Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How a Fan Stabbed My in the Heart

Piracy is out there. I know that. I could try to stop it, but in today's digital age, that's like catching rainwater in a sieve. So for the most part, I ignore the piracy. It's as faceless as I'm sure I am to the pirates and people who feed them.

But this week was different. This week, GK's social studies teacher had the class google themselves and their parents. As a writer, I have the biggest internet footprint in the family. So I was stupid enough to google myself later that night...

And I wish I hadn't done it. I stumbled across a discussion of Zombie Love in a comic book online forum. One gentleman had borrowed Blood Magick from his local library. As far as I know, it's only available from one library, the Harris County Public Library. Anyway, he LOVED it, and he was rather upset that Zombie Love wasn't available through the library because he wanted to read it NOW!

And he didn't want to buy it.

So there was a discussion on this forum of all the places he could download it cheap or free. All of which were illegal as only one commenter pointed out. This commenter also pointed out that this was how I make a living.

To my mystery supporter, thank you for standing up for me and all the other writers and artists out in the world. This IS how I pay for not just my food and rent, but my multitude of maintenance drugs for my chronic illness.

As I read the comments in this forum, I think I was most surprised by my own reaction. I wasn't angry. I was heartbroken. If he loved my work that much, why did he feel he needed to steal it?

So to my fan, I wish you had contacted me directly. I don't know your circumstances. And I know you don't mine.

If you borrowed Blood Magick from another library than HCPL, you could have contacted the library and requested that they order Zombie Love.

If you had contacted HCPL and talked to Michael, the lovely gentleman who handles the e-book department, he in turn would have e-mailed me directly about getting the book into their program.

If you had simply asked me why Zombie Love wasn't available through the HCPL, I would have been honest and told you. And maybe if you had asked nicely, I would have given you a free, legitimate copy.

But you, dear reader, chose to go a different route, and as your fellow commenter said, that's between you and your conscience.

To the rest of my fans who felt it was worthwhile to purchase a legitimate copy of my work, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What's Going On?

I know I haven't posted anything since January, but it's been crazy-busy here at the new headquarters of Angry Sheep Publishing.

First of all is getting formatting/interior design done for the Bloodlines series. It means proofreading the books again, and finding the occasional typo that managed to slip by everyone the first million rounds of editing. It means selecting artwork for the new covers and discussing options with the new artist. It means I'll have print books soon. In some respects, I feel like I'm doing IT project management again.

Out of all this work, the bad news is I'm going to have to raise prices on the Bloodlines books. This won't happen until June, so if you planned to pick up the first five e-books, do it soon while they're still $2.99.

Secondly, Laura Kirwan and I are jamming on the new 888-555-HERO series. We're hoping to have the writing wrapped up by the end of the month, then on to editing, formatting, etc. We have a tentative release date of May 1 penciled on our calendars, which I'm fairly positive we'll hit. We may need lots of potato chips in the meantime...

Angry Sheep Publishing is finally getting a business logo and it's own website. Links will be up (fingers crossed) around Easter.

Last of all, there's stuff brewing that I can't talk about yet. I'm excited, and I think y'all will be, too!

Stay tuned! New covers and other news is coming soon!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Justice Is Now Available as a Podcast

Far-Fetched Fables is the fantasy portion of the District of Wonders series of podcasts. Last year, I was contacted by the editor, Nicola Seaton-Clark , about one of my stories. Podcast No. 38 contains the audio version of my short story "Justice" that was originally published in Sword and Sorceress 28 back in November of 2013.

If you didn't catch "Justice" the first time around, you can listen to it or download the podcast for free from the Far-Fetched Fables website or download it from iTunes.

And definitely check out the District of Wonders other podcasts!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Zombie Goddess (Bloodlines #6) - Chapter 5

Unfortunately, December got away from me. I guess that's what happens when you move closer to your family. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season, and I'll see you next year!

* * *

The god who popped into existence in my living room after my brunch with Bill and Lily epitomized the word. Wavy black hair fell to Ares’ shoulders. His unadorned blood red t-shirt emphasized the sharp plains of his chest and the ripples of his abs. Black jeans hugged his lower body in all the right places. I gave him credit for trying to fit in with twenty-first century life, but he couldn’t be subtle no matter how hard he tried.

He was basically sex on a stick.

Framed by his neatly trimmed moustache and beard, his full lips quirked into a cocky grin. “So you decided to accept my offer, Samantha.”

Not even a fucking question. He really believed every female, no matter whether Normal or supernatural persuasion, should drop her panties at his request. He was that sure of himself.

“No.” I crossed my arms over my chest and gave my best evil eye. “Didn’t Phil tell you why I wanted to meet you?”

He chuckled. “Females often prevaricate in order to experience my particular skills.” With each word, he took a swaggering step toward me.

“I’m not lying,” I ground out between my clenched jaws. He was too damn close. Exuded too much sensuality. “I need answers to my questions.”

He reached behind my head for my ponytail and playfully yanked it. “What will you give me in return for your answers?”

Anxiety and lust shuddered through me. It was worse than I imagined a vampire’s mojo would feel like. Annoyance at being manipulated in such a manner cracked whatever spell or influence he aimed at me. My irritation welled, and I smacked him with a psychic bolt.

My combination telepathic/telekinetic stunt knocked him backwards. He landed on his well-formed ass. The floor shivered under my feet. Not sure if it was him or me that caused the vibration, I wondered if I had started something that I couldn’t finish.


“If all you’re going to do is play games, then leave.” I tried to keep my voice level, but I’m sure I wore my bitch scowl on my face.

Ares climbed to his feet, but didn’t look pissed as I expected. His steady gaze held me, but none of the earlier leering quality lay in his expression. “This is why you need a more suitable mate.” He gestured at the scuff on the carpet where he had landed. “You would have killed the vampire.”

I quelled my shiver of fear. No sense in giving Ares any more ammunition. “I’ve smacked Duncan with a psy-bolt before. Worst thing I did was give him a headache.”

“Your strength is growing, my lady.” Ares shoved his hands in his pockets. The non-threatening gesture didn’t make me any less worried about what he could do. “Yes, you knocked me down, but you would’ve sent the vampire through the glass.” He tilted his head toward the huge plate windows and sliding doors to the terrace behind him. The terrace filled with bright noon sunshine. “He wouldn’t survive Apollo’s rays, much less the impact on the concrete below us.”

