“Common Link” — Excerpt from DEATH MASK (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalThe Death Mask, in Native American legend, was a particular kind of face painting done by warriors and Shamans about to go into battle — whether physical or spiritual.

So when bodies start showing up in the Arizona desert, with the only link being their missing faces and the strange paint in the bloody remains, the FBI calls in their resident expert on weirdness, and the Bunker crew, to investigate. And what they’re about to find out will send Dr. Faith MacKenzie reeling, and bring her cousin’s expertise into the forefront of their investigation.

 

“Common Link” — Excerpt from DEATH MASK (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 5 ) –

“The body looks like something’s been gnawing on it.”

“Like a demon?”

She shot him a quelling look. “Or scavengers. The lack of dentition or scratch marks that bothers me, though. I don’t know how his flesh was removed. It looks like something chewed on him, but there aren’t any marks. It’s almost like a… a…”

“A demon?”

Faith glared at him. “You and your demons. I should introduce you to my cousin, Hope. She and her husband work for some mercenary outfit, but Hope’s been fixated on this whole demon thing ever since she came back from Africa, in the nineties.”

Jonathan stilled as the name registered. Surely it couldn’t be the same woman. There had to be lots of women with that name, in the world. “What did you say her name was?”

“Hope. Hope MacKenzie. Well, Talladay, now. She–“

It was her. Had to be. “Was she in Africa with UNPAARD? A relief mission in Somalia?”

Faith’s brow furrowed, and her gaze was troubled. “Yes. How did you know that? You didn’t…?”

He shook his head, and forced his expression neutral, even as his gut roiled with the memory of opening those cells, to find men and women covered in mud, muck, and blood, their bodies covered in signs of torture. And one prickly woman with red hair, oddly iridescent eyes, and hatred in her eyes. No wonder Faith looked so familiar, the first time they met.

“I must have read about her, somewhere.”

“A Monster’s Grasp” – Excerpt from MISTRESS OF CATS (Legends of Tirum)

MistressofCatsCoverArt72dpiLegends of Tirum has a wide cast of characters, from the very good to the very evil, the open to the enigmatic. In many ways, the most enigmatic of those is Urasi Melanova — the Earth Shaman, and a Pyracanthrian, capable of shifting form between human and a large, dark lioness. Urasi comes with secrets, and one of those has held her as a madman’s captive for two years, regardless of the evil done to her.

 

“A Monster’s Grasp” — Excerpt from MISTRESS OF CATS (Legend of Tirum Book 4)

“You must believe me a stupid man.”

Urasi wisely kept her mouth shut and pretended to sleep. The merchant only left a few hours ago, and Brahmad sounded as if he was spoiling for a fight. She knew better than to give him the excuse he wanted to beat her.

“Wake up!” The sharp point of his leather boot jabbed her side, hard. Urasi grunted and shifted away from the contact. Though in her leonine form, she wasn’t idiot enough to believe she had any chance of besting him, should she attempt to fight back. The collar around her neck would not permit her to turn on her master.

There was a metallic scraping sound, like her chain being dragged across the floor, and Urasi fought to keep her eyes firmly closed. She couldn’t afford to give in to the urge to see what Brahmad was up to.

In the next instant, she had her answer as a hand grabbed hold of the golden collar around her neck, jerking her up from the floor as he hissed against her ear, “You will be human.”

Her body reacted immediately to the command, and pain sliced through her as bone, sinew, and muscle all expanded. Her heartrate slowed, and her skin felt as if it was ripping apart around her as her body realigned itself from beast to woman. Desperately, she fought the painful, forced transition as her Majiik gathered low in her belly, becoming her enemy rather than her ally. Forced transformations were painful and unnatural. They turned the same Majik that normally allowed her a swift and uneventful transformation into a terrifying and excruciating event.

Urasi struggled to gain control of her Majik, to halt the transformation the collar around her neck was forcing within her. She knew what it meant when Brahmad wanted her human, and she would do anything — even fight the core of her very being — to avoid the violence she knew would follow.

