bubbles. Just before the attacker passed out of reach Talia’s other hand snaked toward him, a knife gleaming in her hand.  Keith watched, stunned, as she sliced the man’s airline in two.
The second man caught her off guard and ripped her mouthpiece away, getting her in a headlock. Keith dove into the struggle as Talia lost her knife. He caught the knife and stabbed at the man’s back but the blade just bounced off the air tanks. Talia’s eyes widened as her mask began to fill up with water. Keith got a better grip on the knife but the man twisted away and again the blade bounced harmlessly off him.
Keith felt a bump on the side of the knife hilt. It slid under his thumb and he jabbed once more at the man. Incredibly, an underwater explosion rocked all three of the struggling divers and a gaping hole appeared in the man’s air tank. He broke off the attack and swam away rapidly, another storm of bubbles following his retreat. Both men disappeared back into the murk but headed toward the surface.
Keith grabbed Talia and pulled her straight up, using his mouthpiece to buddy-breathe with her. A few moments later they broke the surface.
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Keith and Talia’s Guardian contacts finally unlock secrets of the holographic map but no one imagined the cost of following the clues. The Ax of Britomartis reveals an unexpected power but they can’t use it when they are thrown out of the country. Accusations, heartache,. strife, and even romance can bring the quest grinding to a halt. When the black van changes from pursuer to prison, Keith needs help not even Talia can give. Jenny Kaine might just find out what she needs to know to destroy the Word once and for all.
Keith stepped over to the intercom by the door. “This is Mr. Bradley. Ms Ramin and I need a monitor for our class, room 205, please,” he said, and released the button. “Ms. Ramin, please join me in the hallway while we wait for relief.”
Talia hefted her duffel bag and followed him out without a word.
“So, if Naddy and Sophie are okay, or at least going to be okay, what’s wrong?” Keith demanded, grabbing Talia’s bag from her and almost dropping it. “Whoa. This is heavy even for you. What’s going on?”
“I’m leaving,” she whispered. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Can’t do what? Talia – Ms. Ramin – Do you feel bad about paying the ransom? Why? I mean, yeah, it sucks, that you had to do it, to give in to those bastards, but Naddy’ll make it back up in a couple of days at the tables, right? He’s like, the James Bond of Poker, right?”
“He plays Baccarat.” Talia pushed away the smile that tugged at her lips. “I can’t keep lying to you. I can’t keep any more secrets from you.”
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A shocking event convinces Keith that he has to risk arrest to protect their Bradley Central students. A stranger questions their Britomartis findings and only a trip to Pakistan will solve a new mystery — that of the daughters-in-law of Noah. Cherub Rider has a mission Keith isn’t sure he can go along with — protect Keith at all costs, even if it means leaving Talia behind. They have to depend on the mysterious ancient amphibian skin for a totally unexpected, possibly lifesaving, mission. Is the Morse Code message tapping ALIVE real? Is a bag of gray dust the end of all their hopes to prevent the Great Thirst?
“Mr. Bradley and Ms. Ramin,
“Sean and Daryl’s mom and dad said they told the cops Mr. Bradley told them it was a bomb that exploded at the school. The cops told them no, it was just a water heater. Daryl said Sean argued with them and said the government was lying to shut down the school.
“The cops asked them if Mr. Bradley told them to say that. They said no, but the cops said Mr. Bradley would have to come and give a statement to prove he didn’t. That was the only way they were gonna let Daryl and Sean out.
“Mr. Bradley, everybody in town is talking about how your whole family disappeared right after the bomb went off. People are starting to say you might have had something to do with it. We know it’s not true, but now those two guys are in jail, and their parents say the cops want to talk to you, and they’re holding them as – Daryl’s dad says it’s called material witnesses – until you come and straighten it out. He says they can hold them forever.”
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Talia’s warrior instincts kick into high gear when an old enemy appears with a one-time offer. The whole Mexico Expedition goes into lockdown after a terrifying betrayal and a violent attack. A crushing mishap may end any hope of unraveling the tangled Web of Araña. Students respond to “activation orders’ with turmoil and terror. One conflicted father may hold the key to understanding more about the enemy — if he lives to tell his tale.
Before anyone could react, Cindee pitched over the steering wheel, her seat belt flapping loose. The hinged front window slammed down flat. Keith snapped his seatbelt loose and vaulted forward from the back seat, pushing past Talia, who had been sitting next to Cindee. He grabbed Cindee by her shirt as she clawed for a hold on the hood or any part of the Rover. Keith wrapped his free arm into the steering wheel.
Cindee hadn’t made a sound, but her enormous eyes stared into Keith’s as Talia crept alongside Keith onto the hood and grabbed both of Cindee’s hands.
“Don’t let go, Baby,” Talia whispered. “And it’s okay to scream if you want to.”
Cindee shook her head. “Tired of being teased about being ‘the screamer,’” she whispered.
“What’s holding you in?” Keith asked Talia.
