“Beginnings” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc.: Witch Hollow)

sightunseencoverartWhat happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

When a wealthy philanthropist is found dead in a locked room, with no apparent cause of death beyond the faint scent of incense, Dr. Faith MacKenzie and her team have their work cut out for them. As the case starts to go cold, she’ll be forced to turn to a man with abilities in which she can’t bring herself to believe, and credentials that leave her no choice but to accept the possibility he might just be on the level.

 

“Beginnings” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc.: Witch Hollow, Book #1):

The rain fell in sheets, lashing across the windshield with vicious force. Dr. Faith MacKenzie wiped again at the misty condensation on the windshield’s interior and cursed the miserable weather. She could barely see the road through the rain, and each spike of lightning and accompanying roar of thunder nearly blinded and deafened her.

It was raining when her alarm woke her at six this morning. That gentle cascade lifted the fragrance of damp grass and lilac through her open bedroom window, promising a peaceful spring day. However, somewhere along the way it turned violent. It was evening now, shortly after seven, and the pounding storm made her wish she owned a boat rather than her navy-blue Chevrolet. After the week she had, she could do without another waterlogged crime scene. Especially one so close to her family.

The ring of her cell phone, currently synched to her car’s hands-free system, cut through the hypnotic drone of the windshield wipers and the pelting of rain against the car, startling her. Righting the car’s trajectory, she tapped the answer button on her steering wheel.

“Doctor MacKenzie.”

“Hey, girlfriend. It’s me.” Joyce Lindon’s cheerful voice filled the car. “How’d the floater go?”

“Wet. The body’s on its way to the Bunker.” Faith grimaced at the memory of the swollen, putrefied body of a young woman she just finished dredging out of the Monongahela River when she got the call for the Manor. “Let Mark know he needs to go over the body and collect any trace, before he puts her in the cooler. Oh, and can you tell Linda I need her to meet me out at the Manor?”

“She’s already out there. As soon as we got the call, she left with her sketch pad. She has fresh SD cards for the cameras, too.”

“Good. Did you all get any more information on what’s going on out at the Manor? All I know, at this point, is that someone discovered a body somewhere on the grounds.”

“You know as much as we do.” Joyce sounded concerned. “I was actually calling because I hoped you had more information. You haven’t heard from Patrice or Ramsey?”

“No.” And the silence worried her. With the body count racking up, she didn’t like knowing this killer had access to her uncle’s home. Between the floater and the body she was on her way to collect at the Manor, this made five bodies in the past two weeks, spread over the entire Witch Hollow area. That made more violent deaths in one area than she saw in the past six years since she returned to Haitsburg. “The varying degrees of decomposition suggests whoever is responsible for these killings isn’t new at this.”

“You still think it’s all one person?”

“The three decedents we already have in the cooler have similar injuries.”

“Similar?”

“Enough to indicate the possibility of a serial killer. If the body I just recovered and the one at the Manor show consistent injuries, I’ll be comfortable calling it confirmed.” Four days ago, she and her crew unearthed the first skeletal remains. The state of the bones indicated the murder took place years ago — maybe even decades. She’d checked the National Crime Information Center, but so far she hadn’t come up with any other matches. “NCIC didn’t have anything for us, but I can’t rule out the possibility his other victims haven’t been found, yet.”

“His?”

“Statistically, serial killers are predominantly male. Particularly when the victims are women.”

“All right. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” With that Joyce signed off, and Faith tapped the end button and released her breath in a heavy sigh.

As fascinating as the prospect of a serial killer was, from an investigative and profiling standpoint, she knew how bad this was. Cases like Ed Gein and Ray and Faye Copeland were proof enough how dangerous having a serial killer running around in a small town community was. Being a forensic pathologist and profiler wasn’t usually the busiest of jobs in a small town like Haitsburg. In fact, probably half the county thought she was crazy. She turned down positions in Philadelphia and New York City to come back to rural Pennsylvania, where she grew up. No one else knew why, or understood her reasoning if they did know. They all thought she was crazy to turn down a glamorous, big-city job.

