BURDEN OF PROOF Patron Search

I’ve been talking for a while about getting my charity series, starting with Burden of Proof (to benefit RAINN and The Rape Foundation) back out and available for sale.

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Burden of Proof Final

“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!

“A Mother’s Promise” — Excerpt from VENGEFUL HEART (Underground)

Vengeful Heart Cover (My version)Some wounds, even time can’t bind. But vengeance, and redemption, might. Tamia Carinson is convinced of it. When she left for Tibet, Tamia vowed to never give up on her search for the Mole, and her husband’s killer. In the two years since she left, she’s uncovered Jeffrey Colbert’s vendetta against Rick, and she’s convinced Colbert killed him. Now, with a vow of vengeance burning in her aching heart, where the pain she’s never learned to move past still haunts her, Tamia’s finally come home to New York City, and her revenge.

“A Mother’s Promise” — Excerpt from VENGEFUL HEART (Underground, Book 5)

Ah-ma.”

Tamia glanced away from the screen of Rick’s datareader at the tug on her shirt tail. A smile pulled up her lips as she met innocent blue eyes, and the familiar twin tugs of love and loss gripped her.

“What is it, baby?” She scooped her son into her lap at the Command Center conference table, and swallowed down the lump of guilt that lodged in her throat. Michael didn’t understand what was happening. All her baby knew was someone plucked him from the safe, low-tech world he knew, and dropped into this world of light and sound, where she was the only familiar thing he could find. It must be terrifying.

Po-po ka-bah?”

Her eyes closed at that anxious request, and she hugged him close. How could she explain that his great-grandfather, whom he adored, wasn’t here, and she had no idea when or if they’d ever see him again? Not that Kuron’s influence on her son wouldn’t far outlast his physical presence, or anything she could teach.

Po-po isn’t here, Mikey.”

He tilted his head to the right, in a move so very Kuron Tamia smothered a laugh, as he digested her words. Oh, yeah. The old man had one hell of an influence. No surprise there. In her own way, she absorbed her grandfather’s influence, as well. She’d just been too angry to act on it. She’d been stupid — something Michael definitely wasn’t. The scary intelligence behind Michael’s every consideration — as if he processed and dissected more than mere words — was all his father’s genes. As much as those deep blue eyes were.

Pa-pha?”

Tamia’s heart froze mid-beat, as her eyes fixed on her son in disbelief. Had her son picked up more than she realized from Kuron, even at this young age? Why else would he ask the one question she still wasn’t prepared to answer? She told herself she’d been preparing for this day ever since she first learned of the explosion that took Rick away from them. But the truth was, she was far from prepared, in the face of her son’s innocent query. Michael was too young to understand death, and she did everything in her power to shield him from it. She saw enough for both of them.

“Oh, baby.” She couldn’t help the catch in her voice as she gathered him close and breathed his sweet, baby-fresh scent. She rocked him in her lap as she fought down tears at the painful twist of her gut.

“Someday,” she promised in a whisper as she kissed his forehead. “Someday, I’ll tell you all about your daddy.”

Coming February 2016 from Esther Mitchell and Under The Moon publishing. Find out how the story begins with the rest of the Underground series, available now at Amazon.com  

“Dreams In Danger” – 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.

“Dreams in Danger” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Book #3)

Jaye stopped in the middle of her great-grandmother’s sitting room, her eyes closed, and drew in deep, cleansing breaths. The air here was old, yet sweet with the remnants of the last time Gran was here to clean during the summer. She let it fill her, take her away from the dark, terrible reason for her return. She nearly jumped as Trevor’s voice spoke from behind her.

“Where did you get this place, again?”

He loosed a quiet whistle of appreciation. The awe on his face as he turned in a wide circle in the middle of the spacious sitting room stirred a pang of combined nostalgia and regret in Jaye. The sturdy old house never failed to awe her either, no matter that she’d owned it for nearly fifteen years. Once, she dreamed of making a home here, but those dreams died in a single night in Hell. They were never coming back.

Dumping her purse and coat on the rocking chair her great-grandfather made with his own hands, she drew another deep breath of chilly, slightly-stale air and sighed. Even unused for years, this place made her feel like she’d come home.

“It was given to me,” she answered Trevor with a bittersweet smile. “My great-grandmother had it built here on Boone Mountain in 1907, because she believed she belonged here, rather than locked away on a Reservation. When she died, the house passed to Gran, who stubbornly refuses to live anywhere but on the Reservation. When I turned eighteen, she gave me the house. She said it was where I, not she, belonged.” Jaye traced loving fingers along the sturdy oak dining table as she made her way through the dining room. “She was right, too. I couldn’t bear to part with this place, even when I knew I wouldn’t be able to live here. It’s been too much a part of my dreams for too long to give up.”

