Paperback versions of the Sensor Series are out!

I know some people have been interested in getting paperback versions of the Sensor Series books that are out so far.  While Darkness Haunts has been available for over a year, I sort of slacked off on getting the other books done.  My apologies!

As of now, you can find all three books available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  They should be updating with other online retailers soon.  I also just got the new cover for Darkness Haunts updated to replace the old one.  For those who’d like to see what the full covers look like, I’m pasting them below:

 

 

Darkness Haunts full cover

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00012]

 

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00058]

Though it may not be until early next month, I will see about doing some giveaways for them. Be sure to follow me here and on Facebook for the best chance of winning signed copies!

 

 

Upcoming Blog Tour

I’ll be going on a virtual book tour starting the last week of this month (August).  There are a lot of stops along the way that will include reviews, guest posts, and interviews.  If you all would like to follow along or check any of them out, this is the list of sites I’ll be at, along with the dates.  I’ll also post reminders on Facebook and Twitter for those who follow me there.

Darkness Haunts and Taunts Button 300 x 225

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August 26 Spotlight
Who’s Reviews –
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August 27 Interview
Deb Sanders
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August 27 review
Who’s Reviews –
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August 28 interview
Reading In Twilight
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August 29 Guest blog and review
Urban Girl Reader –
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August 29 Guest blog
Simply Infatuated
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August 30 Interview
Books & Other Spells
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August 30 Interview
Pembroke Sinclair.
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September 2 Interview and review
Crazy Four Books
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September 2 Spotlight and review
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September 2 review
Let’s get BOOKED!
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September 3 Interview
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September 3 Guest blog
Paranormal Romance Fans for Life
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September 4 Spotlight
Share My Destiny
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September 4 Spotlight
Elfie Books
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September 5 Spotlight Book One
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
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September 5 Spotlight and review
Ebook Escapes
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September 6 Spotlight Book Two
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
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September 9 Spotlight and review
Michelle’s Paranormal Vault of Books
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September 9 review
Paranormal cravings
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I’ll look forward to seeing those who join me along the way!

Original Intro to Darkness Taunts

I asked on Facebook if anyone would like to read the original beginning to Darkness Taunts.  After receiving a positive response, I decided I’d post it here for those interested.  I will warn you now that it is has some disgusting and naughty elements to it, but I admit to giggling the whole time I was writing it and still can’t read it without laughing (my mind is much dirtier than what I allow myself to publish).  Some of my beta readers felt I might have gone too far by putting this scene at the beginning of the book.  Needless to say, it got cut out.  A friend read it later and said I should have kept it.  She thought it was great, so I decided it would become a deleted scene to post later.

If you’ve read the first chapter of Darkness Taunts, you’ll recognize the first few paragraphs (which are mostly the same), but it will deviate once the dialog starts.

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I stiffened when my latest customer came through the door.  She had long orange-red hair pulled back in a braid and a pudgy nose that flared every time she breathed.  Surprise reflected in her brown eyes when they met mine.  I’d only worked here a few months, but not all the supernaturals, or sups as I preferred to call them, in the area had seen me yet.  Their reactions made me wonder if they pictured me as some kind of monster.  I could say the same of them.

This woman was from a particularly nasty race that had all my instincts screaming to run.  Trolls were carnivores and not picky about their meat sources.  This was the closest I’d ever been to one.  My senses, which could recognize a sup’s race as well as their emotions, weren’t picking up anything hostile from her, but for all I knew she could kill me as easily as lick a lollipop.

Working in a shop that catered to sup needs went against everything I’d been taught growing up, but my funds were starting to run low and jobs weren’t easy to come by in this economy.  Felisha, a fairy and sort-of friend had offered the position after her business picked up.  We’d rid the area of a controlling vampire-witch hybrid with maniacal tendencies five months ago and many of the sups who she’d driven away had returned.  I couldn’t throw a tombstone without hitting one these days, and that was saying something, considering I wasn’t stronger than any regular human.

I shifted my weight to the balls of my feet, wanting to take off.  Troll or not, I couldn’t leave the store unattended no matter how much I wanted to.  My former military training wouldn’t allow me leave my post unattended—or herb shop in this case.  I glanced below the counter in front of me.  My fully-loaded gun rested safe and within easy reaching distance.  One wrong move and I’d blow her head off.  No questions asked.  Felisha could yell at me later for the blood stains on the floor.

I smiled.  “Can I help you?”

In a sort of waddle she made her way toward me.  Herbal fragrances permeated the room, but the troll over-powered them all with a scent comparable to a sewer line.  It took every bit of my control not to plug my nose.  She stopped a couple of steps from the counter.  Her head barely topping its four feet.

Her eyes shifted to the doorway leading to the back storage area before leveling on me.  “Where’s the fairy?”

“Gone for the day.”

She frowned.  “Do you know what you’re doin’?”

Probably not as much as she’d like, but I’d learned enough to fake it.  “Yep,” I said.

She grunted.  “Well, I guess you’ll have ta do then.”

Nothing like rating second best.  “What do you need?”

She jutted her chin out.  “Me husband ain’t performing like he should.  You’ve gotta give me somethin’ to fix him.”

People never did spit out their problems right away.  I always had to pry it out of them.  “What do you mean?”

She put her hands on her hips.  “His wee one, ya know.  It’s ‘avin troubles.  Me husband’s head might be gettin’ thicker with age, but his willie is softer than butter most times.”

