Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sacrificied - Chapter 4

Tiffany

“That doesn’t make sense,” Alex said once I laid out my reasoning.

I jammed my hands on my hips. “Why?”.

“Ellie is nearly four years old. Not an innocent fetus in utero. All the other women they’ve abducted were pregnant, or they were impregnated by a full dino demon. And she’s definitely not a god.”

“You’re right. She’s not any of those things.” Sam actually looked worried, which fed the fear in my gut. “What she has is my DNA.”

Phil stepped closer to me and wrapped an arm around my shoulders even as she stared at my sister-in-law. “But Bebe said the nanites were rewriting your DNA.”

“No.” I shook my head. “It’s more like expanding it.” Everyone stared at me. For all their various talents, no one, not even Alex, who had a year of medical school back in the 1800’s, really understood Bebe’s explanation of non-human genetics.

I rolled my eyes. “You all understand the basic double-helix, right?”

Everyone gave me dirty looks, except Siobhan who laughed and said, “The twisted ladder, right? It’s the same regardless of whether we’re Norm, were or witch.”

“Yeah.” I didn’t want to admit how reassuring Phil’s hug was. “Vamps, too. In their case, the V-virus replaces sections of the ladder. It doesn’t change the basic shape. Because of the changes the nanites are making, Sam’s DNA resembles a snowflake just like Grandpa Ares’s.”

My sister-in-law scowled and crossed her arms. “My precious little snowflakes don’t change the fact that Ellie’s my blood relative.”

“No, it doesn’t.” The hard lump in my belly grew. “Like I said, it’s also the fact that she’s an innocent.” Alex snorted. “Innocent my ass. Not the way she took me in poker tonight—”

“Poker?” I glared at him. My fingers twitched next to the pocket where I kept sharpened number two pencils. Dammit, I told Max dinner only. The guys’ poker nights often went into the wee hours, far too late for my daughter to be staying up. Ellie would be cranky and impossible in the morning—

The tightening of my throat threatened to choke me as I realized I may never see her again.

“Tiffany’s right. They need a virgin,” Siobhan said. “And Ellie would be the only one within Sam’s lineage.”

“Why would a dinosaur god get hung up on virginity? Wouldn’t her relationship to me be enough?” Sam interrupted. She saved Alex from a staking and Siobhan from a shooting. And me from charging off half-cocked.

“Because our society is hung up on a woman’s lack of sexual experience.” I hugged myself again. “The dino demon has to play by our rules, magickally speaking.”

Phil leaned back to face me. “Are you trying to replace Bebe as our resident magick expert?”

I knew she was trying to lighten the mood by teasing, but I was too worried for it to do any good. “I’ve been studying everything I could get my hands on since we found out what Sam was becoming.”

“So what do you expect me to do?” My sister-in-law didn’t look very happy. “I can’t conjure Ellie out of thin air if I can’t find her.”

“Odds are they’re only hiding Ellie from you and Grandpa Ares,” I pointed out.

“That doesn’t help us...” Ares’s expression shifted from irritation to confusion as Sam’s shit-ass grin grew to match mine.

“Marcus is one stupid son of a bitch,” she said.

“You can do it, right?” I didn’t like doubting Sam. It had nothing to do with her smiting me, and everything to do with my fear I was grasping at straws.

Her smile darkened. “Oh, I can do the tracking spell. I just can’t guarantee the results.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Modicum of Truth Is Out!

Yep, the longest book I've ever written is now available. Just, please, PLEASE don't ask me when A Matter of Death will be out. I may have to lash you with a wet noodle if you do.

P.S. I'll add links on the Justice page as other retailers go live.

P.P.S. All of my books are now available on Google Play!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sacrificed - Chapter 3

Tiffany

Standing in my own living room, I glared at Alex Stanton. Yeah, technically he was my boss, but I couldn’t believe what he’d done. “My daughter is missing, my husband had the shit beat out of him, and you called my mommy on me?”

He crossed his arms. “No, but you’re are making me wish I had.”

I glanced over at my foster mom, Phillippa Mann-Stanton, who stood at the entryway to the rest of our house. She spoke in low tones with Siobhan Sifuentes, the beta of the Lannigan werewolves, probably comparing scents or some other supernatural bullshit. I did my best to ignore the gigantic bloodstain amidst the scattered toys on my beige carpet.

Max’s blood.

I tried to shove the memory of finding the nearly unrecognizable body of my husband on the living room floor into a deep, dark hole in the back of my brain. If I thought about it too much, if I thought about what some stranger may be doing to my precious little girl…

Work the problem, Tiffany!

