@AshleyLadd is bringing her sexy trio of HER MEN to visit…#giveaway #erotic #romance

Today we are being visited by the lovely Ashley Ladd, mistress of steamy romance, where her heroine doesn’t have to settle for just one hunky hero. Not only is sharing a peek of HER MEN, her latest title from Totally Bound, but she’ll give one lucky commenter a pdf or epub copy! (Remember, we can’t reach you, if you don’t leave your email!)

Her Men–a contemporary erotic novella by Ashley Ladd

Forty-four year old Julie Weston has loved Timmy and James since her college days twenty something years ago. She’s fantasized about both all these long years, never able to choose between them.

Hoping Tim and James will attend, she attends their college marching band reunion. When both men show up her dreams are answered. They’re sexier than she imagined and she hopes they won’t be disappointed by her older self.

It turns out both men came just to see her again and neither is happy about the other’s presence. They fight over her, confusing her more than ever. It takes a hot ménage…or two…for her heart to decide which one she’s in love with.hermen_800

Fair warning…things might get a bit hot if you dare to read on…

“I’m so hungry—for you.” Tim twisted her hair in his fingers and pressed his lips to her forehead. “And I’m so hot, if you know what I mean.”
“Me too.” She was glad for her buzz, for the courage it provided. She longed to kiss him, wondered why he hadn’t kissed her yet.
“Let’s ditch dinner and…”
A shadow fell between them and James grabbed her away from Tim. “I’m breaking in. You’ve monopolized her all night.”
“But you don’t dance. You don’t like disco,” she blurted, surprised but thrilled.
“I do now. If it’s the only way I get my turn to see you, I’ll dance all night. I’m tired of waiting for you at the table.” James tugged her into his arms, ignoring Tim’s deathly glare.
“One dance, then I’m coming back.” Tim stalked away and grabbed a drink, which he downed in one gulp.
James’ warmth replaced Tim’s.
“Thank you.” She wiggled beside James hoping she could make him as hot as she’d made Tim.
“For rescuing you from Tim? You didn’t look as though you wanted rescuing.” James held her close but his nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed to mere slits.
“Not for tonight. For all those years ago you told him off for abandoning me. I wish I’d known. I also wish I’d done this.” Before she could lose her nerve, she pressed her lips to his.
He pulled back and gazed into her eyes, suspicion in his. “Are you drunk?”
Hurt and embarrassed she held up one finger. “I only had one drink. And I kissed you because I’ve wanted to do so for many years and I don’t want to let you go again without you knowing that, without knowing what it feels like.”
A low growl rumbled from James. Desire lit his eyes. Purpose firmed his lips. Without another word, he lowered his head and kissed her deeply, thoroughly.
He tasted so good, like steak and Cabernet and she couldn’t get enough. Her legs rubbery, about to give out on her, she clung to him. Her heart seemed to swell to triple its normal size. James’ was robust and passionate and full of pent-up longing.
“You wanted to kiss me too, all those years ago,” she muttered, touching his lips. It wasn’t a question. He tasted too good, was too mesmerizing to move away from.
“Yes.” The answer was long, drawn out and breathy. Full of emotion.
“Why didn’t we?”

Shall I bring you a cold cup of water? No? You sure? Then if you’re ready, come meet the mind behind the heat–Ashley Ladd…

If you were to hold a dinner party for six, who would you invite and share at least one question you would have for each? 

John Lennon—What was it like in the early days to be a Beatle, when you were just becoming famous? What attracted you to Yoko?

Elizabeth Bennett—What was your life like after the honeymoon was over with Mr. Darcy? Or did the honeymoon ever end?

Mulan—Did you marry Shang Li? Did you go back to war?

Spock—Did you ever marry or have children?

Captain Kirk—How many women did you date? Do you like older women?

–((giggle)) I don’t think he’d turn you down…

Luke Skywalker—Did you find and train more Jedi Knights after you saved your father? Or did the Jedi die out after you?

–from what I’ve heard, Luke did more than train more Knights, but that’s another universe, far, far, away…

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten. Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

I wanted to be an astronaut and travel the galaxy with Spock and Captain Kirk. I wanted to discover new worlds and new civilizations – to go where no man has gone before.

If you turned your laptop/computer/pen/typewriter (yes, some of still use these!) over to your character(s), how would they describe you?

A frustrated, disabled vet who was turned down by the FBI to be an agent because of her hearing loss. Instead she lives vicariously through her stories with kick ass heroes and heroines, some who are military, some who aren’t, and all who make her happy in one way or another.

She adores her kids and grandkids, human and furry. She wants to be a crazy cat lady and would be more of one if only her family would permit it. They say four cats are two two many.

She loves the Beatles, moldy oldies, American Idol finalists, Star Trek, and watching movies on the big screen.

Ashley wanted to share Bobby with us, just to point out that crazy cat lady status is not something to be feared…Ashley Ladd with Bobby for Hat Interview

Personally, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side so the thought of being in the actual presence of one of my favorite writers makes my heart race, my knees shake and tangles my tongue (yes classic fan girl behavior). Who could reduce you to such a level and how do you imagine your initial meeting?

I’m like you, shy and introverted.

I admire Stephen King, Sherryl Woods, Tina Wainscott, Holly Jacobs.

–I know this short, little guy who travels with a Raven who’d love to be with you when you hook up with Mr. King..

I would get a frog in my throat and would have trouble spitting out mywords if I could even think of anything intelligent to say. My knees would shake and my stomach would be tied up in knots.

Actually, I know Holly from online when she still went by Holly Fuhrman and I’ve met her in person. She’s extremely nice.

And now that we’ve finished our tough questions, time for Ashley to dodge a few bullets…

  • Blades, guns, fists or feet?    Guns (I used to shoot trap with my dad – but I also like feet as I was a brown belt in Taekwondo too)
  • Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?      Mulan!
  • Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?    Geeky disdain (I’m a HUGE Big Bang Theory fan)
  • Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?    My husband’s mini fridge is sitting on the side of my computer desk!
  • Favorite supernatural creature?    Pegasus

 

Ashley Ladd lives in South Florida with her husband, five children, and beloved pets. She loves the water, animals (especially cats), and playing on the computer.She’s been told she has a wicked sense of humor and often incorporates humor and adventure into her books. She also adores very spicy romance, which she weaves into her stories.Ashley Ladd bio

How you can contact Ashley:
chinara@aol.com
http://www.ashleyladd.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/ashleyladdauthor
http://www.twitter.com/ashleyladd
https://www.goodreads.com/AshleyLadd
http://www.shelfari.com/search/books?Keywords=Ashley%20Ladd
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ashley%20ladd&sprefix=ashle%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aashley%20ladd

BUY LINK:
https://www.totallybound.com/her-men

It’s Getting a Little Tense In Here… #writing tips #conflict #tension

Quotation-Ian-Mcewan-information-Meetville-Quotes-165022

What’s a story without tension? Hell, life’s all about tension, right? Do you do this? Or this? Should you take this path? Or that one? What if that path takes you straight into the mouth of danger? What if it doesn’t?

Conflict is the heart of the story, and tension is what conflict creates. As a writer, your job is to take believable characters, throw them into impossible situations and watch what happens.

This can’t be done, if you, as the almighty author, try to set things up. Which you’re bound to do, if your characters aren’t real.

Here’s what I mean:

John P and Suzy Q use to be friends, then Suzy found out John slept with her sister. Friendship went the way of the do-do. Suddenly Suzy’s sister, Floozy, turns up dead in a ditch after sneaking out to go to a party.  Fingers are pointed and John P is on the other end. Suspicions abound, but Suzy knows Floozy wasn’t all that picky when it came to hook-ups and John has never seemed the type.