“My paracord and grappling hook. I tied it around the rollbar, and to my ankle over my boot top,” Talia replied.
“Too much weight on the front end,” groaned Drew Summers from the back of the Rover. “We can’t get it to come down.”
“Ain’t like any of us about to move,” Keith replied.
“Keith, I’ve got her. Go back so they can bring it down and get us out,” Talia begged.
“No way. You go back.”
“Talia’s not heavy enough to make a difference,” Drew said. “Keith, we need you to pull back.”
“Talia, I can’t …” Keith whispered.
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“Mexico is where you need to be” rings in Keith and Talia’s ears in the midst of astounding miracles and crushing heartaches. They meet a blast from Drew Summers’ past but wonder if his newest team member can be trusted after a death and a disappearance lead to too many questions.
Keith discovers more than one stunning secret at a forgotten Olmec ball court, but disaster may seal the fate of his Golden Testament search once and for all. When God says stop, Keith may have no choice but to listen. Talia struggles to protect Keith’s father from deadly enemies but she’s not even sure Keith will be there to see Cherub Bradley’s birth.
“All the people in the Bible who saw visions had troubles, pain, scary-different lives,” Talia said. “Amu said you saw that they found the tablets before anyone told us, right?”
“Yeah. Guess I’m stuck with them, huh?”
“You’re stuck in God’s embrace,” Talia corrected. “He holds those tightest who suffer most for His Word. Maybe it only feels like hurt. Maybe it’s just getting used to the full strength of those everlasting arms wrapping around you.”
“And keeping me humble,” Keith said as someone came in to check his catheter. He turned his head slightly and saw the sock packet by his pillow. “Don’t know when that walking thing might happen.”
“We’ll see.” Talia changed the subject to try to distract Keith from those squints and scowls and tremors that had to mean his pain had increased. “Jiggly and Cindee are getting tablet images to the Guardians as fast as they can. Everyone is so excited. The communications are working better every day, and now we might have the final set of tablets, so the message can be prepared.”
“Lotta work,” Keith said. “Feel like I’m slacking, but I can’t –”
“Stop that. You are working hard on letting God get you well.”
Talia’s phone rang. “It’s Brad Shannon,” she said. “Should I take it outside?”
“No,” Keith said. “Want to know what’s up.”
“Talia, we’ve got trouble,” Brad said. “The administrator Dr. Ewing was caring for passed away this morning. The family had papers ready to file a lawsuit against the prison and the state Department of Education and have already done so. Can I talk to Keith?”
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Keith enjoys sweet reunions with family and students when the Mexico field trip finally becomes a reality. Parents lash out against the Bradleys with bitter accusations of fracturing their families and teaching their children to hate them. Hiding in plain sight can only go so far when a cartel drug lord, an educational authority, and someone who insists on documenting her own truth prepare for a final showdown. Cherub Bradley’s long-anticipated arrival sparks tender and terrifying consequences.
Joshua Bradley’s call to face the lions leads to fiery confrontations no one expected. Keith determines that it’s time for them to stop running, and to make their enemies move instead. Easier said than done, if one distraught parent’s confession is true. The full force of the US and Mexican governments might rise up in answer to the cries of a cult putting children in danger.
“You’re just letting these children make up ideas,” Mrs. Holden complained. “This is not like any field trip I’ve ever been on. The guides presented them with facts. How can they learn anything this way?”
“Madame, they are learning to think,” Naddy said. “They are not making up things. They are presenting ideas that can be discussed, thought about, perhaps even rejected. But the truth they need to take away – the lesson to be learned – is not to blindly say, ‘These are gods. These are supernatural beings to be worshiped.’ In the earliest times, men worshiped one God. Later, men departed from that belief and created images. But they were merely objects that expressed selfish human desire. Never were they spirits. Never powerful.”
“Are you saying you don’t believe in spiritual beings?” Mr. Sheldon asked. “I thought you people were religious.”
“Certainly we believe in spiritual beings,” Sophie answered. “But only the true God is to be worshiped according to His holy Word. He condemns the making of idols, and says they are no gods. Such spiritual beings as there are, besides God, are inferior to Him. They were created to be His servants. Some still serve Him, and some rebelled. We know little about these beings, but it is very likely that those who rebelled have power to deceive men into thinking they are worthy of worship.”
“But there are good angels, right?” Gail asked.
“The Scriptures tell us about beings who are messengers, and helpers of God and man,” Naddy replied.
“Angel,” Keith said, unable to coax his voice above of a whisper. He looked around. The wheelchair sat abandoned as Talia herded some stragglers back to the main group. An overpowering urge to sit forced him down into the chair.
Drew’s body hurtled past him and Anne followed an instant later. Screams in Spanish filled the air and the rest of the security team surrounded the group. Someone grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and Keith felt himself propelled toward the crowd into a ring of men and women with guns pointed outward.