Okay, this was the one time I would have preferred she keep things in vague terms.  My fingers curled on the counter.  “You’re telling me you need something to help with your husband’s erectile dysfunction problems?”

“His what?”  She looked at me like I’d grown horns.

“His…”  I shook my head.  “Never mind.  How often is he having this problem?”

“Well,” she tapped her chin, “most times since a few weeks ago.  He’s down ta maybe getting’ his self up ta perform once a day.”

Seriously?  I was beginning to envy a troll for her sex life.  “Once a day isn’t enough?”

“Course not!  I’m in my prime.  Just got the last of the youngins outta the house and I’m wantin’ ta enjoy me golden years.  We been doin’ the deed at least five or six times a day ‘til now.  Then Carl—that be me husband, couldn’t keep up no more.”

I looked at the clock.  Emily would be getting out of school in twenty minutes.  I had to get this woman and her issues taken care of before then.  My fifteen year old charge did not need to learn about troll sexual habits.

“Was there any particular event that might have sparked this?”  Felisha insisted I ask a certain round of questions before handing out any specialized herbs.  They could do more harm than good if taken for the wrong reasons.

“Let me think.”  She crossed her arms and tapped her foot.  “We was under our favorite bridge the first time it happened.  Ya know, the one for University Avenue that goes over the Chena River?”

I nodded, wondering if it was possible to avoid that bridge for the rest of my life.

“He had me skirt lifted over me head.”  She pinched the thick brown one she had on now.  “He can be such a brute, but a fine one.  Anyway, he had his mouth ‘tween me legs lickin’ up a storm.  It was heaven, let me tell ya.  Carl’s tongue is a bit on the nubby side…and it has those kinda furry warts on it, but it’s pure magic.” She sighed with a blissful expression on her face.

Felisha didn’t pay me enough for this.  “How about you get to the part where the problem started.”

Her eyes glazed over in memory.  “Well, after he got his fill, he moved ta position his self ‘tween me thighs but his willie was havin’ none of that.  I’ve seen spaghetti noodles with more spunk, let me tell ya.  I tried everythin’ to help him.  Even slapped him around a bit, which usually does the trick, but it didn’t faze him.  We finally had ta give up and now he’s lucky if he can manage once a day.”

I cleared my throat.  “Um, okay.  How about his diet?  Has that changed at all?”

She shook her head.  “We ain’t changed a thing in years.  It’s nothin’ but worms, frogs, and rats for us since we ain’t allowed ta feast on anything bigger these days.  Beans mixed with maggots if we can’t get anything else.”

I’d be lucky if I managed to eat anything tonight…or tomorrow for that matter.  “Let me see what we have in the back.  Just give me a few minutes.”

Me and my stomach needed a break from this crazy woman.  Felisha had a small library in the storage area that covered treatments for most of the different sup races.  Thankfully, she kept it organized so I could find the one on trolls without too much trouble.  I flipped through the small notebook until I found what I was looking for.  A sigh of relief escaped me.  The treatment was simple and had nothing that would require graphic details to explain.

I moved over the storage bins, scooped out some seeds from an herb called “Devil’s Guts” and bagged them up.  It took another minute to create a label with instructions, but with herbs too much or too little could have bad consequences.  The female troll hadn’t moved since I’d left her.  She eyed the bag in my hand with raised brows when I returned.

“Will that work?” she asked.

I nodded.  “This is what he needs.  Steep a tablespoon full of seeds in some hot water for about thirty minutes and have him drink it twice a day.  Don’t let him eat the actual seeds.  He just needs to drink the water.  Don’t take this yourself or let anyone else use it.”

You had to spell these things out because different species of sups had different reactions to various herbs.  What would cure one of fever would kill another.  Working here was a lot like being a veterinarian because of all the different races we catered to—except I got all my training on the job instead of at a formal school.  I’d learned to be extra careful before selling anything to anyone.  No need to make the locals want to take a pitch-fork at me.  They already wanted to do that anyway.

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After this, the troll brings up the demon problem and it went on mostly like the first chapter that got published.

Darkness Taunts is out!

Darkness Taunts - medium sizeThanks to everyone for being patient with this book release.  I’m happy to say Darkness Taunts is live on Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

Since some of you are speed readers and will have this book done in a day (despite it being 101k words), I’m letting you guys know now that I will be doing a post on Sunday (July 14th) to give you all some details about Chained by Darkness.  I can’t do it at this time because it would reveal major spoilers for DT.  If you really don’t want to wait to have your questions answered (after you finish Darkness Taunts), send me an email or use the contact page.  I’ll give you a few details to hold you over.

You’ll also notice I included the first chapter of another urban fantasy series by an amazing author, Debra Dunbar, who has a wicked sense of humor.  I love her books and asked her to let me put the first chapter of the first novel of her series in the back of mine.  Our writing is close enough I think most people who enjoy The Sensor Series will like The Imp Series (her demons are much more personable than mine, though).  She has three books out so far with a fourth coming very soon.  If you’re looking for something new, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Thanks again for your patience.  Hope you all enjoy Darkness Taunts!

Links:

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Germany

Amazon France

First two chapters of Darkness Taunts

As promised, I’m posting the first two chapters of Darkness Taunts below.  If you missed my post yesterday, I’ve had to make the difficult choice to delay publishing the novel for a week to finish edits.  You can read more on that here.  Thanks to those who have already sent some really sweet emails to me and requested the PDF file for the first four chapters.  I’ll be sending it out to you all shortly.

