SIGHT UNSEEN available for sale!

I am super excited and pleased to announce that Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow’s debut book, SIGHT UNSEEN, is now available for sale!

If you’ve been waiting for this book, it’s finally here! You can pick up your copy of the e-book today at any of the following locations:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Desert Breeze Publishing

All Romance Ebooks

Hopefully, it’ll be available in print very soon. I will keep you posted on that front.

If you want to know what the book is about, keep reading:

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, in the midst of a series of bizarre murders, 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.

sightunseencoverart

 

 

“Beginnings” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc.: Witch Hollow)

sightunseencoverartWhat 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.

 

“Beginnings” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc.: Witch Hollow, Book #1):

The rain fell in sheets, lashing across the windshield with vicious force. Dr. Faith MacKenzie wiped again at the misty condensation on the windshield’s interior and cursed the miserable weather. She could barely see the road through the rain, and each spike of lightning and accompanying roar of thunder nearly blinded and deafened her.

It was raining when her alarm woke her at six this morning. That gentle cascade lifted the fragrance of damp grass and lilac through her open bedroom window, promising a peaceful spring day. However, somewhere along the way it turned violent. It was evening now, shortly after seven, and the pounding storm made her wish she owned a boat rather than her navy-blue Chevrolet. After the week she had, she could do without another waterlogged crime scene. Especially one so close to her family.

The ring of her cell phone, currently synched to her car’s hands-free system, cut through the hypnotic drone of the windshield wipers and the pelting of rain against the car, startling her. Righting the car’s trajectory, she tapped the answer button on her steering wheel.

“Doctor MacKenzie.”

“Hey, girlfriend. It’s me.” Joyce Lindon’s cheerful voice filled the car. “How’d the floater go?”

“Wet. The body’s on its way to the Bunker.” Faith grimaced at the memory of the swollen, putrefied body of a young woman she just finished dredging out of the Monongahela River when she got the call for the Manor. “Let Mark know he needs to go over the body and collect any trace, before he puts her in the cooler. Oh, and can you tell Linda I need her to meet me out at the Manor?”

“She’s already out there. As soon as we got the call, she left with her sketch pad. She has fresh SD cards for the cameras, too.”

“Good. Did you all get any more information on what’s going on out at the Manor? All I know, at this point, is that someone discovered a body somewhere on the grounds.”

“You know as much as we do.” Joyce sounded concerned. “I was actually calling because I hoped you had more information. You haven’t heard from Patrice or Ramsey?”

“No.” And the silence worried her. With the body count racking up, she didn’t like knowing this killer had access to her uncle’s home. Between the floater and the body she was on her way to collect at the Manor, this made five bodies in the past two weeks, spread over the entire Witch Hollow area. That made more violent deaths in one area than she saw in the past six years since she returned to Haitsburg. “The varying degrees of decomposition suggests whoever is responsible for these killings isn’t new at this.”

“You still think it’s all one person?”

“The three decedents we already have in the cooler have similar injuries.”

“Similar?”

“Enough to indicate the possibility of a serial killer. If the body I just recovered and the one at the Manor show consistent injuries, I’ll be comfortable calling it confirmed.” Four days ago, she and her crew unearthed the first skeletal remains. The state of the bones indicated the murder took place years ago — maybe even decades. She’d checked the National Crime Information Center, but so far she hadn’t come up with any other matches. “NCIC didn’t have anything for us, but I can’t rule out the possibility his other victims haven’t been found, yet.”

“His?”

“Statistically, serial killers are predominantly male. Particularly when the victims are women.”

“All right. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” With that Joyce signed off, and Faith tapped the end button and released her breath in a heavy sigh.

As fascinating as the prospect of a serial killer was, from an investigative and profiling standpoint, she knew how bad this was. Cases like Ed Gein and Ray and Faye Copeland were proof enough how dangerous having a serial killer running around in a small town community was. Being a forensic pathologist and profiler wasn’t usually the busiest of jobs in a small town like Haitsburg. In fact, probably half the county thought she was crazy. She turned down positions in Philadelphia and New York City to come back to rural Pennsylvania, where she grew up. No one else knew why, or understood her reasoning if they did know. They all thought she was crazy to turn down a glamorous, big-city job.

She didn’t care. After nine-eleven, she had nothing left to prove to herself or anyone else. She had more than enough nightmares to last her for the rest of her life.

Want to know more? Stay tuned… SIGHT UNSEEN will be released October 11, 2016 from Desert Breeze Publishing.

“Serial Killer” – Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

 

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!

sightunseencoverart

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.