Somehow, Max managed to text 9-1-1 to me when I was driving home from my quantum theory class. I’d been running late because I stayed to ask the professor a couple of questions. Max could have been trying to dial emergency services for all I knew. And I wouldn’t know until he woke up.

If he woke up. I didn’t need a medical degree to understand how bad his injuries were. And if I thought about the broken body of the man I loved too much, I would be useless to Ellie.

Stop it!

I took a deep breath. I had to focus on what I could control—the search for my missing daughter. So far, we hadn’t found any evidence that my baby had been hurt. But that didn’t mean—

From the expression on Alex’s face, he’d seen that awful thought in my head.

“You’re implying I can’t do my job,” I said through gritted teeth.

He lowered his voice. “You’re too close, and we both know it. Go be with your husband. We’ve got this. You know we will do everything we can to find her. Between Phil, Siobhan, and your grandfather, we have this covered.”

“Duncan and my in-laws are at the hospital,” I ground out. “Duncan will let me know when Max is awake. And if I have to listen to that bitch tell me how this is my fault one more time, so help me, I will stake her.”

“I’ll hold her for you,” said a familiar feminine voice behind us.

Alex and I both jumped and whirled to find my sister-in-law dressed in her goddess clothes. In other words, she resembled Neo if Keanu Reeves had a blond ponytail and boobs.

“How many times have I told you to cut the creepy crap, Sam?” I holstered my gun. A little part of me was pleased Alex had to do the same. Someone catching a Normal like me off guard was one thing. A goddess of death getting the jump on any vampire, especially him as the Augustine chief enforcer, had to be embarrassing as shit.

“I’ve already been to the hospital.” she shrugged. “There’s nothing I can do there. I figured you could use my help.” She closed her eyes, but they quickly popped open. “What the fuck! I can’t sense Ellie.”

“Try expanding your search outside of my neighborhood,” I snapped. And the gods only knew what the neighbors thought with the extra vehicles parked in front of our house. Hopefully, they thought the werewolves were police dogs. I sure as hell couldn’t contact Normal police in the assault on my husband and the disappearance of my daughter.

Sam glared at me. “I searched the whole solar system. Unless you’re suggesting she was taken by Klingons.”

Ice formed in my stomach. As much as I ragged on Sam about the deity stuff, I figured between her and Phil’s dad being Ares, the Greek god of war, Ellie would be home within a couple of hours. The only other time I’d been this scared, the psycho bitch who had killed my parents had me by the short and curlies.

But her grandson was still running around causing trouble—

Rage roared through as I realized what my boss had been hiding, the real reason he didn’t want me inside my own home. I whirled and jabbed a finger in Alex’s chest. “Marcus Giovanni was here. You knew, and you didn’t tell me!”

My fist clenched of its own accord and launched itself at Alex’s face. Phil’s tight grip stopped the blow millimeters from his nose. I glared at her.

Her expression held the same fierceness it had when I was twelve and had nearly gotten myself killed by rogue vampires when I skipped school. The one that said she wasn’t tolerating any more of my bullshit. It didn’t matter that we all knew hitting Alex would hurt me far more than it would him.

Which was probably why he was going to let himself be my punching bag. Better I take it out on him than some innocent Normal.

Well, if my foster mom wanted in the middle of this, I could turn my impotent wrath on her. “I promise not to try to deck Stepdaddy anymore—tonight.”

Phil released me and turned to Sam. “I’m glad you’re here. There’s something Father and I want your opinion on.”

“If you mean the lizard people scent, I picked it up the moment I ‘ported in here.” Sam had none her usual snarkalicious attitude which scared me more than I wanted to admit. In fact, she was as all icy seriousness as Phil. I folded my arms over my chest. “Is this the first sign you’ve had since the Las Vegas incident?”

“Yes.” She drew the word out, like how dare I question her.

“Then maybe we need to pool our resources.”

“I don’t need your help.”

Maybe Ellie’s terrible twos had taught me some patience. When my sister-in-law and I first met, we snapped at each other like rabid dogs before settling down and getting the job done. But now...

“What’s the problem? You afraid I have more skills than your new buddies?” Okay, maybe I did snap after all. Sam’s eyes started to glow. Not blue neon like they should if she were a vampire, but the reflective silver of liquid mercury.

And her pissy attitude just made me tired. I shook my head. “That intimidation shit isn’t going to fly with me. I was raised by vampires and a demigoddess. Either be part of the team and help me find my daughter, or get the fuck out of my house.”

