“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
Tag Archives: #Freesample
AuThursday – T.J. Fier
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Tiffany Fier, but I write under T.J. Fier. By day I’m an associate professor of set design at NDSU, and I write when I can around my hectic professorial schedule. I have several short stories in several anthologies, and my debut novel has recently been released: THE BRIGHT ONE.
What does your writing process look like?
Each project is a little different. Sometimes I put together a detailed outline primarily to get to know my characters better. Other times I pants my way through a story. Or, especially with short stories, I’ll give myself a few guiding notes and plot points and work the story around those ideas.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Depends on the project and the task at hand. Sometimes it’s incredibly energizing, and sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes the story pours out, and sometimes you need to drag it out by its ears.
What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
I oscillate between contemporary fantasy, dark fantasy, paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy, and horror. There is a dark undercurrent to most of my writing. It’s just how I’m wired. However, I often try to throw in a touch of irreverence to my stories or a bit of humor to keep the mood from sinking too deep.
What are your current projects?
Too many! My debut novel, The Bright One was recently released by my publisher Three Little Sisters. It’s a contemporary sci-fi/fantasy adventure with a surly unicorn named Una. I have a short story in a recently-released anthology, Seasons in the Dark, from Bisman Writers Guild. I’m reviewing edits on another short story for the second Moorhead Friends Writing Group anthology. I’m sharing the sequel to The Bright One with some of my writing group AND another story of mine is in the beta-reading phase of review.
How do you relax?
I read, hang out with furry friends, and curl up on the couch with one of my favorite “comfort shows.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
You get better the more you write. Also, having a critique partner or a writing group has been vital to my progression as a writer. Surround yourself with a support system. It takes lots of time, patience, and hard work to have success with writing.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Check out my linktree:
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
From the end of Chapter One of The Bright One:
The beast flicked a lion-like tail with a cascading plume of white hair. Long enough so strands brushed the floor. The hair shimmered fine as silk threads and light refracted off flaxen curls. A radiant blue eyes stared back at her with a mixture of fear and defiance.
Alexa’s head seemed to disconnect from her body, unable to process what stood before her. She refused to accept the creature and backed away, heart racing beneath her trembling fingers.
The smeared light couldn’t manipulate the shape she had seen, nor could it change the animal in anything but what stood before her.
It was a unicorn.
A real, live unicorn.
New Release – Seasons in the Dark Anthology
My short story “Chill of the Reaper” will be in the BisMan Writers Guild’s Seasons in the Dark Anthology. This is my second short story in an Anthology, but my first with The BisMan Writers Guild. Here’s some more information.
Title: Chill of the Reaper part of the “Seasons in the Dark” Anthology
Author: Tina Holland
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: December 1, 2022
Publisher: BisMan Writers Guild
Daredevil Daisy Heyer is dead, stuck on earth, and avoiding a persistent reaper who’s been chasing her through the centuries. Being a ghost sucks but it’s better than hell. Daisy had been a bad girl in the Wild West and she has no guarantee which direction the reaper will take her.
Simon Travers has been a reaper for over one hundred and twenty-five years. He’s successfully brought every soul to heaven or hell, except Daisy Heyer. She was his first and the one that got away. He has time though, because once dead there is no going back.
After a spell is cast making Daisy flesh and blood, will she stay on earth or feel the Chill of the Reaper?
Daisy woke with a kink in her neck. Weird. She stretched on the sofa. Wait! She didn’t sleep or get kinks. She shot straight up. Too fast, she realized, when a pounding started in her head. She placed her left hand on her temple, willing it to stop. “Collette!”
Colette came running down the basement stairs. “Holy craft. You’re flesh and blood.”
Daisy didn’t bother to hide her sarcasm. “Really? I hadn’t noticed. What did you do?”
Colette looked at the beige carpet as if fascinated by a non-existent pattern.
Daisy tapped her boot on the carpet. “Well?”
The witch pinched her index finger and thumb together. “I may have tweaked Nana’s spell a bit.”
She threw her hands up. “A bit!?”
Colette crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “I just wanted you to find true love.”
“True love?” Daisy suddenly felt a great desire to go back to sleep.
“Yeah. I’ve given you forty-eight hours in mortal form.”
“Collette, I haven’t been mortal in a hundred and twenty-five years. What the hell am I supposed to do in two days?” She was suddenly anxious to return to her former self.
“Daisy, if you find true love, your soul won’t be bound for hell.”
“I get into heaven?” Could she after all these years?
“I’m not a hundred percent certain, but my research clearly indicated a soul could not go to hell if it felt love.”
“Anything to not go to hell.” Daisy hadn’t lived the best life. She had been an independent woman of the west and rather than earn money in easier ways, she’d taken to a life of crime. “Okay, so how do I find true love?”
“Well, first we need to change your wardrobe.”
Daisy looked down. She was wearing the clothes she’d died in, with a crimson starburst pattern on her chest and her six-shooter strapped to her hip. A change was definitely in order. “I’ve always wanted to be a blonde.”
Buy Links: Amazon
About the Author:
Tina studied Journalism at University and then went to work for a fortune 500 company working in Logistics for over 20 years. She now writes full-time and helps her husband run his Crop Dusting business in the summer months. When she’s not writing she likes to travel, read and spend time with her critters.
Social Media Links:
Website – www.tinaholland.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/author.tina.holland
Twitter – https://twitter.com/haveubeenaughty
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/tina_holland
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/haveubeenaughty
AuThursday – Claire Kohler
What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.
AuThursday – Darrah Steffens
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a trained as a geologist and paleontologist. I work as a curator at the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in Bowman, ND. My first book “Rise of the Dragon Queen” was released March 9th. I am also an avid board gamer, enjoys playing music with my husband, and cuddling with my pets.
How do you make time to write?
I write in the evenings and on the weekends. I tend to carve out times in the evenings to work on my projects. I also take advantage of days when my husband has conferences and school. And I never underestimate the power of carrying a notebook with me for spontaneous inspiration
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I definitely believe in writer’s block. I don’t think that you should force your writing. Sometimes you will have days that you cannot come up with the plot. These are times that you need to go out and find new inspiration!
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
I write in the fantasy genre. I love this fantasy because anything can happen. It stretches the limits of your imagination.
How are you publishing your recent book and why? (Indie, traditional or both)
Indie, I like the freedom and autonomy available in Indie press.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
I am an introvert. I think that this helps because I am fairly observant. I sit in the background taking in other people’s actions and use them to build the interactions between my characters. I think it can hurt my work a bit because I do not always understand the motivations of people wanting to be around others all the time.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Don’t wait for an opportunity. Create it.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write what you are interested in. Chances are someone is going to be interested in it too!
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
Prologue for “Keepers of Knowledge” Book 2 of “Legends of Ethota” series
Akamon stood in the trees. His concentration focused perfectly on the spell he was conjuring. Black magic seeped up from the ground around him. The magic took the form of different creatures.
Akamon gave them an unspoken command. The creatures moved to different points around the forest and waited. The air reeked with the scent of the Elvateth. She was carrying something very dear to Akamon. He would find out who those humans were.