“Dreams?” Trevor’s voice sounded suspiciously husky, and, when she turned to meet his gaze, the naked hunger there twisted her heart. Why couldn’t he just trust her?

Of course, she already knew the answer to that. With a wince, she admitted, “I always dreamed of living here. I decided that when I retired from active duty, I’d come here to live. I dreamed of coming home. I wanted to fill this place with the laughter and love it was built to hold.”

He slanted her a curious look. “So why didn’t you, after Jordan was born? You were never very concerned with more than your required four years of service before.”

She turned away from him to hide the pain she knew was visible in her eyes. Didn’t he remember? Didn’t he realize what it meant to her to have him a part of those dreams?

“I couldn’t bear it,” she admitted in a raw whisper. “My career was the only place I could hide from my dreams. Somewhere along the way, the dream changed. And then I killed it completely.”

He was silent for so long she feared he left. She was just about to turn and look, when she heard a shuddering sigh leave him.

“I remember.” His booted footsteps creaked on the old wood floor. “You used to talk about this place a lot.”

She nodded, and swallowed back tears. Used to. “You remember our day together, in Muqdisho? We talked about coming here, once we both got back stateside. We were going to…” Pain fisted around her throat, and a sudden chill enveloped her. Rubbing both arms with her hands, she hugged warmth to herself to ward off the pain as she forced the whispered words past her throat. “We were going to get married here, before…”

“Yeah.” After a long moment of silence, she felt as much as heard his retreat. His voice, when he spoke again, was full of pain and longing. “Before.”

Get ready for the next chapter of Project Prometheus!

Shadow Walker

Available 12/21/2015

“Shifting Balance” — Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

Project Prometheus BadgeTheir 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

While a battle for control of a power capable of reshaping time itself rages, one man’s doubt in the side he’s chosen may be all it takes to tip the balance, and save the world from plummeting straight into a hell beyond all nightmares.

“Shifting Balance” — Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus, Book 4) —

He watched the woman’s manic pacing with weary resignation. He’d never admit it, even under torture, but he grew tired of these women and their erratic — sometimes downright psychotic — mood swings. They all had a common element — all of them except Magdalena, whose place as a Widow he’d never been able to figure out in the nearly eighty years he spent serving Onuris and the Brotherhood.

Rachel and Joy, he understood. A psychopathic need for power fueled them, and — in Joy’s case — a psychotic narcissism. Saphra was bent on vengeance, and rarely killed unless it suited her thirst for revenge. And Ramona allowed her lusts to control her, rather than being in control of them. All of them were perfect hosts for a demon like Satmet. But Onuris’ lover set her greedy sights on Magdalena, as well, and that didn’t sit right with Dimitri.

“Are you even listening to me?” Joy’s sharp demand cut through his musing like a heated blade, jerking his attention back to the glaring woman who was Satmet’s current host. He sighed.

Da. If you are so worried that the American doctor will fail, why did you give him the key? Why not do the task yourself?” For once. But he was wise enough to leave those last words unspoken.

It would certainly make his life easier, Dimitri thought bitterly. With every day that passed in the presence of these deranged women and their demonic puppeteer, he questioned his decision to join forces with the Brotherhood more. It had been babushka‘s idea, her urging, that first directed him Rachel’s way, all those years ago. But eighty years of this insanity was more than any man should have to tolerate.

He sighed inwardly, even as he faced down the glaring Widow before him. “Da?

Those dark blue eyes narrowed as if she could read him, but Dimitri refused to be cowed. He knew the Black Arts, and he comforted himself to know he could control the demon, if not the woman.

“I gave him the key because he’s our best chance, and I refuse to go traipsing around in the jungle like bloody Indiana Jones. He actually wants to do it.” Her fingers walked up his chest in a seductive meander.

He grimaced, and his hand closed around her wrist, yanking her touch away. “We have already discussed this. I am not your lap dog. And I do not have to want treasure — or you — to do my job. Do not toy with me, Joy.”

And, as she yanked away, turned on those ridiculously high heels, and stalked from the room in even higher sulk, the door slamming behind her, Dimitri sank into a chair, scrubbed his face, and tried to banish the image of wide turquoise eyes and a beauty too pure to be so selflessly sacrificed, from his mind. He couldn’t wait for this to all be over.

Find out how the story begins! Pick up your copy of IN HER NAME and HOPE OF HEAVEN today, at Amazon.com or Desert Breeze Publishing, and look for SHADOW WALKER, coming soon!

“Aectetis”

image from werner22brigitte

image from werner22brigitte

This is a little something I’ve fooled around with, off and on, for a number of years… Just a little project to keep my muse engaged with the active, battlefield mentality I often need to write suspense.