Both Alex and Phil held their breath, but I calmly returned Sam’s gaze. Hell, if she smote me, Duncan would know for sure she was a danger to the human race and the sidhe.

After a long, tense moment, Sam’s eyes slowly faded to their normal, human blue. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I can’t always control it sometimes.” Her attention flicked to someone behind me. “Don’t fucking say it.”

I turned to find Grandpa Ares standing next to Siobhan in the entryway to the rest of the house, looking like a male supermodel as usual in his jeans, t-shirt, and boots. He ignored Sam’s temper tantrum, and Sam herself. “I discovered how the lizard got in, Cherry Blossom. In turn, it opened the door for Giovanni and the rest.”

Grandpa Ares’s nickname for me should have made me feel all warm and gushy. Instead, my fingers clenched with the need for my favorite vampire weapon. “Bastard didn’t learn anything from his previous experience with you, did he?”

“Apparently not, Cherry Blossom.” He grinned, but it was one that would have scared the piss out of most people. Especially with the literal flames in his eye sockets. It reassured me knowing if anything happened to my daughter, he’d hold the fuckers down while I peeled the skin off their bodies.

Like any other Normal Family, Max and I took precautions against not-so-friendly supernaturals. But how do you protect your loved ones against what were basically sentient velociraptors?

I wasn’t dumb enough to cry “Why me?” either. I knew damn well why they’d invaded my home. They wanted to take down Sam before their boss tore into our dimension since she was the only one who could supposedly stop him. My family was simply the most convenient bait.

And I would be dead or in the hospital too if I hadn’t had a night class this term. Thinking about how long Max would have been lying on the carpet bleeding if I’d gone out for coffee with some classmates instead coming straight home— “It’s not your fault.” Alex rested a hand on my shoulder.

“I know that,” I growled.

He didn’t reprimand me for my lack of respect. He just squeezed my shoulder briefly before we followed Ares back toward the bathroom.

I squeezed in beside the god. Our bathroom was too small for everyone, so they settled for watching from the doorway. My foster grandfather pointed beneath the sink, and I crouched down to look. The access panel to the plumbing was loose. Three-toed scratches marred the Lovely Lavender paint Max had so carefully applied to the walls around the metal panel.

I held up my hand and compared the scratches against my spread fingers. “These are awfully small for even a lizard bred through a supernatural.”

“It would have to be small to get through the crawl space beneath the house and gain the entry to the pipe conduit,” Ares said.

Sam ripped through more than George Carlin’s seven words, though I noticed she left out anything referring to a deity. “The bastard’s set up another nest.”

“Let it go, Sam,” Phil said. “If the baby got in here, it’s already too late for the mother.”

I’d seen the crime scene photos from Seattle, Tuttle Creek in Montana, and Las Vegas. The Normals in Washington never had a chance. As far as we knew, only one of the supernaturals survived the breeding attempt in Montana last year, and that was because Alyson’s alpha Logan had been there to save her ass and call in the cavalry. Marcus and his rogues had dumped the body of a part-fae woman after she’d died during delivery somewhere they knew the Vegas werecoyotes ran during the full moon.

Something else bothered me though. “So they’re immune to silver and garlic. It doesn’t explain how the baby lizard didn’t trip off the motion sensors.”

“Because you don’t have them in here, and they don’t point at the ceiling in the rest of the house, Cherry Blossom,” Ares said.

I followed his index finger. Tiny pin-pricks marred the wall paint from the panel under the sink with a detour around the hamper before reaching the top of the door frame. You couldn’t see it unless you knew what you were looking for. The damn thing could have been clinging to the ceiling while I was showering this morning for all I knew.

“Shit.” I ducked back into the hallway and followed the pinpricks along the wall near the ceiling. They ended by diving straight down to the security pad. I popped the cover. Sure enough, the circuitry had been bypassed.

Alex was right. I made a rookie mistake because I was too involved. I had assumed my husband had turned off the alarm when he got home.

“You think you can keep it together when you get the ransom call?” Alex asked.

Calls. I needed to call Jessie and let her know Ellie and I wouldn’t make tomorrow’s play date. My cousin Jessie. A doomsday cult called the Sunshine Believers had kidnapped her five years ago, intending to sacrifice her unborn son to the Old Ones, the ancient gods of the dinosaurs. Just like they’d tried to sacrifice Grandpa Ares four years ago. Not to mention, Siobhan’s husband Jorge, a Normal detective with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office, had discovered Jessie wasn’t the first woman connected to the Augustine Vampire Coven those assholes had kidnapped with the intent to kill.

