Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hero De Novo Is Out!

Hero De Novo (888-555-HERO #3) went live this morning on Amazon! If you pre-ordered this book, it should be on your Kindle now. Otherwise, it's available for purchase, or you can read it for free through Kindle Unlimited!

With Captain Justice presumed dead, Aisha faces raising her super baby as a single mother. A message from Asia gives her a glimmer of hope. But is it Rey, or a Corvus trap to take her son?

In the meantime, Patty’s baby daddy, the super assassin Black Death, comes out of the woodwork, filing for custody of Grace. Harri will do anything to keep her goddaughter out of Black Death’s clutches, but will she step across her personal legal and ethical lines to save Grace?

Can both attorneys win the day with their team split up and on different continents?

Call us at 888-555-HERO. The Law Offices of Winters & Franklin, where the only thing more dangerous than a superhero is his attorney.

If you missed last month's release, Hero Ad Hoc (888-555-HERO #2) is still available for purchase or to read through Kindle Unlimited.

If you're enjoying the adventures of Harri, Aisha, and their gang and want to see more, please drop me a line!
And if you haven't picked up the first book in the series, Hero De Facto, it's currently still available for purchase on Amazon or to borrow through Kindle Unlimited.

If you're enjoying these books, I'd appreciate it if you would drop a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thank you so much for reading!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Not Again...

I got three books finished and pre-published before this year's personal life explosion.

My father passed away. It's not something I can talk about yet. So things will be quiet on the blog front except for some pre-planned posts about Hero De Novo for tomorrow.

I apologize for not getting one last chapter from the book posted. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hero De Novo - Chapter 2

Aisha Franklin stared at her to-do list on her computer screen. So much for any relaxation over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Tim was still insisting on getting the patent filed on the new exoskeleton suit he’d built with Miguel and Francisco. Harri had pretty much destroyed the original in her battle with the man pretending to be Captain Justice. Tim wanted to do a presentation on the suit to NASA in two months, which Aisha personally considered a little too ambitious, considering he just got out of rehab after the imposter Captain Justice tried to kill him.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to roll back the fury and grief flooding her. Not an imposter. A brain-washed evil twin. How the hell did her life get this screwed up?

Her only consolation in the mess their lives had become was Black Death hadn’t been sitting outside their office building for the last two months. The last thing their assistant Patty needed was her super ex-boyfriend stalking her. Sometimes though, Aisha wondered if Harri had made a mistake by siccing Black Death’s boss from Corvus on him. If the super was still sitting on their street in his old Honda, they knew where he was.

Aisha tapped the key to bring up Tim’s application. If either NASA or the ESA picked up the exoskeleton for use on the space station, the licensing fees would cover Francisco’s education, room and board through a couple of doctorates. She smiled to herself. That’s assuming their building manager Miguel could come to terms with the idea of his soon-to-be eight-year-old son going off to college, even though his oldest son Domingo would accompany his baby brother next fall. Rey had already set aside some of his money for Dom to pursue his business degree. It only made sense for him to attend college at the same time as his baby brother.

Harri managed to pit the federal and the state governments against each other over the damage caused by the fake Captain Justice, which meant Rey’s estate was intact. And Aisha had negotiated more licenses for memorial memorabilia once the FBI had declared Captain Justice dead. All the proceeds went into a trust governed by Miguel, Tim, and Harri along with Aisha. For once, she was thankful for her law partner’s insight. Harri had insisted Rey include a clause providing for any of his children in his will long before Aisha herself knew she was pregnant.

The expected tsunami of agony at missing him rolled over her again, and she blinked away the tears as she rubbed her abdomen. Her baby bump was starting to show. And Rey would never have the chance to see his son.

She touched the jade amulet at her throat that hung from a titanium chain.

Miguel had brought it to her loft the other night when he came up to talk about Francisco’s education. He’d found the amulet in a box of his late wife Beatrice’s belongings. It was the original one Rey had taken off in a child’s fit of pique over bath time. The jade piece’s original leather thong was too short for an adult.

She and Miguel had talked for a long time that night. Jokingly, he said if she could be a surrogate mom for Francisco and thirteen-year-old Javier, he’d act as her baby’s surrogate dad.

Then they both had a good cry.

The man they knew and loved was gone.

Rey was gone.

Byron Trubble, head of the black ops group known as Corvus, claimed Rey had been kidnapped without his authorization. Aisha didn’t believe him.

Trubble had also told Harri everyone at the facility where Rey had been held was dead.

That part Aisha did believe. She had no doubt Trubble had killed everyone to cover up his mess. Or he had Professor Paranoia, the supervillain Trubble had hired to run the lab, murder them.

Her office phone buzzed, interrupting her maudlin thoughts. She sniffed back the tears before she answered.

“Aisha, your sister’s on line one,” their assistant Patty announced. “Do you want me to put her through?”

“Yes.” She had a pretty good idea what the call was about. Maybe dealing with family issues would get her mind off her own problems.

The receiver buzzed and clicked. “Hey, LaShun, what’s up?”

“Oh, so I’m finally good enough to talk to?”

Aisha rolled her eyes even though LaShun couldn’t see her and leaned back in her office chair. “I’ve texted you when I can. It’s been a little busy around here.”

“So we’ve seen on the news.” LaShun laughed. “How’s living the high life with all the studly superheroes around?” Fresh grief brought a lump to Aisha’s throat.

“Ah, crap,” LaShun muttered. “I stepped into it, didn’t I? I take it you knew Captain Justice pretty well?”

Damn. Leave it to her big sister to stumble over the truth in the dark.

Aisha forced a laugh. “More like Harri wanted to adopt him.”

LaShun snorted. “Like she has a maternal bone in her body.”

Time to change the subject. “I’m assuming you’re calling about Mom and Dad’s upcoming anniversary. Did you need more money?”

