Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seducing Liberty is out!

Spies, time travel and a ménage make up the premise of Seducing Liberty. I don’t often write historical novels, but a story about Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, proved to be irresistible when penning this 1NightStand story.

On release day I usually show you the cuts that didn’t make it into the final story, and today will be no exception. During the delicate task of weaving this story together I had to make some choices. I wanted this to be one of those stories where the reader asks, did she really travel back in time, or did she black out and dream it? I needed it to be feasible in a fantasy setting, or contemporary. So here’s the ending that never made it, because I couldn’t work it into the real world.

Chop from Seducing Liberty: “That’s a wrap for the day, ladies and gentlemen. Want you back here Monday at 6 a.m. to finish the beach scene.” Liberty blinked, staring up at the mid-day sky. For a moment she’d thought she’d been in another place. A wet dream. That’s what she got for watching her assistant fuck. A shadow fell over and she lifted her chin to stare at a face backlit by the sun and in silhouette.

“You need a hand up?”

She reached out and took his hand. Something about him…

He pulled her to her feet and chest to chest. Liberty’s eyes widened. Dark hair, blue eyes and a wicked smile. Her heart bounced against her tonsils. No. it couldn’t be. Thomas didn’t exist—well, not in her time. He wore a white button up shirt, with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and blue jeans—so un-patriotic. Well, not something she’d ever seen him in, and damn if he didn’t wear 2011 well. “Thomas?”

“So this is what you do when you’re not spying for the Patriots,” he said.

A second man made his way over to them, dressed in knee length khaki shorts and a t-shirt with a sexy pirate woman and rum ad on the front. His hair was a little longer, but the spark in his eyes and the come fuck me vibe, was more than familiar.

Definitely not a wet dream. “Aaron? How did you…”

“Not sure, but I have to tell you the men’s room down the beach is amazing. You hit a lever and all the waste disappears—and hot running water pipes into a bowl for you to wash your hands. And jet skis, and my God, have you seen the bikinis? Do you own a bikini, Madelyn?”

“Bikini?” She blinked. “Are you really here? On the set? Was any of our date real or was it all a figment of my imagination?”

Thomas smiled. “Yes. Yes. And all of it—real. Somehow you brought us with you. When we woke, we were lying on the sand dressed like this. A note from a someone called Madame Eve was between us.” He handed it to her.

Liberty took the envelope and opened the flap, slipping the paper out.

Your dates have come to you. Enjoy. She looked up. “Are you staying?”

Thomas and Aaron nodded. “We talked. Wherever you are, we decided we want to be—if you’ll have us. Besides, we already have a job. Some director guy offered us a part in something called a movie. He said we looked like the perfect Patriots, and could use a couple of replacements.”

She couldn’t agree more. Liberty smiled and hooked each man’s arm, walking them down the beach and toward her trailer. “If you liked the toilets, wait until you see my shower.”

Buy Link:

Thanks for stopping by and helping me to celebrate Seducing Liberty’s release day!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hauntingly Erotic Scavenger Hunt


You just might find a clue in a recent post.

Be sure to stop by for a scavenger quickie!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What I'm working on this week.

Hear No Evil/sequel to Slipping the Past

Her soul! The fucker took her soul. Nate sat up, eyes wide open. Blood pounded through his veins and his heart slammed against his ribs like a jackhammer, driving the breath from his lungs. A trickle of moisture meandered down his spine. He swallowed, kicked the sheets away, shoved both hands into his hair and pulled his knees to his chest. No!

She didn’t kill herself. All these years—all this time he’d believed she’d committed suicide. He’d never known. Where was she now? Where did Ian put her?

He swung his legs over the bed. His innards twisted. “It was a dream.” He tried to convince himself, but he knew the truth. Why now? Ever since he’d inherited Ian’s body he’d been dreamless. The voices kept REM away and made drifting off impossible.

Tonight that all changed. What had awakened the small bit of the beast? Ian’s soul had been fragmented and destroyed, all but a small sliver that had been missed. It sat at the back of his mind and fed him dark thoughts, but never came forward, it wasn’t strong enough. It had felt like nothing more than an ugly thought.

Until now.

It reveled in the death of his mother. He felt Ian’s delight. He’d felt his hunger. Nate reached up and touched the brand that now burned. Ian’s energy felt stronger, harder to hold back. God, he was in trouble. He’d no one to talk to that wouldn’t trigger the voices and visions—an anchor to sanity.

Nate froze. Except her. He’d hadn’t heard, seen or felt anything when she’d spoken to him. Well, that wasn’t one hundred percent true. He’d felt something. He’d gotten damned hard and it had taken hours and an ice shower for it to go away. Everything about it was unnatural and if he’d learned anything lately, it was also fate.

He needed to talk. He needed to work through the dream without outside visions interfering. He needed to freaking think. Most of all, he needed to see Paxton.

She’d left her purse in the office. When Jocelyn hadn’t been looking, he’d rifled through it and had taken the opportunity to learn something about her. He should be ashamed he’d snooped, but he wasn’t. She was in trouble and needed help. But she wasn’t the only one. He needed her help.

Nate glanced out the window then at the clock. Three in the morning, a little early to drop by and return her handbag. He could go to her house and wait for her to wake. He sure wasn’t going back to sleep.

“I am not Ian Saefa. I am not a monster.” He eyed his reflection in a large mirror that leaned against the wall. The swelling in his face had gone down and the black and purple had faded to tan and olive. Not pretty, but better than before. They did indeed heal faster than most.

He reached out and touched the mirror’s frame. He kept it to remind him of what resided inside him and what he could become. He hated looking in. It always seemed like someone else stared back, and frankly, it creeped him out. But he had his reasons. Good ones. His gaze traveled to the corner to where a note had been scrawled across the silver surface.

“Know thy enemy.”

First thing when he woke, Nate looked into it and would recite the message over and over. Evil still resided in this body and he wouldn’t allow himself to forget, nor would he become the monster Ian Saefa had been.

“Know thy enemy.” The brown eyes, so dark they looked black, bore into him. Ian. That energy had wrapped him in a stranglehold, filling his head with cold thoughts, urging him to do things he would have never considered doing before—terrifying things—gruesome things—things that made him question if he was no longer sane. “Know thy enemy. Know thy enemy.” Nate leaned in. “Fuck you, asshole.” He stepped back and flipped the mirror on its stand so he could no longer see him.

Ian might have left him a hell of a body, as he was built like an Olympic athlete and not bad looking—but he also had that whole Boogieman thing down. Yeah, Ian had worked that to perfection. It was in the eyes—the windows to the soul, and his windows weren’t any place a sane person would want look. What had looking into those eyes done to Paxton? He didn’t want to scare her. He needed her—more than she could imagine. He rubbed his face again.

She seemed terrified of him, but at the same time he’d seen something else. It went beyond terror, the way she’d looked at the brand, the way she’d studied it. Interest? Curiosity? No, there was more to it. He had to find out what. His cock took notice at the thought and insured he’d be taking another ice shower before the morning was over.

For the first time since he’d inherited Ian’s body, he wanted to get into someone’s head and know their every thought. Funny how the thing he despised so much, was the very thing he wanted most. He wanted to know what Paxton had been thinking about him. No, wanted was too casual. He needed to know.

A ghost from his past once told him that there were greater forces at work in the world than he could possibly imagine. He’d but dipped his toe in the pool and he still couldn’t grasp it all. What if those same forces were at work again? Something brought Paxton to him—the one woman he couldn’t read—the one woman he could be around. He could see the desperation in her eyes, but she’d fled so fast he didn’t get a chance to ask what she’d needed.

Had he scared her away? He had to admit that Ian was the last person most would want to meet face-to-face, but he wasn’t Ian. That asshole was gone—mostly. He had to show her he wasn’t who he appeared to be, that she could trust him.

He ran his fingers along the scar tissue, knowing he couldn’t do anything about the brand. The previous owner of the body made sure of that. A tat could be removed.

The brand—impossible.

Nate rose and strolled to his closet. However, he could attempt to look less scary. What did a reaper wear just to pop in and say hi? He flipped through several shirts and pants to stop on a pair of black dress slacks and a red button up shirt. He yanked them off the hangers and pulled them on.

Yeah, black and red were real calming, no pastels or khakis in his closet, but at least the red shirt didn’t have a picture of the grim reaper flipping the bird, or big bold letters across the front that said “My Best Friend Went to Hell and All I Got Was This Lousy Tee-Shirt.” Not that they were intended to scare, they weren’t. They were supposed to be ice-breakers—jokes, purely meant to ease tension when people saw him.

Nate snorted. Yeah, that’s what his shirts did. Nobody this day and age had a sense of humor. His tee shirts sent people fleeing in terror like Godzilla stomped the city block. One look and they ran, cried or started babbling like idiots.

“Well, Paxton, I hope you like breakfast with your coffee.” He hoped she liked surprises too, because he planned to drop a big one on her. Six foot nine inches of surprise. He’d leave the Louisville. On the streets, there wasn’t anyone badder, and he really didn’t need his bat to prove it. She might be a bit intimidated by it anyway.

The idea was to present a calm, respectable image.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I'm Working on this

This is from book four of my Blown Away Series. Here, Avery and Trouble go out on their first mission to investigate an abandonned mining scoop called The Gold Digger.

“This whole situation seems unusual.” Trouble stepped into an open bay and let her gaze travel across the immense interior. The deck had an inoperable lift and emergency ladder for evacuation, should the power be cut, which it was. One shuttle remained in the bay, ice caked its exterior like frosting. Crates full of raw ore sat packed, waiting for transport to a smelting plant—billions in abandoned credit, left behind like trash.“ Why would anyone abandon the scoop and this cargo? A captain would never leave this behind. I see one shuttle, perhaps it belonged to the command crew, but why wouldn’t they have taken it? It’s weird.”

“They didn’t abandon it.”