 

“Serial Killer” — Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 1):

She lifted one brow and stared him down expectantly.  He fought the urge to chuckle. She was adorable, when she was pissed. Not that he was about to admit it to her.

“All right.” He threw his hands up in mock surrender. “You’re right. I had the forensic accountants go over his financials, and it doesn’t look like your pal, Adam, had any reason to want Parrish dead.”

“Good.” She turned back to the samples on her workstation. “Now maybe we can get back to finding the real killer.”

“Like Patton.”

She shot him a withering glance over her shoulder. “Would you let it go, already?”

“Why? Even you admitted he matches your profile of the type of person most likely to want Parrish dead.”

She turned toward him again, her arms crossed over her chest and her gaze cool. “Perhaps. But if he’s Ramsey’s killer, what’s his connection to Carol-Ann? Or the other five victims?”

“You found a solid link?” Jonathan straightened, instantly on alert. Mac wasn’t able to link the cases more than peripherally, before. Not enough to convince her they were connected, and he wasn’t about to argue with someone with her credentials, when it came to these things.

“Not conclusive, no. But I had Mark run gas chromatographic analysis of the clothing of four of the other victims, and there are consistent levels of the same incense components in all of them as we found on Ramsey.”

“What about the others?”

“Carol-Ann’s body was submerged in the Monongahela for so long, all chemical traces were washed away, and one of the other victims was little more than a skeleton. We barely found enough clothing fibers to confirm she was definitely clothed at the time of burial. Beyond that, there just wasn’t a big enough sample to get a definitive test, and we can’t be sure there wasn’t any environmental contamination of the sample.”

Jonathan reached into his pocket for his cell phone. “Consistent is good enough for me.  Thanks, Mac.”

Even as he dialed Damion’s number, Jonathan squashed the uneasy feeling in his gut. This was almost too easy. What kind of sick game was Haliatus up to, now?

Look for SIGHT UNSEEN, coming from Esther Mitchell and Desert Breeze Publishing on October 11, 2016.

COTW: Burden of Proof, Chapter 6

Chapter Six

August 7
5:00 AM

An insistent, annoying buzz filled Chelsea’s head, dragging her from the arms of oblivion and into the dim early morning light. Bleary-eyed, she slapped her alarm clock off and groaned as she sat up, swinging her long legs over the edge of the bed. Damn Justin Blakely, anyway! He’d pushed Marlene’s arraignment through the courts faster than she anticipated.

Little as she liked the idea of Marlene being locked up, she couldn’t stop the growing fear that behind bars was the only safe place for her client, right now. She counted on the extra time to prove her case, but unless she came up with a compelling eleventh-hour argument for a continuance, Marlene would be arraigned, today. Oh, well, maybe it was for the best, she told herself with a heavy sigh. No use putting off the inevitable; whether arraigned or indicted, Marlene didn’t have a prayer of avoiding trial, and the older woman couldn’t handle much more jail time, anyway.

Rising with a sigh, Chelsea stumbled into the bathroom and a hot shower, in hopes of reviving herself enough to make it through the day. Five minutes later, as she lathered her hair with her favorite apple-scented shampoo, Chelsea frowned. This case could fall apart without one woman’s testimony. She had to find Linda Travis!

Rinsing off, she stepped from the shower and dried off, wrapping her hair in the towel when she finished. Standing before the clearing mirror, she studied herself critically. More than once, Sally declared it a waste Chelsea didn’t date, with the way she looked. She had a naturally slim figure even her poor eating habits hadn’t managed to ruin, yet. Sure, there were dark smudges beneath her eyes, thanks to a restless night and too little sleep in recent days, and her skin was pale from stress. But those could be covered up with cosmetics.

Her body, however, was only just beginning to show the ravages of stress. She was still willowy, with full, but not disproportionately large breasts and curvy but slim hips. Letting her hands slide down over her creamy, freckle-dotted flesh, she wondered dreamily what Justin would think. Would he appreciate the silkiness of her skin, or its sun-sensitive pallor? The thought of his hands on her caused her nipples to pucker and her insides to tremble. Then, as her foggy thoughts cleared, she gasped in horror. Why should she care what Blakely would think? He was never going to get close enough.

 Never.

Chelsea frowned darkly at herself. There was no way she would ever let another Blakely hurt her. Even if Justin’s kisses did make her blood hot and her knees weak…

 Stop it, she commanded her libido as she yanked on her robe and strode back into the bedroom, grabbing up the phone. Forget coffee, this morning — she was too wired, now. Besides, she needed to check in with Sally before court.

The phone rang twice before a sleepy voice answered, “Hello?”