That’s your plot. Go you, it’s great, filled with all sorts of branching paths of tension.

John and Suzy’s relationship

Suzy and Floozy’s relationship

Floozy’s murder

Now, if your characters are fleshed out enough to walk off the pages, you’re going to find a whole ‘nother mess under that level.  If they aren’t, you’re going to start throwing in your own contrived tension makers.

If you can’t get below this level, go back and delve a bit more into John, Suzy and Floozy. You know, all that info you didn’t share with your readers at the get-go. It’s that information you reveal in bits and pieces through the pages that bring it all together. Because, from here you should be able to drill down to this:

Suzy’s always been in love with John, and just when she was going to bare more than her heart, she finds him in bed with sister. Heartbroken, Suzy cuts John out of her life and give her sister the cold shoulder. If she’s insecure enough, she’ll never tell John why she’s so hurt, but she will continually cut her sister down as it’s her passive/aggressive way in dealing with the anger of Floozy taking yet another man from her.

John made the mistake of mixing cold meds with allergy meds, and he heads over to Suzy’s place because they were going to do some studying. He’s been trying not make any aggressive moves on the lovely Suzy because he doesn’t want to scare her off. But when he arrives, dizzy and sick, it’s Floozy who answers the door. But things get hazing and suddenly Floozy is Suzy. She coaxes him into lying down and the next thing he know, a feverish daydream of Suzy is taking on a decidedly erotic twist.

Floozy’s always resented her goody-two shoe sister, Suzy. No matter what, everything Suzy touches comes up roses. While Floozy is stuck with the loser. Like the last boyfriend, who just won’t take no for an answer. When John knocks on the door, acting a little buzzed, Floozy perks up. She’s always like John, and even though that tiny voice in her head is warning her off, she’s going to show Suzy how not everything is perfect in this life.

If you let your characters off their chain here, you got yourself an incredibly tension filled story spilling across the pages.

Now you can dive into:
Can Suzy look beyond her guilt and prejudices to see the truth before she loses her chance at something precious?

Can John get over his anger and resentment at Floozy and Suzy to discover who the real killer is before it’s too late?
And the psychological games are off. This depth of character motivation is key to creating tension, and tension is conflict and conflict is story.

Other than withholding information, what other writing tools create great tension?

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Writers…

Change has come to stalk the Wicked household, or more specifically, for Wicked herself. It’s a good thing she has three books out this year, because getting two more out next year is going to test her time management skills.  And here’s why…after many, many, many (add thirteen more) years of being blessed with a telecommuting position, Wicked has decided to take a newly opened path of gainful employment. Not that she strayed far from her original path, just laddered up to the parent employer and new challenges. Including the one where she has to dress like an adult and leave the house to pursue said challenges.

What this means, is now for an hour, one-way, Wicked and her brand-spanking new filly, must brave the crowded roadways, dodging carts and overdrawn carriages (no, that’s not a mis-spelling), stop at the new giver of pay’s offices, toil away for a set number of hours, re-brave the clogged travel arteries, and then kick off the torturous devices known as “heels”.  While on one hand, this is wonderful, on the other it meant re-organizing a writer’s schedule.

Most writers hold day jobs while they craft their art. It’s not easy and something always has to be sacrificed (sleep, time, chocolate, homemade dinners, handcrafted gifts).  In this case, it meant the every other week meeting of like minds of the Evil 7’s critique group. A decision not easily made, mind you. After seven years with the Evil 7, I must take a reluctant step back.

There is no magical potion to imbue when trying to balance work, family, and writing, it comes down to your personal goals/needs. While I am behind on my writing counts for the last month due to all the upheaval, my overall plan has not changed.

One book from each series each year. That won’t change because I am a writer and this is something I’m willing to sacrifice for, to keep to.

While I’m uncertain how well my plans will be carried out, I’m determined to make it work. So it’s:

Monday through Fridays, get up, get the Prankster Duo out and Knight out and running, then gallop away.

Fulfill my contractual obligations for my pot of gold at the end of working person’s rainbow.

Come home, touch base, check in, ride herd over the three males and one fur rug.

When everyone’s settled in fighting off ogres, snipers and various other individuals of coded fame, I shall plant my butt in chair and pound out words of fancy while they battle in the background.

Saturdays shall become days of Writer Biz–marketing, blogs, and various sundry items that come with being a writer.

Sundays are mine–for family or writing or both, they are all mine.

So if I seem a bit quiet, don’t worry, I’m still here, just a tad busy settling into my well laid plans, and you can keep up with me at www.jamigray.com where my personal blog is updated each Wednesday. Unfortunately my posts at www.7EvilDwarves.com may have to lapse.

I’ll keep you posted on just how well it works out though. Maybe I’ll be able to give up the 8-5 to peddle my own magic formula.

Need new read? It’s HERE! HUNTED BY THE PAST has arrived! #newread #PNR

The first in an exciting new Paranormal Romantic Suspense series-HUNTED BY THE PAST is now available from Muse It Up Publishing

When facing danger, some situations require a unique skill set. Come meet the men and women of the Psy-IV Teams…

huntedbythepast

HUNTED BY THE PAST: PSY-IV Teams book 1

Sometimes death is the only way to out run the past… 

A reluctant psychic who can relive the past, a man well versed in keeping secrets, and a psychopathic killer enter a deadly game where the past determines the future.

Changing the past is an impossibility ex-Marine, Cynthia “Cyn” Arden, understands all too well. Struggling in the aftermath of a botched mission, which cost her two teammates, her military career, and a fledging relationship, she’s brought home by a panicked phone call. The psychic killer behind her nightmares has escaped military custody to hunt down the remaining teammates, one by one. Next on his murderous list–Cyn. Her only chance at survival is to master the psychic ability she’s spent years denying.

The killer’s game brings her face to face with the one person guaranteed to throw her off kilter—the unsettling and distracting man she left behind, Kayden Shaw. Once she believed he’d stand by her side, until he chose his job and his secrets over her. A choice that’s left the scars of the past etched deep on her mind and heart.

To survive this twisted game, Cyn must risk trusting her heart and accepting who and what she is, or lose not only her life, but the man she loves.

Available at:  MUSEITUP Publishing  in all digital formats!

READ AN EXCERPT

Since I didn’t want to touch him, much, I poked a finger against his chest, ignoring the unexpected zap of awareness. “I don’t know how you found me or why, but right now I have other, more important things to do. So, why don’t–”

The ringing of the phone interrupted my tirade.

I shot a look at the phone sitting on the counter to our left, and then narrowed my gaze at Kayden.

He quirked an eyebrow.

The phone rang again.

“You going to answer it?” he drawled.

Stepping back, I plucked the receiver off the cradle. “Hello?”

“Cyn?” What do you know, it was Thomas Anderson Gunderson, A.K.A. Tag.

I stared at the man standing across from me. “Yeah.”

“Where have you been? And why the hell won’t you answer my calls?” Despite his questions, there was a thread of relief in my friend’s voice. Ex-friend, I reminded myself.

“Why would I?” I gave my answer absently, watching Kayden make his way over to the other side of the counter and take a seat on a barstool.

In my ear, Tag cursed. “Dammit, Cyn. I don’t have time to explain shit now— ”

“Why are you calling me?” I cut him off, ice coating every word.

“Why are you in Sedona?” he shot back, his voice hard.