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The Great Thirst Boxed Set
Join the search to quench the thirst in this combined edition of the bestselling Christian suspense adventure and serial archaeological mystery. High school teachers Keith Bradley and Talia Ramin team up in a race to find and preserve what may become the last copy of the Scriptures on earth. How can a reporter, a government educator, and an apparently concerned mother destroy access to God’s Word? Only if trusting people let them. Keith and Talia will stop at nothing to find the Golden Testaments. They hop across the continents, search beneath the ocean, and chase clues in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Finally, when their families and students have faced enough threats and seen enough miracles, they realize it’s time to use the ancient technology they have found along the way to make the enemy move.
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Fifty Shades of Faithful
Five short stories about Sam and Vivian Tucker, a cop and a photographer sharing their 20+ years of Song of Solomon marriage wisdom in most unconventional ways.
Sam has to forget how tough it is when Viv leaves town, because a young couple’s about to lose their marriage and maybe more over bondage gone wrong in “Cowboys and Indians.”
Vivian isn’t supposed to get involved in the lives of her photography clients but she persuades Sam that an intervention is needed to stop spousal abuse in “Punching Bag.”
Not everybody wants a fairytale fantasy come true, least of all a bitter brother accusing his dead brother’s Nurse-wife of golddigging in “Happily Ever After.”
Family secrets kept by generations of women are no excuse for adultery, but Sam and Vivian still want to help, if healing is possible, in “A Garden Locked Up.”
Sam and Vivian can only hope it’s not too late to save trafficked children and the couple determined to help them, no matter the danger, in “Family Package.”
The dungeon door burst open and two guards entered, wearing full battle armor rather than the dress uniforms the men at the party had worn. They carried in a large, weatherbeaten block of wood and slammed it down in the middle of the room. Two men followed them. One was dressed like a monk, and one wore a black mask and carried an ax.
The man dressed like a monk looked at both of them with a dour expression. “His highness the prince charges you both with witchcraft in the disappearance of his betrothed. I am to hear your confession before you are beheaded.”
“What?” screamed Cherie. “Are you crazy? Cinderella’s probably locked up in the attic at the wicked stepmother’s place. I mean, my place. Go make those two loser daughters of mine let her out.”
“We have already considered that possibility,” the monk replied. “Your house has been searched from top to bottom. There was no sign of the girl. The two daughters have been struck dumb and could not speak a word to us.”
“Enough is enough!” Lex bellowed. “Let us out of here right now!”
“If you refuse to confess, you will meet your maker for judgment instead of mercy,” the monk said, fixing his eyes on Lex. “Are you prepared to do that?”
“Since this is all a farce, that axe a fake, and you a bunch of actors, I hardly think it matters,” Lex sneered.
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Sam and Vivian Tucker take on emotions that can make or break relationships. They tackle an angry vet searching for sheep rustlers while hiding a thirty-year-old family secret in “Sheep Gone Astray.”
A terrified rape victim searches for a one-of a kind cat, but Sam and Viv can’t explain her fear of her gentle giant neighbor in “Kittens in My Kiln.”
Grief torments Sam’s widowed sister but solving the mystery of a theft and assault at her neighbor’s bird sanctuary torments Sam in “As the Peacocks Scream.”
A friend of Vivian’s tries to understand why an author won’t come to her store for his book signing in “Bittersweet Blend.”
Two young entrepreneurs try to catch a con man but need Sam and Vivian’s help to keep from fighting each other in “Controlling Interests.”
A jeweler friend of Vivian’s is stunned to discover her heirloom brooch may have a questionable past when strangers lay claim to it after trying to steal it in “The Lost Boys.”
“Help me! Please help!” Yascha and Vivian got up as a weak voice called out and Yascha’s back fence gate rattled. He opened it and found a tiny oriental woman huddled in the narrow alleyway between his fence and the neighbor’s. When she saw the towering, bearded Russian she tried to scoot away and screamed, clutching her torn clothes around her.
Vivian pushed past Yascha. “Call 911 right now!” she told him. “She’s bleeding. Sweetie, what happened to you?” She wrapped her big sweater around the young woman.
“A man broke into my house–” the woman sobbed. “He had a knife. I tried to fight him but he was too strong. He — he–” She wailed and Vivian wrapped her arms around her.
“Shhh,” Vivian soothed. “You’re safe now.”
“My cat,” the woman whispered.
“What did she say?” Yascha asked, coming back out to the gate. The woman cried out when his shadow fell on her and she struggled to get away from him.
“My cat,” the woman repeated. “Please, she got out when the man broke in. I need to find her.”
“Don’t worry about that now,” Vivian urged. “We’ll get you taken care of first, and worry about your cat later.”
“No, we have to find her. She’s never been outside before, and she was going to have kittens any time. It’s a special exotic breed. Please, promise you’ll help me find her.”
“Of course.” Vivian looked helplessly up at Yascha, who had moved back out of sight to avoid upsetting the woman again. He shrugged and pointed to the kiln.
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