Tuesday, July 01, 2014

SMOKY MOUNTAIN INVESTIGATION - Anslee Urban - One Free Book

Welcome back, Anslee. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I write Christian Romance and Romantic Suspense. I started writing when my daughters were young wanting them to read good wholesome stories with a happy ending.

My daughters are the reason I wrote my first Christian romance. Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
I have had so many happy days—the birth of my three children and the adoption of my two younger children among them and of course grandchildren ;-) But, as far as personal accomplishments I was very excited when I sold my first book to Harlequin Love Inspired. It was a dream come true!

How has being published changed your life?
I think being published has made me a more confident writer.

What are you reading right now?
The Deputy’s Duty by Terri Reed.

What is your current work in progress?
I just started another romantic suspense.

What would be your dream vacation?
Australia. I would love to take an outback vacation.

Australia is one of my dream vacations. How do you choose your settings for each book?
I look for small towns that fit the storyline.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Dr. James Dobson. I’ve read many of his books and love his views on family and faith. He was a great inspiration as I was raising my children.

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I love to travel, cook, and plan fun adventures for my grandkiddos.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Time! My days are pretty full, but fortunately I am a night person and often write until late into the night. It is quiet and peaceful and my creativity sparks when the rest of the world sleeps ;-)

What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Follow your dreams and the Lord’s direction. If He’s given you the talent and desire to write, persevere.

Tell us about the featured book.
Smoky Mountain Investigation it is set in Asheville, North Carolyna, where a perilous stalker taunts journalist Kylie Harper with details of a decade-old death, leading her on a new trail of murder. Ex-Delta Force captain and Kylie’s former love Nick Bentley fled their Smoky Mountain hometown after the murder of their classmate. When family duty calls him back, Nick comes face-to-face with Kylie and the past he’s tried to forget. Now Nick must put everything on the line to save Kylie before she becomes the next victim of a madman.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Kylie Harper pressed the cell phone to her ear, her heart thumping against her chest. Had she heard the man right?

Standing outside the airport terminal, she took a moment to gather her composure. Angry clouds hovered low over Asheville, quickly turning the evening into night.

She took a much needed breath. “Who is this?”

“Murderer.” He spoke slowly this time. More precisely. “Because of you, an innocent person died.”

Kylie stiffened and swallowed. A sick joke. Crazed folks enjoy taunting journalists, her rational self reminded her. “I don’t know who you are, what you want, or even if you have the right number―”

“Ten years ago.” The slow, mumbled drawl bled through the phone line. “I was there.”

Clutching the cell in a death grip, Kylie smashed it harder to her ear. Her battered heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. “What do you want?” She tried to sound calm.

A raspy chuckle tore at her eardrums. “Dear Kylie, you do remember what happened ten years ago?”

Silence as her heart now ceased to beat. She pulled the phone from her ear, checked the display. Restricted number glared back.

She pressed the phone to her other ear. “Is this about Camp Golden Rock?” The words stuck in her throat.

A bark of laughter replaced the chuckle. “How many incidents are hidden in your past, Kylie? Could I be talking about anything else?”

Kylie gasped, breath caught in her throat.

“I know I’ve been negligent,” the man continued, “not staying in touch. But for this anniversary I planned something special.”

Struggling to even breathe, Kylie blocked her thoughts from the memories. How many times she relived that May night, haunted by the “what if’s” and “if onlys.” By God’s grace she’d finally moved on. Put that nightmare behind her.

“Why are you doing this?” she ground out.

“You know how important memories are. Especially the ones that involve death.”

Memories. Anniversaries. Her tenth year class reunion was coming up. As cruel as it seemed, only one explanation made sense, this had to be a prank. A hidden cameraman from some shock-reality show had to be hiding somewhere. Kylie jerked her gaze around the area.

“You won’t find me, Kylie.”

She froze. She was being watched.

“The baggage claim, Kylie. My gift is there. And remember, sweet girl, I’ll never be more than a heartbeat away,” the man calmly whispered. The phone went dead.

Panic jolted every nerve ending in Kylie’s body. Turning on her heel, she rushed back into the terminal and started down the concourse, praying this was a bad joke, but somehow knowing it wasn’t.

