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Book Excerpt: The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams by Daphne Michaels

The Gifted 7Title: The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams
Author: Daphne Michaels
Publisher: Daphne Michaels Books
Pages: 130
Genre: Personal Development/Spirituality
Format: Paperback / Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

In The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams author, speaker and licensed psychotherapist Daphne Michaels celebrates the nine gifts that are our birthright, guiding readers in how to recognize and use them to transform their lives.  In her author’s preface, Michaels reveals how her own journey of life transformation began when she was young and realized that human existence wore two conflicting faces–one of love and joy, and one of fear and despair. She decided then to commit her life to reconciling these two visions because she knew that, irreconcilable though they seemed, together these two faces held the secret to living a life of endless possibility and authentic happiness. Her personal journey and formal education in social science, human services and integral psychology led to the founding of the Daphne Michaels Institute, which has helped hundreds of men and women design the lives of their dreams.

In The Gifted Michaels shows us that the first three “gifts” we must recognize and embrace within us if we are to re-design our lives are Awareness, Potential and Stillness. These three allow us to identify and use the remaining six with a life-changing power:  Disharmony, Harmony, Ease, Clarity, Freedom and Engagement.  Each of these six relies on the “essential three” for its own power to change our lives, and each has its own gifts–its “children.” By approaching the nine gifts with real-world metaphors, Michaels answers in easily understood ways what for many readers have been lingering questions about personal transformation—such as how it works, what kind of commitment it takes, and why, if we’re committed, real transformation becomes inevitable—and addresses obstacles that readers may have encountered in the past in trying to reach in life a happiness every human deserves.

While the human universe’s face of love is celebrated in The Gifted, so is the face of fear that haunted a young girl decades ago. As Michaels shows us in her book, even Disharmony—the “quagmire” of life born of the human ego’s fear, defenses, delusions and despair—is a gift, too, and one as important as the others if we know how to see it clearly and use it. Once we understand Disharmony, we are ready to understand the real purpose of Harmony in our lives. Disharmony does not need to rule us.  It is ours to use as we design the lives of our dreams.

The final gift in The Gifted, Michaels tells us, is the gift of Engagement. Engagement—with the universe and with ourselves—allows us to use all of the other gifts with more power and joy than we ever imagined possible.

That mountaintop decision never left me. It drove my life’s work and over the years led me to understand that there are gifts – nine of them, in fact – that we are all born with but rarely experience in their full glory and potential. These gifts – which make each and every one of us “The Gifted” of this book’s title – are the keys to living lives of endless possibilities and, in turn, achieving an authentic happiness that cannot be lost. They are, in other words, the keys to achieving the life of our dreams.

Book Excerpt:

Life’s greatest mystery is inside us. It is inside every living thing. Like the deep secrets of the universe, the mystery inside us will never be fully explained. By exploring it, however, we can discover gifts available to us that can change our lives forever.

Life’s great mystery is awareness. More basic than thoughts and more primal than instincts, awareness does not require a centralized brain, as scientists have proven through studies with invertebrates like starfish. While these beautiful creatures have no centralized brains, they possess awareness. Starfish, like all invertebrates, use awareness to perceive, eat, grow, reproduce, and survive.

Awareness is so intrinsic to life that it defines life: living means being aware. From the beginning of life – before we take an initial breath – humans demonstrate tremendous awareness. Prenatal psychologists have discovered that we experience, while still in our mother’s womb, not only light and sound but, even more astonishingly, emotion. We kick our legs when agitated by loud noises and sway pleasantly to beautiful classical music. Months before birth we grimace at the taste of sour amniotic fluid and drink heartily when it is sweet. Awareness grows as we grow.

As we develop as human beings, our awareness stretches in all directions – from awareness of our five basic senses to awareness of external events around us, from awareness of our emotions to awareness of our thoughts, from limited awareness of a topic that bores us to an expanded awareness of topics we feel passionate about. Of all the many dimensions of awareness, the highest form is self-awareness. With self-awareness we begin to appreciate just how far awareness actually extends. Just as ocean waters are deeper than the surface of the sea, awareness is deeper than the surface of our physical body or our conscious thoughts. The infinite depth and breadth of awareness is filled with gifts that are ours to receive.

