“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

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“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  

“Ghost of the Past” — Excerpt from TWIST OF FATE (Project Prometheus)

Project Prometheus BadgeSix years ago, Misty Jarrod’s husband disappeared on a routine inspection of the No Fly Zone. When he was declared dead, Misty surrendered her contract as a chemical specialist with the military to hide away and lick her wounded heart. But when Project Prometheus came knocking, it was with more than a simple contract. Matt Raleigh offered her the chance to find out what really happened to her husband, and find the closure she seeks. When her mission to protect a Pagan temple opens abilities she didn’t know she possesses, Misty will have to face more than her past doubts. She’s going to have to face a man she thought dead.

“Ghost of the Past” – excerpted from TWIST OF FATE (Project Prometheus, Book 22)

            Misty Jarrod hugged her arms close against her body and shivered against the cold desert air that bit through her shirt.  She doubted she’d ever get used to the desert, with its searing hot days and freezing nights.  She missed home.  The flowers would be blooming on the shore of Lake Superior, by now, and homesickness flooded her.  She could almost smell the violets, tulips and hyacinth.  And beneath it all, the subtle scent of cigarette smoke…

            Misty’s head snapped up, her thoughts broken by that out-of-place scent.  No one in Manara’s temple smoked.  These people had an odd purity, for as hung-up on sex as they were.  And none of the Prometheans here at the moment smoked, either.  Her eyes narrowed, Misty sniffed the air, dragging in the scent as she tried to place why it was so familiar.  It wasn’t just a cigarette.  There was a subtle, sweet note to it, reminiscent of vanilla and… cinnamon! The final piece jogged into place, and she decided she’d gone off the deep end.  Those were Nick’s cigarettes she smelled.  Only, Nick was dead.

            Pain twisted in her chest like a python as the scent wove through her, bringing memories of her husband – the man she loved more than life – out from the depths of her heart.  She buried him six years ago, not questioning that he was dead even without a body to prove it.  The empty hollow in her heart told her all she needed to know.  Nick was gone.  Nothing would bring him back.

            Anger followed hard on the heels of pain, and she flipped her sidearm free from its holster, disengaging the safety as she followed the scent toward its origin.  Whoever was smoking that cigarette, she didn’t believe it was coincidence.  Call her paranoid, but since Nick disappeared, she felt like someone was following her.  Even though no one told her exactly how he died – all they would say was that he “disappeared” – she knew he’d been on a deep cover CIA mission under the guise of a UN inspection of the No Fly Zone.  She wasn’t stupid.

            The scent led off toward the eastern boundary of the Temple’s construction zone. Misty kept her breathing silent and steady, moving slowly as she allowed her eyes to adjust to the moonless night.  Whoever was out there, she would find him, and make him answer for following her.  She wouldn’t fail her boss, or these people.  No one was going to get to them through her, no matter how much he pretended to be her dead husband.

            As she reached the boundary, Misty caught sight of a silhouette, and froze.  No way!

            “Who the hell are you?”  She snarled the words, refusing to believe what her senses were telling her.

            The figure turned, stepped toward her, and Misty flicked on the small penlight, casting a narrow, soft beam of light that wouldn’t harm her vision, or her reaction time.  As the beam played over his body, the breath sucked from her, leaving her shaking with disbelief.  She wouldn’t believe this.  She couldn’t believe this.  The beam touched his face, and the cold night had nothing on the chill that spread through her.  Oh my god.

            “Nick?”

            And then, the click of a safety disengaging froze her, as a gun lifted directly into her line of sight.  He was going to shoot her!

Join Project Prometheus from the beginning! Pick up your copy of the EPPIE-nominated IN HER NAME, today at Amazon.com or Desert Breeze Publishing!

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

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Every 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.

“Magic Mirror” – Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

 

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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.

“Magic Mirror” – Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Book #3)–

Red Widow’s fists clenched, driving her French manicure into her palms, as she glared out at the neon-lit night.  She wanted that mirror.  She was prepared to do whatever it took to make sure the Musir didn’t win, again.  Daniel was one of the newer generation of Arachaena.  She had to educate him.

“Do you have any idea how important that mirror is?”

His sigh sounded exasperated.  “Yeah, I know.  It was the inspiration for the tales of magic mirrors throughout European history; even believed to be the legendary mirror through which the Lady of Astolat watched Lancelot.  And it unlocks the Portal of Kronos.”  When she turned toward him, she saw his grimace.  “Aren’t we both a little old for fairytales?”

