In the Shadow of Death: Chapter Six

In The Shadow

“It really is a gorgeous night, tonight,” Scarlett remarked.  “Initially I’d thought you were insane to want to walk.”  The air was crisp and clear.  Overhead were a billion stars, twinkling around a misty moon.  Definitely not what she had expected from a city purported to be dreary and gray.  There was no snow, but the crunch of autumn leaves under their feet was a worthy substitute as they made their way down the sidewalk back towards RazCon Towers.  The doors of a tiny jazz club were open and they could hear the soft, lazy strains of a saxophone and piano playing.  After dinner, he’d taken her to a small clothing shop that specialized in restored vintage pieces.  She came out of the shop with three pairs of jeans, several tops and the clunky leather boots of her dreams.  Even better, when she’d gone to the register to pay, he pushed her out of the way and handed over his credit card, despite her protesting.  She nearly laughed at the absurdity of how the evening seemed to come straight out of some silly romance novel.

“I rather like the cold,” he replied.  “Everything just seems brighter.  Especially at night.”  He looked up at the sky, casting his elegant profile against the moon.  His eyes were closed and she could see the feathery eyelashes that lay against his cheek.  The moonlight bounced off of the lines and curves of his face and again she was struck by his extraordinary beauty.  Even in the cold of the evening, he sent a blast of heat straight to her center and she shuddered visibly.  He noticed and stopped.  “Are you chilled?  I didn’t think about your not having a coat.”

“I’m alright,” she replied, crossing her arms over her chest and hugging herself against the chill.  “I was silly not to bring it.”

“I agree,” he said dryly.  He took his jacket off and wrapped it around her shoulders.  It swallowed her frame and she pulled it tightly around herself.  It was warm with the body heat that lingered.  Inhaling deeply, she could smell him all over it.  A woodsy scent, clean and pure like the unspoiled snow that gathers on the uppermost branches of a cedar tree that mixed with the earthy smell of the leather.  A distinctly male scent that made Scarlett tingly all over.  “Whatever are we going to do with you, little one?” he teased.

Something inappropriate almost escaped her lips, but she caught it in time, covering with a tiny cough.  “Sorry… a tickle in my throat,” she said.  “But don’t bother trying to save me.  People have been trying for years.  I’m surprised David didn’t tell you that.”

“He did, in his own way I suppose.”  He took her hand and Scarlett inhaled sharply, almost startled by his action.  “Your hands are like ice.  We should get you inside.”  He said little as they continued down the street.  People passed them by with knowing smiles.  She even heard his name whispered and caught a few hungry stares.  It made her feel both smug and self-conscious.  All those feelings of not being attractive enough or seeming awkward rushed into her cheeks with a flush of heat.  She curled a little closer into his side and began to walk faster.  She wanted out of the street.  She didn’t want to be stared at anymore tonight.  The drugs had made her lazy and she was nearly frozen to the bone.

He didn’t speak again until they were standing at the small private elevator, waiting for it to arrive in the lobby.  “Since we’re down here, would you like to see the studio?”

Scarlett’s heart leapt and her face lit up with an excited smile.  “Yes, please!” she exclaimed eagerly.  The thought of getting back to painting was exhilarating.  Already she’d begun to feel that familiar itch in the back of her mind.  She supposed it sounded ridiculous and pretentious, but at times she felt so inspired that it became a necessity to get something down on the canvas.

He returned her smile and held the elevator door as it opened before them.  “Then by all means, let’s not keep you waiting.”  A few minutes later, the doors opened into another foyer, much like the one downstairs, except the reception desk was a bit smaller.  “I put it here on the floor with my office because there was a lot of empty space up here.  My secretary, Leilah, will be glad to help you if you need anything.”  He pointed to the large doors behind her desk.  “That’s my office there.”

“Very Bruce Wayne,” she joked.

“I can assure you I don’t own any bat costumes or drive a funny car,” he chuckled, leading her down the hallway off to the right.  “Your keycard will open the door and only yours.  I don’t even have access unless you invite me.”

Scarlett’s eyes went wide.  “You don’t have to do that. I mean, it is your building.”

“Nonsense.  Art is a very private and personal business.  I don’t want you to feel that you have to worry about my spying.  Not that I ever would.”  He held his hand out.  “So go ahead.  Try your key.”