 

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Get to Know My Book: The Human Spirit by Carole Eglash-Kosoff – Part III

Today we are honored to be hosting Carole Eglash-Kosoff on her virtual book tour this month with the 3rd installment of her 3 day Get to Know My Book series of book excerpts.  Get to Know My Book is an ongoing feature between blogs where we post excerpts of an author’s book so that you can get to know the book better, one blog at a time.

Carole Eglash-Kosoff lives and writes in Valley Village, California. She graduated from UCLA and spent her career in business and in teaching. In 2006 her husband, mother, and brother died within a month of one another, causing her to reevaluate her life. She volunteered to work with the American Jewish World Service and was sent to South Africa to teach. She returned there a year later, having met an amazing array of men and women who had devoted their lives during the worst years of apartheid to helping the children, the elderly, and the disabled of the townships. These people cared when no one else did and their efforts continue to this day. It is their stories that needed to be told. They are apartheid’s unheralded heroes and The Human Spirit is their story.

Carole has also completed a historic fiction novel, a pre- and post- Civil War interracial love story set in Louisiana, When Stars Align.

In addition to writing Mrs. Eglash-Kosoff has established the …a better way! Scholarship program, which provides money and mentoring for several worthy local high school students for both their first and second year of college.

All profits from the sale of The Human Spirit will be donated to Ikamva Labantu and other South African charities. The book is available at Amazon, Author House and Barnes & Noble on-line sites as a hardback, paperback and as an e-book.

An avid student of history, Carole Eglash-Kosoff is a native of Wisconsin. After graduating from UCLA, she spent her career in the apparel industry and teaching fashion retail, marketing, and sales at the college level. Her first book is . She has also established the …a better way! Scholarship program, which provides money and mentoring for worthy high school students for both t

You can visit her website at www.whenstarsalign-thebook.com or connect with her at Facebook at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553077163.

About the Book:

Apartheid in South Africa has now been gone more than fifteen years but the heroes of their struggle to achieve a Black majority-run democracy are still being revealed.  Some individuals toiled publicly, but most worked tirelessly in the shadows to improve the welfare of the Black and Coloured populations that had been so neglected.  Nelson Mandela was still in prison; clean water and sanitation barely existed; AIDS was beginning to orphan an entire generation.

Meanwhile a white, Jewish, middle class woman, joined with Tutu, Millie, Ivy, Zora and other concerned Black women, respectfully called Mamas, to help those most in need, often being beaten and arrested by white security police.

This book tells the story of these women and others who have spent their adult lives making South Africa a better place for those who were the country’s most disadvantaged.

Book Excerpt:

ZIMBABWE REFUGEES

Jean and John manage the Lakeside Village resort in Sedgefield along the Garden Route….really lovely people. They had lived most of their lives in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, the country just north of South Africa. For the past decade under the tyrannical presidency of Robert Mugabe. That country was known as Rhodesia until they gained independence in a long, bloody war. It is an incredibly rich and diverse land but they had no Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu to unify the country peacefully. Independence brought economic disaster.

John was in charge of all agricultural development within their entire college system. He worked closely with the World Bank and international development agencies. Jean was a teacher and one son, born late, was now in college. But Mugabe told all the white farmers they had to leave….the land belonged to
the blacks. There would be no compensation, no transition. Killing and looting were rampant. John and Jean left with nothing…no pension, little for their home and only what they could carry under the guise of vacationing for a week. The country now has a 6000% inflation rate and surplus farm production is long gone. Nearly ½ million people have left over open borders to South Africa and they account for major increases in local crime. Meanwhile Jean and John, like most of the country’s middle-class whites, scattered and now live at a far lower economic level. John spends most of his time fishing…he loves to fish, primarily fly-fishing. They are both bright and articulate, longing for the pleasantness of a life that will never return.

To read the excerpt from Get to Know My Book Day 2, click here.

To read the excerpt from Get to Know My Book Day 1, click here.

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Book Excerpt: Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. by Barbara Barnett

Title: Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D.
Author: Barbara Barnett
Genre: Television Nonfiction
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Ecw Press (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-1550229559
ISBN-13: 978-1550229554

Medical students are taught that when they hear hoofbeats, they should think horses, not zebras, but Dr. House’s unique talent of diagnosing unusual illnesses has made House, M.D. one of the most popular and fascinating series on television. In Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., Barbara Barnett, co-executive editor of Blogcritics magazine and widely considered a leading House expert, takes fans deep into the heart of the show’s central character and his world, examining the way this medical Sherlock Holmes’s colleagues and patients reflect him and each other; how the music, settings, and even the humor enhance our understanding of the series’ narrative; what the show says about modern medicine, ethics, and religion; and much more. Complete with an episode-by-episode guide and quotes from her numerous Blogcritics interviews with cast members, producers, and writers, Chasing Zebras is an intelligent look at one of television’s most popular shows.

