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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Witch's Rule! Last Book in The Witch Chronicles


Witch’s Rule
The Witch Chronicles, Book 3
By Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Hartwood Publishing Group

Release Date: 11/6/14

Amazon

Genre: Dark Paranormal Romance

Jenna falls in love with two very different men. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?

Blurb:
Jenna’s a special witch, sort of, when her magic works, which it often doesn’t. One of three remaining demon-stalkers, she and her sister witches, Roz and Colleen, are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. On the heels of Roz’s and Colleen’s weddings, Jenna is headed for the U.K. when a demon confronts her. Any other witch could teleport out of the plane, but not her. Frustration about her limited power eats at her. It would be pretty pathetic to get killed for lack of skills a teenager could master.

Tristan is a Sidhe warrior, but his primary gift is attunement to others’ emotions. He fell hard for Jenna, but hasn’t had an opportunity to act on their attraction beyond a few kisses because she returned to Alaska, and he’s been in the field fighting demons.

As seer for the Sidhe, Kiernan is haunted by visions, particularly an apocalyptic sending that seems to be coming true. A confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t understand his attraction to Jenna, but it’s so strong he can’t fight it, and after a while, he doesn’t even try, despite recognizing Tristan’s claim to her.

Startling truths surface about Jenna’s magic, and then there’s the problem that she’s falling in love with two very different men. At first she believes she has to pick one of them, but her spirit refuses to walk away from either. It’s impossible to choose between a seer with dreams in his eyes and a beautiful man who intuits her every need. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?

 Excerpt:

…Her thoughts turned to Tristan. Before getting snared in all the demon-muck with the minion in the plane, she’d been hoping the tawny-haired Sidhe would be part of the greeting party at the airport. There were lots of possible reasons he might not have met her, but the most likely was he wasn’t interested in her—at least not that way.

Oh give it a rest. It’s not like he’s so much as called or e-mailed in the weeks since I left the U.K. I’ll just embarrass myself—and look pathetic—if I ask after him.

Ronin had said something about Tristan being assigned to one of the garrisons dealing with the Irichna who’d been running rampant through the U.K. countryside. There was at least a slender chance he couldn’t just drop everything and show up to greet her. Worse, maybe he’d been forced into the Dreaming by a demon. Sidhe were immortal, but they could be compelled to leave the human world if they were injured badly enough.

The Rolls slowed at the carved, wrought-iron gates to Ronin’s estate. Magic flashed, and they swung slowly inward. “It’s just past ten,” Colleen said. “What’s scheduled for tonight?”

“Nothing in particular, but we do need to talk,” Ronin said.

“More to the point,” Jenna spoke up, “what ground did you cover before I got here? Is there anything I need to catch up on?”

“Oh, that’s right.” Colleen turned toward her and cocked her head to one side. Like Roz, she was dressed in a fleece jacket, jeans, and lace-up boots. Far more practical clothing than Jenna’s short skirt, high-heeled boots, and inadequate jacket. “You told us your problems, but we didn’t share ours.”

A cold fist of fear closed over Jenna’s stomach and squeezed hard. “I’m not sure I want to know, but what happened?”

“Well, we got here okay,” Roz answered. “Not here, exactly. We came out above the Sidhe armory, closer to the center of town.”

“Thought we’d pick up a few Seraph blades,” Duncan noted. “Since we can’t handle iron like you witches, the blades come in handy fighting Irichna.”

Jenna cracked her knuckles in frustration. “Yes, but what happened?”

“What else?” Colleen made a sour face. “Irichna.”

“How they figured out where we’d materialize will remain one of the mysteries,” Roz mumbled. Even though her words were casual, Jenna picked up a hint of fear beneath them. She shook her head to clear an almost paralyzing fog from creeping in. What she’d been afraid of—that the Irichna employed minions to spy on them—was looking more and more real.

“How many?” she asked, her throat so dry it was hard to get the words out.

“Fortunately, only three, but they didn’t exactly lie down and cooperate,” Ronin said. He focused his next words at the driver. “Just drop the lot of us off at the main house, Kiernan. It’s probably best if we hash out a plan before everyone turns in for the night.”