Brahmad preferred having her as a trophy pet. He only forcibly bade her to be human when he wanted her in his bed. While never a pleasant experience, most times it was a mercifully brief one, and fuelled only by his lust.

This time would be different. He was enraged, and she would bear the brunt of his fury. This man wasn’t above torture — she’d swear inflicting physical harm brought Brahmad pleasure.

Even as she fought her transformation, she knew it was useless. The collar around her neck burned like acid poured over her skin, and the change progressed relentlessly, in spite of her wishes to the contrary. She hadn’t the strength, the Majik, left to fight the will of the Collar of Ramiel.

With a final, roaring cry of pain and denial, she arched up as her soul was torn by Majik. She collapsed to the floor with a moan, weak and shaking, and human. Huddling there on the floor, she made the mistake of looking up at her captor. The terrible light gleaming in his eyes sent a shaft of terror through her. He enjoyed the pain forcing her to shift caused, but it was nothing compared to the ripping pain in her soul as she heard a distant, quickly hushed, cry.

“Please… don’t…” The whispered plea flew from her lips before she could cage it.

He reached down, grabbed a fistful of her jet curls, and forced her head back until she had no choice but to meet his cruel gaze again.

“Answer my question, Shaman. Do you believe me stupid?”

“N-no,” she stammered, fighting for composure. She would tell him anything, to avoid what she feared was inevitable.

Her denial seemed to infuriate him even more. His free hand flashed to her throat, clamping across her windpipe above the collar and cutting off her air. She clawed at his wrist, fighting desperately for air.

“Don’t lie to me, bitch!” He shoved his face into hers, and spittle rained on her face as he screamed the words at her. “You’re trying to escape. My spies have heard you conspiring with that damned merchant. But you’re mine! Do you understand me? Mine!

He released her throat, grabbed hold of her meager body drape, and ripped away her only defense against him. As she stared into the face of all her nightmares, Urasi knew there would be no escape for her. Not now, or ever again.

Pick up your copy of MISTRESS OF CATS, today! And see how the Legend begins, with DAUGHTER OF ASHES, PHOENIX RISING, and SPIRIT MAGE, available from Desert Breeze Publishing and Amazon.com

“Difference of Opinion” – Excerpt from MISSION OF MERCY (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecal

Like all of Project Prometheus, Shadow Walker produced some characters who just refused to remain silent. Among them was Jaye’s over-protective older brother, Marine Colonel Colton Zacharias Michaels, Jr. and smart, sassy Sarah St. John. From the moment Colt stepped into the picture, I knew I’d be going back to tell his and Sarah’s story. There was just too much story there to not tell. So, though it will be released after Shadow Walker, Colt and Sarah’s story takes place about a year before.

 

“Difference of Opinion” — Excerpt from MISSION OF MERCY (Project Prometheus):

“It’s as simple, or complicated, as you choose to make it.” He tilted his seat back on two legs and grinned smugly, his gaze raking over her in blatant appreciation that heated Sarah’s blood in spite of herself.

She bristled instantly in response to his words, and his careless tone. That heat in her blood was fury. Had to be. Arrogant son of a– “You’re not taking this seriously, Colonel. In fact, you haven’t taken a single moment of this entire investigation seriously.”

“On the contrary.” He sat forward suddenly, the chair hitting the floor with a thud as he grin fell away. “It’s very serious. You think I find anything funny about you coming in here with that holier-than-thou attitude of yours, slinging accusations of misconduct at men and women who’ve sacrificed more than you’ll ever understand?”

She glared at him. “Can you even find a hat to fit that arrogant head, Mr. Pot?”

He blinked. “Huh?”

“As in, pot and kettle. You don’t know me, Colonel Michaels, or what I’ve been through in my life.” She drew herself up as tall as she could, already aware she was far from imposing. Still, Jack always said her glare could freeze fire. Maybe she could turn this arrogant Marine into a Popsicle.

He rose, taking a step toward her. His voice lowered as he came to a stop before her. “Try me.”