She didn’t care. After nine-eleven, she had nothing left to prove to herself or anyone else. She had more than enough nightmares to last her for the rest of her life.

Want to know more? Stay tuned… SIGHT UNSEEN will be released October 11, 2016 from Desert Breeze Publishing.
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“Serial Killer” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

 

What happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

sightunseencoverart

When a wealthy philanthropist is found dead in a locked room, with no apparent cause of death beyond the faint scent of incense, Dr. Faith MacKenzie and her team have their work cut out for them. As the case starts to go cold, she’ll be forced to turn to a man with abilities in which she can’t bring herself to believe, and credentials that leave her no choice but to accept the possibility he might just be on the level.

 

“Serial Killer” — Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 1):

She lifted one brow and stared him down expectantly.  He fought the urge to chuckle. She was adorable, when she was pissed. Not that he was about to admit it to her.

“All right.” He threw his hands up in mock surrender. “You’re right. I had the forensic accountants go over his financials, and it doesn’t look like your pal, Adam, had any reason to want Parrish dead.”

“Good.” She turned back to the samples on her workstation. “Now maybe we can get back to finding the real killer.”

“Like Patton.”

She shot him a withering glance over her shoulder. “Would you let it go, already?”

“Why? Even you admitted he matches your profile of the type of person most likely to want Parrish dead.”

She turned toward him again, her arms crossed over her chest and her gaze cool. “Perhaps. But if he’s Ramsey’s killer, what’s his connection to Carol-Ann? Or the other five victims?”

“You found a solid link?” Jonathan straightened, instantly on alert. Mac wasn’t able to link the cases more than peripherally, before. Not enough to convince her they were connected, and he wasn’t about to argue with someone with her credentials, when it came to these things.

“Not conclusive, no. But I had Mark run gas chromatographic analysis of the clothing of four of the other victims, and there are consistent levels of the same incense components in all of them as we found on Ramsey.”

“What about the others?”

“Carol-Ann’s body was submerged in the Monongahela for so long, all chemical traces were washed away, and one of the other victims was little more than a skeleton. We barely found enough clothing fibers to confirm she was definitely clothed at the time of burial. Beyond that, there just wasn’t a big enough sample to get a definitive test, and we can’t be sure there wasn’t any environmental contamination of the sample.”

Jonathan reached into his pocket for his cell phone. “Consistent is good enough for me.  Thanks, Mac.”

Even as he dialed Damion’s number, Jonathan squashed the uneasy feeling in his gut. This was almost too easy. What kind of sick game was Haliatus up to, now?

Look for SIGHT UNSEEN, coming from Esther Mitchell and Desert Breeze Publishing on October 11, 2016.

BURDEN OF PROOF Available for Sale

Burden of Proof is now available on Amazon.com in both ebook and paperback!

The charities benefited by this book are the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and The Rape Foundation. Half of all royalties from the sales of this book will be divided between these two charities, annually.

Thank you to the talented Nikita Gordyn for the beautiful cover art.

This book contains possible triggers for those who are survivors of rape and domestic violence. Chapter specifically involving trigger information will be marked with a trigger warning.

About the book:

When Justice Fails, Can Love Prevail?

Chelsea Hanover prides herself on one undisputed fact; she’s never lost a case. A crack young defense attorney, she takes only cases she believes in, and sticks to her rule of never mixing business with pleasure. Now, Pittsburgh socialite Marlene Cavarella has been arrested in the fatal stabbing of her wealthy husband, Dominic, and Chelsea finds herself thrust into the midst of a murder case set to turn her entire reality inside out. And the only man who might save her is a man she doesn’t want to trust, or to love.

Burden of Proof Final

If you, or someone you love, has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault,  please know 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.

“Dangerous Request” – Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

BloodDebtCoverArt

When Doctor Michael Banks asked his brother to find him a specialist to help combat the biological weapon wiping out entire villages in the Amazon jungles, he expected a dedicated, licensed doctor with enough lab time to make Albert Schweitzer green with envy, and warrior enough to handle himself in the Amazon.  So he was stunned and disappointed to find himself face-to-face with a petite spitfire of a woman with no degree, desert features, and china blue eyes.  To beat the poison, Michael will need everything at his disposal, and the Persian spitfire at his side has the key to his most valuable weapon — if he can keep her far away from his darkest secret.