Leaving caution behind, she bounded down the escalator two steps at a time, her bulky purse banging against her side. On the bottom level, and out of breath, she dashed around the corner and into the main baggage claim. She quickly scanned the area. Empty. Except for the two rental car agents that chatted behind a counter at the opposite end of the building.

She shifted her attention to the flight status monitor on the wall. Her nerves settled a bit. The last plane for the evening had landed but the carousel number had yet to be listed. She breathed easier. Nothing. Thank You, Lord.

She’d seen this before. Some lonely person fascinated with unsolved murders and too much time on their hands. Why not rouse up speculation and gain a little notoriety at the same time? And who better to harass than someone who’d been at the camp, a journalist no less. She shook her head.

A screech, thud, and a chime resounded, then Carousel A’s conveyor belt churned to life.

Kylie turned just in time to see a limp male figure roll down the chute and onto the moving belt.

No dear Lord, not again.

Instantly, the chill returned. Her extremities turned icy about a second before a curdling cry tore from her throat.

****

Former Delta Forces Captain Nick Bentley barely roused as the aircraft’s front wheels made contact with the runway. The plane bounced, rose in the air and touched down hard again. The final jolt of the impact sent ripples along his spine.

Nick’s eyes flew open. He gripped the metal arm rests.

Lights flickered on overhead. The thunder of the outside engines assailed his ears.

Stiffening against the seat back, Nick’s adrenaline surged, his mind stumbling to keep up. What mission are we on? What destination?

“Welcome to Asheville. The local time is seven thirty-eight,” crackled through the commuter’s speakers.

North Carolina. Nick exhaled heavily as relief swept over him. The nightmare was over.

No more watching over his shoulder.

No more blistering desert heat.

No more death.

Or? Tension grabbed at his gut. Was another nightmare about to begin? He was coming home ―something he swore he’d never do.

He glanced out the oval window to his left. Runway lights lent an eerie glow against passing landscape. An outline of rugged mountains. The evergreen beauty was lost in the darkness and fog, but he could picture it still. Lofty hardwoods and bristly pines. Dense forest he used to love.
The plane rolled to a stop. He hung back, waiting for the few other passengers to deplane then hefted his Army issued duffle bag onto his shoulder and stepped down the steep aircraft stairs and onto the tarmac. The terminal in front of him was lit brightly, surprisingly welcoming. Small and quaint. No bustling crowds to contend with.

Nothing had changed. That’s what he was afraid of.

Three back to back tours of Afghanistan and Iraq should have prepared him for anything. So why was his gut twisted in knots?

Temporary assignment, he reminded himself. Once his brother was back on his feet, he’d shake the dust off his shoes and move on. Find someplace to call home.

He repositioned his duffle and headed for the terminal doors. Deeply, he inhaled, pulling in a lungful of Blue Ridge air. Cool and clean, yet tainted with memories.
****
On the ground floor of the main terminal, Kylie stepped aside, allowing a wave of airport security officers a clear path to the baggage claim conveyor belt and the body sprawled across it.

Two of the officers halted about a yard from the victim and exchanged glances. The older man, shorter and robust, shook his head. His grave expression said it all. The other officer, tall and lanky craned his neck a bit for a better look but didn’t move any closer.

Nausea spiraled through Kylie’s abdomen. She struggled to breathe as flashes of another crime erupted in her mind. One just as gruesome. The night her classmate and friend, Conrad Miller was killed.

“Late twenties, early thirties is my guess,” the tallest officer mumbled after a moment. “Anyone know who he is?” He glanced back at Kylie.

She shook her head. “Not that I can tell.”

Approaching sirens blazed to life behind her. The few onlookers, stragglers from earlier flights were quickly herded out of the way as paramedics and sheriff deputies rushed in.

There was a cacophony of noise. Questions flying, voices escalating around her. The medics gave a quick assessment of the limp male figure lying in a pool of blood, then pulled a sheet from the gurney and covered him. No other measures were needed.