“Yeah, it’s about their anniversary, and no on the money.” There was a sucking sound on the other end of the line. LaShun must be baking and licking the batter off a spoon. Or her finger. She did that whenever she was nervous or upset. “Did you know they were seeing a marriage counselor?”

“Are they? Good. I suggested it to Dad after their blow-up here back in May.”

LaShun’s sigh sounded relieved. “I told Mom the same thing when she showed up in Portland without him. The kids were bummed Dad wasn’t with her.”

“Really? You suggested they see someone?”

“Why does that sound so strange to you?”

Aisha laughed. “Because you always take Mom’s side!”

“And you always take Dad’s,” LaShun shot back. “Martin was the swing vote. He told them they weren’t invited to his wedding if they were going to act like spoiled, nasty children.”

“I doubt Renata would have let him disinvite his own parents.”

LaShun snickered. “Or maybe he realized she’d force him to go to Vegas if he did.”

“That’s because our baby brother is more invested in having the fairytale wedding than our future sister-in-law,” Aisha added.

“Anyway,” LaShun continued. “Back to Mom and Dad. She called this morning. The therapy must have worked because they want to renew their vows for their forty-fifth anniversary, instead of just doing a family dinner. Since their anniversary is on a Thursday this year, she wants to throw an engagement party for Martin and Renata the following Saturday, so we all aren’t making two trips down to Atlanta.”

Wow. Not only Mom, but LaShun thinking ahead? Maybe some of that therapy was wearing off on her big sister.

Aisha pulled her planner up on her computer monitor. “Okay, marking those dates on the calendar.”

“Also, I haven’t gotten an RSVP from Harri. She’s not pissed at Mom and Dad, is she? They’re both pretty embarrassed they blew her off when they were in Canyon Pointe.”

“No, she’s not. The invite’s probably in the mess of paperwork on her desk. I’ll nag her about it.” Aisha hesitated a second before she asked, “What about Jeremy and Leo?”

“I already talked to Leo, and he can’t get Jeremy to come. I don’t know why he thinks Mom and Dad wouldn’t approve of their marriage. They were pretty hurt Jeremy didn’t invite them.”

“Whoa! Roll that back. Leo and Jeremy got married? When the hell did this happen?”

“I know something you don’t know?” LaShun cackled.

“Quit dancing around your kitchen, bitch, and answer the question.” With everything that had been happening in hers and Harri’s lives, Jeremy must have been scared to share his little bit of good news.

“I think they both realized they’ve got a good thing. They were looking for a house together, and a week ago Saturday, they decided to make it official down at Judge Inunza’s office.”

“Thanks for making me feel like a total shit.” New tears formed in Aisha’s eyes. She’d been so consumed with her own petty problems she hadn’t paid any attention to the life of one of her best friends. “I’ll talk to Jeremy, too.”

“Or you could sic Harri on him.”

Aisha laughed. “I thought you wanted him to come.”

At the knock on her office door, she looked up. Harri Winters, her law partner, stood in the doorway with a large file and a serious expression.

“Speak of the devil. Harri’s in my office with her ‘we need to attorney’ look. I’ll call you later tonight.”

“You’d better, then you can tell me about her new boyfriend. Leo was pretty coy about it. Love you.”

“Love you, too.” Aisha set the receiver back in its cradle and held up a finger when Harri opened her mouth. “Before you get started, Mom and Dad’s forty-fifth anniversary is Thursday, September 6th, you’re invited for their vow renewal along with Martin’s engagement party the following Saturday, and LaShun’s ticked you didn’t RSVP for the original dinner.”

Harri’s jaw snapped shut. She closed the office door quietly behind her before she plopped in one of the visitor chairs. “That’s only a week away. Have you told them about the bun yet?”

Her ponytail swung as she inclined her chin toward Aisha’s abdomen. Her new chunky highlights shone bright against her dark hair. Harri had finally given in about letting Jeremy color her hair after the receptionist at Tim’s physical therapist’s office had asked if Harri were Tim’s mother.

Aisha rubbed her bump. “What do I tell them? That my son’s dad is already dead?”

“Sweetie, that baby is their grandson.” Harri set the file on the chair beside her and leaned her elbows on Aisha’s new desk. “You’re past your first trimester. It’s time to tell your family.”

“I just turned forty-one, and I’m not married.” Aisha shook her head. “If I wear some baggy clothes—”

“Then they’re definitely going to know something’s wrong. Baggy’s not your style.” Harri shook her head again. “And I may have to bow out. We don’t have your maternity leave replacement set up yet—”

“Wait!” Aisha sat up straight. “What happened to Susan Kennedy?”

“Nothing.” Harri used her fake soothing voice that drove Aisha insane. “She had to delay joining us for a week.” She waved at the stack of paperwork on Aisha’s desk. “But word’s getting out about us, and we’ve received a dozen requests for legal services this morning alone.”

“So, what you are doing a horrible job of saying is it’s not smart for both of us to be out of town right now.” Aisha eyed her partner. “How about you go to Atlanta instead and I mind the law firm?”

“Oh, no, no, no!” Harri sat up straight and waggled an index finger at Aisha. “You are not using me as an excuse to avoid your family. Besides, isn’t Jeremy invited?”

“He is, but—” Aisha hesitated. She hated spilling, but if Harri already knew. “Did you know he and Leonardo tied the knot?”

“I…yes,” Harri murmured. “If it makes you feel better, I wasn’t invited either.”

“But they told you. Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Aisha threw up her hands. Her eyes burned. Dammit, she was getting emotional over something so ridiculous. Stupid hormones. She reached for a tissue. “Why am I the last to know?” “Because…” Whatever Harri was about to say changed into a supercilious smile. The one she’d been wearing since the federal government presumed Rey was dead. The one that needed to be smacked off her face.

Aisha clenched her fists in her lap. She’d worked too hard to get her powers under control. At least she didn’t float to the ceiling every time she got upset any more.

“Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight?” Harri said with her fake brightness. “I’ll call Jeremy and tell him to bring Leo.”

“I don’t know what’s worse—being the fifth wheel at your dinner or the fact that you can’t cook.”

Harri looked down for a moment, but when her gaze returned to Aisha, some of the old Harri shone through. “You can’t spend every night moping in your loft.”

The intercom buzzed before Aisha could think of an appropriate rejoinder. Patty wouldn’t interrupt unless it was important.

“Guys, Tim needs you two in the basement. Like now. There’s a big problem with Qiang. Arthur is already on his way down.” The word “problem” probably didn’t cover whatever was happening downstairs. Qiang Reilly, AKA the superhero known as Sparx and one of their firm’s clients, was usually too proud to ask for help. And for her to go to their security chief, who was the former vigilante known as the Ghost Owl, much less accept assistance from their IT manager Arthur, who was the former supervillain Professor Venom, meant things were very, very bad.

“On our way.” Aisha stood. “C’mon. I’ll fly us down.”

“No, you are not,” Harri growled. She was up and out the door pretty fast for someone with no powers.

Aisha followed her into the reception area. “Aw, come on! I need to practice. What if I only have them another five months?”

Patty grinned as they approached her desk. “Still won’t let you fly her around, huh?”

“Shut up, or you’re fired,” Harri snapped as she raced past.

“Don’t worry,” Aisha added as she strode by their assistant. “I’ll rehire you.”

Patty chuckled behind them while Harri punched in the security code for the basement entrance.

Aisha closed the door behind them, vaulted over the railing, and floated down to the concrete floor twelve feet below. She had the code punched in and the second security door open by the time her partner jogged down the stairs.

“After you, madam.” Aisha gestured inside the old fallout shelter with a flourish.

“Show off,” Harri muttered.

Once through, Aisha resealed the door and reset the basement level security alarm. Angry voices echoed down one of the side hallways.

“That doesn’t sound good,” she murmured.

“What doesn’t sound good?” A perplexed expression twisted Harri’s face.

“Tim and Arthur arguing.” Aisha strode in the direction of the fight.

“Wait! Slow down!” Harri jogged up beside her. “Tim and Arthur are arguing?”

“Yeah.” Aisha slowed her pace. It had nothing to do with superpowers. Her legs were simply longer than Harri’s. “You can’t hear them?”

“Damn you and your super hearing,” Harri growled.

They reached the next security door. Harri made a point of pushing in front of Aisha to enter the code.

Her unplanned pregnancy had been a sore point with Harri, but the unexpected triggering of superpowers by Aisha’s hormones seemed to send her best friend over the edge. Not for the first time, she wondered why Harri had wanted to open their boutique law firm specializing in the representation of supers when she had resented them long before the asshole pretending to be Rey had pounded her boyfriend to a bloody pulp.

Harri wrenched the door open and winced at the obvious shouting, except Qiang had joined in the fray with the mix of English and Vietnamese obscenities. It was the fourth super who drew Aisha’s attention.

The one who wore her beloved Rey’s face.

She flew across the room and grabbed the man by the throat. His eyes widened, and his hands locked on her wrist. When she slammed him into the thick concrete wall, a puff of gray powder rose. She cocked her right fist back.

“No!” Harri inserted herself between Aisha and the imposter and tried to shove her back. “Aisha! You’re not a killer!”

“Get out of my way, Harri!” Aisha glared at the man who probably had murdered Rey and nearly succeeded with Tim.

“He was under a supervillain’s influence, and you know it,” Harri snapped. “It wasn’t his fault!”

“Look, I don’t blame you.” The man she only knew as Hunahpu released her wrist, and his hands dropped to his sides. “I deserve whatever punishment you want to dish out, but help me find my brother before you kill me.” “What?” Aisha said at the same time as Harri, who turned to face him.

“You heard Xquic when she took me.” Disbelief and worry crossed his face. Maybe he was concerned they would commit him to a psychiatric facility for talking about a Mayan goddess like she was real.

Except Aisha and Harri had an extended conversation with the woman claiming to be Xquic.

“Sh-she is certain Xbalanque, er, Reyes is still alive,” Hunaphu finished nervously. “She detected his…essence or whatever you want to call it.”

“Then tell me where he is,” Aisha hissed.

“I don’t know. Xquic doesn’t know either. She couldn’t pinpoint his location, and she wants him back alive as much as you do.”

“Why couldn’t she locate him? She’s supposed to be a goddess.”

He fumbled under the collar of his cream-colored polo shirt and produced a leather thong. At the end hung a piece of jade, green with a curved white streak. The Mayan symbols for love and protection were carved into the stone. The same symbols that had been carved into Rey’s amulet. Only his had a straight blue streak through the stone. “The protection spells she placed on our talismans hide us from everyone’s sight, mortal and immortal. She sensed him for a day, but before she could triangulate his position, she lost him. She believes he’s regained possession of his amulet.”

Aisha’s heart jumped. No. She slammed the door on that glimmer of hope. She couldn’t bear dealing with the loss of Rey again. And for all she knew the man in front of her lied, playing some game with her head. But damn, how she wanted his words to be true.

Slowly, she released Hunahpu and took a step back. “Or he’s already dead.”

“Don’t say that.” Harri’s shoulders sagged. “Tell her she’s wrong.”

Hunahpu shook his head, his attention focused on Aisha. “No, he isn’t dead. Our grandfather is the Mayan lord of the Underworld. If Reyes were dead, he’d be holding it over our mother’s head.”

“He’s lying!” Arthur’s anguished cry sent an answering tremor through Aisha.

She turned toward him. Sparx held him back as best she could on one leg. From the size of the gash on her thigh and the amount of blood dripping down her costume, she couldn’t put any weight on the other leg. Arthur trembled so bad Aisha doubted he noticed the superhero’s grip on his arms.

