Flash Friday: “Mystery Man”

Today’s post is excerpted from my upcoming new release (next year) with Desert Breeze Publishing.  This is a brand-new Fantasy series I’m working on.  Enjoy! :)

“Mystery Man” – excerpted from DAUGHTER OF ASHES

            Raiador.

            “Quite a sight, isn’t it?”

            Her gaze whipped to her left at that query, to find a man standing beside her.  He had the long, plaited hair of a Borderlander, and his tarnished armor screamed mercenary loud enough the dead could have heard it.  And yet, something told her he was neither.

            “Excuse me?”

            He nodded toward Raiador.  “The mountain.  Never seen anything quite like it.”

            She peered closer in the diming light, trying to discover what it was about him that convinced her he wasn’t exactly who his appearance said.  He was tall, even to her with her Bathron blood.  That could be a Borderlander trait – the few she met were easily as tall as she was.  His mud-brown hair was woven into the traditional Borderlander plaits, and hung midway down his back.  But there were secrets in his smoky-green gaze that told her he wasn’t who he appeared.  Something inside of her reached out in kinship to this man – she was more than she appeared, as well, even if she wasn’t sure what that was, yet.  There was a charisma to this man, however, that told her he was far from the mercenary his garb declared him to be.

            A well-worn scabbard hung from an equally-abused leather belt, but his sword hilt had the gleam of care, and the glint of metal at the top of his scuffed black boots hinted that he was well-armed.  This was not a man to be taken lightly, and she had to wonder if he was friend, or foe.

            “And you are?”  She frowned up at him, daring him to meet her gaze.

            He did, but those eyes remained shuttered, not allowing her access to his thoughts.  “No one of consequence, Sera.”

“Unfinished Business” – Excerpted from BURDEN OF PROOF

Because this is a cause very near to me, I am offering this book for charitable donation only.  You choose how much you wish to donate – but, please, donate something.  Every penny this book makes will go to help victims of rape and domestic violence..  I encourage everyone to learn the warning signs of abuse, and get active in helping to remove this scourge from our homes and streets.

“Unfinished Business”  – Excerpted from BURDEN OF PROOF

copyright 2003 by Esther Mitchell

As the paramedics loaded Chelsea onto a stretcher, Justin dug the number Sally had given him out of his pocket and punched it into his cell phone.  The line had barely begun its second ring when Sally’s breathless, anxious voice answered, “Hello?”

“It’s Justin Blakely.  I found your sister.”

He heard her shuddering sigh of relief.  “Thank God.  Where was she?  Let me speak to her.”

“Sally…” He stopped, swallowing hard.  Damn.  He wasn’t any good at this stuff, and he was still too torn up inside to be objective with Sally.

“Oh, God,” she whispered.  “She’s not dead… please tell me she’s not dead.”

The pleading in her voice tore at him.  He knew what that fear felt like.

“She’s alive,” he assured her gently.  “Sally, she was attacked, here at her apartment.”

“Damn it!”  The sudden, violent oath from Sally surprised him, but not near as much as her next angry, unguarded statement.  “I told her she had to put him away.  I told her…”

“Put who away?”  Justin demanded harshly, gripping the phone tight as he followed the paramedics out of Chelsea ’s apartment.  “Talk to me, Sally.  Tell me what’s going on.”

“I can’t,” she said miserably.  “I made a promise to Chels that her secret was safe.”

“Damn it, Sally,” he ground out the words in fear and frustration.  “I found her in the damned closet, bleeding and nearly catatonic, with her clothes shredded.  I want to know who the son of a bitch is!”

“No.”  Sally’s voice rang with steel.  Then, softening her tone, she said, “Don’t you think I want a piece of the bastard?  I’ve been trying for years to get Chelsea to let me track him down; but she doesn’t want her battles fought for her, and she’s convinced that one’s already lost, anyway.  She doesn’t want anyone’s help with this.  Not mine, not her friends’, and especially not yours.  I’m sorry; I can’t tell you anything more.  Mom and I will be there soon.”

Before Justin could ask why not him, Sally had hung up.  Grimly determined now, Justin ignored the protests of the paramedics as they loaded Chelsea into the ambulance, climbing in beside her.  He’d told her he wasn’t going to leave her and, dammit, he was going to keep that promise.

If you, or someone you love, has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault,  please, get help. You are not alone.  Domestic violence and sexual assault crimes are the  largest number of unreported crimes in the US and Europe. Break the silence, and help take back the night.  For help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or  RAINN at 1-800-656-4673.  Get involved, and help take violence out of our homes, and rapists off the streets. Contact  your local shelters and domestic crisis organizations.  Together, we all make a difference.

Flash Friday: “Mistaken Identity”

Here’s a little something to make your Friday run more smoothly… ;).   The hero of this story, Colt Michaels, made himself abundantly known while I was writing SHADOW WALKER.  Jaye’s big brother has a real macho attitude problem that I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with… Not, that is, until I met a very interesting Project Prometheus agent, capable of handing Colt back his attitude in spades… :)  Just have a look…

“Mistaken Identity” 

copyright 2008 by Esther Mitchell

            Someone in charge was insane.  Marine Colonel Colton Michaels Jr. scowled at his computer screen, willing the offending e-mail back to whoever over at the Secretary of Defense’s office sent it to him.  According to the e-mail, he was supposed to roll over for some civilian investigator who’d be here at the Pentagon to dissect every man who worked for him.  Like that wasn’t going to piss him off.  Already, he could picture some four-eyed geek with a pocket protector and a calculator, and some secret book of rules to apply to any situation where rules didn’t apply.  Fuck.