I couldn’t suppress the sick feeling in my gut any longer as everything clicked into place. “We’re not going to get a ransom call. They plan on sacrificing Ellie to summon an Old One.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Status Report - January 2018

I can finally say A Modicum of Truth is in the production phase! As in I sent the files to my incredible formatter Jaye Manus at QA Productions last night right before five p.m.

This book kicked my ass. It is literally the longest book I've ever written, clocking in at a final word count of 100,362.

Yeah, yeah, I know the word count was at 89K when I finished the first draft. I'm one of those weird writers who add words to a manuscript--all the 'a's, 'to's, 'the's, 'her's, etc. while taking out the unneeded 'that's and 'just's.

Unfortunately, when I write, I don't see the words. I see a movie playing in my head, and I'm trying to take notes.

Sacrificed is next on the block. I'm considering doing a preorder for it, so y'all will know exactly when it is coming out.

After that will be Hero De Facto, which the lovely Elaina Lee at For the Muse Design is currently working on the covers for the series.

But whatever you do, don't ask me when A Matter of Death will be done. My brain needs a break, and I'll have to lash you with a wet noodle if you do.

P.S. A new chapter of Sacrificed will be up next week!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sacrificed - Chapter 2

Sam

I ‘ported to Duncan before he finished his sentence.

He blinked and lowered his cell phone. “Someday, someone will capture you on camera,” he muttered.

I glanced around me. We were in a private conference room in the Laura Lannigan wing of Good Samaritan hospital in Los Angeles. Just us. “Where’s Max?”

“In surgery.”

I charged for the closed door, but Duncan grabbed my arm. I halted before I accidentally ripped his offending limb off. To say things between me and my husband were strained was the understatement of the century.

“Ellie is missing.”

“Why didn’t you say—” I cut off my words at his irritated look. Because I hadn’t given him a chance to tell me, that’s why. I cleared my throat. “What happened?”

“We were at Caesar’s home for dinner.”

I frowned. “Tonight’s poker night.”

Duncan pressed his lips in a straight line.

I raised my hands. “Sorry. I won’t interrupt again.” It would have been easier to read his mind, but part of our marital issues was due to my becoming exponentially more powerful than him. Rifling through his thoughts would not help the situation.

“Thank you.” He sucked in a large gulp of air. “From the preliminary evidence, whoever attacked Max was waiting in the house when he and Ellie arrived home. Tiffany found him on the living room floor.”

All the energy seemed to rush out of Duncan. “He has broken bones, severe internal injuries, and—” His voice hitched. “Bebe is most concerned about the bleeding near his brain stem.”

“She’ll call in a healer or two from Silver Bear. Her grandmother’s the high priestess of the coven for crying out loud.”

“She has,” he said tightly.

Duncan’s attitude was really starting to piss me off. “Then what’s the issue?”

“You do not seem to be taking this seriously.”

“Of course, I’m taking this seriously.” I threw up my hands. “But this isn’t the first time one of us has been in the hospital.”

His eyes flashed neon green. “Nor is it the first time you have forgotten the rest of us are not immortal.” He pivoted on his boot heel, whipped open the door, and stalked out of the room.

Well…crap. Ever since he found out the damn nanites were turning my original human DNA into god DNA, his panties had been in a wad. I knew his ego was still firmly planted in the sixteenth century, but I was getting pretty fucking tired of his resentment that goddess trumped vampire in the power department. It wasn’t like he didn’t know what I was when we actually tied the knot.

So I did what any irritated wife did when her husband walks out of the middle of an argument. I followed him.

“So what are you saying?” I asked when I caught up with Duncan at the elevator bank. “Bebe and her people can’t help Max?”

“They do not know yet,” he said softly.

My stomach lurched at the sadness in his tone. “Come on, my big brother’s too tough to kill.”

Duncan didn’t even acknowledge my smartass comment. The elevator dinged. I followed him into the car.

So I tried to be as grim as he wanted me to be. “Have you called my parents yet?”

Duncan stared straight ahead. “They are upstairs in the waiting room.”

His statement felt like a punch in the gut. “You called Mom and Dad before you called me?”

His jaw muscle twitched. “I tried you first, but as usual, you did not answer.”

I opened my mouth to rip him a new one...

And shut it before I did. I hated that he was right.

I’d taken one fucking mental health day. I went to Paris for lunch after spending the morning exploring the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon. After a delicious meal on the Seine, I headed out to Pluto to check out its heart-shaped formation. It was such a thrill not to need travel money, or oxygen tanks, to visit all the places I dreamed of as a kid. I just kept forgetting that my cell service didn’t extend past the International Space Station.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“I do not want to fight, darling,” he said softly.

