Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 7 - Astraea Press Giveaway ~ March 8-16


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Love on Loch Ness by Aubrie Dionne
Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Length: 198 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-62135-250-1

Blurb: Dr. Gail Phillips steps onto the shores of Loch Ness to disprove the Loch Ness monster theory for good so everyone can stop wasting their time. As a marine biologist with a background in archeology, she’s convinced all of the world’s myths such as Big Foot, the Tasmanian Devil, and even Nessie are lies. Her father disappeared while following Yettie tracks in the Alps, and she doesn’t want to lose another mislead soul.
Flynn Maloney comes from a family of fanatic cryptozoologists. As a native of Scotland, he believes in Nessie as strong as Gail believes in science. Despite his initial attraction for her, he’s joined her research team to prove her wrong. He wants to find Nessie for a special girl in his life, to show her dreams really can come true.
As they conduct sonar studies and sweeps of the lake, their differing opinions are at odds with their budding attraction. Gail doesn’t believe in anything unscientific, such as romance, thinking the charming Flynn Maloney is full of baloney. Flynn can’t believe he’s falling for someone with no imagination or faith. To make matters worse, their videographer is covering his true identity. Together they must unravel his plan before he destroys everything they are working for. Will Gail force Flynn to question his faith, or will she discover more than she bargained for in the Scottish highlands?




