Welcome to our third week of celebrations for the amazing
In today's post, we're looking at The Maddest Of Men and The Lords Of Lettuce, plus a personal story Ofelia has chosen to share. There's also another chance to win one of her books.
First up, The Maddest Of Men
Is lying to a living polygraph really a good idea?
To prove his loyalty to Cham Hovda, one of the local drug lords, Grayham is willing to do anything—and he does. He helps Cham run his empire by finding out the truth by any possible means. It's not as hard as it may seem, all he has to do is ask the right questions, and his internal polygraph will tell him if someone is lying or not. And when they lie—well he deals with that too. Life as an inquisitor can get quite lonely, not that Grayham plans on doing anything about it. It would kill him to have to off a lover.
Creed is a retrieving agent on a mission. He is to infiltrate one of Carona's drug organisations to get to the inquisitor. Rumour states the man with the fiery red curls has supernatural powers; it also says anyone coming close to him disappears. Creed has no idea how he's going to make it out alive or why his supervisor sent him in without backup. But, when an opening to work as a waiter at one of the drug lord's parties presents itself Creed sets to work.
In a world where people compensate for the years of bombings and starvation with clinic bought physical perfection a man with crooked teeth and mismatching eyes stands out. Grayham notices the waiter watching him straight away. If he's there to harm Cham, he'll deal with it. Creed knows he must get his hands on the inquisitor so when he is invited to the man's flat he agrees to come even though he knows it might be the last thing he'll ever do.
Grayham pressed his lips together before taking a sip of the champagne. He hated the warm glow in his chest. It didn't matter that it came from a truthful answer to his question, this wasn't the time for any pleasant heat.
Cole's body had been taken care of without incident, or so Lou claimed. He should be allowed to freeze up inside, but Cham had said to make sure people noticed him.
Glancing around, he observed more than a few pair of eyes skidding away from him. Fucking morons in their expensive clothes carefully picked to show off their perfectly sculptured bodies. It was tempting to sneak away, to go home and not have to deal with these people. Not that Grayham dealt with them—avoidance was the key. He breathed in deep but forced himself not to let it out as a sigh. Fuckers.
"Everything okay, sir?"
Oh, the pretty waiter was still here. He wasn't exactly pretty, though. Not ugly, but he wasn't store-bought pretty. His dark hair looked like someone had threaded their fingers through it, and his eyes sparkled as he watched Grayham—he even had dimples for fuck's sake. No one should have natural dimples, and Grayham was sure they were natural. "Everything's fine."
"Are you sure?"
What was up with the waiter's eyes? Grayham tried not to stare but they were...they weren't matching. One was blue and the other green. "Yes, I'm sure, and even if I wasn't what would you be able to do about it?"
"I'm happy to give you something else if you want, whatever you need."
There, the coiling cold of a lie. Actually, that was just what Grayham needed, and he needed more of it. All he had to do was continue to ask questions. He raised an eyebrow. "Is that so?"
"Of course." The waiter tilted his hips and shot Grayham a look through thick dark lashes, almost managing to look shy, but the cold remained. Such a pretty little liar. Except his teeth were a little crooked, his lips not quite the right shape everyone else's were. When he smiled, small wrinkles appeared at the corner of his mouth.
Heat shot through him, not the truth heat, something else—something distracting. Grayham grinned. "Maybe I'll take you up on it." He gave the waiter a look to clarify what it might include. "You'd like that?"
For a second the coy look disappeared, but it slipped back into place fast enough for Grayham to ignore he'd seen it go. "Absolutely."
He almost stumbled as his chest filled with warmth. What the fuck? He looked at the man again, nodded, and started walking away through the crowd. As always, people scurried out of his way. He glanced back at Cham where he sat, pale but stoic, and continued making his presence known. An hour, that was the longest he was willing to stay. An hour to figure the waiter out.
Creed watched Grayham go. Should he have asked him for his name? He'd heard both Cipriani and the woman he'd served the salmon call him Grayham. It would go into his report, but it would be good to know if Cham's inquisitor referred to himself as Grayham too.
He hurried back to grab a new tray and tried to keep track of Grayham as he walked around smiling at the beautiful women and nodding at the men.
Grayham was in constant motion. He didn't hurry, simply crossed the open hall from as many directions as possible, lightly bumping into people who didn't pay attention. Creed frowned. What is he up to? He didn't seem the type to want attention, and most people scrambled away from him with more or less of their dignity intact anyway.