Anyone else who would like the file is welcome to send me a message via the contact form (click here).  Later today I’ll email out the next batch (email addresses will be kept private).  I’d post all four of the chapters, but with them adding up to over 14k words it would become ridiculously long.  Any fans of Jeaniene Frost know how lengthy it gets when she puts up the first twenty percent of her novels.  Though if you’re like me, you’ll read it all on her site anyway.

Note- This novel is more explicit than Darkness Haunts, though you’ll only start to see that in the early chapters.

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Chapter One

Sometimes doing the right thing can have unintended consequences.  It can turn your life upside down and alter it in ways you never imagined.  For me, the decision to save a friend came at a cost I might never stop paying.  I’d been hiding amongst humans for most of my life, but now the supernaturals had me in their clutches.  Whether I could survive in their world remained to be seen.

I stiffened when my latest customer came through the door.  She had long orange-red hair pulled back in a braid and a pudgy nose that flared every time she breathed.  Surprise reflected in her brown eyes when they met mine.  I’d only worked here for a few months but not all the supernaturals, or sups as I preferred to call them, in the area had seen me yet.  Their reactions made me wonder if they pictured me as some kind of monster.  I could say the same of them.

This woman was from a particularly nasty race that had my instincts screaming to run.  Trolls were carnivores and not picky about their meat sources.  My unusual abilities allowed me to recognize a sup’s race as well as pick up on their emotions.  They were a sort of warning system that gave me the chance to see danger coming, but these days they did little good when I couldn’t get away from it.  I didn’t sense anything hostile coming from the troll, but for all I knew she could kill me as easily as licking a lollipop.

Working in a shop that catered to supernatural needs didn’t make things any easier, but my funds were starting to run low and jobs weren’t easy to come by in this economy.  Felisha, a fairy and sort-of friend, had offered the position after her business picked up.  Many sups had returned to the area after we’d rid it of a vampire-witch hybrid with maniacal tendencies five months ago.  I couldn’t throw a tombstone without hitting one these days, and that was saying something, considering I wasn’t stronger than any regular human.

I shifted my weight to the balls of my feet, wanting nothing more than to run.  Troll or not, though, I couldn’t go.  My former military training wouldn’t allow me to leave my post unattended—or herb shop in this case.  I glanced below the counter in front of me.  My fully-loaded gun rested safe and within easy reaching distance.  One wrong move and I’d blow the troll’s head off.  Felisha could yell at me later for the blood stains on the floor.

I pasted a smile on my face.  “Can I help you?”

In a sort of waddle, she made her way toward me.  Herbal fragrances permeated the room, but the troll over-powered them with a scent comparable to a sewer line.  My fingers twitched.  How offended would the customer get if I kept my nose plugged until she left?   I’d probably end up in a roasting pit by nightfall if I tried it.

She stopped a couple of steps from the counter.  I could barely see her head over the top.  Her eyes shifted to the doorway leading to the back storage area before returning to me.

“Where’s the fairy?”

I braced my hands on the counter.  “Gone until tomorrow.”

“Just as well,” she said.  “I came to see you anyway.”

“Me?”  Nothing good ever came from sups looking for me.

She nodded.  “Ain’t none of us fans of you bein’ here, but it’s about time you proved your worth.”

I crossed my arms.  “I got Nikolas back for you all didn’t I?  That’s more than any of you managed to do for him.”

“Hmph, I ain’t sayin’ you didn’t never prove useful.”  She paused to look around—probably to make sure the master vampire in question wasn’t going to pop out and punish her for harassing me.  “But we don’t like you stickin’ around here.”

“Well that makes two of us.”  I leaned forward.  “If you’ve got a problem with it, by all means go talk to Nikolas because I’m all for leaving.”

Most of them didn’t know I’d tried to escape and failed.  The vampire hadn’t dragged me back—he didn’t have the ability to find me that fast.  One of his powerful friends, and my greatest nemesis, handled the job.  Between the two of them I couldn’t get free of Fairbanks.

The troll’s face hardened.  “Trouble is brewin’. Some think you caused it, but me—I’m hopin’ you’ll be the one to fix it.”

“What trouble?” I asked.

“Demons.”  Her voice grew ominous.  “They’re comin’ for us if someone don’t stop ‘em.  That someone should be you.”

These people never gave up.  She was the third person to come in talking about them in the last couple of days.  It had to be another ridiculous attempt to force Nik to get rid of me.  Only him and his inner circle wanted me here.

“There are no demons in Fairbanks,” I said.  “What makes you think they’re coming?”

“I hear things,” she said in a low voice.  “I got friends who tell me they’re close and it’s just a matter of time afore they make their way here.”

“Are you sure they said demons?” I asked.  She might believe what she said, but that didn’t make it true.  I’d never run into one in my life and I felt confident my senses would have picked them up if I had.  So far, nothing out of the ordinary had come around Fairbanks.  Well, nothing weirder than usual.

She huffed.  “What are ya, deaf?  I said demons and I meant it.  Don’t be looking at me like I’m the crazy one.”

