First three chapters of Forged by Flames and a publishing update

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m running a little behind on getting through final edits.  It’s likely that I won’t be uploading Forged by Flames onto the retailers until sometime on Saturday (October 29th).  My apologies for the delay! For anyone who would like an alert once the novel is available, you can sign up for my release alert list here.  You are able to select which retailer/format you use so you’ll only get an email when the book is available with your preferences.

In the meantime, I’m providing the first three chapters of the novel for you to read while you wait.  Hope this helps 🙂

 

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Chapter 1

 Bailey

I clutched the steering wheel and searched for a threat, any threat. The last gasps of autumn were approaching now that November was almost over, which meant dragons on the west side of Norman, Oklahoma had been out in force searching for enough food to get them through the coldest days of winter when they’d be stuck in their dens semi-hibernating. Though there were still plenty of cows and wildlife in the nearby countryside outside of town, some of them had developed a taste for humans.

“Where in the hell are they?” I glanced over at my slaying partner, Conrad, who sat in the passenger seat of the truck. He held a loaded crossbow with the front aimed at the floorboard, ready to lift and shoot out the window if we came across danger. Conrad wasn’t flame-proof like me, but he could do some damage from a distance while I went after the dragons up close with my trusty sword. He’d been working out more too and building up his already toned muscles to give him that much more of an edge. The extra strength came in handy if he had to release a rapid succession of bolts or carry me to safety if I got badly injured during the fight.

The dark-skinned nineteen-year-old—wait, that’d be twenty since his birthday was two weeks ago—gave me a grim look. “You’ve killed so many of them, I’m willin’ to bet they’re hiding from you.”

I ground my jaw. “Only three this week and it’s Wednesday. I need to kill more.”

Conrad had no idea how much I needed it, considering the dark and deadly side of me was something I tried to keep well-hidden from my friends. Slaying was the only way to bring relief to the irrepressible instincts that drove me to attack dragons wherever I could find them. To a certain extent, I’d learned to control myself, but lately I hadn’t found many reasons to bother. The motivation to curb my killing desires had been for the sake of the red shifter dragons—some of whom I’d become allies with since they weren’t a threat to humans. I hadn’t seen much of them lately, though.

“Maybe we could address the big elephant in the room,” he said, arching a brow.

I stopped at an intersection and leaned forward in my seat, taking the opportunity to get a better look around for any fire-breathing beasts. “We’re in a truck—not a room.”

“You know what I mean, Bailey.”

I didn’t look at him or say anything. It was a topic I’d been avoiding for a while now.

“Ever since we rescued those kids you’ve been actin’ different. You’re all weird and cagey and shit. About the only time I see you smile is right after you kill a dragon.” Conrad ran a hand over his short tufts of hair that he’d started growing out recently. “Don’t think I didn’t notice this all started about the time Aidan stopped comin’ around.”

I stiffened. He wasn’t wrong, though Conrad wasn’t aware of the full story. No one knew that after we fought a major battle against the pure dragons at the Norman airport—to rescue a group of children and push the clan out of town—Aidan and I had met again later that night.

Fresh from battle and our blood still pumping, the attraction between us had been higher than ever. Aidan had also been working through his feelings because he lost his father—the pendragon—during the fight. They hadn’t been on the best of terms, which only made him feel worse. Alone in Aidan’s lair, we’d taken comfort in each other’s arms. It had been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and the scariest.

Considering he was a shape-shifter, a rare breed among dragon-kind compared to the pure beasts that outnumbered them ten-to-one in the world, and I was a slayer born to slaughter all fire-breathing creatures, it probably wasn’t the smartest move on our part. Still, it was one of those moments I’d remember forever.

We’d grown close over the months he’d been training me to slay his enemies—the pure dragons—and I’d learned to trust Aidan despite my instincts. In his human form, he could be more civilized than half the people I’d met since D-day (the arrival of the dragons) six months ago. Despite that, a relationship between us couldn’t work. I’d been doing my best to accept that the same way I had to accept fighting dragons for the rest of my life. Slayers didn’t get sick or age. They always died in battle and usually before they reached thirty. Every day I survived was a gift. I had to do everything I could to get back to my family in Texas before my slayer heritage got me killed. Aidan was the key to doing that, and I needed to stop thinking of him as anything more.

“The new pendragon is keeping him away,” I said, pressing on the gas pedal. The truck jerked forward, and we continued our way north on 36th Avenue.