The fact that it’d been forever since he called me “darling” hit me even harder than the fact that he’d reached my parents first. Maybe we needed to look into marital counseling.

The elevator doors parted, and we exited. Only Mom and Dad sat in the surgical waiting room.

I learned in and whispered, “Where’s Tiffany?”

An exasperated sigh issued from Duncan. “At the moment, irritating the hell out of the enforcers looking into her daughter’s kidnapping.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sacrificed - Chapter 1

Max

Max Howell tossed ten M&Ms on the pile in the middle of the kitchen table. “See your five and raise you five, Caesar.” The vampire master’s left eyebrow twitched, but he said nothing. Max turned and watched the players on his other side.

Duncan held up his cards to consult with his partner sitting in his lap. “What do you think, Ellie?”

Max tried not to smile at his daughter’s serious expression while she examined her uncle’s hand. She’d inherited the St. James blue-black hair, but somehow ended up with the Howell blue eyes.

“Hey, that’s cheating!” Alex said. His protest emphasized the Texas accent he’d kept for over a century and a half.

“You had the opportunity to obtain your own partner, Stanton.” Caesar smiled over the top of his cards.

“At least Phillippa plays poker,” Colin grumbled. “You should have heard the lecture I got about gambling.” The last scion of the famed Fitzgerald political family scowled at his own hand.

“Auntie Anne is right. You’re not very good at poker, Uncle Colin,” Ellie’s sweet voice piped in. She tossed twenty brown M&Ms on the pile. “Raise you by another ten, Daddy.” She popped a blue one from her prodigious pile into her mouth.

Colin glared at her in mock outrage. “Did you talk Duncan into reading my mind? Because that cheating, too.”

“Dude,” Jake Wong drawled. “In case you hadn’t noticed, two mere Normals are kicking your supernatural ass, and one of them isn’t even in kindergarten yet.” He tossed the requisite number of M&M’s into the kitty.

Max checked his two cards again. Did the four vampires realize how obvious their tells were? Only the really crappy hands he’d drawn had kept his pile from being as big as Jake’s or Ellie’s.

Alex pushed his cards aside. “Too rich for me.”

After a bit of grumbling, Colin folded as well.

“I’m out.” Caesar laid down his hand.

Max made a show of checking his cards again. He’d played with Jake long enough to know his sister’s ex was bluffing. However, his sister’s husband couldn’t bluff to save his life even with Ellie as his partner. “I match your bet and raise you another five.” He added more candy to the growing pile.

Sure enough, Duncan whispered into Ellie’s ear, and she tossed the necessary amount of M&M’s into the kitty. “Raise you ten, Daddy.”

Jake tossed his cards face down on the table. “Mazel tov, kid. Maybe your mom and dad will let you come to Vegas with me next weekend.” He winked at Ellie.

“Can I, Daddy?” She bounced in her excitement. “Uncle Duncan and Aunt Sam will let us stay with them.” She batted her big blue eyes at her poker partner. “Won’t you, Uncle Duncan?”

“Of course, you may visit.” He glared at Jake. “But you need to ask your mother first.” Silently, Duncan mouthed over Ellie’s head, “And you are not taking her on the casino floor, Wong.”

That didn’t mean Duncan wouldn’t set up a private room for Ellie with staff to play with her. Hopefully, her presence would get Sam to...

Max clenched his jaw at the disturbing thoughts. To what? Relax? Rejoin the human race?

Except his baby sister wasn’t human. Not any more. And she’d become obsessed with hunting down the rest of the saurian demons who’d managed to escape the Battle of Tuttle Creek last year. Even Duncan had admitted Ellie was the only thing linking Sam to the mortal plane these days.

Max stared at the flimsy cardboard in his hand. Duncan would totally lose it if Sam simply didn’t come home from one of her hunting trips one day.

“Daddy!”

Max realized with a start Ellie had been calling him more than once. “Sorry, sweetie. Just thinking about what I should do.” He tossed his matching bet on the pile. “I call.”

Ellie squealed in glee. “Three kings!” She laid down her cards.

Max smiled. He may not be able to save his sister, but he could damn well make his daughter happy. He laid his full house face down. “You win, sweetie.”

She clapped her hands. “Another hand.”

“No. I said this was the last one for tonight.” At her pout, he added, “But we can play more this weekend when we go visit Duncan and Sam.” Tiffany wouldn’t argue too much about a father-daughter weekend road trip. With the class load she was taking, she needed some serious study time.

“Can Uncle Jake come, too?”

