“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!

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

Image from jorgeyu Will be replaced by cover when availabe.

Image from jorgeyu
Will be replaced by cover when available.

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?

Look for CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS, coming in August from Desert Breeze Publishing! Follow the quest from the beginning, starting with DAUGHTER OF ASHES!

“The Request” — Excerpt from BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus)

Project Prometheus BadgeIt’s my birthday, and I felt like sharing a little something with everyone (call it a birthday gift – from me, to you). So, without further ado, here’s an excerpt from one of my upcoming Project Prometheus books, for your enjoyment. :)

“The Request” – Excerpted from BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus, Book 5) —

“Stay.”

That stopped him dead, but he still refused to turn.  Breath bated, Delila wished she could call the request back.  Hadn’t she promised she wouldn’t put herself in this position again?

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, one hand to her mouth in dismay.

That brought Jim around, his gaze wary as he searched her face for something she wasn’t sure she could give.  Then, in two strides, he was standing before her, his work-roughened fingers skimming her face as he lifted her chin until she was forced to meet his gaze.  “You’re sure?”

She nodded mutely, swallowing the lump that stopped the breath escaping her throat, even as her heart skittered around the confines of her chest.  Blessed Ishtar, what did she agree to?  One touch, and already her body went crazy.

Dark fire flared in Jim’s eyes, and Delila’s blood burned beneath that steady regard.  She couldn’t make a move forward, though her hands itched to touch him.  In all her time at the Temple, she never took the initiation of an ishtaristu.  Some mistakes jaundiced for life, and  the memory of everything she suffered as John’s wife made the idea of trusting a man again impossible.  She wanted to weep, because as much as she wanted to trust Jim, she was afraid she could never take that step forward.  She was afraid she lost that trust forever.

He must have read her turbulent emotions, because he sighed and the heat in his gaze banked.  Gently, he enfolded her in an embrace so tender her eyes burned and overflowed.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, dismayed when her voice emerged small and broken.

“Shh.”  He stroked her hair, back, and shoulder.  His touch stayed gentle and tender without being sexual.  “Quit apologizing, Delila.  You don’t owe me anything.”

She shuddered against him.  He had no idea exactly how much she did owe him.  She hadn’t yet found the words to tell him he’d saved her life not once, but three times, when she was still trapped by John.  He still had no idea how his kindness led to her escape.  She didn’t have the courage to tell him.  Which made her the world’s biggest coward.  She grimaced.  Not the most flattering image.

“Jim, I…”  The words stuck in her throat again, and she closed her eyes, drawing a breath for courage.  She was in so much trouble.

“No Boundaries” – Excerpt from COME WINTER’S PALE (Chronicles of a Dragon’s Realm)

image by bogglyeyes

image by bogglyeyes

Today, I thought I would share something completely different, for me. This is blast from my past, reinvented. When I was a kid, I started researching and writing a series of Arthurian Legend inspired books. My original intention was to be historically accurate, and write a series of historical novels. However, as I grew older, and my writing style became more defined, the historical novels I began in my youth began to evolve, as well. In the case of this series, I began to shift toward Steampunk, bringing together the history and details of the legend as I researched it with a Steampunk world. In essence, I recreated the Arthurian story in a Steampunk world.

“No Boundaries” – Excerpt from COME WINTER’S PALE (Chronicles of a Dragon’s Realm, Chapter III, Book 1) –

Some things just aren’t meant to be.  Kata LurAine had heard the phrase her whole life.  Sitting at the knee of her stern, proper grandmother as the old woman taught her to stitch the painstaking designs into the coverlets for her hope chest was the first time.  Or, more properly, just after she’d about turned the white silk red with her blood from pricking her fingers.  That was when Granddam Maralaese decided that Kata was a lost cause – destined to never marry.  A failure.

Kata snorted to herself as she dropped the faceplate of her welding mask back over her face and lit up the torch.  Like she needed some dainty little cross-stitch pattern to make her life whole.  Like she even needed a man.  She was content here in her workshop, surrounded by metal that hummed and whirred with a life dear Granddam would never have understood.  Never mind that metalcrafting wasn’t a woman’s world.  And, okay, so most men turned their noses up at a woman with grease smudges and soot on her face, and sporting helmet-head hair from her welding mask.  But she didn’t care.  She couldn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t.  And it wasn’t a big deal, right?