“Yeah, I bet he did after he found out about you.” Conrad paused and narrowed his eyes at me. “But do you think the pendragon suspects you and Aidan are getting a little too close?”

I jerked the wheel, almost sending us off the road. It took a moment to get the truck under control again. “What are you talking about?”

“You ain’t foolin’ me, girl. You’ve got that whole angry and bitter vibe goin’ on. That’s the real reason you started spending almost every day out here huntin’ dragons—to avoid thinking about what you can’t have.”

I tensed, realizing Conrad was right. For those first few weeks, after I last saw Aidan, I stayed at his lair most of the time until the need to hunt dragons overwhelmed me. It hurt not being able to see him. Then Aidan’s sister, Phoebe, came by and told me her brother had been sent far away to patrol their clan’s borders. I’d realized I needed to stop fantasizing that there could ever be anything serious between us. My family needed me, and I’d nearly allowed my emotions for a dragon shifter to make me forget about the people I loved. If not for the giant chasm running parallel to the Oklahoma border with Texas, separating me from my mother and step-father, plus a huge clan of pure dragons who wouldn’t be easy to get past, I’d have gone home already.

“I know it can’t ever work,” I said, shooting Conrad a look. “So I don’t want to hear another lecture.”

His eyebrow raised in disbelief. “But do you really accept it?”

“It doesn’t matter what I accept. What matters is I know what I have to do,” my voice came out clipped.

I didn’t want to talk about this with him or anyone else. The more I discussed it, the more it bothered me—and not just because of Aidan. There were still days where I woke up surprised the world was filled with dragons, and that I was expected to slay them. Never mind that I might have begun to fall in love with one of the damn beasts. My future was never supposed to be like this. I’d just finished college when the apocalypse began and had meant to return home to my parents’ ranch to help them run it. Then my whole life spiraled out of control on that fateful day back in May. The only thing I could do now was keep slaying the beasts that were ruining the world and work on getting back to my family.

Conrad was quiet for a minute. “Alright. I’ll let it go, but only cuz you look miserable enough without me making it worse.”

I snorted. “At least you’ve got someone you can care about openly.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” he said, smiling at the mention of Christine. We’d rescued her and her daughter after a tornado struck Norman shortly after D-day. That was the beginning of her and Conrad’s relationship, though they’d gotten even closer after we rescued Christine’s daughter, Lacy, from a dragon that had kidnapped her and a few other human children in town.

“It’s good you have somebody,” I said, truly happy for him.

“Thanks,” he replied, then frowned and looked away.

“What is it?”

He shook his head. “Nothin’. Let’s just find some dragons for you to kill.”

That was strange. Conrad usually didn’t keep anything from me, but I wouldn’t push him for now. The tone of his voice made it clear he wasn’t ready to open up about whatever was bothering him.

“Okay, but I’m here if you need to talk.”

He glanced at me. “Yeah, I know.”

In the middle of the road ahead, a middle-aged woman with long, brown hair streaked with gray appeared out of nowhere. I slammed on the brakes, jerking us forward in our seats as the tires screeched across the pavement. The truck came to a stop about twenty feet from where she stood.

“I’m going to kill her,” I swore, rubbing the side of my neck where the seatbelt had dug into my skin.

Conrad slowly removed his clenched fingers from the dashboard. “Not if I get to her first.” Continue Reading →

Darkness Wanes sneak preview

Progress on Darkness Wanes is coming along well.  I want to once again apologize for the lengthy delay in getting this novel out due to personal setbacks.  I finally got back into my writing groove last month and I’ve been working like mad on it ever since.  My poor family may have forgotten what I look like since I barricade myself behind a closed door most of the time.  Not to worry, though, they make me come out to eat occasionally.

The first half of the book is in good shape and I’m just revising the final chapters now before sending them off to my editor.  By the looks of things, this novel is going to end up being about 120k words.  As a comparison, Darkness Shatters was 96k and Stalked by Flames was 101k.  Darkness Wanes will definitely be the longest book I’ve ever written by quite a bit, but there is a lot to wrap up and I want to be sure to do the characters (and story) justice.  Special thanks to all the beta readers who’ve helped out along the way.  You all are awesome!

I have high hopes I will be able to release this novel by the end of the month.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  Below are the first three chapters of Darkness Wanes (about 10k words).  Hope you enjoy 🙂

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Chapter One

Melena

Some places should be avoided at all costs.  Troll villages, the woods on a full moon, and retailers on Black Friday topped my personal list, but above them all—Purgatory.  It was an inhospitable island set outside of time and space where human souls went after death when they weren’t quite good enough for Heaven, but not bad enough for Hell.  One might consider it a sort of way station—though it was probably closer to a prison.  Unless you had a very good reason, you didn’t come here voluntarily.