“Well, it’s the only one left.” She surveyed the hold again; nothing retained any heat as though anyone were present, or had been present for quite some time. The lights in the bay flickered on. Trouble closed her eyes to block the brightness. She reached for the controls on the lift, but it didn’t move. Frozen like everything else onboard. She’d have to take the ladder down. “This whole ship looks pretty abandoned to me.”

“Not from where I’m standing. I’ve got bodies stacked up like firewood—a total of seven. Looks like your command crew. Well, some of them. I see the First Mate, but the ordnance officer, medical officer, security officer and captain aren’t present. Looks like a skeleton crew. Bare bones—what they’d leave behind to watch the ship until help could be brought in. Heating malfunction maybe.”

“But that doesn’t make sense. The captain wouldn’t abandon his ship to anyone else,” she said. “Not for a broken boiler,” she mumbled.

“A mutiny might explain it, but I’d expect to see blast marks and bodies everywhere. The ship would look like a war zone.”

“Who would kill them? They’re miners, right?”

“Yeah, but the question you should ask yourself is who stacked the bodies. It looks like they were prepared for a burial. I’ve got some kind of funny ritual marks carved all over them—post mortem. No blood.”

“Ritual marks?” Only people she could think of, used ritual marks to prepare the dead for the afterlife, and as Avery had mentioned, carved into the flesh. The funny symbols designated their rank and position after translation. Not good. Trouble’s heart pounded against her ribs. “What kind of marks?”

“Circles inside circles, intertwining braids and hash marks. I’ve even got a sun, pierced with what looks like a lightning bolts. This is unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

“What you describe sounds like an Odroxian ritual preformed prior to cremation.”

“What did you just say?”

“Oh crap.” Trouble fired up her blaster rifle. It began to hum. “Avery?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“How far away are you?”

“One minute—and running.”

“I’m starting up the shuttle. Did you see the bomb?” She put the blaster on percussion and fired a bolt at the shuttle. Ice shattered and slid off in sheets, dropping to the deck around it.

“No. Did you?”

“Negative.” Trouble slid the strap of her blaster onto her shoulder and yanked her helmet off. She needed to see each step and the visor hindered too much of her visuals. She scrambled down the ladder descending as fast as she could without losing her footing. One of the frozen steel bars snapped like a twig and her boots slipped out from under her, slamming her face against a metal rung. A crunch filled her head.

Bells rang in her ears. Trouble kicked out, trying to reclaim her footing, but the soles of her boots failed to find purchase and slipped again. Her weight dropped, breaking her grip. The blaster strap came free from her shoulder and the weapon raced her to the frozen deck, landing first with a loud clang and then sliding several feet away. She hit on her back and smacked her head again. Pain pounded through her skull and bright lights filled her eyes.

“Get up.”

She rolled to her knees, her head swimming, and her lungs burning. The world around her spun. She didn’t want to die, not like this—not this way. The knees of her squeeze suit stuck to the decking as she tried to crawl and her hands slipped out from under her. Trouble collapsed to her belly. “I’m stuck to the deck. The heated threads…” She gasped, still unable to draw a solid breath. Why had she thought taking her helmet off was a good idea?

“Get up.”

This time the voice wasn’t in her head. The rails of the ladder sang. Pellets of fractured ice bounced off the docking pad, followed by a loud thud as Avery’s feet hit the deck. A hand circled her bicep. He lifted her up, heaved over his shoulder and ran across the deck, breathing heavy but otherwise unaffected by what she suffered. Everything blurred before her eyes.

“Stay with me, Devoe.”

“Not going anywhere.” Then everything went black.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Please help me welcome, Author Keira Kroft

Kiera is here today to talk about a hot topic.
Three guesses what.

And look, he comes with accessories. Who doesn't need the hose to cool down after that? Somebody call the fire department. Looks like a five alarm. *fans self*

Hoo Boy! I think I need a hero!
Please help me welcome, Author Kiera Kroft.
Okay dish, girlfriend. We need deets.

Did somebody call a fireman? What about a rugged, yet gentle and very good looking fireman? Anybody call one of those? His name is Jake Gilroy and he is about to change Corey Nolan’s life.

Determined to be out from under her mother’s ruling and away from a no-good soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Corey Nolan exercises her independence. With a place to call her own and a job that doesn’t pay well but makes her happy, her life is full and her young daughter is content. There is no room for distractions, until she meets a local firefighter—who stirs an immediate forbidden attraction. In need of control, she tries to ignore Jake Gilroy, but circumstances bring her closer to him when someone is hell-bent on destroying her.

Dutiful playboy Jake is known as the smoking hot fireman. The first time he sets eyes on Corey, he knows he wants her. But when threats and strange occurrences start to happen, he finds the need to protect her and give more than he’s ever given any other woman.

Being together becomes more than they bargained for when their desire for each other becomes a matter of life and death….

How about an excerpt, Keira?

Jake slid his fingers down her arm and across her wrist. A spark lit through her. She gasped and her gaze locked with his. She made no attempt to draw away. Corey couldn’t…she didn’t want to.

“How is it?” He glanced at her scraped and bruised elbow.

Coming out of the trance, she lifted her arm and showed him the slight injury. “Oh, it’s fine.”

“I would have been over sooner, but the other guys got you, and I didn’t want you to be overwhelmed.”

Corey couldn’t conjure up a response. What he said, and how he said it, turned her knees to jelly. She felt like the high school girl who was just noticed by the popular jock. She couldn’t stop staring at his soft, dark brown eyes, even though a sensible voice in her head told her to just walk away and forget him.

“I’m very sorry. But I really have to go.” She peeked around his massive chest to the men beyond. “It was so nice meeting you guys,” she called over, waving. She turned to pick up her bike, then pushed it along and hopped on.

“Stop by anytime,” she heard Jake yell behind her.

She smiled but didn’t turn around. Glancing at her watch, she’d realized she was supposed to have started her first day of work eight minutes ago. Fear made her pedal faster.

She hoped she hadn’t lost the job already. But what if she did? How would she pay rent? How would she feed Molly?

So where can we get it?
Glow in the Dark
Now tell us a little about yourself.
Keira Kroft has been and done many things in her life. She went to paramedic school and received a degree in vet assistance. She has also been a secretary and a bartender. Nothing seemed to fit except her insatiable lust for brooding “hotties”, romance, and the written word.

These days she can be found writing novels with the help of her furry friends, Scamper, and Sawyer. Sawyer helps by sitting on the keyboard while Scamper tries to steal Keira’s food. She spends the rest of her time helping her husband manage their two businesses, along with being the administrator for a website she started that aids new and unpublished authors.

For more on Keira’s hottie’s and the shenanigans of her whiskered assistants check out or

Read Fur a Cause

Just like the banner says I will give a portion of my proceeds from each and every copy, to the Animal Welfare League.

Thanks for Stopping by, Keira.


Pins and Needles

Sitting on pins and needles today. The judges made their decision yesterday and I've yet to hear.

Did Slipping the Past beat the competiton and take first in the RWI's More Than Magic contest?

Yes, I checked out the competition, and they're good--really good. Holding my breath and crossing my fingers. Slipping the Past is one of my favorite stories and I'd be thrilled to see it take first.
In honor of finaling, I'll post an excerpt.


And may the best writer win.

Post Apocalyptic Child’s Jump-Rope Rhyme

A storm’s a coming, it hides the sun.
Here come the reapers,
Run child, run.
Jump once to save your life,
Two to save your soul,
Three to find some rest and four to stay whole.
Five they’re gonna get you,
Six you’ll get away
Seven is for your freedom and eight to live another day.

New Stratus City, NY 2059.

“Stuff this in your jacket.”

Jocelyn’s fingers closed before she realized what Nate crammed into her hand. She shoved the gun back at her brother. “I don’t want that and I’m not going in there to help you do whatever you’re planning to do with that thing.”

“Do you want to eat?”

“We can ask for spare change.”

“Too cold,” Nate said. “Nobody’s out tonight. I’m not planning anything violent, it’s backup. Besides, I don’t have any bullets.”

“Do you know what they’ll do to you if they catch you in possession of that?”

“They won’t.”

Jocelyn swallowed her words before she regretted them. Whatever she said, he’d do the opposite. Leave it to Nate to find the damn thing and hang onto it. She’d told him to leave it. Obviously he listened well.

When legislation made guns illegal to possess, many people dumped their collections for fear of losing their souls. The pistol’s carved grip seemed too fancy for the gun to be anything more than a display piece. It definitely hadn’t been used in a crime as she’d have known the moment she touched it.

She crossed her arms and shivered, pulling her hands back into the sleeves of her jacket. They’d lived on the streets for the last two months, ever since the last Enforcer discovered their location. Jocelyn never imagined it would come to this, hiding between garbage cans, trying to stay warm and alive while her brother committed armed robbery.

“Damn it, Nate. It’s not worth it. I’m not that hungry.” Her stomach contradicted her and rumbled so loud it sounded like an armored division moved down the block.

“You’re a terrible liar.”

He was right, but she wasn’t about to admit it. Her stomach ached. Most of the credit they made in the last week went to purchase a seat on the solar train, where they could be warm. But that ride only went so far. Eventually security would catch them and insist it was one circuit per ticket. They always did. As for the food ... tomorrow the community kitchen would have hot chow. “I can wait.”

“You haven’t eaten real food in three days.” Nate sighed. “I promised Mom I’d take care of you. I don’t go back on my word.”

“She’s gone. She’ll never know. I’ll be okay.” A rush of dizziness hit and Jocelyn sank to her heels. Nate’s energy flared like a starburst.

“Nate--don’t.” The longer they were on the streets the more chances he took to keep her safe. The Enforcers were already after her. He didn’t need to become a fugitive too. If it weren’t for her, Nate would be home, sleeping in a real bed, not picking food out of the trash or committing crimes.

She should’ve left him before it came to this, but she worried about the trouble he’d get into on his own. At least this way she could try to keep him from doing something stupid. Which at the moment, she seemed to be failing at miserably.