Scarlett swiped the card on the box at the side of the doorknob, eliciting an angry beep from the machine.  “Oops… I don’t think it likes me.”

“Nonsense.  Try again.”  She obeyed, getting the same glaring red “No access” message.

“I must be doing something wrong,” she said, feeling a little embarrassed that she couldn’t swipe a card effectively.

Raze reached out and took the hand that held the card.  He was close behind her and she could feel his breath on her neck as he leaned over her shoulder.  “There’s a trick to it,” he said, guiding her hand to swipe the card in a slow and steady movement.  “You can’t do it too fast.”  Immediately the card reader gave a happy chirp and she heard the lock click open.  “See there,” he murmured.

“You make it seem so easy,” she said, trying to mask the lust in her voice.  She couldn’t help it.  She was drawn to this man.  Something about his voice, his movement, it spoke to her most primal stirrings.

“I’m just used to it.  Shall we?” he pushed the door open, stepping aside so that she could walk inside.  The room was a wide space, nearly bare.  Like the penthouse, there were shiny hardwood floors and a bank of windows down one side of the room.  Rows of shelves and cabinets ran down another wall.  Some of the shelves had been filled with supplies:  brushes, palettes, bottles of paint and cleaners and a compact stereo system.  “Is it alright?” he asked.

Scarlett wandered about the room, tracing her fingertips along the wooden shelving that had been built into the wall.  “Of course it is,” she said.  “You seemed to think of everything.”

“Well, I did have a little help from David.  He’s the one that told me to make sure you had a stereo system.  Though, I didn’t buy canvases or a lot of paint.  I thought you might need to pick those things for yourself.”

“Thanks… I’m a little particular.”  Nestled in the corner of the room, by the large windows, was a fluffy couch and a drawing table with stool.  “But it’s just… too much.  You’ve done too much.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s like you know everything I want before I’ve even said it.”

“Everything you need, you mean?”  He strolled toward her, his movements almost predatory.  “As I told you before, I’ve been watching you for a very long time, Scarlett.  Be rest assured that there is very little that can be hidden from me.”  She turned as he approached, backing her against the wall.  His scent assaulted her again and her face flushed red.  “Tell me, do you like it?”

“Yes,” she stammered, looking up into his face.  “Thank you.”

He nodded.  Those steely eyes were fixed on hers and she searched them for any sign of teasing.  “Then you can start in the morning.  Yes?”

She nodded, her voice barely a whisper.  “Yes.”  She was nearly panting with him so close.  He was so intimidating and dripping with sensuality.  She knew that she would do anything he asked and that he delighted in that power he held over her.  “I mean… whenever you like.”

“As it pleases you,” he said, his eyes never leaving hers.  “Though I must warn you, I can be impatient at times.  More of that always getting what I want thing.”

“Do you?”

“Do I what, Scarlett?”  She shivered when he said her name.  Something about the way it rolled off his tongue.

“Always get what you want?” she asked nervously.

“Always.”

“An interesting concept,” she said.  “And what is it that you want from me?”

“Everything.”

Scarlett’s heart fluttered hard against her sternum, sending waves of desire all over her body.  A throb deep in her sex nearly made her moan, but she managed to stifle it just in time.  She wasn’t certain, but she was almost sure that he knew exactly how much of an effect he was having on her.  “You know…” she stammered.  “I haven’t had the chance to thank you.  You’ve gone to a great deal of trouble for me.”

“Think nothing of it.”  His lips were close to her brow.  So close that she could feel them graze lightly against her skin.  All she need do was turn her head slightly and they would touch.  “As I told you last night, I have every intention of protecting my investment.”

The air between them was heavy and thick.  Scarlett felt that they were on the verge of something, but she wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen.  Staring up at his face she examined the lines of his lips and the sharp contours of his cheekbones that stood out in the heavy shadow.  Before she knew what was happening she had stretched upward, brushing her lips across his.  When he didn’t protest, she kissed him again, this time letting her lips linger against his mouth.  His arms slid around her waist and pulled her close.  One hand slipped up her side, cupping her jaw gently as he pulled her in again.  His mouth closed over hers.  He parted her lips with the tip of his tongue, teasing it inside.  She accepted him eagerly with soft sighs, letting him nibble and bite.  He pulled back slightly, but she held fast, keeping her body melded to his as she placed kisses over his mouth and cheek.  The taste of his skin, the rhythm of his breath, took her arousal to a fever pitch and she found herself pressing her center against him.  “Scarlett…” he murmured between kisses.  He wove his fingers into her hair, pulling her head back and breaking their kiss.  “We can’t do this, Scarlett.”

