We had another phenomenal week of entries, we had celebrations - although some much darker than others - from ten outstanding up and coming authors:

Charles W Jones - @ChuckWesJ
David A Ludwig - @DavidALudwig
Sheilagh Lee - @SweetSheil
Cara Michaels - @caramichaels
Lisa McCourt Hollar - @jezri1
Jake Wilkins - @JakeWilkins3
Nellie - @solimond
Ryan Strohman - @rastrohman
Bob Mahone - @Computilizer
Jeffrey Hollar - @klingorengi

Our fabulous judge Siobhan Muir @Siobhan Muir really liked a lot of them but she had to make a choice:

Honorable Mentions

David A Ludwig
I liked this story because it had the sense of the girl waiting for the hero only to be undermined by a higher ranking female. It didn't matter that she was a duchess - the Princess always gets the hero. I liked the subtle commentary on how position can outstrip emotion - why would the hero want a princess over a duchess? Prestige? I also felt like the story wasn't over, that it might not be as the MC perceived it (and I'm all about happy endings so that's what I'm hoping for) :) 
Cara Michaels
I liked the sense of an undercover op going on in this tale and how the best laid plans can still go terribly wrong. I liked the camaraderie of the characters and that sense of triumph when the assailant's attack was thwarted, quickly turning to "we have to run" at the end. Nicely done grabbing my heartbeat and sending it skyrocketing!
Lisa McCourt Hollar
While this story seemed to follow the theme of celebrations masking something rotten beneath (a specialty of Mrs. Hollar's), I appreciated the sense of life, the energy of those who realized the "prophet" dressed an awful lot like those who hung on the steps and bled in the streets. It was Animal Farm again and I appreciated the sense of the few understanding the fight might not be over. Well done, Lisa.

The Winner

The overall winner this time was Jake Wilkins (@JakeWilkins3) I loved how he started the story as a scary suspense tale and you think the MC is going to have to kill the love of his life because she's some horrible monster. But then she swoops in, kills the critter (saving the day), and still has time for a kiss, a parade, and cotton candy. Nicely done. A well told, complete tale with a "happy ending". Fun stuff.

The Winning Story

The streets teemed with people cheering as another fire engine roared by. The last shimmers of daylight waned.

“Man,” Sel thought, “these shore towns love their parades.”

Part of him wanted to join in. But he pulled his focus back to the woman thirty paces ahead of him. He watched Anna walk, taking raw pleasure in the movement of her hips and the sight of the tattoo peeking out above the top of her jeans. He knew the curve of her back and the smell of her hair and could still taste her kiss and feel her skin beneath his fingers.
He’d never felt close to anyone before Anna. “The job” always got in the way. Falling for her had made him want to protect her. He even left once, walking away so she wouldn’t have to witness the madness or become one of its victims. But the lure of Anna proved stronger than “the job”. Winning her back hadn’t been easy but they’d made it work.

Now as he paced her steps he knew what had to be done. Imperceptibly, his hand brushed the large sharp blade hanging under his jacket. He focused on the heavy knife strapped to his ankle and felt a chill remembering from experience the force it took to plunge them in.

“What’s she doing?” he wondered as she stopped at another store window to peer inside. His mind was racing and he willed her to turn down a side street or alley.

As if reading his thoughts she turned down a darkening alley and toward the other end, leather tassels on her sleeves whipping as her pace quickened. Caught off guard by the speed of her move he raced to catch her. Panic set in as he rounded the corner. She was gone.

Sel moved cautiously, searching. He scanned the alley. But it was the tingle on the nape of his neck that told him his mistake. In an instant she was on him, crashing in from above, the blow knocking him into the brick wall.

Sel reached for his blade but there was no time. He saw blackened lips curl back over deadly fangs as her feral yellow eyes narrowed.

As she prepared to spring again her left leg lurched from underneath. A loud “ZING!” struck the air as a silver blade severed the rest of the leg and made contact with the concrete. A final flash of a silver stiletto to the throat and it was over. Instantly, the beast began changing to human form. When it was done a woman lay lifeless in the alley.

Anna crouched close by, eyes wild, one last stiletto in hand just in case.

“God, you’re hot when you hunt,” Sel said.

“Been chasing that bitch since Fort Worth,” she said. “Figured it was your turn to be the bait.”

“Send me a memo next time the plan changes,” he smirked.

Anna kissed him. “Let’s go,” she said. “I love parades and I want cotton candy.”

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