Friday, April 26, 2013

UNRAVELED by S.X. Bradley

UNRAVELED by S.X. Bradley

"Debut author Bradley’s engrossing, emotionally gripping young-adult mystery/suspense novel explores the effect of a murder on a victim’s family...A heartbreaking, impeccably plotted mystery."—Kirkus Reviews

Sixteen year old math whiz, Autumn, spends her days reading about serial killers and dreaming of becoming an FBI Profiler. She never dreams her first case will be so personal. Her world is shattered when she comes home from school and discovers her murdered sister’s body on the living room floor. When the initial evidence points to a burglary gone wrong, Autumn challenges the police’s theory because of the personal nature of the crime. Thinking that finding the killer will bring her family back together, she conducts her own investigation using her affinity for math and forensics, but her plan backfires and her obsession with the case further splinters her family.

When her investigation reveals the killer is someone she knows, Autumn offers herself up as bait and sets a dangerous trap to unmask his true nature and to obtain a confession for her sister’s murder.


“Autumn, yesterday you had told us that when you arrived home the front door was open. Is that correct?”

I leaned in toward the voice recorder on the table and said, “Yes.”

“Are you positive about that? We interviewed some of the neighbors, and none of them saw an open front door at your house?” No doubt Mrs. Jimenez had told them that. Now that she was retired, she had nothing better to do than watch her neighbors. I wondered if she had mentioned seeing anything to Detective Kasanoff. Maybe she saw something unusual that day, a stranger in the neighborhood, a suspicious car, anything.

“The door looked closed, but when I touched my key to the lock, it opened.”

“Do you know who was the last person to leave the house that day?” I looked over at my parents. Mami had her head buried in her hands. She shouldn’t be here, hearing about all of this. Papi had his arm around her and gave me an encouraging smile.

“I was.”

“What time did you leave that morning?”

“About 8:00 a.m.”

“Did you leave through the front door?” I didn’t like where this was going.

“Yes, and I locked it behind me,” I offered before he had a chance to ask the question.

“How can you be sure? Look, I know how it is. It’s easy to get on autopilot in the morning. You do the same thing every morning, you get into a routine.”

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t forget things, Detective. I know I locked the door that morning.” He studied me for a moment and flipped through his papers.

“That’s right. Here it is. You’re some kind of math genius. You almost made the US Math Olympiad Team last year.” I wanted to reach across the table and strangle him. Someone had butchered my sister in my own living room, and he was reading up on how I’d choked on a freaking geometry question during last year’s Math Olympiad final round and failed to make the team?

“I’m gifted, Detective. I’m not smart enough to be a genius.” He broke into a smile. The first I’d ever seen from him.

“Is there really a difference?”

“Yes, about five IQ points.” He wrote something down.

“Let’s move on. You said you had come home because you’d left your math questions on the kitchen table that morning. Is that correct?”

He lifted the folder up and produced some papers that were protected in a plastic bag. He placed them in front of me. “Are these the questions you were referring to?”

I looked at my parents, and both of them had their eyes glued to the plastic bag in front of me.

Without touching the bag, I looked at the front page and saw the first question. It was the Bernoulli equation question that Celeste had asked me that morning over breakfast.

“Yes, those are the ones.”

“Care to know where we found them?” What did he mean? I’d left them on the kitchen table when I went to brush my teeth after breakfast.

“On the kitchen table?” I asked, trying not to sound sarcastic.

“No. In your backpack. The backpack we found at the scene yesterday.” He looked over at my parents this time. My eyes grew wide, and my mouth fell open.

“Mr. or Mrs. Covarrubias, did either of you put these math papers back into Autumn’s backpack after breakfast?” Papi left for the bakery every morning at 5:30 a.m. so he wasn’t even home. Mami had left right after Celeste and I had eaten because she had a dentist appointment. Maybe Mami’d seen the papers and stuck them in my backpack. Celeste had left about ten minutes before me. Her boyfriend Voss had swung by to pick her up. He did that every day.

“Mami, did you put the papers in my backpack?” Her eyes were swollen, and I swear she was two seconds away from passing out. Her gaze wandered around the room until it fell on me. She shook her head. My heart sank.

“Then it had to be Celeste. She must have put them in there.”

“Her fingerprints weren’t found on the papers.” How was that possible? The oils from her hands would have been transferred onto the paper if she’d stuck them in my backpack. It couldn’t have been her then. That left no one, and I had no answer. That wasn’t good.

“Autumn, look, I’m going to be honest with you. There are some things that just don’t add up here. We have witnesses that say you and your sister were arguing at school that morning and that she looked very upset. Care to explain what that was all about?”

I could feel the cell doors closing in around me. This was a witch hunt, and I was about to be burned at the stake.

My parents were staring at me, begging me with their eyes to explain what was going on. The question mark stabbed my heart. They knew that Celeste and I hardly ever fought. The last time had to have been when I’d accidentally given her a black eye when I was five and was trying to learn to hit a baseball.

I looked at the detective and said the only thing I knew to say. “Detective Kasanoff, I want a lawyer.”


SLAYER FOR HIRE by P.E. Cunningham

SLAYER FOR HIRE by P.E. Cunningham

Nineteen-year-old Billie Eshleman loves the TV show Slayer for Hire, and has a major fangirl crush on its hunky star, Dylan Garber. When the show comes to her home town to film a movie version, it’s her greatest dream come true. Unfortunately, she’s not the only fan trying to crash the set. A real vampire has fixated on the fictitious “slayer,” and is determined to make Dylan her mate—like, for the rest of eternity.

With help from Dylan’s co-star, Matt—an actor with vampire-related secrets of his own—it’s up to Billie to keep her idol from joining the ranks of the undead long enough to finish the movie. And, incidentally, keep herself alive in the process.


The guy with the cross tattoo shook himself all over like a dog. Then he grinned at me with those big prosthetic teeth. His B.O. hit me with a stench like three-week-old hamburger. “You look tasty,” he said. He started toward me.

All of a sudden my sight of those scary teeth was blocked by a shapeless wool poncho. I never heard Dina run up. She just appeared between me and Tattoo Boy. They started to circle like dogs. I backed out of reach, but didn’t run. I’d just seen this skinny guy toss Rolly like a basketball. Dina would need help. What I could do with no weapons, I had no idea. Kick, maybe? Worked on the hockey field.

That’s when I noticed Tattoo Boy’s eyes. When he’d grinned at me, they’d been blue. They were red now. I don’t mean bloodshot. I’m talking solid scarlet, with a black pit of pupil in the centers. He hadn’t had a chance to slip contacts in. My gut did a ten-story plummet. Reality had just run off the rails here.

He bared his pointy teeth at Dina and hissed.

She bared her own pointy teeth and hissed right back at him.

Okay. Totally freaked now.

In a move almost too fast to follow, Dina whipped off her poncho and flung it in Tattoo Boy’s fangy face. Under the poncho she had on a scoop-neck top, jeans, and a bandolier full of wooden stakes. She yanked one free. Once Tattoo Boy untangled himself from the poncho and flung it away, she dove in and rammed her stake into his chest.

He looked at the stake. Then he looked at her. His lips started to move. Before any words could form, lips, face and everything else cracked and crumbled and collapsed on the mall’s worn linoleum with a little puff.

I kept waiting for Rog to yell, “Cut.”

Dina calmly plucked another stake from her bandolier. She looked over at me. Her eyes were solid crimson.

“You might want to run now,” she suggested.

She left me before I could speak or scream, or do anything other than pant. I stared around at everything except that pile of ash on the floor, and realized our part of the mall was almost deserted. I glimpsed Matt, recognizable by his height, up at the other end, herding people toward the exits.

What about Dylan? Surely they’d gotten him to safety when this disaster started, right?

I ran, but not for the nearest exit. I headed for the spot where I’d last seen Dylan. Matt seemed to have his own safety under control, but I couldn’t cut out until I knew for sure Dylan was all right. What kind of fangirl would I be if I did?

But first, I detoured for the sporting goods store. I needed a weapon. I grabbed a hardwood baseball bat from the front-of-the store display. Not my first choice, but it was handy. Then I plunged toward the junkyard of abandoned cameras, dollies and cranes where Dylan had last been filming.

I didn’t see anyone around. Maybe they’d all got out. Then two shapes buzzed past me, so fast I only saw blurs, like the vampires on Slayer for Hire, just without the SFX.

Trust me, I did not like how the evidence was mounting up.

The blurs slowed enough to resolve into two of the fang-faced attackers. They grabbed two people struggling to wedge themselves out through an emergency exit. One was Rog. The captain of this flick had stuck with his sinking ship past the last minute. He had Dylan with him, at least until the leather boys yanked them apart. I hefted my bat and pelted toward them.