“Why not?” she whimpered.  She tried to capture his mouth again, but he held her against the wall.

“I didn’t bring you here to seduce you,” he said, his expression going stoic.  “Let’s not do something we might both regret.”

“But I…” she stammered.  She wanted to say more, something that would convince him to go on, but the words died in her throat and she backed down.  “You’re right, of course.  We shouldn’t be doing this.  I seem to have a terrible way of mixing business and pleasure.”  Her eyes narrowed and she gazed at his face, searching for any signs of crumbling resistance, but he only looked away.  “It won’t happen again.”  She pushed past him and rushed to the door.   She could feel the tears stinging the corners of her eyes and she didn’t want to cry in front of him.  “I’ll see you upstairs.  I should call David.”

“Scarlett,” he began, crossing the room in two strides to catch up.  “Don’t be angry…”

She paused at the door, refusing to turn and look him in the eye. “Nonsense.  Why would I be angry?  Obviously I had too much wine at dinner and it got the better of me, that’s all.  Lucky you were here to stop me before I did something really crazy.”  She gave a fake chuckle and walked away, praying that her keycard would work this time.

Raze had the good sense not to follow her and after only two attempts at using the card, the doors to the elevator opened.  She didn’t wait for him and rode the elevator up to the penthouse, pressing the floor button several times as if it would make the machine travel faster.  When it arrived on the top floor, she rushed through the doors and up the stairs to her room.  When the door was safely closed, Scarlett collapsed on the bed and let go the tears that had been threatening to fall.  How could she have been so stupid?  Why would someone like Raze Constantine want her?  He was intelligent, successful and classy.  Of course he saw her as some kind of junkie charity case.  She was probably just another project, like that school in Africa.  Save the little junkie artist girl.  She gave a bitter laugh.  “Maybe he could have a telethon,” she said to the empty room.

Her purse fell open when she fell down on the bed and one of the pill bottles rolled out and onto the floor.  She reached down and picked it up.  She could be the junkie artist girl, if that’s what he wanted.  Two tiny pills and she might be able to sleep and forget all about Mr. Constantine and his kissing abilities.  Two Halcion and her angel might visit her dreams, making everything go away.  Popping the lid off with one hand, she shook two pills out onto the coverlet.  The little blue pills blended in to the silvery pattern on the bed, but she scooped them up with shaking fingers.  She put them on her tongue, holding them there until she could get into the bathroom to scoop water from the sink into her mouth to wash them down.

Scarlett leaned against the counter, staring at herself in the mirror.  Her makeup had begun to wear and dark circles loomed under her eyes.  Her cheekbones stood out in harsh relief and she rubbed her hands over them.  She didn’t eat much, these days.  She was too thin, almost gaunt.  It was true what Raze had said.  Her obsessions were getting harder to hide.  “Fuck it,” she growled at the mirror, turning the light off and walking into the bedroom.  She shed her clothes, leaving them strewn around the floor, until she stood naked.  She could feel the drugs creeping into her system, bathing her brain in a hazy kind of relief.  Her extremities felt heavy and her eyes were closing against her will as she lay down on the bed.  She sank into the depths of the feather mattress, pulling the comforter around her.

Downstairs, she heard the elevator doors open and Raze’s footfalls on the floor.  She wondered for a moment if he would call out for her, but he was silent.  His boots made a low thud on the stairs as he walked up.  Scarlett panicked for a moment, sure that he was going to come inside.  She pulled the covers over her head and peered out from under them.  If she pretended to be asleep, he wouldn’t stop.  The footsteps stopped outside her door and Scarlett’s body tensed.  Slowly, the door opened, a blade of light slicing the room in half.  Raze peered inside, but he said nothing.  Then, just as quickly, he was gone.

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An Interview with Lilli Carlisle

Hey kittens! I’m so glad to welcome author Lilli Carlisle to the Belle today. She’s here telling us all about her upcoming release from Boroughs Publishing Group, Omega’s Choice. It’s the first of an exciting new shifter series, The Black Ridge Wolf Pack.