She wasn’t going to let him get to her. Too bad she couldn’t convince her treacherous heart of that, as it tried to pound its way free of her chest. “I don’t trust you.”

That stopped him. “Why should that matter?”

She drew a breath that smelled of his spicy aftershave, and told her unruly hormones to pipe down. “If you ever find out what, you’ll know why. Until then, Colonel Michaels, I suggest you focus on getting me the information I need, rather than fighting battles you can’t possibly win.”

Look for the story that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming from Desert Breeze Publishing this Fall!

“The Returned” – Excerpt from TWIST OF FATE (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecalThe concept of the Zombie is one that’s been twisted and mangled so much by Hollywood that it bears little resemblance to the original concept of a Zombie as believed by faith structures like Vodun, or seen in mythology dating back into antiquity (the first written reference I’ve ever been able to find, in my research, dates back almost as far as written language). Zombies, by both Vodun standards and according to ancient mythology, were human agents (ie, living people) made to appear dead through the use of plants with psychoactive effects and trance-like states and “curses” performed on the person. Through this, it became possible for another person to control that person’s actions. However, much like hypnotism, the Zombie could not be forced to perform acts their own moral compass would instinctively halt.

From my research into religions like Vodun, an idea began to take shape. If Vodun priests could make a person disappear, have them declared dead, then have them reappear, looking like the animated dead, what would stop an organization like the Brotherhood of Spiders from doing the same? And a story began to take shape, that is at once very tragic, and very capable of restoring hope.

“The Returned” – Excerpt from TWIST OF FATE (Project Prometheus)

Misty Jarrod hugged her arms close against her body and shivered against the cold desert air that bit through her shirt.  She doubted she’d ever get used to the desert, with its searing hot days and freezing nights.  She missed home.  The flowers would be blooming on the shore of Lake Superior, by now, and homesickness flooded her.  She could almost smell the violets, tulips and hyacinth.  And beneath it all, the subtle scent of cigarette smoke…

Misty’s head snapped up, her thoughts broken by that out-of-place scent.  No one in Manara’s temple smoked.  These people had an odd purity, for as hung-up on sex as they were.  And none of the Prometheans here at the moment smoked, either.  Her eyes narrowed, Misty sniffed the air, dragging in the scent as she tried to place why it was so familiar.  It wasn’t just a cigarette.  There was a subtle, sweet note to it, reminiscent of vanilla and… cinnamon! The final piece jogged into place, and she decided she’d gone off the deep end.  Those were Nick’s cigarettes she smelled.  Only, Nick was dead.

Pain twisted in her chest like a python as the scent wove through her, bringing memories of her husband – the man she loved more than life – out from the depths of her heart.  She buried him six years ago, not questioning that he was dead even without a body to prove it.  The empty hollow in her heart told her all she needed to know.  Nick was gone.  Nothing would bring him back.

Anger followed hard on the heels of pain, and she flipped her sidearm free from its holster, disengaging the safety as she followed the scent toward its origin.  Whoever was smoking that cigarette, she didn’t believe it was coincidence.  Call her paranoid, but since Nick disappeared, she felt like someone was following her.  Even though no one told her exactly how he died – all they would say was that he “disappeared” – she knew he’d been on a deep cover CIA mission under the guise of a UN inspection of the No Fly Zone.  She wasn’t stupid.

The scent led off toward the eastern boundary of the Temple’s construction zone. Misty kept her breathing silent and steady, moving slowly as she allowed her eyes to adjust to the moonless night.  Whoever was out there, she would find him, and make him answer for following her.  She wouldn’t fail her boss, or these people.  No one was going to get to them through her, no matter how much he pretended to be her dead husband.

As she reached the boundary, Misty caught sight of a silhouette, and froze.  No way!

“Who the hell are you?”  She snarled the words, refusing to believe what her senses were telling her.

