“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.

“Gilded Cage” — Excerpt from MISTRESS OF CATS (Legends of Tirum)

MistressofCatsCoverArt72dpi

Phoenix Telyn Gwndal swore to return her friend and blood sister to her proper place within the Imperial Palace of Targoth. She knows the risks of even showing her face inside the Empire’s borders, but she owes Reaphia a second chance.

When a chance encounter with an out-of-place merchant from a legendary people brings Telyn into the middle of a struggle to free a woman held captive by her own will, Telyn finds herself up against a past she’s never really outrun.

Nothing can prepare her for what comes next.

“Gilded Cage” — Excerpt from MISTRESS OF CATS (Legends of Tirum, Book 4)

“No one said this would be easy.” Maltai circled her cage, watched her stalking movements match his stride warily as she pulled against the golden chain and collar that encircled her neck. “You’re not going to get out of there, no matter what I do, unless you’re ready to quit being so damned noble.”

 

She loosed a warning growl that rumbled in the air between them as he stepped closer, her bright yellow eyes narrowing as she bared her teeth. Then, backing off, she shook herself, shedding her feline form in the process. In the space of a breath, she went from imposing lioness to a lean, proud woman with tawny skin and dark hair, wearing only the short, tattered drape of cloth that denoted her servitude, and the proud, regal tilt of her chin that told him she was far from a broken slave.

 

“If I compromise my very core, and everything I hold dear, then I might as well stay here and become a slave in truth. What reason do I have to be free, if I sacrifice my soul self in the process?”

Want to know more?  Stay tuned for details about Legends of Tirum and this book, Mistress of Cats!  Meanwhile, check out Books 1 & 2 at Desert Breeze Publishing

“In Morning’s Light” — Excerpt from BURDEN OF PROOF

Burden of Proof Final

HE WANTED JUSTICE,

BUT AT WHAT COST?

Assistant District Attorney Justin Blakely believes only in the letter of the law. When asked to prosecute a dangerous woman accused of killing her husband with sixty-four stab wounds to the chest, he sees only a butcher who should be locked away for her depraved act. But when he comes up against the woman’s driven, feisty attorney, he knows Chelsea Hanover has the power to change his mind. And, as he realizes her aim is truth rather than law, he can do nothing but respect her integrity. Knowing she’s stumbling into trouble, he’ll do anything to save her from herself, even if the casualty of his crusade is the law in which he believes

“In Morning’s Light” — Excerpt from BURDEN OF PROOF —

Justin blinked awake to the feel of warm fingers on his face. Opening burning eyes, he looked up to see Chelsea sitting on the edge of her hospital bed, fully clothed, with her right arm in a sling. The fingers of her good hand traced his stubbly cheek again, as a soft smile touched her face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look disreputable, before.” The soft lilt of teasing in her husky voice twisted his heart in the best way. She frowned, then. “I think I remember talking to you, last night. Have you been here all night?”

He sat up straighter, stifling a yawn as he glanced at his watch. Six-thirty. “Yeah, you did. And yes, I have.”

Her frown deepened, confusion and fear written in its lines. “You’ve been here every night when I go to sleep, and every morning when I wake up. Why?”

He tensed in surprise. He hadn’t expected to be cross-examined about his motives.

“Because I l–” He stopped, sucking in the words he was about to say. She wasn’t ready to hear how he felt. Not yet.

“Because I promised you I’d stay,” he answered instead, his voice husky with sleep and emotion. “The doctor says you have nightmares when I’m not here. I promised you I’d be here for you, and so…”

He managed an awkward shrug. He couldn’t tell her how important helping her was to him.

She shook her head slowly, as if having trouble thinking. With the amount of blunt force trauma she took to the head, he wasn’t surprised. Fresh anger shot through him, and he squeezed her good hand gently.

“You still haven’t told me what happened.” Her worried gaze searched his.

“Don’t you remember?”

“I… I think so. I just don’t know what’s real, and what’s a nightmare.” She pressed slim fingers to her forehead, eyes squeezed shut in effort. “I remember coming to your office. Talking. We were trying to reach a deal on Marlene’s case.”

He nodded, silently encouraging her to continue. The doctor told him to let her recall things at her own pace. Telling her what happened would force her to face the attack before her psyche was ready, and could be even more damaging.

“We had to go see the D.A. I remember that. And seeing–“

She cut off sharply, sucking in a shaky breath.

He straightened, alerted by her response. “Chelsea? What do you remember?”