The torch lowered, and the flame clicked off as Kata rested her palms flat against the scarred steel of her workbench.  She had to quit lying to herself.  It did matter.  It mattered a lot that no one saw Kata – not the real Kata, anyway.  Not that being seen was her goal in life, she told herself stubbornly as she flipped the mask down again.  But it would be nice.

She kicked the torch back on, and let the flash of flame against metal soothe her as  the machines in her shop hummed and whirred on.  If this was her lot in life, she could live with it…

A sound startled her out of her zone, and the torch flame skipped up, searing a long line of sooty copper along the face of the steamship she was working on.  Irritated, she shoved up the mask and whirled toward the source of that sound.

“You should know better than to sneak up on a woman with a torch!”  She glared up into the face of the stunned-looking gentleman – he in his just-so waistcoat and gloves, a dark cane resting between his arm and side that she’d bet any of her machines he didn’t actually need – standing in the stable doorway that served as entrance to her workshop.

He blinked again, clearly nonplussed, and she was left to wonder if he was a little thick in the head.  Then, he opened his mouth, and she was certain he was.  “You’re a woman!”

She rolled her eyes and muttered, “Thought we’d established that, already.”

He shook his head, and stepped forward.  “No, you’d don’t understand.  I was told this was the place to go to commission an airship.  They said you’re the best around.”

She peered at him through narrowed eyes, assessing if he was pulling her leg.  She stalled on his face, again.  He had angular features with just enough smoothness to blend them together, dark hair cropped to his collar in current high fashion, and forest green eyes that were arresting in their intelligence and perception.  Something twisted in her chest, and her throat closed up for a moment.  She hated that feeling – the attraction that zinged through her – knowing there was no future for it.  There never was.

They talk a lot,” she managed gruffy, yanking the mask back down to conceal her face.  “Just who are they, anyway?  For that matter, who are you?”

“Jarath Pherson.”  He doffed his Homburg and strode further into her personal domain, raising Kata’s hackles.

“Never heard of him.”  She set her jaw, determined to ignore him.

He coughed.  “That would be me.   Tarsak Memkno recommended you.”

She froze.  Tarsak?  The little gnome was her idol, her mentor – the man who knew everything there was to know about airships and landracers.  Adrenaline rushed through her.  Tarsak really thought she was good?  A grin spread over her face, and she turned toward Jarath as she lifted the mask again and shut off her torch.  Finally, her chance to prove herself once and for all – convention, and what she should be doing, be damned.

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?”

“Sun Spot” — Excerpt from OPEN WOUNDS (Guardians, Inc.)

11 Open WoundsWhen Guardians, Inc. agent and former US Marshall Cherish Beauricard took a case to the play bodyguard to night club magnate Willem Savastin — one of the last pure-blooded Nr-Simha in the world — she wasn’t even sure why.  But when she met the mysterious Will, and his equally-enigmatic brother, Drake, her world is about to change forever — as long as she can keep their true nature from being exposed to the world, and a killer from destroying everything she’s come to love.

AUTHOR NOTE: This book and excerpt contain ADULT themes and content. Not suitable for all audiences.

“Sun Spot” – Excerpt from OPEN WOUNDS (Guardians, Inc., Book 11) –

Cherish Beauricard ran a light touch over the silver pistol tucked into the holster nestled beneath her jacket — a motion meant to comfort herself — as she stepped out of the cab before Sun Spot, one of the country’s hottest nightclubs.

She glanced around the rundown industrial neighborhood, frowned, and looked up at the building before her. From the outside, it didn’t look like much. Her eyes skimmed the old, red-brick structure and she shuddered. It didn’t look like a hip nightclub. In fact, it looked more like an industrial slum. Hardly the place one expected to find Hollywood’s hottest A-list stars partying.