“Sal, it’s me. Did you find any leads on Linda Travis, yet?”

“Good morning to you, too,” Sally muttered wryly. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“It’s five-thirty AM.”

“God, Chels, I love you dearly, but I swear I’m gonna kill you.”

“Sorry. I’m due in court by eight-thirty. Now, did you find out anything?”

Sally sighed, and yawned. “No. I called in a few favors from an old friend to get him to watch her place, but there’s been no suspicious activity, so far. The store’s been closed, and no one unusual has been in or out of the building since you were there. I got Deke to fingerprint the place, too. Chels,” her voice grew grim. “The only prints he’s lifted so far belong to Linda and your client, Marlene Cavarella.”

Excitement zinged through Chelsea. Finally, a break! “So Marlene was there? That’s great news, Sal!”

“Not if Linda’s been kidnapped, it’s not,” Sally said. “The D.A.’s office will be all over that one, and your girl might end up facing kidnapping and breaking and entering charges on top of the murder rap.”

Chelsea’s high deflated. “Damn; you’re right. Linda’s the only one who can credibly give Marlene a rock-solid alibi. Any leads on where she might have gone?”

“I think the question should be why, not where.” Sally’s tone implied how little she, too, liked this loose end. “I’ve already checked, Chels, and Linda Travis is in this up to her neck. The first suspicious thing I flagged was in her connection to your client. She was friends with Marlene in high school, when Linda was dating Dominic. The girls had a falling out over him, according to my sources, and didn’t speak from their senior prom until about two years ago, when Marlene apparently renewed contact with Linda. Sis,” her tone turned grim. “All this makes it look like Marlene had a motive to want Linda Travis out of the way.”

Chelsea’s gut clenched, and nausea swirled in her stomach. Her case was shredding around her. “Well, keep at it, Sal. We need to find Linda, regardless of where that leads.”

“I agree,” Sally said. “Take care of yourself, Chels.”

“You, too. Tell Mom I said hi,” Chelsea said, before hanging up. As she returned the phone to its cradle, she drew a shuddering breath, and gathered her strength for the day ahead. She still had to face Justin Blakely and pretend she didn’t remember the scorching kiss they’d shared.

It was a lost cause to try ignoring her hormones, Chelsea decided an hour later as she watched Justin stride confidently into the courtroom in a dark brown suit that outlined his trim, muscular shape and intensified the piercing green of his eyes. As his gaze raked over her, those eyes flared with hunger, and Chelsea’s heart sped up, even as her palms went damp and her mouth turned to cotton. Nervously, she wet her lips, and watched his eyes darken further as they fixed on her tongue’s motion.

“Counselor,” he said, nodding, and the husky timbre of his voice made Chelsea’s knees weak. Good God, what was wrong with her? Chelsea snapped back into her cool courtroom demeanor, reminding herself this man she was mooning over was a Blakely — a corrupt, disgusting specimen somewhere below human on the evolutionary scale. Nodding crisply in his direction, she turned away as Marlene was led into the courtroom, determined to ignore Justin Blakely’s presence across the aisle if it killed her.

By the time the bailiff instructed them to rise for the judge’s entry, Chelsea’s tension had reached boiling point. Somehow, through the thrumming in her blood, she belatedly registered the judge’s identity.

 Willard Jennings.

Chelsea blanched, even as she locked her knees against a defeated collapse. Jennings? She’d drawn Jennings, of all people?

 I’m doomed, she thought, feeling the building pressure of unwelcome tears behind her eyes. God, was she going to break down here, in court? That would be a great start to her case — prove Jennings and his assumption women weren’t cut out for litigation right. Stiffening herself, she pushed aside her building despair over her crumbling case, and her rotten luck and forced herself to concentrate on her client’s innocence. She would find a way to prove it, somehow.

*****

Justin, watching Chelsea out of the corner of his eye, saw her face pale, and the shakiness of her stance, before she snapped bolt upright. He imagined she’d locked her knees, and concern slashed through him. Was she going to pass out? She looked even more haggard — if that was possible — than her hollow-faced client did. God, Jennings would eat her alive, and he could see she’d reached the same conclusion. Even as he watched, her eyes hardened to ice-blue chips, and her features set resolutely, like a soldier preparing for battle. Admiration stirred in Justin, and he barely suppressed the urge to smile. He couldn’t afford to go soft over Chelsea Hanover. He needed to keep his wits about him, for justice’s sake.

Judge Jennings, a formidable-looking man with the jowls of a bull dog and the cold glare of a Gestapo agent, glanced over the docket he was handed, harrumphed quietly in clear disgust, and raised that implacable black glare to fix on Marlene Cavarella.