She shook her head. “Running. I had to get away. I,” she stopped, thought. “I went home. I needed to hide.”

“From what? From who?”

“From… from everything! From him!”

Look for BURDEN OF PROOF, coming soon from Esther Mitchell and FyrRose Productions!

“Unmake the Past” – Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum)

image by bogglyeyes

image by bogglyeyes

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?

 

 

“Unmake the Past” — Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum, Book 6) —

Telyn’s expression was pensive, even sad, and it tugged at Nacaris’ heart. It was an expression she wore whenever she thought about her parents. She must be thinking about her mother.

Moving to her side, Nacaris eased down beside her, hiding his wince as pain radiated up his left leg. He didn’t want to worry her more than she clearly already was.

“How are you doing?” He squeezed her knee lightly.

She glanced up at him with a wan smile, her lavender eyes so dull with sadness and guilt it twisted his heart. “Do you ever wish you could turn back time, do things differently?”

He frowned. “Not really. If I undid everything before, what would I be? Not myself. And I would run the risk of never meeting you. I wouldn’t do anything to risk what we have.”

She loosed a small sigh, and leaned her head against his shoulder. He liked that, liked knowing she felt she could still lean on him. She was silent for a long moment, only the crackle of the fire breaking the silence. Then, he heard her sigh again before, in a small voice, she murmured, “Does it make me a horrible person that I would?”

He told himself those words didn’t hurt — not much. Right now, Telyn was reeling with guilt, fear and pain. She didn’t mean it the way it sounded.

“No, balnyt.” He nuzzled her temple, wrapping an arm around her waist to snuggle her closer. “You’re facing something terrifying. Something I never had to face. I can’t imagine I’d feel any differently, if our roles were reversed.”

Find out what happened. Look for CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS, coming August 11 from Desert Breeze Publishing. Read the story from the beginning, with DAUGHTER OF ASHES, from Amazon.com or Desert Breeze Publishing.

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

UndergroundInsigniaBW

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 Soon 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  

“Partnership in Peril” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

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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!

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.

 

“Partnership in Peril” — Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 1) 

Where was Jonathan? He left to take a phone call, yesterday, and promptly disappeared. She hadn’t heard from him in nearly twenty-four hours, and with the recent arrival of bodies from Allegheny, Monongahela and Wayne National Forests and cryptic messages their arrival was “per Agent Caulder’s approval,” she was steadily going from concerned to pissed off. No one said what bodies came into her lab except her. Even worse, Jonathan sent Linda photographs of the dump sites, but couldn’t be bothered to extend Faith the courtesy of alerting her the bodies were coming, let alone get her approval for the transfer. Damn it, there were procedures to follow!

She frowned as she leaned closer and carefully sniffed the discolored patch of cloth stuck to the most recent body. “Where did Agent Caulder say they found these bodies?”

“That one was buried along the river bank near where you dredged up Carol-Ann, according to the Forest Service on-scene notes.” Linda glanced up from her sketch, and made a face. “Do you have to smell them, like that?”

“That’s not right.” Faith lifted one decomposing hand, turning it over to study the palm.

“I agree.” Linda blinked when Faith looked up at her in confusion. “Oh, you meant where the body was found, right? My mistake.”

“I’m no geologist, but this soil doesn’t look consistent with the samples I took from where Carol-Ann was found.” She peeled off one glove to retrieve her cell phone and hit speed dial, tapping one foot impatiently until Sandy picked up the other end. “I need you in autopsy, to take some samples. We need a soil analysis on the new arrivals.”

“I’ll be right there.”

As she hung up, she turned to find Linda studying her with a concerned expression.

“What do you think is going on, Faith?”

Faith’s gaze fixed on the body, and she sealed her lips grimly over her suspicions. She only knew two things for certain, right now. This victim was never buried near the Monongahela, and Jonathan Caulder was up to something. What she didn’t know was what. But she intended to find out.

“Laurel’s on her way in. When she gets here, tell her I need drawers four through nine sanitized, and pre-autopsy films taken on all the new arrivals before she puts them in the cooler. But she’s not to clean them or do anything else until Sandy collects soil and Mark goes over them for trace.”

Linda frowned. “Where are you going?”

“To find out just what the hell the FBI’s up to, and why they think they can commandeer my lab.”

Look out for the release of SIGHT UNSEEN, and the beginning of a brand new series from critically acclaimed Suspense author Esther Mitchell, coming soon!