“Aisha?”

She faced Tim. The former vigilante superhero everyone else knew as Jatz’om Kuh, the Ghost Owl, sat in his wheelchair. The wheelchair Hunahpu had put him in. Tim was still facing another surgery on his left leg. The one Hunahpu had practically crushed while he pretended to be Captain Justice.

“Let’s hear him out.” Tim gazed thoughtfully at Qiang before his attention returned to Aisha. “Sparx wouldn’t have brought him down here if she weren’t convinced of his sincerity.” A wry smile quirked his lips. “The only one harder to convince than Sparx is Harri.”

Harri stepped from between Aisha and Hunahpu and gave him a vicious grin. “And if I don’t like what I hear, I won’t stop Aisha from killing you. Got me, jerkwad?”

“Yes, ma’am.” No mocking in his expression. If he were faking the total sincerity on his face, he was one hell of an actor.

Aisha glared at the super. It was their grade school playground all over again when she had been the new student, and the other girls had been picking on a much smaller one named Harri. This time though the stakes were a hell of a lot higher than bloody noses and scraped knees.

“I hope you really do understand my partner,” she said softly. “Because there won’t be enough of you for your people, whoever they really are, to fill a copper pot when I’m done if you’re lying about this.”

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hero De Novo - Chapter 1

It's been two weeks and a day since Hero Ad Hoc was released, and two weeks and a day before Hero De Novo comes out. So, I think it's fairly safe to give y'all a taste of what happens next...

==========
Rey Garcia stared at the woman with the gun, her words ringing through his head. They brainwashed Captain Justice to kill my ex-boyfriend. The Ghost Owl.

No. Tim couldn’t be dead. And how could I have killed him if I was a prisoner in this Corvus lab?

Despite the sick feeling in his stomach at the strange woman’s words, Rey tried to laugh, but pain shot through his side. The monster’s claws had cut deep enough to see bone, but he was pretty sure they hadn’t puncture his lungs. He wouldn’t have been able to draw a proper breath for his weak chuckle if they had.

“C’mon. The Ghost Owl is a Canyon Pointe urban myth,” Rey said. “How could Captain Justice kill a children’s tale?” Despite the drugged haze the morning he was abducted, he definitely remembered the man who looked just like him. Dios, if his doppelgĂ€nger had killed Tim, how could he live with himself? Bile rose in the back of Rey’s throat. And if the imposter had infiltrated his real life, that meant Aisha and their baby were in danger as well.

The woman gave him a suspicious look.

“I grew up on the east side of the Pointe.” He shrugged. “Everyone knows the story. Jatz’om Kuh, the Ghost Owl, is nothing more than the Robin Hood tale for this century.”

“No, he exists. Here.” The woman poked around the shelves of the lab some more. She pulled out a set of scrubs and shoved them at Rey. “These will work until we get to the mainland.”

“The mainland?” He accepted the wad of blue-green clothes. “What mainland? There aren’t any islands in Lake Del Oro.”

She paused and stared at him. “You really have no idea of where you are, do you?”

He shook his head.

“We’ll discuss it once we’re out of here.” She continued rummaging through equipment and supplies.

“No. We need to discuss it now.” He was fairly certain he heard the rhythm of the sea, but it could be the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean for all he knew.

A shiver ran through him. What if Corvus had taken him from the U.S.? How would he ever get back across the border? Harri Winters, one of his attorneys, had pulled a lot of strings to make it look like he was born there, even though Mama had said more than once she had carried him to the U.S. from Honduras. But he hadn’t carried any ID the morning he was abducted. No superhero in their right mind would carry their civilian ID with them when responding to an emergency.

The woman sighed and shook her head. “We’re on an abandoned oil rig off the coast of Java.”

“What?” His heart sank at his predicament. “You mean as in the capital island of Indonesia Java?”

“Why are you stalling? You said you were worried about Corvus agents coming back here.” She stopped shuffling through the last supply cabinet. Again, the suspicious look from the woman.

“I am, but for all I know, you could be one of them,” he said.

“How’d Corvus get you here?”

“I’m not sure.”

When she raised her gun and pointed it at him again, he tried to look non-threatening. He couldn’t risk injuring his only potential ally.

“The last thing I clearly remember is getting a text about an emergency and to come into work early.” He shook his head. “I got dressed and was flying—” He swallowed hard at his slip. “Down the freeway.” He hated lying to anyone, but as both Aisha and Harri repeatedly pointed out, total honesty could be a detriment in the superhero business.

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you registered?”

Dios, she was sharp. But given her admitted rage at Captain Justice, telling her he was the real thing wasn’t smart.

“My attorney was working on it before Corvus abducted me.” Which was true if he stretched the definition of truth. He sighed. “I’m not even sure how long I’ve been here, much less if it was really Corvus.” The head of the top secret organization had taken a personal interest in Rey years ago. He couldn’t imagine General Trubble not coming in to gloat over Rey’s capture. But as far as Rey knew, Trubble had never come here.

The stranger lowered her weapon again.

Rey ran his tongue over his dry lips. “What happened to the Ghost Owl in this epic battle between him and Captain Justice? If the real guy is as good as the myth—”

“The Ghost Owl wasn’t a super.” The woman slid into an undamaged chair and popped a flashdrive into a port on the last functioning computer work station. “He had enough tricks up his sleeves to fool a lot of people, but in the end, he was a mortal man.”

“So are you going after Captain Justice?”

“Not exactly.” The woman sagged in her seat. “According to the rumor mill, an unknown female super claiming to be the Ghost Owl killed him.”

“A woman? But you said…”

The stranger looked at him and rolled her eyes. “I know, right? So insecure she couldn’t create her own super persona? What a pussy!” She turned back to the monitor.

“But you just said the Ghost Owl was your ex-boyfriend, and you don’t know who she is?”