Was that the real reason Duncan avoided our bed last night? Did he know how strong I was becoming? Did his Elizabethan sensibilities object to the reversal of our roles? He’d been the one watching my back since the day I died and became…

What? Every time I got a handle on the things happening to my mind and body, someone offered a new theory.

And I really hated the latest theory.

I cleared my throat. “Would you like something to drink?”

Ares’ smirk returned. “Wine.”

My irritation returned. “It’s too fucking early for wine. You’ll take a soda and love it.”

“Of course, my lady.”

His faux politeness stoked my temper while I stomped into the kitchen. I pulled two colas out of the fridge and managed to suppress the urge to shake his so it exploded in his face.

Except I was shaking it slightly, not on purpose, when I returned and handed it to him. The reality of the answers I’d been denying for the last four months prompted what could only be an anxiety attack. My breath came in short rapid pants. Sweat prickled along my neck. This wasn’t Ares’ doing. Why the hell weren’t the nanites compensating for my nerves?

“Would you like to sit down?” I waved toward the couch.

He sprawled across the upholstery as if he owned Las Vegas. I perched on the edge of the matching plush armchair and busied my fingers with opening my can. Carbon dioxide hissed as it escaped from its aluminum prison, but no foam overflowed.
From Ares’ disappointed expression, he’d expected me to sit next to him on the sofa. He took a drink from his can before he said, “I still expect payment for my assistance.”

The exasperated exhalation that escaped from me matched the sounds I often heard Duncan make when he was at his wits’ end with something idiotic I had done. “Sex is off the table.”

Ares’ smile shifted into another cocky grin. “Personally, I prefer a bed.”

“No sex at all.” I glared at him. Or tried to. His wicked humor and dark hair would be my undoing. They were the very same things that attracted me to my ex Jake and my current Duncan.

My mental state wasn’t helping my resistance to him. After spending years photographing, and resisting, the most gorgeous men on the planet while I worked for one of the top tabloids, I had thought I’d been picky. But since I’d died, I felt like a werewolf in heat. When I had asked Bebe about my revved-up libido, she admitted that it corresponded with my revved-up everything else thanks to the damn nanites. Deep down, I had believed I wouldn’t hurt Duncan by cheating on him, no matter how my hormones tried to convince me otherwise. But it was getting harder and harder to keep my impulses under control.

All of my impulses.

I focused on Phil’s threat to put my speed healing to the test by shoving a grenade down my throat for even thinking of doing her dad. She’d made that point perfectly clear on the phone, even if he was the one chasing me.

It wasn’t my fault if Ares mojo’d me, was it?

Aluminum crackled beneath my fingertips. Maybe I needed to focus on other things I really cared about. Like my unborn niece.

“I can be your personal shopper for Tiffany’s baby.”

Ares snorted in derision. “You believe I cannot provide for my foster granddaughter?”

“I think Cerberus is a totally inappropriate choice for a mortal child’s puppy,” I shot back.

Glass in the windows and pictures frames hummed in response to his laughter. “Not even I would be that foolish.”

“Then there’s my mother,” I added. “You want to have access to Tiffany and her baby? You’re going to need me to get through her. This is the woman who had no problem taking on the zombies that invaded my brother’s wedding. Not to mention, she bitched out three ancient vampire coven masters in the hospital afterward. Mom’s not going to cut you any slack because you’re a god.”

Ares’ right eyebrow lifted. “And if I simply remove her?”

“If you came to me with that proposal while I was still alive, you would have had a deal.” I shrugged. “Now that I’m dead, I found myself a little more forgiving when it comes to her behavior. So if you do anything to her, I’ll have to knock you on your ass again.” Somehow, I managed to keep “well-formed” out of that statement.

“How does my treating your mother with deference correlate to a favor given by you?”

“I’m smoothing the path, remember? If you want to do something stupid, oh, like give the baby a present that will cause her harm, let’s say a Golden Apple from the garden of the Hesperides, that’s your fault, and Mom will find a way to take you out.”

I took a sip of my soda, watching for his reaction. For all the stories about him not being the brightest of the Olympians, I got the impression his moronic playboy behavior was mainly an act.

“I’ll accept your offer with one condition—”

The carbonation in my stomach cavorted with my stomach acid to produce an uncomfortable sensation. “Yes?”

“I accompany you on this shopping trip.”

The vision of the Greek god of war holding my purse while I looked for onesies triggered an unfortunate response. I started laughing hysterically. Somehow, I managed to set my cola on the coffee table before I dropped it, but despite my best efforts, I could only tamper the sounds down to random guffaws.

Ares scowled. “And why do you find the thought of my company so amusing?”

“Because I can’t imagine you doing the things for me that Duncan would do on a shopping trip,” I said between snorts.

“And what do you think a vampire could accomplish at a market that I could not?” From the sparks in Ares’ eyes and the red flush creeping up his neck, I’d pushed him too far.

With a strength of will I didn’t think I had, I managed to sober myself. “First of all, he carries my bags.”


“He pays for everything.”

“Of course.” The wicked smirk was back.

“And he does it without complaining or whining.”

A scowl chased the smirk off Ares’ face. “Are you calling me a sniveler with no backbone?”

“Are you saying a vampire can do something you can’t?”

“No.” His tone was the same as a pissed-off werewolf. I should know. I’ve done my share of pissing off weres.

“Do we have an agreement?”


“Swear by the River Styx.”

That jolted him out of his anger. “You cannot be serious! You want me to swear our most sacred oath over a shopping expedition for baby gifts?”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “It’s not just the shopping and you know it. I help you with handling Mom and selecting the baby presents. In return, you answer my questions.” I sucked in a deep breath. “Fully and truthfully,” I added. Maybe Colin’s negotiation lessons were sinking into my robot-laden brain. “And absolutely no sexual innuendos, suggestions or touching of any kind whatsoever.”

Ares was silent for so long I thought he would disagree and leave. “Did you destroy the roses I sent?”

His question was so unexpected, his voice so quiet, I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right. The potted rose bush with twelve perfect, ebony blooms had been my first gift. The Normal girl from housekeeping who’d brought it to my office was still on personal leave, but at least she was out of the hospital. I was the only person the plant wouldn’t attempt stab with its thorns.


“Where are they?”