Omega's Choice Cover

AC: So tell us a little bit about yourself, Lilli.

My name is Lilli Carlisle and I’m the author of ‘Omega’s Choice’ Black Ridge Wolf Pack Series. I live outside Toronto, Canada. I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and its chapter, Toronto Romance Writers. I’m a mother of two wonderful girls, wife to an amazing man and servant to the pets in my life. I write both contemporary and paranormal romance and believe love should be celebrated and shared. After all, everybody needs a little romance, excitement, intrigue and passion in their lives.

I’m visiting today to introduce my latest novel ‘Omega’s Choice.’

AC: What inspired you to write Omega’s Choice?

What inspired me to write ‘Omega’s Choice’ was the need to flip the normal alpha and omega roles by introducing a new world in which omegas have all the power. They choose who they mate with and they have the final say in their destiny. Of course the alpha in this book is very dominant but it’s interesting to see the dynamics change and how it all plays out.

AC: That’s a really interesting spin on the shifter trope! I look forward to reading it. You must have learned a lot about storytelling since your first book.

Since publishing my first book I’ve learned that when you type ‘The End’ it’s just the beginning. Thank goodness for my publisher, Boroughs Publishing Group, for taking the time to explain everything along the way. One more thing I learned was that the box of rejection letters I have in my basement shouldn’t have discourage me from following my dreams.

AC: I’m sure all us readers are so glad that you didn’t quit! Omega’s Choice sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks so much for visiting the blog today. 


In a world in which werewolves, elves, witches and various other paranormal live, laws are essential for their own safety and survival. One law that is strictly enforced is the ‘Omegas Choice’. Born with powers far surpassing one’s imagination, Omegas are protected from those that wish to use their powers for their own gain. Alpha Aldric Forst of the Black Ridge Wolf Pack has come to the Omega Celebration hoping to finally be chosen as mate by an omega but with his many scars he doubts any will choose him. Princess Helena has waited years to choose her Alpha, and Aldric is the man she’s set her sights on. She worries that he will never accept her independent and strong nature but soon finds that they are perfectly matched. All is progressing well during the week-long celebration until the palace is attacked and omegas start to go missing. Now not only do the newly mated couple have a new life to begin but a mystery to solve before Helena and the other omegas powers drained and their lives taken.

https://www.facebook.com/lillicarlisle

https://www.twitter/LilliCarlisle

Top 5 James Bond Movies

cropped-naked_home1.jpgI always describe my new sci-fi romance, NAKED, as James Bond with vampires, werewolves, and librarians. That’s because the protagonist, Cage St. John, is a slightly angrier version of 007. At least, that’s how he was intended. He’s a genetically altered super-spy that’s on the outs with MI6 (or SIS if you prefer) when he meets Phoe the librarian who needs his help to rescue her sister. Why did I want to write a book like that? Because I’ve been obsessed with James Bond movies my whole life. The gadgets, the double-crossing, the witty English banter– these are the elements I’ve tried to incorporate into my own spy thriller romance. So which Bond movies are my favorites? I’ve compiled a list for your weekend binge-watching pleasure!

#5– Never Say Never Again: This Bond film is one of the first I ever saw, which is probably not a shining testament to my supervision as a child. It stars Sean Connery as Bond for the final time and is regarded by many as not being an “actual” Bond film. It wasn’t produced by Eon Productions and while it’s a remake of Thunderball, it’s almost a comedy. I mean, an aging James Bond in a health spa with sadomasochistic nurses?! WTF?! But I do love it.

#4– Spectre: Two words: Andrew. Scott. If you know anything about me at all, you know
I’m a Sherlock fangirl. Andrew Scott became famous playing the creepily sexy and evil James Moriarty to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. In Spectre he plays Max Denbigh, a slimy little pencil pusher that wants to turn MI6 into a global spy organization called “9 Eyes (I wonder if it’s supposed to sound like a Chinese triad gang)” and shut down the “outdated” 00 program. There’s lots of twists and turns and Christoph Waltz as the villain Blofield is just amazing.