“I’m guessing she’s a family member.” The woman’s fingers danced across the keyboard. “An illegitimate daughter or something.”

“If Captain Justice is dead, there’s no one to exact your vengeance on,” Rey said.

“I’m going to find this woman, and then I’m going after Corvus, like I should have done years ago.”

“What’s your issue with Corvus?”

“Besides the possibility they were the ones who were mind-controlling Captain Justice?” She whirled on the chair to face him. Anger sparked in her eyes. “Those assholes used the Supervillainy Act of 1947 to take my daughters from me.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

New Release Day!

Hero Ad Hoc (888-555-HERO #2) dropped this morning! If you're one of the folks who pre-ordered, a copy should be on your Kindle or Kindle app right now.

I'm so excited about this release because I'm alive, healthy, and sticking to my writing and publishing schedule. Considering a year ago, I was facing some serious and possibly life-ending news, I'm more excited about a release than normal.

Also, Hero De Novo (888-555-HERO #3) is now up for preorder on Amazon.

Don't worry. I leave the initial trilogy on a good note, though I leave it open for sequels. I'm enjoying this series too much not to write more books. *grin*

And if you need a bright spot on Tax Day and you haven't picked up the first book in the series, Hero De Facto, it's currently free on Amazon today and tomorrow.

If you're enjoying these books, I'd appreciate it if you would drop a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thanks so much for reading!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Hero Ad Hoc - Chapter 4

Here's your last little taste of my latest superhero adventure before Hero Ad Hoc drops on Monday!

====================

Aisha bobbed in the air above her new couch, which was where Tim tethered her with her bathrobe belt while he fiddled with stuff in his equipment bag. Thankfully, the rest of her furniture arrived three days before everything hit the fan. Nothing else in the loft was heavy enough to hold her down other than their mattress. After the hugging incident in the atrium this morning, she didn’t want Rey to get the wrong idea about her and Tim by being alone with him in the bedroom.

The loft door rolled open. Rey entered with a woman she presumed was the mysterious Serena.

She turned out to be a green-haired young woman with a variety of features that said mixed-race and skin a shade darker than Aisha’s. Serena’s hand covered her mouth when she spotted Aisha. From the glint in her gorgeous, and equally green, eyes, Serena was trying not to laugh.

Aisha crossed her arms and glared at the younger woman. “If you can’t help, then get out of my home.”

The younger woman immediately sobered. “I apologize, Ms. Franklin. I know the sudden appearance of powers can be frightening.”

“I’m not frightened. I’m pissed,” Aisha snapped. And it was true. Any fear from this morning had disappeared when she had to grab the freaking toilet seat and hold on for dear life in order to do her business. “It’s bad enough I’ll look like a Macy’s balloon in eight months, but I’m already floating like one!”

Serena tossed her large bag on the couch. “First, we need to figure out if it’s the baby who has the powers or if it’s you.”

Aisha threw her hands up in the air. “Why the hell would I have powers now when I’ve never had them before?”

“You might have HRSP. Pregnancy hormones can do some strange things to a woman’s body.” Serena grinned. “My mom was also non-powered when she wasn’t pregnant, but she had a different ability with me and each of my four siblings. In my case, she was constantly setting stuff on fire.”

Aisha swallowed a groan. Hormone related super powers, aka HRSP, wasn’t the worst thing that could happen in a pregnancy, but it would be damn inconvenient if she started to float in front of cameras during a press conference for one of their clients.

“I guess I should be thankful I don’t have some destructive ability,” she said.

“Yep, my aunt started developing pure calcium deposits on her skin,” Serena tugged on the terrycloth tied to Aisha’s ankle, pulling her down toward the couch. “Couldn’t take a shower without blowing up the bathroom. Can you imagine not bathing for nine months? Rey, you wanna hang on to your girlfriend and keep her within my reach?” She turned to Tim. “You got my payment?”

The inventor grinned and held out a blue plastic rectangle the size of a shoebox with a wand attached. “One portable ultrasound device, madam.”

Rey flew up a couple of feet and wrapped Aisha in his arms before settling them both on the couch. Aisha wouldn’t have minded sitting on his lap if they didn’t have company, but it was aggravating as hell that it was the only way she could stay in place.

As she untied the belt from her ankle, she eyed the green-haired woman suspiciously. “Do you have a medical degree of some kind?”

“Does school count?” Serena pulled a stethoscope out of her bag.

“Not really,” Aisha said sourly.

“I’m working on my degree to become a physician’s assistant.” Serena looked at her, all joking gone. “You can go to your regular doctor, but do you know what’s going to happen if you do?”

Aisha knew all too well. Part of the Superhero Act of 1945 allowed the federal government to “rescue” babies with powers if they could justify to a judge the parents’ inability to handle things. With the recent attacks by Corvus, the Attorney General could easily claim hers and Rey’s lifestyle put any baby in eminent danger, which was why she hadn’t called her own doctor. In theory, the reason for a government guardianship was to give the kids a safe place to learn control of their abilities, but a lot of childcare experts questioned what the government nannies did to the kids. “Obviously, Rey didn’t tell you what I do for a living.”

If possible, Serena became even more somber. “Ms. Franklin, everybody in the neighborhood knows who and what you and Ms. Winters are. Rey isn’t the only super living around here. And the only reason I’m making a house call is because Rey and Jatz’om Kuh vouched for you.”

Two realizations struck as hard as one of Sparx’s electric bolts. The first being Serena knew Tim’s secret identity. The other made her heart break. “Your parents hid you and your brothers and sisters.”

“Not on purpose at first. Actually, my dad’s gift is the ability to hide a super’s freaky EEG readings, including his own.” Serena’s smile was gentle. “Now, shush while I check your heart.”

Biting her tongue, Aisha remained silent while the younger woman checked her heartbeat, her breathing, and her blood pressure. But when Serena took Tim’s invention from him, Aisha couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Don’t you need gel for an ultrasound?”