Was Grayham so cruel people felt the need to hide? His mouth went dry. Maybe it was stupid to offer himself to a man like that. Creed couldn't plead ignorance. He had found the infamous inquisitor, and none too subtly offered to fuck him. Even worse, he'd done it without knowing if Grayham went for men. There had been no rumour of any lover, male or female. Shit. What if he dragged Creed into an alley and slit his throat? That was not a dignified way to go.
What would happen to him if Grayham found out who he was? Stupid thought, he knew what would happen—he'd be dead before the night was over. The cold reality of this mission made him stop in the middle of the floor. Why the hell had Howorth sent him alone?
He looked over his shoulder to where he'd last seen Grayham and forced himself to smile. Grayham was watching him, his face an unreadable mask that had the dryness in Creed's mouth crawling all the way down his throat.
Then he winked.
Creed almost dropped his tray. Shit. It's going to happen, isn't it?
Creed didn't usually whore himself out on a mission, but he needed to get his hands on Grayham, needed to scan him. Howorth would have him killed if he let a chance like this pass him by.
It took a lot of willpower to start walking again but once he did he turned to make sure Grayham got a good look at his arse—the only body part he wouldn't need to have surgery on to match society's ideal. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed he had Grayham's attention as he steered towards the kitchen.
A few more trays, then he would try to sneak out of here. It didn't matter that his feet ached, he needed to run, needed to feel the asphalt under his feet as he pushed himself to oblivion. Pressing through the swinging doors by the bar, he squinted at the sharp light reflecting on the white tiles of the kitchen.
"There's a tray of pralines and truffles." One of the staff pointed at the artfully decorated chocolate pieces on the counter where the filled trays were queued up.
The woman dried her hands on her apron, and Creed figured she'd ignore the question, not that it mattered.
"It'll be both hors d'oeuvres and truffles for an hour or so, then mostly drinks."
"Okay, thanks." He grabbed the tray and backed up towards the door, pushing it open with his butt and turned to get the tray through the opening safely.
As an arm encircled his waist, Creed froze.
"Time to put the tray down, sweetheart."
Creed stiffly fumbled to set the tray down on the dimly lit bar counter. The bartender glared at him, and Creed had the feeling he'd seen him before. As a frown settled on his brow, the bartender moved his gaze to Grayham—Creed was almost one hundred percent sure it was Grayham—and whirled around to start organising the bottles behind the bar. Hadn't he walked behind Creed as he went shopping yesterday?
"Time to leave." The growl by his ear had him shivering.
Okay, time to work.
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Second in today's line-up, The Lords Of Lettuce
Old tunnels, lurking threats, and a race against time.
Creed wants his happily ever after with Grayham. They’ve faked his death and it should be as simple as that, right? But before his body double has had time to cool, there's a knock on the door, and it looks like he and Grayham's troubles are just getting started.
For reasons no one understands, a young boy has come to ask their help. He isn’t a normal boy, he’s a meta, able to see mere moments into the future, and to see how every action alters that future. He knows men are out to get him, he also knows Creed’s friend is in danger.
Grayham does not want to hunt for some wayward agent. He couldn’t care less if the agents of The Bureau of Whatever killed each other off, but then there is this look on Creed’s face, and he knows he’ll do everything he can to make him smile again. Being around Creed has made him soft, and it’s a weakness he can’t afford. But weakness or not, he’ll do anything for Creed.
Together Grayham and Creed set out to find Sal Minotti before it’s too late. They search the city of Carona, but he’s nowhere to be found, sadly that can’t be said about the gang members from the eastern side.
"Are you ready to go?" Grayham sought out Ms Hardin's gaze.
"You're going to help us?" The relief in her words set Grayham's teeth on edge. Of course, he would help them. Children shouldn't be running for their lives in the middle of the night. The more he considered it, the more certain he became. He would help them. The knowledge of it burned in his chest as if he could warm his frozen core by creating truths for himself.
The boy looked up at him, his eyes once again turning white before going back to their normal blue with pupils again. Grayham refused to break eye contact—he's a kid for crying out loud. Then the boy nodded, and Ms Hardin relaxed even more. Grayham tried to decide if he should be insulted by her trusting the boy more than him, but he shook it off.
"Call for a vehicle." When Creed didn't respond, Grayham turned to stare at him only to realise Creed wasn't there. He'd been too busy not looking away from the boy to notice Creed moving.
His heart froze. He was a useless...partner.
