Tuesday, November 29, 2022

AUGH! Not Again!

2022 has been a major pain in my backside. The topper is when I uploaded Invasion! for distribution on Amazon. And the f***ing website froze.

This happened to me with A Twist of Love a few years ago. According to Amazon, I didn't upload the book file in time, and the preorder is cancelled. The poor customer service peeps cannot reinstate the preorder.

I'm frustrated and pissed and a bunch of other things. So I'm taking a step back. Taking a deep breath. And since this is the holiday season, I'm going to embrace that spirit.

I already promised a free copy to my mailing list. If you preordered Invasion!, contact me. I'll send you a link for a free copy for any e-reader, tablet, etc.

Or you can sign up for my newsletter before Saturday, December 3.

Will Invasion! be released on Amazon? Yes, it will, and all the other retailers, but I need a week to work off the accumulative stress of this year. And it's going to start with a hot cup of coffee and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this evening.

I'm sorry for this, but I'll make the best of things and get the last two books for 2022 out to you come hell or high water!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Invasion! - Chapter 3

I'm working on wrapping up Invasion! in between pie making stages and cleaning the house. So here's another unedited preview chapter to enjoy during a break in your own holiday prep!


Veteran’s Memorial Park, Canyon Pointe, State of Mojave, The week before Christmas

Aisha Franklin-Garcia, the superhero known publicly as the Ghost Owl, winced as the talons of the creature she fought tore through her uniform, and worse into the skin of her thigh. Her hero togs were made out of material stronger and suppler than Kevlar, and her skin was damn near invulnerable. It meant the thing was as strong as her. Not to mention, the cuts burned like hell.

She punched at what appeared to be the creature’s head. Her fist went through the head as if it had phased its molecules like fellow superhero Shadowstar. But when she tried to pull back, her arm was stuck inside the creature.

Fine. Let’s see how it handles supersonic speed. She flew straight up, dragging the creature with her. Her predecessor as the Ghost Owl had literally designed a variation of her suit for NASA. The repair systems had already ejected sealant along the rips, so she wouldn’t have any issues as the atmosphere thinned. For all her powers, she still needed to breathe. The heads up display inside her helmet ticked off the altitude.

Something squeezed her chest. She looked down to find the creature’s talons had disappeared. Tentacles had wrapped themselves around her body. Okay, maybe she did need to worry about breathing.

She flew even faster. This dang thing clinging to her body had to have some kind of oxygen or temperature limit. Above her, the sky darkened to deep blue as the atmosphere thinned.

At twenty miles above the earth’s surface, the creature’s tentacles loosened. Its entire body phased, and her arm slipped free of its head. The thing may be able to change its density, but gravity was still queen. It plummeted. Aisha dove after it.

Plasma flickered around the creature’s body and Aisha’s visor. The creature fell towards a thunderstorm developing east of Canyon Pointe. While Aisha’s foe probably wouldn’t hit anybody in the state park on the other side of Lake Del Oro from the city, she couldn’t take the chance. Once again, she poured on speed. Static built along her suit in the unstable atmosphere.

Lightning erupted between her and the clouds below. Her suit was insulated from the electrical surge, but the bolt of lightning nailed the falling creature.

Aisha grinned to herself as the thing disintegrated in the one-point-twenty-one gigawatts of Mother Nature’s power. One down. She needed to get back to Canyon Pointe. She headed west and flew as fast as she could. No doubt complaints would be filed with the city, county, and state governments for the sonic booms in her wake.

In Veterans’ Memorial Park, the Canyon Park police were trying to clear the area of civilians who were still on their feet. EMTs attempted to treat and evacuate the people who had been mauled by these things. It was up to Aisha to keep these creatures occupied and away from the population of the city until backup came.

Relief spread through her when Sparx’s voice crackled through the speakers in Aisha’s helmet. “What the hell are these things?”

“You got me,” Aisha replied. “Don’t let them get near you. I just got raked by their claws. But the one I dealt with didn’t like lightning much.” She grabbed a couple of kids hiding behind a tree and delivered them to waiting officers without a word.

“Roger that.” Sparx’s crisp answer was almost drowned out by Nix’s sonic shriek.

“Think Doctor Triassic has been experimenting?” Aisha asked. “These things have a reptilian look, but they definitely aren’t cold-blooded.”

“Don’t know, but whatever they are, they smell worse than the snake exhibit at the zoo,” Sparx said.

