Sunday Sampler: Night Keeper by April Nunn Coker

night keeper cover

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Night Keeper, a suspense thriller by April Nunn Coker.

About April Nunn Coker

April Nunn Coker began writing stories for her friends at the age of 10, but it was many years until she saw her dream of having a book published come true. April has thirty years of public school teaching and administrating under her belt and is the proud mother of two grown children and two beautiful grandchildren. When she isn’t writing or spending time with the grandchildren, she enjoys attending church, camping with her vintage Scotsman trailer, hunting with her husband, working on her vintage home, and searching for bargains at thrift stores.

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The Story

After surviving a wicked divorce and ending up alone with a baby, Josie Simons had sworn off men. Her so-called life consisted of cleaning up after animals at the city zoo and cleaning up after her toddler at home.

Maybe it was the utter boredom that made her let her best friend and coworker talk her into a blind date with handsome single father Cam Bosworth. Before she knew it, she was caught up in a relationship that was both exhilarating and frightening.

Cam was everything she needed for her daughter and herself. But lately weird things had started happening at the zoo, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she, or worse, her daughter, might be in danger.

Moreover, Cam’s concern seemed more suspicious than comforting. Events at the zoo escalate as Josie’s life becomes more complicated and dangerous than she could ever have imagined.

Night Keeper Buy Link:

Amazon: $9.95

The Sampler

April Nunn Coker
April Nunn Coker

Jeff opened his eyes slowly, expecting the smell of coffee and the sound of girly chatter to assault his senses. But there was only silence. Eerie silence. And then it hit him. His family was gone. Two hundred miles away, not coming back without some miracle happening. His life seemed desperately void of miracles lately.

He wanted to pull the covers over his head and stay there forever, but his bladder would not let him. He rose stiffly and hobbled to the bathroom where a glance in the mirror made him realize that he was still in his zoo uniform. Then he remembered that Lonnie had driven him home in his own truck. So Lonnie must be in the house somewhere. He supposed he should check on him and see about getting him something to eat.

A glance in the mirror as he dried his face after splashing it with cold water offered him a disturbing image: a graying, weather-beaten, middle-aged man in need of a shave and shower. Somehow with Misti and the girls around he didn’t notice that he was getting older. Was that it? Was Misti watching him age and thinking that she wanted someone younger? She certainly didn’t look as old as he did, and even though she was thirty-five, she could pass for much younger.

It was easy to blame their problems on his looks, but he knew it went deeper than that. It certainly didn’t help that he had erupted in anger over her charging groceries on the credit card. She had never liked him working at the zoo and now that he had gotten injured, maybe she had decided that she had had all she could take. Maybe in a day or two she would want to talk about it. She was always the one wanting to talk, and now he couldn’t wait to talk to her. How could he fix things if he didn’t know what was wrong? She would call soon. The girls would miss him, and she would have to call, if for no other reason than to let them talk to him. Then maybe he could convince her to meet him and they could have a long talk together. He had to believe that she wanted to make it work. He had to.

Grabbing the crutches that were propped up next to his bed, Jeff made his way down the hall into the den where Lonnie was sprawled in the recliner with several beer cans littering the floor and side table. He had helped himself to the fridge, Jeff observed. He went to the recliner and tapped Lonnie’s knee with the end of a crutch. Lonnie stirred and squinted one eye open.

“Bad night?” Jeff managed a wry smile.

Lonnie grunted and brought the recliner to an upright position. He cleared his throat and muttered hoarsely, “Hey, Boss.” He followed Jeff’s eyes around the chair and saw the cans he had dropped.

“Man, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll get you some more.”

“No, you won’t. It’s all good. I’m going to fix some coffee. Want some?” Jeff headed toward the kitchen where his wife and girls usually were this time of day. It was too quiet.

“That would be great,” Lonnie replied. He eased himself out of the chair with a groan and began picking up the empty cans. After setting them all on the coffee table, he headed down the hall to the girls’ bathroom.

Jeff got the coffee started and opened the fridge to see what might be in there for breakfast. Misti usually kept it well-stocked when she didn’t have to use the credit card. Why did his mind keep bringing that up?

There were about a half-dozen eggs in the carton, a can of biscuits, and half a gallon of milk. Enough for a king’s breakfast. He grabbed the eggs, biscuits, and milk, set them on the counter, and began digging for the skillet and a pan to put the biscuits in. Now, if he could only remember how to scramble eggs. He wished Misti could see this.

Josie woke up to her baby girl stroking her face with her chubby fingers and singing “Hush, Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word.” She giggled as Josie opened her eyes. The bedroom was flooded with late morning sunshine. Josie grabbed Lyla in a great big hug.

“How’s my sunshine girl?” she asked as Lyla snuggled in closer. Usually she struggled to get away but this time she settled in. Josie breathed in the delicate smell of her little girl hair, wanting to lock in the memory of that smell forever. Lyla was growing up so fast, it seemed.

“Fine,” Lyla replied in her most grown-up voice. She studied her chubby hands.

“Did you get a good night’s sleep?” Josie asked.


“I heard you singing the Lullaby song. Did you learn that from Gramma?”

“Yesth, she sings it to me when I take a nap,” Lyla replied. “Mommy, can we get up?” She scrambled out of Josie’s arms and sat up. “It’sth a busthzy day ahead.”

“Oh, it’s a busy day ahead, huh?” Josie smiled. “Have you checked your calendar?”

Lyla nodded her head, her reddish-blonde curls bouncing. “Come on, Mommy. Let’sth get dressthed!”

Lyla scrambled off the bed, dragging half the well-worn pastel quilt with her. Almost threadbare, it had been lovingly created by her long-dead Grandma Berry and given to her for her sixth birthday. Grandma Berry had admonished her to take good care of it, since it contained pieces of clothing from her grandfather, her aunts and uncles, and her mother. Josie had cherished it ever since. She should really stop using it and pack it away in protected storage, but she couldn’t bear not to snuggle into its comfy softness every night. Grandma Berry would understand, but unfortunately, there might not be much left to pass down to Lyla. Maybe she could convince her own mother to start a quilt for Lyla.

Josie was glad she had showered last night after getting Lyla tucked in and asleep. In the bathroom, she washed her face, brushed her teeth, ran a brush through her hair, and then went to her closet to throw on some jeans and a t-shirt. She emerged from her bedroom just as Lyla was putting a box of cereal and two bowls on the kitchen table.

“Are you fixing breakfast this morning?” she asked Lyla. Thank goodness Josie had made it to the kitchen before Lyla tried to get the milk out of the fridge. But how did she reach those bowls?

Examining them, she realized that Lyla had pulled them out of the sink! They were dirty! She stopped Lyla from pouring cereal in the second bowl. “Wait, honey, I think these bowls might be dirty,” she said gently as she pulled the box from Lyla’s hands. Some Cheerios spilled onto the table.

Lyla frowned but did not fuss. “Did you get them out of the sink, honey?”

“Yesth,” Lyla admitted.

“Let Mommy wash them real quick so they will be clean, okay, honey?”

Lyla nodded and followed Josie to the sink to watch her squirt some detergent into each bowl and swish it out with water. “Now they are clean!”

“Yay!” Lyla clapped her hands and took them after Josie wiped them with a dry towel.

Josie allowed her to fill each bowl and helped her pour the milk. This was going to be one independent girl.

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