“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 October 11, 2016 from Desert Breeze Publishing!

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“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!

“Sins of the Past” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

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This excerpt comes from one of my most controversial and critically acclaimed series to date – Underground.

HERO’S HOPE is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever had to write.  There’s a whole lot of me — emotionally speaking — in this book. Underground is the only series where I’ve allowed myself to interject my own emotion into one of the character’s responses. Mostly because Tamia’s emotional characterization is built off of my own emotions.  And yet, Tamia also has facets to her character that are completely her own, and are reactions I only wish I could muster, at times. Still, writing this book was heart-wrenching for me, which is why it took so long to get this close to being released. I’m almost finished with the final “clean-up” edits — minor word choice edits — and then it will go to the Publisher.

HERO’S HOPE asks one thematic question that can’t be avoided:  What do you do when the choices you make are ones you can’t take back?

“Sins of the Past” — excerpted from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book #4)

He stopped in the shadows of a snow-draped oak in the cemetery, his gaze fixed on the empty hole into which an empty casket would soon be lowered.  There was irony in this, somewhere.  At the moment, with the memory of her tear-streaked face fresh in his mind, he couldn’t say where that was.  The guilt settled like a rock in his gut.

“It’s not too late, you know.”

He whipped around at the sound of a voice, and faced sad green eyes.  “How—?”

“I knew you’d be here.  You always took penance a little too far.”  She took a step closer, and her eyes held his as she repeated, “It’s not too late to end this.”

He turned away, to look back out over the snow-crusted cemetery.  His stomach burned, and the image in his head refused to be banished.  Was she right?  He wasn’t so sure.  She didn’t know what he knew.  Besides, he still had a job to do.  “I can’t go back.  Not yet.”

He heard her booted feet shuffle in the snow, and then the warm pressure of one dark-gloved hand squeezed his forearm.  “Then when?”

“Maybe never.”  He faced that bitter truth like the barrel of a gun pointed straight at his heart.  He made the woman he loved cry.  He promised never to hurt her, never to be like the men who used her, and then he caused her more pain than those twisted bastards ever could have.  Who was the bastard, now?  “She’s better off without me.”

“You don’t believe that.”  The severity of her tone was familiar.  She turned that same tone on him more than once in his misspent youth, determined that he not end up in the same hole as so many of his friends.  Now, he stared at the empty hole before him, and knew it was a little too late, this time.

You can purchase the first three books of Underground (TAMIA, MIND KILLER and TERMINAL HUNTER) at Amazon and the first two books (TAMIA and MIND KILLER) at Barnes & Noble.

“Dark Alliance” – Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

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“Dark Alliance” — Excerpted from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus, Book #4)

“This is unacceptable.”  Red Widow seethed with fury as she paced angrily around the small lab.  She hated this goddamned jungle, the heat and humidity.  She hated these people.  She hated everything about this.  She spun toward her gathered minions, ignoring the woman seated at the lab table.  The girl was the one constant reminder of her own failure, and she wasn’t about to acknowledge her existence.

“Why can none of you numbskulls get anything right?”  She fumed, though her glare fixed directly on Rurik Babin.  She’d loose her ire on Lapinov, as well, except the Tarantula Brigade leader wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of a fight.  Most times, she appreciated his icy demeanor, but she was spoiling for a fight.

“I did what I was ordered to do!”  Babin shot back, giving her exactly what she wanted – a target.

“You were supposed to kill her, you incompetent arse!”  She snapped the words out as she stalked the cockroach.  “So, tell me why she’s still breathing.”

“She has more lives than a damned cat, is why.  And the poison’s effectiveness is wearing off, too.”

That was news to her.  Red Widow spun on her heel to confront the scientist who sat in one of the room’s only two chairs.  “Is this true?”

He shrugged.  “It’s possible, at any rate.”

“How?”  Red Widow demanded.

“Hard to say.  There are numerous reasons.  Environmental factors, exposure, incorrect dosing…”

“It is none of those things.”  The room’s other female occupant spoke for the first time, drawing everyone’s attention.  Then, as if she wasn’t the focal point of the room, she made tiny clicking noises as she stroked her fingers over the hairy body of the tarantula crawling slowly across the back of her hand.

“Magdalena,” Lapinov finally spoke, his tone coaxing and indulgent, as if speaking to a child.

“There is a reason the poison is failing.”  Her voice was soft and serene, as if she was in a trance.

Red Widow rolled her eyes with a snort.  Clearly, the centuries had warped the girl’s mind, turning it to sponge.  “Do tell.”

Magdalena didn’t look up, or give any indication she was aware of the sarcasm.  “The Musir built in a failsafe.”

Red Widow’s eyes widened, and her gaze whipped to the scientist in the next chair.  “Did you know about this?”

He nodded.  “But we took care of it.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “How?”
A cold grin split his face as his hand raised to the series of long scars that grooved his cheek from eye to jaw.  The bitch had nearly taken his eye out, but he won in the end.  “We introduced our own ingredient, of course.”