Max hesitated for a moment. Jake and Sam’s ancient engagement was a sore point with Duncan even though Sam was long over the stunt man turned enforcer.

“Yes, he may,” Duncan said.

“Yay!” Ellie jumped off his lap and ran around the table, singing, “We’re goin’ to Vegas!”

Max rose and stretched, only to have Jake grab his arm and pull him into the foyer of Caesar’s mansion.

“You sure this is a good idea?” Jake’s brown eyes reflected Max’s concern. “I was joking about Vegas. I won’t come if it’ll cause problems.”

Max glanced at the vampires, who were studiously ignoring him and Jake. He knew damn well they could hear everything they said, but he was grateful they kept Ellie entertained while they cleared drinks and snacks so he and Jake could talk.

“Actually, yeah, it would be good if you came. Nothing against Duncan—”

“I am glad to know you bear me no ill will.”

Max jerked and glared up at his brother-in-law. How could someone with his bulk and height sneak up on anyone? “I really need to put a bell on you.”

Duncan’s smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. He turned his attention to Jake. “You are most definitely welcome to visit the Karnak. I think it would do Samantha some good.”

A sick feeling filled Max’s gut. Duncan wanting Jake at the hotel/casino he ran said volumes. “Are things getting worse?”

“Define ‘worse’.” Duncan grimaced.

“She’s been coming home, hasn’t she?”

“It is not the coming home that disturbs me.”

Alex joined them. “My father-in-law isn’t trying to put the moves on her again, is he?”

Max leaned around the men to check on Ellie. Caesar galloped down the main hallway of his mansion with her on his back. Max shook his head. If he filmed the vampire master, and former prince of Egypt, playing horsey with his daughter, he could make a mint. He just wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy it.

“No, she has made her wishes in the matter quite clear to Ares. We have not had any more issues with unwanted suitors.” Duncan looked perplexed. “She has taken to playing bridge with some of the goddesses when she’s home.”

Max took off his glasses and cleaned them on the hem of his polo shirt to cover his own unease. He’d met some of Sam’s new friends, all of them death deities from various world religions. It was creepy as hell, but what could he say when Sam was one of them? “She’s not ignoring the baby zombies, is she?”

Duncan shook his head. “No, and please stop calling them ‘baby zombies’. They are restored humans, and they have been for nearly five years now.” Lines creased the alabaster skin of his forehead. “Frankly, they are doing better than she. And they are worried about her obsession with the Old Ones’ acolytes as well.”

Max put his glasses back on and rocked on his heels. “Guess we’re coming out to Vegas this weekend.”

* * *

As Max had figured, Ellie was out cold by the time they pulled into their Tarzana ranch house’s driveway. When he lifted her out of her safety seat, her little arms automatically wrapped around his neck and baby snores filled his ear.

The living room lights weren’t on. That was odd. Was Tiffany still at the university?

No, it wasn’t just the main lights. Even the little antique lamp Grandma Neel had sent them as a wedding present was out, and he was pretty sure he’d turned it on before he and Ellie left for Caesar’s this evening.

Crap. One burnt out bulb meant tripping over whatever toys Ellie left scattered in the living room. He really didn’t want set her down on the couch. If he did, she’d be wide awake, hyper about the trip to Las Vegas. Then he’d get an earful from Tiffany for allowing their daughter to stay up so late.

Maybe if he shuffled along the carpet, he’d be okay.

Max twisted the key and nudged the front door open. The hairs on the back of his neck rose before he consciously recognized the scent of sandalwood.

Vampire. Fresh vampire. Except it had been two weeks since the last time Duncan had dropped by, much less any of the rest of Augustine Coven.

The odor was followed by the equally distinctive scent of unwashed human.

Intruders.

Max pivoted back toward his Volvo, but something grabbed him from behind at the same time his daughter was ripped from his arms.

“Ellie!”

Pain exploded at the back of his head. He couldn’t make his arms work. The second punch landed on the side of his face and sent his glasses flying.

“Daddy!”

He struck out blindly in the direction of his daughter’s terrified shriek. There was a muffled grunt before a blow to his back drove him to his knees.

“Ellie!”

Her screams grew fainter. Someone was taking her away. He lashed out, but fists pounded him, boots kicked him until he couldn’t take a breath. A sharp crack and his jaw broke along with a couple of teeth. More bones broke until all he felt was agony.

But it didn’t match the agony in his heart. Someone took his daughter.

Ellie!

A voice whispered through his mind. Your daughter is ours. Make sure you remember that when your world burns.