“I’m going in there to take what we need. We can’t help being hungry,” he said

“Sit with me and stay warm. I’ll be fine.” She reached up and grabbed his hand.

“No.” He pulled away. “Stay here, out of sight.”

“Don’t go in there. Something doesn’t feel right.” That wasn’t a lie. Whatever triggered the unease gnawed at the corners of her consciousness. It was there, flashing danger alerts through her brain, waiting for an opportunity to strike and the last person she wanted to be a target, wouldn’t listen to her.

“I’ll be okay. I’m only going to nick some food and credit. Small stuff.” Nate tucked a loose strand of her hair into her hood. “I'll be right back. Nobody’s going to get hurt.” He turned. His boots crunched on the snow as he walked away, stringing her nerves tighter.

Jocelyn leaned against the brick. Idiot. What did he think he’d accomplish? He’d get her one meal and lose his soul over it. Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. Why wouldn’t he listen? She’d be okay. She’d come out of worse situations than this.


Bells jangled from across the street as he entered the store. Jocelyn’s stomach twisted into knots. Heat blew up from the grate where she sat on her heels, but it didn’t help the foreboding chill that blanketed her body. She raised her wrist to her mouth and chewed on her jacket’s frozen cuff.

“Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.” She rocked and focused. Nothing. Only that feeling as it grew stronger. “Get out, Nate,” she whispered, mentally reaching for him. No contact.

Nate, listen to me.

The wind whistled between the buildings, but nothing else.

“Damn.” She’d have to do it. She couldn’t let him take the chance. A distant vehicle alarm screeched, but Jocelyn ignored the sound and intensified her focus. This time she directed her push at the store clerk and a less resistant mind. “You won’t see a gun. You’re going to give him the credit as change for a purchase.”

“Come on.” She felt it, the moment she caught its attention. A chill slithered up her spine. Jocelyn bit her lip. A reaper approached. Huddled down by the trash, she should be unobserved, but he’d zero in if she jumped.

She wished she knew how close it was, but it didn’t matter. She’d no choice. There was one way to get Nate out and it meant helping him rob the store. One deep breath and she balled her fists. Energy bloomed around her and her spirit lifted from her body. She shot through the solid wall of the convenience store and rushed inside the clerk.

Using the clerk’s eyes, she studied her brother as he scrolled through digital postcards and waited for the customer at the counter to leave. She opened her mouth to warn him, but the customer before her spoke.

“I had it right here.”

She surveyed the counter and the man in front of her. He had a massive bottle of high-octane rum and a pile of empty credit chips. He rummaged through his pockets, picking out lint, a couple of pinched cigarette butts and a condom. Jocelyn tapped the counter. She glanced at her brother again and her stomach convulsed. No time for this.

“It’s in here somewhere.”

Another alarm wailed. Closer. Her heart jumped, triggering a slip of control, enough to lose her grip. Her energy broke free and lifted toward the ceiling. Not now. Jocelyn pushed, forcing reentry. Blood trickled from the clerk’s nose. She raised her arm and wiped it on his sleeve.

“That’s nasty. Why don’t you use a tissue,” said the man in front of her. Jocelyn shrugged, holding the sleeve to her nose. His lip curled and he took a step back, putting distance between them. “Do you have any idea how dangerous blood exposure is? I don’t want any disease you might have.”

“Sorry,” she mumbled. Her mind drifted away from the man and to the window, where vehicle alarms wailed. From a block away, the street lights snapped off one at a time, sending the already dangerous neighborhood into feral darkness. No, please. Not now. One thing drew that much energy and it was charging up for a fight. She’d been right. They needed to leave.


“What’s out there?” The customer staggered away from the counter and toward the window. With his back to her, Jocelyn seized the moment, grabbed a handful of chips from the register and shoved them into a bag. Outside, more lights died. Closer. No, no, no. Just a little more time. Let me get him out of here.

Nate eyed the man at the window and stepped forward, setting a digital postcard on the counter. A feeling of weightlessness pulled at her and Jocelyn refocused, barely maintaining control. Thirty more seconds.

Static fuzzed across her vision. She shoved the bag across the counter as her brother slipped his hand into his pocket.

“You forgot your change.”

Nate glanced down at the bag and back up. His eyes widened. “Joce?”

“Run,” she croaked.

“Reaper!” The customer lurched away from the window, stumbling back. The lights in the store blinked off with an electric pop, dropping it into darkness. Outside, hundreds of vehicle alarms screeched. The customer raised his hands into the air. “I’m innocent.”

Jocelyn froze, unable to draw a breath. A man in dark silhouette stood on the sidewalk outside, a glowing globe in his hand and blue luminous eyes stared at her.

“Get back in your body and get out of here,” Nate said. “I’ll distract him.” He pulled the gun from his pocket. “He can only take one of us.”

“Put that away. You’re not sacrificing...” Her hair stood on end as the reaper pulled energy from the air. “Shit.” She recognized the sensation, something she’d felt only once before.

“Get down.” She reached over the counter and shoved on Nate’s shoulder. He ducked his head, covered up with his hands and fell to his knees. Jocelyn dropped behind the counter and stared at a baseball bat. Small chance that it would help, but it was nice to know she wasn’t defenseless. “Now he’ll take us both.”

“Reapers can only hold one soul at a time,” Nate snapped back from the other side of the counter.

“Do you think that’s going to stop him?” The window exploded. The fragments pelted Nate’s back and tinkled on the industrial linoleum like chimes. He rose to his feet, spun and lifted the gun, pointing it at the opening. “Now, Joce. Get out!”

“No. You’re not playing the hero.” Cold air poured into the store, fogging the interior. The air charged with static and her hair rose. Again. “Nate!”

The reaper sent another wave blasting through the storefront. Nate flew backward, slamming into a beer case, coming to rest on the floor in a heap. Her vision blurred. “Nate!”

Not now. Her control snapped. Jocelyn ripped free from the clerk and exploded through the wall. Her soul slammed back into her flesh like a runaway train, sending her glasses flying over the curb. She didn’t bother to retrieve them. She’d need them later, but not now. Now she needed to see. She sucked in a breath, opened her eyes and searched the shattered store front. Sharp pains pierced her skull like fragments of slivered metal.

The reaper stepped forward and peered in through the broken glass, soul-cell still in hand. No. Nate was right. He could only take one soul and she’d be damned it was Nate.

“Leave him alone!”

The reaper turned his head and his eyes locked onto her. “You,” a deep voice boomed. He stuffed the egg-sized globe in a pouch on his hip and strode toward her, eating distance between them. His long duster fluttered behind him, giving him the appearance of the mythical reapers, minus the sickle. Except there was nothing mythical about him. He was real and coming for her. “You’re under arrest for past crimes enforced under the Galactic Codex.”

Still disoriented from the jump, Jocelyn crab-crawled backward. She found her footing and scrambled to rise. That wasn’t one of her more brilliant moments. She’d felt him nearby and should have gotten out instead of going into the store. But she couldn’t leave Nate and he wouldn’t have left without the credit.

Did the reaper know she’d been inside the clerk and what they’d done? Had he seen the gun? The way he’d moved for her brother made her certain he had. She braced against the wall, her pulse raced and her mouth went dry. “You’ve got the wrong person.”

“No, I haven’t.” The streetlight over her head snapped on, separating her form from the shadows. Jocelyn closed her eyes, unable to take the light. He closed in, drawing the staff off his back. It pulsed in an array of oranges and blues, lit from his energies.

Enforcers were identified from birth, their talents cultivated, their brains enhanced to increase the power of their gifts. Then from the age of five, the children were given Ki-staffs and taught to use them with lethal accuracy. One hit and she was done. Jocelyn knew she wasn’t going to escape, but Nate, she had to help him. She focused and jumped into her brother. His eyes were open and fuzzy. He rubbed the back of his head and stared at the fragmented window, trying to summon the strength to climb to his feet. She relaxed. If she could distract the reaper long enough, he could get away.

“Get back here.” The reaper seized her energy and yanked her back into her body.

“Please let me go. I’m not a criminal.”

“Says the fugitive with a warrant.” The streetlight overhead fragmented and showered down. “Look at me,” the reaper growled.

Jocelyn swallowed and complied. Her gaze drifted from his boots, up muscled thighs, up, up to a face cloaked in shadows. Who? Her knees began to quake. The energy radiating off him buzzed through her like a live wire. The muscles in her body locked and her breath caught. Something about him.

“I’m innocent,” Jocelyn spluttered.

“Innocent people don’t have warrants.” He stepped closer and tossed a cube on the ground.

A holographic image of the document floated before her. She stared through it and at him. Jocelyn sucked in a breath. No. She’d heard he’d recently relocated from off-world. “Gabriel Solaris.”

“Jocelyn Miller.”

“You have to believe me. I’m innocent.”

“You have the right to remain silent.”

“Please, listen to me.”

“In 1670, you murdered a family in their sleep.”


“It was your soul.”

“How can you be certain?” Keep him talking.

“Your warrant.”

Yeah, that. Jocelyn shook her head and pushed against the wall, trying to free herself from his energy lock. She carried the warrant from birth to adulthood and started running from the day she turned eighteen because of it. “I didn’t do it, I could never kill anyone.”

The blue flame in the reaper’s eyes intensified. “In 1860 you murdered your husband and cut him into pieces, feeding his body to swine. They caught you fleeing with your lover across Confederate lines and hung you both.”

No. She couldn’t have done that. A paper-cut made her ill. “You’ve definitely got the wrong girl.”

The look on his face said he wasn’t buying it. Jocelyn bit her lip and held his gaze. Please see I’m sincere.

A face superimposed Gabriel’s. She blinked. The heat in her belly moved lower and made it impossible to catch her breath.

His mouth became harder and the image of the other man vanished. “There’s more. Do you want me to list everything or are you done delaying the inevitable?”

“No. Please let me go. I won’t--didn’t do anything like that. I’m a good person.”

“You can’t fight who you are.”

“That isn’t who I am.”