The figure turned, stepped toward her, and Misty flicked on the small penlight, casting a narrow, soft beam of light that wouldn’t harm her vision, or her reaction time.  As the beam played over his body, the breath sucked from her, leaving her shaking with disbelief.  She wouldn’t believe this.  She couldn’t believe this.  The beam touched his face, and the cold night had nothing on the chill that spread through her.  Oh my god.

“Nick?”

And then, the click of a safety disengaging froze her, as a gun lifted directly into her line of sight.  He was going to shoot her!

Look for the book that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming from Desert Breeze Publishing this Fall!

“Midnight at the Mausoleum” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalTypically, I don’t write series in order, per se. I draft all the story packets (my ideas, laid out in a general chapter-by-chapter format) in the beginning, but I will fill in scenes as they come to me, then make changes accordingly as I fine-tune, for the series. Guardians, Inc. and Witch Hollow have definitely fit that mold.

Lately, I’ve been working on Witch Hollow’s 6th book, BODY OF EVIDENCE…

What’s a pathologist to do when the body parts believed to be from the same victim instead turn out to be from a dozen different victims? Add in a missing girl from a wealthy family, abducted in a similar manner as all the other victims, and a man with a very dark family secret to keep, and Faith MacKenzie and her Bunker crew have their work cut out for them. And when the missing girl’s trail takes Faith and Jonathan into the dark underside of New Orleans’ paranormal community, it may just turn out to be more than Faith can handle.

“Midnight at the Mausoleum” – Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 6) –

“So, are you going to tell me what we’re doing in the middle of a cemetery, in the middle of the night?” Faith cast a glance his way. “This isn’t how I usually exhume a body.”

He quirked her a wry half-grin she could barely see by the light of her flashlight. “We’re not exhuming anyone. And this is the only way we get in. Max’s relatives are a little… eccentric.”

Her brows lifted, and she fought down the urge to swear. Why hadn’t she seen this coming? “This is another one of your little ghost hunt things, isn’t it? Jonathan…”

“No. Just trust me, okay, Mac? If we’ve got any hope of finding Elizabeth alive, we have to use every resource at our disposal. You need to try and keep an open mind, here.” He turned to pin her with an intense stare made all the more unsettling by the night-draped cemetery around them. “And stay close to me. No wandering off. And, Mac? Don’t touch anything.”

She rolled her eyes, and forced a laugh. “You make it sound like we’re walking into a minefield.”

He didn’t laugh, and his somber expression didn’t so much as flicker. “I’m serious, Mac. You stick to me like glue, and don’t touch a thing, or this is going to end very badly for both of us.”

Something about his tone… Faith swallowed hard as sudden fear closed around her throat. Her voice rasped when she finally managed, “Just who are these people?”

He sighed, and resumed walking. “Vampires.”

Her feet felt frozen in place, disbelief ricocheting through her, before she forced herself to start moving again. He’d pulled some strange ones, in their time as partners, but this took the cake. “Vampires? Really, Jonathan…”

“Very traditional ones. Old World. They like their theatrics.” He stopped, looking up at an imposing mausoleum. “We’re here. Remember what I said, Mac.”

She swallowed again. “Close. Don’t touch. Gotcha.”

And, as Jonathan slowly pushed open the heavy, weathered door to the crypt, Faith tried to force her pulse steady. It was getting more and more difficult to dismiss Jonathan’s world as non-existent. If only she knew what she was getting herself into…

“In a Demon’s Wake” – Excerpt from IN HER NAME (Project Prometheus, Book 1)

PPAtlantisdecalToday’s Flash comes from one of the most unique and unusual books I’ve ever written.  While definitely highly on the paranormal side of fiction, this book is unique even among its series-mates, in that it involves a culture many don’t even realize still exists beneath the fabric of other cultures and religions.  I certainly enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Disclaimer:  This scene contains descriptions of violence of a graphic nature and language some may find offensive.  Reader discretion is advised.

“In a Demon’s Wake” – Excerpt from IN HER NAME (Project Prometheus, Book 1)

“We went in there with orders not to kill anyone.  But no one told us the revolutionaries knew anything about bombs or planting mines.  Four of my team got blown to pieces when they tripped some hidden claymores.”