Aisha’s Ghost Owl suit had been designed by her predecessor to filter out toxins when she breathing in normal earth atmosphere, so she didn’t get a hint of whatever odor Sparx picked up.

“Guys, they don’t like water either,” Nix said. “I knocked one into the fountain, and I think it died.”

Aisha’s visor darkened as Sparx cut loose on a third creature now that the park was clear of civilians.

“How many are left?” Sparx asked.

Aisha rose a few feet above the grass and spun to scan the area. “I see two more by the pin oak grove.” She flew in that direction.

And was horrified to see a civilian lying on the ground between the pair of creatures.


“Right behind you. You kick them away from the guy, and I’ll blast them.”

Aisha was fast enough the creatures didn’t have a chance to phase. She literally kicked the one on the right straight up into the air, tearing out a great deal of green foliage as it arrowed skyward. Lightning flashed behind her. She reached for the other one, but it sliced its talons across the throat of the unconscious young man laying beneath the tree. A weird chittering cough sound erupted from the creature as she grabbed what appeared to be its throat.

Her suit’s radiation alarms blared for a second before all the suit systems died. Aisha squinted at the blinding surge of blue and white light. The only thing she knew for sure was that she and the creature were falling, tumbling through empty space with no idea of which way was up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Invasion! - Chapter 2

Here's the next unedited chapter in Invasion!

And don't forget Pestilence in Pumpkin Spice is free on Amazon until Friday, November 18th!

Link to Pestilence in Pumpkin Spice on Amazon


Greenwich Village, The Island of Manhattan, New York, The night before Samhain

Shan Wong-Washington jerked awake at Cu Chulainn’s low growl. The Irish foxhound lay at the foot of the brown comforter on hers and Jamal’s wrought iron bed. Ambient light of New York City filtered past the closed blinds of the bedroom’s only window and displayed the dog’s alert posture.

“What’s wrong, boy?” she whispered. Cu Chulainn jumped down from the bed.

Or rather stepped down. The dog was so huge her sister-in-law Tanja and cousin Livvy rode him when they were toddlers. He padded down the short hallway between the bedroom and the living room of the loft.

Shan slid out from under the covers. The hardwood floor was oddly cold against her bare soles, considering the building’s cranky furnace had been blasting so much heat before bedtime she’d resorted to a sleep t-shirt and shorts instead of her sweats. She listened carefully, but there was only silence from the loft’s living room. Were the girls up to something? Was that what riled Cu Chulainn?

The wolfhound wouldn’t have growled if it were something minor. He would have trotted out to the living room and stopped whatever mischief the girls were up to.

Shan followed the dog out to the living room. The night light in the kitchen gleamed yellow, softening the harsher glow of Manhattan from the skylight.

No shenanigans here. Both girls were out cold. Tanja was curled in a tight ball, sound asleep. Only a few of her dark braids poked out from under her blanket. Livvy lay beside her, blond hair and limbs sprawled across the couch and chair cushions the girls has placed on the living room rug to form their bed. They had convinced their respective parents Shan needed the company while her husband Jamal trained at the Johnson Space Center. It definitely wasn’t the two nine-year-olds who woke Cu Chulainn.

The wolfhound stood at the top of the narrow steps leading from the second-floor loft down to the store. Another low growl rumbled deep in his chest. Something was definitely wrong in the shop.

Shan had double-checked all the doors and windows of Morrigan’s Cauldron, the store Jamal’s mother co-owned. Everything had been locked, and the steel gates pulled into place and secured. As much as she loved Manhattan, and Greenwich Village especially, she wasn’t stupid about safety. Especially not with two little girls under her care. The wolfhound place a paw on the first step, his hackles raised.

“No,” Shan commanded in a whisper. “Stay.”

Cu Chulainn gave her a look that obviously said he disagreed with her, but he did as she ordered.

Shan went back to the bedroom to slip on her canvas shoes. A slight hum came from the closet. Crap. If Lexi was indicating danger, things were worse than Shan feared. She carefully slid open the closet door. The scabbard hung from its peg, and Lexi’s hum became even more urgent.

Shan drew her husband’s sword from its scabbard. The steel gave off a slight golden glow in the dim room. The blade had gone through many titles over the millennia. The Sword of Lugh. The Spear of Destiny. Excalibur. Now, the family simply referred to it as Jamal’s crazy singing sword. Or Lexi.