#3– Goldeneye: The first outing of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (my 2nd favorite Bond btw). I particularly love this one because it addresses the issue of “what does 007 do now that there are no more Russians to fight in post- Cold War Europe?” It has probably the smartest Bond girl sidekick in Izabella Scorupco’s Natalya Simonova. She’s a computer genius and an ordinary girl who steps up to the plate to do what’s necessary. She’s a great partner for Bond. This movie also exposed the world to the amazing Alan Cumming as the annoying hacker/programmer stoolie, Boris Grishenko.

#2– Skyfall: Now, Daniel Craig is not my favorite Bond. He’s okay, but he lacks the refinement that I feel is necessary. That being said, Cage St. John is probably the most like Craig’s Bond than any of the others. But this movie is AMAZING. The mystery focuses on Bond, which is something that I’d never seen in a Bond movie before that. Skyfall has two other things going for it– Dame Judi Dench and Javier Bardem. Who doesn’t love Judi Dench? She began playing M, a traditionally male role, with Goldeneye and continued through Skyfall. Her tough love approach with Bond is one of the things that offered these movies, which have the potential to be very shallow and misogynistic, a wonderful depth, taking them from good spy stories to great movies. And Javier Bardem is probably the scariest Bond villain I’ve ever seen as Raoul Silva. Bond villains have a tendency to be very “muahaha!” (see Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger), but Bardem plays Silva as a complete psychopath that is driven to insanity by what he perceives as M’s betrayal.

#1– A View to a Kill: Go ahead, make fun of me. This Bond movie may as well be called “Bond Does The 80s.” But it is my absolute favorite. Probably because it was the first one I ever saw in the movie theater. But it is completely a product of it’s time from the theme by Duran Duran to Shannon Tweed’s wardrobe. And then of course, Christopher Walken as Max Zorin. They even cast Grace Jones as Zorin’s lover, May Day. This one is probably the most blatantly sci-fi Bond of the series. It’s all about genetic manipulation to create supermen (this may explain a lot about the Phoenix Rising series…). Zorin is a super-genius and May Day has super-human strength. The master plan is also about flooding Silicon Valley to force the computer industry into business with Zorin (kind of like Derek Machine letting Others in to force the human population to his colonies… just sayin’). And at the time at which View was made, computers had just exploded into the mainstream and everyone thought they were magic.

So there you have it. The best Bond movies, IMHO anyway. So AFTER you get your copy of NAKED, curl up on the couch with your sweetie or your cat and have a little marathon.

New Release: Naked (Phoenix Rising #1)

Happy weekend! So I can finally say that the “Cage book” is now free in the wild. Though I really hope it isn’t going to be overshadowed by April the Giraffe FINALLY giving birth. On this momentous occasion, I thought I’d post a little excerpt and then compel you (in the words of John Hartness) to BUY MY SHIT! Seriously, though. I’m so excited for you guys to read this book. It’s been fighting its way to publication for more than four years now and to finally see the light of day— that’s so special. So here. Enjoy!!

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“Hey…” she sighed, taking the curve of his jaw in the palm of her hand and raising his eyes to meet hers. “I’m okay. You saved my life. For like… the millionth time.” He didn’t move, so she didn’t pull away, finally able to observe him. His jaw was set, tense as he stared at her with those dusky, changeable eyes. But Phoe could feel a tremble there. A fear lurking underneath that she would never have expected a man like Cage to possess. “I’m fine.”

“And what in hell were you doing?” he said, snapping his head up to glare at her. “I told you to run away and you did exactly the opposite of what I said! You could have been killed! Or worse, bitten! You just… you don’t understand, Phoe. I’m supposed to protect you, and I didn’t protect you. I can’t lose another…” His words trailed off. She could tell he wanted to say more but wouldn’t. She held his gaze, but he looked away, as if he were hiding some weakness he couldn’t stand for her to see. There was some trauma lurking there.

“What are you talking about?” she said. “Help me understand.”

“I can’t,” he said, pulling back and shaking his head as if to clear it. “I won’t.”

“But why…”

He rolled back on his heels and rose quickly, his shoulder brushing against the bedside table and nearly toppling the glass of tea, an uncharacteristically clumsy movement. “Just leave it alone, Phoe. My demons are my own.” The weakness was gone, and now that hard-edged, barely contained anger returned. She knew if she pressed him that he would lash out. She was starting to understand, to be able to read his moods that had seemed so random and mysterious when they’d first met. There was a scab, healed over but still burning. “Rest up,” he said, turning to walk away. “We’ll leave at sunset.”