Jennica crept forward along the path. She muttered in elva connecting with the forest. The wind whistled urgently to her ears.
She had more acute senses in the human world. Everything in Mythral had a voice. None of the humans seemed to hear them. Whenever Jennica visited, they assaulted her with their voices.
The wind tugged at her hair. Jennica ignored it. It pulled sharply at her. She realized it was trying to speak to her, and she let go of her mental block. She listened carefully. The wind whispered, “Danger! In danger… Black magic!” The wind whipped away from her, leaving the forest silent. Jennica slowly surveyed her surroundings. A shadow sat by a tree that did not belong. Jennica stared at it for a moment. The shadow pulsed. Jennica sprinted away as it leapt toward her.
The panther was stealthy. It kept pace just behind her. Jennica gritted her teeth. It was toying with her. The beast would attack her, but only after it tormented her.
Jennica whispered to the wind, asking it to rampage. The wind whispered listlessly around her. She cursed the human realm.
Her Power was useless. She could hear the voices, but she could not command anything as she could in Ethota.
Jennica raced down the dirt path. She had to make it to the glaret. If she could only get there in time. Jennica ducked behind a large tree and grabbed her bow. She nocked an arrow.
The panther darted into the trees. Jennica didn’t relax her bow. She watched the shadows. The darkness shifted in the trees. Jennica stepped out from her hiding spot. She carefully aimed and released.
The panther leapt from the tree. Her arrow slammed into its eye. It exploded.
Black magic seeped into the ground.
Jennica gripped the bow, satisfied. She listened to the wind as it beckoned her. She raced along the path. She would be able to make it before the glaret closed. Akamon cursed. He clutched his walking stick, his knuckles turning white. Pain coursed through his body. He muttered curses under his breath. Akamon ordered his creatures out amongst the trees. They quietly surrounded the fleeing girl. Akamon wanted those papers.
Jennica skidded to a stop. The land did not look much different from the rest of the trail she had been following. Jennica tossed sand into the air before her. The air shimmered and pulsed. Jennica whispered a string of words in old Elva. The portal opened.
The old growth forest called to her. She took a step toward her home. A growl pulled her back to the park in which she now stood. The black magic creatures stepped out of the trees. The wolf howled at her. It swiped at her with its large paws.
Jennica glared at it. This was not the first time she had encountered its ilk. She took another step toward the open portal. A spider jumped in her path. It hissed.
Jennica pulled a small bronze ball from her belt. She kept her eyes locked on the two creatures before her. She cupped the bronze ball in her hand. She tapped it three times with a single finger.
Jennica glanced at the portal behind the spider. It reared at her. Jennica took a step backward and launched the ball into the portal.
The spider screeched. It released a web of silk after it. The ball slammed into the portal crackling as it passed between the worlds.
The black line of silk burned on contact with the pulsating portal. The spider writhed as the fire trailed up the web and onto its abdomen. The spider fell. The wolf leapt. Jennica stumbled backward. The wolf fell atop her. Jennica kicked the beast off her. She rose to her knees muttering in old Elva. She raised her arms above her head and dropped them.
The portal closed with a bang. The wolf sprang at her. Jennica rolled out of its way and jumped to her feet. The wolf clamped down on her leg. Jennica fell to the ground, howling. She thrashed in its grip. Blood flowed from her lacerated leg.
Akamon stepped out of the trees and waved his hand. His phantom creatures froze in place. They seemed to melt into the background. The wolf dropped Jennica.
Jennica pulled herself to her feet, grimacing. Akamon simply looked in front of her. The spider moved to block her.
Jennica limped back. She frantically searched for an escape. With her damaged leg, she would not be able to outrun the creatures.
Akamon sneered. He moved with unexpected speed and seized her by the neck, “Where did you send it?”
Akamon dropped her and turned his back to her, “Tell me and I won’t have to harm you.”
The wolf snapped its jaws in anticipation. Jennica rubbed her throat. She steadied herself on her damaged leg, “Why would I ever tell you?” Akamon spun, a dagger appearing in his hand. He pressed it into her neck. She gasped as the cool iron bit her skin.
He growled, “Let’s try this again. What did it say?”
Jennica said nothing. Akamon laughed, “I am not afraid of hurting you, Princess.”
Jennica winced as he nicked her skin. Jennica glared at him. Akamon threw her to the ground. The wolf stepped on her chest and lapped at the trickle of blood on her neck
Jennica turned away in disgust. He kneeled down at her side. He pressed the dagger to her throat once more, “Tell me or pay the price.”
Jennica said, “Poor Akamon. You will search the world, but you will never find what you are looking for.”
The old sorcerer’s yellow eyes burned hot. He muttered in an old language. The creatures disappeared, pulling into a black ball hovering in his hand. Akamon said, “Ah, yes. You should be afraid, Princess.”
Jennica whispered to the wind. The wind whispered back, crying for her. Akamon pressed the black ball to Jennica’s face. Her screams echoed throughout the park.
Akamon stood over her limp body. He stared down at her and smiled.
AuThursday – Jaycee Jarvis
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a fantasy romance author living in the Pacific Northwest of the US. I’ve lived all over the country and even spent a year abroad as a kid. I love to travel and see new places and meet new people. Traveling is a little harder now that I have kids, though they are pretty adventurous too. One of the things I’m most exciting to get back to in 2022 is traveling again.
As for my journey to becoming a writer, I’m what some might consider a late bloomer. As a child I wasn’t motivated to learn to read because with picture books I could always make up a story that interested me as much as the “official” one. When I was eight my mom started reading me chapters books before bed and that’s when I really fell in love with the magic of the written word, and was motivated to learn to read myself. Similarly I’ve always been drawn to story telling, but didn’t really start writing stories until I took a creative writing class in college and really felt the magic in that creative process. It was a long journey from those first classes to my first published book twenty years later.
How do you make time to write?
As a mom with three school aged children, I’m used to fitting writing in around school schedules and other kid activities. I’ve written a lot of words sitting on the sidelines of dance class or kiddy soccer. That said, this past year has been a whole new level of challenge in terms of time management. My kids have only recently returned to in-person school and we are all adjusting to the new schedule. One thing I’m really looking forward to is writing in coffee shops again.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I certainly believe in burn out, and other obstacles to the creative process. Art of any kind takes a certain amount of creative energy, and there are certainly circumstances in a writer’s life that can make it difficult to refill the well.
What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
I write fantasy romance novels, because ultimately I want to write the books I most want to read. I’ve always been drawn to the wonder and possibilities of fantasy novels, but I also crave the optimism and emotional resonance of a good romance. With fantasy romance I feel like I have the best of both worlds.
How did you come up with the idea for your series, Hands of Destin?
I spent a long time world building and playing around with a magic system where everyone has a touch of talent, so much so that the idea of magic doesn’t even really exist. I wanted to explore the lives of ordinary people in an extraordinary world. I’m a character first writer, so I really established the friend group that is at the core of the Hands of Destin series before diving into any individual book. I’m a huge fan of found family stories and “buddy novels” as they are sometimes called in romance circles, where a series depends on moving from one couple to another in a friend or family group.