“I’m more concerned with how you got this number and why everyone seems determined to turn my cabin in to Grand Central Station.”

Momentary silence filled the line. “Shaw’s there?”

“Got it in one.”

“Thank God,” Tag muttered. “Be as bitchy as you want, Cyn, but tell me you’re okay. You ran away—”

“I didn’t run from shit, Tag, I was kicked to the fucking curb as soon as you and everyone else got what you wanted.”

“That’s not what happened.”

“Really? Because from where I stood, it sure as hell looked like it.” Silence answered. Turning away from Kayden’s too avid gaze, I tried to regain control so I could kick both of these men back out of my life. “I’m fine, but I’m little busy dealing with my own situation.”

“What kind of situation?” It actually sounded as if he gave a damn.

Closing my eyes, I tried to shove aside the urge to bang my head against a wall at the single minded intensity of the male gender. “My sister is AWOL. Now, can we just focus on why you’re bothering me and Kayden has decided to pursue a career in B&E?”

“How long has Kelsey been missing?”

The urgent note underlying Tag’s question reignited my earlier sense of unease, as if there was something bigger at play here. Worry about Kelsey trumped hurt feelings, so I answered. “Not sure, a couple hours maybe. Her car is here.”

The string of oaths spewing over the line from Tag proved no one could swear like a Marine. “Son of mangy bitch,” he muttered, then he took a deep breath. “The cabin’s an hour and half outside of Phoenix?” He didn’t wait for my answer. “I’ll meet you up there. Stay with Kayden.”

“Tag,” his name came out as a warning of my waning patience. My fingers tightened around the phone, and it took an amazing amount of will-power to not share my own colorful vocabulary. “You need to tell me what’s going on. Right. Now.” The last two words emerged around gritted teeth.

“It’s about Flash. His killer is out.” His unexpected answer stabbed deep, drawing blood under my skin. Brutal memories boiled up and I almost missed his, “Stay with Kayden, Cyn.”

The drone of a dial tone filled my ear. My world spun. I concentrated on setting the phone back in the cradle. My legs were doing a great impression of spaghetti noodles, so I let them fold under me and sat on the cool tile. Six months, I’d run as hard, as fast and as far as I could, but in a matter of minutes I was right back where I started, trapped in a never-ending nightmare.

You have to wonder which fickle fate decided to dump everything on me at once. If I ever got my hands on her, I’d beat her to a pulp. Damn, damn, and triple damn!

The past surged, breaking through to rise in a swamping wave of ghostly screams and the stench of burnt flesh. I dug my fingers deep into my thigh muscles in a desperate attempt to stave it off. No such luck. Greedy memories sucked me down.

My kitchen disappeared, replaced by a fetid alley behind a dive in Where-the-fuckistan. Sprawled on the ground, my head spinning with dizzying sickness and my leg screaming with agony, all I could do was watch and listen. Watch the spreading pool of blood and brains seep from Ortega, his sightless eyes staring past me. Listen to the snap and crackle of a raging fire hissed through the night while the smell of burning flesh wrapped around me. Behind me, someone screamed, his wail high-pitched and full of hopeless agony.

I knew that broken voice.

Even as excruciating pain beat inside my skull, I turned my head, recognizing the figure in the midst of the hellish scene. Searing loss, rage, and fear rose to a scream. My mouth opened and the stench coiled down my throat, blocking the air in my chest. No, no, no!

The shocking feel of hands against my face snapped my paralysis, bringing a touch of the present into the past. Desperate to escape, ignoring the pain radiating down my leg and through my head. I struck out, my hand connecting with flesh. “Don’t touch me!”

Harsh breathing filled the air around me. It took a few seconds to realize it was coming from me. A few more before the low soothing voice penetrated the layers of the past. “Come on back, Cyn. You’re safe.”

 

Now available at: MUSEITUP Publishing

 

Jami Gray Small

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. Her latest release, SHADOW’S MOON  was a Golden Claddaugh Finalist, and the first in her newest series, HUNTED BY THE PAST, hits shelves in July 2014. She is surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and a male lab, who masquerades as a floor rug as she plays with the voices in her head.

Come stalk Jami at any of these fine locations:

Website  /  Facebook  /  Twitter  /  Goodreads  /  Google+  /  Amazon 

 

It’s coming…HUNTED BY THE PAST is just about to arrive! #MuseItUp #newreads #PNR

huntedbythepast

Phoenix in July. People called it Mother Nature’s rendition of hell on earth.

They were wrong. Hell existed on the other side of the world, in a much more treacherous desert. If it let you go, you ran, long and hard and as fast as you could.

You couldn’t hide, but you could try. I’d been running for six long months, jumping from one remote place to another, chasing wildlife with a camera for a paycheck. A safer endeavor than chasing two footed monsters.

Unfortunately, there was one thing I couldn’t outrun, family. Or the closest thing to it in my case, Kelsey. Sister by circumstances, not blood, and the only human on this planet I’d come back to civilization for, she should’ve been on her own plane with a group of fellow lawyers for some boring-ass conference. Her words, not mine. Instead, she’d managed to get a message to me, even out into the wilds of America’s last frontier. Someone had been asking questions about me, and watching her.

And so it begins, HUNTED BY THE PAST, the first in my Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, The PSY-IV Teams. In six days you can be the proud new owner of a copy. If you want to pre-order it while it’s at $2.99, please do! Here, I’m going to include a link–click on the cover above or the image below, both will get you there.

MuseItUp

If the that first tidbit wasn’t enough, what about what others are saying…

“I was hooked from the first word read. I had a very hard time putting the book down and when I did, I couldn’t wait to come back to it.” –RomCon Reader  9.35 rating

“Hunted By The Past is fast-paced, quick witted, and Ms. Gray can surely spin a fascinating paranormal story.” –Catherine Constantine, Goodreads rating 5 stars

“…this author has grown characters rich in personal history who are willing to risk everything for love of each other and their duty.”–Mona Karel, Goodreads rating 5 stars

 

The Ego and the Edits… #editing

Much like my fellow dwarves, I’m in the midst of one final round of personal edits of SHADOW’S CURSE, the fourth book in the Kyn Kronicles. Ok, stop panicking, it’s already in my editors’ hands, promise. This is the personal read through I do before my fantastically talented editors hand back my baby liberally drenched in red.

It’s a quickie, not a detailed edit (those were done BEFORE I gingerly handed the book off). I do this to myself and my books for a couple of reasons:

1.  I need some time away from the story from when I finish it to right before final edits make their way back to me. This is me needing space.

It’s vital to have this space because it gives my ego time to come out of hiding. Generally when I finish a book, besides the big huge sigh of relief that can be heard miles away, I go through this strange well of insecurity. It’s ugly, peeps. There’s whining, a few harsh sobs, a little derisive anger. even some real childish pouting and ignoring going on. After five books, I think I finally figured out why this happens–my creative child has sunk deep into the stygian depths of doubt, and creativity is battered and bleeding. My ego is flatlining at this point. They need recuperative time. So, I add a buffer of space. This time it’s been two months (a month longer than normal–see previous post on why).

2.  I realize all my worries about the story not working can now be validated or negated.

Luckily, most of the time its negated. All those horrible nightmares I had of the story lines being trite, or characters being flat, are calmed, because look, I got so caught up in reading, I forgot to edit those last 2, maybe 5, pages. That’s a good sign, right?