Red Widow leaned back against the table and studied the scientist with interest.  Could she have found the one American capable of actually doing his job?  Rachel hadn’t had the staying power, once Sargon was awakened, and so far, Daniel Cook was proving incompetent beyond compare.

But this man’s icy lack of emotion made him formidable, and gave her the first burst of confidence in his ability to get the job done.  This wasn’t a man easily distracted by personal vendettas, and he bore the evidence of how far he’d go to sate his brutal desires on his face, like a badge of dishonor.  She heard he left the native woman who gave him those scars for dead, deep in the Peruvian jungle.  A chilly smile tugged at her lips.  Aye, this man wouldn’t let anyone get in his way.

Find out how we got to this point.  Get your copies of the first three Project Prometheus books today at www.aspenmountainpress.com !

My Books & Background

I get a lot of questions about my books and my background, and I thought I’d just take a few moments here to discuss some of my most frequent questions, and to introduce a few of my books you might not be aware of the existence of.

I’m often asked about my connection to the paranormal, and why I spend so much time writing paranormals.  All I can say to that is that my life is a paranormal.  There’s a great deal about me that only the people who’ve been the closest and most open toward me have even touched the surface of.  I just don’t talk about it, much.  Period.  There’s no nefarious reason to that.  A lot of it has more to do with the fact that I’ve thought of it as “normal” for so long, I was surprised to learn that it actually wasn’t.  To me, writing about the paranormal is writing about something I know intimately, and is a natural extension of my scientific curiousity.

My first excursion into the paranormal in fiction was a series of Arthurian novels I began work on many years ago (being likewise obsessed with all things Arthurian at the time).   Nope, these books are still unpublished.  Not from any huge sentimental attachment, but because as my writing skill developed and changed, I’ve continued to edit and perfect, and quite frankly, I’m just not convinced they’re good enough, yet…:)  That’s the perfectionist in me.

In the mid-1990’s, I started on two series — one a Military/Science Fiction series based around characters whose personalities I drew from people around me. While there is actually a slight paranormal edge to the stories, most of the focus is on the Suspense, and the relationship between the two main characters of the series.  Born of my youth growing up in the military world, and of my respect for the men and women who serve and were my friends and extended family for a great number of years.  From my own mistakes (and the possibilities of mistakes I came close to making), my own triumphs, dreams, and heartaches, came the character of Tamia Kuan, a reformed street punk and recovering heroin addict whose years as a Marine in the middle of a massive world war have left her struggling to find the honor and courage that can keep her alive and sane.  When she gains entry to the ultra-elite Commandos, Tamia has more struggles ahead of her, facing her greatest fears and most dangerous enemy – herself.  Tamia is one of the central characters of my Futuristic Romance/Thriller series, Underground.  Beginning with the self-named novel TAMIA, each book follows the twists and turns of a hunt for a spy capable of destroying everything Tamia’s struggled for.

The other series was much heavier in the paranormal. A crime/suspense series, it’s based around the supposition of paranormal creatures and beings living side-by-side with us, unknown to most of the world, and a struggle between two different organizations — one a militant Secret Society run by an offshoot of the Catholic Church, determined to exterminate these beings (called Paras), and the other an investigative agency formed by a family whose ancestor paid with her life to protect the Para community – the Guardians. But my main purpose, when I started, was to create a series where forensic science and the paranormal actually overlapped, and I built the Bunker out of that — an independent forensic laboratory, run by a science-focused pathologist, that gets drawn into the middle of this paranormal struggle by a case that partners Dr. Faith MacKenzie up with a law enforcement officer who also works for Guardians, Inc.

In the late 1990’s, I began working on a novel that once again combined the paranormal with a subject very close to my heart – the Cradle of Civilization.  When I first started the novel, entitled IN HER NAME, it was meant to be a stand-alone novel entwining the dangerous mythology of the region with the archeology I was fascinated by.  Then, in 2001, terror struck the US and, after listening to people openly rebuke the Arabs even before the dust settled or any investigation was done, I was angry.  Not at the Arabs, but at the close-mindedness of a nation that would condemn a person strictly on their beliefs, without understanding how the actions of a few do NOT reflect the beliefs of the many.  And my main character, Manara, began to take on a new shape – not as an Arab, but as a woman of a belief structure even older: a religion feared because it’s not understood, and a woman despised for her beliefs in both her own world and in the eyes of an American man with a deep hatred of all things paranormal or supernatural – a hatred even he doesn’t quite understand.  IN HER NAME became the birthing of Project Prometheus, a paranormal series that deals equally with the misunderstanding and hatred that lead to terrible acts of violence in our world.  You can find out more about IN HER NAME and the rest of Project Prometheus on my website.

Upcoming next year, I’ve got another series coming out – this one will be a Fantasy series, Legends of Tirum.  I’ll be going into details on this series a little more around the beginning of the year.  It’s set up in a similar vein to Underground, with a central set of characters and a continuing storyline that takes place over the span of 10-11 books.  I’m actually very excited about this series, and when I begin to post more information on the series you’ll get to see why! 🙂

More information about both the books here and other books I’ve written in these series and beyond can be found on my website at http://www.esthermitchell.com