My lips thinned.  I grabbed a container of non-iodized salt from the shelf behind me and set it on the counter in front of her.  Felisha had told me what to do if more people came in asking about a supposed demon threat.  “Here’s some salt.  Put it across all the openings in your home.  That will keep them out.”

“What if I leave me house?  How am I supposed ta protect myself then?”

“If you follow some kind of religion, I’d suggest you do whatever it instructs.  Demons hate dealing with anything based on a ‘higher power’ and tend to shy away from religious symbols if your belief is strong enough.”  Another piece of advice from Felisha.  I believed in God, but avoided organized religion.  If a demon came around, I’d have to hope the higher power of my gun scared them off.

She frowned.  “That’s it?”

“Yep.”  I held out my hand.  “That’ll be five dollars.”  The salt would be cheaper if she went to a grocery store, but we’d had to rush the shipment and raise prices to cover it.

She scrunched up her nose and dug into her purse.  I couldn’t see what was inside but she started pulling stuff out in what I assumed was a search for her wallet.  First came a sealed Tupperware bowl she set on the counter.  Worms moved around inside it.  I didn’t want to know why she carried those around with her.  A brush filled with her orangish hair came next.  A carving knife—I took a step back for that one.  Finally, more odds and ends she stacked up in front of me in one big heap.  How much could that purse hold?

“Ah hah!”  She smiled and pulled a coin purse from the depths of her bag.

Her gnarled hands snapped it open and took out a wad of bills—all of them wrinkled and stained with faint brown spots.  She had enough to make me wonder what trolls did to get their money.  Then again, maybe I didn’t want to know.  One by one she began to count them out.  I made a mental note to spray them with sanitizer after she left.  Maybe use some gloves too.

More customers headed toward the shop at the same time as the troll pushed the money across the counter.  I sensed the two pixies before I saw them through the front windows.    The couple walked through the door and surveyed their surroundings.  Thankfully the troll had finished putting all her stuff back into her purse, including the salt, before their gazes reached the counter.  They weren’t much taller than my first customer, but they were much easier to look at.  The man and woman had fair skin, small builds, and green hair.  All pixies had a thing for bright colors.

A family of about twenty of them had moved to the Fairbanks area a few weeks ago.  The town had never had any before.  They reminded me of my former best friend, Lisette, who lived back in California.  She wouldn’t speak to me anymore.  I’d pissed her off when I had Nik compel her to leave Fairbanks after she’d refused to go on her own.  It had been for her safety, but she didn’t see it that way.  A lot of things had gone wrong in my life since coming to Alaska.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

They took a few small steps closer.  I could tell they didn’t want to get near the stinky female troll any more than I did.  At least, I thought that was the case until the female pixie met my eyes.  Pure hate filled them.  Great.  They hadn’t even been here long and they were already full-fledged members of my anti-fan club.

“What do you know about the demon problem?” she asked.

I lifted my brows.  “There is no demon problem.  If any had come to Fairbanks, I would have sensed them.”

“They may not be here yet, but we know they’re close.”  She braved another step forward.  “We have children to worry about.  If you’ve brought them here you can be sure you’ll be paying for it.”

“Who’s telling you this?” I asked.  Was there some demon warning hotline I didn’t know about?  Why did they think I had anything to do with it?

She sneered.  “As if I’d tell you.  You’d probably send the demons after them next.”

I made myself count to ten before replying.  “I’ve never met a demon and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to control it.  Whatever you’re hearing, it’s not true.”

The pixie’s husband pointed a finger at me.  “Everyone knows your kind once had the angels at your beck and call.  Maybe you’re doing the same with demons now.”

I glanced at the clock.  Emily would be getting out of school in ten minutes.  She’d come straight to the shop afterward and I didn’t want her walking into the middle of this.  They had no idea the fifteen-year-old girl was a sensor as well, but she might slip and say something in defense of me.  If these sups found out, they wouldn’t care that she’d had her abilities for less than a year.  They’d attack her, too.  Racist bastards.

Somehow, I had to channel my inner diplomacy and get these people out of here.

“Look, there are no demons here.  If they do come to Fairbanks, though, I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.  For now…”  I grabbed another canister of salt and set it on the counter.  “You can pour this in your doorways and window sills.  It will keep them out of your homes.”

I went on to explain the religious angle.  Thanks to Lisette, I knew most pixies were Catholic.  They had loads of stuff they could use to help them combat demons.

“Why should we trust anything you have to say?” the man asked.

“Because,” I said.  “This is my home and I have people I care about here, too.  I don’t want demons here any more than you guys.”

The troll and the pixies stared me down.  Great, they were starting to form a mob mentality.  I put a placating hand up.  “I’m serious.  Use the salt and take my advice.  If demons do show up in Fairbanks, I’ll do my best to help get rid of them.”

“You sure about that?” the troll asked.  She’d started to inch closer to the pixie couple in an odd form of solidarity.  At least I had the power to make two races who didn’t like each other join forces.

I nodded.  “I helped Nik get back into power, didn’t I?  If the town is in danger, I’ll find a way to deal with it.”  Not that I had the first clue how to get rid of demons, but they didn’t need to know that.  I’d learned in the army that making people think you knew what you were doing was half the battle.

They each looked at each other.  A tension-filled minute passed before their glares looked a little less severe.  The pain developing in my head went down a few notches as well.

The female pixie came forward and took the salt.  “How much for this?”

I told her the same amount as the troll.

“But that’s too much!”