BOOK EXCERPT:

“It is an axiom of medicine: “when you hear hoofbeats, you think horses, not zebras.” Dr. Gregory House and his elite team of diagnostic fellows chase medicine’s “zebras” — the anomalies, the odd presentations, the diseases so rare that most doctors would not have encountered them in a normal medical practice.

House, M.D. is, itself, a zebra in a herd of horses. It is a rare find of a show blessed with consistently sharp, intelligent writing: densely packed and multifaceted. It features one of the most complex characters ever to have been written for the small screen, Dr. Gregory House, brought to life through Hugh Laurie’s brilliant and nuanced performance.

I grew up on TV. By age nine, I was hooked on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and by 11, I was addicted to Star Trek classic. Nowadays, I have little time for series television. But when I get hooked on a television show, I really get hooked, and so it is with House, M.D.

Whenever the media say that women are attracted to House because he’s a “bad boy,” I tend to cringe first and then shake my head in disagreement. I don’t like “bad boys” — real or fictional. I like my heroes, well . . . heroic. Heroic, but tragically flawed: equal parts Mr. Knightley and Edward Rochester; Mr. Spock and Rick Blaine.

House has a “public persona” and also one he keeps tightly under wraps, reluctant to reveal — to anyone. Publicly, he’s a brilliant diagnostician, intuitive, deductive, and eerily smart. He’s also a risk taker and more than a tad reckless.

In many ways he’s an adolescent boy constantly hatching his next manipulation or elaborate game. He’s crude and rude. House’s closest associates tell us that House cares only about the puzzle. No messiah complex for him; he has a Rubik’s complex instead. But how does this image reconcile with the times we’ve seen him gazing yearningly from behind the glass into patient rooms, watching them with their families? How often do we observe the arrogant and egotistical Gregory House late at night, alone in his office or apartment, desperately searching for answers inside himself long after everyone else has gone home? Like the show that bears his name, House is as complex and rare as the medical cases he takes on: a zebra amongst the horses.

This book is a highly subjective look at a great television series through one fan’s perspective. Another writer might focus on the medicine, the humor, or the mysteries. But I view House, M.D. fundamentally as a detailed character study: House’s journey, his struggles, and the people in his orbit. This is the lens through which I enjoy House — and through which I understand it.

There are chapters here on the writing, the structure, and the elements that make House, M.D. such a fascinating series. There are chapters on each of the characters and some of the show’s oft-visited themes viewed through “closer looks” at key episodes. I’ve also included an extensive six-season episode guide.

Although there are episode guides all over the Internet offering episode recaps and credits (and even in-depth analyses, including my feature at Blogcritics), this guide is slightly different. It’s a road map through the series, showing you the highlights from six seasons: memorable scenes, House’s patented eureka moments, clinic patients, relationship highlights, music, and more — all from a fan’s perspective.”

Visit Barbara Barnett on the web at www.barbarabarnett.com.

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Book Excerpt: Evolution of a Sad Woman by Gale Laure

Evolution of a Sad WomanThe Saturday Night Murder -1996

Kizzy lies nude on her bed as she listens to the music. Briefly, her mind reviews the upsetting visitors of this day. She has tried her best to phone him. He never answered. Quickly, she erases the thoughts from her mind. She tries to relax her twitching body. The music is soft, soothing, the kind that would make you want to sleep. Yet, she cannot unwind enough to sleep. She is significantly nervous. The least small sound makes her jump.

Outside, she hears the clicking of light hot humid rain, not the soothing kind that cools the earth, as it beats upon the window glass. An occasional crack of lightning typical for a summer in Houston, Texas, startles her, jolting her nerves even more.

The pills will take effect at any time. She looks slowly around the room. As she takes the last sip of wine from the glass and rolls it around inside her mouth, she savors the taste, in retrospect to her first glass of wine . . . .