The fire in Max’s brain consumed him until everything he’d ever been burned to ash.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sacrificed - Prologue

While I finish up A Modicum of Truth, here's a little taste of Sacrificed. Fair warning though, this is not the final edit of the book.

--------------------------------------------
Duncan

Eight months ago…

It was movie night. Samantha wanted the latest version of the Expendables franchise. I wanted the new Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy comedy. We compromised with Shakespeare in Love, my wife’s favorite method of torturing me.

Thankfully, my head of security, Mai Osaka, rang me before the end of the first act.

“Thad’s out with Leslie and the kids northwest of the city. They found a body. Female. Possibly demon related from the damage to the abdomen.”

Of course, Samantha could hear the entire exchange without benefit of activating the speaker phone feature. She stiffened, and her eyes glowed silver. Her appearance still bothered me. On the surface, my discomfort was ridiculous. As a vampire, my eyes did something similar, but it was a reminder that I had failed to keep her safe when I had the chance. When she had still been alive.

“We are on our way,” I said to Mai.

Our private elevator to our penthouse whined to life. “I’m still here in the Karnak. Please tell Sam to wait for me, Master St. James. I’ll be there momentarily.”

“Of course.” I ended the call and rose from the couch.

“I wouldn’t have left without her,” my wife grumbled. Ozone tainted the air. Samantha’s powers manifested further, changing her clothing from shorts and a t-shirt advocating a fictional character for president to a solid black coat with matching slacks and boots.

I had discovered I could not look at her directly too long when she was in this state. Not without risking my sanity. I focused on a spot on the couch next to her left ear. “Of course not, darling. However, I need to change my clothing if we will be traipsing through the desert.” I gestured at the black sweatpants and t-shirt I wore.

She jumped up from the couch. “I could—”

I held up my index finger. “No!” At her stricken expression, I softened the tone of my voice. “I appreciate your offer, but I can dress myself through conventional methods. Thank you.”

Samantha crossed her arms. “Just because I screwed up once—”

“If Thaddeus and the werecoyotes found evidence of a demon, arguing about my dress now is not a productive use of our time.” I left the living room before either of us could say something else. Otherwise, she would continue to use the issue of my clothing to mask her anxiety of a possible demon incident so near our home.

A few seconds later, I returned to the living room to find my wife and my chief of security whispering furiously at each other. Perhaps they forgot I could hear every word from our master bedroom, but they dropped their argument of whether or not I should go to the crime scene the moment I stepped into the hallway.

And they both consistently accused me of being overprotective.

“I am ready unless you two wish to continue your debate concerning my delicate masculine sensibilities,” I said as I strode into the living room.

Mai’s cheeks flushed a bright pink. At the sweet scent of her blood, I had to clamp down on my instincts, but there was nothing I could do about the lengthening of my eyeteeth or the emerald glow of my own eyes. I hoped the women would interpret my slip as concern over Thaddeus’s discovery.

Samantha glared at me as she seized Mai’s hand. Unfortunately, her telepathic powers had been growing along with her other abilities as a goddess.

Goddess. As much as I tried, I still had problems accepting the concept.

“Get your ass over here if you’re coming,” she snapped.

“Yes, my lady.” I crossed the floor and clasped her warm hand in mine. Everything went black and the floor tilted from under my feet.

Then the full moon shone directly overhead, and sandy loam cushioned my boots. Two high-pitched yips of dismay rent the cool desert air.

“Booker, Deanna, get your butts over here now,” barked a deep voice. “I told you two not to wander off.”

The female werecoyote pup toddled back to the Normal enforcer sitting on a nearby waist-high boulder. The male, however, crouched down and growled at us.

I scooped him up. The little bugger tried to nip my fingers while I strode to where Thaddeus Wolford waited. A shot gun lay beside the enforcer. He cuddled the whimpering female pup.

“Where is the corpse?” I handed Thaddeus’s grandson back to him.

His head jerked in the direction of more boulders. “Back there. Leslie and the kids have been sniffing around, trying to pick up a scent.” He turned in the direction he had indicted. “Staci! Need you to watch the babies for a few minutes!”

My wife’s secretary trotted from between the two closest towering rock formations. Brimstone and ash radiated from the werecoyote. Thad set down her children, and they immediately began wrestling in the dirt. A sharp bark from their mother ended the tussle.

Samantha, Mai, and I followed Thaddeus through the maze of rocks to a shallow depression. Two flat slabs leaned against each other, forming a lean-to of sorts. From the run-off tracks in the soil, the corpse had originally been placed under the slight cover.