“Hey, I know you,” one of the Fango Brothers said to Rog. “You were on Leno. You directed RoboSoldier II. Man, that movie sucked.” He swooped in close. He looked like he was biting Rog’s neck.

The other one had hold of a struggling Dylan. “Relax, pretty boy. We’re part of your fan club. Our president wants to meet you. She sent us to pick you up, seeing as how you won’t answer her letters.”

“I don’t see her letters or emails or anything. We’ve got people who do that.” Dylan abruptly stopped struggling. He’d finally noticed the guy sucking on Rog’s neck. “What the hell?”

His captor shrugged one shoulder. “He skipped breakfast.”

“Are you friggin’ insane?” Dylan exploded. “Slayer’s not real! It’s a goddamn TV show! It isn’t real!”

The guy showed his fangs. Dylan shut up. “It’s real enough, bucko.”

“So’s this,” I quipped, and swung the bat. Go for the legs, that’s what they taught us in field hockey. Okay, no, not the coaches. Sarah McClosky, our team captain. She could trip an opposing player six different ways and make ’em all look like an accident. Her dad was a cop, so she knew what to aim for. Her tricks were also effective against grabby dates who wouldn’t listen to “no.”

I cracked the bat against the guy’s knees with all the strength I could muster. Considering the weight of the trays we have to lift at the dinner rush, that’s a lot more than you’d think.

He let go of Dylan and staggered back. He should have gone down, but he didn’t. I retreated a couple of steps. Dylan whirled toward the exit door and clawed at the unyielding bar, totally ignoring the “Push” sign.

I took another swing at Fango’s legs. I thought I was fast, but he beat me. He caught the bat on the downswing and yanked it out of my hands. He tossed it away. It clattered and rolled across the floor, too far away for me to make a dive for. Fango grinned at me, and licked his lips.

“Come to think of it,” he said, “I could do with a bite myself.”


Thursday, April 25, 2013

SHRAPNEL by Stephanie Lawton

SHRAPNEL by Stephanie Lawton

“Stephanie Lawton is a writer to watch in the YA genre.  Shrapnel kept me turning pages as quickly as I could!”—USA Today Best-selling author Cynthia Eden

"Shrapnel is a dark, twisted ghost story with the richness of a Southern Gothic and a super seductive romance that leaves you dying for more." Jennifer Dee,

It’s been six years since Dylanie and her family visited a Civil War site and the place came alive with cannon fire. Problem was, no one could hear it but her.

Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.

None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.


On the balcony, heavy night air carries the sounds of crickets and frogs. The ancient railing is solid beneath my fingers but slick from humidity. The wet dog/rotting fish stench of a nearby swamp blows past and rustles the live oaks in the front yard. The leaves are so loud that I almost don’t hear it.

My name—soft, slow and deep.


I jump back from the railing and look around. The hairs on my neck and arms stand on end, but I can’t see the threat. I haven’t sensed a thing in my room since Ashley commandeered ghost boy. Slowly, so I don’t make a sound, I inch forward toward the railing again. Whatever it is, it’s down there in the dark. From the balcony, I’m able to see the front yard, the side of the main part of the house, and a massive live oak. Underneath it stands a man.

It must be Riley or Ward taking a smoke break, but I don’t see the tiny orange glow of a cigarette. It’s too dark to make out details. I swat a mosquito on my bare arm, and that’s when the man turns, looking up at me. Into me. His eyes seem to travel over every inch, memorizing details. Despite the shadows, I know a slow smile of approval spreads across his face and it makes my breathing ragged. I see him with my eyes, but also in my head. I can’t look away. I can’t shut him out. I can’t even move or speak.

“Dylanie,” he drawls, “let me in.”

Invisible fingers caress my cheek and smooth my hair away from my face. My mind races, but my body’s reaction doesn’t match. It’s like they separate from each other. I close my eyes and a feeling of well-being invades.

“Dylanie, please.” His voice comes from far away, soft and warm, like Jake’s would feel if …

“No! Ouch!” For the second time today, I smack my head on part of a window. “Who the hell are you and what do you want? God, you almost had me there.”

He chuckles. “Oh, I intend to.”

In a blink, he’s moved from the base of the gnarled tree to the stone patio beneath me. Despite the landscape lights, he looks solid, not like a spirit at all. No haze, no shapeless black shadow figure. Slowly, so slowly, he raises his head. My legs go weak, and I grip the railing for support. Below me is the hot dark-haired man I saw on the steps when I arrived.

“Dylanie, I ask you again. May I come in?”

My brain screams no, no, no!

“Yes.” It comes out like an exhale, one that’s been trapped inside the air-tight cage that is my pathetic life. It feels good to say yes to something unapproved and maybe even dangerous.

Another blink and he’s on the balcony with me. Shit. This close, it’s obvious he’s not much older than me, maybe a few years. He’s the most human, solid-looking spirit I’ve ever encountered—if that’s what he is.

“Go ahead,” he says, reading my mind.


“Touch me. You want to. Go ahead.” He reaches out his hand, palm up. I shrink back. This is crazy! It isn’t possible. I mean, Agnes and I communicated, but not like this. And she certainly never looked at me like that. The realization is a slap in the face.

I set my jaw. “You know what? I will. You don’t scare me.”

He laughs again. “It is not my intent to scare you. Quite the opposite.”

I take a deep breath and slip my hand into his. Instead of feeling cold and slithery, like a snake, it’s warm and dry. So real.

“Do you know why I have chosen you, Dylanie Reid?”

Whoa, wait a minute. “Chosen me?”

He tugs on my hand and pulls me in close. He whispers in my ear, though no warm breath tickles my skin. “Because you are brave. A fighter. I admire that in a woman, and I want you on my side. I have secrets to share with you, but I must know you are loyal to me. Can I trust you?”

My insides tighten. His intense gaze makes it hard to think, and on some level, I know this can’t be happening. But it is. “I don’t even know who you are.”

“Perhaps not, but I know who you are. The moment you looked into my eyes this morning, I learned your undisclosed desires and your greatest fears. I know you love your little sister and the way she looks up to you. You are more scared of life than you let on. You allow others to believe you have seen and done it all, when you are as innocent as the day you were born. You want to be loved, yet you are afraid to relinquish control.”

“What the f—”

He places a ghostly finger over my lips. “You want the same things everyone else does, but you refuse to admit it, even to yourself. I know all these things. I know you, and I want to help. All you have to do is let me.”

“Who is me? What’s your name?”

“Call me Jackson.”

“Look, Jackson, I don’t need help.” I take a step back but he holds tight.

“Ah, but you do. And so do I.”

“I knew there was a catch. Even dead people always want something from you.”

“That’s human nature, Dylanie, but I assure you, your reward will be much greater than my request.”

 “Which is?”

“In time, sweetheart. I’ll explain in time. But first, let me demonstrate what it is I can do for you.”

His all-too-real hands tip my head to the side and he leans in.

I have my first kiss.

With a ghost.




Every 300 years, the immortal Phoenix returns to Mono Lake to be reborn—but this time it didn't return alone.  The Nephilim are back in force, trying to keep it from being reborn so one of them can claim its immortality. But first they have to figure out who the Phoenix is—and any red-haired, green-eyed, seventeen-year-old in the area is fair game. And so, the killing begins...

Julie Mason doesn't believe all this legend crap until she falls for Eli Sullivan, whose hallucination-inducing kiss not only saves her, but makes her the Nephilim’s prime target. But, it's worth the risk. Her death is inevitable...not even Eli can prevent it.  All she has to do is keep the Nephilim off Eli’s trail until The Rising. Once Eli is reborn and forgets his past life, Julie’s life is over, whether she’s dead or not. At least that's what she thinks...


“That asshole flipped you the bird.”

Julie jerked her head up from the drinking fountain to find Kas Penemue towering over her.

“Wha-what?” She backed against the wall. The pounding of her heart amplified against the hard surface, shaking her body with each beat.

“Fredricks. He flipped you the bird. Want me to break his finger?”

“No!” The word gushed from her mouth, causing the heads of those nearby to swivel her way.

Kas chuckled and leaned his arm against the wall over her head.

“I’m just kidding, Julie. Chill.”

Julie inhaled slowly. The scent of peppermint wafted from his mouth, a pleasant smell that had a strange, calming effect on her.

“How did you know? That he did that, I mean.” Julie hadn’t noticed Kas in the classroom, and with his size, she would have had to be blind not to see him.

“I have my ways.”

Across and down the hall, Julie saw Eli Sullivan open his locker and grab a book. He turned his head in her direction and locked his eyes on hers. Why does he keep staring at me?

“Well, do you?”

Julie blinked and then looked up into Kas’s dark chocolate eyes.

“Do I what?”

Kas’s voice softened. “I asked if you wanted to go to a party with me tomorrow night after the game.”