3.  I want to write a kick ass blurb.

This can’t be accomplished when I’m spending 24/7 with the story. I need to be able to see it as a reader. I get way too close to the story and there’s a lot in my head that doesn’t get to the paper. I have to make sure that the back blurb fits the story. That the tag line nails it. And, trust me, trying to put a 300+ page book into less than 15 words–yeah, that’s like 3rd level of hell type torture.

And lastly, because without this sitting down to tackle the next story could be traumatizing–

4.  My creative child and ego get on the same page.

Being able to take a deep breath before diving back in means my creative kiddo has a chance to become excited, once again, about spending time with our worlds and characters. My ego decides, “Ahhh, that last one wasn’t soooo bad. Hey, I have an idea, how about this time, we step up the challenge level and (insert challenge here).”

I will admit, I have always been one of those readers–you know the type, the one who is practically dancing in place, chanting “can’t you write any faster? Pluuuuzzzzzeeee? I really need your next book.”

After seeing the process from the other end for last few years, may I offer all my favorite authors a sincere apology. I’m so sorry, I promise I’ll wait patiently for your next book and stop stalking pestering you.

 

The Knight of the Garden Gnomes… #familylife #countyourblessings

For those new to the Swamp, indulge me and allow me to give you a little backstory. (Yes, I’m aware it’s a big no-no to start any story with backstory).

Years ago when our family (Knight, Prankster Duo, Hellhound and me) moved to the Swamp we brought along the Knight’s Garden Gnomes. This brilliant pair had made a life long career of tending and creating the most stunning gardens–one of which was the Knight’s–and the time had come for them to turn the responsibilities over to the rest of the Gnomish population. Their presence in our humble shack was a blessing–the Prankster Duo blossomed with their smiles and laughter, the Hellhound found a new best bud with Mr. Gnome, and our home was complete.

Then, a few years in Mr. Gnome had a run in with the insidious invader cancercraptis, a sneaky band of miscreants who leave much chaos and tears in their wake. Yet, due to the foresight of having the Gnomes move in with the Knight and I, we were able to beat the invaders back and into submission, until it decided to leave the field. Unfortunately, like many battles, there were no guarantees they wouldn’t try again. But we remained vigilant.

A couple more skirmishes broke out. Once they even brought back-up, hoping to interrupt the steady, solid beat of Mr. Gnome’s heart. Again, with speed and some really good herbalists, we kept the gardens of our Gnomes safe. Years passed, and we grew complacent–no sightings of the creepers meant they were scared to come back.

We were wrong.

Recently cancercraptis have found a couple, very small openings to Mr. Gnome. The herbalists recommend a new concoction, one that would be much easier than its harsher sibling, Chem T. The Knight, Mr. and Mrs. Gnome, the Wandering Sister, and I held a council to discuss our options. Majority decision was to try the new elixir.

It sucked.

The ties to its sibling, Chem T., were too close. It wreaked havoc. We told the herbalist, “No more. It’s not worth it.”

The invader is slow moving, enough so you can’t tell when its there, so Mr. Gnome decided he’d rather tend his garden how he wanted, for however long the sun shone and the rain fell. He’d leave it up to Mama Nature to decide how far the weed-like invaders could reach.

Hard as it is to stand by and not torch everything to the ground, just “to be sure”, we continue to honor Mr. Gnome’s wishes.

This week, the herbalist once again adjusted one of his many herbs. This time to help ensure Mr. Gnome’s heart continued its steady pace. Once again the side effects of the new herb were frighteningly horrible. So after a frantic weekend to determine which herb was the culprit, I’m happy to report Mr. Gnome is puttering in his garden. Not quite his normal self, but close enough for horseshoes. Close enough, for us to smile instead of frown.

So the reason for this little tale–I know we hear it all the time. We see it all over social media. But through these ongoing skirmishes, I have come to appreciate all the beautiful blooms each garden presents. The smile of Mr. Gnome when the oldest of the Prankster Duo continues to dip his head for kisses, just like when he was toddling around no higher than my knees (and yes, that’s pretty damn short), even though he now towers over me and the Gnomes. The laughter of my youngest as he practices his foreign tongues with Mrs. Gnome, creating words never meant to be uttered. Or the quiet ember that glows bright when my Knight, leaves behind the daily encounters and with utter patience, talks about everything and nothing, so Mr. and Mrs. Gnome know they are loved and wanted.

When the dragons of duty torch our days or the scoundrels of stress leave us frustrated and furious, remember to take a moment and appreciate the delicate blooms around you.

The 7 Evil Dwarves are back with a new Swamp! #7EDs

On the tail end of our journey through the writing workshops over the last month, I wanted to see if you all have checked out the reswampped home of the 7 Evil Dwarves (www.7evildwarves.com)? We’ve added some new stops.

Since I spent most of June doing writer marketing stuff, release stuff, and setting things into place for the second PSY-IV Team book, I also threw in remodeling my site, which in turn bled over into reswammping the 7ED site. We’ve let the mud creep up over the last few months. Some of the dwarves have huddled inside their shacks refusing to venture out into the common areas, so we as a group decided it was time to get ourselves back in shape. (Okay, yes, maybe I pushed…a little…with a bulldozer…but the results are worth it, right?)

To ensure we stay on track, we set up a new blog schedule. Every day a dwarf will post. Doesn’t matter how long or short, they will post so our visitors know we aren’t a ghost swamp.

We added a page listing all our author interviews (in alpha order, because my CDO kicked in). These interviews are us asking writers we admire questions, so check out the list and feel free to spend some time in the Swamp Guest Archives tab.

You’ll notice we number a bit more than 7, but we have a couple of dwarves who hold honorary positions, so we’re not kicking them out. We each have a page, so take the time to give the hairy eyeball to each one.

There’s a tab–Writings of the Dwarves–this is a must see. Here you will find all our literary accomplishments, along with links to access them. Our goal, to add a few more names and titles by this time next year.

You’ll notice there’s a tab titled, SWAMP TALES. This requires constant checking because we have gathered around the campfire and began a story–just for you readers. Each of us takes a piece in round robin format. Of course, at the time of writing this post, it’s a bit snarly, but I’m sure we’ll find our way out…soon…or else!

Then there’s another page for all those writers out there who are looking for some helpful sites and communities. Doesn’t matter your genre, feel free to click and play.

Take your time, mosey around my place (www.jamigray.com) and check out the first chapter of each book, sign up for my newsletter. (So far, I’ve only sent out one and I’ll probably send one more out later this year, which means, that’s what? Two a year. Shouldn’t crowd your in-box too much.) Then check out the nooks and crannies at the Swamp.

Let us know what’s working, what isn’t, and what you might expect but didn’t find.

 

Lyndi Lamont stops by with USA Best Selling Romance Super Bundle: Second Chances, plus giveaway! #RomSus #SecondChances #giveaway

Today we have the lovely Lyndi Lamont, who’s part of an exciting new USA Today’s Best Selling box set of Romantic Suspense titles. Anyone who leaves a comment on today’s post will be entered into her monthly giveaway for a $15 Starbucks e-gift card, so don’t be shy!

Romance Super Bundle II: Second Chances

RSB2-3D-Final

by Dale Mayer, Donna Marie Rogers, Stacey Joy Netzel, Amy Gamet, Edie Ramer, Lois Winston, Pamela Fryer, Georgina Lee, Kate Kelly, Wendy Ely and Lyndi Lamont

Now available for only 99 cents (US) and featuring NY Times, USA Today, Amazon & B&N bestselling authors!

A lonesome cowboy, a heartbroken widower, a spurned bride-to-be, an unexpected pregnancy, intrigue, murder and more…485,000 words/nearly 2000 pages of heroes and heroines in need of second chances in eleven romantic stories.