The sandy beaches at the island’s edge could fry eggs or blister bare feet.  A prisoner couldn’t swim away, assuming they made it through all the guards first.  The ocean surrounding the land extended forever, an infinite mass of water with no apparent end.  Not that you’d want to be outside in Purgatory.  Blinding light shone down from a sun that appeared twice as large as Earth’s, and it generated more heat than any mortal could survive for more than a few minutes.  That is, assuming the low oxygen levels didn’t suffocate them first.

Jagged mountains rose in the middle, raw and intimidating.  All along them, human souls relived the crimes they’d committed in their past life.  These were people who weren’t good enough to enter Heaven yet, but neither were they terrible enough for Hell.  Purgatory served as a place for them to learn from their evil deeds before they went on to their final destination.

They had no bodies, only the light of their inner beings, but that didn’t reduce their suffering.  On the rare occasion I came close enough to them, I felt their pain and remorse in every fiber of my being.  Nothing could be worse than facing one’s past mistakes over and over again with no relief.  This place couldn’t be mistaken for an island vacation spot.  It was real, and it was only one step above Hell.

It wasn’t that much better for me, either.  The only difference being I wasn’t dead yet.  Purgatory also served as an immortal penitentiary, though supernatural inmates didn’t stay up top with the human souls.  The guardians of the place—sort of an offshoot breed of angels—kept us confined deep inside the mountains in a vast network of tunnels and carved-out prison cells.  Of all the inmates here, they hated me the most.  I’d broken into Purgatory twice, using modern firepower against them, to free others who didn’t deserve to be here.  Those people were now free, which made it worth it, but I had no way of escaping without assistance.  I was trapped here for my full three-month sentence.

In the caves we inhabited, it dropped to bone-numbing temperatures and the stone walls wept with the icy tears of its denizens.  That wasn’t meant to be poetic.  Purgatory had a way of torturing you with both your darkest memories and your most cherished.  I’d had a lot of time to think since arriving.  One moment I’d feel the pain of my worst mistakes, including those that led to the loss of good friends, and in the next moment I’d remember my lover, Lucas, or adopted daughter, Emily.  They were part of the good things in my life, but the longer I stayed in Purgatory, the more I wished I didn’t think of them.  It would have made my time easier that way.

This was an ugly place where nothing good belonged, especially in the bowels where I’d been confined.  The walkways were frozen except for the occasional numbing cold stream running along the path.  Sharp icicles hung from the ceilings, often falling on hapless victims.  I’d had my head struck more than once—made worse by the fact it took considerably longer to heal in Purgatory than on Earth.  It was also eerily dark.  If not for the greenish-blue glow emanating from cracks in the stone, even those with the best night vision wouldn’t have been able to see anything.  Then again, it didn’t seem to bother the guardians who lorded over their prisoners.  They moved around just fine.

Clink. Clink. Clink.  The sound of pickaxes droned on in an annoyingly familiar rhythm.  I suspected I’d hear them in my head long after I left this place.  I blew a strand of my auburn hair from my cheek where it had come loose from its braid and continued chipping away at the blue-gray stone in front of me.

This section of the tunnel and I had become well acquainted since the archangel, Remiel, dropped me off here two and a half months ago.  In that time, I’d managed to extract about five pounds of ore.  The older and stronger supernaturals working alongside me gathered much higher amounts.  Not that it really mattered.  A cavern several levels above us had at least a dozen piles of it wasting away.  The guardians had long since gotten enough to make all the chains and weapons they needed.  They just wanted us to continue adding to the heap.

I rubbed at my aching lower back.  Even an immortal body couldn’t handle fourteen hours of crouching in mines every day without getting sore.  By the end of my shift, my spine always became so bowed out of shape that I could hardly stand up straight without a lot of effort and pain.  If I never saw an underground tunnel again it wouldn’t be long enough.

The clinking of the axes slowed and whispers rose among the other prisoners.  I took a surreptitious gaze around to find our guards had wandered down the tunnel out of earshot.  It happened so rarely I had to seize the opportunity while it lasted.

“Eli,” I called softly to the dark-skinned nephilim hunched ten feet away.

He turned his head toward me.  “What?”