Julie’s eyes shifted back to Eli. He had been joined at his locker by Charsey who was busy giggling and flipping her silky strawberry blonde locks over her shoulder. Charsey was a flirt, and she had the looks to get the job done. Eli Sullivan didn’t stand a chance. He would soon join Charsey’s long list of male conquests.

“Umm. Sure. I guess that would be okay.” Julie bit her tongue the moment the words came out of her mouth.

 Kas took a step back and smiled.

“Great. Meet me by the gate after the game.” He jogged down the hallway.

Yeah, great. Julie could have kicked herself. How am I gonna get myself out of this one? Julie turned. Eli and Charsey were gone. In fact, the whole hallway was practically deserted. Julie glanced at the clock. She had less than a minute to get to her next class. She might make it if she ran.

 The moment she turned the corner, she collided with someone, rebounding off a hard male chest and landing on her butt.

“Oh, man! I am so sorry!” A tanned, muscular hand was offered to her, the same hand that returned a discarded cigarette to her the day before. Julie looked up into the apologetic face of Eli Sullivan. At that moment, the second period tardy bell rang.

“Crap!” She slapped his hand away and hauled herself up. “Thanks a lot!” 

Eli raised his hands in surrender. “I really am sorry, Julie. I—I just need to talk to you.”

Julie hesitated for a moment as his eyes met hers. They seemed to burn right into her, throwing her off-kilter, making her forget why she was so upset. She shook her head to realign her thoughts then pushed her way past him. “I’m late.”

Eli grabbed her arm, halting her retreat. “Please. This is important.”

Julie tensed her arm, ready to pull away, until she looked into his face. His sapphire eyes darkened with concern. Her heart thrummed as he pulled her closer, brushing his lips across her temple.

“What did he want?” Eli spoke barely above a whisper, his breath warm on her ear.

 Julie tried to blink away the spots that suddenly clouded her vision. She could feel her heart beating in her throat and a red flag went up. This was not happening. She wouldn’t let it. This time she did pull away.

“What did who want?” Julie lifted her chin and exhaled, trying to calm her heart.

 Eli’s eyes hardened. “Penemue. What did he want?”

Julie was totally confused. “What business is it of yours?” She backed away, and he grabbed her arm again. Gently, this time. Once again, his touch sent her heart into overdrive.

“I just think you should steer clear of him.”

Julie jerked her arm out of his hand. “Who do you think you are? My father?” She spun around and headed in the opposite direction.


Julie stopped in her tracks.

“What?” she snapped.

“You’re gonna need a tardy pass.”



ELYSIUM by Sylah Sloan

ELYSIUM by Sylah Sloan

Meadow Caldwell is about to learn a very dark secret about herself.

When she is taken away from the only family she has ever known and thrust into the world of the paranormal, she learns not everything or everyone is what it seems.

Arcane Manor, a school for creatures of myth and lore, is all Meadow knows now. The only person she can rely on is herself in this strange, new world, especially with the secret of her true identity.

When Dr. Cadeon Frost, an enigmatic vampire, helps her unravel her past, Meadow finds herself falling for the quiet, intelligent doctor.

When she is thrust out of reality and into the arms of a mysterious man, she is trapped between the world she knows and one that nightmares are made of. It is up to her to stop not only an evil that threatens her, but everyone she cares for.


“I’ve never been kissed.” I wasn’t looking for sympathy, not in the least, and I was probably embarrassing myself with my admission, but I wanted him to know. I wanted him to be the first guy I kissed. I wanted to share that experience with him. He didn’t speak, and I worried I had screwed up anything which might have been created between us. He almost had a troubled look on his face, but then he let out a deep breath, his hand going back to my face and his fingers trailing along my jaw.

“You’re so special, Meadow.” He whispered the words.

 I didn’t feel special, not in the least, but I would have been lying if I didn’t admit that hearing him say those things about me had butterflies in my stomach. My eyes widened when I noticed his head coming closer. Oh my. This is it. He’s going to kiss me. I didn’t move and held my breath as he stopped an inch from my lips. It was torture, pure and simple.

“Just a small kiss.”

I nodded and braced myself, as his lips pressed against mine. The setting was perfect, the kiss magical. He smelled so good, and I was being kissed for the first time in a romantic place. The beautiful flowers blooming all around me, their intoxicating scents surrounding us, just made the experience that much more incredible.

 Soon that small kiss became more heated, and he cupped my cheeks with his hands. Whatever I had imagined it to be like to kiss, it had never compared to this. His lips on mine were demanding, yet soft, like he wanted to show me all the passion he had, but didn’t dare let loose. He pulled away and looked at me, his breathing as fast as my own. I was glad he had the same reaction to me, as I did to him.

 He cleared his throat and sat back, running his hand through his hair and looking around. “We should get back.”

In a few short hours it would be dawn and even though I didn’t know if I would fry out in the sun, I wasn’t ready to test my luck. I nodded, letting him take my hand and getting tingles all over my body when our skin touched. We slowly made our way back to the Manor, my mind a whirlwind of emotions. He seemed more aloof, more distant, and I wondered if I had done something wrong. Had I pushed him into kissing me? Made him feel sorry for me and now he regretted doing it? He was older and maybe he feared he would get in trouble. I certainly considered the kiss innocent, but now felt shame for what we had done. I didn’t want him angry at me and worried about it.


He stopped before we reached the front doors, the wind blowing by us and ruffling his dark hair. “I’m sorry.” I tightened my coat, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

 He knitted his brows and took a step towards me. “For what?”

 “For the kiss. I didn’t tell you to make you feel sorry for me. I just, I don’t know, wanted you to know.” He didn’t say anything, his attention on the greenhouse.

“You have nothing to be sorry about. I’m just frustrated with myself. I find it difficult to keep my control around you, but I should. I need to stay strong and levelheaded because it won’t do anyone any good if I let my emotions control me. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I didn’t, but I nodded anyway. I kind of thought he was telling me he cared for me, which was what I deciphered back in the greenhouse. I was happy to know he couldn’t keep his control around me, but not so happy that he wanted to keep it. When he kissed me, he showed me a side of him that was wilder, more intense. It was another part of his life, a part more exciting. The kiss showed me what it could be like, what I had been missing this whole time. It sounded silly, even as I thought about it, but it was true. We stared at each other for another suspended moment and then he smiled.

“Goodnight, Meadow.” He turned, and I watched him walk away. I didn’t close my door until he was gone.


DISINTEGRATE by Christine Klocek-Lim

DISINTEGRATE by Christine Klocek-Lim

Emily just wanted a normal life: a boyfriend, college, two parents who loved her. Instead, her dad disappeared when she was fourteen and her life at college is anything but ordinary.

When you can manipulate matter like putty and you have no idea why, how do you pretend to be like everyone else? What happens when you meet a guy who has the same powers? Do you trust him to help you find the answers you need?

Emily desperately wants to believe that Jax can help, but the stakes grow higher than she’d ever expected: someone is after them and they’re not afraid to use violence to get what they want.


“I … think you’ve got the wrong impression of the two of us,” she mumbled. “We’re just friends.” And that’s all we’ll ever be, Emily told herself.

The woman shook her head. “No. I don’t think I do.” She wiped at the bar, nodding once as though making up her mind. “He’s a good kid.” She moved off, pouring a beer as she made her way down to the other end of the bar.

Emily blinked, confused by the bartender’s confidence. Jax sang on, oblivious to the conversation they were having about him only a few feet away.

And then the wall by the door exploded.

Emily froze for a split second while the bartender looked stupidly at the mess, then rushed for the stage, shoving through the few people beginning to realize something was very, very wrong. Jax hadn’t reacted and her first instinct was to get him to safety. She knew they were there for her, and she also knew they wouldn’t hesitate to destroy anyone near her in an effort to get to her. The best thing to do was get out.

Heart pounding, she grabbed him by the sleeve and dragged him down and off the stage. His guitar strap broke and the instrument hit the floor with a harsh twang. She winced, knowing it was his dad’s guitar, and important to Jax, but she didn’t stop. She couldn’t afford to do anything about it. Her skin was jumping and buzzing and she yanked—

Jax fell over her, hands raised, and Emily chanced a look back. There were three of them, huge and intent. Their faces were covered. One had a shotgun, oh God…

“Get down!” Jax yelled, shoving her over.

She ignored him, pulling until he had no choice but to follow. It was that or step on her. He still had his hands up. Something went boom—the gun, she thought—and then the staccato crunch of wood splintering around her bled through her panic. She shoved Jax ahead of her, hard. The door behind the stage hung ajar, and she stumbled for it, skin prickling as static arced around her fingers.

“Get back!” she panted, and Jax tripped. She tried to pull him up, but his muscular frame was too much for her thin frame. “Jax, you’ve gotta get up.”

He stared at her from the floor, dazed. A trickle of blood ran from a cut near his eye.

Was he hit? “Jax, get up!” she hissed.