So wanna read more? I thought you might. *whispers* It gets sexier from there… Anyway, here’s where you can find it–

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Naked-Phoenix-Rising-Book-1-ebook/dp/B071CRSKV2/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1492262731&sr=1-3&keywords=naked

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/718364

Boroughs Publishing Group: http://www.boroughspublishinggroup.com/books/naked

Others will be added soon (print, Kobo, iBooks, etc.)

Spy-Craft, or How I Got On a Watchlist

books-read-literature-bookshelf-161877The Phoenix Rising series is a supernatural spy thriller with a romantic thread. It follows the adventures of Macijah “Cage” St. John and his plucky partner and librarian, Phoebe Addison. Think James Bond meets Romancing the Stone… with vampires and zombies.

I’ve always been a lover of spy novels and movies. I think the first movie I was ever just crazy about was A View to a Kill, the quintessential 80s Bond film (Fun fact: Cage St. John is named after Bond’s alias in that movie— James St. John Smythe!). So I’ve always wanted to write a book that had an Ian Fleming, espionage-y feel to it. The only problem is, you have to know stuff to make it authentic. And trust me, anyone who has ever met me knows that I’m not cut out to be a spy. I’m loud, clumsy, and I giggle too easily when I lie. So needless to say I had to do some research. And boy was it interesting. Both for me and The Powers That Be watching my internet usage at work. So here are some sites I found…

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espionage

Wikipedia is always good for a few hours of procrastination. You can follow links there forever. BUT, make sure you check them out before taking their words as gospel. Use those footnotes!!

MI:5/ MI:6 (SIS now) Websites:

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/espionage

https://www.sis.gov.uk/

These sites are particularly useful in my case just because Cage is former MI6 (now called SIS). It helped understand their protocols and the language.

MI6: The Home of James Bond 007: https://www.mi6-hq.com/

Your source for all things James Bond. This site is just fun if you’re a fan of the Bond universe. Plus it has links to great source material.

Spywriter: http://www.spywriter.com/terms.html

Spy novelist Jack King has compiled a list of espionage terms on his website that proved most useful.

Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/intel-glossary-2014-7

I was surprised to find this little gem on the interwebs, but the article is actually quite good.

These are just a few of the sites and articles online that I used (we won’t even talk about all the stuff about different types of guns and the physics of firing a bullet), but there are tons. So even if you aren’t a writer, you can sound really cool on your next date…

 

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CLICK to PREORDER!

COMING APRIL 2017— NAKED, Phoenix Rising #1

Following a brutal act of vengeance, MI:6 agent Macijah St. John is left grieving for his slaughtered family and agrees to participate in a secret government experiment that gives him a magnificent and terrible power.  Now he’s a mercenary spy that solves problems for the right price.  His latest job puts him in the path of the greatest catastrophe yet—a librarian.

Phoebe Addison’s life is a disaster. Crippling debt, a non-existent social life, and being the town librarian is hardly the glamorous existence she’d always dreamed of. But when her sister Jessica, an interplanetary archeologist, gets herself involved with a psychotic billionaire bent on world domination, Phoe is about to get more excitement than she bargained for.

In the Shadow of Death: Prologue

In The Shadow

In the process of trying to be better about my blog, I’ve decided to start a serial novel that is exclusive to the blog. Just for you, my faithful readers. I hope it’s as entertaining for you guys to read as it is for me writing it. Now, fair warning— this is NOT, I repeat, NOT a final draft. At some point in the future, I’ll be doing a full edit and collecting it into a single volume for publication. But I hope it will be fun for you anyway!

WARNING:  There is drug use in this prologue.

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I was first visited by the angel shortly after my twenty-first birthday. At first I’d thought he was just a wisp of my cigarette smoke, swirling through the room like the rest of the phantoms that haunted me in the alcohol haze. Once a princess, then spoiled and fallen, I had given up on living so young. Drowning my guilt and sorrow in a bottle of wine before the first twinges of puberty. He came closer and his ethereal body lacked substance. I reached out to touch him, but he faded. Only the cool breath of wind left in his wake, but the silhouette of his iron colored eyes remained. Every time I closed my eyes they were there until I began to believe in his reality. I rose from the couch, frantic as I looked around, wanting to see him again.