“I don’t set the prices.”  I shrugged.  Let Felisha take the heat for it.  I’d had more than my fair share for the day.

She grumbled, but she paid for it.  A lot of people will pick convenience over price, especially if they thought they needed something right away.  After I bagged it for her, she grabbed her husband and headed for the entrance.  At the door she paused and turned around.  “You better be right about this or we’ll be back—with friends.”

The troll still stood by the counter.  She turned from watching the others and grinned.  I could see her sharp tiny teeth and had to hold back a shudder.

“If it turns out you lied,” she said.  “I promise I’ll be comin’ back with them.  Even Master Nikolas can’t stop us if we all go after ya!”

With those cheery words, she waddled out.  I breathed a sigh of relief when she drove her beat-up truck from the parking lot.  It back-fired and kicked out a billow of smoke as it made its way onto the street.  Emily arrived soon after that.

She came bustling in with a heavy coat and no cap over her shoulder length brown hair.  It had warmed up to almost zero degrees so she didn’t need it at this point in the day.  At least, that’s what she always told me when I made a case about it.

She wasn’t from around here either, but she’d moved to Fairbanks a year and a half ago, giving her more time to adjust to the freezing weather.  The six months I’d been in the area hadn’t been enough.  I plotted my next escape attempt every morning when I stepped outside into the icy-cold air.  At least it was February now.  January had almost killed me.

“Wipe your feet before you come any further,” I said.

She forgot every time if I didn’t tell her.  It probably stemmed from her mother never really caring for her.  Five months of staying with me hadn’t been long enough to break her bad habits.  I’d been a single 26-year-old who’d never dealt with kids when I took her in.  I had to admit my skills weren’t that great either, but at least I made sure Emily’s basic needs were met.

She stomped a few times on the welcome mat before making her way to the counter.  “Do you think we could take a vacation to someplace warm sometime soon?”

I’d take her in a heartbeat if I could.  Unfortunately, there were forces far more powerful than us keeping us here.  “We tried that twice already.  Remember?”

Her shoulders slumped.  “Yeah, I know.”

“Why don’t you go in the back and do your homework?”  I was really starting to sound like a mom.  Six months ago I wouldn’t have considered having children of my own, much less adopting any.  Now I had a teenager with abilities we had to hide.

“I will, but um…I have something to ask first.”  She stuffed her hands in her pockets.  There was a pleading look in her blue eyes that put me on guard.  You didn’t have to raise a teenager for long to learn some telling signs.

“What is it?”

“You see,” she said, looking anywhere but at me.  “Valentine’s Day is coming up.  I really want to have a party and invite all my friends.”

I crossed my arms.  “After what happened with your birthday last month?”

“But that wasn’t my fault!”  She stomped her foot.

She didn’t really believe that.  As sensors, we could detect lies—even between each other.  She’d stolen some liquor from Nik’s house, the master vampire of the area and our protector-warden.  Since it took a lot for him to get drunk, he didn’t carry much of the light stuff.  Emily could have grabbed one of the other bottles he kept stocked for non-immortal guests, but she went for his private stock.  Not that I agreed with either option, but if you’re going to break the rules you should be smart about it.

She used the liquor to spike the punch and one of her friends drank more than her fair share.  We found her barely alive outside where she’d wandered off and passed out in a snow bank.  I’d had to call Nik over to our house for help.  It had taken a dose of his blood to fix her and his compulsion to make sure she didn’t report it back to her parents.  She’d been unsurprisingly shocked when she woke up with his bleeding wrist pressed to her mouth.

Even in a haven like Fairbanks, sups hid their real identities.  We couldn’t let the secret get out through a teenage drinking incident.  I should have been paying closer attention, but parenting stuff was still new to me and I’d had to learn the lesson the hard way.

“No more parties.  It was too crowded the last time and I couldn’t keep up with all your friends.”

“But Mel,” she whined.  “There’s nothing to do around here in the winter and Nik says he’ll help you supervise.  I went and asked him about it last night.”

She’d talked to him before coming to me.  Great.  I rubbed my face.  Today kept getting better and better.

“You should have discussed it with me first,” I said.  “And what were you doing at his house?”

A guilty flush rose up her cheeks.  “Well, I was bored.  You went to get the pizza so I went over to his place for a few minutes.”

We didn’t live close to town.  I’d been gone for over an hour to pick up dinner and a few things from the store.  “I told you not to go over there without me.  It’s not safe with all the vamps and werewolves running around there.”

“Most of them don’t know what I am and they all like me anyway.  It’s you they aren’t so hot about.”  She frowned.  It bothered her that they didn’t accept me, but I tried to keep that problem from her as much as I could—today being a good example.

“The point is you’re not having a party,” I said.

Better to get her back to the original topic before this conversation devolved.  I braced myself when her eyes turned pleading again.

“Come on, Mel.  It’ll be fine this time.  I promise.”

“No.”  I shook my head.  “With my luck, it will be even worse than the last time.  Not to mention you’ve got Nik wrapped around your little finger.  You’ll probably get him to look the other way for any stunts you try to pull.”

She gave me a pouty lip.  “I won’t do anything bad.  Please.”

I stared up at the ceiling and resisted the temptation to give in.  She reminded me of myself at that age.  I’d been orphaned and did anything I could to make myself forget the loneliness—including drinking and partying.  Emily hid it well, but I knew her mother leaving her hurt.  Stephanie had been a newly turned vamp, but she should have cared more.