Manara gasped at those words, every muscle in her body tensed as if he physically struck her.  The memory of the canyon flooded over her.  Blessed Ishtar, she let it happen again!  No wonder he didn’t trust her!  She tried to pull away, sick with her own sins, but his arms were like steel bands around her waist and his gaze, when she turned to look at him, was fixed in another time.

“I guess I just flipped out or something.  I don’t really remember.  All I remember is turning the teams loose and telling them to waste every goddamned gook they saw.”

Manara saw the pain flash across his face, heard the hollow regret in his words.  This, she realized, was but one of his demons, spawned from whatever great evil had torn loose that piece of his soul.  Sadly, she knew his tale wasn’t over.  Covering his hands with her own, she asked, “What happened?”

His gaze came back to her and Manara wanted to weep at the coldness of his eyes.  This was the man she didn’t know — the one she saw only a glimpse of when his demons held her prisoner.  “They did exactly what I said.  Afterward, we found out there weren’t any revolutionaries in that village.  Just farmers.  The claymores were leftovers from V.C. plants in the Seventies.  They just weren’t uncovered until my men triggered them.  I ordered an entire village wiped out, for nothing.  Nothing!

Tears welled up in Manara’s eyes as she watched him struggle with the evil truth he held silent for so long, a mistake such a good man could only suffer under.

“Matthew.”  She reached to stroke his cheek.  “You cannot blame yourself when the true fault lies with another.  Who made that madman?  What was her name?”

He swallowed hard and Manara’s heart broke for him.  To live with such painful secrets…  His eyes met hers. She saw surprise, and then gratitude, light within the depths of his darkness.  He knew she understood. Perhaps that would make his tale easier for him to share.  A sigh left him and his eyes closed as he hugged her to him and the words flowed out.

“Her name was Rachel Murray, and I was all of fourteen years old.”

Look for this and more of Project Prometheus, coming soon from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Gatekeeper” – Excerpt from BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus)

PPAtlantisdecalBETWEEN WORLDS wraps up the sub-series within Project Prometheus called Atlantis Silver — a sub-series of five books that kicks off the entire series with the reincarnation of five Elders from the abandoned and mostly destroyed ancient island of Ali-Antos, known today as Atlantis.

BETWEEN WORLDS brings the Elders back to Ali-Antos, and the temple they abandoned in the face of its imminent destruction at the hands of the Brotherhood of Spiders. And none among the Elders has more to set right than the gatekeeper to the Temple of the Stars — a woman who literally gave everything she was to correct a grievous wrong she committed. And the price she’s to pay in her reincarnation may be one she can’t face at all.

 

“Gatekeeper”  – Excerpted from Project Prometheus: BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus, Book #5)

She was so cold.  The wind here on the shore was bitter, chilled by the storm raging around her.  Csilla huddled in the cavern, watching as the boats were made ready.

“Are you ready, Gatekeeper?”

She turned at the sound of a masculine voice, to find Sargon beside her, tall and strong in his armor, the glow of his charge shining around him even from where it rested, secure in the scabbard at his side.  She shuddered to think how, of them all, only she was a real danger.  Only her charge could bring them all back to this place, and only her charge could be forced from her grasp by any manner besides death.

“Go, Warrior,” she whispered, already aware of what she must do.  And yet, she could not tell these men, her soul-brothers, what she planned.  They would surely halt her plan, if they knew how she meant to protect them all.  “I am weary, and will bide here a while.”

He frowned.  “It is not safe, Csilla.  Already, Arachaena swarm the mountain above us.  They must not find us here.”

She looked out toward the storm-tossed waves where she once found solace.  Sadness gripped her. She would leave all of this behind. She hugged her cloak tighter about her shoulders.  There was no help for it.  This was as it must be.

“I shall follow directly.  Have Mykalos tie me a boat in yon rocks.”