Some my character choices were very deliberate, but my writing is also subject to the whims of the muse. I feel like Madi (the heroine from Deadly Courtship, book two in the series) introduced herself fully formed while I was in the shower one day. And don’t ask me why all the best ideas strike in the shower, but it is surprisingly common!
I see you are Traditionally Published, why was this path right for you?
I’m a perfectionist and a tinkerer who can always see new ways to improve my work, so external deadlines and expectations are really helpful to my writing process. As a new writer, I also really wanted to focus on the writing, without having to account for all the other moving pieces that go into creating a book. I can imagine self-publishing eventually, but for now I really enjoy the partnership I have with my publisher.
How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any?
My personal philosophy is that you miss all of the chances you don’t take, so it is important to not let the fear of failure hold you back. Rejection and criticism are part of the business of writing. I also believe that fiction is a collaboration between the writer and the reader, which means that my stories aren’t always going to land the way I intend it to land. Understanding this makes it easier to have the thick skin needed for this business.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write the book you’ve always wanted to read, for two reasons. One: if the idea excites you, then you can bet there are readers out there hungry for the same thing. Two: you are going to be reading your work over and over and over, until there are times when you hate it. If the story doesn’t grab you on some deep level, pushing through those rough patches is going to be that much harder.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
I’ll share the moment before Terin and Aurelia’s first kiss in Crowning Courtship—I think this scene captures some of the tensions of their charade, as well as Aurelia’s inner struggle against their mutual attraction.
Terin chuckled. “Could you be more perfect?”
His toes found hers under the water and his foot rubbed Aurelia’s leg in a subtle caress that filled her with impossible longings.
The smile dropped off her face, as she was reminded of exactly why she was no prize. She looked away, lacking the will to move her foot out of reach. “Hardly perfect.”
His scooted closer, his face serious. “Perfect for me.”
Aurelia’s heart fluttered. He meant she was perfect for his scheme, perfect for his deception, and yet she yearned to take him at his word. To believe that this time, just once, she was enough.
She canted toward him, her breath shallow and her lips parted.
Desire flared in his eyes, visible even in the low light. Would he kiss her? Should she kiss him?
With a groan he pushed away from her. He dropped his head back on the edge of the pool with a loud thump.
She flinched, the hollow thud reawakening the anxiety she had felt on entering the room. Her head flared with a sympathy pain.
He drummed the back of his head against the rock while muttering angrily.
“What’s wrong?” She had never seen him take on so.
“I promised to be good,” he growled, his face still turned up toward the ceiling, though at least he’d stopped banging his head.
Her brow knit. “Have you done something bad?”
He tilted his head to look at her. The heat and longing in his gaze seared right to her core. “I want, rather desperately, to kiss you, but I promised I would behave. That I would wait for you. Wait for your invitation before touching you, and only do what you want me to do. Do you want me to kiss you?”
“Now? Here?” Her eyes darted around the glittering chamber. While they were alone, the room was hardly private.
He was so beautiful it was almost painful. Of course she wanted this man. How could she not? It was time she be honest with them both. With a feeling like she was tossing her fate to the current, she met his gaze square on. “Yes, Terin, I do.”
FREE FRIDAY – Dee S. Knight Giveaway
One Woman Only
The Good Man Series, Book 2
By Dee S. Knight
♥♥ Give Away ♥♥
Dee is giving away an eBook of Only a Good Man Will Do and a $10 Amazon card to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win. You may find the tour locations here http://bit.ly/OWO122019
About One Woman Only:
As one of a set of triplets, Jonah always feels the need to make his individuality known. So where his brother Daniel is serious and completely focused, Jonah shuns commitment. Where his genius brother Mark is hailed in the scientific world, Jonah hides beneath a car, tinkering. Thing is, being different isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It takes a woman—the right woman—to make him see that a “good man” can always be a better man.
Release date, November 2019
Publisher: Nomad Authors Publishing
Genre: Erotic romance, HOT
One Woman Only Buy links:
- Universal Link: mybook.to/OneWomanOnly
- Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2QGKPOo
- Free on KU: https://amzn.to/2QGKPOo
Excerpt from One Woman Only:
“May I have this dance?”
Kelly turned at the sound of Jonah’s voice behind her. Dinner had ended. All three of the boys had given best man speeches and Eve had even given a very creditable matron of honor speech, considering she had only known Marilyn and Caleb a short time. Lots of toasts had been raised and finally the live band had struck up the music. Caleb led his bride onto the floor for a foxtrot—a dance more than half of the guests had no idea how to do, including her.
Facing Jonah she sighed inwardly at how scrumptious he looked. Sure, his face was pretty much displayed on his brothers’ heads, too, but there was something different about Jonah. His nose was just a little crooked from when Bobby Hendricks had broken it in ninth grade and his eyes held an especially bright sparkle when he smiled. Maybe… Well, she didn’t know what caused the difference between Jonah and his brothers. Whatever it was, she had never been fooled by the so-called identical nature of the identical triplets. She’d wanted to be his girl since elementary school. Thought she would be in high school. And then she’d forced every last thought of him from her mind from senior year on.
“I don’t know how to foxtrot.”
He shrugged. “Who does except those over fifty?” He glanced at his folks, still alone on the dance floor, although a few couples were wandering out to join them now. “We can pretend.”
She mentally compared standing on the sidelines alone now that Mama Rio left the party, or being held in Jonah’s arms. Smiling, Kelly held out her hands. “Just don’t step on my toes, Jonah Goodman, or there’ll be hell to pay.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Together they walked onto the dance floor. He took her right hand in his left and placed his right hand on her waist. Fortunately for them, the music changed to a slow tempo. Kelly laid her head on Jonah’s shoulder, and he tugged her closer as they swayed to the music.
“This is nice,” he murmured.
“Yes it is,” she replied. So very nice. He smelled good. Beneath the light citrus fragrance of his aftershave was a slight whiff of pure man with maybe a twinge of motor oil or something so Jonah it brought tears to her eyes.
He rubbed a path up to her shoulder blades and gave a squeeze. “You fit me perfectly, Kelly.”
“You sure do. I think our hearts can feel each other beat.”
Kelly chuckled. “Smooth talker. Face to face like this our hearts are on opposite sides.”
“Hey! I’m trying to be romantic here.”
She sighed. “Keep on. It’s appreciated.”
She felt his smile. Raising her head she gave him a mock glare. “Watch it with those pregnant pauses, buster.”
He used his hand to press her head back to his shoulder. “You do smell good, though. This isn’t the same perfume you wore in high school. That was—”
“Lilac,” they said at the same time. Once more she raised her head to look at him. “How did you remember that?”
“I remember much more than you might think.” He turned her and moved her closer to the door onto the patio. “Each spring when lilacs are in bloom memories come flooding back. Does that surprise you?”