"Creed." His hiss travelled through the night, and he looked around with more urgency. Where the fuck could he have gone? They were in a bricked-in backyard of a fucking hotel—there was nowhere to go.
"Creed." He didn't want to yell, but this was ridiculous. He walked towards the only gate leading out to the street. "Creed, where the fuck did you go?"
Creed was standing right outside the mouth of the driveway, studying the buildings surrounding them. "Something doesn't add up."
Grayham narrowed his eyes. "No, I know. Can you call for a vehicle?" Maybe they should call Lou and have him come pick them up. They'd need to have a meeting after this. The police would be searching for them.
Creed was right; things didn't add up. It had all happened too fast. If someone had followed him from Howorth's house, the agents had shown up too quickly. And how could they know which suite was theirs?
Grayham might not have been paying attention on the way over here but he sure as hell would've noticed if someone followed him into the hotel—there was the surveillance tape, though
"I don't have a phone."
"You made me get rid of all my things."
"I...erm...yes." Grayham patted his pockets—nothing. His phone had probably fallen out of his pocket when he'd thrown his jeans on the hotel floor.
She came walking, hand in hand with the boy. "Kira, please."
Grayham nodded. "You don't happen to have a phone, do you?"
"Sorry, we had to run. Otto woke me during the night—the night before this. I only threw on clothes, sorry." Warmth blossomed in Grayham's chest. He didn't think more about it than to acknowledge they were three adults and not a single one of them had managed to grab their phone when running for their lives. Pathetic.
Glancing at the boy, he noted his eyes turn ghostly white again. "So...Otto—" The boy turned his eerie eyes towards Grayham, but Grayham looked at Kira again. "—is your son?"
She wet her lips and looked at Creed. "Are we...erm...are we going to walk?"
Creed blew out a breath. "I guess we'll have to."
"Is he your son?" Grayham didn't know why it suddenly was important. He'd already decided he'd help them. Kira knew nothing about Creed or Grayham, to her he was just one of Cham Hovda's employees, and she probably assumed Creed either was his boyfriend or colleague.
Grayham tasted the words in his mind. Boyfriend. Nah, it didn't feel right. Creed was his, the rest of the sentence he could figure out later.
"He is." Kira glared at him, and Grayham was glad to see the no-nonsense woman who'd showed up at the interview. Her dark eyes burned trails on his face, and her lips were flat and unmoving. "Is that a problem?"
"I'm not hiring at the moment, am I? You were the one coming to us. All I wanted to know was if the kid is yours." And he was, the warm wave washing over him said so.
"He is my son, I've had him since he was a few weeks old, but if you're asking if I gave birth to him, then no."
Everything she said was true. Grayham frowned. The kid looked so much like he had, it ached in his heart to think about it. He had a sudden urge to see Cham.
Was it a coincidence two red-haired kids with enhanced capabilities had been left to fend for themselves on the streets? Could it be?
Carona was one of the bigger cities in this part of the world, but big cities now weren't like big cities before the wars. There weren’t enough people to populate them like before. Life was hard, but few children were truly abandoned, they might live in the ruins or on the streets, but they did so with their families. Children were precious; too few were born. And of those born, not many had bright red hair.
Grayham rubbed his neck. They needed to go.
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Why being an author is so appealing to me
If you’d ask me as a child what I wanted to be when I grow older, I’d either say teacher or author—I became both but decided pretty early on only one of those two made me happy. Part of wanting to be an author is that I love to paint make-believe worlds. Daydreaming was, and still is, one of my absolute favourite pastimes. But what makes writing even better is that my desk is a safe place. Nothing terrible happens by my desk (that I’m murdering fictional people doesn’t count).
Some brave individuals will go out there and face the real world, I admire those. I learned early on that participating in real life activities seldom ended well for me. Not only was I painfully shy as a child, but I was also haunted by bad luck.
As a kid, I shared a room with my sister. We slept in a bunk bed, and I had the top space. One day when Mum called us down to lunch, I didn’t come. I had a friend over, and she went downstairs, but I didn’t show. After a little while, my mum went upstairs to see what was going on. She found me unconscious on the floor. An ambulance ride later, I was in a wheelchair for a few hours, and the doctor drew pigs on the soles of my feet—I couldn’t feel it. No one knows what happened, I have a vague memory of my friend pushing me from the top bed, but I’m not sure. I got the feeling in my feet back, and I do remember getting to eat candy in the car on the way home, so no harm done…except I now avoid bunk beds.