Eli wore the same basic uniform as me—buckskin trousers, a matching sleeveless top and leather boots.  We hadn’t gotten utilitarian clothing when we first arrived in Purgatory.  They’d given us long robes that chaffed at our skin and no footwear.  It made it difficult to navigate the treacherous tunnels.  After a few days, I’d had enough and went on strike.

No one else joined me at first.  I was a sensor, and the rest of the prisoners were nephilim.  Our races were eternal enemies, but I was trying to change that.  I’d mated with a nephilim, Lucas, and he’d made me immortal.  Most of the supernatural world knew about us and how we’d found common ground.  Some of them had grown to accept me, mostly in Alaska where we lived, but we had a long way to go before our races got along entirely.  The majority of the sensors and sups still didn’t trust each other.

For three days, my prison mates watched me get whipped every morning because I refused to leave my cell for work in the mines.  On the fourth day, Eli was the first to join me.  We’d met a couple of times before, and he’d seemed more open than most.  Eventually, all twelve nephilim participated in my little strike.

It wasn’t just the poor clothing choices I’d protested, but also the awful gruel they fed us every day.  The lack of oxygen and stronger gravity of Purgatory drained us too much already.  Poor nutrition made things worse.  Immortals might not be able to die, but they could become severely weakened if their basic needs weren’t met.  We needed humane treatment if we were going to have the energy to work.

The rest of my companions were centuries or even thousands of years old.  They’d lived during times when the weaker always submitted to the stronger.  It didn’t occur to them to demand more for themselves.

I was a modern woman and military veteran who believed in standing up for my rights.  The ancient guardians running Purgatory had no idea how to handle me, but I had experience dealing with their kind before.  In fact, I’d helped rehabilitate one of the worst among them.  I just had to suffer through their punishments for a while before I got my way.  Though it wasn’t easy—they nearly broke me more than once.

“How do you call on an archangel without a summoning stone?” I asked Eli.  There was a bit of Denzel Washington’s features in him that always struck me, especially in the eyes and chin.

He frowned at me.  “Why?”

He was constantly telling me to keep my head down and stay out of trouble.  Not that I did, and more often than not he got caught up in my battles with the guardians.  It wasn’t like I forced him to do my bidding.  Eli just had a need to help people no matter what it cost.  We had that in common, which was why we were both stuck here.

“Because I need to know.”  Working in the mines gave you a lot of time to plot.  I estimated that in about two or three weeks—they wouldn’t give an exact date—I’d be out of here.  I had things to do as soon as I got back home.

“Melena,” he said in a warning tone.  “I’m not helping you again.”

I glared.  “It’s important.”

“Let it go until we return to Earth.”  He turned away and began swinging his pickaxe again.

“Come on,” I said in a pleading tone.  “I just need to know how to summon an archangel.”

He ignored me.  I considered throwing my pickaxe at him, but I couldn’t risk drawing the attention of the guardians.  Not to mention the chain stretching between my ankle and a hook in the floor would keep me from getting the tool back.  All the prisoners were restricted so that we couldn’t move more than a few feet.

“Eli,” I growled when he still wouldn’t answer me.

A female nephilim with shoulder-length blond hair turned toward me.  “Be quiet!”

Sabelle’s golden eyes were filled with hatred.  It never ceased to amaze me how a woman with such a sweet nature could become that hostile toward someone she hardly knew.  When I’d first met her, her heart-shaped face had seemed welcoming and kind.  That only lasted until she discovered I was a sensor.

“What is your problem?” I asked her.  Not that I expected a logical reply.

Sabelle’s nostrils flared.  “You! Your kind are nothing but…”

“I can tell you how to do it,” Bartol interrupted, putting a stop to the hate speech.  He worked on the wall to my right and spoke so rarely that I was startled to hear his voice now.

I turned toward him.  Bartol’s long brownish-gold hair fell past his shoulders in light waves.  The oily strands didn’t quite hide the horrific scars on the left side of his face.  The burns marred what had once been handsome features.  Nephilim could usually heal from anything, but a magic spell had been infused with the damage so that he’d never be whole again.  Not even my ability to nullify magic could do anything to help him now.

Bartol had been in Purgatory for nearly a century as his penalty for seducing an angel.  Not long after arriving an overzealous guardian, Kerbasi, burned him as part of his own personal brand of punishment.  Bartol had faced many horrors since arriving here, but that was probably among the worst.  By my estimates, his sentence would finish around the same time as mine.  He was a friend of Lucas’ and we planned to help him as much as we could when he got out.