And she was a much better weapon than Shan’s aluminum baseball bat.

“Tone it down, girl,” Shan whispered. “You’re going to give us away to whatever is downstairs.

The sword’s glow dimmed, and she stopped the eerie humming.

“Thank you.” Shan retrieved her charmed copper knife and crept back out to the living room. The girls hadn’t moved at all. Cu Chulainn remained on guard at the top of the stairwell.

Maybe she should call her mother-in-law Phylicia. As a witch, she could handle whatever was down there.

No, there was no sense waking up the in-laws if she was blowing something out of proportion.

A bang came from downstairs. Cu Chulainn growled low in his chest.

“What was that?” Livvy whispered.

Crap. Both girls sat on their makeshift bed, wide awake and staring at Shan.

Another crash resounded through the building.

“Lock yourselves in the bathroom, and call 9-1-1,” Shan whispered. “Cu Chulainn, guard the girls.”

The wolfhound still didn’t look happy, but he padded over to Tanja and Livvy. He let the girls grab their phones before he herded them toward the bathroom.

Shan crept down the narrow steps, Lexi providing her only light. While some of the objects Morrigan’s Cauldron carried were expensive, a thief couldn’t easily fence a one hundred-pound block of purple quartz. Phylicia took the receipts for the day for deposit on her way home. So, why the hell would anyone break into the store? Everyone in this neighborhood knew better than to mess with Phylicia. Or Grandmother Wong.

So it had to be someone desperate. Or whacked out on drugs. Or both.

Shan opened the door at the foot of the stairs and froze when the hinges creaked. She held her breath and listened. Someone shuffled around in the storefront. Whoever it was hadn’t heard her. Thank goodness for old creaky buildings in the village.

She carefully locked the door to the stairs and crept through the storeroom. The beaded curtain hung between her and the invader. Odd chittering came from the dark figure standing behind the cashwrap. The light from the street showed the gates over the door and windows closed. Had her potential thief jimmied the front door and its gate and closed them so the NYPD didn’t get suspicious? Or had he come in through the back door? Were there others with him?

None of her conjectures made sense. Phylicia’s wards would have deterred someone trying to come into the building after hours and much as the locks and gates.

The rustle of parchment came from the top of the cashwrap. For a split second, the figure’s mumbled words that sounded like the similar language spouted by the woman who had brought in a strange grimoire.

The customer claimed she found the volume in a dead aunt’s attic and had wanted an appraisal. Of course, the woman came in after Phylicia had left for the day. Was someone trying to steal the grimoire?

Or worse, had the woman cast a spell inside the store without Shan realizing it to get the intruder past the after hours wards?

The more she watched, the less the thing flipping through the grimoire resembled a human being. Its moves were jerky, and its joints seemed to move in unnatural direction. The smart thing would be to retreat to the loft stairwell, lock the door behind her, and wait for the cops. But between the locked gates and the warding, the thing was trapped inside the building with Shan, Cu Chulainn, and the girls.

And unless Shan unlocked the gates, there was no way for the police to enter Morrigan’s Cauldron and apprehend the intruder.

Which still left the question of how the intruder got into the building in the first place.

None of her conjecture mattered. An unannounced night visit wasn’t good, and surprise was still on her side. She eased her left hand past the strands of bead and nudged the light switch.

The antique fixtures flared to life. The thing messing with the grimoire jerked. It was definitely not human. It was covered in greyish—well, the dermis wasn’t exactly scales, but it wasn’t skin either. And its limbs were tentacles tipped with wicked-looking talons.

One of the tentacles shot toward Shan, ripping off several strand from the bead curtain is the process as it tried to grab her. She deflected the appendage with Lexi. Both the sword and the intruder screeched. A thin trail of smoke curled from the blade. Even more smoke poured from the lengthy cut on the now-drooping tentacle.

Whatever the thing was, it was vulnerable to magic. Too bad she didn’t have her grandmother’s talents.

The intruder backed away from the cashwrap and began chirping and chittering, the noises reminiscent of locusts. The sounds were rhythmic. The damn thing was casting a spell.

Anger and protectiveness of her family fed Shan’s strength, and she charged the creature. It dodged both the Tuathan blade and her blessed copper knife while dragging its disabled tentacle.

A swirling vortex of white and blue lights appeared behind the intruder. The tone of its speech changed. A fifth tentacle shot from its body and wrapped around her right ankle. Nausea raked her at the alien feeling of its epidermis.