Buy links:
Available now at All Romance eBooks, Amazon, BN/Nook, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords.

Add to your shelf at Goodreads

Stories included in the set:

Second Chances—Dale Mayer
Go ahead. Take Charge of your life. Move forward…if you can…
Changing her future means letting go of her past. Karina heads to a weekend seminar to do try to do just that. But she soon realizes bigger issues are facing her…

And one of them is deadly…

The Perfect Blend—Donna Marie Rogers
Carrie is on the verge of bankruptcy when Matt walks in and offers her unwanted business advice. The rich playboy fled L.A. for the anonymity of small town life and quickly falls for the local coffee shop owner—who’s as infuriating as she is beautiful.

The Heart of the Matter—Stacey Joy Netzel
Heartbroken she can’t have kids, Allie keeps her distance when Rick moves home with an adorable 4 yr old son who’s as hard to resist as his father. Does she dare take a chance on an impossible dream, or will his desire for more kids devastate their future?

Meghan’s Wish—Amy Gamet
Meghan O’Connor returns to the family she ran away from as a teenager, afraid they won’t forgive her for leaving town with Liam Wheaton, the boy they tried so hard to keep her away from and the father of her baby. She never expected to find Liam living there, looking sexier than ever and mad as all hell.

Mo’s Heart (Miracle Interrupted, Book 5)—Edie Ramer
Mo Vincent did the right thing in New Jersey, and it cost him his son, his wife, his restaurant. Now he’s found a home in Miracle, Wisconsin. He should be content…but his heart wants what he can’t have…

Hooking Mr. Right—Lois Winston
A failure at relationships, Thea is secretly a bestselling romance guru. Luke is pursued by women using her books to snare him. When they meet, he thinks he’s finally found an honest woman, but Thea’s got more secrets than the CIA. Can a butt-ugly cat named Cupid play matchmaker?

The Lost Finder—Pamela Fryer
The first halfway decent guy to come along in eons…and he’s from another planet.

Private Investigator Brooke Weaver hopes she can slip into her Oregon hometown, find her client’s missing teenage daughter, and be on her way again before anyone notices. Not likely.

Cape of Secrets—Georgina Lee
Marika Host lands a dream summer job helping renowned archeologist Sir William write his memoirs, exposing years of secrets. His son Derrick adds romance to her summer. But when Sir William is murdered, Marika realizes some secrets are best kept buried.

Shattered—Kate Kelly
Failing to save his sister’s life, Jay Rawlings insists he be left alone to live the lonesome cowboy life. But when the woman he once loved returns to his ranch with a killer and the police in hot pursuit, Jay has to face the demons from his past.

In His Embrace—Wendy Ely
When life’s glow threatens to die, love guides the way.

Tori expected an ordinary Friday. It wasn’t. Ben’s hand rested on her hip a little longer during their goodbye. Then her tests came back abnormal. Scared and alone, she wishes for Ben’s hand to hold. Can he make it back to her in time?

How To Woo…A Reluctant Bride—Lyndi Lamont
A marriage of convenience, nothing more…until darkly handsome Evan Channing and demure Lydia Blatchford meet. The rules are simple for such an arrangement. No expectations, no illusions of anything more. But the rules are about to change…

Excerpt from How To Woo…A Reluctant Bride—Lyndi Lamont, steamy Victorian romance:

She licked her lips then plunged ahead. “I know how these things work. Arranged marriages, that is. I won’t expect fidelity from you.”

His shocked expression surprised her. “Is that what you think, Lydia?

That I’m marrying you with the intention of cheating on you?”

“Perhaps not now,” she said. “But in a few years… It’s not as if ours is a love match. I won’t cut up a fuss if you decide to take a mistress. As long as you are discreet.”

“How very… sophisticated of you,” he said, his tone dry enough to parch a desert.

She took a deep breath before continuing. “And once I’ve produced the requisite heir and spare, I assume I’ll be free to seek my pleasure elsewhere.”

The thunderous look on his face startled her and she stepped back.

“You will do no such thing,” he said fiercely, reaching for her. “Ours may not be a love match now, but I fully intend to see it turns into one.”

With that, he pulled her into his embrace, trapping her arms between them as his encircled her shoulders and waist.

Covering her mouth with his, he kissed her with a heady combination of passion and anger. Her resistance crumbled in the face of his onslaught. She clutched at his lapels and returned his kiss, even parting her lips when his tongue probed them. Overwhelmed by the sensations his lips provoked, she let her eyes drift shut as she clung to him.

When he let her go, he was still visibly upset. “There will be no more talk of infidelity. Have I made myself clear, Lydia?”

 

Author bio:

Lyndi Lamont is the racy alter ego of author Linda McLaughlin, who writes historical and Regency Romance. Since becoming Lyndi Lamont, she has discovered that writing sexy romance is a license to be naughty, at least between the pages of a book.

Find her online at:
Website
Facebook
Goodreads
Google+
Twitter

Thanks for hosting me. Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered in my monthly drawing for a $15 Starbucks e-gift card, so don’t be shy!

Kelly Meade and BLACK ROOK swing by Jami’s place with a #giveaway! #PNR #newrelease

BlackRookbanner 

Today I have the lovely and very talented, Kelly Meade (or as some of us know her, Kelly Meding) as she celebrates the release of her new book, BLACK ROOK. She even agreed to share her take on story ideas and unintentional research. Oh, and there’s a GIVEAWAY (so read all the way through and don’t forget to enter!)

“THIRD AND FINAL CALL…”

Thank you to Jami Gray for having me on her blog to help celebrate the release of BLACK ROOK, which begins my new paranormal romance trilogy with Berkley Intermix. I’m here today talking a bit about story ideas and unintentional research.

I’ve been to a lot of auctions in my lifetime—with my grandparents, my parents, my sister, and even by myself. Auctions are a fun way to take a peek into the past and to find things that are very old, very cheap, or even things that are simply unique. I’ve seen whiskey decanters shaped like Old West outlaws, antique spinning wheels, colorful aluminum drinkware, sewing kits, old medicine jars, and thousands of other strange things. Sometimes it’s more fun to go just to look, without having any intention of buying. If you’ve never been, I suggest you hit one up simply for the experience.

As a hobby of sorts (as well as a way to earn additional income) my dad and I sell antiques and other sundries at flea markets. The best way to get inventory without spending a lot of money is by attending auctions, and since we live on the lower Eastern Shore of Delmarva, we tend to go up north to Pennsylvania for auctions. One particular location we frequent is in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. It’s a freestanding building with its own loading bay and parking lot, smack in the middle of town.

My dad is to blame for my love of the paranormal. We watched horror movies together when I was a kid, and we still share movies back and forth. He’s often coming up with strange ideas that he’ll pass along—something I might be able to use in a story some day, he says. So it wasn’t surprising when, on one trip to Lebanon, I began musing what it would be like if werewolves ran this auction house instead of humans. I liked the idea, but it lacked an actual story and I was in the middle of writing another book at the time, so I tucked the thought into my back pocket.

Fast-forward a few years, and I’m looking to try my hand at paranormal romance. I know I want the series to be about a set of brothers, and I want them to be wolf shifters. But I need something else—something that ties them and their present lives together. And presto! Werewolves in charge of an auction house! The family business! I’d been doing unintentional research on how auctions are run for years, so writing the opening scene for BLACK ROOK was a cinch. I even modeled the McQueen Auction House after the Lebanon auction location.