“You are Mrs. Marlene Cavarella?”

“Yes.” Marlene’s whisper barely carried in the cavernous courtroom, and her head bowed meekly.

“Mrs. Cavarella, I hold here an indictment claiming that you did, on June third, willfully and with disregard to the value of human life, murder your husband, Dominic Cavarella. Do you understand this charge as it has been read to you?”

“Yes.” Her murmured answer wavered, and she trembled as if holding back tears. Jennings frowned, clearly disgusted by the display.

“How do you plead?”

Chelsea’s eyes raised level with the judge’s and in a firm, clear voice she said, “The defense enters a plea of not guilty, Your Honor.”

Jennings’ beefy face contorted in disdain. “Very well. Let the record reflect that the defendant is pleading not guilty to the charges.”

“We further request bail to be set, Your Honor,” Chelsea continued, undaunted. “Mrs. Cavarella is under considerable mental and emotional duress, and to keep her incarcerated under these circumstances constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Your Honor, it could be argued just as easily that stabbing a man sixty-four times with a butcher’s knife, in hopes of killing him, is also cruel and unusual punishment,” Justin said blandly. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requests the denial of bail on the grounds that a person capable of such a gruesome execution is both capable and likely to commit another equally brutal offence.”

Chelsea’s eyes flashed rage as she shot him a scathing glance. “A woman of my client’s size is hardly capable, physically, of committing the murder of which she’s been accused, let alone a second like it–“

“Ms. Hanover,” Jennings leaned forward, his expression disapproving. “This is an arraignment. Kindly reserve your opening statements for the trial.” As Chelsea snapped her mouth shut, her cheeks flushing with rage and humiliation, Jennings continued. “As to the matter of bail, I’m not inclined to view size as a determining factor in the commission of a crime. In regards to your request for bail, I find sufficient grounds to believe your client is an opportunist. Her type will take a man for everything, including his life. As I’m not inclined to offer her the chance to prove me right, I’m denying bail. Mrs. Cavarella will be remanded to the custody of the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution for the duration of this trial.”

Justin’s hackles rose, even as Chelsea straightened, rage flashing through her eyes. While it wasn’t uncommon for a judge to deny bail in a capital offence such as murder, he’d never seen a defendant’s sex used so openly against her, before. Justin let his own glare bore into Jennings, hating the arrogant, biased politician as he never had before. It would be a miracle if any of them got through this trial alive.

 

Like what you’ve read so far? Consider donating to my fund in benefit of RAINN and The Rape Foundation. 50% of all proceeds will be divided between the charities and donated directly. 50% of the proceeds will go into a special fund to help with publication costs to get this book printed and more widely circulated, to further help these causes.

BECOME A PATRON – DONATE HERE

©2006 BURDEN OF PROOF BY ESTHER MITCHELL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ANY UNLAWFUL REPRODUCTION, DUPLICATION OR PRESENTATION OF THIS MATERIAL WITHOUT THE EXPRESS, WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR IS SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION UNDER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS LAWS.

Burden of Proof Final

“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!

“Unfinished Business” – Excerpted from BURDEN OF PROOF

Burden of Proof FinalAssistant 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 64 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.

“Unfinished Business”  – Excerpted from BURDEN OF PROOF

As the paramedics loaded Chelsea onto a stretcher, Justin dug the number Sally gave him out of his pocket and punched it into his cell phone.  The line picked up on the second ring and Sally’s breathless, anxious voice answered, “Hello?”

“It’s Justin Blakely.  I found your sister.”

He heard her shuddering sigh of relief.  “Thank God.  Where was she?  Let me speak to her.”

“Sally…” He stopped, swallowing hard.  Damn.  He wasn’t any good at this stuff, and he was still too torn up inside to be objective.

“Oh, God,” she whispered.  “She’s not dead… Please tell me she’s not dead.”

The plea in her voice tore at him.  He knew how that fear felt.

“She’s alive,” he assured her gently.  “Sally, she was attacked, here at her apartment.”

“Damn it!”  The sudden, violent oath from Sally surprised him, but not near as much as her next angry, unguarded statement.  “I told her she had to put him away.  I told her…”

“Put who away?”  Justin demanded harshly, gripping the phone tight as he followed the paramedics out of Chelsea ’s apartment.  “Talk to me, Sally.  Tell me what’s going on.”

“I can’t,” she said miserably.  “I promised Chels her secret was safe with me.”