Chapter One
Echo

As her cab meandered along Route A82, Gail couldn't keep her eyes off the glassy waters, watching the ever-changing waves for a glimpse of the darkness below. She thought Loch Ness would resemble every other lake, but a hushed timelessness hung over the Great Glen, as if the loch waited to outlive the end of the modern world. Gail was just an insignificant mortal, a twinkle in the land's antiquity.
The mountains of the Scottish Highlands cast lengthening shadows on the surface as the sun set behind them. They rose on either side of the lake, reminding Gail of the backs of two great beasts in slumber by a river.
The only true beasts here.
The cab pulled over beneath a hillside of alder and birch, their branches drooping with rainwater. The bearded old driver chewed the end of his cigar and turned in his seat with slow resignation, as though he'd brought a thousand tourists to this location a thousand times and every trip ended the same. "The cabin's juist a wee walk behind those trees. Gae straight. Then turn right at the boulder."
"Thank you, sir." Gail reached in her purse and handed him a hefty tip. The atmosphere already gave her the creeps and she never knew when she'd need a quick ride back.
The driver glanced at the sum and raised a hairy eyebrow. "Guid luck lookin'."
"Thanks." She collected her sunglasses, a light sweater, and her travel bag. "But nothing's here and I'm going to prove it."
The old man blinked, eyeing her as though she'd taken off a mask and he hadn't expected what lay underneath. "Now that's ane I hae not heard b'fore."
"And won't hear again." Gail would put a stop to this nonsense once and for all. The world needed more levelheaded thinkers and fewer dreamers.
"Watch yerself. This lake brings oot the best in people, and the wurst." The driver saluted her and his ominous tone brightened. "Guid cheerio the nou!"
Must be some form of Scottish farewell. "You too."
Gail closed the door and the cab drove away. Misty, cool air penetrated the holes in her sweater and she shivered, feeling as though the lake already fought to protect its secrets, or lack thereof.
As the cab's engine died, silence came down as heavy and thick as the mist rolling off the hills. The solitude starkly contrasted to the congestion of people and vehicles around her apartment in Boston's Back Bay.
The isolation suffocated her, dredging up memories of her woodland hunts with her father. Gail had gone to the big city to forget and here she was in the middle of all the things she distrusted.
I'm standing here so no one else gets taken in by lies.
She hoisted her travel bag on her right shoulder and stepped onto the moss-covered forest floor.
As Gail turned away from the lake, a mournful cry echoed over the water, rumbling in her gut and pricking the hairs on her neck. The deep, bass drone reverberated like a giant piece of furniture moving across a linoleum floor somewhere in the heavens. She spun around as a black neck protruded from the glassy surface. Her heart stammered, adrenaline zapping through her.
It can't be.
Gail scrambled for her driving glasses in the front pocket of her shirt. She fumbled with the case, then poked herself in the eye as she put them on. Cursing, she gazed back to where the sound had come from. The still surface mirrored the clouded sky. Moments later, a dark creature flew from the waters.
A cormorant.
Holy mackerel. Two minutes on Loch Ness and she was already seeing things. Some scientist she'd become. The vastness of the lake played with her depth perception, making her think a bird no bigger than her mom's Irish terrier was a mythical beast.
Gail breathed deeply, curling her shaking fingers against her palms. The mysterious atmosphere coupled with too much wine on the flight over must have pushed her over the top. She could hold her liquor about as well as a leprechaun could hold a pose for the camera. Besides that, she had her family's wild imagination.
Her father craved this rush of adrenaline, the thrill of the hunt, the chance to see something no one else had seen before. Stumbling forward, Gail forced herself to tear her eyes away from the placid water and focus on the trees ahead. The monster's not real.She vowed to keep her glasses on at all times.
"Hey, down there! You okay?"
Gail whirled around. A young man with wavy, honey blond hair skidded down the hill. His face was cheerful and open with a wide, strong-ridged nose that wasn't too big and rough stubble along a perfectly sculptured chin. He reminded Gail of a cross between a young Ewan McGregor and James McAvoy — manly with a bit of boyish charm.
The young man caught himself on a tree limb and smiled. His eyes were as green as the moss covering Scotland's rolling knolls. "You look like you just saw a ghost."
"I don't believe in ghosts." Gail didn't believe in a lot of things: unicorns, pots of gold under rainbows, the tooth fairy, and the Loch Ness monster. "I'm fine."
"Good. Because it takes a while for an ambulance to get here." He held out his hand. "Flynn Mahoney."
She was smitten before she could say her name, so she decided to stay away from him after a brief, polite conversation. Love was another myth she didn't believe in.
She squeezed his hand. "Gail." She didn't want him knowing her last name if she could help it. Last names led to phone numbers, which led to dates, and she'd rather swim in the inky, cold waters of the Loch.
"You're not from around these parts, are ye?" Flynn had a nice lilt to his accent, unlike the heavy, unintelligible dialect of the cab driver.
"No." She tugged the edge of her sweater in annoyance. She did not want to be thought of as another tourist. "I'm here for research."
"What a coincidence!" His eyes sparkled like research was a wondrous activity. "So am I."
Glancing at his beer-advertising T-shirt, khaki shorts, and worn sneakers, she remained skeptical. "Well, I should be on my way. My research cabin's just beyond that boulder and I should start setting up…"
"Funny you should say that. That's where I'm staying."
Gail froze. Was he one of those homeless mountain men who jumped from uninhabited cabin to cabin, living off others? She wished she'd asked the cab driver to stay longer.
"That's the property of The Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau."
"I know. That's who I'm working for."
It would have made more sense if he'd told her he was an underwear model. "Really?"
"Yup." Of all things, Flynn looked smug. "L-PIB and I are two peas in a pod."
L-PIB? The acronym for the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau sounded like a rap star. "You mean to tell me they've given out two grants at the same time?"
He crossed his arms. "Guess they want us working together."
Gail narrowed her gaze. Could be good, could be bad."Okay."