Do you frequent auctions? What’s one of the most unusual things you’ve seen at one?

Check out Kelly’s stories…
Cornerstone Run is a paranormal romance trilogy, set in a world of hidden loup garou, their mystical Magi enemies, and the occasional vampire. The small, reclusive town of Cornerstone, Pennsylvania, houses an almost entirely loup garou population—one of only thirteen towns around the country that serve as a sanctuary for their nonhuman inhabitants, where the loup garou are free to be themselves. When a neighboring sanctuary town is attacked by a vicious, unknown enemy, the three sons of Cornerstone’s Alpha must stand together to protect their people—and the women who steal their hearts.

Black Rook

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Penguin | BAM | GoodReads

She never saw this coming…

Brynn Atwood is a low-level Magus whose unpredictable precognitive powers have made her an outcast among her people—and an embarrassment to her highly-regarded father. After a frightening vision in which her father is murdered by a loup garou man, Brynn decides to prove herself by finding the killer, and stopping them at any cost.

Her target is Rook McQueen, the son of a small-town loup garou Alpha. Despite being the youngest of three, Rook is first in line to inherit the role of Alpha, a duty he isn’t sure he’s capable of fulfilling. When Brynn finally meets Rook, she doesn’t expect the attraction that draws her to him—and him to her.

No longer believing him a murderer, Brynn and Rook strike an alliance to find her father’s real killer. But when his older brother is targeted by an unknown enemy, Rook will have to choose between his growing feelings for Brynn and his duty as the future Alpha of his community.

INCLUDES A PREVIEW OF THE NEXT TITLE IN THE CORNERSTONE TRILOGY, GRAY BISHOP.

Cornerstone Run Trilogy
Black Rook Gray Bishop White Knight

 

Excerpt – Chapter 1

Brynn Atwood observed the entrance to McQueen’s Auction House, as she had done for the past few minutes while she gathered the courage she needed to leave the safety of her rental car. A steady stream of vehicles entered the parking lot and ejected browsers and buyers, all eager to view today’s auction and visit with acquaintances seen only during these once-a-week sales. Not Brynn. She was certainly the only person who’d showed up today intending to prevent a murder.

Walking alone into a town populated with and run by loup garou wasn’t the smartest thing she had ever done in her twenty-four years, but it certainly counted as the bravest. If she managed to achieve her goal, even her father would have to admit to her courage and to the validity of her visions. He didn’t trust in her seer ability, nor did he believe that her vision of him being murdered by a loup garou would come true.

“Surely you know I would never put myself into a situation that would result in such a calamitous outcome,” her father, Archimedes Atwood, had said the previous day. And as with every chilly encounter between them in the last few months, he’d spoken with the impatience of a strict teacher correcting a belligerent child. “Perhaps some of your visions have come true on occasion, but do not use me to distract attention from your own disgrace. I have no more time for this nonsense.”

Her visions were always nonsense.

Archimedes was a Prime Magus in the Congress of Magi, one of four, as well as a powerful practitioner of elemental magic. He’d never hidden his disappointment over Brynn’s uncontrollable precognitive powers—powers he had yet to acknowledge were real—or her inability to one day claim his spot on the Congress. She was too weak, a failure as a Magus. She couldn’t even manage to keep her job as a Congress tutor for more than two years. All she had left were her infrequent visions, in whatever time or manner they chose to come.

And worse yet, he had all but accused her of fabricating this vision and the need to save him in order to make up for the shame she’d brought to their name when she was fired. She didn’t want the vision to be true. She wanted her father alive for many years to come.

She would figure out how to save him on her own. She would prove her value.

Brynn climbed out of her car and surveyed the quickly filling parking lot. In any new situation, her best first step was to observe her surroundings, study others, and discover the way to best fit in. She had never before attended a public auction of any sort; she knew only that antiques and other goods were bid upon and purchased, sometimes at outrageous prices. Some patrons walked into the building carrying their own boxes, clearly expecting to purchase items. Others entered carrying only cups of coffee or soda, or small children.

The variety of patrons surprised her: young and old, scruffy and well-kempt, couples and singles and large groups, and families. Some drove up with pickups and vans; some parked expensive cars in the narrow, crowded lot. Everyone seemed at ease.

I must stick out like a smoking vampire in daylight.

Standing there like a fool would only garner her unwanted attention. Subtlety was the route to accomplishing her task. Brynn forced her feet to carry her forward, past other vehicles, toward the main entrance. Everyone seemed to be entering the large, barnlike building through those glass double doors. A few people came back to the parking lot from the side of the building, which indicated a back entrance/exit, as well. She’d tried to find blueprints of the layout before her arrival, but getting any sort of in-depth information on Cornerstone, Pennsylvania, was next to impossible.

The town had a small population of six hundred forty-one residents, and Brynn could guess that about ten percent were human. Cornerstone was founded by a run of loup garou nearly two centuries ago, and was one of a dozen similar safe havens around the country. Much like the Congress of Magi and a few surviving nests of vampires, loup garou runs required secrecy and anonymity to survive in the modern world. The weekly auctions at McQueen’s brought outside income to the town without the interference of tourism or industry, and it kept them from appearing too insular to the outside world.

Her father stubbornly refused to have any faith in her abilities, but Brynn’s visions of the future came true without fail, and the most recent had led her here to McQueen’s Auction House. Led her to the loup garou she’d seen standing over her father’s broken body. The man her careful research told her was named Rook McQueen.

The boy, she corrected.

As a general rule, her people did not trust technology. The Magi trusted tradition and magic above all else. Growing up an only child with few friends, Brynn spent hundreds of hours on her computer—a gift awarded by her father on her twelfth birthday, as a means to keep her mind occupied beyond the limited resources of their home’s physical library. Only weeks before, she had spoken to him of her first vision. In the middle of reading a book, she had seen a clear image of a baby bird falling from a nest. It disturbed her so much that she’d fled into the backyard in time to see it happen. She scooped the tiny robin up and climbed the tree where she spotted the nest, returning the lost baby to its siblings.

She was so proud when she told her father about it that night—not only the bird, but the premonition. Her very first display of a Magus power. “Manifestations of a child’s overactive imagination,” he had scoffed. “Do not bother me with these small things, daughter.”

The computer became her gateway to the outside world, a link to knowledge far beyond the borders of her home in Chestnut Hill. And like the young sleuths in the slim novels she’d loved so much, Brynn taught herself how to research and investigate—skills that had served her well these last few days as she raced to identify her father’s killer.

One of three sons of Thomas McQueen, the auction house’s owner, Rook was two years younger than herself, a recent college graduate, and the former lead singer of a popular local rock band—not exactly the portrait of a killer, loup garou or otherwise. And yet the brief glimpse of him in her vision, skin marked with tattoos, human teeth bared, and hands covered in her father’s blood, showed him capable of violence, as all loup garou inevitably were.

She would not allow her father to become Rook McQueen’s victim. Archimedes Atwood was too important, not only to herself but to the Congress of Magi. The Magi were small in number, and they relied on their leaders to protect them from their enemies, including the volatile, deadly loup garou. And as an elemental Magi, he was among the most powerful. Few others shared his ability to manipulate fire. Their people needed him, so Brynn needed to protect him. She had to find a way to prevent her father’s murder before it occurred.

The biggest blank in her research was Rook’s relationship to the run’s Alpha. Brynn had no access to the Congress’s files on the loup garou, and she couldn’t directly ask her father for the name of Cornerstone’s Alpha—her father had no idea she’d identified his would-be assassin, or that she was in central Pennsylvania doing reconnaissance on said assassin, instead of at the family home wallowing in her professional disgrace.