Tim shook his head. “Nope. Serena wanted something a little more powerful than standard equipment so she’s not limited in what she can do with it. This can resolve internal pictures closer to the level of an MRI machine than a standard ultrasound.” He grinned. “It’s one of the patents I want you to file.”

Serena reached for the top of the blue box, and his grin disappeared. “Wait! Don’t turn it on yet!” He headed back to the island that separated the kitchen from the living area and reached into his equipment bag. He produced a set of headphones. “For Rey’s ears.”

Once Rey was wearing the noise canceling headphones, Serena lifted the lid on top of the blue box, which had a screen, and pulled out a wand connected to the box by a long cord. She flipped on the power.

A high-pitched noise pierced Aisha’s eardrums. She cried out and slapped her palms over her ears.

Serena instantly punched the power button. “What is it? What’s wrong?” Alarm showed on Tim’s face as well.

“What’s wrong, azĂșcar?” Rey murmured.

Aisha lowered her hands. “It was like that thing rammed an icepick through my brain.”

“You could hear the subsonics?” Tim’s expression was a cross between puzzlement and expectation.

“Yeah, I guess.” Aisha peered over her shoulder. Rey had taken off the headphones. “Does it hurt you when you don’t have protective gear on?”

Rey nodded, looking a little embarrassed. “That’s what really happened with the kitchen counter in Patty’s apartment. Tim tested the unit when Miguel and I were installing the granite.”

Aisha cupped his cheek. “Oh, honey, why didn’t you guys just say so?”

Tim laughed. “You have met Harriet Winters, haven’t you?”

Harri had gone ballistic over the crushed stone countertop. She had wanted to have Patty ensconced in the Lechuza Building before she gave birth, regardless of what her poor, pregnant assistant wanted. And Harri’s interference in Patty’s life probably had more to do with Patty and Arthur’s budding romance. Harri still didn’t trust the former supervillain, even though he hadn’t been much of a supervillain to begin with by her own admission.

Aisha rolled her eyes. “You can’t let her bulldoze you. Follow mine and Patty’s example.”

The two men exchanged glances that implied she and Patty were just as much under Harri’s thumb as they were.

Tim turned back to his bag of tricks and pulled out another set of ear protection.

Aisha eyed him suspiciously. “Do you bring spares for every contingency?”

“No, but I thought we might need them.” Tim’s face quirked in the weird way she’d come to recognize the genius was working out some theory in his big brain. He stayed by the island. “Rey let go of her.”

“But I’ll just float to the freaking ceiling,” she snapped.

“Aisha, I need you to concentrate on wanting these headphones.” Tim held up the set. “You want them as bad as you want a cigarette.”

“But I don’t want a cigarette,” she protested.

“Hey, I used to smoke, too.” He grinned at her. “Haven’t touched ’em in twenty-five years, but I still remember the desire. Focus on wanting the headphones as much as that morning cigarette.”

Rey released her waist, and she immediately started to rise into the air.

She pushed down the threatening panic. It wasn’t like he couldn’t fly up and pull her off the damn ceiling. But she sure didn’t want to feel that icepick-through-the-brain thing again either. If the headphones covered her ears—

She moved, not upwards, but across the room toward Tim. In that realization, she lost her focus and started drifting upward again.

This is no different than taking the bar. Concentrate on one thing at a time.

Aisha narrowed her eyes and stared at the headphones. She shot across the space and stopped right in front of Tim.

Now, feet on the floor.

The sudden contact of her stilettos with the floor made her stumble, but Tim saved her from falling on her face. Behind her, applause erupted.

“Good job.” Tim grinned and released her.

“How’d you know I could control this?” Suspicion ran through her.

“Because I told him how my abilities manifested.” Rey swept her into a huge hug. “I knew you could do it.” His lips claimed hers, and she fell into the emotions swirling through her.

Someone cleared their throat, and she reluctantly pulled away.

“Now you know why she’s pregnant,” Tim said dryly to Selena.

“Shut up,” Aisha muttered.

“Can I check the baby now that we know you might actually be a teachable super?” Sarcasm ran thick in Serena’s voice.

“Fine,” Aisha muttered.

Serena gestured back toward the couch.

Aisha had to concentrate fiercely in order to reach the couch on her feet. It was like gravity was no longer her default setting. She sat gingerly on the edge. Rey perched on the couch beside her. They both donned their ear protection.

Serena plopped down on Aisha’s other side. She checked them both before she flipped the power switch on Tim’s device again.

A bit of a hum penetrated the noise-cancelling headphones, but it was nothing like the brain-piercing pain of the first time. Serena slowly drew the wand across Aisha’s abdomen. A picture developed on the screen.

Aisha just stared at the little white blob about the size and shape of a peanut. Her baby. The one she’d wanted for so damn long.

Rey tapped her shoulder, and she jumped. He wasn’t wearing his earphones, and he gestured for Aisha to remove hers.

“Is it in the right place?” she asked once she could hear.

Serena raised an eyebrow. “It’s not an ectopic pregnancy if that’s what you’re worried about. He’s definitely in your uterus.”

“Oh, god!” Tears blurred Aisha’s vision. “This is really happening.”

“When was your last period?” Serena pulled out a notepad.

Aisha swallowed hard at the standard question. Too many doctors asked the same damn thing at too many appointments. “Six weeks ago, but with the loss of one of my ovaries, I’ve started perimenopause, and I’ve never been regular before that.”

The younger woman chewed her bottom lip for a few seconds before she said, “I’d like to use my powers to check both you and the baby.”

“You said your mom started fires when she was carrying you. How do I know you won’t set me on fire?”

Serena’s grin was a little rueful. “If the issue is HRSP, the mom and the baby don’t necessarily have the same abilities. Like I said, once Mom delivered me, no more powers.”

Aisha leaned away from her. “Won’t x-ray vision hurt the fetus?”