Finally, he shoved off from the floor and staggered to his feet, falling against her. Not shot then, she thought, relieved. He wouldn’t be standing if he’d been seriously injured.

She tugged him down the dark hallway. When she looked back, she couldn’t believe they hadn’t been followed. Or at least not yet. Swallowing hard, she grabbed his hand, ignoring the electric tingle of his skin, and dragged him into the wall. He oofed as his head hit the paneling, but she had no time to worry about it. She pressed her fingers to the dirty surface and pushed, concentrating on dissolving the bonds of matter in her body and his. It wasn’t easy. She had to sort of push her energy into it, harder than she’d ever had to before. It felt a little like juggling upside down. She needed to hang onto him and release everything else, simultaneously. She had to keep his hand solid in hers while phasing their bodies out. For a moment, she thought she would fail or go mad, and then something clicked—

Thank God.

—her hands sank into the wall. She shuddered, hating the sticky feel of molecules sliding into her like this. One finger, one hand, no problem, but her entire body? That was creepy and weird. What she was doing wasn’t natural. Humans weren’t supposed to be able to shove pieces of themselves into pieces of other stuff, and here she was trying to shove her entire body, and Jax’s too, into the filthy inside of a bar wall. She almost sobbed … it was taking too long, they were coming—

—and then Jax’s fingers tightened around hers and it felt like electricity shooting into her bones. He gasped and then they fell into the wall together, their matter pressed into and within the wood and concrete and insulation.

Nausea rose. She fought it down. No time for that, she snarled to herself. No damn space for barfing. She gripped Jax’s hand, trying to keep still and quiet and think while also somehow conveying to him the need for calm. He could freak out later.

And he would, she knew. They were completely hidden, existing half in reality and half in the shadowy space between atoms that she’d been able to manipulate since forever. He would want to know how she did it. He would want do know why she’d dragged him into this.

A short, sharp boom echoed weirdly through her. They’d made it to the hall, though she couldn’t see them. She couldn’t see anything. Her eyes didn’t work inside the wall. Jax’s iron-willed calm filtered slowly through her veins, as if she could feel his emotions. God, this was completely horrible, she thought, willing the men to just go away. She needed to run—

—and then there was silence. She didn’t know how long it had been quiet, but Jax was pulling at her. She forced herself to think move and let go and enough and she stepped forward and out—

—and they fell into the hall, coughing. She stifled a gag, her right hand burning from the rough flooring. She’d just caught herself before her head hit the opposite wall.

“Jesus, what—” Jax choked, turning to her. He wouldn’t let go of her hand.

“We need to see if they’re gone,” she managed, rubbing her face on her shoulder. Her knees hurt. She felt filthy, as if she’d ingested the dirt that penetrated every portion of the wall.

Jax leaned down and put his free hand flat on the floor. He closed his eyes.

Emily stared. What was he doing?

A second later he shook his head. “Everyone is gone.” He grimaced. “Or dead.”

“How—” she began to ask, but then the skin on her hand prickled, the one he still held. Jax looked at her arm. She looked at his palm. Tiny sparks arced between them, silver stars that made no sense.


BLOOD HEX by Erin Butler

BLOOD HEX by Erin Butler

Two girls. Four centuries. One curse.

Isabella started it—all because a boy fell in love with her—but it ends with Sarah.

Isabella and Thomas meet in secret during the witching hours while the rest of the villagers hide behind locked doors. And even though Isabella's scared, she wants Thomas more. He'll protect her from the night, from his father who'll decide her future, and from the paranoia-fueled hunting parties taking away innocents.

Centuries later, seventeen-year old Sarah runs away to an aunt she never knew she had. Her dad? Dead. Her mother? A liar. She wants the memories of a father she never got, but instead, discovers her father's death wasn’t innocent. Everyone—the Wiccans, the townies, even her quasi-boyfriend—is hiding something. The history-rich town has a secret they will kill to keep, entangling Sarah into a centuries old witch curse.


The lights around the park dimmed. I twisted toward the makeshift stage again. Forty feet away, a figure stood tall, elevated by the 2x4’s that lay out on the grass only a few hours ago. A hooded black robe disguised the guy, not that I would know who he was anyway. The dark night, the material folding over his head, made him look like a faceless grim reaper. It was dusk and getting darker, the pink deepening to a rose red.

The robed figure lifted his hand, smooth, indifferent, a marionette being played with. His hand made a wide, sweeping horizontal arc, pointing into the faces of everybody.

My stomach twisted and turned into knots. Drake bumped into my shoulder and held out a drink as he sat down. Then, the figure yanked his hands in the air and a big blaze of fire erupted from the space between the stage and the audience. I jumped, deftly managing to spill half my soda. I barely noticed.

Flames shot up, reaching toward the night. The smell of gasoline used for ignition hung in the air. A few people laughed behind me. Drake even joined in. “Gotcha,” he said, leaning over, whispering in my ear. With him so close, the cologne clinging to his long, black robe smothered the wood smoke that had filled my nostrils.

I peered at him. He turned away and pulled his hood up. He was the exact match of the person on stage.

I sat with a wizard. I talked with a wizard.

I made fun of people for things like this.

Still, I inched closer to him. The fire, the reddish sky, the grim reaper, the witches, everything. It got to me. An eerie feeling tangled itself within every thought, like something hidden watched from just beyond sight.

On the stage, the figure in the dark cloak threw back the hood. The fire glow cast the face in shadows, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of orange, red, and black. The speakers thumped, thumped, thumped as the black hooded figure tapped the front of the microphone. The hollow sound echoed throughout the open park and bounced off the surrounding buildings. No one talked. They barely even moved. Only the slight ripple of the crowd as everyone inclined their heads and inched forward, awe-struck.

The wind picked up, fueling the flames. The blazed erupted, flaring up, lighting the figure's face. I gasped.

The grim reaper wasn’t a guy. It was Rose.

Drake peeked over at me, his eyebrows knit together. “You okay?”

“That’s my aunt,” I whispered loud, still trying to comprehend it myself. “What is she doing up there?”

"She's the leader.”

"Huh?" Uneasiness squeezed my chest, like the time I went to see that stupid Ouija board movie with friends. They all laughed through the scary parts while I spent most of the movie with my heart trembling and one second away from closing my eyes. “Leader of what?”

“This.” Drake opened his arms wide and twisted his body, scanning the corners of the five-sided park. “She puts all this together.”

I took it all in. Giant banners announced “Adams Colonization”, eerie witch posters and mannequins with stringy green hair and large, red eyeballs stared back. The guards along the stage dressed in old brown suits and hats I guessed were supposed to be replicas of what the first settlers wore. The costumes reminded me of pilgrims. They stood at attention, faces impassible as they monitored the crowd. The picture sank into my brain, this parallel reality where past met present in a jumbled mesh.

Drake leaned into me again. “Sorry. I should have told you.”

No wonder why she said she was too busy to hang out with me. I snuck forward a little, caught up in the surprise appearance of Rose. The arm that had been touching Drake instantly chilled. He was so nice. And cute. But the reason why I came here was up on that stage.

Rose’s voice rang out, low and seductive. “On this day in 1610, our ancestors inhabited a foreign land. Today, we call that piece of land Adams, Virginia.” Scattered applause swelled through the park. “Our ancestors brought with them superstition…and fear from England. Men and women, children—all terrified of one thing.” Rose's hypnotic voice was mesmerizing and I leaned forward even more. “Witches.” The stare of an old, wise woman lingered over everybody and when her eyes met mine, a pool of black reflected the licking orange flames.

“They fled here, terrified of the supernatural. They hoped to start a new life. One without the constant paranoia. They failed. Our ancestors lived in complete, maddening, unrelenting fear their entire lives. Are we like them?” Audible no's and descending grunts rose from the crowd. “No. We're not.” Her voice pitched higher, and louder. “Today, we embrace our history. Today, we stare the supernatural in the face and laugh at it.” Loud cheers erupted from every corner of the park and Rose shouted over them, “Today, we celebrate!”

Rose motioned to the side of the reaching flames. Two men in the ugly brown trousers and jackets nodded. “During this opening ceremony, we will conquer fear as they did back in the old days.” The men pulled at ropes, hoisting a cross into the air. Mounted to the cross beam was the body of a woman, her mouth agape in horror.

I drew in a sharp breath. I felt Drake move next to me so I turned my gaze on him. A sly smile graced his face. He put his arm around me, pulling me closer. “Are you scared?” he whispered.

I couldn't speak. These people were freakin' crazy. My eyes darted through the crowd, looking for a policeman—somebody—who might stop this.

“Don't worry. We always do this on opening night,” Drake said, pulling me even closer, rubbing my shoulder with his hand.