“Long story short,” Colleen picked up Roz’s tale, “it took until just before we met up with the car and Kiernan to neutralize the demons and ferry two of them to the Ninth Circle of Hell. Ronin and Duncan annihilated the third one. We never did get into the armory to pick up blades for the men.”

“Does that mean the U.K. problem is solved?” Jenna asked.

“Probably not,” Duncan replied. “There are always more of those blasted buggers, no matter what we do.”

“And they show up in different forms,” Ronin added, “which makes it tough to know if these were the ones causing all the problems.”

“It’s not as if they’re a static population,” Roz said. “We’ve never been able to estimate their numbers.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” Jenna groused as the car rolled to a stop in front of Ronin’s home that looked more like a castle than anything else. Built from interlocking flagstones and huge beams of lumber, it soared five floors. Light glowed from leaded glass panes, adding a welcoming touch. Even though it was night and she couldn’t see the grounds, Jenna remembered them to be immaculate. Sidhe didn’t employ many servants. Most of the day-to-day tasks were accomplished with magic. She snorted inwardly. Maybe she could pick up a few housekeeping tips, along with whatever else the Sidhe taught her.

She exited the car behind Roz, and a thought struck her. “Aw, hell.”

“What?” Roz’s hands flew upward to draw power.

“Nothing like that,” Jenna said. “My luggage. It’s still at the airport.”

“No worries.” Ronin walked to Roz and draped an arm over her shoulders. “I’ll send someone round to fetch it.”

“You’ll have way more than us,” Colleen pointed out, “since we teleported.” She leaned toward Duncan and gave him a kiss.

Jenna glanced from one couple to the other and hoped to hell no one picked up on the emotions running through her. She was happy for her friends. Duncan and Ronin were amazing men, but the surfeit of connubial bliss underscored just how alone she was. Earlier she’d told Roz and Colleen to hurry up and produce a child or two so she could settle in as a maiden auntie and spoil them shamelessly, but nothing like that was likely to happen anytime soon. Not until they got the demons on the run.

Niall surged to her side, along with Krae and Llyr. The changeling swept unkempt black hair out of his dark eyes and caught hold of her arm. “Don’t paint the devil on the wall.”

“Huh? When did you start reading minds?”

“I’ve always been able to, and Krae showed me an easier way where I don’t have to use hardly any of my own power.”

“Really?” Jenna stopped at the top of a dozen broad stone steps and glanced at the changeling. “How?”

He grinned like an imp. “Simple. I borrow yours.”

“Thanks. It’s not polite to help yourself to people’s thoughts, though, or their magic.”

“Maybe not polite,” Niall’s grin widened, “but very interesting.”

“Humph.” Jenna pushed on the ten foot tall oak door carved with runic symbols. At first it didn’t budge, but the air brightened around her hand, and then the door swung open. Someone, likely Ronin, had done something to countermand the warding protecting his home.

Kiernan shimmered into being in the great hall. Jenna drew back and blinked in surprise. He’d obviously teleported from the driveway, but she wasn’t used to squandering power so casually. Something drew her gaze upward; by the time she realized it was Kiernan’s magic, she was looking into his blue-green eyes. They were cool, laced with mystery, but fire smoldered in their depths, as if in challenge. When she tried to look away, she couldn’t. Jenna drew herself up and squared her shoulders, but the Sidhe was still taller than her by a good few inches. “Don’t force me,” she sputtered. “If you want something, ask first.”

“I’ll keep it in mind, witch.” With a cross between a smile and a smirk, he turned and trotted into a broad, furnished hallway that ran much of the length of the downstairs. Snug black pants fit like a second skin, outlining a high, tight ass. A faded, gray T-shirt strained across his heavily-muscled back and arms. He was built like an ancient Viking warrior with shoulders so broad she could almost imagine him at the helm of a warship, shaking his fist into the teeth of a shrieking tempest. Unlike Duncan and Ronin, who kept their hair long enough to braid, Kiernan’s black locks were close-cropped, which emphasized his angular cheekbones and strong, clean-shaven jaw. Breath caught in Jenna’s throat, and her belly tightened with a rush of sexual energy.

Because she couldn’t tear her gaze away, she stared after the Sidhe. Coaxed by magic, lights flared on when he passed, and an assortment of plush leather furniture in earth tones came into view. Occasional tables laden with antique sculptures, cut crystal lamps, and other artistic pieces were scattered about. Jenna took a deep breath to ease the tingling in her nipples and then another, hoping her face wasn’t as flushed as it usually got when she was turned on. To divert herself, she spun in a circle, taking in grandeur museums would have gone rounds to own. “Where do you want us?” she asked Ronin.