She didn’t even try to take her daughter away with her when we ordered her to leave the area.  She took off as soon as she found out we killed her vampire-witch boss and most of her sup friends.  A few got away, but we’d let Stephanie live for Emily’s sake.  Since then, the teenager refused to talk about her mom no matter how much I tried to get her to open up.

I sighed.  Life hadn’t been easy for her and I didn’t like playing the bad guy.  Letting her have a party so soon after the disaster with the last one would be pushing it, though.  We’d have to find something else for her to do.  Chick flicks and popcorn would be much safer.

“I’m sorry, Emily.”  I shook my head.  “There’s not going to be a party.  Maybe this summer after you’ve had more time to learn your lesson.”

Her eyes widened.  “This summer?  But that’s too far away!”

“You’ll survive.  Trust me.”  Why couldn’t she go to someone else’s party?  At least then I wouldn’t be responsible.  For some reason she didn’t like being away from home that much.  Her friends always came to our place rather than the other way around.

“Fine,” she said, giving me the kicked puppy look.

This wouldn’t be the last of it.  She’d bring the party topic up again, but at least for now I was off the hook.

“Oh, I almost forgot.”  She dropped her backpack by the counter.  “I heard Nik talking on the phone about some demon problem or something going on in Juneau.  He said your name too, but he got real quiet when he saw me coming.”

I furrowed my brows.  If Nik was talking about it, there had to be something to it.  He wouldn’t bother with unsubstantiated rumors.

“You were eavesdropping on him, weren’t you?”  I asked.  Not that I didn’t want to know what Nik said, but I had to at least make a show of disapproval.  I’d read that in one of those parenting advice guides.

“Well, it’s not my fault if he talks loud enough for me to hear him from outside his office.”

Uh huh.  She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole story either.  “What did he say?”

She shrugged.  “All I caught was that they might need your help to deal with it.”

“I’m not going to Juneau,” I said.  “If they come here, that’s a different story, but I’m not going out of my way to help them.”

“That’s what I thought.”  She smiled.  “They shouldn’t be making you do dangerous stuff like that anyways.”

There was a time when I loved the thrill of danger.  I’d grown out of it.  I had Emily to think about now and keeping up with her kept me busy enough.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll just refuse.  They can’t make me do it.”

 

Chapter Two

I needed a hot shower.  The temperature had begun to drop by the time Emily and I got home.  Cold weather had a way of chilling my skin and seeping into my bones until I could hardly think.  With the exception of my six year stint in the army, I’d always lived in sunny California where most of the time people could wear shorts in the winter and keep their tans looking great while they were at it.  Not in Alaska.

After letting the water run long enough to get hot, I stepped into the spray.  It was the one time of day I truly felt warm.  For a little while I could close my eyes and let myself relax where no one could see me or bother me. No judgment or accusing glares.  Just peace and quiet.

Nik owned the house where Emily and I currently lived.  He’d intended to fix it up after he bought it, but a sleep spell put on him delayed his plans.  Variola, a four hundred-year-old vampire-witch hybrid, had been behind that little setback.

After I woke him from the spell, we’d worked together against Variola.  He’d been the only chance I had for getting my best friend back and he needed my help to get around the vamp-witch’s magic.  Once it was over, I wasn’t allowed to leave town, but I’d been adamant about getting my own place.  He’d insisted on getting a crew of his minions to do what was probably the fastest remodel in history.  The house was about a quarter of a mile away from his, putting it within easy reaching distance if trouble came our way.

I had enemies out there who wanted me dead and he took his job as protector seriously.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t want his help.  I’d hoped to go somewhere far from all supernaturals where Emily and I could live a normal life.  Nik and his powerful friends had different ideas.

The water from the hot shower soaked into my skin.  I scrubbed away the lingering scent from the troll who’d been at the shop earlier.  My poor nose would never be the same.  Her ickiness was probably in my hair, too.

I grabbed the shampoo bottle.  It was a fancy brand that helped keep my dark auburn hair shiny.  I had to order it off the Internet because no store in town carried it.  There were very few things I splurged on these days, but my bath products were among them.  They would be the last thing to be sacrificed if my financial situation got worse.  Starting a new life in Fairbanks had eaten away at my savings and my job at Felisha’s shop didn’t make up for it all.  It would help if I didn’t insist on paying rent to Nik, but I had enough supernatural debt without having to tack on more.

Shampoo ran into my eyes when I bunched up my hair to scrub it.  I started to duck my head under to rinse when an all too familiar presence flashed in behind me.  Speaking of enemies lurking out there ready to take me down—this one couldn’t decide whether to kill me or keep me alive.

I turned to confront him, but he pulled me back into his chest.  His arms slid around my wet body and everything began to spin.  I couldn’t think, couldn’t react.  We traveled through what felt like a vortex.  I couldn’t see anything with my eyes scrunched up tight, but the strong wind buffeting my skin gave me the sensation of moving at warp speed.  Long seconds dragged by when, without warning, the dizzying sensation stopped.  Only the grip of his arms kept me from falling forward.  The tile underneath my feet returned and the spray of hot water replaced the wind.