All these years later, she loves the pungent taste. She collects the clock from the floor and places it on the bedside table. The clock says ten forty-five p.m. While sighing, Kizzy welcomes the feeling of rest as it overwhelms her body. Filled with lightheadedness, nausea and weakness, she knows the pills are the reason for these feelings. Maybe she should not have taken so many. Yet she knows she needs the pills. She wants to fall sound asleep. She lies in the bed, barely able to see the ceiling from the dim lamplight beside her bed. Briefly, she observes the empty wine glass sitting on the bedside table, tasting the wine as she runs her tongue around the inside cheeks of her mouth. How she loves the pungent taste of wine.

When she lies on her back, tears run from her eyes, down to her ears and into the back of her hair. Yet she is not crying. She will not sob. Therefore, from where are these tears coming? Her nose is stuffy from the increased mucous caused by the tears. She tries to breathe through her nose, which is not possible. Gently, she parts her full lips to breathe and sucks in the air. She is not sad because she is finally in control.

Kizzy jumps as the CD player in the living room clicks off indicating the music is over. Only the sound of the rain pervades the air. As she looks around the room again, she listens to hear the silence. She is waiting for the pills to take effect, hoping they will establish unconsciousness. The pills are taking forever. Maybe the hot bubble bath will help. In the bathroom, she has the tub drawn and ready. Barely, she can sniff the vanilla candle as it perfumes the bathroom, the wonderful soothing smell overflowing into the bedroom through the open bathroom door. Briefly, the smell reminds her of a bowl of vanilla ice cream. She tries to take a deep breath of the scent, but cannot.

Suddenly, she hears the rattle of a doorknob turning, coming from the living room. Someone has entered her apartment through the locked door. As she musters the energy she has left, she stands beside the bed with terror filling her very being. Her legs are shaking. As she staggers and sways, she stiffens her legs, standing still. Her vision is becoming blurry. With overwhelming weakness, her paramount instinct is to call for help. Except for the intruder, she knows she is in the apartment alone. She wants to scream and talk this intruder out of doing this. Maybe she could stop this from happening. She tries, but she does not have the strength to call out. Her body is limp from the pills. Trepidation pervades her rapidly beating heart. Her heart flutters, making her even more lightheaded and dizzy. She tries to walk, to run, to move—something! She is frozen and cannot move. The telephone is in the living room. Kizzy has
always meant to have an extension phone installed in the bedroom. Whom would she call? Why is she thinking about this now? She cannot run to the phone in the living room. The intruder is in the living room. The pills have made her too weak. Besides, she knows the intruder will stop her before she can get to the telephone. She knows this intruder has come to kill her. She tries to speak, hoping to plead to stop this, but cannot utter a word. She looks toward the open bedroom door, her heart throbbing with the anticipation of the intruder’s entrance.

She can barely see him as he enters. She is afraid, really deep down afraid. Death has not seemed frightening, earlier, but now the actuality of death is terrifying to her. She tries to speak and cannot. She cannot form the words on her lips or in her throat. Clenched tightly shut, she cannot separate her teeth. The pills have left her defenseless. He towers over her. Kizzy’s green, emerald eyes stare upward, deeply, into his large, dark eyes. His eyes are cold, vacant. For a moment there is another sound. Kizzy moves her eyes focusing to look slightly around him. Behind him stands a woman. With her blurred vision, Kizzy cannot identify her. She does not seem familiar. Kizzy looks back in his eyes, trying to communicate with him through her eyes. He does not try to understand. Horror fills her eyes. He stares stolidly, looming over her, looking down in her eyes. She wants to run, but she knows she has nowhere to
run.

While he grabs her with one mighty arm, clenching her arm tightly beneath his large, gloved hand, he leans close to her, whispering, “I’m sorry.” In his large dark eyes, she can see the dread. With a deep grunt, he plunges the knife, with all his mighty force, deeply into her upper abdomen.

Desperately, Kizzy’s shaking hand clutches onto his gloved hand. Beneath their two hands, the knife pushes deeply into her flesh. She can feel the blade against her rib bone. By pushing toward him on his hand with her hand, she tries to inhibit the knife from plunging deeper. However, she is too weak to fight, and he is too strong for her to overcome. Beneath her hand, she can feel the handle of the knife under his hand. The pain is sharp, tearing, burning. Too late to stop death, a painful frown covers her face. She whimpers softly, but she cannot cry out or even speak. With tightly clenched teeth, she breathes rapidly from the desolation, sucking the air through her parted lips. Electricity from her silent suffering permeates the air, charging it with her pain. Looking deeper in her eyes, he twists the knife inside her, tearing and ripping her insides. The sharp pain travels straight through into her back. The misery intensifies, spreading throughout her back from her neck to her buttocks.