“In my safe where they won’t try to drink anyone else’s blood.” I tried not to think about the special vault in the basement. When the city had been first built, it had been a safe house for vampires immigrating to Las Vegas. Later, it became a prison for rogues. I hated going into that vault. The stench of death and despair smelled better to me than the Karnak chef’s molten lava cake.

And that scared the piss out of me.

Concern creased Ares’ forehead. “Aren’t you feeding them?”

“That thing drinks blood!”

“Of course.” He actually looked confused at my revulsion. “Can you not conceive of a better gift from a god of war to a goddess of death?”

“I’m not—”

He looked at me askance.

The denial died on my lips, but I still wasn’t ready to say the truth aloud. I sucked in a deep breath. “I’m not in the market for a boyfriend, Ares, and I already have one fiancé, which is plenty. This is why I want you to swear on the River Styx concerning our deal.”

The sorrow in his expression made me want to cry. Somehow, I knew his emotion had nothing to do with me turning him down or my insistence on his oath concerning our deal. “Ox blood. If you are unwilling to feed my gift human blood, then feed it ox blood.”

Would the damned plant even leave if I gave the potted roses back to him? I’d read enough Greek mythology to know that gifts, or curses, from the gods couldn’t be returned. Only amended.

With the supernatural races, I was learning there was always a grain of truth within their stories. I nodded once. “Thanks for the info. Now about our deal—”

He blew out a deep breath, and I suppressed a smile. It seemed I exasperated every male I encountered.

“How do I know you will keep you side of the bargain?”

I shrugged. “You can always ask Phil to be your enforcer. She’s already threatened to use a grenade to disembowel me if I sleep with you.”

“Is that why you won’t—”

“No!” The walls of the penthouse shivered in response to my shout, and a hairline crack appeared above the kitchenette. Great. Now I needed to call maintenance, and they would tell Duncan, and he’d ask what happened, and…

I cleared my throat. “Do I need to repeat my terms?”

“When?” Ares looked too damn amused by my discomfiture.

I ran my tongue over my suddenly dry lips. Best to get this over with. “I’ve got time tomorrow afternoon to shop.”

He leaned forward, not predatory, but pretty damn close. “Then I get to choose the place.” He surprised me by naming the department store at the Beverly Center where Max and Tiffany had registered, though the registry itself was probably my mom’s idea.
As much as I dreaded spending any more time alone with him than necessary, maybe a trip to Los Angeles would sooth my fractured emotional state. I nodded. “As long as you answer my questions here and now.”

“Agreed.” He leaned back against the couch.

I cough not so discreetly, and he rolled his eyes.

“I swear by the River Styx that I will answer all your questions for the next three hours, fully and truthfully in exchange for you spending an equal three hours in my company tomorrow where we will partake of the midafternoon meal and purchase appropriate gifts for my foster granddaughter. I also swear I will carry all packages, as well as Lady Samantha’s purse with no complaints. Satisfied?” His expression dared me to disagree.

“Yes. Thank you,” I added. “Shall we begin?”

* * *
Max’s right toe tapped a nervous rhythm against the kitchen tile of Caesar’s mansion while Bebe perched on a chair next to him and examined the new adornment on his wrist. “Well?”

“I think you’re picking up some of Tiffany’s less endearing habits.” She glanced up at him. “Do I need to give you a sedative, or will a kick in the shins suffice?”

With monumental effort, he stilled his foot. “Can you get it off?”

She shook her head, brunette curls swaying. “No.” She leaned back, but kept her hand over his. “Describe this person again.”

He repeated his impressions of his visitor. “He’s the same guy that appeared in one of the candid shots at the zombie-interrupted ceremony, minus the tissue stuffed up his nose while at my office, but no one remembers him being there. Do you have any idea of who it is?”

“Now I do.” She pursed her lips, rose from the kitchen chair, and strode through the swinging door.

Max jumped to his feet and raced after her. She’d already disappeared from the foyer, but from the sharp clicks of her heels, Bebe was headed down the hall toward her, well, magick lab was the only thing he could think of to call Caesar’s former conservatory.

The heavy drapes were pulled back from the huge windows when he walked into the room. A scarlet Persian carpet highlighted with gold threads covered the black, white and gray marble floor. Antique birch chairs and tables sat on the thick wool. Bebe examined the contents of the floor-to-ceiling shelves along the back wall.

When Max crossed over the gigantic silver pentacle underneath the carpet, tingles radiated from the strange watch along his skin. Most people didn’t know about the metal embedded into the marble and hidden by the carpet. Knowing the ring was there and actually feeling the power added to his fear.

Bebe glanced up from the tome she’d pulled off the shelf. Her lips tilted down as her gaze traveled from the floor to him and back. “Well, that’s interesting.”

“‘Interesting’ is not the word I’d chose.” The instant he stepped out of the silver circle the electric sensation along his arm disappeared.

She turned the book so he could see the page she was looking at. “Is this him?"

The woodcut had to have been close to two centuries old, but the resemblance was uncanny. Max nodded. “Who is it?”

“Baron Samedi. One of Voudon loas of death.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

Zombie Goddess (Bloodlines #6) - Chapter 4

“Lawyers in Love” interrupted the bad dream I was having. The same one I was having more and more frequently. Something that looked like a velociraptor with tentacles tearing me apart faster than the nanites could put me back together.

Grateful for the sort-of rescue, I reached for my phone and thumbed the answer button. “Hey, Colin. What do you have for me?”

“Did I wake you?”

I sighed. “It doesn’t matter.” I started to fling back the covers, but Duncan wasn’t in bed with me, so I settled back under them. “Is there any way Lilianne can shut our act down permanently?”

“It’s always a possibility, Sam. I stand by the legal team’s original analysis, but that doesn’t mean she won’t get a sympathetic judge or jury who will do something stupid. In the meantime, Marshall received a cease and desist order from Lilianne’s attorney. His people e-mailed a copy to you, me, and Lily this morning.”

The urge to cry hit me hard. This was going to devastate Lily, And I couldn’t blame the show’s producer, Marshall Wagoner. He had to look out for his own interests.

“What can we do to fight this?” I leaned over and sniffed Duncan’s pillow. His scent wasn’t fresh. He hadn’t come to bed last night.

Great. On top of everything else, I had a pouty fiancé to deal with.