He took another step and she swallowed and shook her head. Waves of his aura washed over her. God, he was beautiful. Beautiful and familiar. “I couldn’t have done those things.”

She studied him, feeling as though it wasn’t the first time she’d looked upon him. His shoulders had to be at least twice the width of her brother’s. Aside from the obvious black hair, strong jaw and straight, sharp nose that bespoke his Roman ancestry, she knew the color of his eyes behind the blue glow, and that he had a scar on his hip. She knew his smile would stop her heart and his touch would send her into orbit. They were linked. Oh God. She swallowed.

“It’s you. You may not remember in that body but you’re marked by your deeds. Your energy leaves a trail. Even your eyes don’t lie.”

“You’re wrong.” She didn’t remember the crimes, but him, she knew him.

“Am I? In 1102, soldiers raped you and your sister, removing your eyes with a hot poker to keep you from identifying them.” He stared. “You later poisoned them. The only crime deemed self-defense. Forgiven.”

She studied his boots, unable to take that knowing gaze. Jocelyn never knew the reason for her light blindness, but what he said felt like the truth. She shivered. Her diabetes? No. The doctors couldn’t diagnose why the lenses in her eyes remained open. Her eyes were healthy and she wasn’t completely blind, only in the light. Even then, she wasn’t without sight. In the day she traveled using the crowds, hiding behind solid glasses, jumping from body to body on the street, viewing the world from the sight of others.

The reason she lived in the city.

“I’m never wrong.” He stepped forward and put his staff under her chin to raise her gaze to his. More of his energy zipped through her body, warming her in a strange way. Liquid heat pooled between her thighs, soaking her panties. Not fear. Not the reaction she’d expected. She inhaled his scent and another flush of heat moved through her.

“You’ve jumped for the last time. Your crimes are documented and you’ve been tracked.”

Jocelyn heart thumped. Not when I’ve just found you.

He lowered the staff and leaned in until a cloud of his breath brushed her cheek. His hand came up and touched her jaw, sending jolts racing through her. The pad of his thumb stroked her cheek and made it hard to catch her breath. The image of another man with amber eyes danced across her vision.

Don’t leave me. I can’t live without you.

“I know you,” the reaper said, drawing his brows together. His hand moved from her face and toyed with her hair, letting the strands slip through his fingers. “Like blood, but darker. It’s always been red, except that one time.” He lifted it and sniffed. “Smells like sanitizer.”

“Bathroom soap dispensers will do that.” She gave a nervous laugh as her heart threatened to explode in her chest. The closer he got the faster it beat and the more she wanted to touch him. No--not wanted--needed. Jocelyn curled her fingers, resisting the urge. What was wrong with her?

She felt a tug on her energy. Her aura mingled with his and warmed. Deep pinks swirled into his blues and oranges. The blue light in his eyes faded and revealed the true color. They were--“like honey in candlelight.”

“What?” he said.

“Nothing.” But it wasn’t nothing. Everything came into focus. He was right about knowing her. They’d been linked for more than one lifetime and would continue to be if he didn’t imprison her for the past crimes.

He tucked his staff away, studying her face, keeping eye contact. “You’re a criminal.” The tone of his voice said he wasn’t convinced. Perhaps she had a chance?

“That isn’t who I am.”

“Then who are you, Jocelyn Miller?”

“I...” She stared into his eyes, sinking into the depths. “I’m innocent. Give me a chance to prove it.” She knew in her heart the truth. She was no more a killer than her brother. A single tear trickled down her cheek. “Please.”

He was also wrong about one other thing. It was more than knowing. Reaching up with a shaky hand she touched his jaw. The prickly growth of a day’s worth of whiskers grazed the pads of her fingers. Much more.

“I loved you once,” Jocelyn said.

He captured her hand and held it against his face, staring back. Before she could blink, he leaned in and grazed her lips with his. Sparks of energy whirled around them. Jocelyn sighed against the light kiss, wanting more, needing more.

Gabriel slid the fingers of one hand into her hair and captured her mouth to intensify the kiss. The breath sucked from her lungs and her knees gave.

He released her hand and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her tight to his body while his lips devoured her every sane thought. No. It couldn’t be.

She still loved him.

He released her from the wall and backed away. “I’ll give you a week.”

That kiss had been more than a kiss. Did he know? Did he feel their connection? “You’re letting me go?”

He shook his head and frowned. “No, I’m delaying the inevitable. Damned if I know why.” As the last word left his lips, Gabriel disappeared, teleporting away to who knew where.

Jocelyn screamed. “Nate, no.” She threw her arm up to block the bat headed for her head.

He stopped the swing of the Louisville Slugger inches from her face and lowered it. “What? Where’d he go?”

She slid down the wall to her butt, no longer able to stand, some from shock, most from the kiss sapping her strength and turning her into a noodle. “He’s giving me a chance to prove my innocence.”

“Reapers don’t let their quarry go, Jocelyn.” Nate ran a hand through his hair. “Did I see right? Did you kiss that reaper?”

She nodded.

“Have you lost your freaking mind?”

“It appears I have.” Jocelyn began to giggle as all the stress from the confrontation dropped on her.

The lights on the solar-lamps popped on and she slammed her eyes shut, covering them with her hand. “My glasses.”

Nate stuffed them into her hand. She slipped them on and jumped into Nate, glancing around the street. Red and blue lights flashed in the distance. “We need to leave.”

“I think I’ll keep this.” He hefted the bat over his shoulder. “You never know when one of these will come in handy.”

“Handy? You almost brained me. More like dangerous.”

“Speaking of dangerous--you’re getting stronger, Joce. I’ve never seen you jump like that, not as you did with the clerk. You controlled him.” Nate glanced both ways and rushed her down the street.

“Desperation. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself.”

Jocelyn nodded. “I know. But I’d be alone without you. You’re all I’ve got.”

Or was he? Gabriel. He’d done something to her. She felt normal. The dizziness disappeared with him. Even more amazing, she wasn’t exhausted from the jump. Whenever she traveled for more than visual leaps, it left her without energy or strength to do little more than sleep. “I think the reaper did something to me.”

Nate stiffened under her hand. “Did he hurt you?”

“No, not that. I think he took my diabetes.”

“You can’t take a disease away.” Nate ducked into an alley and pulled her in with him, pressing back against the wall as squad transporters raced by.

“I think he did.”

“Whatever that reaper did, he didn’t do it for you. They never do anything for their target’s benefit.” Nate grasped her under the chin. Look at yourself, you don’t look any different.”

Jocelyn pushed his hand away. “I don’t need to look at myself. I feel it.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What I'm working on this week.

The cold kissed Shiya’s cheeks as the sled raced through the night, gliding across the snow in the Alaskan wilderness. Yeah, she could have arrived like the other guests, by bush plane, but the siren’s call of the icy world had been great, and it had been too long since she’d last come home. Northern lights danced across the horizon, playing off icicles that gleamed on bent pine boughs—nature’s Christmas trees. Overhead the stars glittered, something she’d rarely seen because of the city lights—something she’d missed.

The fur lined hood of her red parka hid her long black hair and high cheekbones, her Inuit signature features. But not all of her appearance was Yupik. A fling her great-great grandmother had with a white man during the Yukon gold rush in the 1800’s, resulted in a freakish height of five foot eleven and green eyes that brought summer to the frozen tundra. Though four generations had passed since her grandmother’s affair, the genetics hadn’t disappeared from her family line, making her a child of two worlds, not quite fitting in to either. But the genetics had also passed from mother to daughter. Her mother had died at birth, leaving her not only her name an Inuit tradition, but her unusual attributes. Shiya was the only one of her people who looked the way she did—a blessing and a curse.

She’d been foolish to come back, they didn’t want her here. She’d turned her back on her people by rejecting an arranged marriage. Shamed, she’d left for the city, found a modeling job and made more money off her exotic looks than she’d thought possible, a lifestyle her father did not approve of.

The Eskimo Supermodel, a term that both made her wildly rich and ostracized her from her people further. She’d cringed every time she heard it, but chose to ignore her internal reaction to the insult, knowing if she were to survive, she had to fit in.

Fitting in—that went well. Sought out for her appearance, Shiya no longer knew if it were possible to find someone who didn’t want her because of her looks or money. Men hit on her right and left, wanting to add her as a notch on their belt. She’d stopped going out, secluded herself in her apartment, effectively cutting herself off from the real world. She spent her downtime, online in chat rooms, flirting with people who couldn’t see her, gaining some sense of security in it.

Until she’d picked up a stalker. She’d packed to run when she heard he was out on bail, not sure where she’d go or hide, as she wasn’t welcome in her father’s house. Her stalker owned a profitable corporation and wouldn’t take no for an answer. With homes all over the world, he could follow her around the globe. And had.

It had been an email from a mystery woman that brought her back to Alaska. Her timing couldn’t have been better. Madame Eve promised everything she’d ever wanted—needed, safety, someone to look out for her, protect her from the freak who tracked her like a hungry predator. A man that could take her out of Garrett’s reach.

So she’d taken a chance and come home. Here in the wilds of the Great North, she could think, and when she looked over her shoulder, she could see as far as the point where the Earth curved on the horizon. If Garret was going to follow her here, his approach wouldn’t be a surprise.

Ahead, the starlight caught a dark patch in the snow. “Whoa,” she yelled. The dogs responded by slowing to a stop. A pool of what appeared to be fresh blood and tracks, crossed her path. Out here, the blood could be from anything, but the tracks were a combination of human and bear. She pulled a high powered rifle from a sleeve and stepped onto the frozen snowpack. Her lead dog turned toward her and whined.

“Stay here.” She pounded a stake into the frozen ground and secured their lead to it, tethering them to prevent the team leaving her to die. Five miles could be like a hundred out in the hostile wilderness—people who forgot that lost their lives out here.

Shiya squatted down, removed a glove and dipped her fingers into the blood. Still warm—not good. She lifted her eyes from the red pool and scanned the darkness. No movement, but it didn’t mean the bear wasn’t there. There was a minute chance that whatever man found his way into the beast’s teeth, might still be alive.