“More like shocks me,” she said, grinning. And then she laid her head on his shoulder once more, finding she liked it more and more there in his arms. She stepped slightly closer and his arm tightened about her.
“Well, after a while I thought lilac seemed too girlish. I like the vintage scents, so in college I wore Wind Song. Then Shalimar was the scent Brad liked me to wear.” She felt Jonah stiffen when she mentioned her ex, and really she didn’t blame him. “But when I grew up enough finally to take charge of my own life, I started wearing Chanel No 5. A complex fragrance for what I hope is a complex woman.”
“It suits you. Complex and beautiful.” He kissed her temple. “Want to step outside for a minute?”
“Sure. It is a little warm in here.”
On the patio, they could hear the sounds of the people from the television networks packing up equipment, chatting and laughing. Stars shone brightly in the clear night sky. Wood smoke from someone’s fireplace wafted through the air and static electricity fairly crackled in the crispness of the autumn air.
“This is my favorite time of year,” Kelly said. “The heat of summer is gone and winter nights curled up with a hot drink and blazing fire are ahead.”
“Not me. I’m a summer boy all the way.”
“A hothead you mean?” she teased.
“Oh, I’m hot all right.” He waggled his brows at her.
Kelly laughed. “I do seem to remember that about you.”
“You used to be pretty hot yourself. Still are.” He leaned in. His eyes flicked down to her lips. Kelly sucked in a breath. She should stop him, she really should.
About the Author:
A few years ago, Dee S. Knight began writing, making getting up in the morning fun. During the day, her characters killed people, fell in love, became drunk with power, or sober with responsibility. And they had sex, lots of sex. Writing was so much fun Dee decided to keep at it. That’s how she spends her days. Her nights? Well, she’s lucky that her dream man, childhood sweetheart, and long-time hubby are all the same guy, and nights are their secret. For romance ranging from sweet to historical, contemporary to paranormal and more join Dee on Nomad Authors. Contact Dee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dee’s Social Links:
Saturday Spotlight – Forget the Stars by Kelsey Kingsley
Title: Forget the Stars
Author: Kelsey Kingsley
Genre: Friends-to-Lovers/2nd Chance Romance
Release: August 26, 2019
Cover Design: Danny Manzella
“From August 26 to September 26, 2019, 10% of all proceeds will be donated to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.”
Guitarist Chad Wilcox’s life isn’t going according to plan.
At thirty, he never thought he’d still be unmarried and living with his parents. And with the added stress of his poor health, he’s convinced the only thing within his control is the success he’s found as a rockstar.
After reconnecting with his childhood best friend, Chad sets into motion a new plan to regain control over his happiness, and things start looking up. But when he finds himself diagnosed with a potentially debilitating chronic illness, he begins to wonder…
Is this as good as it’s going to get? Or is it at all possible for a guy like him to get everything he’s ever wished for?
Buy Links: Kindle Unlimited
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ZdNnsu
Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2Z8pwKS
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2ZdNR1M
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2Ze3EOj
Direct link: https://spoti.fi/2ZiBGvN
Direct link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28af441c4/
Early Review Quotes:
“If you want a book with eternally endearing and relatable characters, a heartfelt, captivating, poignant storyline, and one that has the potential to compassionately enlighten the reader, ponder it no more and get your copy of this one today.” – BookAddict
“There is just something about a vulnerable hero that gets me every time and Chad Wilcox was no exception. His pain becomes your pain thanks to Kelsey’s descriptive writing and the ability to invoke emotional pull. And, with a nickname like Chaddington Bear, he is everything.” – Bree, Goodreads reviewer
“I’m a big Kelsey fan, so I knew I’d love this book before knowing anything about it. What I didn’t know is how deep it would move me. I should have known though, because she always finds a way to break the mold and set a new standard of excellence.” – Katie, Goodreads reviewer
“This is one of those times I am thanking my lucky stars I took a chance on a new-to-me author. The writing was engaging, smart, and effortless to read. The storytelling was honest and sweetly addicting. I craved it when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to sink into it for hours, lose time with these wonderful characters and their original, adorable, emotionally satisfying love story. I can’t say it enough: I loved it! I adored it! This is an absolute MUST read!” – Bookgasms Book Blog
“I can’t forget the stars when I have to give this book all the stars! Seriously. All the stars in the universe. I can’t even begin to tell you how special Forget The Stars is. I just want to go around to everyone I know yelling “READ THIS BOOK!”” – Red Hatter Book Blog
“What’s that look for?” she asked with a giggle, as she reached around to secure her bra.
I shook my head as a smile stretched over my lips. “Nothin’. Just …” I swallowed at the warmth crowding my heart and my lungs. “You’re my best friend.”
She tugged a tank top on and sighed, her exhale lingering in the air. “You’re mine.”
Mine. The word was simple and yet held the world. It was an agreement, it was possession. It was an invisible contract that lingered between us, and I would’ve gladly used my own blood to sign on the dotted line.
But instead of pricking a finger and sealing the deal, I simply nodded, as only two words left my mouth.
Kelsey Kingsley is an author of eight, almost nine, novels. She lives in New York with her family and a cat named Ethel. She loves tattoos, music, makeup, and Frasier reruns. Kelsey is a Slytherin. She curses a lot, and she fucking hates cheese.
Social Media Links:
Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
A Hidden Legacy Novel, Book 4
by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society…
In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.
But behind the scenes, powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.
To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.
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Harper Collins: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062878342/sapphire-flames
“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)
Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.
They have co-authored several NYT and USAT bestselling series. They are currently working on urban fantasy of Kate Daniels, the paranormal romance of Hidden Legacy, and their independently published series, Innkeeper Chronicles.
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I was swimming through the warm water of the Gulf when someone knocked on the sky. The bright little fishes following me scattered, the crystal-clear water vanished, and I landed on the sand.
The sky above me shuddered. Boom, boom, boom.
The dream tore like wet tissue, and for a disorienting moment, I didn’t know where I was. Slowly the familiar contours of my bedroom came into focus through the gloom. The alarm clock on my nightstand glowed with bright red. 2:07 a.m.
Someone was pounding on my door.
“Catalina!” my sister yelled. “Get up!”
Panic pierced me. I jumped out the bed, sprinted across the bedroom, and flung the door open. “Did the plane go down?”
I sagged against the door frame in relief. Our older sister, Nevada; her husband; and her mother-in-law were flying to Spain for a funeral. Over the ocean. It caused me no end of anxiety.
“The plane is fine,” Arabella told me.
“Then what is it?”
Arabella’s face was flushed, and her blond hair stuck out from her head in weird directions. She wore an old, stained Sailor Moon T-shirt, and her basketball shorts were on backward.
“Augustine is downstairs.”
“Augustine who? Augustine Montgomery?”
I snapped out of my relief back to full alert. “Why?” Why in the world would the Head of House Montgomery be downstairs, in the middle of the night?
“He wants to see you. He says it’s an emergency. Hurry up before Mom shoots him.”
She turned around and ran down the stairs leading from my loft suite to the rest of the warehouse we used as our home and place of business.