“Did you see him?” I asked, my voice breathless and wanting.

“Who?” some homely girl answered, sounding nearly asleep. I think her name was June.

“The man,” was all I could muster, pointing into the darkness. There was nothing there of course. Only a dingy little room littered with trash and human wreckage. We were all young and soulless, taking in reefer, opium, cocaine—anything that made us feel alive. Poor little rich kids, desperately afraid of not being misunderstood, we took comfort in our emptiness.

My secrets were much deeper.

My heart sank as I realized that he was only a hallucination, conjured by the mix of morphine and wine. “Come to the bedroom, Scarlett,” a voice whispered and my grief was so all-consuming that I just took his hand and followed him.

“Jace, that’s your name, right?” I slurred, watching him with detached indifference when he stood over me disrobing. His skin was pale, his frame so thin and frail. “You’re pretty,” I chuckled.

“Yeah,” he grunted, pushing his jeans down, his erect penis popping out and pointing at me like an icepick. When I saw it I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I had never seen one up close before and it seemed to be this strange being with a consciousness of its own. When I saw his face melt with humiliation, it only made me laugh harder. “See something funny?” he said, his voice crackling with feigned severity.

“No,” I replied, biting the inside of my lip to stifle more laughter.

His expression softened and he climbed into the messy bed on which I lay. It was little more than a mattress on the floor, stained and tattered with a few blankets and pillows tossed on top. His curly hair was dark and messy, falling over his beady eyes. He thought it made him look mysterious, but it was really just to hide the beaky nose in the middle of his face. “Just relax, baby,” he said. “Let’s get you out of these clothes.” I started to hesitate, shaking my head, dazzled by the way the lights seemed to shiver with every movement. And then he showed me the syringe. My eyes locked on it, wanting the anesthetic relaxation. “But don’t you want to try some of this?”

Jace held it up in front of me, just out of reach so that I had to sit up, crawling towards him as he beckoned me forward. Just as I reached him, he put his arm around my waist, pulling me into him. I could feel his cock, hard between my legs when he kissed me. But all I wanted was the blissful retreat he held poised between his fingertips. His tongue sneaked between my lips, probing clumsily. He tasted of beer and weed. I wrinkled my nose, pulling back a bit. “How about we try some of that,” I whispered. He smiled and obliged me, pulling my arm straight and tapping the vein with his fingertips. My heart beat fast in my chest. I had never done anything so hardcore and I was almost afraid, but at the same time fascinated. I turned my eyes away as he slipped the needle under my skin.

At first it was cold, then hot. So hot it burned as the drug rushed through my veins, leaving a numb sort of bliss in its wake. I sighed, relaxing against Jace. My body was limp as he undressed me, his grin fading in and out. The cold air rushed in as my body was exposed, the nipples that capped each breast bristling and swelling uncomfortably. As I watched him, he moved in slow motion, his hands running over the sharp angles of my ribcage. I closed my eyes, feeling disconnected from my body and hovering just above. I just lay there, completely unaware, until I saw him again. The iron eyes of the angel seemed to materialize before me, just out of Jace’s line of vision. I picked my head up, willing my eyes to focus.

“Where you goin’, baby?” Jace hissed, pawing at my breast.

“Do you see him?” I whispered, pointing over his shoulder and shifting out of his grasp. The angel materialized, perched on an empty shelf behind Jace, his body formed in a shimmer of smoke from the cigarette poised between his fingertips. I squinted, not believing what I was seeing. He didn’t look like any angel I’d ever seen before. Not that I’d seen all that many, but I was pretty sure none of them wore black denim and leather. He stared at me with a bit of indifference and then looked away, taking another draw on his cigarette and blowing the smoke in a smoke ring that circled around his skeletal wings.

“What are you talking about?” Jace said, heaving an exasperated sigh and looking over his shoulder. “I don’t see anything.”

The angel offered a smug grin and flicked the dying ember to the floor where both the flame and his form disappeared. “He was there…” I whispered, the drugs working themselves through my system and pulling me farther into their blurry embrace.