At first, she leans against him, using him to support her as she stands beside the bed. Her legs feel weaker. He stands against her strongly, not objecting, supporting her weight. Then, she collapses back upon the bed, lying on her back. She can barely see him in the dim lamplight. He stands over her holding the knife in his hand. Kizzy’s blood exudes from the knife onto the floor. Kizzy can feel the blood draining from her body. She can feel herself lying in her own blood. Through her stuffed nose, she can smell the strange freshness of her own blood. She feels colder.

Her eyes can barely see the ceiling above her bed through her truly blurred sight. She can feel the tears once again run from her eyes onto her cheeks and into her hair. Her breathing is shallow and rapid, as she fights to keep the breath inside her. She feels tired, weaker and weaker. She cannot move at all. He continues to stand over her, staring down at her. It becomes even harder to breathe, soon impossible. Gasping desperately for air as though to cheat death, she holds on to the last moment of life. She does not want to die. Kizzy wants to live. Her life starts flashing before her eyes.

Memories flood across her mind like the fast flicker of a movie projector. Briefly, she clears her mind of the memories. She clinches the sheets between her fingers and palms. Wetness from her own blood causes the sheets to stick to her hands. Opening her eyes widely, she tries to clear her blurred vision, grasping at the last sight of him—the last sight of her life. The killer does not move. He stares down at her, silently and shows limited remorse or emotion. Holding the knife in his gloved hand, it still drips with blood. He watches the increasing redness of the sheets and the wideness of her green eyes. Kizzy takes her last breath, a deep breath. With her green eyes wide open and her teeth still tightly clenched, she dies. Kizzy goes toward the light.

He lays the knife on the sheet beside her statuesque nude body. He grabs her body by the legs and pulls it off the bed onto the floor, face down. He stands over Kizzy, pausing briefly and admits that even in death, she is beautiful. Yes, she is so genuinely tantalizing. Enjoyably, he sucks in a deep breath of Kizzy’s fresh blood. He looks down at her drained body. He has forgotten about the woman standing quietly behind him. After opening the small pouch around his neck, he places the bloody knife inside.

From the pouch, he pulls out a large meat cleaver.

–Book Excerpt from Evolution of a Sad Woman by Gale Laure.  You can visit the author’s website at www.galelaure.com or purchase her book here.

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Book Excerpt: Family Plots by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh

Family Plots

Family Plots

Experts claim that the secret to a happy relationship isn’t sex, children, money or even love. It has much more to do with the power of self-deception—a belief that your spouse is wonderful, even when evidence starts pointing to the contrary. Of course, if you happen to learn that Mr. Wonderful is making extracurricular whoopee with a woman who is, say, thinner or more successful than you, you can’t pretend that your love life hasn’t just splattered in your face, like a bug on a windshield. But there are trickier, more elusive marriage malignancies—such as lies of omission, financial infidelity, or a dogged refusal to change anything, be it a behavior, an opinion, or even a zip code. These may be easier to ignore.

The story that follows involves marriage and money, death and deception.

There is also some messy business regarding an unresolved murder. It was the last decade of the twentieth century, when Big Brother wasn’t watching people so closely. I was a budding private investigator and young single mother in love with an attractive criminal attorney who, it turned out, was committing a few crimes of his own. Through much of our marriage, I managed to disregard my better instincts—even as I slid into a world of
pseudonyms, fake weddings, hidden bank accounts, and unexplained cash. It all made perfect sense to me at the time.

Looking back on the bizarre chain of events that changed the course of my life, I’ve concluded that there’s no blaming my husband for what happened.

He never forced me to lie or cheat or to commit ridiculous fiduciary crimes just to keep up with him. He certainly never asked me to stick my nose into the dark business of his past. Being immersed in this drama was like diving into an ice-cold lake—shocking and exciting at first, but then I became used to it. It never occurred to me that this could be dangerous—that hypothermia could lead to incoherent, irrational behavior.

But if happiness is the goal, perhaps denial is underrated. Especially so when you are trying to hang onto something you desperately desire. Though my former life is not one I would ever choose again, I’ll never regret how I let love pull me along the slippery path that eventually landed me a permanent place in this secretive family plot.