“Back study,” he said as he and Roz swept past, followed by Colleen and Duncan. “It’s cozier, and we’re a small group.”

“Oh-oh.” Niall nudged her. “Better watch it. I felt that flash of energy from twenty paces.” Jenna stuck her tongue out at him, and he reached back to pinch her, edging out of the way before she could slap his fingers.

A swoosh of power behind her sent her heart into overdrive. She twirled, ready to shout at Colleen and Roz to come back and help, but the words died on her lips. Kiernan stood there beaming like a Cheshire cat. Despite the smile, he looked arrogant and dangerous, with a raw sexuality that practically held a life of its own. Breath clattered from her lungs. “But you were ahead of me,” she stammered. “Up there.” She pointed behind her and felt like an idiot.

“Observant of you.” He closed the distance between them until he stood scant inches away. The heat of his body eddied toward her, and it took all her willpower not to throw her arms around him and drag his mouth down onto hers.

“Do, er, did you want something?” Her voice came out high and squeaky, and she coughed to cover her discomfiture. As if she were drawn by invisible puppet strings, Jenna leaned toward him, so close her breasts brushed his chest, and her breath hitched uncomfortably. She clasped her hands behind her to reduce the temptation to touch him.

“I want many things, but most of all I want to get to know you better.” He ran a finger down her cheek, leaving a trail of iridescent motes that floated before her eyes. “Once we’re in with the others, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to tell you that.”

She opened her mouth to say something, anything, to break the sexual tension that overshadowed common sense, but he dissolved into nothingness, and she was left blinking at the afterimage of where he’d stood. Jenna breathed deep to settle herself. If she was going to spend hours training with Kiernan, she had to get her libido under control, and damned fast. Otherwise she’d be so addle-brained she wouldn’t learn a thing.

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Warm Welcome to Illona Andrews and Burn for Me!


Burn For Me
A Hidden Legacy Novel

By Ilona Andrews

On-Sale 10/28/2014

ISBN: 9780062289230
Book Description:
Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career-a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan-a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

Tour Wide Giveaway: One print copy of Burn For Me plus some swag. Open to U.S. shipping only. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the Rafflecopter to sign up.

Review:
First off, it's an incredible pleasure to have the writing team of Illona and Gordon on my blog with their new book. And an even deeper pleasure to be able to review it. I adored the Kate Daniels' books. Hidden Legacy looks to be another strong contender in the urban fantasy market. Nevada is a young private investigator who feels responsible for her family, consisting of her mother, grandmother, and an assortment of underage cousins and siblings. Her father died from a rare form of cancer five years before, and her mother was injured fighting in the military. Between the family members, there's quite the array of magical ability.

Connor "Mad" Rogan is a Prime, which means he's at the top of the magical heap and from one of the old "magical" families. He's much better drawn than Curran ever was in the Kate Daniel's books. I found him dark, fascinating, and devilishly dangerous. Definitely alpha hero material. It also sets this book up as a Cinderella story, or My Fair Lady, or any other myth/fable where a poor, but beautiful young woman gets swept off her feet by an uber-rich, to die for guy.

The book's strengths are dynamite world building and an easy-to-read writing style. I truly appreciate books where I don't end up editing in my head as I read. Not that there weren't a few typos in my ARC, but the overall style moved the story forward. On the character front, Mad Rogan and Nevada's mother and grandmother are particularly well drawn. Nevada spent a bit too much time in an angst-ridden place. She could have used a smidgeon of Kate Daniels' spirit. There's an old saying. If you're going to do anything, jump in with both feet. Nevada jumps in, but spins her wheels chasing the what-ifs in her head. There were a few places I wanted to choke her.

My only other nitpick is this: the book is an UF with a romantic subplot. Given that, there are a whole lot of pages detailing Nevada's yearning for Mad Rogan, so many I was surprised at the lack of both heat and a HEA. I'm sure at least the HEA will surface in later volumes, but I think the book would have had better balance with more focus on the UF story (and it's a rich plot with many choices) and much less focus on how hot Rogan is. I got that after the first few descriptive passages. Now if it had been a romance, sure, but it isn't.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book as much as anything I've read in recent years, and I'd give it a solid 4.5 stars. I'm also looking forward to the next book in the series.