Sargon sighed, but relented.  Truly, he was too tender to a woman’s comfort. She feared that would bring him to ill ends.  “Do not linger too long, Csilla.”

She smiled up at him, careful he did not read her sorrow.  “I will be gone before they arrive.”

With a nod, his eyes wary, Sargon left her and headed for the boats beyond.  Csilla sighed, and shivered slightly as she rested her back against the cool rocks.  The weight of the knife concealed beneath her cloak was a cold reminder of what she must do.  She would keep her promise.  Only, it would not be as Sargon believed.

Look for the book that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming soon from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Cursed” – Excerpt from DARK DESTINY (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecalAll authors have at least one scene that, from the moment they introduce two characters, they just know is coming. It can be a really good scene, or a really bad one, but you just know it’s coming, even if you don’t know how or when.

This was one of mine. I knew these two characters would have to face this question, and that Dimitri would have to face this truth, sooner or later. From the moment I was introduced to his character, in IN HER NAME, and learned of his mother’s curse, I knew he would have to face this vulnerability, eventually. And from the moment Shayne Richards came onto the scene in SHADOW WALKER, I instantly knew these two would have this scene out, together. I haven’t finished writing DARK DESTINY, yet, so I’ve no idea exactly how this will all play out, and exactly how Anastasia Romanov’s dying curse will be fulfilled, but I’m right there with you, hoping these two make it through the Hell they’re about to face…

“Cursed” –Excerpt from DARK DESTINY (Project Prometheus) –

He regarded her somberly, unwilling to touch her. If he touched her, he’d want to kiss her. And if he kissed her, he’d want more. But he couldn’t have more. She shouldn’t even be here.

“You do not understand, Shayne. It is dangerous for you to be here.”

She snorted indelicately, her gaze narrowed and her arms crossed over her chest where she leaned against the railing. “Every damned day of my life is dangerous. Try again.”

“Not like this.” Frustration welled inside of him. He didn’t know how to make her understand. “It is not just the Brotherhood that wants me dead, Shayne. There are other forces. Forces that seek to claim my soul, and punish me. Forces I turned my back on…”

He froze, unable to continue the thought. The dominion over which he once had control could use his words against him. They could turn his life into the nightmare he believed to be real until just recently.

Shayne straightened, her eyes flashing with that quick intelligence that he so admired, and he watched in dread as fascination dawned there. “Why?”

He tried to summon the stone face he was so known for. “Why what?”

“You turned your back on these mysterious forces. Why? If you knew they would kill you for it, why would you turn your back on them?”

Because they made me kill you. It wasn’t something he could ever admit to her. He couldn’t tell her he’d been the one responsible for her injury – for what he thought was her death – in Venice. He couldn’t tell her about the guilt that ripped him apart, or how much he wanted to go back in time and change that day, change his whole damned life. For the first time in his life, he felt unworthy, that day in Venice. In the face of her courage, her determination to do the right thing regardless of the cost, he came up against his own choices, and he realized what a coward he was. He took the easy way out – let the belief that his destiny was one of darkness, death, and blood keep him from even trying to be a better man.

Now, he stared into that abyss again, in her eyes, and knew if he didn’t leap the chasm between them, he truly would be damned for all time. She was waiting, and his salvation waited with her. Drawing a breath, Dimitri looked headlong into the future for the first time in his life, and leapt.

“For you. I turned my back on them for you, Shayne.”

“Venice” – Excerpt from DARK DESTINY (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecalWhen I started plotting this book, I knew I had an uphill battle for it, because the Emotional Black Moment that brings these two characters together starts long before the story itself does. I wasn’t sure how to deal with this issue, but I knew I couldn’t just leave it to dialogue or reflection to illuminate and resolve the depth of this Black Moment, since it has a vital impact of one of the characters’ Core Character Foundation. It needed impact, it needed given its due. And then, it came to me… it became an EBM that is being relived, over and over. This is the penance for crimes committed (well, part of it, anyway), and what’s going to have kept Dimitri on the “straight and narrow” ever since it happened. From that, the beginning of the book was born, and you, dear readers, get to see just how tortured this man really is, inside – something he very rarely lets slip out.