“Given Lilianne’s accusation that her mother’s reputation and memory are being desecrated, we need evidence that Lily is being faithful to her original act since this is a tribute show.”

“But I thought we didn’t want to violate copyright?”

Colin’s exhale whistled through the receiver. “That’s the reason you’re not using her original material, but Lilianne’s accusing Lily of perverting the act by using off-color jokes and obscenities. We need something, a recording, a newsclip, anything that shows Lily is sticking to her old style without reusing the same material.”

I swallowed the hard lump at the back of my throat, unsure if the emotional crap was mine or empathy for my baby zombie. “I’ll see what I can find.” I really needed to change the subject before I lost it. “How’s the vampire thing going?”

Colin chuckled. “I’m getting used to it. Caesar let me go back to Philly to see my family. It’s unbelievable being able to talk to my nephew Evan again.”

I smiled at Colin’s excitement. The lawyer was adapting to vampire life far better than any of us expected. “Caesar must really have taken a shine to you to bend the rules.”

“No, he’s over-aware of the implications in the sudden disappearance of a scion of the famed political Fitzgerald family.”

Envy stuck a needle in my heart. Colin had a good relationship with his parents. I had to die before my mother and I developed an uneasy truce. “At least, you had a choice.”

After an eternity of silence, he said, “Did anyone in the coven besides me choose?”

My laugh was rather weak. “Alex, but technically he was dying from a dozen bullet holes when Duncan offered to Turn him.”

Colin’s chuckle was equally uncomfortable. “Yeah, I noticed pretty quick not to ask certain questions. Thanks for being straight with me.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, keep Lily away from the showroom while I work on your case. Hopefully, Lilianne will agree to settle before this gets too far.”

“Thanks, Colin.” I clicked off the phone and ran my hand over Duncan’s side of the bed. Compared to some of our epic battles, last night’s tiff hardly registered on the Richter scale. But ever since Alex and Phil’s little trip to Peru, things between Duncan and me had gotten very weird.

But I needed to deal with Lily’s issue first. I owed her that much.

I wasn’t the one who resurrected the corpses of her, Bill and Morty. No, that was pro basketball player and necromancer extraordinaire David Head. All because that asswipe, now comatose bed warmer, had a major league crush on Duncan.

But thanks to him, I learned two very important lessons six months ago. My blood killed the living, and it restored dead things to life. It made me super-cautious about as small of thing as a paper cut.

I dressed and raided the suite’s refrigerator. The staff kept it stocked with hard-boiled eggs, cheese and pre-cut veggies for emergencies. The contents of the fridge and half dozen bagels I pulled from the pantry would tide me over. I definitely needed to break the news to Lily before I hit one of the casino restaurants for breakfast.

Fifteen minutes later, I knocked on her door. It swung open with a vision I didn’t need to see—Bill Faith in Lily’s pink fuzzy bathrobe.

He turned beet red, from his bare toes to his prominent nose. “Uh, I, uh, was expecting room service.”

I crossed my arms and tried to hide my delight that he and Lily had moved to the next step in their relationship. “And I thought drag was part of your act, not a lifestyle choice.”

Apparently, there was a color more red than beet because Bill’s skin turned that shade. “Our private life is none of your concern.”

I shoved past him. “I don’t care if you lick honey off her ass—” I squelched the urge to wince when he went from red to an interesting shade of purple. “I’m here on business and I need to talk to Lily.”

She appeared in the doorway to her bedroom, wearing a retro sweater and skirt set. “What did the lawyers say?”

I sucked in a deep breath and released it. “You’re going to have to take a break from the show for a few days. Just until Colin and his team can get this straightened out.”

Her stricken expression yanked at my heart as she sank down on the couch.

“Why?” Bill waved a hand in Lily’s direction. “Red hasn’t done anything wrong!"

“No, she hasn’t.” I crossed the room and sat next to Lily. “Colin says it would help if we could find some recordings of your old stand-up act. To show that you’re being authentic to the original Lily Bell.”

“I am the original Lily Bell,” she wailed.

I took her fisted hands in mine. “We can’t tell anyone that. Not unless you want to end up as a lab experiment.”

“You were one,” Bill mumbled.

“And that’s what got all four of us into this mess,” I shot back before I turned to Lily once more. “We need to give the lawyers everything we can in order to fight this.”

Wetness shimmered in her eyes. “I don’t want to fight my own daughter, Sam. We did far too much of that the first time around. Can’t I just go and tell her—”

I squeezed her hands. “No, Lily. We’ve been over this before. Your children attended the funeral for their elderly mother. If you show up on Lilianne’s front door like you are now, she will never believe you. She wouldn’t have believed you last night.”

The look she gave me turned downright ugly. “It’s not fair. You get to see your family.”

“Because my brother and I are members of the Augustine coven, and because my parents will keep their traps shut in order to see their grandchildren.” Also because my Normal mother was the one person in the universe that scared a vampire as ancient as Caesar. I wasn’t quite sure why.
Lily switched tactics. More tears trickled down her cheeks. “If we can convince Lilianne of the truth, she’ll keep our secret.”

“Do you have any idea what will happen to her if she doesn’t?”

“Duncan can erase her memory.”

I shook my head. “And sometimes, the vampires can’t. Anne couldn’t erase my brother’s memory when he found out the truth about her years ago. If Max hadn’t kept his trap shut, she would have had to kill him.” Colin’s wife Anne had been Amish before she was Turned. Despite her attempts to stick with pacifism, she was the most dangerous of the vampires. I’d seen first hand how efficient she could be at killing.

Lily grabbed my shoulders. “If they kill her, you could bring her back.”

I stared at her. “No.”

“But you did it with us.” She waved her hand between herself and Bill.

“Are you honestly suggesting a horde of zombies invading you daughter’s backyard is a brilliant idea? Because that’s exactly how you ended up here. You were trying to eat my brother’s wedding guests.”

I instantly regretted the words at the pained look on her face. The antsy prickle of my conscience drove me to my feet, and I started to pace. I shouldn’t have thrown the wedding in her face.

Their memories of the event were hazy; mine crystal clear. Morty had literally ripped out my throat, and they licked my arterial spray off of everything. Next thing any of us knew, the three comedians were alive and healthy.

“B-but we’re human. Dr. Zachary said so.” This time the tears in her eyes weren’t an acting job. “And there’s none of your robots in us.”