Before she could bring Lexi down on the tentacle, the intruder yanked her off balance. Her hip landed hard on the polished wooden floorboards, but she managed to keep her hold on both the sword and knife.

The sounds changed again to chittering broken by huffs. Laughter. The damn thing was laughing at her. She knew it in her bones as the damn creature dragged her into the vortex with it.

Monday, November 14, 2022

One Last Sale

Pestilence in Pumpkin Spice is currently free on Amazon. Yep, that's zero moola WITHOUT joining the Kindle Unlimited club.

So if you need something fun and crazy to read while your uncles argue whether sasquatches and yetis are the same thing over the remnants of the turkey carcass, pick up your copy now!

The sale ends on Friday, November 18th!

Link to Pestilence in Pumpkin Spice on Amazon

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Invasion! - Chapter 1

This book started as a random conversation with DH a few years ago when he asked, "What would Anthea do if she met Sam?"

I played with the idea, devised a way that would be consistent with their universes, and borrowed a bit of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels".

Here's the first, unedited chapter of Invasion!: A Crossover Worlds Novel.


The Crimson Palace, Naha, the Kingdom of Ryukyu, Year of the Twelve 1979

Anthea, Chief Justice of the city of Orrin in the Queendom of Issura, ducked the slashing black talons of the demon who rushed her. Sweat stung her eyes as she whispered words of her spell, charging her sword with Balance magic. Her backswing sliced into the demon’s neck.

Its screech of fury and pain blended with the shouts and screams of the soldiers, wardens, and clergy around her as they engaged the demon army. Issuran, Jing, and Ryukyu languages mixed in a cacophony punctuated by the chittering tongue of the invaders. The alien scent of their foes mixed with the coppery odor of human blood and the stink of the loosened bowels of the dead.

An arrow charged with Light magic whizzed by her head. The second demon wailed, a sound reminiscent of fingernails on slate. Both the demon and the arrow collapsed into a pile of ash.

Despite the first demon’s efforts to increase its body density to trap her weapon, Anthea wrenched her sword free from its neck. From his perch on a street lantern, Brother Jian of the Jing Empire’s Temple of Light launched another arrow into the third demon. Anthea charged her sword with magic once again as she danced backward from her own foe.

The demon’s swing to disembowel her was slow and clumsy from the effects of her first spell. Since all demons were the darkest shade of black to her, its loss of coordination and lack of its normal speed was the only indication the demon was aging faster than normal.

Anthea thrust her sword into what passed for the demon’s chest. Her foe crumpled to dust as her spell discharged through it. Despite their much longer lifespans, not even the demons could escape the ravages of time. And time was the domain of the Temple of Balance.

She panted and looked around her. Her heart tried to force its way up her throat. Ambassador Quan of Jing along with his wife Shi Hua and Sister Yin Li of the Temple of Love, had been backed against the abutment of the first bridge into the Crimson Palace.

Not Ambassador Quan any longer. With the assassination of his brother and nephews, he was now Crown Prince Bao Quan Po of the Jing Empire. If the Issuran and Jing escorts didn’t keep him alive and get him home to be crowned emperor, Jing would fall into a civil war.

Then the demons would eat the leftovers.

The Ryukyu guards didn’t dare open the gates to the palace. Not even to save their own forces. Despite the palace’s multiple gates and intricate moat system, the demons would overrun the palace guards in a matter of heartbeats. It rested on the clergy and their wardens to reinforce the soldiers and keep the demons’ attention away from the civilians evacuating the rest of the city of Naha.


Her warden lit the flashbang in her hand and tossed it in the middle of a group of demons harassing High Brother Luc of Light and Yin Li’s young son Yin Shang where they perched on the outer moat wall. The flashbang exploded. Luc used the demons’ disorientation to fire Light-charged arrows at them. Within three heartbeats, the demons crumbled into dust.

“With me!” Anthea shouted. Her other warden Long Father defended another Light priest who launched his own arrows from a seat in cherry blossom tree. But where in Light was Warden Mateqai? He wouldn’t have left Lady Shi Hua’s side unless—

She shove the ugly thought away. Now was not the time. Not when they needed to deal with the demons first, else more people would die.

Jonata drew her sword and the long knife she used for defense and raced after Anthea. Together, they killed two of the demons at the back of the pack threatening Quan, Shi Hua, and Yin Li.