“You know?  How?” I asked. Continue Reading →

Stalked by Flames update and excerpt

I’m still working through edits on Stalked by Flames.  The book is coming together nicely, but still has a few kinks to work out and a round of proofreading.  Thanks to the eight beta readers who volunteered last month to read the first quarter of the novel.  You were all a tremendous help!  My current expectation is to have the novel out by July 27th.  As soon as it is available on Amazon I’ll post the link here, through social media, and my newsletter/email alerts.

For those who’d like a taste of the novel, I’m posting the first three chapters below.  There may be some minor tweaks made during the final proofread, but otherwise this is the version I’ll be publishing soon.  Hope you enjoy!


 

 Chapter 1

 

Bailey

I should have known the day was going to be bad when I stepped outside and saw vivid purple and red northern lights in the sky—at nine in the morning, in Oklahoma.  Checking my water bottle, I didn’t find anything suspicious in the clear liquid.  Then I caught other people staring upward, too, gawking.  Thank God.  I’d begun to wonder if the hit of acid I’d dropped two years ago had come back to haunt me.

The lights faded and the sky turned dark and ominous shortly after that, which should have been my next clue to stay inside and wait it out.  Not to mention it was a Monday and doomed by default.  But I didn’t, so I only had myself to blame when the clouds unleashed bucket loads of rain on me while I loaded all my personal possessions into the backseat of my truck.

That wasn’t the end of the troubles, though.  Not even close.

Right after turning in the keys to my apartment I discovered my truck had a flat tire on the front.  Someone had slashed it, leaving the poor thing to look like an undercooked soufflé.  I spent the rest of the morning at the shop getting it replaced.

Then right as I was about to escape Norman city limits, my friend Trish called to remind me I hadn’t turned in my library books yet.  It was almost as if fate itself intervened so I couldn’t leave Oklahoma anytime soon, though I suspected she’d wanted to say goodbye one last time.

Another storm approached from the west as I balanced a high stack of books in my arms, heading for Bizzell Library.  With the semester over and graduation just two days ago, there weren’t many people lingering on campus.  Just a few students lounging on the grass and a guy feeding the squirrels.  Most people had gone home for the summer.  Much like I hoped to do.

The ground shook and two of my books tumbled to the sidewalk.  Damn earthquakes.  They were getting more frequent with every passing month, and the experts couldn’t explain them.  Oklahoma had a reputation for tornadoes—not earthquakes.

A few dozen other places in the world were experiencing similar problems.  Extreme weather, earthquakes, and an unsettling sense of doom that left everyone feeling the end was nigh.  Of course, I didn’t buy what those crazy guys on street corners shouted.

I leaned down and grabbed the fallen books and put them back on top of the others before resuming my walk toward the library.  Now that the tremor had passed there wouldn’t be another one for at least thirty minutes.  At least, that’s how it usually went.  None were on the scale of the big California earthquakes, but they were strong enough that you felt them when they struck.  The constant shaking was beginning to take its toll on structures.  I kept waiting for a building to come crumbling down.

A student exiting the library held the doors open when I reached them.  I mumbled my thanks to the guy and kept going.  Five minutes, tops, and I’d be out of there by noon.  Texas wasn’t having all these problems.  I couldn’t wait to get home to my parents’ working ranch where I could put my shiny new business degree to use.  The paperwork alone had become a mess since I’d left, and I had a lot of plans to help increase profits.

Trish, my best friend, stood behind the checkout counter.  We’d been roommates during our freshman year.  I’d never been good with people except those closest to me, but she’d poked and prodded until I let her into my inner circle.  If not for her forcing me out of my reclusiveness, my college experience might have been limited to classes and my dorm room.  I still didn’t like interacting with people much, but she’d helped me improve my social skills a lot.

Trish had graduated on Saturday too, but she planned to stay on for her master’s program.  Her boyfriend, Justin, was chatting with her.  I wasn’t surprised to see him there.

If you looked at them, you wouldn’t think they were a good match.  She had wild curly red hair, pale skin, and a curvy figure.  He had brown hair in a military cut, tanned skin from a lot of time spent outdoors, and a toned physique.  She wore bright, colorful clothing to match her personality, he stuck with earth tones.  He never joked and took everything seriously.  Even their interests weren’t the same.  From the time they’d started dating two years ago until now I’d never understood how they stayed together.

Neither of them noticed me walking up.  Not even when I cleared my throat.

“I’m telling you, it’s fracking causing the earthquakes,” Justin said, his tone serious.

She rolled her eyes.  “Maybe we should frack later and really shake things up.”