“This is the same witch who has no fucking clue what these nanites are doing to me.” My lie triggered a nasty ache grew in my frontal lobes, and I rubbed my forehead. Bebe agreed with Alex. Phil’s dad had even offered a sample of his own DNA for Bebe to compare mine with. Just because I didn’t like Bebe’s conclusions, I couldn’t take my personal frustrations out on my baby zombies.

And Lily needed to know the truth about their status within the coven. “I’m sorry, but you can’t contact any of your family, much less Lilianne. You saw how she freaked out last night. We can’t take that chance. I can’t take that chance.”


“You’re my responsibility. That means if you tell her and she can’t handle it, I’m the one who has to put her down. And if I don’t, that means Caesar will kill all of us—Lilianne, you, me, Bill and Morty."

Her eyes grew into large, blue marbles of shock. Bill’s mouth tightened into a straight line. He’d obviously suspected the stakes from the beginning.

I sat next to her on the couch again. “I don’t want that on my conscience, and I don’t think you do either. Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

She slowly nodded. “I promise. I-I didn’t realize…"

I patted her hands. “I’m sorry for not being totally straight with you. I didn’t want to scare you.” My stomach growled. “Feel up to joining me for breakfast downstairs?”

She slowly nodded again.

I turned to Bill. “I’ll cancel room service. You need to put on a day dress. I’m not taking you anywhere in a bathrobe.”

* * *
Mortimer Stern pulled into a parking spot five cars down from the dark green convertible he had followed. For decades, he would never have gotten away with tailing the attractive brunette. Now, no one recognized him. He’d gotten his long-time wish of anonymity, but he wasn’t sure if it was good thing or not.
He sipped the expensive shit kids today called coffee. Couldn’t get just a plain cup of joe anymore. No, it had to creamed, steamed and sweetened until you couldn’t taste the beans.

But he needed the cover. The Karnak’s head of security was a smart cookie for a broad. He claimed he needed to get out of the damn hotel-casino to think. As long as he came back with a receipt for the coffee and some notes for the Vegas show, she and Sam didn’t question his whereabouts for a few measly hours.

Molly climbed out of her convertible and headed into the grocery store. She still had a set of legs and an ass any woman half her age would envy. Those nice, tight pants broads wore to yoga classes showed off her assets nicely. He recited baseball statistics in his head to get his dick under control. Damn, getting an erection the last couple of years had been next to impossible with the damn catheter.

And that memory took care of the problem. He climbed out of the SUV he’d borrowed from the Karnak’s vehicle pool and arrowed for grocery’s main doors.

Learning his second wife now lived in Vegas had been the only reason he’d agreed to Sam’s cockamamie plan to have him, Bill and Lily join that stupid showcase. Now his new job would come in handy when Molly recognized him.

She would recognize him, wouldn’t she?

Squelching the fear, he yanked a cart out of the rows and guided it toward the produce section. Molly was still a vegetarian, or that’s what it looked like the last time he’d followed her through the store. Regret tugged his heart. Why the hell hadn’t he treated her better? He even missed her eggplant lasagna.

Accidentally running into her cart might work, but it was too obvious. Ask her advice on melons? No, too desperate. But then she stopped in front of the bananas.

“Why did the banana go out with the prune?” He reached for the bunch next to the one she was reaching for.

She turned and stared at him. Her face paled the moment the recognition hit her. “I beg your pardon?”

He smiled. “It’s a joke. Why did the banana go out with the prune?”

“Because he couldn’t find a date,” she answered weakly.

“Ouch. My best material, and you’ve already heard it.”

“Who-who are you?”

“Walter Kinney.” At least, that’s what the fake ID the vampires had given him said. He held out his hand, but she still stared at him, shock imprinted on her patrician features. She made no move to take the proffered palm.

He lowered his arm. “Oka-a-ay, that wasn’t my best pick-up line. I’ll give you that. But why are you staring at me like you’ve seen a ghost?”<

“Y-you look like Mortimer Stern.”

He rubbed his chin. “Ah, I take it you caught my revival act.”

“No.” The color flowed back into her cheeks. Her hair was still pinned up from her yoga class, and it was all he could do not to pull out the clip and bury his face in the mass. Did she still use that honeysuckle shampoo she had loved when they were together?

He grinned. “You can’t tell me you knew the real Mortimer Stern.”

She blinked. “Yes. I did. He was my ex-husband.”

“Really?” He hoped his pretend surprise looked real enough. “And you are?”

“I’m sorry. You really threw me off.” Her gorgeous lips curved into a polite smile, and she held out her hand. “Molly Weiss.”

He shook it, and her touch made his cock twitch. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Weiss. Aren’t you a little young to have been married to him?”

She released his hand before he was ready. Her accompanying chuckle was tinged with bitterness. “That’s how Morty liked his women, the younger the better.”

God, he’d been such an insecure asshole. “Oh.” He ran his hand over his hair. Since his resurrection, it surprised him to find some still attached to his scalp. “Finally get up the nerve to talk to you, and finding out I resemble your ex makes asking you out incredibly awkward.”

“Asking me out?” She turned and dropped the bananas into her cart. The same duck-and-occupy-herself maneuver she used to do when she was uncomfortable.

“Yeah. I’ve seen you in here a couple of times. And—” He shrugged. Approaching Molly like this really was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. She wasn’t the easily impressed girl fresh out of high school he’d first met, but a middle-aged career woman who knew all the tricks he could pull.

And he didn’t want to use those tricks on her either.

“Sorry to bother you, Miz Weiss.” Yep, definitely a stupid idea. He shoved the shopping cart toward the dairy section, disappointment thick in his mouth. Sam had warned them. He couldn’t recapture his past. Couldn’t rectify all the things he’d done to hurt Molly.

“Walter?” A soft touch brushed his arm.

He stopped and turned toward her, praying he didn’t look too eager. “Yeah?”

“Would you like to get some coffee? Maybe? Some time?”

Paralysis gripped him. She was asking him out. He hadn’t expected the switch in roles.

She withdrew her hand. “I’m sorry. I guess the whole thing about you looking like my ex really is awkward as hell.”

“No,” he blurted. “That’s not, uh, I mean—” Dammit! He was making a mess of things. “I’d love to.”

She reached into her purse and pulled out a card. “Here’s my number.”