The pack split, and the back half whirled and charged the two Issuran women. Anthea threw up a quick ward. She rocked back on her heels from the increased mass of the half dozen of their enemies slamming into her magical shield.

“Drop your ward, Justice!” Brother Jin yelled from behind her.

Anthea released her ward while she and Jonata backpedaled. More arrows charged with Light magic flew between them. Four of the demons crumbled into dust. Brother Fa of Wildling, in his second form of a gigantic feline called a tiger, ripped off the head of the fifth demon.

The sixth demon galloped on all fours toward the City of Naha’s public gardens. Anthea raced after it. More sweat dripped into her eyes. She needed to kill it. Sundown was moments away, and then her fellow clergy would be at a huge disadvantage. She’d be the only one who could see in their darkness, and there was no possibility of defending the future emperor’s entire party and the Ryukyuan company escorting them to the palace.

Ahead, a figure stepped from behind a blooming cherry blossom tree. The greenish-gray skin gave away its identity as much as the demon magic it wielded.

Skinwalker. A human sorcerer who studied and apprenticed to the enemies of the human race. Using demon magic corrupted the person until they were no longer human.

It flung a spell at Anthea. She threw up a ward, but the impact knocked her on her buttocks. Jonata yanked Anthea to her feet, and the pair raced after the demon.

The skinwalker cast a second spell. Anthea gasped at the explosion of colors. It was quite literally a rip in reality. Bile surged up her throat. The demon raced for the tear.

“What in Balance—” However Jonata perceived the damage caused her to slow a heartbeat.

“Jian! Take out the skinwalker!” she ordered as she raced past Jonata. She had to catch the demon before it reached the portal.

Light magic surged behind her. A shrill scream filled the air.

The rip flickered. Anthea lunged for the demon.

And found herself flailing in midair. No demon. No ground. No sky.

Then she fell.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Death in Double Mocha - Chapter 5

Here's the last sample chapter for Death in Double Mocha! I had just finished this chapter and written the first couple of paragraphs for Chapter 6 the night before my own mother passed. Finishing Chapter 6 was incredibly difficult, but I did. I'm working hard to finish this book and get it out to y'all!

Next week, I'll start posting samples from Invasion!

And for those of you in the U.S, don't forget to VOTE! Election Day is November 8th!


Dani looked over her shoulder. Mark had given Heath his extra water soaker. While her son had relaxed at the sight of Wila, suspicion marred Heath’s face.

The ding of the toaster oven interrupted Dani’s introductions. After locking the front door, Wila followed the rest of the Elante clan into the kitchen. Since she wore her paramedic uniform, she must have been on the way to work when either Penny or Francine called her.

“You didn’t have to come over,” Dani said while Heath pulled their treats out of the toaster oven.

Wila shrugged. “After the meltdowns Penny and I had when our relatives showed up on our doorsteps, Francine was a little worried about you. Especially since you got a two-fer tonight.”

Dani crossed her arms. “You mean you guys were worried I couldn’t tell the difference between my husband and the Prince of Hell.”

“Have you checked him?”

“Checked me for what?” Heath said.

Dani glared at Wila.

“Checked me for what?” Heath repeated.

“Checked to make sure you had your soul,” Mark offered. “Mom and Wila already know you’re not possessed because they can see the demon under the human, but they don’t like looking for someone’s soul because that person can see theirs, too.”

Heath set the plate of cinnamon toast slices on the table. “Why wouldn’t I have my soul?”

“So far, all the resurrected have them, but with Satan running around Oakfield, we’re extra cautious,” Wila said.

“Would you like some cocoa, too, Wila?” Mark asked. “And we have plenty of bread to make more cinnamon toast.”

“No, thank you, but I’ll take you up on it the next time you and Derek have a sleepover.” Wila smiled gently at the pre-teen. She’d mellowed quite a bit since Crucifer’s death. Dani knew her sister Horseman would never admit she developed feelings for the fallen angel, but it was very obvious his loss had affected her.

“Maybe cinnamon toast is what we should make for my party instead of cake,” Mark suggested.

Dani’s heart lurched. Mark’s birthday was next month. He’d officially be a teenager. Maybe Heath came home to them just in time for Mark to become a man.

Wila leaned close to Dani’s ear. “I’ll examine Heath if you don’t feel comfortable.”