“In all my years as a sheriff back in Ohio, I never saw this much weird shit.” Thaddeus paused at the edge of the depression. Four werecoyotes prowled around the area. The female padded over to the sheriff.

Her gray-brown fur faded. Muscles and bones flexed and twisted until Leslie Warner Wolford stood beside her husband. “Body’s been here for at least a week. We were out here running last Thursday so somebody dropped the body soon after we left.” She shook her head and her graying dirty blonde hair flew. “No scavengers have touched it. Not even insects.” She shuddered. “Fucking creepy as hell. Boys!”

The three male werecoyotes, her sons by her ex-husband, backed away from the corpse, and Samantha took up their prowling behavior. Her eyes flared silvery-white. The glow provided enough illumination for Mai and Thad that their flashlights were not needed.

Samantha crouched next to the body. “Honeyed apple. It’s Sharon Tyson all right.”

One of the two women who could not be accounted for after the Battle of Tuttle Creek. Sharon was the one woman we had discovered was supernatural. The poor lady had not known she was part fae. However, no one deserved her fate. If I did not feel the wash of my wife’s rage, the rocks around us humming would have given us fair warning.

“Darling, you need to control yourself before someone is harmed.”

Her attention focused on me. “Haight used her, Duncan. This is my fault.” She jabbed her index finger in the direction of the corpse. A fissure appeared in a boulder with a sharp crack. “There’s another demon running loose because I didn’t find her in time.” She rose in a motion that was unnaturally smooth even by my vampiric standards. “And they left Sharon’s body here to make sure I knew.”

Mai stepped a little closer to my wife, but I noticed not any closer to the corpse. “Sam, you can’t let them rattle you—”

“Shut up, Mai. Just—” Her gulping inhale meant she was trying not to let loose her tears. Or her power. “Just shut up, okay? I’ve heard it all.” Samantha pushed past my chief of security.

“Darling—” I reached for her, but she evaded my touch.

A strong hand grasped my arm as I turned to follow her. “Let her go, Duncan. The kid needs some time alone,” Leslie murmured.

“She is taking this personally.” I glanced down at Leslie’s hand but she didn’t release me.

“The bastards meant it to be personal,” the werecoyote said. “It’s the reason they left the lady’s body so close to Las Vegas.”

“Leslie’s right, sir,” Mai said before she turned to Thaddeus. “You have any extra gasoline? We need to burn the corpse.”

He frowned. “Don’t you want one the witches to take a look at it first?”

Mai looked at me for confirmation, and I shook my head.

Thaddeus shrugged and trudged off to retrieve the fuel. Leslie released me and shifted back to her canine form. She and her sons followed the enforcer.

Mai clasped her hands behind her back. “May I ask why you don’t want Quinn’s people, or even Bebe, to check out the body?”

“Because its purpose was exactly as Leslie said.” I stared at the thing that had been a living breathing woman until a demon had clawed its way out of her abdomen. “To taunt us.”

“But why would the demons do such a thing?” Mai gestured at the remains. Remains not even bacteria would touch.

“This was not the demon’s idea,” I replied. “This was Marcus’s.”

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Ravaged Paperback Is Now Available!

For those of you who love having a hardcopy of a book, Ravaged is now available in trade paperback! You can buy it online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If you want to support your local bookstore, you can have them order it for you.

Right before the holidays, a reader asked why the paperback version is so much more expensive than the e-book for my titles. Unfortunately, it comes down to production and transportation costs.

For an e-book, downloading a few MBs of data is relatively inexpensive for me as the publisher. I pay the retailer a percentage of the cover price to host my book on their commercial website (and that fee covers their computers and personnel) and an additional few cents to transmit the book to you when you buy it.

For a paper book, there're more hands in the pot. The printer charges X amount to print the book, which is generally based on the number of pages. They have to pay for the paper, the ink, the machines, and their employees. Then there's the distributor. They've got to pay for the trucks that carry the books, the fuel for the trucks, the warehouses where the books are stored, and their own employees. And finally the retailer in a brick and mortar store has to pay for rent, utilities, equipment, merchandise, and their own employees. All those little costs add up.

In the final accounting, Writer Me makes less money on a paperback than I do an e-book. And that's okay because I know what it's like to want to have a paper copy of the things you read over and over again. (Though in my case, I re-read my own books because I forgot to record something in the series bible and have to go look it up. LOL)

In the end, it doesn't matter which format you prefer. As long as you're happy with the story I wrote, then I'm happy.

In other news, I'll start posting chapters of Sacrificed next Wednesday. That novel will start 2018 with a bang!