“You’re just trying to change the subject.”  He gave her an exasperated look.  “The way they’re drilling these days—it’s important we do something about it.”

Justin was an environmental science major who really got into his studies.  Before college he’d served in the army for six years in the infantry and had done two tours overseas. Now he was enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program with only one year left to go.  The guy was all about serving his country in whatever way he could.  Now he thought he could do more as an officer.

It made him an interesting choice for Trish, considering she took life a lot less seriously than he did, unless you counted books.  Whether they were fiction or non-fiction she practically lived in them.  Probably the reason she’d chosen to major in library science.

I dropped my stack of books on the counter in front of her.  “Am I interrupting something?”

“Oh, look what the earthquake shook up,” she said, giving me a once-over.  “Bailey, you look like crap.”

I tucked a stray strand of my black hair behind my ear.  Whenever it rained, it fell limp and lifeless.  Cutting it to shoulder-length for the summer hadn’t given it any of the body the stylist had promised.  I suspected my make-up was ruined, too.  It was definitely one of those days.

“There’s another storm approaching,” I explained.

Trish sighed.  “Great.  It’ll probably strike the moment I head home.”

“Not to worry.  I brought an umbrella,” Justin reassured her, patting his backpack.

He was always prepared for anything.

“So you’re really out of here?” Trish asked, drawing my attention back to her.

“The truck is packed and the tank is full.”  I’d even loaded up on water and snacks so I wouldn’t have to stop before the state border.

She scanned the books into the system.  “Make sure you call me when you get home.”

It would only take a little over four hours to drive to my stepfather’s ranch southwest of Dallas.  I’d arrive well before dark and maybe even in time for one of my mother’s home-cooked meals.  After eating like a bum since Christmas break, I was ready for some real food.

A rumble of thunder sounded above our heads.

“Yeah, I will,” I said, glaring up at the ceiling.

Trish came around the counter and gave me a hug.  I had to admit I was going to miss her and all the fun we’d had together in the last four years.  We planned to meet again at the end of the summer, but that seemed a long time away.  Too bad she couldn’t come live on the ranch with me.  I could use a buffer against my brothers.

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait until the storm passes?” she asked, pulling away.

“It’s not raining yet and the radar showed it clear to the south.  I’ll be fine.”

The ground jerked beneath our feet.  Our eyes widened and we grabbed each other for balance.  Then it started shaking faster, sending us tumbling down.  Screams rose up around us and books spilled from nearby shelves, crashing to the floor.  Was this it?  Was this the earthquake that would finally do us in?  Maybe those folks preaching on street corners had been right after all.

Trish and I huddled against the counter as more than a minute went by with no sign of it letting up.  Justin kneeled next to us muttering about fracking, but unlike his usual bravado he looked worried this time.  We’d had some earthquakes recently, but nothing bad enough to send my heart racing into overdrive.  It had to be at least a 6.0 on the Richter scale.  Maybe higher.

About the time I thought the roof would surely come down on top of us, the shaking stopped.  A moment later a loud roar came from somewhere outside.  I’d never heard anything like it, but the angry sound sent chills down my spine.  What the hell was wrong with this place?  It had been fairly normal when I’d first arrived on campus.  Now a day couldn’t go by without something weird happening.

I stood, dusting myself off.  The ceiling had cracked and bits of plaster had spilled down, but the library didn’t look too bad.  After all that shaking it should have appeared a lot worse.

“I’ve got to go,” I said.

A few other students had the same idea and were already heading for the doors.

Trish gripped the counter as she rose up.  “Are you sure this is a good time to leave?”

“Uh, yeah.  This place is falling apart.  You should go, too.”

She shook her head.  “The library was built to last.  It’ll be fine.”

Trish was the one who worked here.  I had to hope she was right.  A part of me wanted to grab her and force her to leave with me.  With everything that kept happening, it couldn’t be safe to stay here.  She was stubborn, though.  I could see it in the tilt of her chin that she wouldn’t go anywhere.  Crazy woman.

“Just be careful,” I warned.  “The next earthquake could be bigger.”

“I will,” she promised.

We hugged one last time and I hurried toward the doors.  Outside a cool blast of wind hit my face and more thunder rumbled to the west.  There were a handful of people grouped together in front of the clock tower.  I was in such a hurry to get to my truck I didn’t think anything of it until one of them pointed at the sky.

“Holy shit, is that for real?” a guy asked.

I swung my head in the direction of the football stadium and nearly stumbled.

“Are those…”  I couldn’t bring myself to finish.