“I can sense bodily functions.” Serena hesitated for a moment before she added, “And I can affect them.”

“Affect them how?”

“She’s a healer,” Ray murmured.

“Or she can make you sicker than a dog if you try to pimp little girls on River Street.” Tim chuckled.

Well, they needed to know what was going on. Aisha sucked in a deep breath and nodded.

Serena leaned forward and rested both her hands on Aisha’s abdomen.

Nothing really seemed to happen. Aisha half-expected the girl’s hands to glow or to feel something other than the touch. Serena straightened and smiled. “You’re about four weeks along, and he’s a perfectly healthy baby.”

“He? You keep saying he?”

“Oops.” Serena winced. “Are you one of those moms who wants to be surprised?”

“No, I just, I…” Aisha’s voice faltered. This time, her waterworks weren’t from panic or pain. She swiped at the tears and cleared her throat. “I never thought I’d hear those words.”

Serena closed up the equipment Tim had given her. “My place is above Celia’s bodega. I’ll get you started on prenatal vitamins.” She hesitated. “If it’s okay, I’ll contact a friend who has a medical license. She’ll keep quiet. I swear. But we’ll want an ally just in case.”

“In case something goes wrong,” Aisha murmured.

Serena nodded, even as Rey hugged her and growled, “Nothing’s going to happen to you or the baby.”

Aisha couldn’t help rubbing her stomach. She’d wanted a baby for so long. This should have been the best thing to ever happen to her.

So why did she feel like something awful would occur in return for getting her wish?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Hero Ad Hoc - Chapter 3

Sorry I posted this is a little late. I overslept. Again.

=========================
Arthur gazed lovingly through the nursery window. “Isn’t she absolutely adorable, Harri?”

Grace Harriet Ames looked like every other capped, red-faced, squalling infant in the hospital to Harri, but she nodded and said, “Absolutely,” anyway.

The nurse had shooed them out of Patty’s room in order to take care of the clean-up. When Harri had objected to the baby’s name, the same nurse also threatened to stab Harri with a scalpel for upsetting the new mother. She just wished Patty had warned her of the plan to give the baby the worst middle name ever.

“I could get the birth certificate changed,” Harri muttered. “The judge will understand Patty was on drugs when she filled out the form.”

“Quit acting like a baby yourself,” Arthur murmured. “Patty planned to name her after you and her aunt all along. You two have been the biggest influences in her life.”

Harri looked at the former-supervillain-wannabe turned tech-guy and doting daddy-wannabe. “Jeremy’s makeover has gone to your head.”

“No.” Arthur returned her gaze with a steady one of his own, something she wouldn’t have thought possible even a month ago. “Do you know why I targeted you last year? You were the heir to the Winters empire and one of the most prominent lawyers in the city. I thought you had the perfect life. One with power and prestige. The one I was cheated out of. When Corvus tried to set me up for the destruction of City Hall, I knew you would be the only one strong enough to find the real culprit. And you did.

“But on top of that, I got to know all of you, and I realized all of your lives were just as screwed up as mine. When none of you had a family to rely on, you made your own.”

He turned back to watch Grace with an even more lovestruck expression on his face. “The best I can do is take everything you guys have given me and give it to Gracie. Give her the family all of us wanted, but none of us had.”

Harri swallowed hard to get the lump out of her throat. Who would’ve thought the former Professor Venom was a sentimental sap? “You’re right, Arthur. That’s the best present we can all give Grace.”

She sniffed to get the snot out of her sinuses. Otherwise, she’d start bawling, and the babies didn’t need to be frightened by her ugly-cry face. “I need to let Aisha and the guys know how Patty and Grace are doing.”

“Okay,” he murmured, but Harri was pretty sure he hadn’t heard a thing she said.

She headed out to the cell phone patio. Thankfully, she was the only one there. She pulled out her phone and dialed the office number.

“Winters & Franklin, attorneys at law. How may I direct your call?”

Harri laughed. “Why, Ms. Franklin, you almost sounded like a professional receptionist.”

Aisha answered with a creative epithet for a female cat. “Gimme the stats.”

“Grace Harriet Ames. Born at four-fifty-eight p.m. Seven pounds, two ounces. Eighteen inches. All the fingers and toes, and healthy as a horse. On the other hand, Patty may be here an extra day.”

“What happened? Is she okay?” Panic edged Aisha’s voice.

Harri winced. That had been careless of her. Aisha was already hyper over her own situation.

“Patty’s blood pressure was a little high, and she had more bleeding than the OB was comfortable with. She wants to make sure everything is under control before she sends Patty and Grace home.”

“Room number?”

“No. No flowers.” Harri gestured emphatically even though Aisha couldn’t see her. “That’s one more thing we’ll have to haul home. Have ’em delivered to the apartment when she’s released from the hospital. If you want to help, decorate Patty’s place. It’s not like you need a ladder.”

A groan vibrated through the receiver. “Can we not talk about this right now?”

“Fine.” A zillion issues dammed up behind the idea of her best friend being pregnant. By one of their clients, no less. “How’d the meeting with our indecent proposal go?”

“I think I have her convinced that changing her atrocious hero moniker would go a long way toward improving her image.”

“Uh-oh. That implies there are other issues.”

“She claims she gets the biggest power boost by, um, you know.”

Harri sat down on one of the decorative benches. “You’re kidding me, right? I always thought her Meg Ryan imitation was part of her shtick.”

“Nope, not an imitation. That may be a bigger hurdle than the name change.”

“Keep her or drop her?”

“She didn’t even blink at our rates, and Cobblestone did recommend her. He’s been our best referral for new clients.” Harri rolled her eyes. Maybe it was a good thing they couldn’t see each other. She still thought Aisha should have pressed assault charges even though Corvus had extorted Cobblestone to deliver their warning to her. However, the condo association bought out Aisha’s upside down mortgage at the full amount just to get her out of the building after the destruction Cobblestone and Rey had wrought in their battle. The insurance settlement had been a nice bonus, even though they immediately dropped her policy due to the excessive payout.