Mortimer took the proffered card. A wild idea popped in his head. “Why don’t you come to the show tonight? I can leave a ticket for you at will call and—”

Molly shook her head, and a tendril slipped from the tortoise shell clip. It took all of his willpower not to smooth the wayward lock from her face.

“That’s not a good idea. Let’s stick with coffee.”

The pain in her expression tore at him. “Look, if my resemblance is hurting you—”

Her smile was wan, a shadow of its normal brilliance. “I want to get to know Walter Kinney, not the ghost of someone I used to love.”

Used to love. Her remark couldn’t have hurt worse if she’d plunge a real knife into his heart. But if that was all he could have of her, then he’d take it. “Coffee, then. I’ll…text you.”

Her smile brightened a notch. “Coffee, then.” She turned and pushed her cart toward the pile of avocados.

Mortimer pivoted and shoved his own cart toward the grocery’s main doors. The only reason he didn’t text her right then and there was he needed someone to show him how.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Zombie Goddess (Bloodlines #6) - Chapter 3

Oops! I didn't post a chapter last Monday like I promised, but I didn't blog anywhere last week. When you haven't moved to a different state in eighteen years, you forget how much freaking paperwork must be filled out and delivered.

* * *
Max Howell deleted the three sentences he’d spent the last half-hour typing. Normally, he could whip out a juicy story like this by now. White slavery in the heart of Beverly Hills? The damn thing should be able to write itself.

But after talking to one of the victim’s fathers, all he could think about was his own daughter. His wife may be two weeks from her due date, but how the hell would he ever be able to protect his little girl?

There were things running around Los Angeles far worse than a pair of sick-ass rapist brothers.

A knock on his door brought a welcome distraction. “Yeah.”

Amy, one of the staff photographers, poked her head in. “I know you’ve got your phone on Do-Not-Disturb, but reception says you’ve got a visitor.”


She shrugged. “Wouldn’t give his name, but he looks like a Flavor Flav wannabe.”

“Flavor Flav?”

Amy grinned. “Yeah, white tails, top hat, and big-ass clock on his chest. Except a lot younger and without the crack teeth.”

“Aren’t you a little young to be listening to Flavor Flav?”br
“So are you,” she shot back. “Reception tried to get rid of him, but he said he was a friend of your sister’s, and it was imperative he speak with you.”

The proverbial chill raced up Max’s spine and back down again. A friend of Sam’s meant only one thing.


It wasn’t like he hadn’t known about the secret side of the world, but since Sam died, the uneasy truce between the fae and the vampires had been shot to hell and back. He wasn’t stupid. With his sister under the protection of Caesar Augustine, the Western U.S. vampire master, and his wife being one of said master’s enforcers, Max was an auxiliary target.

“Thanks, Amy.”

She nodded and strode toward her cubicle.

Since the Unseelie had tried to assassinate Sam last summer, he kept a chain of steel paper clips nearby. He opened his top desk drawer, grabbed his makeshift weapon, and shoved it into his right pocket. It would hold a fae long enough for the paper’s armed security to arrive.

His wedding ring and the silver wrist band Tiffany had bought him for their six-month anniversary would serve as a delaying tactic if his visitor was one of the rebel vampires who had tried to oust Caesar at the end of January.

The walk to the reception desk took forever. As Amy said, the man pacing the area dressed like the old school rapper. What she didn’t mention was the cotton wadding stuffed up both of the man’s nostrils or the odd black cane he carried.

“Can I help you?”

“Ah, Monsieur Howell!” The visitor’s accent wasn’t true French. It sound like a cross between Cajun and French Caribbean. He swept off his top hat and bowed. “A pleasure to see you again.”

“I’m sorry. Have we met?”

The stranger replaced his hat. “Your wedding.” His voice had a nasal quality thanks to the packing in his nose. It ruined the charm of his accent. “Or I should say your first ceremony.” His jovial smile faded. “Alas, I did not come to reminisce.”

The reminder of the zombie attack did nothing to stop the unease crawling back up Max’s spine. “So why are you here?”

The visitor glanced at the receptionist, who did her best not to appear as if she were eavesdropping. “I apologize, Monsieur Howell, but given the delicacy of the matter, may we speak in private?”

Max turned to the receptionist. “Is anyone in Conference Two?”

She did a slow blink. “Conference One is open.”

“Is anyone in Conference Two?” he repeated.

Another slow blink. “No.”

He understood her confusion. Two faced south, and there was no UV film on the windows. No one ever wanted to use it. Even this late in the year, the room became a furnace.< br/>
Max gestured for the visitor to follow him. When they entered the stifling conference room and Max closed the door, the visitor broke into a broad grin.

“Are you satisfied that I’m not a vampire, Monsieur?”

Max’s own stiff smile tightened the corners of his mouth. “That’s not my only concern.” His smile fell. “Did my sister break your nose?”

The visitor started and ran fingers over the packing in his nostrils. “No.” He dropped into a chair. “Actually, I am here on behalf of my father. Your sister has something that belongs to my father. I have asked her to return it, but she has refused.”

Max sat as well. He pulled the steel links from his pocket, laid them on the table, and started straightening the first paperclip. “How do I know you’re telling the truth, Monsieur…?”

“You may call me Baron.” The visitor inclined his head.

“Baron of which court?”

The visitor chuckled. “Not one you have visited yet. I am not of the Tuatha de Danann either.”

Max could hear Tiffany now. This is so not good. “Have you tried going to her boss? Sam’s going to listen to him before she’ll listen to me.”

“Oh, I think she’ll listen to you.” Baron removed his top hat, then lifted the chain to the antique-looking clock over his head. Both pieces had the reddish hue of pure gold. “Show her this.”

“No.” Max tried to rise from the chair, but the aluminum and plastic flowed and trapped his forearms and ankles. He tempered the panic threatening to engulf him. Whatever this guy was, he wasn’t the least bit human. Putting the rest of the Times staff in danger wouldn’t help. He forced out a sigh. “Isn’t the poor-mortal-family-member-as-hostage routine a little old?”

“But the classics always work, Monsieur.” Baron grinned.

The clock crawled from the supernatural’s hands and across the wood veneer of the table, a gigantic gold inchworm. It also changed shape, growing smaller, longer. By the time it reached Max, the clock looked like a very expensive Rolex. The cool metal oozed across the back of his left hand and strapped itself to his wrist.