            “Sir.”

            Colt glanced up to find his aide, Nathan Whittaker, with his head poked through the door.

            “Spit it out, Corporal.  I’m busy.”  Figuring out how to get rid of the Inquisition before it shows up.  Colt would have felt bad for snapping at the kid, if he wasn’t so pissed.  Of all the high-handed political tactics…

            “Sir, Agent St. John is here.”

            Sonuvabitch!  Colt returned his scowl to the computer screen.  Well, it sure didn’t take them long to get their man through the Pentagon’s doors, did it?  But the name of his visitor surprised him.  St. John was the last man he expected.

    Not that he knew the elusive spy personally.  But he had heard scuttlebutt about Project Prometheus as an organization, and St. John in particular.  Fortunately, what he heard was all good.  Hell, it was better than good.  St. John was supposed to be some kind of James Bond.  Not a government geek at all, but a man who understood danger and judgments made in the thick of it.  A man had to respect St. John’s level of expertise – but not when it threatened his men, or his command, Colt decided sourly.

            The sound of a throat clearing jerked Colt’s attention back to his nervous aide.  “Sir… Agent St. John?”

            Colt sighed.  Hell.  Might as well bite the bullet.  “Send him in.”

            Whittaker looked as nervous as a virgin in a bar full of Libertied sailors – unusual for the sedate Iowa farm boy.  “Ah, sir…”

            Colt frowned.  “Is there a problem, son?”

            “No problem,” announced a new voice, before Whittaker could speak, and a petite,  curvy bundle of strawberry-blonde hair, form-hugging halter top and jeans, and the most amazing mocha eyes that zinged through him like high-octane espresso slipped past the Corporal and into his office.  Warning bells went off in Colt’s head as his scalp prickled and a warm shiver worked up his spine.  Hell, she was like an entire bottle of Go pills, her presence so electrifying he knew he had to get rid of her ASAP.  And, as his gaze focused on the Cheshire cat grin spread across her mauve-tinted lips, he nearly groaned.  This lady spelled trouble, in capital letters.

            Colt settled a scowl on his face that had intimidated better than her, unwilling to admit he was intrigued.  “Who the hell are you, and how did you get in here?  This is a restricted area, lady.”

            “Sir-” Whittaker’s voice rose a nervous octave, drawing his attention in time to watch the Corporal’s eyes dance toward the new arrival, his expression telling.  Colt broke out in a cold sweat as the truth tickled the edges of his mind.

            Aw, hell.  He barely bit back his groan of disbelief.  “You’re St. John?”

            The wink she tossed Whittaker’s way made the young man smile in spite of himself, and Colt scowled  at the pair of them.

            “As charged.”  Her voice had a husky, sensual quality that raced invisible fingers up his spine, even as she strode forward, one hand extended.  “Sarah St. John, to be precise.”

            Colt’s gaze darted to his e-mail again.  Had he missed something?  New panic twisted in his gut when he saw nothing to contradict what she said.  There had to be some kind of mistake!

            “Why?”

            His head jerked up at that amused query.  “What?”

            “You just muttered something about this being a mistake.  Why would you think that?”

            Because he couldn’t see her as a spy.  And because, try as he might, he couldn’t stop wondering what she’d look like wearing nothing but that mischievous little grin.  He was in so much trouble.

            His eyes narrowed.  There had to be a logical explanation for this SNAFU.  Maybe it was just a coincidence.  “You have a brother, Miss St. John?”

            She shrugged, looking perplexed but unconcerned.  “Four of them.  What does that matter?”

            He settled back, letting a triumphant smile pull at his lips as he figured it out.  Mystery solved.  Now he could get rid of this bundle of trouble.  “If you’re looking for your brother, he’s not here.”

            She laughed, and  the husky murmur of it slid over him like a live wire across his skin.  An erotic jolt passed through his system, and that annoying prickle returned to the base of his skull.  He scowled at her as she slid gracefully into the chair opposite his desk, treating him to a perfect view of those amazing legs.  She settled back with an undeterred smile, as if she could see right through his anger, to the real conflict going on beneath.  That was an entirely disturbing thought, and he shoved it aside, feeling like a dirty old man.  How old was she, anyway, and why wasn’t her elusive brother keeping her out of trouble?

            “Didn’t you hear me?  Your brother’s not here.”

            “I know.”  She looked amused, those mocha eyes dancing with suppressed laughter.  “Mick’s probably half-way to covered in dirt in some tomb in Egypt, Greg’s completely buried in his books and theories, Liam’s on a marine research ship in the Arctic, and Scott better have his butt in class, if he doesn’t want me to kick it there.”

            Colt blinked, nonplussed.  None of those sounded like the former spy supposedly descending on his command.  “Which one works for Project Prometheus?”

            That gut-tightening smile widened, and her eyes sparkled as she pulled a dark leather wallet from her pocket and flipped it open before handing it over.  “That would be me.”