A random loup killing her father carried a very different meaning than a loup from within the higher ranks of the run’s Alpha family—the latter could easily be considered an act of war against the Congress of Magi. A foolishly begun war, as the Magi and loup had maintained an uneasy peace for the last sixty years.

Concentrate, foolish girl, before you get yourself killed. This isn’t one of your novels, this is real.

Brynn smoothed her palms down the front of her green t-shirt and tugged at the hem. She stopped, recognizing the nervous gesture, a habit from the two years she’d worked as a Congress tutor, which required skirts and blouses and high heels. The t-shirt, denim shorts, and Keds combination she’d chosen for today’s mission had been partly for comfort in the August heat and partly to blend in. The final piece of her costume was the Magus pendant hidden behind the t-shirt, which would act as a sensory mirror and hide her natural scent—any loup sniffing her for signs of “other” would smell a common human female, instead of a Magus. The auction attracted dozens of human buyers, but the people who ran it and worked there were still loup. The pendant was her only real protection against their sense of smell.

The stolen pendant, you fool. Plucking it from her father’s office had nearly given her fits, and her father would be apoplectic when he discovered it was missing—yet another reason to finish her task and return home posthaste. Maybe, just maybe, she could prevent this vision from coming true. She had to try.

Nerves twisted her stomach into a tight ball that nearly squeezed the air from her lungs. The thump of music and drone of voices greeted her as Brynn pushed open the door and stepped inside McQueen’s Auction House.

Avesta, protect me, your loyal daughter.

Plea to the Magi’s patron sent, Brynn forced her anxiety into the background and paid closer attention to her surroundings. The entrance was spacious, with a short hallway and a brightly painted “Restrooms” sign on her immediate right. On the left was a bulletin board covered in layers of posters and flyers advertising yard sales and on-site auctions. Past it was a roped-off stairwell going up to parts unknown. A handsome young man in cowboy boots and a matching leather hat leaned near the stairwell, sipping from a Styrofoam cup, as though he lived solely to hold up that particular wall.

His intent gaze landed on her, and she didn’t have to search for the copper flecks in his brown eyes to know he was loup garou. Brynn’s insides froze, but she forced out a calm, flirty smile. She knew she was attractive enough to gather a few second glances, and he was what she might hesitantly call beautiful—if a man could be considered so—with a slim nose and perfectly symmetrical features. However beautiful, this man was also her enemy. His body was fit, impeccably toned, and even at ease he thrummed with the power of his caged beast. He also wasn’t Rook McQueen, so although he was quite pleasant to look at, he did not hold her interest.

He tilted his head in a friendly gesture, then winked. Brynn blushed and ducked her head, a reaction she did not have to fake. Male attention of any sort nowadays left her insides squirrely, a sense of bitter panic residing where her confidence had once dwelled. She also needed to remain inconspicuous while here, and flirting with a local cowboy was not the way to stay alive.

Brynn followed an elderly couple out into the main room. She slipped over to her left, out of the flow of traffic, and absorbed the scene of orderly chaos. An elevated pair of cash registers stood near the entrance, with lines on each side. The customers in line traded personal information for a large index card with a number written in black marker. Cards in hand, the customers went to one of many places in the cavernous room.

Dozens of tables of merchandise were set up along the perimeter of the room, three rows deep, and at the center of it all was a dais, two stools, and a microphone. Directly behind the dais was a long row of antique furniture and four glass cases. Rows of mismatched chairs covered the rest of the floor space, facing the dais. At least half the chairs were marked by either sitting bodies or empty boxes waiting for their owners. In the far back of the room, close to Brynn’s position, was a food counter advertising sandwiches and chips and cold sodas, and it produced the bitter scent of over-brewed coffee. Opposite Brynn was another set of propped-open double doors, and a steady stream of people moved in and out of a second room that seemed crowded with boxes.

Someone jostled past on a waft of coffee-scented air, alerting Brynn to the competing odors in the room. The food counter fought with the tang of human body odor, as well as the musty stink of old paper and leather. A damp smell, like rain, hung over everything else, reminding her that even though she was surrounded by human beings, nonhumans also mingled. Every loup in the room posed a threat to her safety.

Brynn walked along the back wall, out of the heavier flow of people, alert for her prey. She spotted three other men who set off her loup alarms. Each wore a black t-shirt and jeans, just like the man outside in the cowboy boots.

McQueen employees. They must be.

One of them lingered near the dais, chatting with an older woman in a purple caftan, giving her his full attention while still managing to observe the room. He had a strong facial resemblance to the loup in the entrance, and a stronger resemblance to the photo she’d found of Rook. Each could easily be one of Rook’s two brothers. Brynn swallowed hard, mouth dry. If two of the three McQueen brothers worked here, maybe Rook did, as well. He could appear at any moment.

Your brother may one day murder my father.

The thought saddened her. Rook wasn’t just a potential murderer. He was also a brother and a son, and his family would miss him if he were gone. They would also fight to protect him the moment they considered her a threat.

You can’t think about that now, foolish girl.

Brynn inhaled a steadying breath. She palmed her right hand in her left, the fingers of her left hand smoothing over the gold band of the ring she wore on her right index finger. The top of the ring appeared to be a piece of costume jewelry, a blue gem the size of a nickel. A blue gem filled with a paralytic poison, developed decades ago to specifically target the loup garou’s nervous system. One tap of the ring would send a dose of poison down the ring’s band to her hand, and one firm handshake with any loup would put enough on his skin to kill him within an hour. No one would suspect such an innocuous item to be a deadly weapon, which was exactly the reason she’d stolen it from her father’s study.

As a small child, she had once overheard him boasting to another Magus of using the ring to drug an unsuspecting loup garou, and they were none the wiser. She had thought this made her father particularly clever, and the moment had stayed with her. Brynn Atwood might walk alone into a loup sanctuary town, but she wouldn’t walk in unarmed.

She had a single dose of the antidote hidden in her car in case she accidentally poisoned someone—no sense in leaving that to chance. She might be willing to kill to protect her father and she would defend herself if attacked, but she would not hurt an innocent loup.

If loup could be considered innocent. Her father would scoff at the notion.

She had considered her plan a dozen different ways before engaging. She didn’t rush blindly ahead. She rarely undertook any sort of action without having first clearly considered the potential outcomes. The only action guaranteeing her vision never came true was her removing Rook from the equation. Murdering him first. That was, however, a last resort action that almost guaranteed her own death at loup garou hands, as well as bringing the full power of her father’s anger down on their run.

She preferred the plan where she observed, gathered information, possibly discovered who the run Alpha was so she could introduce herself, and then took steps to prevent her vision that left all involved happy and healthy—her father especially.

Awareness prickled up her spine just as a male voice said, “You look a bit lost, miss.”

Brynn turned, not terribly surprised to find the cowboy from the entrance watching her. The cup was gone, but he still wore the silly leather hat, which cast a shadow over his eyes. It didn’t hide his beauty, though.

Enemy.

“I was supposed to meet someone here, but I don’t see them yet,” she said, the rehearsed lie falling easily from her lips.

“That explains it, then.” His tone was light, his voice lyrical and calming, but it still held a hint of danger. And challenge.

“Explains what?”

“Why you looked like you were casing the place.”

She laughed without forcing it, finding actual humor in the comment. “Do you often have problems with armed robbers staging stickups here?”

“No, but we’ve caught a few thieves over the years, trying to break in and steal items before they go up for sale.”