A worried frown wrinkled her brow as she leaned into the open window of the taxi to address the driver. “You’re sure this is the right place?”

“You wanted Sun Spot.” The man gestured to the building behind her, then leered at her. “This’ the only one I know of, lady.”

She cast a dubious glance over her shoulder. “It just looks so… so…”

“It’s a nightclub. Whatcha expect, the fucking Taj Mahal?”

That he even knew what the Taj Mahal was impressed her. That he chose to reference India’s crowning jewel to this particular nightclub was irony at its best. She offered him a bland smile as she forked over the fare – thank God for agency expense accounts — and glanced over her shoulder at the building again. “Guess not. Thanks.”

As the taxi peeled away, leaving behind the scent of burning rubber, Cherish turned toward the building with a gusty sigh.

“Well, Mr. Sevastin. Let’s hope you’ve got a better disposition than my research says.”

She winced. Okay, so she hadn’t lost the bad habit of talking out loud to no one, yet. Can’t win ‘em all. She certainly didn’t need the self-reminder of the file she spent last night memorizing. No pictures, of course — few case files actually contained pictures of the clients, in order to help safe-guard their identities, in case the Crucibani ever intercepted a file. Besides, she didn’t need a picture. She could sum up everything she needed to know about the notoriously camera-shy Willem Sevastin in one word — Nr-Simha.

Everything Guardians Incorporated had on Nr-Simha — admittedly, it wasn’t much — said these people were only barely tamed from their wild ancestors. Nr-Simha weren’t exactly rare. According to the statistics they could find, there were at least a couple thousand half-breeds running around the world. But a purebred Nr-Simha hadn’t actually been seen in thousands of years. At least, not any recorded interactions. And Willem, to judge by his file, was as purebred as they came.

Nr-Simha weren’t supposed to be particularly social creatures, preferring the company of their own kind, which was what surprised her most about Sevastin. He owned a busy nightclub. Besides, it was rumored purebreds had hair-trigger tempers and nasty dispositions. If any of that was true…

With a sigh, Cherish pushed the club’s front door, expecting to find it locked. She back pedaled when it flew open under the slightest touch. Her hand flew to her weapon, before she realized there was someone there.

And what a someone he was! Her heart took up residence in her throat as she unabashedly stared at the most delicious male form she’d seen in too many years. He was built like a linebacker, with shoulders broad enough to make Atlas himself green with envy. His trim, muscular body narrowed to slim hips that would have been out of proportion on any other man. She swallowed hard as her gaze fixed shamelessly on his crotch, and every breath fled her. God, she certainly hoped there was truth in advertising, there!

A throat cleared, and an amused bass voice intoned, “I’m up here, Ms. Beauricard.”

Mortification finally colored her cheeks as reality set in. Oh, hell. Was she actually ogling her client? Sheepish, she raised her gaze to eyes of a deep, unusual teal, framed by amazing golden skin, and hair dark as midnight and wild as the wind.

“Mr. Sevastin, I presume?”

He inclined his head, and a sinfully wicked smile crooked up his lips. “Yes and no.”

Her eyes narrowed as she tried to assess whether he was having one over on her or not. “Really. Which is it?”

His laugh slid through her like warm, gooey chocolate. She clamped her lips shut against a moan.

“Both, actually.” He grinned at her, and winked. “I’m a Mr. Sevastin. My name’s Drake.”

Confusion gripped her. The file hadn’t mentioned a sibling. “I don’t understand–”

His grin widened. “Come on in. I’ll see if I can help you figure it all out.”

Cherish stepped inside the doors warily, and froze again, certain she’d been transported to another dimension. Was this the same building?

She stared at the room before her, with its dark burgundy leather walls, broken by the golden flash of light off a series of sun-shaped art deco discs that studded the walls. Lavish, velvet-covered booths lined the walls, and satin-covered chairs circled tables closer to the dance floor.

At least, she assumed it was a dance floor. The strange chains and rigging that hung suspended several feet above it, she didn’t want to ask about. Only one thought rolled through her head as she stared up at them.

What the hell am I doing here?