Kylie backed further away from the scene and leaned against a nearby column. Coolness from the metal trim penetrated her thin jacket adding to her chill. Fortunately, she’d gathered sufficient facts for a story, along with an elusive phone call. Nothing conclusive, but enough to satisfy her boss, chief news editor, Max Dawson. And after a cliffhanger article for the morning paper, she planned to hand the story over to another colleague. Being at the wrong place at the right time, even worse, being the perpetrator’s contact person, didn’t make her the best fit for the story. Hopefully, Max would agree.

“Kylie, tell me again what you know.” Detective Dave Michelson walked toward her, scratching his forehead with the end of his pen.

“I really don’t know much.” Kylie straightened a bit, willing her knees not to buckle. “I came to the airport to drop off my sister and was heading back to my car when I received the phone call.”

“And, the man on the phone told you he had a gift for you at baggage claim?”

“Eventually. Yes.”

“Any idea who the caller might be?” Dave started scribbling on a pad.

“No. He spoke with a thick muffled drawl. And the number came up restricted.”

“Was there anyone else around when the body arrived?”

“Security was right behind me. Tipped off by a caller…or killer.” Just saying the word sent a shiver dancing across her skin.

Dave grunted, shifted his husky frame and kept writing.

“The first security guard at the scene checked for a wallet or ID,” Kylie added, tightening her arms across her chest. “None were found.”

Dave bobbed his head. “No signs of life?”

Her heart fractured. “None. He was bleeding from the neck.”

Eyebrows gathered over Dave’s prominent nose. He didn’t comment, only jotted more notes on his pad.

“Fortunately security officers secured everything before a crowd formed. Not really a picture that bystanders needed to see.” She knew that from experience.

A grunt again. Dave hadn’t changed since high school. Serial grunts, nods, maybe a raised eyebrow. He only said what he needed to.

“Thanks.” He pocketed his pen and pad.

This time she nodded. There was nothing else to say.

“Incoming bags are on carousel C.” One of the security guards shouted, gesturing to the opposite side of the baggage claim area for the passengers stepping off the escalator. “Just keep moving.”
There were surprised looks and mumbles from the travelers, but everyone complied, except for one man. He was dressed in fatigues and boots, a duffle draped over his shoulder and a canned drink in his hand. His dark piercing gaze roved over the scene. And as he stood there, his expression turned dismal.

Kylie’s teeth dug into her bottom lip. She knew that expression. And she would never forget those eyes.

Nick Bentley.

****

Nick stared at the scene and nearly lost the burger he’d just devoured. The thread of welcome he’d felt when he arrived evaporated. A déjà vu moment replaced it.

EMS workers strapped the body wrapped in a blood stained sheet onto the gurney and headed out the door. Three police officers followed and several others remained at the crime scene, talking amongst themselves and shaking their heads. Like they had the night Conrad Miller was murdered.

Ten years ago, Nick’s senior class had taken a trip to nearby Camp Golden Rock. Their last night there, somewhere between eight and nine o’clock, Conrad’s body had been dumped onto the front porch of their cabin. He was found lying in a small pool of blood, with his throat slashed from ear to ear. Nick swallowed as nausea threatened again. Conrad had taken security patrol that night. It was his job to make sure everyone was out of their cabin and at the bonfire. A mandatory buddy system was in place, but Conrad’s buddy had been late.

Nick still couldn’t forgive himself.

“Nick.”

A wave of panicked voices echoed around him, but the softness of one feminine tone cut through the mayhem, making him almost drop his duffle and the drink that he was carrying. Nick hadn’t been home an hour and already his mind was playing tricks on him. He slowly turned his head and to his surprise, he met Kylie Harper’s warm, green gaze. Shoulder length auburn curls framed her sweet face. Pert nose, slender brows, high cheekbones, luscious full lips. An unmistakable twinge of awareness shot through him, quicker than any bullets he dodged in the Middle East.

He blinked, not believing how even after ten years she still struck him as the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. His déjà vu moment got stronger.

“Kylie.” Even saying her name stung. Another part of his life he tried to forget.

“I can’t believe it’s you.” She stared up at him and brushed stray locks back with her fingers.
No ring. He couldn’t help notice.

“Yeah. It’s been a while.” He swung his duffle to the ground, propping his drink can on top. “And, a dead body wasn’t exactly the welcome I hoped for.”