–Excerpt from Family Plots by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh.  You can visit Mary’s website at www.marypatrick.com or purchase her newest book, Family Plots, by visiting Amazon!

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Book Excerpt: The Cutting by James Hayman

The Cutting

The Cutting

Portland, Maine
September 16, 2005
Friday. 5:30 A.M.

Fog can be a sudden thing on the Maine coast. On even the clearest mornings, swirling gray mists sometimes appear in an instant, covering the earth with an opacity that makes it hard to see even one’s own feet on the ground. On this particular September morning it descended at 5:30, about the time Lucinda Cassidy and her companion Fritz, a small dog of indeterminate pedigree, arrived at the cemetery on Vaughan Street to begin their four-mile run along the streets of Portland’s West End and the path that borders the city’s Western Promenade.

The cemetery was one of Portland’s oldest and was surrounded by a chain- link fence, now falling into disrepair. The gates on the Vaughan Street side were locked to keep out neighborhood dog walkers. The earliest gravestones dated back to the late 1700s. On most of these stones, dates and other specifics had faded to near illegibility. Those that could be read bore the names of early Portland’s most prominent families, Deering, Dana, Brackett, Reed, Preble. These were old Yankee names, many of which had achieved a measure of immortality, having been bestowed upon the streets and parks of a young and growing city. More recent stones marked the graves of Irish, Italian, and French-Canadian immigrants who came to Portland to work in the city’s thriving shipbuilding trades or on the railroads in the last half of the nineteenth century. Today, however, no more of the dead would be buried here, regardless of ancestry or influence. The place was full, the last remains having been interred and the last markers erected in the years immediately following World War II.

When the fog moved in, Lucy considered canceling her run, but only briefly. At age twenty-eight, she was preparing for her first 10K race. She had more than enough self- discipline not to let anything as transitory as a little morning fog interfere with her training schedule. It was tough enough getting the runs in, given the long hours she worked as the newest account executive at Beckman and Hawes, the city’s biggest ad agency. In any case, Lucy knew her route well. The fog wouldn’t be a problem as long as she took care not to trip on one of the sidewalk’s uneven pavers.

The air was cool on her bare legs as Lucy performed her stretches—calves and quads and hamstrings. She pulled off her oversized Bates College sweatshirt, revealing a white sports bra and blue nylon shorts, and tossed it into her car, an aging Toyota Corolla. She saw no other joggers or dog walkers and thought she and Fritz might well have the streets to themselves. She slipped off his collar to let him run free. He was well trained and wouldn’t go far. She pulled a Portland Sea Dogs cap down over her blond hair, stretching the Velcro band down and under her ponytail. She draped the dog’s lead around her shoulders and set off along Vaughan Street at a leisurely pace, with Fritzy first racing ahead and then stopping to leave his mark on a tree or lamppost.

Lucy liked the quiet of the early morning hours in this upscale neighborhood. Passing street after street of graceful nineteenthcentury homes, she glanced in the windows and imagined herself living in one or another of them. The image pleased her. She saw herself holding elegant dinner parties. The food would be simple but perfectly prepared. The wines rare. The men handsome. The conversation witty. All terribly Masterpiece Theatre. Ah well, a pretty picture but not very likely. She was not, she knew, to the manner born. She watched Fritz scamper ahead and then turn and wait for her to follow. Lucy moved through the damp morning air, bringing her heart rate up to an aerobic training level. She thought about the day ahead, reviewing, for at least the twentieth time, details of a TV campaign she was presenting to the marketing group at Mid-Coast Bank. She’d worked her tail off to land this new client, but they were turning out to be both difficult and demanding. After work, she planned a quick trip to Circuit City to pick up a birthday present for her soon to-be twelve-year-old nephew Owen. Her older sister Patti’s boy, Owen told her what he “really really wanted” was an iPod, but he wasn’t optimistic. “We don’t have the money this year,” he added in grown-up, serious tones that had Patti’s imprint all over them. Well, Owen was in for a big surprise.

After that it was back to the Old Port for dinner with David at Tony’s. The prospect of dinner at Tony’s pleased her. The prospect of sharing it with her ex- husband didn’t. He was pushing to get back together, and yes, she admitted, there were times she was briefly tempted. God knows, no one else even remotely interesting was waiting in the wings. Yet after a couple of dates, she was surer than ever that going back to David wasn’t the answer for either of them. She planned to tell him so to night.