Baron replaced his top hat once again and stood. “Tell your sister she has until midnight on the third day to return my father’s property. Or approximately sixty hours. Thank you for your time, Monsieur Howell.” White teeth flashed against his espresso skin at his lame joke. “I’ll see myself out.”

The minute he departed, the chair reformed to its normal state. Max clawed at the strange watch, but the thing melded to his skin. All he succeeded in doing was dig bloody furrows in his flesh.

Dammit, he couldn’t call Tiffany. Not this close to her due date. She wasn’t the epitome of calm, rational thinking when she wasn’t pregnant. Her idea of fixing the problem would be grabbing an RPG to go after this Baron character.

He should call Sam to warn her, but she hadn’t taken Alex’s theory about the nanites turning her into a god very well. What he needed was a solution before raising the alarm.

He was going to do the next best thing by following his own advice. He pulled his phone out of his left pocket and thumbed the icon for Tiffany’s doctor. “Hi, this is Max Howell, Tiffany Stephens’ husband.”

“Oh, Mr. Howell!” the receptionist gushed. “Has your wife gone into labor?”

“No, but I need to talk to Dr. Zachary now.”

“She’s with a patient. Can I take a message?”

Max rubbed his temple at the growing headache. “Tell her it’s a zombie emergency, and I really need to talk to her now.”

“A zombie—oh, a zombie emergency! One moment, Mr. Howell.”

In less than a minute, Bebe picked up the receiver. “What did Sam do this time, Max?”

“I’m not sure, but I’ve got a wristwatch magickally super-glued to my wrist unless Sam coughs up something that belongs to a guy named Baron. He’s given me sixty hours, and I’ve got a very bad feeling if he doesn’t get his shit back, he’s going to take my soul as compensation.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Zombie Goddess (Bloodlines #6) - Chapter 2

This is the unedited, rough draft of my current wip. Enjoy!

* * *
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. Mai had a faintly amused look on her face. Staci sniffed the pulsing heart.

Quinn raced around the desk, grabbed Staci’s trashcan and proceeded to vomit.

“It smells like some breed of deer,” Staci offered. “But it’s not one I’m familiar with.”

“At least, it’s not a human heart,” I said.

“Or brains.” Mai now wore a full-blown smirk.

I groaned. “I’m afraid that may be next. Was there a card?”

Staci handed me an ivory envelope. “I smelled the ozone when I took this off the box.”

I sniffed the envelope as well. No ozone indicating magick, but another scent lay under the paper. One that was all-too-familiar.

Best to get this over with. I slid a nail under the flap. The matching card had the expected cinnamon writing of dried blood. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the neat script. The first two suitors had the grace to write their notes in English.

I held up the card for Mai to see. “Got a clue?”

“It’s Hindi.” She reached for the radio hooked in her waistband. “I’ll get Kunal up here to translate.”

“You okay back there, Quinn?” I called. The sound of him puking had subsided, so my attention returned to the beating heart.

“Yeah,” he muttered. “Wanna tell me what’s going on?”

Unfortunately, my secretary opened her giant canine yap. “There are…entities that believe Ms. Ridgeway is marrying below her station.” She reached into one of her drawers and produced a canister. “Here.”

The witch stood and yanked a couple of anti-bacterial wipes from the dispenser. “Thanks.” He eyes met mine. “You’re the zombie, right?”

Not a zombie. The zombie. I wasn’t exactly the fresh-from-the-grave type. More like Frankenstein’s monster.

If Frankenstein had been the Borg Queen.

“What? The black aura wasn’t a dead giveaway?” I said sourly.

Of course, my stomach took that opportunity to growl, which meant all three of them stared at me.

Mai’s brow furrowed. “When was the last time you ate, Sam?”

Before she finished speaking, Staci was on the phone, calling the kitchen. “I need three T-bones, a pound of garlic mashed potatoes, a pint of peas and two loaves of oatmeal sourdough bread.”

I made my best pleading face. “Chocolate soufflés?”

She relayed my request.

I could hear the chef say he was out, but he still had caramel fudge brownies. “Yes! Feed me!” I yelled. My mouth watered at the thought.

Staci placed her hand over the receiver. “You two want anything?”

Mai shook her head. Quinn’s wide-eyed gaze shifted between me and Staci as she placed her own order.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Come in,” Staci and I yelled at the same time.

As much as I wanted those brownies, I knew it couldn’t be the waitstaff yet. Kunal stepped into the room. The vampire bowed to me, then Mai. “You requested my assistance, Ms. Osaka?”

She handed him the card. “Can you translate this for me?”

His dark eyes flicked over the scrawl. Instantly, his eyes glowed neon yellow, and his fans extended. The ashy scent of fear radiated from him, and his face paled, which is no mean trick for a vampire originally from India. He threw the card away from him. “What is the meaning of this?” he hissed. “If this is a joke—”

“I’m not so insensitive that I’d open up the Karnak to a discrimination lawsuit.” I stooped to pick up the paper from the carpet and rose. “Someone else sent it to me. I need to know what it says.”

“It—” The vampire cleared his throat. His eyes had dimmed, but his wicked-looking canines still poked between his lips. “It asks for your hand in marriage.”

Shit, someone was upping the ante in this perverse game. “Who sent it?” I snapped.

“Y-y-yama,” Kunal managed to spit out.

“He’s the Hindu god of death, right?” I’d been studying up on religions since this whole madness started during the summer.

Kunal stiffened. “He is subordinate to Siva, but yes.” He hissed his “S”s like a pissed off cobra, but he didn’t coat my face in saliva like a certain human bitch had earlier. Which brought me back to my original foul mood.

I handed Staci the manila envelope I’d been holding the entire time. “I need you to call Colin for me. Scan and e-mail this to him.”

“What is that?” Of course, the hyper-alert Mai would butt in, but I wasn’t about to discuss this in front of vampires and witches I didn’t know very well, so I did my usual.

I ignored her.

I smiled at Quinn. “You sure we can’t offer you dinner for your assistance?”

“That’s all right.” He glanced at the styrofoam. Deep avocado tinted his dark coffee skin.

“Kunal, would you please escort Quinn to accounting?” Mai said. Leave it to her to clear the room. “They should have his check ready.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Another set of bows before the men departed. The whole deference thing really creeped me out. There was a certain amount of protocol since Duncan was the head vampire of Las Vegas now, but still…

I could see Mai mentally ticking off the time for Kunal to get out of hearing range before she turned and said, “What’s in that envelope?”