 

“Venice” — Excerpt from DARK DESTINY (Project Prometheus) –

He could feel his muscles tightening. He’d been crouched here behind the building’s ornate molding for too long, but he dared not move. Not yet. He hadn’t seen his target, and one flash of sunlight off his rifle scope could alert the woman currently in his crosshairs that he was there. She wasn’t stupid. Not by a long shot.

He studied all the information the Brotherhood of Spiders had on Shayne Richards, before he came here. And what he read, he found cause to admire. She was tough, smart, dedicated without being driven, and she was sane. Given the women in his world, that alone elevated her in his eyes. He was surrounded by temperamental, narcissistic and highly unstable women. Shayne was none of those things. She was level-headed, even-tempered, and… He almost smiled as he watched her stoop to retrieve an apple that rolled out of an old woman’s small rolling basket and returned it to the woman with a warm smile and a gentle touch to the shoulder. Shayne was compassionate. A trait sorely missing from his life.

It was a shame he couldn’t warn her what was coming. He knew, from her file, she would blame herself for the incident. But it wasn’t her fault Heinrich Gotter betrayed people he was supposed to know better than to cross. A burst of unfamiliar disquiet sizzled through Dimitri, but he knew he didn’t have a choice. He had a job to do.

He shifted his field of view as he saw Shayne glance toward the end of the bridge, and her body tensed. In an instant, he acquired his target, and realized Gotter was the reason Shayne tensed. So, she didn’t trust him, either. Smart girl.

Dimitri frowned. One shot, right now, and he could take out his target – no collateral damage. But that wasn’t what Red Widow wanted, and she called the shots. Joy wanted collateral damage. She wanted to send a message that crossing her got people killed. And, in the back of his mind, he acknowledged Joy was crazy enough to simply enjoy the prospect of having so much blood on her hands. Dimitri grimaced. On his hands.

He followed Gotter’s movements in the scope as the money launderer approached the Promethean, and another spurt of disquiet shot through Dimitri. He hoped Shayne was as quick as her file indicated. It would be a real shame for that kind of intelligence and skill to suffer for one man’s greed, and one woman’s madness.

When Gotter was just a handful of feet from where Shayne stood, he crossed into the kill box, and Dimitri instantly shifted his target to the innocuous-looking paper bag that appeared carelessly tossed by the side of the bridge. It was anything but. Inside it was enough C-4 to crumble the entire section of the walking bridge into the canal below. Dimitri didn’t allow himself to think about it. He just squeezed the trigger, and watched Hell explode.

As the debris settled, and the screaming began, his eyes locked in disbelief on the woman racing to pull people from the edge of the still-eroding hole. Was she insane, after all? She was risking her life for people she didn’t even know, and for a man she didn’t trust, blood and dust caking her face, clothing, and hands as she pulled person after person to safety, despite the risk to herself.

He sucked in a sharp breath as he watched her head snap Gotter’s way. The turncoat was hanging on a piece of the stone railing that hung out over the gaping space above the canal. The only way to get to him would require a rescuer to inch out along the rail, and risk the whole precarious structure plummeting into the canal. That bridge was old, unsafe to begin with, and there was no way to tell if Gotter was unconscious, or dead. She couldn’t seriously be considering…

He watched in horror he didn’t want to begin to examine too closely as Shayne gingerly placed one foot on the bottom part of the rail, and then the other, and began slowly inching her way toward the limp man. And, for the first time in his life, Dimitri held his breath. If she set her foot down wrong…

A harsh cry rent the air as her foot slipped off the rail, and she hung, scrambling for purchase for one terrifying instant, before the rail gave way and she disappeared into the canal in a cloud of dust, water, and stone.

“Shayne!” Dimitri yanked awake with a harsh cry, to find himself in the darkened confines of his hotel room, the sounds of surf and an all-night luau in progress outside the open window. He swiped a hand over his face, and grimaced as it came away wet with sweat. He knew it wasn’t from the pseudo-tropical heat. He was dreaming about her again.