She glanced at the blood again. It filled the imprints left by the man’s boot. A big man from the size of the boot and the depth in which the track sank into the snow. Big or not, it was doubtful he’d survive a bear attack. But since there was a chance, she couldn’t leave without investigating. She rose and followed the blood, keeping her ears tuned for any sound. The bears were master predators and could smell the blood from miles away. If there was one—there would be more and not just that, the blood would draw other predators. Packs of wolves frequented this area and had been know to travel in massive groups.

What the hell was the guy doing out here? So much blood. A death wish. The tracks appeared to stagger, leading off into a thick stand of trees. Not good.

So caught up in the reason a stranger traveled here, she’d failed to hear the monster behind her until he was on top of her. A rough chuff, followed by a hiss, and the impact spun her around on the ice and sent her flying ten feet, where she slammed shoulders first into an icy bank. Her rifle flew from her hands, discharging when it hit the ground. Shiya crab-crawled backward. The bear opened its mouth and roared a sound that shook her to her soul. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Massive, twice the size of any bear she’d ever seen in this area, the herculean monster closed in, stalking forward on gigantic paws that looked like velvet flocked snowshoes.

Blood covered his white coat, matting down the thick fur on his leg. He grabbed her boot in his enormous jaws and dragged her back and then padded forward until he straddled her body. He stopped when his face was inches from hers. Shiya threw her arms up, keeping them vertical. A Nanuk wouldn’t turn his head to bite, or that’s what her father had told her. Make yourself bigger than the bear can bite, he’d said time and time again. Problem was, there was no way to be bigger than the bear could bite. He didn’t have to turn his head to take her arms into his mouth. Her entire head could fit in those jaws. His teeth were at least four inches long, more like daggers than fangs—and then there were his claws.

Strange his teeth hadn’t punctured her boot or crushed her ankle when he’d grabbed her, but her mind let that thought slip as he leaned in and sniffed her. Another chuff ruffled her hair. There was nothing gentle or friendly about the bear.

A cloud of warm breath puffed from the carnivore’s open jaws, washing across her face. The smell of minty toothpaste filled her nostrils. Shiya cringed. He’d already eaten the man and from the smell of it, the toiletries the tourist had carried with him. Another casualty of Alaska. When would they ever learn that nature should be respected?

The bear opened his jaws and roared again. His nose touched hers and he nudged her face with his muzzle, pushing her head back and exposing her throat. The sniffing, the huffing. Shiya couldn’t move and didn’t dare to breathe.

Here’s the part where he’d tear her head off. Shiya closed her eyes, unable to look at death. She had many regrets, the biggest that she was so close to her family and never had the chance to make amends. It wouldn’t matter. They’d never find her body—never know she’d come home. Nothing would be left when the monster was done with her.

A coarse tongue licked her from chin to forehead. Her heart stopped and the world spun behind her closed eyes. Darkness.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

S L Danielson is Guest Blogging Today.

Please help me give a warm welcome to S. L. Danielson, author of M/M erotic fiction.
Thanks for blogging today. Tell us a little about your work and your latest release, Life After Math.

Hello and thank you for having me here, Dawn!

Lots of things going on in my little writing world. For one, today, March 26th my sequel to “Love by the Numbers” entitled “Life After Math” comes out with Silver Publishing. I just received edits today and am awaiting one final round before it is ready to go! Caveat with the prequel; it’s in paperback-only, but am looking to change that in about 60 days from now.

Also, I have another sequel coming out in May on the 26th entitled “Refugees”. It is the 2nd book in the “For the Heart of Phillip” saga. I may do a third, but at this time; nothing is in the works. The cover is done and it looks fantastic! Kudos to Jade, my aussie friend who spent 4 arduous hours creating just the right expressions, hair, etc. at my specific direction. Well done!

Now…finally, Ranch Hands, rather the missing Ranch Hands…where did they go? They moseyed off to the holding area since I have now been picked up by Wicked Nights Publishing and they loved both the original and the new sequel “Ranch Hands 2; Jerry’s Season”. The newly refurbed original will be out in August, and the sequel in November.

What’s your thoughts on sequels? I have seen umpteen movies that’re sequels, case in point…Die Hard. Love 1,2, and 4. 3 didn’t do it for me. Star Wars…loved 2-6, but #1 was not my fav…damn that Jar Jar!

What works for you with a sequel? Being able to pick up the story where it left off, or having to research it a bit beforehand?

In that vein: here’s a snipet from Refugees (currently with my proofreader)….

It was 9 p.m. on a warm September night. Thirty-one-year-old David Griffin pulled up in the driveway of his house. Of course, it wasn’t just his right now; he’d had his lover, Andrew Bradley-Horner, living there for some time.

He had finally come off shift from his work as a nurse in the emergency room of a nearby hospital after working a twelve-hour day. He was tired, but in a diplomatic mood to deal with his boyfriend, Andrew. It’d been a rough weekend for them after David asked Andrew to marry him and the only reply he received was Andrew vomiting on the lawn. He’d been ill all weekend.

David had done his best to nurse his lover; as did Andrew’s five-year-old daughter, Andrea. She barely left his side! There was still no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the proposal question; however. David knew why too; it was just as he’d feared this entire time. Andrew still had deep feelings for his ex-husband, Phillip. It had been an emotional breakup and Andrew came to him late at night that past February, crying, freezing, and in shock. He knew the relationship would be fraught with regret, but he dove in anyway out of sheer loneliness.

All David wanted was to have a nice, normal conversation about where they were headed as a couple. Was it over or would Andrew finally accept the marriage proposal on the table?

While all of these thoughts swirled in his mind, David noticed a blaring incongruity. Andrew’s van was gone. He glanced at the time again, 9:05 pm. He bit his lip in thought. It was rather unusual for Andrew to be out so late without letting him know. He frowned and scratched his blond hair. Maybe he’s visiting his folks. Yes, that’s it. Maybe Janet and Tyler can talk some common sense into him. Marrying me is the best choice for him.

He shrugged off his doubts, put his keys away, and exited the car. The warm evening air was rich with moisture; it would storm soon. His body had started to sweat, even in just his ensemble of scrubs. He looked over his shoulder towards the street. Something nagged at him to look in the mailbox. The day’s mail was still inside. Curious, maybe he left to get Andrea before it came. He dismissed that as well and took the mail inside.

David didn’t notice that all of the lights in the house were off, save for the garden lights, which were on their own timer. He yawned and unlocked the door. The door creaked open, revealing the pitch black house. He quickly turned on the living room light. He looked around the corner into the kitchen.

“Andy? You home? Where are ya, hon?” No answer. Hmmm, guess he did go out. I wonder if he called or left a message. He walked over to the answering machine and checked it. There were no new messages, nor was there anything left by it. His gut tightened a bit. Maybe he left a note somewhere else. His eyes darted around, turning pillows over, looking under cushions. His pace was frantic. Wait a minute, why wouldn’t he just call me? He grabbed his cell phone and checked through voicemail. Nothing.

Finally, David walked back over to the hall table in the foyer and mindlessly dropped the mail. It slid forward, upsetting an item below it. A melodic “ding” caught his attention immediately. He dove to the floor and saw the promise ring he’d so lovingly chosen for Andrew laying on the floor. The man picked up and looked suspiciously at the bauble in his hand. He clenched it in his fist. With his free hand, he rifled through the papers on the floor furiously. A mysterious sheet of notepaper caught his eye. It was a handwritten note. He skimmed it. The note itself was quite brief. He rubbed his eyes thinking it had to be a trick. He read it again.

“Dear David, I am so sorry it had to be this way. I appreciate all you did for me but I cannot be with you. I hope someday you will understand. Andrew.”

S. L. Danielson

Author of m/m erotic fiction!/profile.php?id=1173654489

Thanks for stopping by and telling us a little about your work, your thoughts on sequels and sharing for sharing the tantalizing excerpt of your upcoming release.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An excerpt of what I'm working on this week.

Lesson one—don’t piss off your controller. Trouble staggered up from where Avery had thrown her, certain her backside would be black and blue in the morning. Not from the impact, but the rage she could feel burning through her, generated by Avery. It promised they’d have an intense workout—a very intense workout—and Avery had only started.

“I said focus.”

She wanted to stick her tongue out, but the juvenile act would certainly be rewarded with another trip to the hard floor. She staggered to her feet and put her fists up. “I was focusing.”

“Not enough,” he said, projecting his thoughts to her.

“Stop that. I’m sick of you being in my head. For once, talk like a normal person.”

“I told you to use telepathy, and we’re not normal. Were linked and expected to use that link.”

“Gods! You fucking piss me off.”

The band tightened around her head, dropping her to her knees and wrenching the rebellion right out of her. “Don’t bring that filth to my temple,” he growled.

“Ease up. I was kidding.” Trouble placed a hand to her forehead and rubbed. The pressure released.

Avery had this thing about bodies and temples, and it hadn’t taken her long to learn he worshipped his. The man didn’t eat anything unhealthy, he exercised several times a day, and he didn’t like cursing. It wasn’t that he was religious—he wasn’t. There were just some things he couldn’t abide and cursing was one of them. Gods, she’d give anything to know the story behind that. A killer with manners—who’d have known?

“I told you, I don’t have a sense of humor.”

“I thought you said to use telepathy?” Trouble couldn’t help goading him. She’d take her digs, when she could, but not without cost. Sometimes it was worth it—sometimes she should have left well enough alone. This time, she was feeling lucky, or perhaps it was his anger fueling her recklessness.

“I’m running out of patience, Devoe. When I start talking, it’s time for you to shut up and focus.”

Trouble dropped to her side, sucking in a deep breath. “Alright, I get it. I need to be a good little girl or you’re going to spank my a…”

“Don’t say it.”

Trouble clamped her mouth shut, knowing pushing it any further could make for a more miserable day. Avery would make sure she paid for her attitude.