About the Author:
“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army.

Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him.

They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.) They have co-authored two New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and the romantic urban fantasy of The Edge and are working on the next volumes for both.

They live in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

http://www.ilona-andrews.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ilona.andrews
http://www.ilona-andrews.com/newsletter/



 
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Magic, Oh Yes!


All Hallows Eve is right around the corner. In Celtic tradition, that’s the date that separates the dark half of the year from the light. It’s a time for staying home with family. For introspection and regrouping. It’s also when the veils between the worlds thin, allowing spirits freer access to the living.
One of my problems with our modern, scientifically-based lives is all the traditions that have been tossed out as meaningless. I’m not religious in a traditional sense, but I am spiritual. So what does that mean? The least complicated definition I can come up with is I believe in something larger than my body and my mind. Something that ties them together. Whether you call it spirit, or the Collective Unconscious doesn’t much matter.

A working definition of gestalt, is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think living creatures are like that. We are way more than neurons firing in certain patterns. It’s why no one has ever made a truly successful robot outside of Hollywood.

Our ancestors, superstitious as they were, had a much better understanding of the mystical quality of life than we do. Where we go racing to the Internet to look up explanations for things, they were content to accept the esoteric nature of certain events.

I’ve had enough odd experiences myself that I believe in the supernatural. Plus, I’ve had friends and patients relate hundreds of parapsychological events. Things that couldn’t possibly be explained away by science. Were we all victims of hysteria? I don’t think so.

On a deeply personal level, I don’t want a world where every single thing can be validated, explained or replicated using the scientific method. I like mysteries. It’s what drew me to depth psychology. Otherwise I would have stuck with cognitive behavioral interventions where you have patients journal and count things.

Not that writing things down doesn’t have a place in psychotherapy. It does because it’s a great tool to raise people’s awareness. But it doesn’t address the root cause of a problem. My observation is that problems have a way of cropping up with different names if we can’t figure out their origins.

Children are experts in the mysteries. But we drum the miraculous out of them pretty fast. Usually, by the time they’re around five, their wonderfully fluid imaginations have started to reflect cultural norms. Schools are just as guilty as parents. No kid wants to be different and they figure out pretty fast that talking about things that aren’t “real” is the kiss of death socially.

How about all of you? Have you had paranormal experiences? What did you do about them? Run like hell, embrace them, or some path in between.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why Dragons?


Ever since I wrote To Love a Highland Dragon, the first book in the Dragon Lore Series, I’ve had many people ask why I chose dragon shifters. Just for the record, Dragon Maid is the second book and there will be one more to close out the storyline. The third one’s not written yet, but I have a fair idea where it will go.

 Dragons are creatures fresh out of myth and legend. They’ve had better endurance than other mythical creatures like unicorns, gryphons, and the Minotaur. I think there are good reasons for that. Unlike unicorns, which are fluffy and good (think the girl’s toy My Little Unicorn that was popular quite a while back), dragons have access to the full range of human emotion. They express fury and pain, but are also capable of love and loyalty. Gryphons tend to be associated with dark magic, as is the Minotaur.

There have been myths about dragons in nearly every culture. There’s an oriental dragon with a much more slender body, at least in artists’ depictions of it. There’s a Norse dragon, Nidhogg, and Dewi, the red, Celtic dragon goddess. One myth I read suggested the salvation of Earth lies in dragons because they purify wickedness. At least that might explain why the world is in such dire straits. No one’s seen a dragon for millennia!

On a slightly different track, I like the idea that wisdom has to be earned, as does just about everything else. So the human leads in my Dragon Lore series, Lachlan in To Love a Highland Dragon and Britta in Dragon Maid, forsook much to purify themselves and hone their magic so a dragon would want to bond with them. How they see the world is shaped in large measure by their bonds with their dragons. If any old human could find their way to Fire Mountain in search of a dragon, the bond wouldn’t be worth very much.

