“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…

“Moment of Doubt” — Excerpt from DAUGHTER OF ASHES (Legends of Tirum)

Daughter of Ashes

 

Legends of Tirum was another series that started out as a free-write notebook full of scenes. I started those back in the late 1980s, and collected them over the course of the next ten years, whenever I needed to take a break from the heavier Science Fiction books I was writing at the time. I was surprised to discover, in the mid-1990s, when I sat down to read through my accumulated scenes, that I had the foundation for a very unusual type of Sword-and-Sorcery Fantasy series. And, as the series background took shape over the next decade, the first book started to come together.

I really love the depth of these two characters – they manage to complete each other, without actually needing each other to be complete.  It’s a very interesting relationship. :)

 

“Moment of Doubt” – excerpt from DAUGHTER OF ASHES (Legends of Tirum, Book 1) –

Sala floated back into the fireplace, and the fire suddenly doused itself into little more than hot ash and a few smoldering coals.

Telyn swallowed hard, suddenly edgy now that she was completely alone with Nacaris.

“I don’t know how to do this,” she admitted quietly.

“Shh.” He touched a finger to her lips, stilling her. “I understand there are things you can’t share with anyone. I’m only asking to be a part of what you can share.”

His face filled her vision, and Telyn’s eyes widened as his lips replaced his touch against her mouth in a soft, gentle kiss she never expected from this battle-hardened man. Enclosed in his embrace as he released her lips, Telyn allowed herself to sink against the leather of his tunic and breathe in the scents of man, horse, and travel that clung to him. It was a comforting scent, underscored by something dark, dangerous, and uniquely Nacaris. She sighed regretfully. “I wish–“

“What?” He nuzzled her hair, and stroked a hand lightly over her back. “Talk to me, Telyn.”

She stifled a mirthless laugh. He had no idea how much she struggled to keep her thoughts from him — she already feared they were doomed. “I wish it could always be like this.”

“What, always on the hunt? Roaming endlessly, without a home?” He squeezed her lightly. “Be careful what you wish for, balnyt. Nature is both a capricious and mischievous mistress. You may get what you want, in ways you least desire.”

Telyn shuddered, hearing the ring of prophecy behind those teasing words. She wasn’t fool enough to test them just now. Instead, she burrowed into his embrace and allowed herself a rare moment to be something other than a warrior.

Pick up your copy of DAUGHTER OF ASHES today, at Amazon.com

“Dead Pirate Walking” – Excerpt from LADY’S LAMENT (Guardians, Inc)

Guardians DecalGuardians, Inc. has given me a lot of space to play, over the years. Until a few years ago, I had bunches of random scenes all collected in a series of notebooks I keep for when I free-write (that’s an exercise to keep the creative juices flowing when I get bogged down by something, or I experience a writing lull where I just can’t focus). I knew I wanted to do something with them, but my hands were tied by an early publishing mistake I made.

When I went back and decided to undo the mistake, to return a book that was virtually destroyed to its original glory, the floodgates opened, and Guardians, Inc and its sub-series came pouring out, from the notebooks, drawing forward a flood of fascinating characters I hadn’t realized introduced themselves in those free-writing pages.

Here’s a brief snippet from one of those stories, the creation of which comes from a free-writing session done in early 1991. Enjoy! :)

“Dead Pirate Walking”  — excerpted from Lady’s Lament (Guardians, Inc)

There was someone up there.  A  chill of awareness slid through Alie, pulling her gaze to the upstairs window of the old manor, even as her brain called her an idiot for believing Mrs. Tolliver’s stories.  She dealt with Paras every day, and she’d never encountered a ghost.  She didn’t even believe in them.

She was about to turn away, when the curtains stirred again.  The air left her body in a gasp of disbelief as a shadowy figure passed behind the curtains and disappeared.  There was no one in that wing of the manor; not at this time of night.  But it was exactly where the chatty town historian told her rumor said the pirate appeared, keeping look out for the lover who once betrayed him.

A new shiver passed through Alie, and nausea gripped her.  There are no such things as ghosts.

But what if there were?  Were the stories true?  After all this time, had Captain Sawyer come back from the grave?  Or had he simply never left?

“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 know¾the 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.

“Missing” — Excerpt from A WAY HOME (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecalFrom the moment Jimmy first introduced himself, in HOPE OF HEAVEN, I knew he would get his own story, and it would have to be something pretty intense. What I never expected was for him to fall head-over-heels for the Promethean kids’ resident bad-girl-with-a-cause, Leanne Branson. But once he did, it really clicked, and this just made sense.