The barely audible squish and suck sounds of the deer heart trying to pump nonexistent blood was getting to me. I flipped the foam lid back into place. “Lily and I got sued tonight by her daughter.”

“Why? Parade of Stars is a tribute act.”

“No shit. They have Elvis impersonators, and you don’t see Lisa Marie flying off the handle.” I slumped into one of the visitor’s chairs.

“Didn’t you have an attorney check any potential problems?”

I folded my arms over my chest. The card with the blood ink still clutched in my hand crackled. “Yes.” I couldn’t just kill Duncan’s head of security. Well, actually, I could, but then he’d give me that perturbed look he gets when he thinks I’ve really fucked up. Besides, Mai was one of the few people, Normal or supernatural, who didn’t run screaming into the night over my…peculiarities.

“Then why—”

“Because she can. Because she misses her mommy. Because even though we’ll probably win this case, she can drag it out for years to make us miserable.” I rolled my head, trying to stretch out the kinks. For all the super-strength, super-speed and super-appetite, tension still sent shooting pains up my neck when I was upset.

My arms dropped to my lap, and I leaned forward. “I’m more worried about what this will do to Lily. I think tonight is the first time I really understood why there are the rules about not mixing with your Normal family.” My parents and older brother were rare exceptions to the rule, but unlike Lilianne who actually buried her mother, my family hadn’t known I had died until after I’d been resurrected.

“Do you think she might try to tell her daughter the truth?” Mai was back in enforcer mode. Considering she was one of the very few Normal enforcers in the Augustine coven, she was totally capable of putting down Lily permanently if she believed my zombie spawn was a threat to the vampires. Nor would she hesitate to do so.

Despite my concern about Lily, I said, “I don’t know. I honestly do not know.”

* * *
After all of the night’s bullshit, I had the kitchen send my dinner up to the penthouse. I pulled on an ancient Spice Girls t-shirt and some sweats before I settled into the evening’s meal. I was licking the last of the dozen caramel fudge brownies off my fingers when our private elevator dinged.

The doors slid open, and the familiar scent of sandalwood enveloped me. As usual since his master assigned us to Vegas, Duncan dressed impeccably. Today was a charcoal suit and an emerald tie that matched his eyes. The green silk was loose instead of its proper Windsor knot.

That should have been my first clue that something wasn’t right.

But it had been such a bad day that all I wanted was to cuddle. I scooted over on the couch to make room for him.

He actually looked tired as he sat down next to me. Faint lines fanned from his gorgeous eyes. Additional lines dragged his mouth into a frown. I paused the episode of Buddies I had been watching while I ate and snuggled against his chest. His arms wrapped around me.

I listened to his ultra-slow heartbeat for a while before I said, “I think this job is getting to you.”

“It is not my current position that troubles me.”

The weariness in his voice sank through my ugly mood. “Mai blabbed.”

“She did not blab. She did her duty as head of security.”

“It was nothing.” I dared a peek at his face.

That scowled down at me. “Nothing?” The neon green glow of his eyes brightened the dim room. “Someone sent you an animated animal heart.”

“The latest stupid-ass rumor is getting out of hand.” And it was royally pissing me off. “As if I didn’t have enough problems.”

“It is not a rumor, and you know it,” he said softly. Ash and rotten oranges overrode his sandalwood. This thing was bothering him a lot more than he wanted to admit.

“Bebe’s wrong,” I said.

“What if she is not? Are you saying Phillippa’s father is lying? That the Incan god of death also lied to her and Alex?”

I sat up and glared at him. “I admit I’m a fucked up science project, but humans can’t just create a god. It’s not possible.”

He matched my glare. “And you know this how? What makes you an expert in what is possible?”

It would have helped my cause if my eyes glowed too. But that was one little thing missing from my growing arsenal of powers. The wonky ones I still fought to control.

And I could feel that tenuous control slipping.

I jumped up from the couch. I couldn’t be this close him. With my sketchy telepathic control, I’d accidentally transmit some thought I’d regret. And I hadn’t told him about the visit I received the day his niece Tiffany had married my brother Max. So I did what I usually do when I was scared.

I went on the attack.

“You’re supposed to be on my side!”

“I am on your side, darling.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “That does not mean I will ignore obvious truths because I am uncomfortable with them.”

I threw up my hands. “Who shoved this stupid idea into everyone’s head? A couple of gods who are known to get their jollies from fucking with humans.”

“You’re not human, Samantha. Not anymore.”

He couldn’t have hurt me any worse if he’s punched me in the gut. I swiped the tears I couldn’t stop. “You’re a dick, St. James.”

“I’m not trying—” He closed his eyes, a pained expression on his face. Whatever else he was going to say he swallowed and rose. “Maybe it’s best if I return to my duties.” He didn’t bother to use the elevator.

Once the stairwell door slammed shut, I walked over to the balcony. A push on the sliding glass doors let in the desert night. Cool, dry air brushed my skin, and I stepped outside.

The neon lights or the black shadows didn’t draw my attention. Instead the ugly stain on the pristine tile consumed me. It matched another stain on the street in front of Caesar’s Brentwood mansion. Stains on the very fabric of the universe that I discovered only Phil’s dad, the Greek god of war, and I could see.

Bebe said that crimson teeth had come through both places. That those teeth had shredded and consumed the souls of the men who had died on those spots. But she didn’t see the residual scars.

I was too damn scared to fly to Peru to see if there were similar stains on the Nazca plain where Phil and Alex had fought some weird extra-dimensional demon. Because it meant Ares and my other suitor, Supay aka the Incan god of death, were right about what the nanites were turning me into. Yama’s proposal didn’t help my state of denial whatsoever.

While the desert breeze felt good on my bare arms, the stain only agitated my thoughts more. I walked back inside and closed both the glass doors and the heavy drapes. Curling up on the couch, I hugged myself and ran through my options.

I needed help. Neither Supay or Yama had a reason to be straight with me.

But maybe, just maybe, Ares would respect my friendship with his daughter enough that I could get some real answers. I reached for my smartphone and pulled up Phil’s home number.

I prayed I wasn’t making a big mistake.

Then a worse thought occurred. Was I even allowed to pray to a god if I was becoming one?