Augustine was absolutely the last person I expected at two o’clock in the morning. Something terrible had happened.
I looked at myself. I wore an oversized grey T-shirt that came to my knees and said, “I ♥ Sleep.” No time to change. I took the stairs barefoot and followed my sister into a wide hallway. The light in the media room was on, casting a warm electric glow and illuminating the way just enough to see.
The hallway led to a door on the left where a small section of the warehouse was designated as the Baylor Agency’s office. The entire family congregated in front of the door, all except Mom.
Grandma Frida, thin, tan, with a halo of platinum curls, looked worried. Bern, my oldest cousin, resembled a bear awakened halfway through his hibernation—big, muscular, his dark blond hair disheveled, holding a tablet that looked too small for his hands. Next to him, Leon, his younger half brother, and complete opposite leaned on the wall, totally awake. Lean and dark-haired, Leon was a ball of wiry energy. And he still wore the jeans and T-shirt I had seen him in last night. Either he fell asleep in his clothes, or he felt the need to be fully dressed at two o’clock in the morning for some nefarious reason. Leon didn’t have any other kind of reasons.
Ahead of me, Arabella darted up the stairs and into her bedroom and emerged with a huge Texas A&M sweatshirt. She threw it at me. “Boobs.”
Bern woke up enough to roll his eyes.
“Thanks.” I pulled the sweatshirt on, hiding the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra. “How did Augustine get here?”
At night, access to the warehouse was blocked by concrete barriers. Only one road remained open, guarded by a checkpoint staffed with our security people, who were supposed to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. Augustine was ruthless. He could have killed us all in our sleep.
“Did our guards let him in? Did anyone call and say he was coming?”
“Funny thing,” Leon said. “We have this lovely footage.”
Bern turned the tablet toward me. A view from the surveillance camera inside the security booth showed two guards, a Hispanic female in her forties and a white man in his mid-twenties with dark hair. Lopez and Walton. A silver Bentley Bentayga pulled up to the booth. The passenger window of the car rolled down, revealing me.
“Hello, Ms. Baylor,” Walton said.
The fake Catalina nodded.
“Check the log, check the log . . .” Leon sang out.
The log of arrivals and departures lay right there, on the counter. It would show that I was already home.
The guard reached over, his hand passed above the log to the switch attached to the barrier mechanism.
“Epic fail!” Leon announced.
Walton flipped the switch and a heavy metal clang announced the spiked barrier retracting. The window rolled back up and the armored vehicle slid forward and out of view.
I couldn’t even. My ability to even was severely compromised.
Lopez frowned. “When did they get a Bentley?”
The male guard shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe it was a birthday present.”
“Dumbass,” Arabella said.
Augustine Montgomery was an illusion Prime. He could look like anyone, he could sound like anyone, and he could pass both fingerprint and retinal scanners. And he just breezed past our security like it was nothing.
“We’re in trouble,” I said.
“No shit,” Leon said.
“Catalina,” Grandma Frida said, “your mother is in the conference room with that ass and a Desert Eagle. Get in there before she puts a .50 round between his eyes.”
I opened the door, walked into the office hallway, and shut the door behind me. This part of the warehouse with its high-traffic beige carpet, a drop ceiling, and glass walls looked just like any regular workspace. The three offices on my right and the break room with a kitchenette on my left lay shrouded in gloom. Only the conference room, just past the break room, was brightly lit, and the electric light shone through the glass into the hallway.
I took a step and stopped. As of three days ago, when I officially turned twenty-one, I also became the Head of House Baylor. We were a brand-new House, formed only three years ago. Our grace period, a reprieve which shielded us from attacks by other Houses, was about to expire. I had dealt with magical heavy hitters before in the course of our business, but this would be my first interaction with another Prime as the Head of a House. And Augustine was a shark in a four-thousand-dollar suit, a sleek, deadly great white with razor-sharp teeth.
I had to do this right. I couldn’t just barge in there. Emergency or not, I had to act the part.
My stomach fluttered.
Think Prime, Head of the House, Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter, confident, dangerous, not afraid, woken up in the middle of the night . . . annoyed. Definitely annoyed.
I walked into the conference room with a slightly irritated expression.
Augustine pivoted toward me in his chair. Louis Auchincloss, who wrote novels about polite society and old money, once famously said, “Perfection irritates as well as it attracts, in fiction as in life.” Augustine was deeply irritating.
Being an illusion Prime, Augustine crafted his appearance the way one would paint a masterpiece. His face was beautifully sculpted with defined cheekbones, a square jaw that communicated masculinity without implying brutishness, a straight nose, and a broad forehead. His cheeks were slightly concave, just enough to communicate maturity. A virtuoso barber had turned his blond, nearly platinum hair into a masterpiece. A thin pair of glasses was the only imperfection Augustine allowed himself and it wasn’t enough. There was something ageless and cold about him. He was about as alive as a marble statue.
At the other end of the table, my mother sat watching him like a coiled cobra. Her right hand stayed under the table, most likely touching the Desert Eagle .50, the largest legal caliber for a handgun in the US. It was the closest thing to handheld artillery Mom could conceal under the table. It could send a round through a full refrigerator and kill a person on the other side.
My mother spent almost ten years as a sniper and her magic guaranteed that she didn’t miss. If she killed Augustine, Montgomery International Investigations, the firm Augustine owed, would crush us. If he miraculously survived, he would kill her. As happened often in life, there were no good options. I had to get him out of here.
I made my tone cold and annoyed. “Mr. Montgomery, while you’re always welcome in our home, it’s the middle of the night.”
“I apologize,” he said. “It’s an emergency.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a phone, and showed it to me.
On the screen, an adolescent boy smiled into the camera. Bright red hair cut short, grey eyes, pale skin, and the smug grin of a teenage boy who has just gotten away with mischief. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I saw him before.
“This is Ragnar,” Augustine said. “He’s fifteen. He has a dog named Tank. He likes detective books and the Sherlock Holmes show. He plays a Ranger in Hero Tournament. Two days ago, his mother and sister died in a fire.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Right now he’s standing on the roof of Memorial Hermann Hospital. He’s thinking of jumping and he’s a Prime, so nobody can get to him. If we don’t hurry, his broken body will be the leading story on the morning news.”
Alarm rolled through me in an electric rush.
“Augustine, you know that’s not what I do. I’ve never pulled someone off a roof before. If I fail, I’ll be responsible for his death . . .”
“But you can do it. It’s within your power.” He looked straight at me. “Your sister asked me for a favor once. I’m now asking you for assistance, one Head of House to another. He has one sister left. Right now, she’s at the hospital praying he doesn’t fall to his death.”
And if I tried and failed, there would be a grief-stricken Prime who could turn all of her agony and rage onto me. This was beyond reckless.
“I don’t know if I can help you. I may make this worse.”
Augustine’s composure cracked, and a human being looked back at me through his eyes. “He’s just a child, Catalina. He already lost so much. He’s in the worst pain of his short life and he has no idea how to contain it. He just wants to stop hurting. Please try.”