 

“Dangerous Request” –Excerpt from Blood Debt (Project Prometheus, Book 4) :

Michael, his head bent in concentration over the most recent batch of blood tests, jerked upright as a scream tore through the camp. As his brain registered the sound came from the nearby blood-supply tent, where Shahdi was working, icy panic lanced through him.

He lunged for the lab’s entrance, and dashed out into the bright light of day, with barely an acknowledgement of moving as he tore into the canvas of the collapsed tent next door.

“Shahdi!”

“Michael,” her faint voice, even muffled by the heavy canvas, sent an electric charge of relief through his veins. Shoving aside canvas as he went, Michael waded through the collapsed tent, until he uncovered a sight that made his blood run cold.

Shahdi lay pinned beneath a large chunk of the main support pole, with the heavy beam wedged sideways across her body from left shoulder to right hip. That thing had to be crushing her!

Scrambling to her side, Michael grasped the pole, muscles straining as he lifted the beam away. It wasn’t as heavy as it was awkward to lift, but it was still heavy enough to do damage when dropped from nearly fifteen feet above. Discarding the pole, he dropped to the ground at Shahdi’s side even as she tried to sit up.

“Don’t move!”

She gave him an odd look — probably questioning the sharp fear in his voice — but subsided with nothing more than a sigh and a wince. Michael ran his hands quickly over her body, checking for cracked or broken bones and warmer than normal spots that would indicate internal bleeding. Relief poured through him when he found nothing.

“This is not how I planned to have your hands on me.” The humorous lilt of Shahdi’s voice snapped his gaze to her face, and he scowled as his fear boiled over into anger.

“You could have been killed, and you’re cracking jokes?”

She rolled her eyes as she slowly sat up, his hands steadying her in spite of her apparent strength.

“You must learn to not fret so, Michael,” she murmured. “The point is that I was not harmed. Therefore, a little humor puts the situation into its proper place.”

“You’re going to have nasty bruises by tomorrow–”

“But they will heal with time.”

“You’ll be stiff and hurting–”

“But I am alive.”

He eyed her testily, his nerves drawn to breaking point. Damn it, she was hurt; couldn’t she see how much the idea scared him? “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

“No.” Her good humor fled, and her somber blue gaze met his. “I do not know how to make you love me.”

Blood Debt – Available from Desert Breeze Publishing on May 11,2016

“The Seer’s Curse” – Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

ShadowWalkerCoverArt

Their mission is to search out and bring down those who trade in terrorism, fear, and human suffering by whatever means necessary.  To do this, they must be willing to give up their freedom, and even their lives. They are a mercenary unit with a mission, and a motivation that has nothing to do with what they get paid, and everything to do with the innocent lives they save. Meet the men and women of…

Project Prometheus

Trevor Watkins is the miracle of the hour; the survivor of an unassisted coma.  But he awakes in a strange place, with no memory but one – the smiling face of a woman with jade-green eyes he has a dreadful feeling he’s supposed to hate.  Trapped in a living nightmare from which he believes there is no escape, he finds himself face-to-face with a betrayal he can’t help but forgive, and a secret he can’t hide from.  Now, the jade-eyed beauty from his past can set him free, if he’s willing to let her step into a world that could take her away from him forever.

“The Seer’s Curse” -Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Book 3) —

Smoke curled up from the city below, and the distant sounds of death and battle filled Ausar’s ears.  His nostrils flared with the scent of burnt flesh and fresh blood, and rage coiled in his gut to know that Onuris’ minions were the genesis of this slaughter.  As the Crophines‘ Seer, his was the responsibility to guide Ali-Antos towards a bright future.  Why had he not foreseen this?  Why did he receive no warning, no way by which to prepare the people of Ali-Antos for battle?  It was as if the Great Gods mocked him, reminding him that, while he was immortal within the confines of Aermornosa, he was still fallibly human.  Now, the people he was sworn to guide and protect were helpless lambs at the altar of Onuris’ lust for blood and power.