She snuck a peek at her guide, then turned her gaze back to the opulent, but strange, club again, and barely suppressed a shudder. She wasn’t much for the clubbing scene, and this place… This was like Casablanca meets Cleopat’s. Definitely not her speed.

Unfortunately, she didn’t get her choice in assignments, and Yasmin assured her this one was important when she voiced her initial concerns over playing bodyguard to a Nr-Simha. Why did a shifter need a bodyguard, anyway?

“Heir to Atlantis” – Excerpt from WAVES (High Stakes)

13-WavesToday, I thought I’d share something a little different. This is from my Urban Fantasy series High Stakes.   The series blends our world with the magical worlds of the Strata – a place where the worlds intersect – and most of the stories in the series are at least loosely based on different musicals and fairy tales.  This comes from Waves, a new erotic romance inspired by the Hans Christen Andersen story “The Little Mermaid.”

Dr. Shelby Morrison always felt a little like a fish out of water. Most at home in the water, her profession as a marine biologist seemed the perfect fit… until the discovery of a family heirloom in her mother’s estate drops Shelby in the middle of a search for a lost world, and brings her up against a bounty hunter whose story strains reality to breaking, and whose mission could leave Shelby either royalty, or dead.

“Heir to Atlantis” – Excerpt from WAVES (High Stakes, Book #13)

The waves bundled onto the rocky shore, a splash of cool, wet blue and white froth that slammed against the coast before quickly retreating. Russ watched the ebb and flow morosely as itchy restlessness wound through him. He missed the surf, missed the feel of warm water surrounding him, growing cooler as he descended into the dark depths below where humans could go, until he crossed the barrier and into the underwater cities of the Lux Magica. Merpeople weren’t fish. They didn’t have half the body of a fish, either, and he often laughed at the images humans painted of the Merfolk. But he wasn’t laughing, anymore.

He was supposed to retrieve the princess and return to Atlantis. Only, the stubborn woman didn’t want to go. And she was messing with his head. Every time he looked into those big green eyes, he saw the sea-foam, and his heart softened. He saw uncertainty, and fear, and pain, and he wanted to soothe them all. A royal Atlantean wasn’t supposed to know those feelings. Those were for the outcast Merhunters like himself. Doubt, fear and pain were emotions that had no place in a respectable Mermaid’s life. And he had no right to think he was worthy of wiping them away.

Russ’ gut clenched as he recalled her beauty. Atlanteans were beautiful, even by Merfolk standards. They were some of the most beautiful people in all the Lux Magica. Among humans, the princess shone like a perfect pearl in a bed of dross. How she managed to hide that beauty, to keep it from becoming a burden to her in this uncivilized world, he had no idea. But she didn’t belong here. And he didn’t have the right to want her. He had a job to do, and her parents wouldn’t thank him kindly if he despoiled their daughter. Which didn’t stop his fists from clenching when he thought of the list of suitable matches her father showed him when his assistance was enlisted in retrieving the headstrong runaway.

What anyone failed to mention to him, though, was that she had no memory of who she really was. Oh, he’d seen that wistful look in her eyes whenever she looked out at the ocean, and knew the longing she held inside herself. It matched his own. Only, she also had a confused look, like she didn’t understand why she felt so drawn to the sea. And when he mentioned Atlantis, she laughed at him and called it a fairy tale. She was a scientist, she said, and she’d rather confine her searches to the real world. Whatever the hell that meant.

“There you are!”

He turned at the exasperated sound of her voice, to find Shelby Morrison striding toward him, her long, sleek legs carrying her into his space. His chest tightened and his breath whooshed from him as he took in her perfect form, her beautiful face. It wasn’t fair. No woman should be so gorgeous. She shouldn’t have the ability to tug at his heart, either, but the sadness in her eyes did just that, even as her annoyed expression tugged his lips up into an ironic smile.

“Looking for me?”

Was that a blush that stained her creamy, porcelain skin? He couldn’t be sure. He watched her puff up like a disgruntled seagull, and resisted the urge to attempt reading her. If she had any memory – even an instinctive one – of who she really was, she could slap his telepathic fingers hard enough to make them bleed. He wasn’t in the mood to find out.