“Just relax, girl… nobody’s around to see,” Jace said. I could feel his hands everywhere, sliding over my thighs and dipping between them to grope sloppily at my sex. Poor thing. He was trying to arouse me, but I barely even felt him. My body could only respond to the random flashes of light and sensation that managed to break through the fog. “Goddamn, girl. You feel good.” His voice sounded so far away. I was drifting further into darkness, feeling my body slipping away faster and faster. Oddly enough I didn’t care. I was floating high above, looking down. Maybe if I flew high enough I could touch the dark angel.

I hovered there, for how long I couldn’t fathom, until I heard Jace’s voice again. He was screaming. I looked down and he was crouched over me. He pulled my body to a sitting position, shaking me and slapping at my face. “Wake up, Scarlett!” he shouted, still sounding so small. His voice tickled lightly at my ear, but I paid it no mind. I was becoming intoxicated with the freedom that had suddenly been thrust upon me.

“Turn back.” A low voice caressed my senses and I knew it was him. The dark angel from my hallucination. Only he wasn’t a hallucination. He couldn’t be. Now as I lay there on the edge of consciousness I could feel the warm humidity of his breath on my neck. I reached out for him, but my arms were so heavy. I blinked my eyes slowly and saw Jace run from the room. He screamed for help, but he would be too late. My life was slipping from my veins. In another moment it would be gone. I closed my eyes, floundering between consciousness and oblivion. I could hear my heart beating, the slow cadence beginning to fade along with the shallow breath that pushed out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, but I chose not to fight. I wanted to die. Death would be a sweet release from all the pain of living.

“Open your eyes,” the angel commanded, his voice sharp, almost angry. I struggled to open them, staring sightlessly into amber pools of fire. “I will not take you,” he whispered, then covered my mouth with his own. I could feel his lips, powerful but gentle, moving against mine, teasing them open with gentle sweeps of his tongue. I resisted, but he was relentless and finally I felt his fingers grip my jaw, holding my mouth open as he breathed into me. My soul began to descend, floating back to my body with a dizzying rush. I gasped, my lungs swelling with the precious life force, given back to me by the angel. My heart began to pound, beating so hard in my chest that I wanted to cry with the dull ache. “Stay with me,” he beckoned, holding me close for another moment. And then he was gone.

I nearly died that night, just after my twenty-first birthday. No doctor could explain how an overdose of morphine and heroin had just disappeared from my blood. They wrote it off as a seizure, watched me overnight and sent me back to the atrocity that was my reality.

Every night I prayed for the return of my savior, but my prayers fell on the deaf ears of my drunken mother, or became lost in the groans and growls of my stepfather as he raped me again and again. Yes, my secrets were much deeper.

After a time his memory faded until I began to believe that my angel was no more than a hallucination. It was easier than the truth.

I was forsaken. The angel was gone and I never saw him again.

Chapter One>>>>

#COVERREVEAL: NAKED, Phoenix Rising 1

ICYMI, this winter I became part of the #BoroughsPublishingGroup family! After so many years of trying desperately to find a home for my paranormal espionage series, Phoenix Rising, the folks at Boroughs decided to give it a chance! I’m oh-so-excited for you guys to meet shapeshifting superspy Cage St. John and his partner and librarian Phoebe Addison. This book is a cross-genre adventure that combines elements of romance, suspense, espionage, and the paranormal. I’ve described it as James Bond meets Romancing the Stone… with vampires.  And zombies. And dragons.  You just have to read it to believe it!

Following a brutal act of vengeance, MI:6 agent Macijah St. John is left grieving for his slaughtered family and agrees to participate in a secret government experiment that gives him a magnificent and terrible power.  Now he’s a mercenary spy that solves problems for the right price.  His latest job puts him in the path of the greatest catastrophe yet—a librarian.

 Phoebe Addison’s life is a disaster. Crippling debt, a non-existent social life, and being the town librarian is hardly the glamorous existence she’d always dreamed of. But when her sister Jessica, an interplanetary archeologist, gets herself involved with a psychotic billionaire bent on world domination, Phoe is about to get more excitement than she bargained for. They’re on the run with no one but each other. Totally NAKED.

COMING TO AN ONLINE BOOKSELLER NEAR YOU ON APRIL 13, 2017!! Pre-order it 3/3o!!

 

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Available on 4-13-17!!