And oh the many ways he could make her pay. Who thought EOD training would include long distance running, which he claimed was to build endurance for working on planets with a weak atmosphere, or strong gravity—or martial arts, since EOD was considered a primary target for anyone who didn’t want their bomb disarmed—or telepathy, designed to make her insane?

“It won’t make you insane if you learn how to use it, and the only way you’re going to learn, is to use it.”

“Oh, you read thoughts too. Swell.”

“I don’t have to read your thoughts, Devoe, when you project them at me like that. Conversation—over. Focus.”

“Aye, sir.” Crushing pressure filled her head and she rolled to her hands and knees, using all her willpower to avoid crying out. Okay, she shouldn’t have pushed. Sometimes her mouth—brain, ran away from her.

“Get up.”

Trouble climbed to her feet and braced her hands on her knees, doing her best to catch her breath.

“Put up your guard.”

Back to verbal commands. Fantastic. What was it he said? When he started talking it was time for her to shut up and do what he told her? Prick. She lifted her chin and glared at the bane of her existence. That’s when he caught her with a roundhouse kick to her jaw, sending her flying back to the hard floor with a loud oomph. Trouble blinked and stared at the ceiling, stunned, with little stars circling her head. The room did the wave and she blinked again, bringing it back into focus. Ouch.

She turned her head and Avery lay flat on his back, staring at the ceiling as she had been. Not without cost. Every lesson was a lesson for Avery too. Looking at his pain brought a smile to her face. Served him right.

“How’d that feel, big guy?”

“Wonderful.” He drew his knees to his chest and snapped to his feet. Avery cocked his head from side-to-side, cracking his neck in the process. “Get up.”

“Can we give it a break and practice basket weaving or something?”

“Get up.”

Trouble climbed to her feet. “I hate you.”

“Okay. Now focus some of that into your attack and quit being a Sally.”

“First, tell me why we have to be linked if it makes us so vulnerable?”

He smiled and shook his head. “Don’t you get it? It’s the LOP’s way of ensuring our cooperation. You’re linked to me because of your crime—running. I’m linked to you because of my crime—mutiny. The punishment was designed to fit the offense. You can’t run no matter how bad you want, and if I don’t keep you alive and under control, I die. So suck it up princess and put your guard up. This is going to hurt me as much as it does you.”

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Here's what I'm working on this week.

Here's the start of, Call Me Trouble.

“Please rise while the Magistrate reads the charges against you.” A bailiff with a black eye and fat lip pulled Trouble to her feet, not giving her a choice. She stumbled against the iron shackles on her ankles, unable to catch herself with her wrists cuffed to the iron girdle at her waist. The bailiff yanked on her arm, keeping her upright, preventing her from landing on her face, but damn near dislocating her shoulder in the process.

“Aristasha Trouble Devoe, you have been accused of multiple crimes against the citizens of Pegasus Port and this government.”

She lifted her chin and pinned the judge with a look of contempt through a shock of her dark hair. It seemed she’d waited forever for her court date. To say it been excruciating was an understatement. The staff had sleazed into her cell at least a hundred times with all kinds of offers. Trading sex for an escape, where she’d probably be nabbed outside the jail, hadn’t been on her agenda—so she’d passed on their offers as only she could. A knee to the groin, a couple of fat lips later, and they had her in a security girdle to control her violent outbursts, as they’d called them. Little did they know, they hadn’t seen violence yet?

They took the additional precaution of chaining her to a bench for the duration of her stay. She wrinkled her nose. They’d been thoughtful enough to leave a clay pot under the bench for her to relieve herself, which she’d used to baptize the bailiff who’d gotten a little too familiar when he’d come to collect her for her hearing. He hadn’t had time to change and smelled like he’d crawled from the sewers. Fitting.

“Why the formality? We gotten so cozy the last few weeks. Please, call me Trouble,” she said.

“Silence.” The judged slammed his gavel down. “The prisoner will hold her tongue until asked to do otherwise.”

Trouble smiled. “It’s a bit slippery, but I could certainly give it a…” Hundreds of volts slammed into her, from the center of the iron girdle where tiny needles stuck into her mid section. She dropped to her knees on the stone floor, the pain stealing her wind and any further words she wished to utter. She sucked in a breath and lifted her face to her accusers. She’d be damned if she gave them the satisfaction of defeating her so she smiled, beaming as though she’d received a gift.

“Sergeant Devoe, you have been accused of abandoning your military post, grand theft of a star-cruiser, armed robbery, the unlawful release of indentured servants, theft of a valuable animal, and assaulting your commanding officer with a…” The judge narrowed his eyes and squinted at the holo-screen on his desk. He lifted his gaze and motioned the court officer over. The man stepped up and the judge pointed at the screen.

The bailiff looked up and smirked. “Poodle, your honor.”


The officer nodded. “Small, fluffy, canine from Earth. Supposed to be hypoallergenic…”

The judge cleared his throat. “And assault with a poodle.”

The courtroom burst into laughter.

“Order.” The judge slammed his gavel against his desk several times until the room went silent. “How plead you to these charges?”

It seemed the only thing they couldn’t charge her with was not being resourceful. Trouble fought the smile, pulling at the corners of her mouth. So she’d ripped the nasty little ankle bitter from the old bitch’s arms and threw her in the captain’s face. Pookie, apparently didn’t like men, and took a chunk from the captain’s face when he caught her. The poodle had survived the encounter without injury, but Captain Terrance Walters… Trouble glanced in his direction.

He glared, promising retribution with one look. A jagged injury, recently fused shut, covered his left cheek. Yeah, he had a reason to be angry, and she wouldn’t fault him that. He’d only been doing his duty and certainly hadn’t deserved what she’d done, but the simple fact of it all, was that she hadn’t wanted to go back and he seemed to think otherwise. The distraction had helped her to get away. Besides, she’d done him a favor. The scar would look dashing on his otherwise plain countenance. Women would love it.

Of course she wasn’t completely without heart. Not wanting the poodle to catch the brunt of the Captain’s fury, she’d grabbed the little dog and ran, adding theft of the poodle to the long list of charges. If it hadn’t been for the bio-tag inside the little dog, they’d never caught her. If only she’d known it was a show dog.

“What say you? We don’t have all day, Sergeant.”

“Guilty.” They’d captured her entire crime spree in full digital glory. No she wasn’t some kind of hero, nor did she have a legitimate reason for what she did. Truth was, she’d gone AWOL and had ducked into the brothel to hide. No use in denying what they had evidence to prove without a doubt. Yes she’d abandoned her military post. Yes she’d thrown the poodle and stolen it. Yes she’d taken the ship without authorization and given a few unfortunate women a ride off the planet. Yes, she’d robbed that bank. She needed the funds to fuel the ship. At least she hadn’t killed anyone.

Freeing the prostitutes had been a spontaneous decision, that she’d been certain would make it more difficult to track her flight from the cat-house. Multiple woman running in every direction—what wasn’t to love? Nothing honorable about what she did—she just didn’t want to fight in the war anymore.

“You do realize the penalty for desertion?”

Desertion? She’d forgotten it wasn’t called absent without leave, in times of war. Shit. This couldn’t be good. Desertion was the ultimate military no-no. She’d just wanted out, hadn’t thought that they’d take it that far when she’d chosen to run.

“The military court sees fit to release you into custody of the Company X.”

X-ray? X as in exterminate, X-ray, a suicide company? Her mouth dropped open. They had to be kidding? Nothing she’d done warranted death. “Your honor, I’d like to change my plea.”

“Too late Ms. Devoe. You are hereby stripped of all rank and military designation. May the gods have mercy on your soul.”


Saturday, February 12, 2011

What am I working on this week?

~Love Happens~

Valentine stared down from the tree, clinging to the trunk with all her strength. If she had her wings, she wouldn’t have had to climb the damn thing. This was so below her station. She was a daughter of Cupid, a step down from a god. She was meant to fly, not scramble up a tree like a monkey. How demeaning.

She’d no choice. Her father had plucked her wings and fired her from the family business. Screw, Cupid. She’d prove him wrong! Val tightened her grip and shifted her position leaning out further.

They were still too buried behind the branches. No clear shot. It didn’t mean she couldn’t see them—each unaware the other existed. They were the ultimate challenge, the most unlikely of mates. Her targets, an old woman of perhaps seventy and a man of maybe five years the woman’s senior, who both occupied an otherwise empty, outdoor plaza.

The mature woman sat silently, eating her predictable, tuna fish sandwich with extra lettuce, hold the tomato, tuna and mayo. She sat there every day—same time—same sandwich—same table.

Dressed head to toe in green except for a big flowered hat, the woman appeared to be in bloom with every flower imaginable. A bird landed on the table and she plucked some of the crust from her sandwich, hand-feeding the Chickadee.

The man—he too was cursed to routine. A neat freak and owner of the sandwich shop. He hated the summer. He hated people in general. Old, crotchety and seriously needing to get laid, one wouldn’t find a cooler character.

He kept busy, raking a broom back and forth across a sidewalk he’d already swept four times in the last hour. Val shuffled further out on the branch. Her fingers now barely made contact with the rough bark on the aged walnut.

The limb dipped under her weight and she began to wobble. Val held her breath until the branch stopped moving, carefully drawing her hand away from the trunk. Slowly she reached back for an arrow.

She lifted her bow, nocked her arrow and drew back. The branch began to move again. Up and down the branch bounced, her heart bounced against her tonsils with each drop, and thumped into her stomach with each up lift. She wobbled back and forth, refusing to let go of her bow or take her eye off her target. Finally stopped and she regained her balance.

One second longer and she’d be on her ass. She could really use her wings, but the only way she was going to get them back was to prove her father wrong. That meant bagging the big one, the perfect means to prove to her family, a long line of Cupids, of which she was the only female ever born, she was up to the task.

She eyed the big one. Two more feet and he’d see it, the plastic fork she’d wedged into a crevice in the walk. It was irresistible. The perfect trap.

He stopped sweeping and zeroed in on it. Val smiled.