A low, lupine growl rumbled through his chest, and his pupils drank in the light as the wildness within gripped him.  If not for his position, he would be down there, in the thick of battle.  The Gods gifted him with an ability that could turn the tide of the struggle in the city below.  But the weight of the Medicine pouch slung across his chest reminded him that he was bound by other covenants.  He must defend his charge, regardless of the cost.  Which meant he must leave this place.  When the Sodalitas Arachaena arrived at Aermornosa’s gates, they must find nothing of use.

“We must go.”

He turned toward the voice, to meet the dark gaze of the Musir to his left.   Sargon.  The Warrior among them.  Quickly, his gaze flashed over the rest.  Lugh, Mykalos, Csilla.  These were the only family he knew, and he would defend them with his life’s blood.

“It is time, Shadow Walker,” Sargon nodded toward the hidden tunnel that led to the docks only the Elder Musir knew existed.  There, boats would carry them to the far reaches of the Earth, to hide their charges.  They would never see each other again.  And the darkness that filled Ausar had only one bright spot of light.  He had seen the future, in his mirror.  One day, the Gods would bring the five sacred artifacts back to Aermornosa, and return the balance.  Peace settled over him.  That knowledge was comfort enough.

Get ready for the next Chapter of Project Prometheus

SHADOW WALKER

Available 12/21/2015

Discover Project Prometheus today!  Join the struggle between light and darkness with IN HER NAME

“Christmas Shadows”: Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

ShadowWalkerCoverArtWhen I first realized Trevor and Jaye’s story was going to play out over the holiday season, I was leery of what I call “the Rockwell Effect.” That is, I was very much afraid I’d end up with some postcard-perfect family scene that was a total contradiction to the emotionally volatile situation these two characters were in.

But, as usual with my characters, Trevor and Jaye came through for me.  Even little Jordan added that special, bittersweet moment of the hope of Christmas magic and the uncertainty of a child whose world is far from decided. And the scene that followed left me holding my breath in awe of this character (Trevor) I watched come to life from the first time he appeared on the page, in IN HER NAME.

“Christmas Shadows”: Excerpted from Project Prometheus: SHADOW WALKER —

Left alone in the empty family room, still surrounded by the scents and sights of the home he should have had all along, Trevor stared sightlessly at the dancing lights of Jaye’s Christmas tree until the image blurred before his eyes.  He’d thought he could put things right, that if he cared enough, and paid enough, he could wipe out the debt he had, and start over.  Have a real chance.

But the frightened little voice now echoing in his ears, and the worried frown that didn’t belong on a nine-year-old’s face, haunted him.  Jordan’s love was immediate and unconditional.  But the boy’s trust was another matter, and in that Trevor saw himself again, a twelve-year-old boy faced with his father’s absence, and his mother’s distance as she lost herself in a bottle.  Had he ever really forgiven either of them?

The answer was a resounding No.  He’d pitied his mother, but he still couldn’t forgive her for choosing alcohol over her children.  Even after his own bout with that demon, he couldn’t let go of the pain.  And Jerome’s chronic selfishness – bitterness and rage stirred in Trevor’s chest.  The man abandoned them.  Disappeared.  And now Trevor managed to prove himself as unreliable as either parent.

The disgust he felt for himself shook Trevor to the core.  He’d hurt Jaye and Jordan in ways he couldn’t erase.  There was no clean slate, and he was a fool to think there could ever be one.  He would spend the rest of his life earning Jordan’s trust, and probably still fail in the end.  But Jaye – Jaye’s fears, he could set right.  She was afraid he blamed her for Somalia.  She thought she wasn’t worthy of him.  The mere thought caught in his throat.  As if he was such a great catch.

With a resigned sigh, Trevor levered himself up from the sofa and turned off the Christmas lights, plunging the room into near-darkness.  How appropriate.  He lived in shadow, chained far away from the light.  But if he was very lucky, tonight he might just win a reprieve.