"So, are all the boxes that arrived yesterday in the post yours?"
She stiffened, hoping he hadn't opened them and damaged her expensive equipment. She hadn't expected anyone else to be there. "Yes. It's my equipment, along with some other essentials."
"I was beginning to think L-PIB was redecorating. But stamped on the front read 'Property of Dr. Phillips,' so I figured I'd wait to open the packages until the mysterious Dr. Phillips turned up."
"Well, that's me." She tried to envision him as a fellow scientist. Maybe Flynn was some sort of biologist or botanist. Yes, she could see him working with plants. At least he'd had the good sense to leave her equipment untouched. "What's your specialty, anyway?"
Flynn gestured over his shoulder for her to follow him up the hill. "I'm a cryptozoologist. I search for animals whose existence has yet to be proven."
Her newfound respect evaporated as quickly as the mist. Gail fought a rising current of dread as she climbed the hill behind him. Oh no. This is bad. "I know what a cryptozoologist is." She'd only grown up with one for the first twenty-two years of her life.
"And you are?" Flynn turned around and waved his hand like a magician introducing his next trick, which happened to be her.
"A marine biologist with a background in paleontology."
"Very cool." He swatted away the branch of a silver birch. "So you can help us identify Nessie when we see her."
Gail stopped in her tracks. "That's not why I'm here."
"Why the heck would a marine biologist come to Loch Ness to study something other than the Loch Ness monster?" His lips curled in amusement.
"I'm here to prove Nessie is a fake."
His face slackened and he stared at her as if she'd just told him she worked for the enemy. "You don't mean that."
She raised an eyebrow like she'd won a hand of cards. Now she wouldn't have to fend him off. He didn't like her anyway. "Yes, I do."
A glimmer of sadness passed through his eyes before he blinked the emotion away. "That's all right. Come on. We'll make a believer of you yet."
Flynn continued toward the cabin, and Gail stood in shock. She'd tried to jab him with the truth and instead of getting angry and defensive, he'd softened and become more welcoming. What a crazy, sweet man. Too bad there was nothing there to believe in. The poor beer lover would be wasting his time on her.
The cabin rose before them in a wall of dark logs on the bald spot of a hill. It was way more rustic than she'd expected. "Does it have running water and electricity?"
Flynn looked her up and down appraisingly. "A city girl, eh?"
"Boston." She nodded. There was no shame in living in a metropolitan area.
"Well, you'll find everything you need." Flynn opened the squeaky door. "We have a generator out back and a well with a pump."
Walking by him as he held the door, Gail scanned the room. An old plaid sofa sat across from a cozy fireplace, the embers crackling. A stone representation of Nessie stood on the mantelpiece next to a vase of wildflowers.
Her heeled boots clicked on the polished wood floor. Not bad. Kinda small for the two of them, but cozy.
"Who's your date?" A snarky voice echoed from the kitchen in the back. A round-bellied man with a wispy black goatee and a bad toupee appeared in the entranceway, sipping a ginger ale. The man wore a tropical flamingo shirt and khaki shorts, like he was on vacation. His skin had the tan, leathery look one got from too much sun.
His appearance tweaked a hint of recognition. Gail blinked in denial. No way she'd ever been acquainted with such a backwoods hillbilly.
"She's not my date. She's a marine biologist." Flynn gestured toward her. "Gail, meet Tom."
Gail stuck her hand out, wondering just how many people lived in this excuse for a research facility. "Are you a scientist as well?"
"Nope." Tom gave her one sleazy look up and down then slumped onto the sofa and stared ahead at the stone sculpture of Nessie. "A videographer."
Flynn touched her arm gently then took his hand away. "He's going to help us get the best footage the world has ever seen."
In response, Tom belched and scratched his belly.
Gail was horrified. What a pig! "Did L-PIB hire him as well?"
Flynn nodded. "I suggested a videographer be included in the team and they chose Tom."
"Great." Gail feigned excitement. She imagined hour after hour of placid lake videos. Too bad he's going torecord a whole lot of nothing.
"We were just about to leave on a sunset cruise of the lake to take samples and footage. You're welcome to join us."
The lake had already spooked her in the daylight. She couldn't imagine how creepy the murky waters would be at dusk.
Get a grip, girl! The ocean had never scared her, and that body of water was much vaster than this lake. Somehow the deep blue Atlantic seemed more honest and willing to show her its miracles. "Won't it be harder to see anything?"
"Yes, but that's when the activity is." He raised one eyebrow suggestively.
"Activity?"
"Nessie's calls. They're becoming more frequent, which is why L-PIB invested in a research team."
Gail thought back to the blood-curdling noise she'd heard earlier. There had to be a logical explanation: hoaxers, farm equipment, or tectonic plates moving… something.
Flynn started up the stairs. "Come with me. I'll show you to a spare room where Tom's been keeping his equipment. You can stay there, and I'll help you get set up."
"Thanks." Gail followed Flynn up the stairs to the second floor.
Flynn pointed to the room at the top of the stairs. "This one's my room, and the one beside it is Tom's. Although, you may not want to go in there because of the smell."
An eerie queasiness in her gut forced her to glance down one more time at Tom. He was still staring at that statue like Nessie was his idol. Something about his eyes bothered her. Somewhere she'd seen the man before. Maybe in some cryptozoologist article her dad had read?
Crazies. They're both off their Scottish rockers.
What had she gotten into? Could she stay here with these two men? The way Tom leered at her, then stared greedily at an image of something that didn't even exist seemed a little too overzealous. Good thing Flynn made up for Tom's weirdness by being both charming and hot.
But when she thought about what Flynn stood for, her attraction to a dreamer just like her father made her want to run screaming for those highland hills.

Astraea Press Book Club

The Astraea Press Book Club on Face Book is a great way for readers to try new books and authors...for FREE! Each month one Astraea Press title is offered up for free to readers to read and enjoy. At the end of the month we have a chat with the author and a random drawing for an AP Swag Pack. Fun for all.

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