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Shaking her head, she looked up at him, her eyes widening and brimming with tears. “The poor man. No one even knows who he is. Even worse―”

She looked away a moment, took a deep breath.

“Worse?” Nick stuffed his hands in his jacket.

Another moment, then her gaze settled back on him, fear in her eyes. “I think Conrad’s killer may be back.” Her voice barely a whisper.

The knife in Nick’s heart slipped a little deeper. “What do you mean back? You don’t think―”
Kylie’s nod cut off his words. Déjà vu just escalated to nightmare.

Thank you, Anslee, for giving the whole first chapter. I’m sure my readers are as hooked as I am. How can readers find you on the Internet?




Thank you for sharing this new book with us today.

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

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28 comments:

Lana Schumann said...

The excerpt of the book is really interesting! I live in Texas.

Anonymous said...

would love to win. Angela in KY

Anonymous said...

the excerpt sounds intriguing! Shelia from Mississippi

Melanie Backus said...

Thank you for introducing me to Anslee. I am intrigued by her book.

Melanie Backus, TX

Rebecca said...

I would love to read your book. Springfield, Oregon.

Danielle Hull said...

Sounds exciting! In Indiana.

Anonymous said...

My sister would like this book.
J.C. -Indiana-

Diana Gardner said...

Portsmouth, Va

Linda Kish said...

I would love to win a copy of this book.

California

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Mary Annslee Urban said...

Hi Ladies! Thanks for the kind thoughts about my excerpt. I hope each of you get a chance to read my book, Smoky Mountain Investigation! Even if you aren't the winner ;) Blessings to all of you~~Annslee

Amy C said...

This book sounds great. I love meeting new authors.
Amy C
VA

Amy C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Britney Adams said...

Thank you for the introduction to Anslee Urban. SMOKY MOUNTAIN INVESTIGATION sounds like an exciting book!

Britney Adams, TX

Melissa Oldaker said...

I used to live in the Asheville area. Would love to read this book.

Melissa from NC

Merry said...

Wow, a chilling taste of an intriguing story! Please add me.
Merry in MN

Mary Annslee Urban said...

I hope you will all have a chance to read it and love it! It was a fun book to write and Nick and Kylie's story is sure to touch your heart. Asheville was a perfect setting for this novel. Beautiful mountains, lush trees, what better place for suspense, murder and reunited love!

Mary Preston said...

I love your author photo & your book sounds amazing.

Mary P

QLD AUSTRALIA

Cindy W. said...

Enjoyed the post. I love the Love Inspired Suspense line and Smoky Mountain Investigation sounds like a wonderful book, one I would love to read. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

I live in Indiana.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

apple blossom said...

I love these books thanks for the chance to win. live in ND

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Marianne Barkman said...

I am in awe of writers especially those who write phenomenal novels. This one sounds like one I need to have. Thanks, Lena and Anslee for the chance to win. I loved the interview
Marianne
Alberta

Diana Flowers said...

I really love beautiful Asheville, NC, and I also love cat and mouse books! And I don't mean Tom and Jerry! lol Add a thunderstorm and I'm good to go! Thx for the opportunity to win this!

Diana in SC

dianalflowers(at)aol(dot)com

Vera Godley said...

Well, you caught my attention at Smoky Mountain, Asheville, North Carolina.... After all, a girl from NC loves to read books set in our home state.

I'm in middle NC, been to the beach, the piedmont, and of course, Asheville!

Jan Hall said...

You definitely got my attention. Now I want to know the rest of the story. I got so engrossed in reading it I forgot that it was only going to be the first chapter. Jan in sunny West Texas

susanlulu said...

The cover of this book just pulls you in............to know what's inside and what it's about. I know that it would be fantastic reading!
Susan in NC
susanlulu@yahoo.com

Annslee Urban said...

Blessings to all of you lovely ladies! I hope you get to a chance to read Smoky Mountain Investigation and love it :) Annslee

Sherry Martin said...

Ok, I definitely want to read more of this story. Sherry from Ruckersville, VA

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me!!
Sharon Richmond Bryant
Conway,SC.
sharonruth126@gmail.com

Tonja Saylor said...

We love to read love inspired books and we also live the smokies. Great combination for a good read!
Tonja VA