“Dragons,” a young woman next to me breathed out. Continue Reading →

First three chapters of Darkness Shatters

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m giving you all an early peek at the first three chapters for Darkness Shatters.  Please keep in mind that this is not the final version and that there may be some minor changes before the novel releases.  Hope you enjoy!

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Chapter One

 

There was no price I wouldn’t have paid for one night of peace and quiet, but unfortunately even the brief illusion of peace couldn’t be bought.  Not by me, anyway.  It was a squeaking noise that woke me.

Coming from inside my house.

I cracked my eyes open and ran my gaze about the dark bedroom, searching for the source.  Nothing stirred.  My hand crept over to the other side of the bed and found cold, empty sheets.  Lucas hadn’t returned during the night.  Not that I’d expected him to since he’d called the previous evening to say he’d arrived in Portland—still searching for his missing twin brother.

Faint giggling floated down the hallway, coming from another bedroom.  I sent my senses out.  Emily’s boyfriend, Hunter, had snuck in sometime after I’d gone to sleep.  He was over at the house often enough that I’d almost forgotten he shouldn’t have been there.  Emily came up on my radar as warm and familiar, whereas his presence sent light claws raking against my mind.

Damn teenagers.

I shoved my warm blankets away and got up.  It was time to do my duty as a parent and put a stop to this.  Padding across the room, I grabbed a robe and pulled it on.   No need to give Hunter, an eighteen-year-old werewolf, an eyeful since I only slept in a skimpy tank top and underwear.

The wood floor didn’t creak as I crept down the hallway, but that wasn’t my real concern.  Emily was a sensor, like me.  If she was paying attention she’d know I was coming toward her room, but the emotions I picked up from her revealed no panic.  Instead all I sensed was lust and excitement.  Those sort of feelings could distract our kind from picking up any trouble coming our way.

The door wasn’t locked.  I pushed it wide open and got an eyeful of the teenagers in bed.  Hunter didn’t have his shirt on and Emily’s was pulled up to her neck.  His body blocked my view of her chest.

“Hunter, get off of her right now.”

Their heads swung in my direction.  Emily’s face was flushed and her shoulder-length brown hair was tousled.  She shoved Hunter to the side and pulled the blanket over herself.  I caught just enough before that to be sure they hadn’t gone all the way.  Both of them still had their pants on.  I could give small thanks for that.

“But we weren’t doing anything wrong,” Emily argued.  “Just kissing.”

Like it wouldn’t have gone further.

“On a Sunday night when you have to be up for school in a few hours?  He’s leaving.”

“It snowing outside.”  She pulled the blanket tightly against her chest and scooted up.  “You can’t make him leave now.”

Hunter sat next to her on the bed and stared at me with frozen horror.  He hadn’t shaved in a couple of days and there was a bit of dark scruff on his face.  Emily might not care about getting caught, but he did.  The dread in his brown eyes said it all.

“Not my problem.  He has to go.”

I moved toward the bed, grabbed his arm, and hauled him onto the floor.  He had to weigh about a hundred and eighty with all the muscle on him, but it didn’t bother me since I’d become immortal and increased my strength.  I did make a point of not looking at his pale, naked chest too closely.  It was awkward enough that I’d walked in on them making out.

Emily grabbed her phone off the nightstand and pressed her finger to the screen.  She lifted it up for me to see. “It’s like, negative forty degrees outside.  Let him stay until morning.”

I moved to the window and peered out.  It was dark, but the porch light lit up the yard.  Only my Jeep sat in the driveway with a thin layer of snow covering it.  No other cars were out there, but there was a faint hint of recent tracks leading to the side of the house.

“He should have thought of that before coming here.  He’s a werewolf.  I’m sure he’ll survive getting home.”

We might live out in the bush of Alaska where houses were few and far between, but there were only so many places to leave a car in January with all the snow that had accumulated over the last few months.  I was willing to bet he’d parked it around the side of the house where he could plug the vehicle into an electrical outlet to keep it warm.  That’s where it was the last time I’d caught him in Emily’s room.  With winter set in the temperatures were too low to risk a cold start.  It could ruin the engine.

“Fine.”  She shot me an annoyed look before hopping out of bed to give Hunter a quick kiss, blanket still wrapped around her.  “Just come by tomorrow night.”

He gave her a rueful smile.

“You know the rules, Emily.”  I pointed a finger at her.  “You two got caught in the act and can’t visit each other for a week.”