I wanted to scream at him to do something, to help the poor woman. He only sat smiling, eyes bright with anticipation. I knocked his hand off me and pulled away, but before I could wiggle free of Drake's arms and run to the fire pit, the cotton clothes the woman wore caught fire from the reaching flames underneath. My breath clogged my throat. I didn't know whether to scream first, or cry.

The flames spread fast. The waistline already edged with black char before the fire incinerated it. Dark gray smoke furled over the helpless woman and puffed up toward the blood red sky.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013



Serafina's, Book 2

Real man versus dead man - no contest!

Dale Ewan, the wealthy owner of Genesis Gaming, has a serious poltergeist problem. In desperation, he calls on Edinburgh's unique psychic investigation agency, Serafina's.

But Sera and her hacker friend, the beautiful and aggressive Jilly, find more than one spirit haunting the ugly country house. While Sera fights the poltergeist, Jilly encounters what appears to be the ghost of Dale's brilliant ex-partner, Genesis Adam, trapped in his own new virtual reality system.

 Jilly delves headlong into Adam's mystery. How did he get there? Why is he more exciting and attractive than any of the real men in her life? How are Jilly's own criminal brothers involved in his death? And what are Dale and his wife Petra hiding? Apart from the body buried in their garden...

While Jilly falls in love with the sexy, virtual ghost, Sera has problems of her own, not least the shadowy presence of the undead Founder that seems to threaten Sera, her vampire lover Blair, and all her friends.



He groaned into her mouth and lifted his head. His breathing was ragged, his voice unsteady. “Would you allow a dead man to make love to you?”

Jilly, who’d had such difficulty encountering a live one she could even tolerate, just said, “Please, please…” in a mindless sort of way she suspected she’d despise in the morning. Right now, it didn’t matter, since she was pulling him with her toward the large, ornate bed.

He muttered something beneath his breath, and suddenly he lifted her off her feet and strode across the room with her. Now here was the Rhett Butler that Dave Jenner had so signally failed to emulate the other night—masterful, urgent, strong. And yet he laid her on the bed with gentleness and straightened to drop the braces from his shoulders and tear off his tie and shirt.

She reached for him, and he came into her arms as if it was the most natural place in the world to be. He lay over her, his body deliciously heavy on her hips, her pubic bone. His still-covered erection pushed between her parted thighs. His skin felt warm and smooth under her hands as she ran them over his shoulders and arms and back. He was beautiful, she realised; a naked man could be astoundingly beautiful, and suddenly she wanted to see all of him.

She wriggled under him, which had the additional advantage of pleasing her body, so avid now for new and greater thrills, pushing at him until his face changed and he yanked himself off her as if afraid he’d been hurting her. Suddenly terrified he’d go too far away, she seized his naked shoulder, pushing him onto his back on the pillows so she could stroke his lean, broad chest.

Breathing deeply, he let her, watching with obvious pleasure. She smiled and kissed his chest just above the nipple, then the nipple itself, letting her lips linger there to enjoy the novel sensation.

Muttering something that was at least half groan, he reached up to the unseen fastenings of her dress and tugged once. It slipped down her shoulders to her elbows, revealing some weird corsetry that he began to unfasten at her back, hook by hook. His gaze never left hers, and suddenly it was unspeakably exciting to feel his fingers working at her back, knowing that any moment, she’d be naked. Greatly daring, she traced one finger down the central line of his chest to the waistband of his trousers. She unfastened the buttons there and kept going, revealing the fine line of hair that ran from his belly button into his shorts.

She paused. The full length of his erection lay thick and hard over his flat stomach. She laid her hand over it, and he exhaled as if he’d been holding his breath for ages. She liked the feel of it, hot, ridged, enticing; she yearned to see it.

But she hesitated, suddenly unsure. A thread of panic brushed through her, threatening her with memory. But he seemed to read her mind and obligingly shoved his trousers and underwear down over his hips.

Her breath caught. He took her hand, and, under her widening eyes, he kissed her fingers and palm and then placed them over his naked cock. She swallowed. The skin felt so soft over all that steely hardness, so amazingly hot under her hand. She closed her fingers around the shaft, and he smiled at her.

“Oh yes,” he approved softly, and then, swiftly, he sat up and rolled her under him, and there was no dress, no corset between them. A quick scuffle of his feet, and the last of his own troublesome clothes vanished too. His hand closed over one breast, softly, tenderly caressing.
Slowly, oh so arousingly, he lowered his gaze from her eyes to her uncovered breast.

“Fuck,” he said huskily. “I knew you’d be beautiful all over. But your breast is like…” As if he ran out of words, he lowered his head and took her nipple reverently between his lips. The pleasure was exquisite, especially when his lips moved in the sweetest caress she’d ever imagined, gently rolling and tugging.

She closed her eyes, never wanting it to stop. And it seemed he was in no hurry, for he kissed her nipple for a long, long time while his hand kneaded the other, doubling her pleasure. His leg, long and muscled, stretched over both of hers, and he moved it caressingly until he shifted position and lay instead between her thighs.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013



A fierce Miami storm bring sexy strangers together at The Hotel Del Santos for a night of desire.

Stephanie, still reeling from a failed marriage, needs a break from the past. Shying away from the convention center crowds while on a business trip, she finds solace tucked away in a secluded hotel on South Beach.

Jason, a wealthy Seattle builder, has the worst luck with love. He swears he will never allow another woman to get under his skin, until the clicking of a pair of sexy stilettos across the hotel lobby floor attracts his attention.

Cut off from the outside world, the lives of these two strangers collide and burn with desire when a storm strands them together. Neither wants anything more than a glorious one-night stand.

Their chemistry is undeniable and propels them to a second meeting in Sin City. However, Stephanie soon learns she has more reason to be wary of her mysterious lover than a broken heart.

“The chemistry between Stephanie and Jason is electric, white hot, and sensual. This story definitely delivers on all counts of romance and erotica.” ~ Liz, Fictional Candy


Las Vegas. Sin City. A place known for glitz, glamour, excitement and fantasy. It was a premier adult playground where one could pretend to be anything or anyone because “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Jason held her hand and gestured toward the lobby with his other. People stared as he escorted her through the hotel to the waiting limousine. By herself, she was exposed and vulnerable, but at Jason’s side she was strong and empowered. Yes. She was in Sin City and Stephanie was going to play the part and enjoy every minute.

“Where are we going?” she asked, sliding into the limo.

“One of my favorite restaurants and I have a surprise for you after dinner.”

“I love surprises, and I have one for you too.” Stephanie leaned over and brushed her lips against his. Her fingertips grazed his thigh and traveled slowly up his leg. A strong hand encircled her wrist at the same time a low growl emanated from his mouth. Her eyes popped open and locked on his darkened stare. The intensity took her breath away.

He leaned over and whispered in her ear. “It’s taking all of my self-control not to take you right here in the back of the limo.”

“What’s stopping you?” she whispered back.

“Damn, we are going to have a fun five days together,” he said in a husky voice, raising his eyebrow.

Stephanie giggled and shifted in her seat as Jason loosened his grip on her wrist and interlaced his fingers with hers. They sat in silence for the rest of the short ride. The limousine turned at the François Hotel and Casino and came to a stop at the private entrance to Le Cote Noir.

The tinkling of piano keys, flickering candlelight and the deep shades of red took over Stephanie’s senses like a soft warm blanket as they walked into the restaurant. “Mr. Royce, it’s so good to see you this evening. Right this way.”

The maître d swiftly escorted them to a secluded table next to floor to ceiling windows overlooking the spectacular view of The Strip.

“I know I said it before, but I’m glad you took me up on my offer and arrived early. We have a lot of time to make up.”

“Speaking of offers, Jason. The clothes, the jewelry, you know I can’t accept any of it.”

Jason reached across table and took her hand in his. “You think too much. Just allow me to take care of you for a few days. Relax and let go, we’ll figure out everything else later.”

Stephanie opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it. She knew it was a losing battle to spar with Jason about his gifts. At that moment the only thing that mattered was that she was with him. It was enough for her. Yes, we will figure the rest out later.

“Are you ready for surprise number one?” Jason asked as the server removed their dinner plates.

He rose and walked to her side of the table. She closed her eyes as a finger grazed the nape of her neck before he pulled her chair out and took her arm in his. She trembled in response to his sizzling touch on her bare back as he lead her through the doorway to the outside terrace. The maître d handed Jason and Stephanie each a glass of port as they walked onto an outdoor patio that jutted over the edge of the building. A cool breeze blew through her hair but she was instantly warmed by a sip of the rich liquid.

“It’s beautiful. I’ve seen the fountains at street level before but never this high up,” Stephanie said, walking up to the railing. She couldn’t actually hear the activity on the busy boulevard from their location high above The Strip, but the intensity in the air was evident. She gazed down at the famous fountains of The Castillo Hotel & Casino.