I’ve always had a love for Greek mythology, for vastly personal reasons. I will note that this isn’t a researched novel. References are ones gleaned from decades of pure fascination and study of Greek mythology and history. If I ever decide to turn this into a novel, I’ll be doing lots of research… for now, it just remains a little exercise for my muse, that I thought I’d share a bit of, with you. Enjoy!:)

 

“Aectetis” —

They were sent from the gates, into the gaping maw of the desert cavern, but neither man went willingly.  No man who knew the tales, or believed in Hades’ wide dominion, would have been willing.  Aectetis blessed himself repeatedly and murmured prayers to Athene, while Taracles muttered curses against the darkness hovering around them.

“This is madness,” Taracles muttered as he thrust his torch savagely into the inky passageway, his sword clenched in one hard fist, his dark eyes steely.  “I tell you, Aectetis; Sikander’s run mad.”

Aectetis swallowed hard, but offered no answer.  He couldn’t have spoken, at the moment, had his life depended on it.  His scalp itched with sweat, beneath the cockle-crested helm, and his leather armor might as well have been Prometheus’ stone, about his neck. It suffocated him. Why was he here? He had neither Taracles’ Spartan toughness, nor the great Aristotle’s Athenian scepticism.  He was provincial, a farmer’s son, with little understanding of either war or philosophy. He believed in the power of the Gods, and mere mortals ought not to trifle with such things.

“I heard from the Emperor’s man that Sikander’s gripped with fevers that roll his eyes up in his head; that he hears voices.  Voices!” Taracles scoffed openly, his voice edged with dark humor.  “Can you believe that? The Furies come to claim his fool head, and yet none dares question his whims!”

A skittering in the darkness brought Aectetis’ gaze quickly around, and he battled down a rising wave of pure panic.

“Do you suppose it’s true? What they say of this place?” Aectetis dared not breathe more than that, lest he anger the spirits here.

“That it leads straight to Tartarus; that the voices of the damned echo here?” Taracles shrugged nonchalantly.

“No.  That there’s a demon down here.  A demon unlike any other,” Aectetis whispered, clutching his heavy bronze shield closer.

Taracles laughed harshly. “Demons?  Aectetis, you’re too old for such children’s tales!”

“But what if it’s true?” Aectetis insisted, unable the still the growing panic in his chest. He swore he could hear the monster breathing – Aechidna’s own foul spawn.  “General Ptolomy says the Emperor’s had terrible visions, in his sleep; that he dreams of a demon come to suck the very breath from his lungs.  Do you suppose –?”
Taracles’ scowl effectively cowed Aectetis.  “Now, you listen to me, Aectetis, and listen well.  Sikander’s a raving madman, and any fool with eyes can see it. I can tell you exactly what we’ll find in these caverns.  Nothing.  There are no demons here, or anywhere else, for that matter.”

“But the locals believe—“

“Ignorant peasants!” Taracles spat disgustedly, as if he’d tasted something foul.  “Their superstitions should not sway an Emperor, or a general, from conquest.”

The comment, spoken as only an aristocrat would dare, stung.  Aectetis forced the anger away, aware that it was a small enough matter, at the moment.  Survival was a more pressing concern than pride.

Silence hovered around them, and Aectetis’ heart beat in dread.  This wasn’t right.  There should be sounds – the echo if their sandaled feet on the cavern floor, the drip of underground water, the shift of rocks, even the sound of their breathing – yet no sound penetrated the oppressive stillness.  The closer they moved toward the wide cavern at the tunnel’s end, the heavier the silence grew, until Aectetis feared he’d gone deaf.

Moving cautiously, they entered the subterranean hall, and abruptly stopped.  No wind stirred here, no sound murmured in the stillness.  It was, Aectetis decided with a shiver of dread, a tomb.  The eeriness of it all crawled along his spine.

A form moved in the darkness of the torch’s jumping shadow.  Aectetis turned his head to better see, just as his torch sputtered and blew out.  A moment later, Taracles’ died as well, plunging the cavern into utter darkness.

“What was that?” Aectetis’ horrified whisper finally pierced the hovering silence.  “Taracles?”

“It was probably a draught from the tunnel.” Taracles sounded annoyed.  “Let me find my flint.”

A moment later, a soft glow sparked in the darkness, and Aectetis’ muscles slowly relaxed.  “Thank you, Taracles.  I –“

“Quiet, fool!”  Taracles hissed, brandishing his blade.  “That light isn’t mine.  There’s someone else down here!”

Aectetis’ voice died on a terrified gasp, his heart pounding harshly in his ears as he flattened himself against the wall behind him.  More than ever, he wanted to flee this place.  But Taracles would see that as cowardice, and as long as Taracles remained, Aectetis could do no less.  He would not dishonor his family, or his people.