“Are you saying I look like a thief?”

“You just looked a little lost, that’s all. This your first time here?”

“It’s that obvious?”

He lifted his left shoulder in a shrug. “My father owns the place, and I’ve worked for him since I was a kid. I know all of the regulars, and most of the semi-regulars. New faces are easy to spot, especially faces as pretty as yours.”

Two things solidified for Brynn then: this man was definitely one of the McQueen brothers, and he was definitely flirting with her. Inbred disgust at the loup’s attention seized her, and she barely managed to stall a physical reaction.

He jumped, then his hand went to his jeans pocket. Brynn’s rising alarm calmed when he whipped out a vibrating cell phone and checked a message. “Damn,” he said as he tucked the phone away again. “Work calls.”

“Don’t let me keep you.”

“I hope your friend shows soon. In the meantime, take a look around. We’ve got a lot of great stuff today.”

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

He eased past her and walked straight up the center aisle of chairs to the dais, directly to the other man she suspected of being a McQueen. She watched them from the corner of her eye, but the other man gestured at the furniture behind the dais. They didn’t seem to be talking about her. She’d just had a conversation with her target’s brother and no one suspected a thing.

Don’t get cocky. Things could still go badly in a moment’s time.

She pushed away the voice of reason. A little more confident now, Brynn gave herself permission to look around. It was her first auction, after all. She wandered to the other side of the room, as much to make a show of belonging as to check out some of the items for sale. She’d always assumed auctions were full of dirty antiques and shiny glass baubles, but the table nearest her was covered with books. Boxes and boxes of books—hardcovers, paperbacks, textbooks, in all genres and on all subjects. The reams of knowledge in those boxes made her chest ache for the satisfaction she used to get from teaching.

Until last month, when she was fired from her tutor position and found herself with zero standing among her people, and with no hope for her future.

Maybe after this you’ll find a new calling as a Congress investigator.

Smiling at the ridiculous notion, she picked up a thick copy of the annotated works of Homer and smoothed back the torn corner of its dust jacket. Nostalgia for school and learning settled heavily in her chest, so heavily it tried to force up tears. She’d briefly considered returning to school and earning a new degree, since history and education hadn’t served her very well. Briefly. If the Alpha reacted badly to her presence in his town, or Rook took issue with her allegations, she’d never get the chance to reconsider her education more thoroughly.

She’d never get the chance to do a lot of things. Her father once said that loup justice was swift and merciless.

She put the book down and pinched the bridge of her nose, damming the tears and steeling her nerves. She would not cry, not here in public. Not when she needed to accomplish a job that required her full attention.

A flash of movement caught her attention, and Brynn turned her head toward the entrance. Her gaze drifted up. Above the entrance, probably accessible from that roped-off staircase, was a large window and a room behind. Two men stood at the window, talking and gesturing, in what looked like an office. Probably the manager’s office, which gave him a bird’s-eye view of his business.

The shorter of the two men captured and held her attention. Hints of a tattoo peeked out from beneath the sleeve of his black t-shirt. Metal glinted in his right earlobe, and another tattoo—or possibly the same—crept down his ear to his neck and disappeared into the collar of his shirt.

Even in profile, Brynn knew him. Fear and rage collided in a storm of cold and heat, and she clenched her hands into tight fists.

Rook McQueen. Her father’s future killer.

Blood rushed hot in her veins, and her heart thumped harder. He wasn’t just a face in a vision any longer. He was real.

“Ma’am?” The strange male voice alarmed Brynn into spinning around too fast. Her elbow clipped the voice owner in the chest and he grunted. Brynn’s stomach bottomed out. The man from the front of the room, her second McQueen brother suspect, frowned darkly, and she saw her own death there.

“I’m so sorry,” Brynn said. “Are you all right?”

“Fine. I’m sorry to bother you, but do you drive a white Dodge Neon?”

She blinked at the odd question about her rental car. “Yes, I do.”

“Someone reported that they backed into your car. You may want to come with me and exchange insurance information.”

“Oh for Av—God’s sake.” Brynn mentally slapped herself for the near slip. Using “Avesta’s sake” in the presence of a loup garou was as obvious as wearing a t-shirt that said “Yes, I’m a Magus Spy. Kill Me.”

“Small lot, so it happens once in a while,” the man said. Up close, she better saw the resemblance to the cowboy-wannabe in his narrow nose and hooded eyes. However, the slight roundness in his cheekbones and higher forehead showed a more pronounced similarity to Rook. And he was definitely older than the other two. “The auction doesn’t start for another forty minutes, if you’re worried about missing something.”

“No, it’s fine,” Brynn said, even though it wasn’t. The coincidence unnerved her, but she had no choice except to see how this played out.

He stepped to the side. “After you.”

She walked to the end of the row of chairs and made her way back toward the auction house entrance, keenly aware of her shadow’s presence, and that she’d just turned her back on one of her people’s greatest enemies.

 

About Kelly Meade
Raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, Freddy Krueger and “Fear Street” novels, Kelly Meade developed a love for all things paranormal at a very young age. The stealthy adolescent theft of a tattered paperback from her grandmother’s collection of Harlequins sparked an interest in romance that has continued to this day.

Black Rook is the first novel in her Cornerstone Run series, a paranormal romance trilogy from Berkley Intermix that also includes Gray Bishop and White Knight. It follows three loup garou brothers who will do anything to protect their town, their family, and the secret of their existence—and maybe fall in love in the process.

Writing as Kelly Meding, Three Days to Dead is the first book in her Dreg City urban fantasy series. The series follows Evangeline Stone, a paranormal hunter who is resurrected into the body of a stranger and has only three days to solve her own murder and stop a war between the city’s goblins and vampires. Additional books in the series, As Lie the Dead, Another Kind of Dead, and Wrong Side of Dead, are available in both digital format and mass market paperback from Bantam. Book five, Requiem for the Dead, is available digitally through all platforms.

Trance begins the story of the grown-up children of the world’s slaughtered superheroes who receive their superpowers back after a mysterious fifteen-year absence, and who now face not only a fearful public, but also a vengeful villain who wants all of them dead. Trance and Changeling are available now in both digital format and mass market paperback from Pocket Books. Tempest and Chimera are available in digital format only via Pocket Star. All four MetaWars books can also be purchased as a digital bundle.

KellyMeding.com | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr

 

Giveaway 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule
July 01 [Insert Clever Quip Here] July 15 Rantings of a Reading Addict
Pure Textuality July 16 Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks
SnoopyDoo’s Book Reviews July 17 Rabid Reads
July 02 Rage, Sex, and Teddy Bears July 18 BookSkater
Wild Wordy Women Addicted 2 Heroines
July 03 Booked and Loaded July 21 Paranormal Haven
July 04 MM Jaye Writes July 22 All Things Urban Fantasy
Toot’s Book Reviews Gizmo’s Reviews
July 07 Geeks in High School Totally Addicted to Reading
July 08 Rhi Reading July 23 Deal Sharing Aunt
July 09 The Book Nympho July 24 Book Lovin’ Mamas
July 10 Angel’s Guilty Pleasures July 25 Between Dreams and Reality
July 11 Mad Hatter Reads July 28 I Feel the Need, the Need to Read
Wendy Dawn’s Wicked World Platypire Reviews
July 14 Romancing the Dark Side July 29 Indie Author How-To
Wicked Women Book Blog July 30 WTF Are You Reading?
July 15 I Smell Sheep Jami Gray’s Blog
July 31 Tez Says

 

Rabid Tour Host