This is the opening for the story…

 

“Missing” –Excerpt from A WAY HOME (Project Prometheus) –

Icy mid-Autumn rain spattered the edge of the porch and kicked up to land in misty droplets on his jean-clad legs. Appropriate. James Richard Talladay — Jimmy to his family, and J.R. to anyone else who mattered – stared out at the misty, rain-drenched day rolling over Burn Cleary farm, and tried to shake off the unsettling feeling clinging to him.

Something wasn’t right.

If only he could put his finger on the feeling.

He could hear his parents in the house behind him, bickering good-naturedly about his mother’s most recent project. Hope Talladay always had some project at hand, and recently, she’d taken on some research on ancient funerary rites, for a Promethean team hunting down grave robbers in Cambodia. She’d been talking about going there, and his father was none-too-keen on the idea. J.R. smothered a quiet laugh, already aware his mother would win, in the end. Peter Talladay could refuse his wife nothing, when it came down to it, and their love formed the core of what J.R. wanted for himself, someday. He wanted that kind of love.

A smile tucked up one corner of his mouth, though the melancholy of the day determined to wrap itself around him. His sister Claire called him a hopeless romantic. She told him he was too full of Irish blarney, always with that teasing twinkle in her iridescent eyes.

He heard the screen door open and close behind him, then the squeak of the weather-swollen wood.

“You’re sure quiet, today.”

He turned to offer Claire a warm smile, and shook his head as he accepted the coffee mug she held out to him. At just shy of sixteen, Claire already had the wizened eyes their father swore came from their grandmother, Sinead. She just knew things. Clair rarely asked questions she didn’t already know the answer to.

“I’m feeling…” He shrugged helplessly.

“Restless?” Claire raised a knowing brow, even as she reached to push back strands of dark hair from her face. She had their father’s dark hair and mother’s changeling eyes, while he favored his mother’s wavy auburn hair and dove grey eyes Hope claimed came from his grandmother’s family. Claire touched a hand, warm from her own mug, to his chilled arm. “Jimmy, you know they’re doing their best.”

He winced. He should have known she’d get right to the heart of what bothered him most, recently. Leanne was missing. Again. The bloody woman made a habit of taking off at the first sign of trouble, and forced everyone else to turn their lives on end to track her down. If he didn’t know better – if he thought she ever gave him an instant’s thought – he’d swear she was daring him to come find her.

Leanne Branson kept him wrapped in knots, from the very first time he met her. At first, he didn’t like her very much. The then-thirteen-year-old Leanne had been smart-mouthed, demanding, and overbearing in a way he, at fourteen, found bloody annoying. Until he realized how brilliant – and how lonely – Leanne really was. She didn’t fit in with the other Promethean kids. She wanted something different from life than they did, and her parents didn’t encourage her. Tom was convinced she needed guarding – though from someone else or herself, J.R. was never sure – and Stasia was appalled that her daughter wanted to go crawl around in a muddy pit, somewhere. They loved her, sure, but they didn’t know how to support her, and the rest of the kids – with the exception of Daria Raleigh – just thought Leanne was a pain. So she determinedly lived up to that image.
And the more he got to know her, the more J.R. got to like the real Leanne. It didn’t take much to stumble right from like to puppy love.

And that should have been where it stayed. Friends, a crush… nothing more. But he was having a hard time keeping to that very wise decision. Every time Leanne took off, he was terrified she wasn’t coming back, or that she would fall head-over-heels for some thug who didn’t deserve her. He dreaded that day, but he couldn’t do a damned thing about it. Leanne never so much as glanced his way with more than a friendly smile.

And now she was missing. Again. No one knew where she was, and that twisted in his gut like a python with a death grip.

“I know,” he answered his sister, his gaze fixed out into the fog as he sipped his coffee. “I just wish I knew where she was.”

Claire sighed, and rested her cheek against his bicep. “Then go find her, Jimmy. Go bring her home.”

 

“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.”

“Cutting” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

There’s a side to Matt Clipper, aka Watchdog, that very few people get to see. In fact, the only people who ever see the side of him that scares him most are Tamia (who, being a former streeter, comes with similar baggage, and saw right through him from the beginning) and Jen, whom he can’t seem to shut out no matter how hard he tries…

Here’s a little look into that core personality, and the demons that drive him to self-mutilation…

This scene contains graphic imagery and adult language not suitable for younger readers.  Reader discretion is advised.

