“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.

“Midnight at the Mausoleum” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Typically, I don’t write series in order, per se. I draft all the story packets (my ideas, laid out in a general chapter-by-chapter format) in the beginning, but I will fill in scenes as they come to me, then make changes accordingly as I fine-tune, for the series. Guardians, Inc. and Witch Hollow have definitely fit that mold.

Lately, I’ve been working on Witch Hollow’s 6th book, BODY OF EVIDENCE…

What’s a pathologist to do when the body parts believed to be from the same victim instead turn out to be from a dozen different victims? Add in a missing girl from a wealthy family, abducted in a similar manner as all the other victims, and a man with a very dark family secret to keep, and Faith MacKenzie and her Bunker crew have their work cut out for them. And when the missing girl’s trail takes Faith and Jonathan into the dark underside of New Orleans’ paranormal community, it may just turn out to be more than Faith can handle.

“Midnight at the Mausoleum” – Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 6) —

“So, are you going to tell me what we’re doing in the middle of a cemetery, in the middle of the night?” Faith cast a glance his way. “This isn’t how I usually exhume a body.”

He quirked her a wry half-grin she could barely see by the light of her flashlight. “We’re not exhuming anyone. And this is the only way we get in. Max’s relatives are a little… eccentric.”

Her brows lifted, and she fought down the urge to swear. Why hadn’t she seen this coming? “This is another one of your little ghost hunt things, isn’t it? Jonathan…”

“No. Just trust me, okay, Mac? If we’ve got any hope of finding Elizabeth alive, we have to use every resource at our disposal. You need to try and keep an open mind, here.” He turned to pin her with an intense stare made all the more unsettling by the night-draped cemetery around them. “And stay close to me. No wandering off. And, Mac? Don’t touch anything.”

She rolled her eyes, and forced a laugh. “You make it sound like we’re walking into a minefield.”

He didn’t laugh, and his somber expression didn’t so much as flicker. “I’m serious, Mac. You stick to me like glue, and don’t touch a thing, or this is going to end very badly for both of us.”

Something about his tone… Faith swallowed hard as sudden fear closed around her throat. Her voice rasped when she finally managed, “Just who are these people?”

He sighed, and resumed walking. “Vampires.”

Her feet felt frozen in place, disbelief ricocheting through her, before she forced herself to start moving again. He’d pulled some strange ones, in their time as partners, but this took the cake. “Vampires? Really, Jonathan…”

“Very traditional ones. Old World. They like their theatrics.” He stopped, looking up at an imposing mausoleum. “We’re here. Remember what I said, Mac.”

She swallowed again. “Close. Don’t touch. Gotcha.”

And, as Jonathan slowly pushed open the heavy, weathered door to the crypt, Faith tried to force her pulse steady. It was getting more and more difficult to dismiss Jonathan’s world as non-existent. If only she knew what she was getting herself into…

“Gatekeeper” – Excerpt from BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus)

Project Prometheus BadgeBETWEEN WORLDS wraps up the sub-series within Project Prometheus called Atlantis Silver — a sub-series of five books that kicks off the entire series with the reincarnation of five Elders from the abandoned and mostly destroyed ancient island of Ali-Antos, known today as Atlantis.

BETWEEN WORLDS brings the Elders back to Ali-Antos, and the temple they abandoned in the face of its imminent destruction at the hands of the Brotherhood of Spiders. And none among the Elders has more to set right than the gatekeeper to the Temple of the Stars — a woman who literally gave everything she was to correct a grievous wrong she committed. And the price she’s to pay in her reincarnation may be one she can’t face at all.

“Gatekeeper”  – Excerpted from Project Prometheus: BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus, Book #5)

She was so cold.  The wind here on the shore was bitter, chilled by the storm raging around her.  Csilla huddled in the cavern, watching as the boats were made ready.

“Are you ready, Gatekeeper?”

She turned at the sound of a masculine voice, to find Sargon beside her, tall and strong in his armor, the glow of his charge shining around him even from where it rested, secure in the scabbard at his side.  She shuddered to think how, of them all, only she was a real danger.  Only her charge could bring them all back to this place, and only her charge could be forced from her grasp by any manner besides death.

“Go, Warrior,” she whispered, already aware of what she must do.  And yet, she could not tell these men, her soul-brothers, what she planned.  They would surely halt her plan, if they knew how she meant to protect them all.  “I am weary, and will bide here a while.”

He frowned.  “It is not safe, Csilla.  Already, Arachaena swarm the mountain above us.  They must not find us here.”

She looked out toward the storm-tossed waves where she once found solace.  Sadness gripped her. She would leave all of this behind. She hugged her cloak tighter about her shoulders.  There was no help for it.  This was as it must be.

“I shall follow directly.  Have Mykalos tie me a boat in yon rocks.”

Sargon sighed, but relented.  Truly, he was too tender to a woman’s comfort. She feared that would bring him to ill ends.  “Do not linger too long, Csilla.”

She smiled up at him, careful he did not read her sorrow.  “I will be gone before they arrive.”

With a nod, his eyes wary, Sargon left her and headed for the boats beyond.  Csilla sighed, and shivered slightly as she rested her back against the cool rocks.  The weight of the knife concealed beneath her cloak was a cold reminder of what she must do.  She would keep her promise.  Only, it would not be as Sargon believed.

Look for the book that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming soon from Desert Breeze Publishing!

Join the Fight: Tell Congress That Being an Artist/Author IS a Business!

Like most people, I barely understand most of the legalese involved in tax law.  In fact, until recently, I blindly believed that, as an Author, since I considered myself engaged in business, and everything I read told me I had to file a Schedule C as a sole proprietorship, when I had royalty income, I was engaged in a For-Profit business.  Well, imagine my surprise when the State of Arizona tried to tell me, just before Christmas, last year (Thanks a lot Arizona Scrooge!), that because I couldn’t prove a profit (ie, more income than expenses) in three out of five years as an author, I was not, in fact, engaged in a For-Profit Business.

Apparently, being an Artist/Author is one of those areas for which you are supposed to be punished, in the good ol’ US of A (or, at least, in Arizona), thanks to one of a set of “tests” to determine whether or not a business meets the criteria for “For Profit.”  Unfortunately, one of those tests requires a showing of profit — something few authors or artists are familiar with, when it comes to their art.  And, equally apparent is the ridiculous notion that an author or artist should ONLY be engaged in writing/art in order to be classed as pursuing that For-Profit status without proof of said profit margin.  Apparently, we really ARE supposed to starve and end up in the poor-house/bankrupt in order to be taken seriously by the tax laws.

Well, if you’re an author/artist, or family or friends of such, you know how driven a profession this is.  We dedicate every spare moment we can squeeze out of our day for the creation of our creative minds.  And there’s not a one of us who doesn’t intend to someday be able to do nothing but write, paint, etc, etc  full-time.  But we’re also realistic enough to realize that with millions of books printed every day, and hundreds of thousands of artists out there, most of us aren’t likely to ever see our names on or far enough up the bestsellers list or on gallery listing, etc, to make that kind of money.  We hold down other jobs, to pay the bills, and our families suffer as much as we do, for our art.

It’s time to take a stand… So if you’re an artist or author, a friend or family of one, or a fan who wants to see your favorite author/artist/etc continue to create, we need your help.  Follow the link below, sign the petition, and let’s tell the US Congress that being an artist/author IS a business, and we deserve protection and fair regard, as such, under the tax laws.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/arts-irc-186-amendment/ (yes, I know the link has a mistake… I hit a “6” instead of a “3” when typing in the title, and can’t figure out how to change it).