Jason took the port from her hand and placed the glasses on a nearby table. Stephanie instinctively leaned into the warmth of his palm on the bare small of her back. A sigh escaped her lips as his hand slipped inside the fabric of her dress and ventured lower until his fingertips brushed the top of her ass. The lights on the terrace dimmed and music began to play. A flash of light from the water below signaled a single long spray from the middle of the lake. It multiplied and set off a continuous line of water in the air that moved forward and back with the music. As the water danced in the air, the music’s volume increased. Stephanie placed both hands on the railing. He moved behind her and ran his fingers up the planes of her back and down both of her arms. Continuing his assault of warm kisses down her neck and between her shoulder blades, the tip of his tongue followed the trail back up her neck and stopped at her ear. Stephanie gasped and leaned into his body for support. His arms provided the stability she needed to remain standing.

“My self-control is giving out,” Jason whispered in her ear as his hand inched upward taking her dress hem along with it. Stephanie felt the evidence of his arousal pressing firmly against her back. She tilted her head up to meet his gaze.

“Let’s go,” she said with a coy smile.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013



Destined to be surrounded by magic yet have none of her own, Cassie walks a thin line between love and danger. Her mother is dying and her boyfriend has turned into something which terrifies her. By the time she wakes up to the danger she’s in, it’s nearly too late. 

Cassie’s friend, Jeremy, warns her about her scumbag boyfriend, but she doesn’t listen until deeply disturbing events unfold and her life hangs in the balance. With few choices left, she and Jeremy join forces to battle the darkness threatening them. Meanwhile, Cassie warms to Jeremy in ways she never could have anticipated. Love was there all along if she’d just opened her eyes and looked.


 Magic's Daughter
Ann Gimpel

Chapter 1

Cassionetta Ceobbinn sat in her old Subaru and rested her forehead against its steering wheel. Her electronic design work had ground to a halt an hour earlier and a headache pounded behind one eye. The garage of the Capitol Hill mansion rose around her, silent as a crypt. Her mother’s Aston Martin sat off to one side, gleaming white in the semi-darkness. Cassie girded herself to open her car door, grab her things, and go inside. “It’s my house, goddammit,” she muttered to boost her courage. “So what if he sent me a text message not to come home.”

The garage lights came on, blinding her. The door leading into the house crashed against the wall. Before the ringing in her ears subsided, her live-in boyfriend stomped to her car. Well, the live-in part was still accurate. The boyfriend part seemed to have evaporated like so much smoke.

“You weren’t supposed to come home tonight,” he growled. “I texted you hours ago. You can just turn that piece of shit you drive around and go stay at your mother’s office.”

Fury boiled up from her guts. She took aim and opened the car door hard into his midsection, hoping she could clip a ball for good measure.

“Oooph. You little bitch.” He jumped back, rubbing his stomach.

You bet I am. High heels slapping the concrete floor, she jumped out of her car and stood eyeball to eyeball with him. “This is my mother’s house, Tyler MacKenzie. I live here. Or have you forgotten?” Cassie yanked her shoulder bag and computer case off the passenger side of the front seat and stormed past him.

He grabbed her arm before she reached the steps leading into the kitchen. “I have people over. It’s the full moon. I’m leading a séance. Your presence would disturb the energy.”

She twirled to face him, breaking his grip. “You mean you have mother’s clients over. Where is she, by the way?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Haven’t seen her.”

Cassie turned away from him. He closed his hand over her arm again, hard enough to make her squeal. “If you don’t let me go,” she snarled through clenched teeth, “I will call the police.”

His fingers loosened marginally. “But, sweetie…”

She heard compulsion beneath his words. Cassie didn’t have any magic of her own, but she recognized it in others. When Tyler had wanted her to fall in love with him, he’d used honeyed words all the time. They’d only stopped once she’d let him move in.

“Can it.” She twisted her head so she could lock gazes with him. “Let me go. Now.” His hand fell away. “I want you out of here tomorrow—”

His eyes narrowed. He shoved long, red-gold hair out of his face and sneered at her. “Fat fucking chance of that. We’ve had this conversation one too many times for my liking. I’m here, and I intend to stay. There’s nothing you can do about it. Unless you want to meet with an unfortunate accident.”
A nasty laugh bubbled past lips she’d once thought were full and sensual. “Of course something like that could happen anyway. If I were you, sweetie, I’d watch my back.”

Cassie shuddered. She swallowed, but her mouth was dry. Maybe she’d underestimated Tyler. Once they’d stopped getting along, she’d seen him as an inconvenience, not a menace. He’d never sounded quite like this before though. There’d been threats, but they’d been subtle, veiled in double entendre.
She squared her shoulders and turned to face him. It was the kiss of death to let bullies know they were getting to you. “I’m done with your crap.” She infused as much venom as she could into her voice. “I will call the police. You threatened me.”

He snorted. “I’d just deny it. They’ll believe we had a lover’s spat. Women are so emotional.” His blue eyes gleamed with an unnatural light.

She blinked. For a moment, he looked like a demon one of her mother’s psychic friends had raised by accident. Cassie knew enough about demons—interdimensional beings which traveled from world to world wreaking havoc—for the idea of them to scare the shit out of her.

Don’t be ridiculous. Ridiculous, ridiculous echoed in her head. I’m seeing things.

Her heartbeat sounded loud in her ears; her hands fisted at her sides. “You’d better get back to your séance. Wouldn’t want any of those high rollers to get away.” He took a menacing step toward her; his mouth was set in a hard line. She sucked in a breath, ready to defend herself.

Thank Christ he spun on his heel and trotted smartly back into the house. Tyler cut an elegant figure with his richly-embroidered gypsy cape, broad shoulders, and classically handsome Nordic features.
Flowing ruby silk pants rode low on his slim hips. No wonder she’d been taken in by him.

Fuming—and scared half to death—she followed him into the house, but turned a hard left before she reached the kitchen and took what had once been the servants’ staircase. It had been stupid to fall for Tyler, one of the dumbest things she’d ever done, but there was no going back. She couldn’t unravel time and choose not to tumble into his arms and his bed. That part was a done deal. If she listened to him, his residency at chéz Eleanora was a done deal as well.


Worry for her mother filled her, obliterating her fears for her own safety. Eleanora Ceobbinn was—or had been—a well-known psychic, but she’d apparently made one too many trips to the far side of the veil. She was still alive, but she hadn’t spoken a word in nearly a year and spent the majority of her time rattling around their old house like a ghost.

Eleanora had come from money—and made plenty on her own—so at least that wasn’t a problem, but Cassie’s mother was definitely fading. It was almost as if someone—Tyler?—were feeding off what little energy she had left.

Unable to shake her earlier sense of foreboding, Cassie shivered. If she hadn’t been holding onto her purse and computer bag, she would have wrapped her arms around herself.

Maybe because she was thinking about her mother—and the house had a mind of its own—she wasn’t surprised to find herself beneath a full-sized oil painting of Eleanora. Lush dark hair ended at knee-level and her haunting violet eyes seemed alive. People had told Cassie she looked like her mom, but she’d never thought so. Eleanora was beautiful—and ageless. Cassie had the hair and the eyes and the striking six foot height, but the effect wasn’t nearly the same.

She still had no idea what had gone wrong the day her mother had checked out. She’d come home from work to find Eleanora sprawled face down on the Oriental carpet in the séance room, candles smoking black gouts of greasy flame. If there’d been clients, they were nowhere to be found.

Her mother had regained consciousness, but that had been about all. Cassie had known better than to lug Eleanora around to a bunch of other doctors with their uncomfortable questions and pained silences after the first one had asked, “Your mother does what for a living?”

Cassie dragged her gaze away from the portrait. As a little girl, she’d believed her mother’s painted eyes were the gateway to a magical world. She’d asked Eleanora and her mother had smiled shrewdly. “Stranger things have happened, child,” she’d said. “It’s best not to test this one.”

Cassie pulled a key out of her bag, unlocked her bedroom door, and then used the voice activated electronics she’d designed to spring the second lock. She was almost positive Tyler was stealing from her, but that wasn’t why she kept her door locked. Even the marginally gifted could wreak havoc if they got hold of your things. Her father, Francis Statton Braxbury, a British seer, had taught her that before his visits to Eleanora had petered out.

Cassie locked her door behind her and tossed her things in a chair. Kicking off her high heels, she sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed her sore arches. This thing with Tyler was way out of control. He’d shown up right before her mother’s accident. Lost in the first flush of sex with a new man, she hadn’t realized it was a shade too convenient that he just happened to be there to snap up all her mother’s clients.

That had been nearly a year ago. Tyler had dropped any pretense of a relationship with her after the first few months, but he’d been marginally friendly—and even polite—until recently. She shook her head, trying to figure out what had changed. It had actually been useful to have him help watch Eleanora, which was why she hadn’t tried harder to get rid of him.