He leaned his broom against a table, walked over to the offending utensil and stared down as though wishing would make it go away.

“Come on, come on. Pick it up.” Val groaned and huffed her bangs off her forehead. “Pick—it—up.”

He bent over, displaying his bony ass like a great big bull’s eye. Finally! She poked her tongue from the side of her mouth as she focused on the shot that would put her back in dad’s good graces. Steady. She drew in a soft breath and blew it out slowly; waiting to take the shot the moment she emptied her lungs.

A bird took the same moment to land on her perch. The branch began to bounce again. Val’s fingers slipped on her draw and the arrow shot into the air. She didn’t get a chance to see where it landed. The next thing she knew, gravity snatched her from her perch and she plummeted toward the ground, hitting half a dozen branches on the way down.

She landed with a thud on top of a warm mountain of muscle.

“Ow!” The muscle shoved her off. “What the hell are you doing up in the tree?”

Val startled. He’d seen her? Perhaps he was talking to someone else. She sat up and looked around but there was no one else in the area. She turned toward her impact cushion and her heart jumped. Dark hair, dark eyes and more than a mouth-watering portion of manly muscle.

“I’m not talking to myself.” The man glared at her.

Val blinked when she realized he truly was addressing her. “Sorry. I was…” What was a good excuse? “Bird watching.” And why should she have to have an excuse? Cupids were invisible when they worked.

“You were spying on someone over there.”

Her eyes popped wide. “Was not.”

“Then what kind of bird were you watching?”

“A…” What kind of bird? “A…”

“I knew it.”

“A purple-throated, warbling eagle.” Hah!

“There’s no such thing.”

“Is too.” Wasn’t there? She could bluff. How could he possibly…

He rose to his feet and dusted off his uniform. Fish and Game peeked back at her from his name tag along with his name. Officer Infernos?

He could. Shit.

He looked down at the bow in her hands and back up. “Poaching?”

“Oh no,” she shook her head. “I wasn’t…”

“Can I see your hunting license?”

“Hunting license?” Cupids didn’t have hunting licenses. This was stupid. He shouldn’t even be able to see her. “I don’t have one.”

“Then I’m going to have to confiscate your bow and arrows.”

“What?” Val scrambled to her feet. “You can’t take my bow.” She eyed his bare head. Thick dark hair. A set of horns poked through the wavy mass. She shook her head and looked again. “You’re horny.”

“Excuse me?” His eyes dilated and his nostrils flared.

“Um.” Heat flooded her face. That so hadn’t come out the way she’d meant it. Not that Cupids didn’t have voracious appetites when it came to sex, but that was the last thing on her mind. He’d seen her and that could only mean one thing. Add the horns and well…“I meant your head. That’s why you can see me. You’re not human.”

He swiped his Smokey-the-Bear hat from the ground and crammed it onto his head. He snatched the bow and her quiver from her grasp. “Crazy people shouldn’t have weapons.”

“I’m not crazy. I know what I saw. You have horns.” She reached for the bow and he moved it away. “Give that back!”


She lunged again and ended up chest to chest with Fish and Game’s finest. Val tipped her head back and looked into his burnt chocolate eyes. He stared back, not saying a thing.

Her heart began to thump in time with his. He was taller than he’d looked from when she’d been on the ground. On the, you-have-to-be-this-tall-to-get-on-this-ride-scale, he more than fit the requirement. “Please?” She pouted, giving him her most seductive look.

“No.” He stepped back. “Your I.D? You do have identification?”

“Of course.” She yanked her passport from the folds of her tunic.

He grabbed it and looked from her picture to her face and back. “Venetian. Figures.” He turned and walked over to a truck parked on the side of the plaza. Val scrambled to collect herself and dashed after him. “Please, you have to understand. I need that.”

He tossed her bow and arrows into his truck and climbed in. He put her passport on a clipboard and began to scrawl information on a form.

“Please.” How could he be so heartless? A Cupid without their bow wasn’t a Cupid. They were just some blonde, incredibly cute, but useless, angel. “I’ll give you anything you want.”

“You can start by paying this.” He crammed a citation into her hand with her passport. He lifted his fingers to his brim and tipped his hat. “Ma-am.” His truck pulled away from the curb, leaving her soaking in the burnt-oil fumes of his vehicle’s exhaust.

Val glanced down at the slip. Five hundred dollars! He’d fined her five hundred dollars? “You bastard!” She jumped up and down. Now not only did she have to steal her bow back, she had to get a job. She was on the last of her pocket change. Why? Why couldn’t things go easy just once? Was that too much to ask?

Val watched him disappear. He wasn’t getting away that easy. If anyone knew anything about stalking quarry, it was a Cupid. The Cupid name was synonymous with tracking prey. Val grabbed her pack from under some vegetation where she’d hidden it. She unzipped and reached in.

Her tunic provided her invisibility—well, most times it provided invisibility but not with Mr. Personality. If she was going to merge into the general population, she had to blend. And that meant she needed to dress as one of the natives.

She shook out a pink, gray and white camouflage mini-skirt and a white baby tee that proclaimed in big bold letters, “Here Comes Trouble”.

When in Rome… She dropped her tunic and wiggled into the short skirt and tiny tee, whose bottom failed to reach her waist, leaving a sliver her midriff exposed. Val grabbed a pair of cork-soled wedges, slipped them on and stuffed her malfunctioning tunic in her pack. He shouldn’t have been able to see her regardless what he was. Something was definitely off. Perhaps her father had taken more than her wings?

Now if she could find her wayward arrow, she could find her bow. The arrow placed on top of a lover’s seat would always spin and point toward her enchanted quiver and bow.

She cupped her hand over her eyes and stared out over the plaza. A bench where couples necked would be a good start. There was a fountain… A crowd had begun to gather around the fountain in the plaza that had been all but empty before. What gives? Val rose up on her toes but could see nothing. Other than climbing the tree again, which there was no way in Hades she was doing that, she’d have to get closer to look.

Still early in the morning, something attracted attention. In her line of business, that was never good. It also happened to be the direction her misguided arrow had flown. Yeah, depending on what it hit, it could be real bad. She’d better get down there.


The local wildlife was getting way too wild. If she’d had wings, he’d swear she was an angel. Her blonde ringlets had been too perfect, tumbling around her shoulders in a sexy riot like Aphrodite gone bad. Baby-blue eyes and a Cupid’s bow mouth complemented her heart-shaped face. And a toga? In this day and age? It could mean one thing. Crazy, hot chick or a college student out on a dare.

If he hadn’t come along when he did, she’d have shot the sandwich shop owner, old man Winters, in the ass, which would make her the crazy, hot chick.

Dameon touched one of the arrow tips in the quiver and drew his finger back. Warmth spread through him. Maybe he should go back and make sure she was okay?

He shook his head and threw off the strange feeling that invaded. No. He had things to do and that didn’t include chasing after escaped mental patients, no matter how cute. And she was attractive, otherwise his horns wouldn’t have come out. She’d nailed it when she’d blurted out he was horny, but jumping angelic nuts wasn’t on his list of to-dos. Not today.

Not tomorrow. Not ever.

He’d already packed his schedule and somehow he’d even managed to work in a couple of hours of sleep. Then she’d come along and fouled up what would have been a desperately needed nap. Now as he came off the night shift, he’d have to file a report on the poacher, lock up the confiscated evidence and if he was lucky, hit his mattress for a mini snooze.

With all the hunters he’d run out of the area this week, he’d need it, as November rolled around and the annual animal massacres had commenced. Since most of the animal population around the town consisted of weres, the last thing he needed was one of them getting shot and their hide tacked up on the wall or used for a rug. Besides, he had a thing for fluffy bunnies and innocent animals, not just the supernatural kind. He be damned if anyone killed them.

By all means, he should have arrested her, but for some reason, he didn’t. He couldn’t explain his actions. Instincts told him not to, and he’d learned over the years to listen to them. Dameon turned down the street where his little bungalow was located.

Shower—report—bed. No time for angels.


Val sauntered into the plaza outside the town hall. The crowd had doubled in a matter of minutes. She jumped up and down behind the crowd, trying to get a glimpse of whatever held their attention. A woman with small children spun around and dragged her kids away.

“Disgusting,” she huffed as she brushed past.

Val stopped her. “What is it?”

The woman turned. “Vandals. Someone added to David.”


“The fountain statue. The reproduction of Michelangelo’s David?” The woman raised a brow as though what she spoke about was blatantly obvious.

“Not from around here.” Val smiled and glanced down at a dark-haired little girl with big eyes who hung on her every word, waiting to see if she’d blurt out whatever it was that had her mother’s panties in a wad. “Just got into town this morning.”

“Oh.” The woman frowned. “Please don’t take that adornment as any indication what our community is like. We’re upstanding citizens—civilized—for the most part.” She glanced over her shoulder and gave a snort before she turned back to Val. “Welcome to our little town.”

“Thank you.” Val rose up on her toes and tried to peek over the crowd. “I’m sure it only was mischievous kids. Every town has them,” Val said and looked into the woman’s amber eyes—the most unusual color she’d ever seen. Something about this place…

“Well,” the woman huffed and tightened her grip on her children’s hands, “their parents ought to keep them on a leash. You don’t see my little pups prowling around unsupervised.” The woman stormed off with her children in tow.

“On a leash? Pups? You’d think they were animals,” Val muttered and elbowed her way closer. She broke through the crowd and emerged in front of the fountain.” Val gasped. “Great Zeus.” Her father would kill her if he found out. David stood proud in the middle, looking into the distance as though he were expecting someone... A very good replica, except—well, her arrow had enhanced certain features.

David had a boner.

Cupids were supposed to be discreet and that was about as un-discreet as one could get. How was she going to explain this? She eyed the statue’s erection.

She wasn’t. She was going to grab the evidence and run. Val kicked off her wedges and eyed the statue. She could really use invisibility right now, but wishing wasn’t going to fix the problem. Val sucked in a breath and worked her way toward the pool that surrounded the statue. Not too deep. She lifted her leg to step over the side and into the water, freezing in place when a bird landed on David’s penis and began to squawk. Val set her foot back down and leaned forward, looking closer.