Get ready for the next Chapter of Project Prometheus

Shadow Walker

Available 12/21/2015

“In Darkness” – Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum)

A friend’s quest for identity sends Telyn and her party into a land long draped in secrecy and legend. The truth they find staggers them all, because when the next Chosen is revealed, her identity will leave Telyn questioning her own fate, and the choices she’s made. And when Telyn’s life is upended by a disaster she never saw coming, she finds herself up against the most important question of her life: Is her pride and fear worth the cost, if that cost is everything she loves?

Nacaris gave half his life, and all his heart, to a woman he’s afraid he might never convince to become his wife. As the Chosen and their companions follow the trail of a friend’s desire to learn his past, Nacaris finds himself in a position he never imagined, with a decision to make that could change his life forever. Can he accept his destiny as Fire’s companion, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he’s ever asked from her?

“In Darkness” — Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum, Book 6)

Telyn and Nacaris moved through the darkness, him taking cue from the motion of her shadowy form, aware she could see as clear as day even with just the muted light of the twin moons, this close to Moon Dark.

They moved silently, so attuned to one another Nacaris could barely recall what it was like to either approach or attack a fortification without Telyn at his side. She glanced his way, and her glowing lavender eyes conveyed the same certainty. Nothing ever solidified their relationship more than times of danger, when they relied on each other for safety and stability.

“There.” Telyn’s whispered acknowledgement, as much as the tilt of her head toward the fortress, sent his attention to their target, where a flickering light glowed in the Western tower room. “Sala says the boy’s definitely in that room.”

“And the Pearl?”

A moment of silence, during which Telyn stood frozen, stretched between them, before she shook her head. “Sala says Artu will be able to tell us. The Sea Witch has been trying to force him to use it.”

Nacaris stopped, recalling Sele and Brunnari’s fake Phoenix Book. His gut clenched. He nearly lost Telyn forever that day. Watching her fly into the wall and collapse, unbreathing, never left him in all the Summers since. Blessed Sheli, were they walking into another trap?

“How could he?” Nacaris rasped. “I thought only Water’s Chosen could use the Pearl.”

“Properly, aye.” Telyn’s grim tone was far from reassuring. “But as with all the Aerai Majin‘s artifacts, they can be misused easily enough, whether with the best or worst of intentions.”

Those words told him she was remembering the same events he was. He always wondered what must have gone through her mind in the instant she was catapulted into that wall, and where she went that allowed her to kill a man even as she lay dying on the floor. Telyn was very closemouthed about the details of what happened, and he knew they pained her even all this time later, so he never asked. When she was ready, she would tell him.

Now, as they stood facing a very familiar threat, he had to know one thing. “That… Whatever you did in Brunnari’s tower. Can you do it again, if you need to? Come back, I mean.”

She refused to look his way, and Nacaris’ gut clenched in fear. Then, in a grim, quiet voice, she admitted, “I don’t know.”

His brow furrowed. “Maybe you should go back.”

Her gaze did come his way, then, full of confusion. “Why? I’m just as capable as you, and I’m less vulnerable to physical attack–“

“And we have a daughter who needs her mother.” He wasn’t sure he could convince her how much risk she was putting herself at. But one thing he did know, she would never risk Sheylan’s safety or welfare.

She paused for a moment, then shook her head. “This is important, Nacaris. Sheylan is in good hands, and I need to see this through. I just have this feeling…”

If there was one thing he learned very quickly to trust, it was Telyn’s intuition. She was Chosen, and the fiery heart of their world spoke to her in words even she didn’t always understand.

“All right. Any brilliant ideas how we get into that tower?”

Telyn wasn’t listening, her attention focused on something else, before she started moving toward the far end of the fortress wall. “I have an idea. Follow me.”

A wry smile tugged at his lips as he jogged to catch up with her quick stride. She didn’t have to ask him to follow her. Didn’t she know yet that he’d follow her anywhere?

Get your copy of CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS today!

Follow the quest from the beginning, starting with DAUGHTER OF ASHES!