My stomach roiled and my knees threatened to buckle.  I had to slump against his chest to keep from losing my balance.  It killed me to show any kind of weakness in front of him, but he had to have known the effect his little trick would have on me.  I wanted to struggle—to knock him senseless for whatever he’d done, but my body wouldn’t cooperate.  My muddled mind couldn’t even process what kind of spell he’d done or how.

“Lucas, dammit.”  The shampoo had run down my face even worse than before.  It burned my eyes.  “What did you do to me?”

“Finish your shower, sensor,” he said close to my ear.  His arms pulled away, but he left a steadying hand.  “We’ll talk soon.”

He let his warm fingers slide off my shoulder before flashing away.  Wherever he’d gone, it was too far for me to sense.  My head still spun too much to do more than concentrate on staying on my feet.

It took a couple more minutes for the disorientation to pass.  As soon as it did, I ducked my head under the water only to realize the pressure was higher than before.  The direction of the water didn’t feel right either.  Backing away, I opened my eyes only to close them again.  No, this could not be happening.  One lid at a time I reopened them.

Black tile etched with golden swirls surrounded me on three sides with frosted glass making up the fourth.  Triple shower heads jutted from the wall and a large seat took up the opposite one.  It was far more extravagant than anything I’d ever been in before and large enough to fit at least three people.  How had he brought me here?  Lucas could move long distances by “flashing” himself wherever he wanted to go, but I was immune to magic.  He shouldn’t have been able to take me anywhere.

Focusing my senses, I sent them out to search for anyone nearby.  Not a single supernatural registered.  Humans had to be much closer for me to pick them up, and they had to be feeling strong emotions for me to do even that much.  If any of them were around now, I couldn’t detect them.

I jerked open the glass door to find myself in a luxurious bathroom.  It had double sinks and a fancy toilet that would make me feel guilty for sullying it.  Black towels hung from a golden bar attached to the wall.  I grabbed one and dried my hair off before taking another to wrap around my body.  It covered me from my chest to my knees.

A comb laid by the sink, but I didn’t touch it.  Instead I ran my fingers through my long hair until it didn’t stick out all over the place.  A bottle of lotion sat on the counter as well.  I rubbed that into my arms while thinking furiously.  Lucas wouldn’t grab me and dump me here unless he wanted something.  What that could be, I didn’t know.

I decided to do a little exploring to see if I could at least figure out where he’d taken me.  Maybe find a weapon while I was at it.  He might have finally decided to kill me and just wanted me to sweat it out a little.  I wouldn’t put it past him.

The bathroom turned out to be attached to a bedroom.  It was decorated in a completely different style.  The bed was large and looked comfortable, but it had a brass frame and a patchwork quilt on it.  The armoire and nightstand were antiques with tall legs and hand painted designs.  Doilies and floral vases sat on top of them.  Not Lucas’ taste at all.

I sifted through a few dresser drawers and a walk-in closet. They had silk shirts, suits, slacks and other clothes reminiscent of his style, but it didn’t add up.  His belongings with this furniture clashed.  I walked out the bedroom door and onto a second floor landing.  It overlooked the living room.

The high walls across from me were constructed of logs.  A cabin, maybe?  I checked the other room upstairs and found an office.  No important papers or mail sat on the desk and the drawers were locked.  A floor to ceiling shelf ran along the length of one wall.  It had an assortment of history books and classic novels, but nothing of interest.  He either didn’t use the room much or he’d cleaned up before my arrival.  I looked for a phone, or at least a phone book, but didn’t find anything.

There were two bedrooms on the first floor.  They had thick quilts on the beds, plaid curtains covering the windows, and more antique wood furniture.  A full bathroom with a large tub was situated between the rooms.  It’d been remodeled in a similar fashion to the first one upstairs.  Cozy chairs and couches filled the living room.  An unvarnished table sat in the open dining area with floral placemats set on it.  The kitchen beyond it had all white cabinets with green marble counters.

I slowly spun around, looking at the open spaces of the first floor in confusion.  Whose home was this?  I expected sleek and modern from Lucas or at least some darker colors and leather furniture.  This looked like a place an older couple had decorated.

What did he want and why bring me here?

I paced back and forth.  He could come back at any minute.  When he did, I’d be ready for him.  Well, as ready as I could be without clothes.  I was tempted to grab one of his shirts from the closet, but decided I wasn’t that desperate yet.  Not to mention he’d been alive for twenty-five hundred years.  He must have seen thousands of naked women during that time—including me.  I didn’t care what he thought of my body and refused to act like it mattered.

Goosebumps started to pop up on my arms, despite my moving around.  I went to the living room where a fire burned in the fireplace—he’d definitely planned this out.  Everything was a little too staged for my liking.

I settled down on a bear rug in front of the hearth.  How stereotypical.  What had he done?  Stolen the cabin from some innocent couple?  Maybe he’d killed them and left their bodies out in the woods for the wolves to eat.  Assuming this area had wolves.  It would be useful to know where he’d taken me.

A large bay window shared part of the same wall as the fireplace.  It had heavy green drapes hanging from it, but they’d been left open.  I could see tiny flakes of snow falling in the moonlight—other than that, nothing but trees.

It had been a long time since my senses had a total break from supernaturals and magic.  They bombarded me so often in Fairbanks my head ached most of the time unless I took something for it.  The unexpected peace and silence lulled me.  I dozed off without realizing it until a flash of light penetrated my eyelids.