I opened my mouth to tell him no and thought of a boy standing on a ledge, all alone in the dark. So desperate and hurt that he was willing to end it in the most painful way possible.
My father had stood on a ledge like that, except his ledge was cancer. We had tried so hard to pull him from it. We fought for every minute. We sold the house and moved here, into the warehouse, to pay for his medical bills. Then we mortgaged our business to Augustine to pay for experimental treatments. My dad had built Baylor Investigative Agency from the ground up. He viewed it as his legacy, a business that would feed and clothe us, and we had used it as collateral to borrow money. It felt like a betrayal, and we hid it from my father, because it would have killed him faster than any cancer. In the end, we only delayed the inevitable by a few months, but it was worth it. I would give anything for one more day with my dad. Anything.
Ragnar was only fifteen years old.
“Yes. I’ll try.”
“Are you sure?” my mother asked.
“Take Leon with you,” she said.
“No.” If this situation turned ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.
“I’ll bring her back safe and sound,” Augustine promised.
My mother gave him her sniper stare. “You do that.”
Augustine’s silver Bentley sped south on Gessner Road. It was after 2:00 a.m. and even the Houston roads lay empty. The chauffer squeezed every drop of speed out of the heavy armored car. Normally, the trip to Memorial Hermann would’ve taken at least fifteen minutes. We would make it in less than half of that.
Augustine rode in the front passenger seat, presenting me with a view of his blond head. I really wanted to reach over and smack it. If someone told me this morning that I would end up in the backseat of Augustine’s car in the middle of the night wearing a sweatshirt over my sleep T-shirt and a pair of sneakers without socks, I would’ve asked them what they were smoking and told them to seek professional help.
I missed my weapons. It made me feel naked.
Augustine was right though. Nevada did owe him a favor.
My father was born into House Tremaine, a small House consisting only of him and my grandmother Victoria. A truthseeker like Nevada, Victoria could wrench information from a person’s mind against their will. My father had no magic and Victoria was a terrible mother, so when he turned eighteen, he had escaped and started a new life under an assumed name. In her search for him, my grandmother had rampaged through the Houses all across the continent. Just mentioning her name made powerful Primes back off.
Three years ago, before we became a House, Victoria came looking for us. Augustine knew Nevada’s identity. He could’ve shared it with my grandmother and benefited from it, but instead, he had allowed Nevada to mess with his mind, so Victoria left empty-handed. I hated debts of any kind. It would be good to get this one over with.
It didn’t change the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.
“How do you know the family?” I asked.
“Ragnar’s sister contacted MII in regard to her mother’s and sister’s deaths. She doesn’t think the fire was an accident.”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss the details.”
Right. “Did you take the case?”
“She knows our rates.”
“You turned her down. Augustine! She came to you and you turned her down, and now her brother is going to kill himself.”
He looked in the rearview mirror, his expression iced over. “If I’m going to put my people in danger, I have to properly compensate them. I’m not running a charity, Catalina. You of all people should know how much can be at stake when one looks into a Prime’s death.”
Oh, I knew. When a team of hired killers stormed your home, sending tornados of fire and summoning monsters into the slaughter, it tended to leave a lasting impression.
I glanced out the windshield and saw the futuristic crown on top of the Memorial Hermann Tower, outlined with glowing red, white, and blue triangles shining against the ink-black sky from the height of thirty-three floors. Almost there.
“Did you at least tell his sister what to expect if I have to use my magic?”
“I told her the boy would have to be sedated.”
The car pulled into the parking lot. A Hispanic man, his face frantic, ran to the car and swung my door open. A blast of January air hit me. Winter in Houston tended to be mild, but a cold front had come through and the temperature had dropped to below thirty. My bare knees shook.
“Did he jump?” Augustine barked.
“Come on.” Augustine jumped out of the car.
I scrambled out of the vehicle. Wind tore at me with icy teeth.
Augustine and I hurried at a near run to the doorway. The glass doors slid open, letting us pass, and the warm air of the hallway bathed me. A group of people waited by the bank of elevators, some in scrubs, others in professional clothes, and all wearing the same panicked expression. They saw us and scurried out of the way, leaving behind a young woman with red hair. She turned. Recognition punched me.
“Runa? Runa Etterson?”
Her tear-stained eyes widened in recognition. “Catalina?”
Three years ago, at Nevada’s wedding, an enemy of House Rogan poisoned the wedding cake. The only reason any of us were alive now, Augustine included, was because Runa purged the toxins before the cake was served. She was a Prime Venenata, a poison mage. She could kill everyone in this room in seconds. And the boy on the roof was her brother. Oh my God.
Augustine strode past me into the open elevator. “Catalina, there is no time.”
I had come this far. Poison mage or no, Ragnar was still a fifteen-year-old boy on the edge of a skyscraper’s roof. If I didn’t try to save him, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
I hurried into the elevator. The doors slid shut. The last thing I saw was Runa looking at me like I was the answer to all her problems.
The elevator hummed, carrying us upward, brightly lit and perfectly normal. I caught my reflection in the mirrored wall. I looked like I had just rolled out of bed. There was a touch of surreal in it all: me in my sweatshirt, standing next to impossibly perfect Augustine in an elevator of mirrors and electric lights and soft music. Maybe I was dreaming.
Runa’s mother and sister were dead. And Augustine must have quoted her an impossible price. I had planned to simply walk away if I managed to get the boy to safety, but this changed everything.
“You didn’t tell me he was Prime Venenata.”
“I told you he wouldn’t let anybody on the roof.”
Dread washed over me. “Did he kill anyone?”
Augustine sighed. “He’s a gentle child. He made them sick enough to turn back, but he didn’t inflict permanent damage.”
“What did he do?”
“Don’t worry. You’ll smell it.”
The numbers in the elevator’s digital display crawled up.
“When the doors open, turn left,” Augustine said. “Go to the door marked exit, and up one flight of stairs. There will be a metal door that will give you access to the roof.”
“That’s a terrible plan,” I told him.
“Ragnar will hesitate to hurt you. If he does, I’ll be there, and I’ll help.”
“If he sees you . . .”
“He won’t see me.”
The elevator doors swung open with a soft chime. I made a left and followed the hallway to the exit door and up the stairs. My hands shook.
The air stank like acid and vomit. A trail of chunky stains marked the steps. I didn’t want to look too closely at it.
The ice-cold metal door handle burned my fingertips. I pushed it and stepped onto the roof. The dark sky unfolded above me, impossibly huge and black, with the crown glowing against it. The frigid wind pierced my body, going straight through me all the way to the bone.
Ragnar stood on the very edge of the roof, a thin figure in faded jeans and a hoodie, balancing on a concrete ledge. He seemed so very small against the night, like an ant on a skyscraper.
He turned and looked at me, his face lit by the neon glow of the crown. I saw certainty and relief in his eyes. He wasn’t relieved to see me. He was relieved because he’d made up his mind and decided to jump. I had no time.
“Tell Runa I’m sorry—”
I hit him with everything I had.