“Damn it, Sally,” he ground out the words in fear and frustration.  “I found her in the damned closet, bleeding and nearly catatonic, with her clothes shredded.  I want to know who the son of a bitch is!”

“No.”  Sally’s voice rang with steel.  Then, softening her tone, she confided, “Don’t you think I want a piece of the bastard?  I’ve been trying for years to get Chelsea to let me track him down. But she doesn’t want her battles fought for her, and she’s convinced that one’s already lost, anyway.  She doesn’t want anyone’s help with this.  Not mine, not her friends’, and especially not yours.  I’m sorry — I can’t tell you anything more.  Mom and I will be there soon.”

Before Justin could ask why not him, Sally had hung up.  Grimly determined now, Justin ignored the protests of the paramedics as they loaded Chelsea into the ambulance, and climbed in beside her.  He’d told her he wasn’t going to leave her and, dammit, he was going to keep that promise.

 

Look for BURDEN OF PROOF, coming from Esther Mitchell and FyrRose Productions in 2016. (50% of the cover price of this book will be divided between RAINN and The Rape Foundation)

If you, or someone you love, has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault,  please know you are not alone.  Domestic violence and sexual assault crimes are the  largest number of unreported crimes in the US and Europe. Break the silence, and help take back the night.  For help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or  RAINN at 1-800-656-4673. 

Get involved, and help take violence out of our homes, and rapists off the streets. Contact  your local shelters and domestic crisis organizations.  Together, we all make a difference.

“A Different Kind of Monster” – Excerpt from NOBODY’S BABY (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

I know a lot of people think Romance is about hearts and flowers and mushy stuff. For some people, that might be just fine. Personally, I think love that can prove itself despite the odds against it is the truest measure of its real strength, and I believe that love is a real-world emotion, and should be given the respect of a real-world environment in which to either flourish or wither. This is why I don’t write light and airy Romance. I write hard, gritty reality. What gives the Romance in my work strength is all about the characters — they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for where their relationship goes, and I never really declare a story “over.”

Nor do I shy away from subjects that impact the real world, and explore some of the darker areas of our world. Without the darkness, how would we ever learn to appreciate the light and healing love has to offer?  From the moment I started this series, nearly two decades ago, I knew it would either be enthusiastically embraced or completely attacked. I’m willing to take that risk, because I believe in these characters that much. I only hope you are as intrigued and touched by them as I continue to be.

“A Different Kind of Monster” – Excerpt from NOBODY’S BABY (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow) —

It was late. That was why she swore she still heard a soft, child-like voice speaking out of the darkened corners of the Bunker’s autopsy room/morgue. The occasional whimper further unsettled her, but she told herself it was her fear talking. She owed Jonathan the truth, but she just couldn’t find the words to tell him. How did one even bring up a subject so personal? She didn’t have a clue.

“You still here?”   The sound of his voice startled her, and she dropped the forceps she’d just picked up with a clatter of metal on metal, whirling toward him.

“Don’t do that to me!” She closed her eyes and forced her breathing back to normal. Inside, her heart raced in her ears. Oh, God, what did she do, now?  This was getting so awkward.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jonathan eyed her dubiously. “You don’t usually jump at shadows.”

Faith swallowed hard, and turned back to the corpse on her autopsy table. She wasn’t about to admit it wasn’t shadows making her jumpy. “I’m fine. And I think I found cause of death.”

She sensed, as much as heard, him move up beside her, and steeled herself against the urge to shift away. If she did that, he’d know something was up.

“I thought you said she died of exposure.”

“I did. Initial indications at the scene supported that hypothesis, at the time. But this child wasn’t just dumped behind that building, Jonathan. She was tortured, first.”

She caught movement in her peripheral vision, and turned to see Jonathan tensed, his expression grimly angry. “Who tortures a baby, for God’s sake?”

“I don’t know, yet. But there’s significant sharp force trauma to the skin on her thoracic region, and evenly-spaced, antemortem bruising consistent with some kind of heavy pressure applied to her upper thighs and forearms. Could be some kind of restraints.” Faith fought to keep her voice steady. People who tortured anyone infuriated her, but to do this to a baby…

“All right,” Jonathan’s voice snapped with anger she understood only too well. “Linda got her sketch to the media, and we’re searching Missing Persons right now. We’ll figure out who she is, and the identity of the bastard who did this to her.”

Faith sealed her lips over her own doubts. She had no proof, but every ounce of her training told her this was a crime committed by someone whose job it was to protect this beautiful little girl. And that was the worst part of her job – knowing that someone could do something so unspeakable to someone so innocent. A child they claimed to love.