“Confessions in Blood” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

Project Prometheus BadgeEvery once in a while, as an author, you encounter a scene that just blows you away. This scene was that for me — totally unexpectedly. I originally intended for Trevor to come around alone, to have to battle his thoughts and personal demons completely alone, to illustrate how much inside of himself he’s gone in order to retreat from what he can’t understand or face. Instead, his disappearance dragged Jaye into the mix, and this amazing bit of character exposition developed all on its own.

“Confessions in Blood” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Atlantis Silver, Book #3) —

Ten minutes and a gurney trip later, Jaye frowned in true worry as she realized Trevor was still dazed and not at all himself.  Even worse, the bright fluorescent lights illuminated the blood on his dark skin that the moonlight and shadows masked.

Helping him to his bed, she left him just long enough to collect gauze, warm water, and antiseptic.  She doubted he lost enough blood to need emergency surgery or a transfusion, though the amount was alarming to view.  She frowned.  Even knowing it was probably a superficial head wound, and looked worse than it was, she was worried.

Standing before him, she dipped a piece of gauze in the warm water and began gently cleaning the blood from his face.  If she could get through the blood, she could find out if he needed stitches or not.

Trevor flinched with a hiss, and she raised startled eyes to find him regarding her with clear eyes, as if he’d never been the animal she found hidden in the bushes.

“Jaye?”  His voice was weak, and his hand trembled as he lifted it – the only signs he was actually unwell.  He glanced toward the window, and his brow furrowed.  “What time is it?”

“About two in the morning.”  Jaye bit her lip.  He lost track of time, and she didn’t like that.  Losing time was a bad sign in psychiatric medicine.  She wiped away the last smear of blood, and a chill passed through her.  There weren’t any wounds.  Not a single laceration.  She swallowed past her trepidation, but her voice still came out small and breathless.  “What happened to you?”

He tensed. “I don’t remember.”

The tone of his voice alerted her something was wrong, even before she met his gaze.  His eyes were clear, but evasive.  Damn it, he was lying to her.  “Trevor…”

“No.”

She loosed a small cry of exasperation.  Zero-two-hundred hours, when she barely slept last night, was not the time for him to start pulling his stoic routine on her.

“You never were a good liar.”

His gaze darkened as he stared her in the eye.  “And you must have a lot of practice at it.”

Those words drove the breath from her even more than his bitter tone did.  Had he finally remembered Somalia?  Did he know what she did?  She sought blindly for a place to sit as her knees weakened with fear.  “What do you mean?”

The anger dropped from his face, and he reached out to her, oblivious of the blankets dropping, leaving him naked from the waist up.

“Hey, I’m sorry… I don’t know what that was.  I just… I don’t want to talk about where I went, okay?”

For a reason she couldn’t explain if he asked, his secretive attitude annoyed her.  She went back to cleaning the smaller blood smears from his face and neck.  “Great.  Fine.  Do you want to at least tell me how you ended up naked and covered in blood?”

“Not particularly.”

“Damn it, Trevor!”  She threw the gauze into the bio waste container with more force than necessary and glared at him.  “This isn’t a game.  I’m trying to help you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Funny.  Your boss doesn’t think so.”

“I said, I’m fine.”

“Bullshit.”

His eyes narrowed.  “You never used to swear.”

She bit down on words that would turn the air blue, and instead snapped, “Yeah, well I had to get tough.”

The frown on his face pulled her attention from her anger, even before he hazarded, “Because of me?”

She flinched, in spite of her attempt to remain neutral.  She couldn’t help it; she’d run from the truth for too long.  “Yes.”

His gaze turned away, toward the window, and he looked truly ill for the first time.  “I’m sorry.”

The words hit her out of nowhere, and stung because he had no idea how little she deserved them.  She should be the one begging for his forgiveness.  Jaye bit down hard on her lower lip, and stepped closer.

“Don’t apologize,” she whispered as she stroked his cheek gently.  “Not to me.”

Want to know more?  Find out how it all starts in IN HER NAME, currently available from Desert Breeze Publishing.