When the Keeper of Records named my magic, he called me siren, which fit me well, because like the sirens of legend, I called people to me and they couldn’t resist. And like ancient sirens, I had wings, beautiful magic wings nobody could see unless I let them. They snapped open behind my back now, as the focused torrent of magic-drenched Ragnar.
He froze. His heels protruded an inch over the ledge. One slip and he would die.
“Ragnar,” I called him, turning his name into a singsong lure.
He licked his lips nervously. “Hi.”
“Hello. I’m Catalina.” Magic stretched from me to him and I wove more and more of it around him with every syllable.
“You’re so pretty,” he said.
“Thank you. It’s cold and dark. Do you think we could go inside?”
He nodded, fascinated.
I held out my hand. “It’s scary up here. Will you hold my hand?”
He moved, stumbled, teetering on the edge, his arms waving . . . My heart jerked, trying to leap out of my chest.
Augustine materialized out of thin air next to Ragnar, grabbed a handful of his hoodie, and yanked him back. Runa’s brother landed on the concrete roof.
Holy crap. My knees almost gave out.
Ragnar righted himself, walked over, took my hand, and offered me a shy smile.
I smiled back. “Let’s go inside.”
We went through the door and down the stairs with Augustine bringing up the rear. I scanned him. Clean. None of my magic had hit him. I had focused all of it in a laser-tight beam on Ragnar. Augustine could turn himself invisible. Nevada would lose her mind when I told her.
We boarded the elevator. Sweat glistened on Augustine’s flawless forehead. He was breathing like he’d run up all thirty-three floors to the roof. Ragnar held my hand very gently as if my fingers were made of glass. It wouldn’t last.
Most magic users had to put some effort into doing magic. I was the opposite. I had to hold mine in. When I was born, a nurse tried to kidnap me. She paid for it with her career. In the years that followed, before I learned to control my power, perfectly normal people did insane things to hold on to me. My elementary teacher attempted to smuggle me out of her classroom and into her car. My classmates tore out chunks of my hair so they could keep a piece of me.
Other kids were encouraged to be cute, to perform for adults. If I smiled, the adults became mesmerized, and if I wanted them to like me, they would love me with obsessive intensity. Their children would cry hysterically when I left the playground.
Right now, Ragnar loved me, madly, beyond all reason. Soon touching me wouldn’t be enough. He would want to hold me, crush me to him, rip out a lock of my hair to smell and taste. He’d want a piece of me to stroke and to bite.
The Keeper might as well have called me Orpheus. Sooner or later those who tasted my magic would want to tear me apart and they would love and worship every precious drop of my blood and shred of my flesh as they killed me. Only my doctor was immune; we didn’t know why. And my family. I didn’t need to magic them. They already loved me.
The elevator stopped. The doors swung open and Runa lunged to hug her brother. Her arms closed around him, breaking Ragnar’s hold on me.
Ragnar screamed as if cut. It was a raw animal sound. His sister let go, stunned, and he dived at me and clamped my hand in his.
A man shouldered his way through the crowd, carrying a small medical case.
“Ragnar,” I called.
He gazed at me with adoration in his eyes. I knew it was temporary, but even so, it made me cringe.
“That gentleman is going to give you a shot. I’m scared of shots. Are you?”
“No.” He shook his head. “No, I’m brave.”
“Will you show me how to be brave, Ragnar?”
He held his arm out, his gaze fixed on me. Runa hugged him. I watched the needle go in. “You’ll feel a little sleepy in a minute. It’s okay to fall asleep.”
“I won’t leave,” I promised. “I’ll stay here and hold your hand.”
Ragnar’s hold on my hand slipped. He sighed happily, closed his eyes, and sagged in his sister’s arms.
I turned to Augustine. “I need you to transport him back to the warehouse.”
“He needs to be under observation,” Augustine said.
“No, he needs to be back at the warehouse, so I can purge my magic from him. If he wakes up and I’m not here, he may escape and try to find me. And this time, people will die.”
Augustine turned to Runa. “It’s your call.”
I met her gaze. “You know me. You’ve seen what I can do. Please trust me on this.”
“Let’s go,” she said.
The trip home was taking considerably longer. The chauffeur seemed in no hurry, and the Bentley all but crawled up the dark street. Runa’s rented Nissan Rogue had no trouble keeping up. She had insisted on following us with Ragnar in her car.
I sat on the backseat next to Augustine. The adrenaline had worn off, leaving behind a soft fatigue. If I wasn’t in the vehicle of a dangerous Prime, I would have closed my eyes and gone to sleep.
“Well done,” Augustine said.
I didn’t need his approval. “Nevada’s debt to you is paid in full. We’re even.”
“Agreed. Although technically it was a favor to House Etterson.”
“Your dealings with House Etterson are between you and Runa. I’m surprised you cared enough to get involved tonight.”
“I know what it’s like to be responsible for a younger brother.”
Oh. Humanity from Augustine. Unexpected.
Augustine tilted his head. “House Etterson may prove a valuable ally for you, if they survive. They now owe you a favor they can’t refuse. You need allies, Catalina. The reprieve granted to your House is about to expire. People will be coming for you and yours. You’re powerful but inexperienced, and because of your sealed records, you are an unknown. Unfortunately, being an unknown isn’t enough of a deterrent.”
“What are the terms?” I asked.
Augustine raised his eyebrows.
I counted off on my fingers. “You separated me from my family. You’re aware that my older sister and my brother-in-law are out of the country and are unable to advise me at the moment. It’s the middle of the night and I’m tired from expending magic. You’ve complimented me, you’ve mentioned the danger facing my House, and we are driving at barely fifty miles per hour. You have an offer for me. Let’s hear it.”
Augustine cleared his throat. “Good. Skipping extended explanations and hand-holding makes things easier.”
“I offer a strategic alliance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. Occasionally, cases which are uniquely suited to the talents of your family cross my desk. I’d like you to handle them. In return, I offer generous financial compensation, access to MII’s resources within the scope of those particular investigations, and the benefits of an association with my House.”
He was offering protection and guaranteed income. More, he offered contacts and data. The MII maintained an extensive network of informants and observers. Very little took place in Houston without Augustine knowing about it. He hoarded sensitive information, holding on to it until someone paid or threatened him. Access to that database was truly priceless.
Augustine was also a master at determining precisely what people needed most. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that our most urgent need was security.
I had to make a decision.
“House Baylor is flattered by your generosity. However, at this time, we must regretfully decline.”
Augustine chewed on it for half a minute.
“You have made a similar offer to Nevada three times. I’m aware that she declined, and I share her reasons for it.”
“Indulge me,” Augustine said.
“Very well. The real value of this partnership for us wouldn’t be in money.” Although we could certainly use it. “It would be in the connections and the elevated profile that comes from working with a Prime clientele. A way for us to enter Prime society and forge relationships and alliances that would anchor our House.”
And of course, the database and access to the MII surveillance agents, who were legendary. We both understood that, so there was no need to mention it.