Most of her non-Eleanora time was devoted to developing an electronic version of the Ouija Board because she hoped she could use it to reach her mother. Usually her circuitry was spot on, but for some reason this project had dragged on for months, dogged by one setback after another. It was like everything she’d learned getting her degree in electrical engineering didn’t work quite right. She was still stuck on the basic circuit board design. Until it worked right, there wasn’t much point in designing software or hunting for a microprocessor.

Speaking of which … I need to hunt for Mother. Cassie got to her feet and stuffed them into slippers before heading into the hall. She glanced around nervously before locking her door. Tyler had moved into the guest suite at the north end of the ground floor, but the mood he was in, it paid to be vigilant.
“Mrroww.” Hector, Eleanora’s large, black tomcat, landed lightly not ten feet from her, tail pluming as it swished back and forth.

Cassie jumped. “Where’d you come from?” She bent to scratch his head. The cat arched his back in pleasure. “Do you know where Mother is?”

“Mrroww.” Swish, swish.

“I take it that’s a no.” She turned a wall dial. Crystal sconces lining the long hallway brightened. Polished hardwood with Aubusson runners stretched before her. Leaded glass panes lined the hall. Priceless paintings graced the walls at intervals, interspersed with elegant bronze sculptures. Cassie checked her mother’s bedroom. Empty. Eleanora’s wonderful, earthy scent lingered. It made her heart ache. If ever she needed one of her parents, it was now.

I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I’m twenty-five, for God's sake. Time to fight my own battles.
Not finding Eleanora anywhere on the second floor, Cassie mounted the stairs to the third. She heard faint chanting coming from downstairs and wondered whose dead relative was on the hook tonight. She believed in the spirit world and had always trusted Eleanora to hold the gates. Her faith in Tyler’s ability to do the same was pretty truncated.

Oh my God. Is that how he’s planning to hurt me? By proxy?

Her heart slammed against her chest. It was hard to breathe around the thickening in her throat. Some spirits could do a lot of damage, mostly through suffocation or running people off cliffs…

“Stop it.” She spoke out loud to get a grip on what was starting to feel a lot like out-of-control panic. “Just find Mom. Make sure she’s okay.” It did occur to her that if Eleanora were truly missing, it would give her the perfect excuse to clear out all the New Agers at the séance and call the police.
There were seven bedrooms on the third floor. Eleanora was in the one at the far end of the hall, staring out its large windows into the night. Cassie left the bedroom lights off. Enough illumination filtered in from the hall which was twin to the one on the floor below. “Mother?” She crept forward and laid a hand on Eleanora’s arm. Her mother flinched and shook her off.

Cassie’s eyes flooded. Even though her mother wasn’t really rejecting her, it still hurt. Especially now that she felt so alone and vulnerable.


Cassie looked around. Hector sat in the doorway, ears pricked forward. She hadn’t realized he’d followed her.

Eleanora turned and went to the cat. Maybe his non-human frequency was easier for her to respond to. He twined himself around her legs, purring for all he was worth. She reached down and petted him and then drifted into the hall like a sleepwalker. Cassie thought about trying to talk to her mother again, but gave it up for wasted effort. Either Eleanora couldn’t hear her, or she couldn’t answer.
Maybe both.

Her mother was dressed all in black as always; her skirts swirled around her as she walked. Cassie followed her back to the second floor and breathed a sigh of relief when her mother went into her bedroom and shut the door behind her. The snick of the deadbolt was loud in the silence of the hall.
“Mrroww.” Hector’s tail swished faster. He looked annoyed. The cat lifted a paw and left a long scratch in the wood next to Eleanora’s door.

“It’s okay. You can sleep with me.”

Cassie strode the few feet to her own room and unlocked the door. Hector raced inside. Who knew? Maybe the séance made him just as uncomfortable as it made her. The rise and fall of voices from below hadn’t abated. She pulled the door shut and secured it, wishing she’d inherited some sort of magical ability. Almost anything would be helpful. Telepathy to read Tyler’s mind. Clairvoyance to peek into the future. Medium skills to raise spirits to protect herself—or harm him.

She strode across the room and pawed through a bottom drawer, coming up with a dog-eared card. It was one of the last birthday cards her father had given her before he’d declared her too old for such nonsense. She dug a small, flat crystal out of the envelope. Her father had said if she ever needed him to hold the crystal in her hand and think of him. He’d told her to plan ahead because results wouldn’t be immediate, and she might have to do it more than once.

Cassie stared at the clear stone with amber flecks deep inside. She set it down, unzipped her black wool skirt, and let it pool around her feet. Her green cashmere sweater came next. She bundled both up and took them to her closet where she hunted down some hangers. Grabbing purple sweats off the floor, she pulled them on and returned to the table where she’d left the crystal. Her hand hovered over it before she picked the crystal up again.

What about fighting my own battles?

To hell with that. What about being so stubborn I end up dead?

Hector jumped onto the bed and groomed himself. She flopped down next to him and kicked off her slippers. She didn’t want to bother her father in London unnecessarily—cripes, she hadn’t seen him since she was ten—but the escalating tension between Tyler and her was more than a little unnerving. I need help, but it’s not fair to involve anyone else. Cassie blew out a tense breath. Her magical heritage had been quite effective at sealing her off from casual friendships. She’d always been afraid something would slip, and the person would think she was crazy.

Rubbing her temples—the headache was behind both eyes now—once again she considered involving the police. Even if she got them to chase Tyler off, unless she hired a bodyguard, he’d probably worm his way back into the house. And then he would kill her, as retribution for calling in the law if nothing else. Tyler had a pretty sweet deal. One he planned to hang on to. He’d made that patently clear in the garage.

Wonder why it’s taken me so long to figure out how toxic he is?

Feeling like a gullible idiot, and a weak one at that, she let the stone warm in her hand and thought of her father.

Cassie didn’t realize she’d fallen asleep until her standard ringtone—“Ode to Joy”—sounded from the depths of her shoulder bag. Staggering muzzily across the room, she located the phone and punched answer without focusing on the display.


Her eyes widened. “Jeremy? What time is it?”

“Past midnight. Sorry to wake you, but—”

She picked her way back to the bed, cursing when she stepped on one of the high heels she’d discarded earlier.

“Are you all right?” He sounded worried.

“Uh, yeah. Just stepped on something sharp. Give me a second to get back under the covers. It’s cold in here.” She pulled the duvet up to her chin. “Okay, all set. What’s up?”

“I just got this feeling…” His voice trailed off again.

Cassie sat up straighter in bed, not feeling sleepy at all anymore. Something in her friend’s voice was … unsettling. Jeremy was almost her only friend; she’d known him forever. Psychic like her mother, he definitely marched to his own drummer. “Whatever it is, just spit it out. Sometimes it’s easier that way.”

A sigh rattled through the cellular network. “It’s hard to explain, but I felt something and thought you were in danger.”

Cassie sucked in a breath. For the briefest of moments she considered telling him everything but then reined herself in. No point in getting Jeremy riled up about Tyler’s threats. This wasn’t really his problem. Besides, she was embarrassed about fessing up to her own stupidity. Yeah, I was so desperate for a guy to want me, I didn’t read the fine print.

“Cass? You’re pretty silent over there. It is not making me feel any better.”

“Huh? Oh,” she forced out a light laugh. “Tyler held a séance earlier, but I’m sure they’ve mostly left by now. I could go look—”

“No!” The single word thundered in her ear.

“Okay, okay. You don’t have to shout at me.”

“I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to.” He cleared his throat. “I probably shouldn’t have bothered you. Promise me you’ll stay in your room until daylight.”

“Sure.” Confusion and an uneasy sensation made her feel ill.

“Call me tomorrow.”

The sick feeling did not get any better. Jeremy had never felt the need to check on her before. “I’m spending all day working on e-Ouija.”

“Okay, I’ll call you. Sleep well, Cassie. Sorry to wake you.”


He wasn’t there. She clicked end call and shut off her phone. To her surprise, she could barely keep her eyes open. Then she realized he’d probably cast a spell to make sure she stayed in her room. Damn it. Last thing I need in my life is two meddling men using magic to control me.


Monday, April 8, 2013

THE SPEED OF DARK - INTO THE FOG by Marion Webb-De Sisto

THE SPEED OF DARK - An Anthology Of Horror edited by Clayton Clifford Bye and PDR Lindsay

This Horror anthology offers 27 strangely different and disturbing horror short stories by talented authors from  around the world. One of which is Marion Webb-De Sisto whose story is  entitled INTO THE FOG. When referring to this tale, Marion warns, "Drive home. Don't take the train."


Sunday, April 7, 2013

BARE IT ALL by Lori Foster

BARE IT ALL by Lori Foster

Love Undercover
Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor

A cop’s craving to know more about the woman next door could prove fatal in the steamy new novel from  New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster

As the person responsible for taking down a brutal human trafficker, Alice Appleton fears retaliation at every turn. No one knows about her past, which is exactly how she prefers it…until the sexy cop next door comes knocking.