“No. You’re right.” Dani sighed. There was a time when she hadn’t been so easily distracted. “We have to know for sure, but I’ll do it.” She rounded the table and looked up at Heath. “I’m sorry.”

“You had my heart and soul from the first day I saw you.” He took her hand and smiled.

She twisted her focus.

And relief flooded her. His soul glowed with the same intense blue as his eyes. Energy threads of the same color connected his soul to his body. He was her Heath.

She blinked the tears from her eyes, and her vision returned to normal.

He tightly hugged her. “I knew your soul was beautiful. I never dreamed it would look like what I imagined.”

Mark joined them in a group hug.

Wila chuckled. “Thank you for making sure, Dani. I’ll leave you folks to your night.”

“I’m sorry Francine and Penny made you come over.” Dani released her husband and son. “But you’re right. I needed a bit of a reality check.”

“Call me if you need anything.”

“As long as my mother doesn’t knock out any more demon hunters, I’ll count my blessings.” Dani smiled.

She walked Wila to the front door, hugged her friend, and locked up before she returned to the kitchen. Her family sat at the table and munched on cinnamon toast.

Her family. Another wave of joy rippled through her. Her family was together again.

Heath eyed her. “So, Mark tells me that’s War. I was picturing her in armor, not an Oakfield paramedic uniform.”

“That’s her day job. The only thing worse would be me all boney while I’m trying to sell a life insurance policy.”

Mark chortled, but Heath obviously didn’t find her joke funny. She wouldn’t have either if she just crawled out of her grave.

She slid into the chair next to Heath’s. The mini marshmallows had congealed into a gooey layer from the heat of her hot chocolate. She took a sip from her mug and licked the sweet fluff from her upper lip.

“When did you meet her and the other Soccer Moms?”

Of course, he was curious. She had a totally different set of friends when he was alive. None of whom knew how to deal with a twenty-eight-year-old widow.

“The day Mark returned to school, I went to Java’s Palace after I dropped him off.” She tore off part of the crust from one of her slices. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know how I would finish my degree—”

Heath’s eyes widened. “What about the life insurance? Or the Victorian we were restoring?”

“I wasn’t thinking straight at the time, honey,” she said gently. “Penny owns Java’s Palace. She noticed me and sat down at my table. We started talking. She and Francine helped me get our finances in order.”

Dani swallowed the growing lump in her throat. “I’m sorry, but I had to sell the Victorian. I used the excuse it was the money, but I couldn’t bear walking inside that house without you. Wila’s son Derek is the same age as Mark, so she watched him a lot while the other two helped me deal with all the paperwork. You have no idea how much paperwork is generated when someone dies.

“I started working at the insurance agency. It was supposed to be a temporary thing while Marty took over the day-to-day operations so Dad could retire. But almost seven years later, I’m still there.”

Heath whistled. “Chuck was okay with you working for him? No offense, honey, but Chuck can be a, um…” Apparently, Mark’s presence sunk through Heath’s fresh-from-the-grave brain, so he aborted whatever not-so-nice thing he was about to say.

“It’s okay, Dad,” Mark said. “Mom knows Papa is old-fashioned like Justine’s Grandpa Edward.”

“That wasn’t what I meant,” Heath protested.

“Yes, it was. And Mark’s right. Dad wouldn’t have let me work at the insurance agency if you were still around.” She sipped her hot chocolate.

“But Uncle Marty can’t handle everything without Mom,” Mark stated.

“That’s not true.” Even as she said it, she wondered if that was the real reason Marty kept giving her raises so she wouldn’t quit and go back to school. Granted, numbers weren’t his strong suit. He was a lot like Francine’s husband Neal. Sales were both men’s superpower. And she had learned a ton about money matters from Penny and Francine.

“I’ll explain it to you later,” Mark pseudo-whispered to Heath.

“Mark!” she snapped.

“Mom, when you had the flu last year, Uncle Marty called every ten minutes, and that was after I got home from school.”

She lowered face into her hands. It had been a very long day before Heath showed up. Wila’s technique of counting to ten in a foreign language. Chinese through a phone app helped. Once she was a hair calmer, she looked up at her son.

“Mark, whatever happens between me and my brother—”

There was a sharp, rapid knock on the front door.

She pushed to her feet. Wila probably left something here.

Dani marched into the living room and checked the peephole.

In time for Penny to beat on the door again.

Dani jerked it open. Mom rushed into her arms and grabbed her tight. “Daniella! Your father needs to burn in Hell!”