His sarcasm annoyed her.  That was part of what was wrong with this new generation of Arachaena.  They were decadent, self-indulgent, and jaded.  They didn’t understand the powers of the world, or why they were important.

“It’s no fairytale, Danny boy.  And the mirror is more than a mere key.”

He lifted one brow in skeptical attention.  “Convince me.”

“Cover that mirror in the blood of a Musir, and it acts as a beacon through the oblivion beyond the Portal.  We need it to guide the Great Lord back.”

She turned just in time to see him sit forward, his interest suddenly intent.  “How much blood?”

A slow, deadly smile curved up her lips as she moved to the bedside table, and extracted a silver kris knife that glowed with a dim blue-white light.  “One of our archeological crews uncovered this on a dig in Greece.  It took some work, but we figured out what it’s for.”

“And that is?”

“You shed the Shadow Walker’s life blood onto the mirror’s surface with this knife, and it begins a chain that no power on Earth can halt.”

She stabbed the knife’s point into the table between them, and met his gaze with narrowed eyes.  He would do what she wanted.  She wouldn’t tell him about the magical lettering said to reside within the mirror’s surface.  Or that those letters would become clear in the presence of Ausar’s vessel.  That was a secret she planned to keep to herself.  Those letters were one part of the key to the Philosopher’s Stone, and the source of everlasting life.  The Musir were reincarnates; they hadn’t yet figured out their own history.  Aside from that threat, only the Widows and Dimitri Lapinov knew about the truth of the Philosopher’s Stone.  And she intended to keep it that way.

 

Read the book that started it all! IN HER NAME is available now from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Againt the Rules” — Excerpt from MIND KILLER (Underground)

MindKillerCoverMatt Clipper is a product of the streets. His slot with the Commandos depends on his ability to keep playing a game with death he’s growing tired of. But with no military skill set, no education to fall back on, and no special skills to call upon, the streets and gangs are his only way to contribute to the team. But when the game he’s been playing goes from deadly to suicidal, his only hope of salvaging his sanity could rest in keeping how close to the edge he really is to himself.

 “Against the Rules” – Excerpt from MIND KILLER (Underground, Book 2)–

This couldn’t be good.  Jen LaSaulle swung her chair toward the hydrolift’s monitor as the signal of keycard activation buzzed in Comms.  The only people not in the Underground tonight were Ishmael, who was probably at least three thousand miles away, and Matt, who shouldn’t be back until dawn.

She sucked in a breath and fought away the grip of queasiness as her gaze locked onto the image of the black man currently slumped against the wall of the hydrolift, one hand pressed to his side.  Was he injured?

Her heart twisted as she searched his face for signs of pain, and found only weariness.  He must have forgotten about the monitoring system, or he’d never show this kind of vulnerability.

“Rough night?”  She spoke into the Comms headset, aware only he could hear her, in the confines of the soundproofed hydrolift.

Matt’s head jerked up, and all hint of vulnerability was gone as the badass returned full-bloom.  Only now, she knew it was all bullshit.  “Nah, I’m great, Catwoman.”

She rolled her eyes, even aware that he couldn’t see her expression.  When was Matt going to actually let her in?  “I’m a psychologist and a profiler, Clipper.   Give me some credit.”

He swore, and glared toward the camera as the ‘lift came to a halt in the Underground.  “Then read my mind, Doc.  I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Annoyance zipped through her.  This was an old argument.  She wasn’t prepared to have a relationship with a man who couldn’t share himself with her, and he only seemed to want to have a good time.   So they stalled at sex.  She told herself she was fine with that, then called herself a liar.  Still, they had the job, and if he couldn’t respect her as a lover, he was damned well going to respect her as a teammate.  “You don’t have a choice, tough guy.  You have to report in.”

The door to the hydrolift slid closed, but not before she saw his response in an uplifted finger.  Her cheeks burned with fury.  Damn it all, she was sick of this.  She couldn’t get him to talk to her, anymore, without pulling rank as the team fitness evaluator.  Even then, she knew he was handing her a line, even if she couldn’t prove it.  Matt Clipper was not okay.

Shoving to her feet, she stalked through the door and out into the corridor just in time to see Matt heading up the hall toward the housing sector.

“Get back here.”  Her words were cold, and laced with all the fury and pain she held caged inside her.  Matt wouldn’t treat anyone else on the team with this kind of careless disdain.  Why her?  “You know the rules, Clipper.”