She ran along Vaughan for a mile or so, climbing the gentle rise of Bramhall Hill, before turning west across the old section of the hospital toward the path that lined the western edge of the Prom. The fog was thicker now, and she could see even less, but her body felt good. The training was paying off, and she felt certain she’d be ready for the race, now ten days away.

Suddenly Fritz darted past and disappeared into the mist, barking furiously at what Lucy figured was either an animal or another runner coming up the path in her direction. Then she saw Fritz run out of the fog, turn, and stand his ground, angry barks lifting his small body in an uncharacteristic rage. Instantly alert, Lucy wondered who or what could be getting him so agitated. Usually he just wagged his stub of a tail at strangers.

Seconds later a runner emerged from the fog about fifteen feet in front of her. He was a tall man with a lean, well-muscled body. Had she seen him jogging here before? She didn’t think so. He was unusually good- looking with dark, deep- set eyes that would be hard to forget. Late thirties or early forties, she thought. Fritz backed away but kept barking.

“Quiet down,” Lucy commanded. “It’s okay.” She smiled at the man. “He isn’t usually so noisy.”

The tall man stopped and knelt down. He extended his left hand for Fritz to sniff, then scratched him behind the ears. He smiled up at Lucy. “What’s his name?”

Lucy registered the absence of a wedding band. “Fritz,” she said.

“Hey, Fritz, are you a good boy? Sure you are.” He scratched Fritz again. The dog’s stubby tail offered a tentative wag or two. He looked up. “I’ve seen you running here before. I’m sure I have.”

“You may have,” she said, though she was sure she would have noticed him. “I’m here most mornings. I’m training for a 10K.”

“Good for you. Mind if I run along? I’d enjoy the company.” She hesitated, surprised at the man’s directness. Finally she said, “I guess not. Not as long as you can keep up. I’m Lucy.”

“Harry,” he said, extending a hand. “Harry Potter.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, I was christened long before the first book came out, and I wasn’t about to change my name.”

They took off, chatting easily, laughing about the name. Fritz, no longer barking, kept pace.

“You live in Portland?” she asked.

“No, I’m here on business. Medical equipment. The hospital’s one of my biggest clients.” “So you’re here quite often?”

“At least once a month.”

They picked up the pace and turned south down the western edge of the Prom.  “Normally there’s a great view from up here. Can’t see a damned thing today.”  A dark green SUV sat parked at the curb just ahead of them.

“Could you excuse me for a minute?” Harry pointed and clicked a key ring. The car’s lights blinked; its doors unlocked. “I need to get something.”

He leaned in, rummaged in a small canvas bag, and then emerged from the car holding a hypodermic and a small bottle. “I’m a diabetic,” he explained. “I have to take my insulin on schedule.” Harry carefully inserted the needle into the bottle and extracted a clear liquid. “Only take a second.” Lucy smiled. Feeling it was rude to watch,  she turned away and looked out toward over the Prom. The fog wasn’t dissipating. If anything it seemed to be getting thicker. She performed a few stretches to keep her muscles warm while they waited. She sensed more than saw the sudden movement behind her. Before she could react, Harry Potter’s left arm was around her neck,  pulling her sharply back and up in a classic choke hold. Her windpipe constricted in the crook of his elbow. She couldn’t move. She wanted to scream but could draw only enough breath to emit a thin, strangled cry. Frantic and confused, Lucy dug her nails into the man’s flesh, wishing she’d let them grow longer and more lethal. She felt a sharp prick. She looked down and saw the man’s free hand squeezing whatever was in the hypodermic into her arm. He continued holding her, immobile. She tried to struggle, but he was too strong, his grip too tight. Within seconds wooziness began to overtake her. She felt his hands on the back of her head and her butt, pushing her, head-first, facedown, into the backseat of the car.

Turning her head, Lucy could still see out through the open door, but everything had taken on a hazy, distant quality, like a slow-motion film growing darker frame by frame and seeming to make no sense. She saw an enraged Fritz growling and digging his teeth into the man’s leg. She heard a shout, “Shit!” Two large hands picked the small dog up. She tried to rise but couldn’t. The last thing Lucinda Cassidy saw was the good- looking man with the dark eyes. He smiled at her. The slow-motion film faded to black.

Book excerpt of The Cutting (St. Martin’s) by James Hayman.  Visit James’ website at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.  Buy his book at Amazon by clicking here.

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