The bird turned and flapped its wings, fixing her with a beady little stare. She’d seen that condescending look before, had grown up with it. Shit, shit, shit. That bird wasn’t a bird, it was her brother, and her father would have full disclosure by sundown. If he found out she’d lost her bow and arrows, there’d be Hades to pay. She had to get them back and quick, before her father came to town.

She spun around and spotted a sporting goods store. She wasn’t getting her arrow back now that her brother was around and she sure as hell couldn’t wait for him to leave. She’d have to find her bow the old-fashioned way and ask. If anyone would know where she could locate the yummy, albeit grouchy, fish and game guy, it would be someone in the sporting goods store. After all, they should sell hunting licenses.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What am I working on?

Here's an excerpt from Legionarii:


This time Brutus came in person to collect the woman. For ten years she’d eluded capture. Yet again, he found himself in the same situation. She’d disappeared, and now all that was left, was the knowledge she’d been there and a decoy who’d have no idea of her new location. Even if the decoy could point him in the right direction, he’d die to protect her instead of breaking his silence.

Unfortunate for him. Those who put themselves in Brutus’s path would pay—had paid. The decoy wouldn’t be the first or the last he’d killed, but this time Brutus intended to send a message, one that made it clear if they continued to hide her, things were going to get nasty. He now had the power of the LOP behind him. The weapon would demonstrate that perfectly. He stroked the sphere in his pocket and watched, knowing this would be the last time they’d pull this trick.

The man, a High Imperial Guard stepped from the safety of the building. He wore common Terran clothes, a long coat, jeans and a gray tee-shirt. Nothing about his appearance would give away his true identity. Certain he’d played his part, he glanced both ways up and down the quiet street, pulled the red wig from his head, shucked his coat and tossed both in the rubbish.

Brutus's brain flashed bright, "enemy-acquired" alerts. The man glanced both ways again, walked up to a black vehicle, opened the door and slid behind the wheel.

Brutus waited until the decoy’s attention fixed on the transporter’s ignition. He stepped from his hiding place, his prey still unaware he’d been stalked. Brutus’s fingers closed around a ball inside his trench coat. With a smile, he drew it out. The liquid gold swirled around his palm, a gazing globe that trapped the images of the world around in its skin and death inside its guts. A quick flip of the wrist, and it rolled under the car, catching the light and flashing brilliantly.

The clank from the ento-pod drew the guard’s attention. His gaze drifted up and stopped on Brutus. His eyes widened, his face went white. He scrambled around the compartment and lifted a communication device to his mouth. A thrill shivered through Brutus.

His com wouldn’t save him. Nothing could, but he would find out soon enough. The electro-magnetic pulse had already disabled it, and his escape vehicle.

The guard removed the device from his ear and took his eyes from Brutus. He shook it and then smacked it against his palm. The man lifted his chin, a thousand screams of horror upon his face. Brutus shook his head and smiled. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the show, which didn’t take long.

The pod hatched and a swarm of bio-mech drones poured out, surrounding the BMW in a metallic fog. The chattering robotic insects chewed into the body of the car. A sound akin to a chainsaw screaming against metal echoed against the weathered brick buildings in the cul de sac. The phone dropped from the man’s hand. He hit the locks and fumbled with the ignition.

Brutus tipped his head and studied him. His enemy had grown weaker. Some faced death with bravery—dignity. From the look on the man’s face, he’d certainly soiled his seat. The wasps drilled through the doors. They altered the matter and pushed through the steel as though it was gelatin. The holes snapped shut behind them, solid, with no evidence left behind. The engine whined. “Rrrrr, rrrrrrr, click, click, click.”

The blood drained from the guard’s face. He hit the steering wheel and cranked on the keys again. “Rrrrrrrr, click, click, click.”

As the insects broke through the interior, he began to flail, swatting at the horde of ento-robites. For every one he hit, another two landed. Brutus watched as they filled the cab and bit into the man’s exposed flesh. They kept coming, entering his eyes, open mouth, nostrils and ears. Many penetrated his skin and slid under the surface along the muscle in little lumps. Deeper and deeper they moved, boring into his body as though it was rotten fruit. The man clawed at his flesh. He raked, bucked, thrashed and shrieked.

No one who cared could hear him. His biggest mistake had been to lure Brutus to the empty warehouse and remote location. Brutus reached into his coat and fingered the button on the controller. A smile curled his mouth and he pushed, sparing the man the last moments of agony. He wasn’t a monster, just someone who was prepared to do what he needed to, to get what he wanted, and his enemy would have no allusions after today.

Blue light glowed from behind the guard’s eyes, lighting him like a jack-o-lantern. A wet sucking sound, accompanied by a high-pitched whine as he imploded and collapsed into a puddle of smoking skin on the front seat.

The pile incandesced, until all that remained was greasy soot and a pair of legs. The charred stumps were the only evidence a man once sat there. The authorities here would scratch their heads when they discovered the remains. Another victim of spontaneous combustion.

They may have saved her this time. Next time there’d be no place to run. He now knew someone in his inside circle was feeding the loyalists information and the informant would be flushed out. When he was, he’d lead him straight to the heir. Brutus turned on his heel and spoke into the com attached to his collar, contacting the one man he knew he could trust—his brother. “We’ve got an informant on the inside. Find him and we’ll find her.”

Six years later…

A loud explosion rocked the tower where Zoë sat. Yanked out of her daydream, her eyes snapped open and scanned the horizon for the source. More than likely, it came from the mines that honeycombed the subterranean crust of Odroxia, so common they were like a lullaby to the Droxi children.

Every day the explosions spewed toxins into the air and sent men to their graves in the hundreds. Working below was the final destination for many. Though the blasts were constant, she’d never gotten used them as had the indigenous people, who didn’t seem to notice the constant barrage, even when the explosions heralded death like an angel’s trumpet.

The wail of sirens filled the night. Those were new. Zoë leaned forward and narrowed her eyes to study the skyline. The thick haze that wrapped the countryside danced and twisted before her. Dark shapes began to emerge from the fog. A green ball of fire mushroomed over the horizon, backlighting the silhouettes of ships that streaked toward the city and the embassy where she sat.

Reality jolted through her, sending cold shooting through her guts. Zoe’s heart staggered several beats and her cup slipped from her hand, shattering into splinters on the floor. “My God, an invasion.” She had to get everyone to the underground bunkers. Another blast lit the city, sending a gruesome puce glow rolling across the skyline, illuminating the now closer ships.

Zoë leapt up and ran for the lower levels where her brother and sister slept. She had to get them to the shelter before the strike.

“Zoë. Zoë. Zoëeeeee…” Shrieks shrill like a cat being tortured but worse, much worse, indicated at least one of her siblings was awake. Her sister’s screams reverberated through the corridor. The lights flickered and went out and the building trembled. The invaders were closer than she thought. They’d certainly hit the refinery ten city blocks away. Another explosion shook the building. Zoë staggered into the wall. The embassy would be next.

“Zoë!” Another supersonic scream, several frequencies higher.

Invasion alarms continued to blast, blending with Kimi’s terror. The building rocked from another explosion, louder, more violent than before. Zoë stumbled, hit the other side of the corridor and found the entrance to the stairwell. She lunged for the stairs, taking two at a time.

Skylights illuminated her path with gray light. Dark shadows slipped overhead and created a strobe light effect, throwing the nightmare into slow motion. The building vibrated under her feet and its metal frame groaned. She stopped and grabbed the rail.

A boom shook the night, this time on top of them.

Loosened debris began to hail around her, blocks of stone from the walls and ceiling, chunks of plaster and mortar, followed by larger sections that crashed around her in heavy clunks. She dropped and clung to the rail. Ducking her head, she covered it with her arm and waited for the building to stop shaking. As soon as it settled and the debris stopped its assault, she pulled herself up and started back down, this time working her way around the chunks on the stairs, doing her best to hurry.

Kimi screamed again followed by another explosion. Zoë’s heart pounded. She tilted her head and listened. Nothing but the sound of ships tearing through the sky and the building as it groaned. Seconds later, the wall next to the stairwell fell away, leaving her looking out into the night. The load-bearing wall that kept the weight of the building off the lower rooms, remained intact, but one more blast would surely bring it down. “I’m coming.” Silence and dust. Zoë raised her hand to her mouth and coughed.

“Kimi!” Zoë stepped down onto the next level and it crumbled away. Her feet slid from under her. The back of her skull smacked against the edge of one of the steps in a hollow thud.

She reached for the rail as the world around her began to shift and skitter before her gaze. Focusing on the skylights, she tried to control the vertigo. The metallic tang of blood mixed with smoke penetrated her nostrils and chalky dust pelted her face. Overhead the roar of more approaching ships. The building vibrated from their sonic engines.

A large section of the ceiling swung by an iron thread, creaking as it rocked back and forth for several moments and snapped free. With only heartbeat to react, she rolled to her side. The block glanced off the step and smacked the middle of her back before it bounced down the stairwell. It echoed like a church bell against the metal railing as it tumbled to the bottom, testifying how close she’d come to death.

The sounds of the ships grew deafening, their roars filled her ears.

Dear God, they’d all die. She had to get to them. A band of pain shot around her ribs when she sucked in a breath to cry. Heat blasted through her cranium followed by nausea. Zoë tried to draw another lungful of air, but only managed a small sip of plaster dust and sticky, emaciated oxygen. In desperation, she pushed with her arms to roll. Pain struck so severe she her vision faded and only intense focus brought it back. She pulled in another desperate breath and shoved again, but her body refused to follow. So she pushed herself over the stairs, falling toward the next level. Bright bolts of stabbing light and shooting stars burst across her vision as she slammed into the hard metal decking. Pain pounded in her head like an atomic sledgehammer and drove a spike of agony through her skull. Darkness sealed in around her and sucked reality away.