 

 

“Cutting” – Excerpted from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book # 4)

“You just can’t help yourself, can you?”  The sour tone behind his back stopped Matt Clipper in his tracks.  He really didn’t want to have this conversation, right now.  Especially not with her.  He was too pissed, and his chest squeezed with pain no medication on the planet could ease.  Hell, he had no idea what he might say, in this state.  Words tangled in his head, and he didn’t know how, or if, they’d come out.  However, words never seemed to be a problem for Jen.  Even the wrong ones.

“Go away, Jen.  You got what you wanted.”

He heard her gasp, and winced at the pain in that sound, but kept walking.  He didn’t want to think he was capable of hurting her; he already knew he could do it.  And he really didn’t want to go there.  All he wanted, right now, was to get as far away from her, and the searing agony of what she’d done, as he could.  He wanted to lock himself in his quarters and bleed out the pain of her betrayal.  Damn it, couldn’t she just leave well enough alone?

Her footfalls behind him echoed off the titanium-steel walls, and he gritted his teeth against the urge to turn, yank her off her feet, and burn out his fury in a way he was sure would destroy everything between them.  Didn’t she get it?  He was on the edge, here.

“Talk to me.”

Like hell, he would.  He was done talking.  It never solved anything; he learned that as a kid.  “Quit following me.”

“No, dammit.  I want to know why the hell you can’t tell me what you’re doing out there.”

A sharp bark of laughter forced its way from him.  Not that there was anything funny about what she said.  He was ready to fly apart at the seams, here, and she wanted to talk about his job.  Fat chance, honey.  “Screw you.”

Relief twisted his brain as he entered his quarters.  When the obstruction tone sounded, letting him know the door couldn’t close, he groaned and turned, to find Jen with her foot wedged against the door.

“Go away,” he growled at her, desperation clawing through him.  Damn it, he needed to get her out of here, where she’d be safe, before he went into total meltdown.

“Look at me.”

“No.  Goddammit, Doc, go away!”

“I didn’t ask for this, you know.”

He gritted his teeth.  She wasn’t asking for the rage that built inside of him, either.  Only, she couldn’t see that.  She wouldn’t know the storm was brewing until it exploded.  And he’d live just long enough to regret every second of it.  He wanted to scream at her to get away, for her own safety, but he couldn’t.  He didn’t dare.  He had to keep control for just a moment longer, he promised himself.  Just until he could get rid of her.  And just as long as he didn’t touch her, he could do this.

“Jen,” he was begging now, and he didn’t care.  “Just leave me alone.”

She edged forward a step.  “You think I want to be your shadow?  You think I want to learn about what you do out there in little bits, or from a third party?  Damn it, Matt, I want you to talk to me, for once in your degenerate life!  I don’t want to fix you…”

He almost lost it, at that.  A twisted, desperate laugh burst from him as he practically dashed for the cabinet where he kept his switch blade locked up when he wasn’t on the street.  “Sure sounded like it to me, Doc.  Go the fuck away.  Go play head games with someone else.”

She looked shocked, and worried.  “Matt?”

“Go.  Please, just go.”

“This isn’t a head game, and… and…What are you doing?”

His head lifted sharply from his task as he worked the lock on the cabinet in desperation.  The crazed lunatic urges prowling in his head grew loud, and the glare he fixed on her was deadly with intent.  His hand slapped the cabinet door shut, even as the last vestige of his sanity screamed No! He stalked her, pain writhing in his gut as her eyes widened in fear of him for the first time since they met, and she backed away a step, into the corridor.  He told himself that was good enough.  It was what he wanted, after all.  His fist hit the door, and he trembled as he sank to his knees, his forehead pressed to the cool metal door.  He was so fucked.

He was on his feet again in a surge of motion, desperate to kill the beast before he went after Jen.  He threw himself at the cabinet like the maniac he really was, grabbing up his switch blade and flicking the catch open as he yanked off his shirt.  His hand trembled, and he knew that no pansy-ass nicks were going to make a damned bit of difference, this time.  It was all or nothing.

The pain as he pulled the blade down across his arm was sharp, burning up into his shoulder and chest, but only for a moment.  Then, endorphins crashed over him, and muted out the clawing madman, and Matt sank against the back of the sofa, dropping the knife as he closed his eyes and breathed deep, feeling sanity return.

As he straightened, however, queasiness assaulted him, and his head felt detached from his shoulders.  He swayed, tried to catch himself on a low bookcase, and toppled the whole thing as he stumbled.  Oh, fuck.  He stared at the blood running down his arm in morbid fascination, and a hoarse laugh bubbled up.  He didn’t need to worry about hurting Jen, anymore.  Hell, he didn’t need to worry about anything, now.

Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE and find out more about the Underground series at www.esthermitchell.com