There was nothing I could do about school, but since they tried to spend every possible moment with each other I could take nights and weekends away.

“That’s such bullshit.”  She plopped herself onto the bed.

Sometimes I missed the old Emily who was sweet and didn’t argue with me so much.  She’d been an easy teenager to take care of until she’d gotten a head injury the previous spring and her personality had altered drastically.  Now we fought more than we got along.

“Sorry, Melena,” Hunter said as he pulled on his sweater.

“You need to stop letting her talk you into this…”  I stopped.

A scratching noise came from downstairs.  Sable had just come through the cat door and was making her way toward us at a fast pace.  She skidded to a halt at my feet, currently in the form of a reddish-brown lynx with black markings, and growled at me.  Then she sunk her teeth into my robe and tugged until I almost fell over.  It was the sign she’d been taught to give me in case there was an emergency and I needed to follow her somewhere.  Probably into the woods since that’s where she typically roamed and there wasn’t much else this far outside Fairbanks.

“Is it really that important?” I asked her.

She ran to the doorway and then looked back.  I could sense the urgency in her emotions.  She was definitely upset about something and wanted me to see it.  Whether I wanted to or not, I was going to have to check it out.

“Finish getting dressed and meet me at the front door,” I ordered Hunter. Continue Reading →

Excerpt from Darkness Clashes and giveaway

I’ve got the first four chapters of Darkness Clashes for you all below.  It comes to almost 12k words and should help tide you over until the novel releases.  At the end, you’ll also get the details for a giveaway of new series promo items.

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 Chapter One

 The werewolf had been staring at me for the last twenty minutes.  His relentless gaze sent chills along my spine and made it hard for me not to turn and face him.  Even from twenty feet away I could sense his growing desire.  What was he waiting for?  The right moment to pounce?

The dozens of humans surrounding us might have had something to do with it.  This was Spokane, Washington.  Not a lot of vampires around to compel the mortals into forgetting if the werewolf made a big scene.  With the full moon just passed, he’d still be on edge and have to watch himself.

People from one end of the rectangular bar to the other drank, danced, and played pool games as they enjoyed their Saturday night.  Music blared from the nearby speakers and it didn’t take a sensitive nose to catch the conflicting scents of sweat, stale beer, and cheap perfume.  It was the picture of normalcy and proved how utterly oblivious these people were to the dark underbelly of the supernatural world rubbing shoulders with them.

A world I’d once avoided and pretended not to see.

The werewolf couldn’t know I wasn’t human—at least not anymore—but some sixth sense must have registered that I wasn’t easy prey.  Not even close.  I was more like a spider weaving an alluring web and waiting for him to step into it.  The one enigmatic smile I’d given him when I arrived started the game.  My loose auburn hair and blue halter dress with its short skirt kept it going.

Playing the role of a shy and vulnerable woman wore on me, but I wanted him to make the first move.  For him to think he was in control—until he wasn’t.  I didn’t get away from Fairbanks, Alaska that often.  I had to get my kicks when I could.

I took a sip of my fruity drink.  A husband and wife sat on the left side of me, drinking beer and complaining about their kids.  I’d adopted a teenager myself and understood their difficulties.  The barstool on my right side was empty, but an older man with a long gray beard sat just beyond it.  He studied his beer bottle as if the answers to the universe might be revealed on the label.  I’d tried that once.  The words turn cryptic if you stare too long.

Toward the back of the place, a chair scraped against the tile floor.  The werewolf had finally decided to make his move.  My unique abilities as a sensor allowed me to track his movements without looking, but I also had the mirror behind the bar to help.  He had to weave around a handful of high tables filled with patrons before he could reach me.

My belly churned at the thought of him getting close, but I had to do this.  He was the first potential contact I’d found in Spokane and I only had one night to get what I needed.  Lucas wouldn’t care for my methods, but I was doing this for his brother—who’d been missing for four months.  We had to do whatever it took to find him.

The werewolf put a hand against the bar to my right, filling my peripheral vision.  His tanned arm was covered with curly dark hair.  My gaze trailed up to a bulging bicep and farther, to a thick chest covered loosely with a white t-shirt.  It had a Coors Light logo on it.

He leaned down until his face couldn’t have been more than a foot from mine.  His hair was shaved off, emphasizing a round head and full cheeks.  A day’s growth of beard dusted his chin and jaw.

“Hey, sweetheart.  What’s a pretty lady like you doin’ here all alone?” he asked, letting out a whiff of beer breath.

Take one for the team, Melena. You need this guy.

Continue Reading →