“That didn’t answer my question,” Harri muttered.

“She wrote the check for the retainer on the spot.”

Harri snorted. “What happened to discussing a client together before we agree to represent them?”

Aisha chuckled. “When I told her that, she wrote the check for three times our requested amount. I said you still had final say in the matter no matter how many zeros she wrote.”

Time to address the pink elephant in the room. “Did you make it through the day without any more floating?”

“No.”

Harri could have sworn she heard Aisha’s teeth grinding. “You’re not on the ceiling right now, are you?”

“No, I am not. Can we please talk about this later?”

“You’re going to need to tell Rey—”

“I know that!”

“Hey! I’m just trying to—”

“Fix it. Just like you do with everyone’s problems. But this isn’t your thing to fix, Harri.” After three Mississippi’s, Aisha added, “I love you. You know I do, girl, but this is between me and Rey.” She groaned. “And he’s knocking on my office door right now because I said I’d discuss my floating problem after five since I had to cover the phones as well.”

“Didn’t you call the temp agency? I had one already lined up!”

“No yet.” A burst of static was followed by a muffled “Come in!” Aisha muttered, “I’ve got to go. Talk to you later.”

The signal died.

Harri stared at her phone. Maybe Aisha was right. Maybe this wasn’t her business. Hell, she couldn’t get her own shit together with Tim.

No, this literally was her business. If Aisha would be out on maternity leave in eight months, they needed to get their ducks lined up now. Harri scrolled through her contacts list for potential replacements.

* * *

Rey peered around the door. “You still busy?” he mouthed.

Aisha resisted the urge to slam down the receiver and replaced it gently in its cradle. Harri was simply the way she was. She gestured to Rey. “No, come on in.”

Tim followed Rey into the office and closed the door behind him.

The light-headed feeling struck, but after Screaming Orgasm had left, she’d managed to fashion a rubber band chain that kept her tied to her office chair.

She tried to imitate Harri’s patented look-of-death glare. “Did you need something, Tim?”

“Information,” he said.

Both men plopped down on the visitor chairs across from her desk.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were a super, too?” Rey frowned.

“I’m not, honey.” She turned to Tim. “Can I have a private conversation with Rey first?”

“No,” they replied in unison.

“If something’s wrong, it affects us all,” Rey said sternly.

“Oh, god.” Aisha buried her face in her hands. “This wasn’t how I wanted to tell you.”

“Tell me what?” Rey’s large warm hands drew hers away from her face.

She looked up at him, or the blurry vision of him. Damn, she thought she’d gotten the waterworks out of the way this morning. “I’m pregnant.”

“B-b-but you said—”

Aisha tamped down the urge to scream the words. “I know what I said. I don’t know how this happened.”

“Really? You don’t know how this happened? Do I need to have ‘the talk’ with you two?”

She and Rey glared at Tim.

Tim’s smile faltered. “It is Rey’s, right?”

“Why do white men always assume anyone with their lack of pigment can’t control their urges and screw everything in sight?” In her righteous indignation, Aisha started to stand and was quickly reminded of her rubber band belt.

“It’s called ruling out other possibilities,” Tim said dryly. “If you’re carrying a super baby, it would explain your floating.” He pulled out his phone. “Have there been any other side effects, and when did they start?”

“She needs a doctor,” Rey said. “And you’re not one.”

“True, but she can’t go to her regular doctor.” Tim eyed her as if wanting to know whether her ob/gyn could be trusted.

Aisha shook her head. “Given my medical history, there’d be too many questions. And I don’t want to put Rey’s identity at risk.”

“Your health and the baby’s are more important than my secret identity.” Rey crossed his arms, a stubborn look on his beautiful face.

“She’s right,” Tim said softly. “If you care about her, we need to keep this quiet. For everyone’s sake.” He regarded her once again. “Any other symptoms?”

She wanted to sag in her chair, but she couldn’t. From the rocking of the wheels, she was barely on terra firma as it was. “Just the floating. And it started this morning after the last pregnancy test.”

“Time?” Tim asked at the same moment Rey blurted, “Last pregnancy test?”

“Around seven.” She met Rey’s incredulous stare. “After the governor called you in, I couldn’t sleep. Normally, when I have insomnia, I’d go out on my balcony and smoke.” Rey’s mouth opened, and she held up her hands. “I know I promised to quit, honey. That’s when I realized I hadn’t touched a cigarette in a couple of weeks. And my period was late,” she finished in a tiny voice.

Aisha sucked in a deep breath. Neither Rey or Tim said anything, waiting for her to finish. Harri hadn’t let her get this far during their morning discussion. “So I walked down to the bodega and bought a test kit. They were both positive.”

“Both?” Tim looked at her askance. “You said you bought one.”

“Celia carries the two-packs because they are cheaper,” Rey offered.

Tim cocked an eyebrow. “How would you know?”

Rey’s face turned a deep scarlet. “I overheard Marta talking to her daughters when I was washing dishes at the restaurant.”

Aisha cleared her throat. “Anyway, I went back and bought two more two-packs. They were all positive as well.” “Does anybody else know?” Tim asked.

Aisha shook her head. “Just Harri.”

“You told Harri before you told me?” Hurt filled Rey’s gold eyes.

“Honey, you were off fighting dinosaurs, and well—” Guilt overrode Aisha’s anxiety. The last thing she wanted was to hurt Rey. “She walked in here when I was freaking out about the whole thing and started floating the first time.”

“It’ll be okay.” He smiled that glorious smile of his. “I promise.” He turned to Tim. “Serena?”

Tim nodded firmly. “Serena.”

Suspicion tingled along Aisha’s nerves. She shot each man a look. “What’s a Serena?”