Lucas appeared across the room with his back to me.  I knitted my brows.  What had happened to his hair?  He always kept it cropped close to his head at maybe half an inch long.  Now the wavy blond locks reached down to his shoulders.  I hadn’t actually seen him in the shower, but he’d been over at Nik’s a few weeks ago and it was short.  Could he have grown it out that fast?  I didn’t think nephilim could alter their natural appearance in that short of time.  At least, not without glamour, but I’d see through that and he wasn’t using it anyway.

He still hadn’t noticed me.  He held a phone in his hands and appeared to be tapping on the screen.  I saw that much before he shifted his feet and blocked my view.  I needed to take advantage while his attention was diverted.  The fire crackling in the hearth would help cover the sounds of my movement.  A nephilim’s hearing was better than a human’s, but not by much.

I stood up and grabbed an iron poker from next to the fireplace.  Lucas could heal fast, and only an archangel could kill him, but he could still feel pain.  I gripped my weapon and crept up behind him.  My bare feet didn’t make a sound on the sturdy wood floor.  Swinging as hard as I could, I slammed him over the head.

The poker hit with an audible crack and his cell phone hit the floor.

“Ow, what the…?” He spun around, gripping his head.

I inched away.  Maybe I should have gone for the knee cap.  His skull was even harder than I thought.  I’d hoped it would at least temporarily knock him out.  Most sups couldn’t have taken a hit like that without going down.

Lucas’ angry gaze locked on mine as he took a step toward me.  No way did I want to find out what he’d do next.  I swung at him again.  He caught the end before it hit him and wrenched me forward.  Grinding my teeth, I held on.  He twisted it around until my fingers couldn’t take the pressure and let go.

The poker went flying across the room.  I flinched when it slammed into the wall with a loud bang.  Shit.  He was really going to kill me this time.

We stood inches apart.  There was only one way to take down a man as big and strong as him with no weapons.  I kneed him in the groin.  He doubled over and I ran straight for the front door.  I’d rather take my chances in the snow wearing only a towel than find out what he’d do next.  My bare feet skidded across the wood floor, past the dining area, and toward the entryway.

A heavy weight slammed me from behind. Our forward momentum sent us flying before we came crashing down.  My shoulder smacked into the floor.  I yelped when ribbons of pain shot through me.  Lucas gripped my arm and twisted me to face him.  Somewhere in our scuffle, the towel got lost.  It didn’t matter.  I wasn’t going to lie there like a lamb for slaughter just because I was naked.

I twisted my body around until my legs could get free.  Keeping my left leg lying flat on one side of him, I bent my right and pushed off the floor.  He tilted to the side and almost rolled over onto his back, but he caught himself and put his arms out wide.  It played right into what I’d wanted him to do.  I grabbed his right wrist and yanked it across my chest.  Then I pivoted underneath him so one of my legs locked over his neck and the other over the top of his shoulders.

With his arms stuck between my thighs and his head shoved down toward my crotch, I squeezed as hard as I could in a straight armbar.  No mercy.  If he’d been human, he’d have been screaming by now.  His elbow should have felt as if it was about to snap, but his bones were too strong for me to break.  All I could do was hold on tight.

Some men might have gotten distracted by my nakedness and the compromising position, which might have worked to my advantage in this case, but he didn’t.  He pulled on his arm and I grunted at the effort to keep holding him.  It took every ounce of strength I had and still my grip slipped on his wrist.  This was the first time I’d ever gotten the best of him, but it might be my last.  He couldn’t die, but I sure as hell could.

Lucas tried to use “power” to freeze me, but the magic slithered past my body and snuffed out.  At least not all of his abilities worked on me.  With another strong yank, he pulled free.  I didn’t even get a chance to blink before he had my arms pinned above my head and my legs locked under his.  No chance of wiggling out of this one.  The entire length of his body covered mine with not an inch of space between us.  I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the killing blow.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked.

My eyes popped back open.  “You know who the hell I am.  Why did you bring me here?”

“I didn’t bring you here and I don’t know who you are.”

He wasn’t lying, and something strange about him was niggling at me.  The usual tingles I felt when Lucas and I touched weren’t there.  He looked just like him with his broad shoulders, golden skin, and strong jaw.  Only his blond hair was different because of the length.  Plus he was wearing jeans, which Lucas almost never wore.

“Could you get off of me?” I gasped out.  “You weigh a ton.”

Hey, if he was in the talking mood it couldn’t hurt to negotiate.

He shook his head.  “Not until you tell me who you are.”

I turned my face away from him.  He was so close I could feel his breath on my cheek.  “I’m not telling you anything until you let me go.”

“Answer me.”  He shoved enough compulsion into his voice that only a very powerful sup, or someone like me, could resist him.  Confusion emanated from him after a few moments of silence.  “A better question might be what are you?”

I groaned.  “Lucas, you know what I am.  God knows you remind me of it often enough.”

He said something in a language I couldn’t understand.  It sounded like a curse of some kind.  “You’re a damned sensor.  I should have known.”

I swung my head back to look at him.  His face was still close.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“If you’re who I think you are, it means I can’t hurt you.  No matter how much I’d love to right about now.”  His hands tightened on my wrists.

“Ow,” I cried out.  “I am breakable, you know.”  That feeling of offness was growing.

A flash of light came from a few feet away.  I looked over to see a more familiar version of Lucas standing with his arms crossed and an angry expression on his face.

“Micah, let her go.  Now.”