When I grew up broadloom carpets were chick, we had a hideous brown one in one of the rooms on the bottom floor. I have an older brother, and for the most part, he was the best big brother you can imagine, always looking out for me and he continued to do so all the way up to adulthood. Should things go to shit now, I know I can count on him to help me out. Anyway, I might have been seven, so he was nine, and all the kids at school were talking about this shoulder throw move that apparently was really cool. I had no idea what it was and asked my brother—who to ask if not your big brother? He showed me…sort of. He grabbed my arm, explained that he’d throw me over his shoulder and I said ‘cool’ right before landing face first on the broadloom carpet. Do you know what happens when you slide on a broadloom carpet? You get these weepy burns. I went around with that on half my face for a couple of weeks, but eventually, it healed up, so no harm done…except I now avoid both broadloom carpets and wrestling.
This scraping up half your face thing… I was a little older this time, my best friend lived on the other side of town, and we used to bike to each other. I grew up in Falkenberg, a small town on the Swedish west coast and before I was born, there was a railroad going from the city to the harbour. Some of the old rails were still there, the kind that’s indented in the ground. As I said, I was on my bike, and I was watching out for a car that was heading my way. My front wheel got stuck in the furrow and down I went. It was on the summer break and when I got back to school all you could see from having scraped half my face off on railroad ground was new pink-ish skin, so no harm done…except I now never ride on a bike.
You might think to crash on the bike once shouldn’t be enough to scare someone away from riding, and in a way, you might be right. I’ve crashed more times than I can remember resulting in stitches, scraped body parts and other pains. I don’t think I’ve broken anything from falling off my bike, not that I can remember right now at least. And I don’t remember any concussions either.
My concussions are from playing rounders. Do you know the game? It’s sort of like softball, but you throw the ball yourself when it’s your turn to hit. We stood in line waiting for our turn to hit the ball and I was talking to my brother. The hitter before me missed the ball and moved a little closer to me for each try, and since I had my back turned to her, I didn’t see it. All I remember is a crunching sound in my head before the world went black. My brother caught me before I hit the ground—always good to have brothers around—so no harm done…except I now never play rounders.
It’s almost embarrassing to admit, but that’s not the only time I’ve been hit by a bat. Once, also when playing rounders, the hitter lost his grip, and the bat went flying and hit me in the head. Yes, in the head…again.
The school grounds by my school were pretty big, and we had these metal jungle gyms in blue and red, though the paint had begun to flake. Those jungle gyms also resulted in a concussion as well as two broken toes. I wonder how many times the school called my mum to tell her I’d been injured, and I was this quiet, shy kid who melted away in the background. It didn’t make sense. But, I healed up, so no harm done…except I try not to climb things nowadays.
I could go on forever, but I doubt you’d want to hear about it all. I once broke my foot stepping down from a sidewalk—yes, it’s possible. I once broke my ring finger when my brother and I were playing this game where you’re balancing on a plank or such and try to push down the other. I hit him, pinkie first, he didn’t feel a thing, didn’t so much as wobble, but I broke a finger.
I once broke a finger in an electric mixer—it wasn’t my fault, we were making papers from newspapers in biology class and this guy Martin held up the mixer while waiting for me to put in the whisks. The bastard started it while my fingers were still there.
I’ve also happened to get stuck with my hair in an electric mixer…twice. One of those times I was preparing a dessert. My brother and his girlfriend were coming for dinner, and I’d just had a shower and had my hair out. I was just gonna whisk something, and I got stuck. My hands were shaking so badly, but I let the mixer weave me in and then as soon as I reached the cord I pulled it. I yelled for my husband, he was then a pretty recent boyfriend, and he came running. After the initial moment of silence, he asked me if I could stand still for just a sec. I said ‘yes’. My hands were trembling so much I couldn’t do anything but stand. Then I heard the click of a camera. I wish I could say I don’t use an electric hand mixer anymore, but sometimes I do. I can’t believe I married that bastard LOL.
The point I’m trying to make is that I love my desk, I love writing, I love experiencing things through my characters because when I try to do it for myself things usually don’t go well. Most of my childhood memories involve crutches, plastered hands held above the water while my siblings swam around me in the summer, or my mother cleaning my wounds.
Writing is safe, writing is fun, and maybe most important, writing keeps me away from the hospital. My dream is never to have to leave my desk. Imagine what a safe, painless, fulfilling life that would be.
About the author:
Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes contemporary, paranormal, romance, horror, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy.
Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.
When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.
Thanks for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for more of Ofelia's books, our author interview, and another chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!