Detective Reese Bareden thinks he knows what makes women tick, but his ever-elusive neighbor keeps him guessing like no other. Is his goal to unmask Alice’s secrets? Or protect her from a dangerous new threat? One thing is certain: their chemistry is a time bomb waiting to explode. And with no one to trust but each other, Reese and Alice are soon drawn into a deadly maze of corruption, intrigue and desire-and into the line of fire….


Book Excerpt

As she came toward him, Alice’s baby-soft hair hung loose, with silky tendrils drifting over her shoulders. Her big brown eyes, so innocent and yet so aware, watched him intently, the way she always watched him. She smiled and that smile did remarkable things to him. Made him ravenous, when he’d never quite experienced anything like that before. Lust, sure. But such a powerful need? No, never.
Only with Alice.
Very close now, so close the warmth of her touched him all over, she brushed her nose against his jaw, his neck, his ear.
He groaned. Out loud. He heard it, but could barely credit that the sound came from him.
From a gentle nuzzle.
Against his ear.
It was insane, but it took very little from her to get him painfully aroused.
He wanted her mouth on him. He turned his face toward her and he felt her breath. Hot. Then her tongue. Wet.
“Oh… um, Reese?”
She sounded so tentative that he smiled as he reached for her and opened his eyes. His hand encountered dense fur, and the expressive brown eyes staring back at him weren’t Alice’s.
They weren’t even human.
His dog Cash panted at the sign of life. Delighted to have him awake, Cash barked, turned a quick circle, and… licked Reese’s face.
“Shit.” Reese dodged the dog’s sloppy fondness while trying to orient himself. The dream had felt so incredibly real. And so welcome. He shifted – and found himself cramped from head to toe… on a sofa.
Alice’s sofa.
Lifting his head, he looked down at himself. He wore only boxers, and as was usually the case when he first awakened, they were tented. Hmmm…
Where had the sheet gone? Ah, over the side of the couch to the floor.
Levering up to one arm, Reese attempted to orient himself – and there stood Alice at the foot of the couch, fully dressed in summer slacks and a sleeveless blouse, her hands locked together in front of her and, yes, her soft brown hair hung loose.
But now, with him wide awake, her hair looked tidy, like Alice, not sexily rumpled as it had in his dream.
She watched him, but those soul-sucking brown eyes weren’t on his face.
They stared with absorbing attention at his morning wood.
Great. Playing kissy-face with his dog was bad enough. Scrambling for the sheet now would only make him look more foolish. He wasn’t used to finding himself in tricky, uncomfortable situations. At least, not with women.
As a police detective, sure, he’d often found himself discomfited by perps, though usually not in boxers while sporting Mahogany.
Alice was many things: a neighbor, an enigma, an irritant and a subtle bombshell.
And obviously, based on that ramped up dream, she was also the current focus of his fantasies.
He cleared his throat. “Up here, Alice.” Her curious gaze rose to his face. “Thank you. Now if you don’t mind, you could turn around a moment. My modesty is beyond compromised, so it doesn’t really matter to me, but with your face already going pink I’m not sure –”
“Of course.” Turning, she gave him her back. Posture stiff. Air uncertain.
That lovely fawn-colored hair fell just beyond her shoulders.
“Sorry about that.” She strode fast and unsteady to the patio door that led to her small deck. She’d left the door open, allowing in a muggy, late-August breeze that teased her beautiful hair.
Given the heat of his interest, air conditioning would have been nice, but since this was Alice’s apartment, and she’d been generous enough to let him crash on her couch, he wouldn’t complain.
“What time is it anyway?” Sitting up, Reese reached for the sheet, but Cash sat on it. The dog watched Reese, his furry ears perked up, his expression hopeful. Reese grinned. After tugging out the sheet and covering himself, he patted the couch beside his thigh. “C’mere, boy.”
The dog bounded up with over-the-moon enthusiasm. Because of the undercover sting they’d just wrapped up, Reese had spent as much time away from Cash as with him – and still he and the dog had bonded.
“It’s a little after one o’clock.”
And she hadn’t awakened him? How long had she been sneaking around the apartment?
How long had he lain there without even a sheet?
He was generally a light sleeper, so either he’d been really out of it, or she was… stealthy.
That thought bothered him, and meshed with other concerns he had about Alice. Her keen observance of everything around her, combined with her cautious air, planted awful background possibilities into his head.
Then there was the way she’d come onto the scene yesterday, a big, loaded gun in her hand…
“Cash hasn’t been out for a few hours. I was trying to lead him through without waking you, but he saw you there on the couch, and then you made… a sound.”
“A sound, huh?” Given the erotic dream, he could just imagine.
“Cash sidetracked to you and –”
“I thought he was you.” When her shoulders stiffened more, Reese felt devilish enough to say, “And I was having this rather sexual dream.”
Wide-eyed with something akin to astonishment, she faced him, stole a peek at his lap, and when she saw he’d bunched the sheet there, she met his gaze. “What do you mean?”
“You and me.” He gestured between them. “And damn, but the dream felt real.” Reese scratched under Cash’s furry chin. “You were near me. Breathing on me.”
Indignation brought her brows together. “Breathing on you?”
Wondering when she’d catch on, he gave a sage, serious nod. “You nuzzled my ear and I felt your hot tongue -”
Backing up fast, she bumped into the screen on the patio door and almost fell through it. After an accusatory scowl at Reese for making her stumble, she checked the screen, saw that it remained in the track, and cleared her throat. “I would never –” She searched for a word and came up empty.
“Lick me?”
To his surprise, she kept quiet, but her mouth – and her expression – softened.
“No? What a shame.” He gave the dog a few pets, which encouraged him to shower Reese with more affection. “But apparently Cash would.”
Realization dawned. “Oh.” A smile twitched. “You felt Cash trying to wake you, and you thought..?”
“Yeah. Helluva way to start my day. I mean, I’m fond of him, but…” Reese looked her over. “Not that fond.”
“He’s adorable!”
“Sure he is.” Reese had only recently gotten the dog, and while he’d never considered himself a pet-lover, he and Cash were getting acclimated – with Alice’s help. “I just don’t want you mistaking my…” He nodded at his lap. “Reaction.”
Though she covered her mouth, a short laugh escaped anyway.
That laugh was as mesmerizing as her smile, and his sheet-covered boner twitched. “Keep it up, and I’ll never get it under control.”
Rather than backing up or blushing again, she chastised him. “Really, Reese. It’s not something to talk about.”
“Not something to be embarrassed over either.” But he sort of was anyway. What was it about Alice that affected him so profoundly – and so physically? “Not to minimize your appeal, but it happens to most guys in the morning.”
“When they awaken, you mean?”
“Yeah. It’s called morning wood, or in this case, afternoon wood, I guess.”
“I see.” She tipped her head to study him. “But when you knocked on my door this morning, you were wide awake, fully dressed and had just finished working.”
He’d also been aroused over the possibility of spending more intimate time with her. Knowing he shouldn’t tell her that – yet – he scrubbed a hand over his tired eyes.
“Yet even then,” she continued, her tone mischievous and teasing, “you had a…um…”
Having her talk about it wasn’t helping. Reese trapped her gaze with his own. “An erection.”
“Yes.” A little too matter-of-factly, she nodded. “You had one then, also.” Though the color in her fair skin intensified, she didn’t look away. “You told me not to worry about it.”
“I know what I said.” God, he wanted to kiss her. If she was any other woman, he would.
But he hadn’t known Alice that long, and what he did know of her kept him from pushing things. Already, thanks to the fiasco the day before, she’d seen the hazards of his job.
Wasn’t every day that murderers and thugs, the very criminals he investigated, showed up on his doorstep. It was even more uncommon for those offenders to get the drop on him. Usually he was great at his job. But yesterday… yeah, he’d suffered a first-class cluster fuck – and Alice had managed to get right in the middle of it.
Maybe that’s why he’d been dreaming of her. She’d been helping out by watching his dog while he and his partner closed in on their quarry, and then when shit went sideways, she’d recognized the deadly situation and sent in reinforcements.
He eyed her understated, prim façade, which hid so much intuition, bravery, and cunning. “You will never have reason to worry about anything with me.”
She was the most curious woman, and that, too, could explain his unaccountable reaction to her. “Just like that, huh?”
“I know you’re honorable.”
Sensible Alice. Of course she was right – he was honorable, most especially where women were concerned. But in the short time they’d known each other, how could she possibly be that confident about his intentions?
She couldn’t.
So he’d taken in a stray dog – a dog she now adored. So what? He was polite, mannerly, dressed well and had his own proper persona. It meant nothing, and she should realize that.
Yet from what he’d seen so far she had great instincts.
The type of instincts usually honed in the field.


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