“Imperial Blood” – Excerpt from THE EAGLE’S MISTRESS (Icarian Chronicles)

goldeneagleOnce upon a time, I started a historical series based around an old legend I found hidden in the stacks of the AFB library. It was a medieval legend of a female pirate, and while it was little more than a footnote in a book on Scandinavian and Russian history, it fascinated me, and I set out to write the account of a female pirate in 12th Century Europe.

Only, I was never really happy with how it came out. I adored the character, but she just didn’t fit her era right, and the politics of the time period made some of the aspects of her story border on the unbelievable. I just was never happy enough with it to really think about publishing it as more than a lark.

And then came the most wonderful idea… I realized it didn’t have to be history as we know it. I had other options! And, in early 2002, I started redrafting Sasha’s story into an Alternate History/Speculative Fiction series… And from the characters and background in her story grew an entire series. This series considers the possibility that Christianity never took hold, and that magic and mysticism prevailed. The continental shift happened differently, leading to a completely different allocation of resources and civilizations, and eventually to a power struggle within the ruling family/caste of the world, between the religious/spiritual and the pragmatic, warrior caste.

And thus was born the Icarian Chronicles, into which I would eventually introduce someone strange to their world, whose understanding of history I will proceed to totally warp. :).  But, for now, the series starts several years before Sasha’s birth, with her parents.

Enjoy!

 

“Imperial Blood” – Excerpt from THE EAGLE’S MISTRESS

(Icarian Chronicles, Book 1) -

Nira returned to her teacher’s side, tugging the shawl up around the old woman’s frail shoulders to ward off the evening chill. With a fond smile, she settled on the low stool beside Malisina’s chair.

“Tell me what you know of him, Mala,” she plied eagerly, curious to know everything about the man who came to disturb their peaceful home. “What kind of man is the Emperor?”

“Emperor, bah!” The older woman fluttered a scoffing hand through the air. “That pup is no more Emperor than I am the Goddess Efri!”

Nira’s eyes widened. This was the first she ever heard gentle Malisina speak ill of the new Emperor. “Have a care, Mala! He may mean to cause us harm.”

This brought a chuckle from Malisina, even as one trembling hand reached out to stroke her face lovingly. “Ah, my sweet child, not you. You have the power to show yon fledgling Eagle the error of his ways. Besides, I mean him no harm. I only tell them as I see them, and he is not yet an Emperor, and nor shall he be fully so, as long as our own sweet Mistress Eleindra draws breath. I fear those two shall be the death of us all, child, if one is not soon tamed.”

Nira drew back, puzzled. Malisina had a tendency to ramble, of late. Some whispered that she grew feeble-minded, but Nira wondered. Malisina was gifted with the Future Sight of a Truth-Sayer. Could her words be prophecy, not mad ramblings? A cold chill brushed Nira’s skin.

“What do you know of him, Mala?” She pleaded, clutching her guardian’s hand.

“Nothing to cause such fear, sweet child,” Malisina assured her gently, her wise old eyes sparkling. That look, alone, told Nira her teacher was far from mad.

“Then what?”

“Impatience, child,” Malisina scolded her, a familiar rebuke. Then, a soft smile turned up the woman’s lips. “Very well, I will tell you what I know. Yon Eagle has been groomed for this day since he was in leading straps. He was harnessed for war before he sat upon his first horse, or flew his first war bird. And yet, there is a sadness to him that speaks of a man who wishes for peace. You must remember this, child, or all that would come after you is lost.”

The warning furrowed Nira’s brow, but she nodded and scooted nearer. What Mala meant, she had no idea, but she would remember. Indeed, how could she ever forget these words?

“Eleindra once told me that her brother drew the blood of war from his own wrists. Some say there are scars there – marks of a boy who does not yet understand the man his father’s death created. And yet, he is strong, with great courage, and even greater arrogance. I believe they breed such qualities into all of Imperial blood, myself.”