I kept going. “I want to underscore that I fully understand the value of your offer. However, currently, there is a massive power imbalance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. I have seen how MII operates. If we agree to your proposal, you’ll expect us to abide by your contract, which may require us to compromise our ethics. We’re a family business. All we have is our name and our reputation. We follow only three rules. First, we try not to do anything illegal. Second, once bought, we stay loyal to the client. And third, at the end of the day, we have to be able to look our reflection in the eye. Those are the principles my father laid out for us, they are the rules my older sister followed, and I will follow them as well. If we have an alliance with House Montgomery, we’ll enter this alliance as equals, not as vassals or subcontractors, and we will adhere to our own norms of behavior.”
The silence stretched out between us.
Augustine opened his mouth. “We’re not equals.”
“Exactly. House Montgomery is a behemoth and we’re small and new. As you have said, we may or may not survive. But we must stand on our own. We worked very hard to move out of House Rogan’s shadow and I won’t trade that independence for an easy paycheck.”
Augustine’s face was impassive. “Thank you for your honesty.”
“There may be a time I’ll come to ask for your help,” I told him. “If I do that, I’ll be sure to bring information of equal or greater value.”
The Bentley turned onto our street.
“Then I’ll leave you with this piece of advice,” Augustine said. “It’s free. Do not become involved in the Etterson case. I know exactly what you’re up against, and the price I quoted her was a gift. Sometimes when you search the night, you’ll find monsters in the dark. You’re not ready.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” I told him.
AuThursday – Stacy Eaton
Please welcome Stacy Eaton to the Clog Blog. Stacy, can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Back in October of 2010, I was on duty, driving around and around in circles on a very dark and quiet night shift patrolling. I had grabbed a cup of coffee and was stretching my legs in one of our parks. While I was drinking, I noticed something glowing near the tree line. It looked like eyes peering back at me, but it was too high off the ground to be an animal. For a while, I stared at it, and the hair rose on my neck.
I glanced around to make sure there was no one else around and then when I looked back, it was gone. Needless to say, I got in my vehicle and left a little unnerved. As I drove, my bored imagination wondered if it had been a vampire and if it was. If I was in danger from something, would it protect me or kill me.
The next day I was off, I sat down and wrote 4 chapters using this original concept. When I told my husband that I was writing a book, he laughed. When I handed him the chapters I’d written, he was surprised. When I published my first book, he was amazed and remains that way with over forty books published now.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Intense – Quiet – humble – Visionary – loyal
What is your favorite part of this series and why?
It’s hard to pick my favorite part of the series, but I love the world that I created for these characters. Writing paranormal is different than writing contemporary or even suspense. In paranormal anything can happen, and I think that is what I like best in this series. I have tried to keep it somewhat possible, but at the same times, adding in elements that aren’t typically earthbound.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Well, Officer Kristin Greene was based on me. She’s intense, loyal, committed to her job. She holds integrity to its highest level, and when she loves, she loves hard. It was easy to write her because I put myself in her shoes almost every moment of the writing process. What would I think or do in the same situation? How would I feel? One of the biggest things that Kristin is known for is not having control taken away from her. Yep, that’s me. I’m totally a control freak!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Many of the characters in the My Blood Runs Blue Series are based off people that I worked with. Kristin, of course, was me. Olivia is one of my best friends in real life. Kat and Izzy are also friends. Mick was my old partner, and Cole, Tom, and Chief Henderson were people I worked with. Most of the men that Kristin deals with (Chief Henderson, Trent, and Alex) are fictional characters, although Julian is someone from my past that I will never forget.
Do you see writing as a career?
It is my career. Three years ago, I suffered my second major concussion in ten years. It left me with a few issues, one a memory issue. I have trouble remembering some things and have some holes in my memory from the injury. I tried to go back but realized that I was a safety hazard. Cops are adrenaline junkies, and anytime my adrenaline spiked, my brain wanted to shut down.
So I decided to put my efforts into writing. While I still have issues, like headaches and fatigue, I keep a lot of notes on what I’m working on, and I’m content. I’m also a Pampered Chef consultant and that gives me a social outlet since I spend so much of my time in my own fictional part of my mind.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
What is silence? Hahaha – I need music, always. I have different music for what I’m working on. With this series, I listened to Evanescence and Within Temptation a lot. It’s dark, edgy and it fit with the plot I was working on. Each series has a different music playlist and I use that to get into my mind frame as I write.
One thing that I do prefer is to be alone. It’s harder to focus on what I’m doing when my daughter or husband are home. So I tend to write hard during the day when they are gone and do other business when they are home.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
This is where the control freak in me comes out. I write what I want. I write what I need to in order to let the creative side come out. Yeah, I want to hear what my readers want, but I write from the heart and soul. I believe in writing real-life. People die, they grieve, they fall in love, and they break up. While we all want happily ever after, they are not always possible, and I tend to write that way.
So far, my readers have loved my books, so why change that when it’s working. Right?
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I write really fast. I have written a 56,000-word book in 4 days – this was a crazy exception to my rule. When I am working intensely on a book, my goal is 4-6,000 words a day.
Mixing the Blue Blood was partially written a few years ago, but I stepped away from it because I wasn’t happy with the story. Now, years later, after tons of readers have reached out and asked about the next book, I finally dusted it off and got back to work. I wrote the last 45,000 words in six days.
When I am writing, and seriously into my book, I become possessed with the story. The characters take over. I write as much each day as my brain and my hands will allow.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
“Julian, if you want someone else to go after him, I can send Gabe—” he started to say.
“No, Alexander, I can do this alone. I want him. I need to finish this myself,” I was quick to reply.
“You’re taking this personally, Jules.” He put his hand up to stop me when I would have interrupted. “You know it is better to not have a personal attachment to your assignment. I have allowed you to stay on this case because I know how good you are and how focused you can be. I also figure that maybe your close attachment to him might help you find him, to allow us to finally grieve and move on.” He looked down at his desk, knowing he had made a mistake in his words as he fingered the expensive pen in his hand.
I caught the “us” in there. Yeah, you loved her, too. But she chose me.
I couldn’t repress the sigh as I looked down at the beautifully hand-sewn Oriental rug at my feet, not really seeing it, but noticing its bright reds and blues, the same colors that were swirling around in my mind. Red for hatred and blue for the loss I had suffered. I was taking it personally, I knew that, but I would not allow any other warrior to find Damon and take him to the other world. This would be my vengeance, and mine alone.
I looked back up at him with that heated emotion stark in my expression as he continued.
He tried to redeem his words, and I almost laughed. “We cannot allow Damon to keep up with this behavior. Killing our females and children is not what we are about. If he continues, our race will end.”
“Master, I know it is not. I will be fine; I can distance myself from the attachment. You, of all people, know that.” I said calmly.
“Fine, so be it, but Gabriel is going with you this time,” he said, with a flick of his hand.
“You don’t need to send a babysitter with me, Alexander,” I retorted, as anger bubbled under my skin.
He regarded me with a quick tight-lipped expression which told me he was about to lose his cool. “It is not to watch over you, Julian. It is to assist you.