He turned, and for a split second, the walls dropped.  Jen sucked in a gasp of surprise and dismay.  Matt was close to dropping – not unusual – but his eyes were wild and troubled.  She had no doubt where he was headed, or what he would do once he got there.  Her anger was forgotten as she hurried toward him.

“Please,” she softened her tone as she approached, and saw him tense as if he meant to flee.  “Just talk to me.  Let me be your friend, Matt.”

He shifted, and his face blanched.  Jen’s eyes widened and her gaze dropped to the floor, where she saw a growing puddle of blood on the concrete and steel floor.  “Oh my god!”

Join the Commandos! Pick up your copy of the critically-acclaimed book that started it all, TAMIA, at Amazon.com today!

“Confrontation” – Excerpt from TAMIA (Underground)

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Marine Captain Tamia Kuan is no stranger to war. Raised in war-torn Tibet, and then turned loose with the street gangs of Old San Francisco, Tamia is living proof that no matter the crisis, the strong will survive. On the streets, she learned to bury her heart to survive, and, but the end of the world war known as the Divide, that survival depended on no longer having a heart at all. But one man’s doubt in her innocence will turn the tables on her, and force her to free her heart. For, in the midst of one of the deadliest counterespionage missions of her life, the one thing that saves her life could be love.

 

“Confrontation” – Excerpted from TAMIA (Underground, Book 1)

The sound of voices, from Communications, reached him.  The first shivered along his awareness, and he knew instantly that was Tamia.  The other was familiar, and male, but Rick couldn’t place it.  His brow furrowed as he wondered what happened; Rick strode across the command center to the open door of Comms, and froze as the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.

Tamia sat at the console, her head bent forward so that her hair fell across her face.  Behind her stood Matt Clipper, a grin on his face that Rick wanted to pound out of him as the darker man’s hands massaged her exposed neck and shoulders, wringing a small groan from the woman.

“God, that’s good.”  Tamia’s voice was tinged with laughter.  “Okay, so I stand corrected.  You do have God’s hands.”

A shaft of pure rage avalanched through Rick at sight and words combined.  Dammit, if he couldn’t touch her, he sure as Hell didn’t want anyone else pawing her, either!  His eyes narrowed.  Matt and Tamia were both products of the streets; they probably had more in common than he and Tamia did.  Just how close were these two, anyway?

“I keep tellin’ ya, Chinagirl.  Black is be—” Matt stopped as his gaze flicked over, and met Rick’s scowl.  Rick watched with dark humor as the other man’s eyes widened, just before his hands fell away from Tamia and he muttered, “Oh, shit.”

“Why’d you stop?”  Tamia asked from behind the curtain of her hair, then straightened to look around.  “What’s the mat—?  Rick!”

Matt swallowed hard and took a step away.  His eyes moved nervously to the outside door of Comms.  “I’m outta here.  See ya later, Blade.”

With that, he beat a hasty exit, Rick’s glare following him into the corridor.  As soon as Matt was gone, Rick turned his frustrated rage on Tamia.

“What the hell was going on in here?”

“Not that it’s any of your business.”  Her posture was instantly defensive.  He knew he took the wrong tack with her, but damn it all, he was too pissed to care.  And he sure as hell couldn’t tell her why he was pissed.  Especially not with that red fire that flashed in her eyes.  “Matt just stopped in to drop off his mission notes.  He was helping me work the kinks out of my neck and shoulders.”

“Damn it, Tamia!”  He stalked over to her, yanking her seat around as he bent over her and let her see the frustration that burned in him.  The flicker of fear in her eyes lasted only for a second, but it was enough to turn his roar of frustration into a hot accusation.  “What is it with you?  Do you get some kind of rise out of tormenting people, or something?”

She jerked away in clear anger as she rose to her feet and grabbed up a file.  She ignored him as she headed for the Command Center.  At the door, she finally stopped to look back at him.  “I don’t recall doing anything of the kind.  Just who am I supposedly torturing, anyway?”

“Me,” he growled.  He caught her just inside the doorway as he dropped his head to cover her lips in a punishing kiss.  She gasped against his mouth, and the sound of paper hitting the concrete floor filtered through his consciousness, only to be swept away by a raging flood of hunger as he drank in her sweet response.

 Get your copy of TAMIA today at Amazon.com !