People have occasionally said to me, “Oh, it must be easy to write fantasy because you can take the story anywhere you want to.” My reply is always that magic systems have to be thought out and congruent. And magic has to have a price. So heroes and heroines, even those with magic, are still bound by certain rules. They can’t do everything with magic and if they expend too much, they need to rest and eat to refuel.

Dragons will always have a special place in my writer’s heart. Two of my other full length urban fantasy novels, Earth’s Requiem and Earth’s Blood also feature dragons prominently. Earth's Hope, last book in that series is done and with my publisher.

Are dragons special to you too? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bring on the Witches!


Witch’s Bane
The Witch Chronicles, Book 2
By Ann Gimpel

Book 1, Witch's Bounty, is an Amazon Top 100 bestseller in Fantasy Romance

Genre: Dark Paranormal Romance

Amazon
Taliesin
B&N
All Romance E-books

Two stubborn people—a witch and a mage—come together with a fierceness borne of desperation. Can passion trump their intense need for independence? Will they live long enough to find out?










Roz, Jenna, and Colleen are the last of the demon-stalking witches. So far, they’ve escaped disaster, but their luck is running low. When demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, Roz launches desperate measures because she and her sister witches are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of the demons, at least it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep and hasn’t let go.

 In Roz’s secret heart she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material, she tells herself, unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

 Ronin set his sights on Roz when she was at his home in the U.K. for a strategy meeting and he can’t get her out of his mind. Unfortunately, she’s so prickly getting close to her requires scheming. He casts an enchantment to lure her at Colleen’s wedding, but she senses the spell and rebuffs him.

 Roz is used to calling the shots. So is Ronin. Sparks fly. Tempers run hot, right along with an attraction too strong to be denied. Roz and Ronin come together with a fierceness borne of desperation, but demons are determined to rid themselves of the witches for good, no matter what it takes.

 Excerpt:

Ronin Redstone unwound his arm from Roz and gripped his hands together in his lap to lessen the temptation to touch her again. Where he figured most of the guests were anxious to see the bride, he’d been interested in Roz. Probably too interested since he’d bounced to his feet the moment she entered the room and had even spun the mildest of spells to coerce her to sit near him. He pressed his lips into a flat line as he wrestled with his thoughts. Ever since he’d met the tall, imposing witch at his home in northern England a couple of weeks before, he’d been able to think of little else. She even entered his dreams with her silky black hair, pronounced cheekbones, and hawk-like nose. In those dreams, she was naked, her bronze skin glimmering in moonlight.

Her heady scent, pine forests and jasmine, tickled his nostrils and made him wonder what she’d feel like in his arms. Once he kicked the door open to that slippery slope, his cock sprang to life, clearly eager to find out. He tried to clip his libido before things whirled out of control and she noticed his arousal, but his cock wasn’t in the mood for negotiation—or retreat. He wove the tiniest don’t look here spell and draped his lower body with it.

In years past, he’d simply have created a love charm, imbued it with compulsion, and bedded the woman. That probably wasn’t a good idea, though. Roz would sense his magic, be outraged he tried to coerce her, and that would be the last he ever saw of the striking witch. Never mind she had good reason to not want much to do with him since he’d been one of the key players two hundred years ago who’d suggested foisting demon stalking onto the witches. He tightened his jaw muscles. Who could have guessed his little machination to get his kin out from under a highly unpleasant task would nearly be the death of the few witches who’d inherited the power through a magical version of gene splicing? Of course, he’d also been the one to send Duncan to fetch one of the witches to quell a demon uprising in the U.K. last month. That was how they’d discovered only three of the special witches remained…

No wonder she’s not overly fond of me. Ronin grimaced, not liking the truth in his thoughts. An inner voice huffed, reminding him it wasn’t his fault the witches in question hadn’t produced more offspring, but he shushed it.

Surely I can at least charm Roz out of that sour expression on her face.

He forced his breathing into a regular pattern and glanced toward Duncan and Colleen at the front of the room. The resident witch had completed her part of the ceremony and Titania was speaking in Gaelic so old he had trouble following it. The Sidhe binding ceremony lasted at least half an hour, so he let his thoughts drift. Anywhere but to his cock, which still throbbed uncomfortably.

As de facto leader for the Sidhe, a post he held more because no one else wanted it than because of any special skills on his part, he sensed they stood at the edge of a cataclysmic event. Abbadon and his henchmen, the Irichna demons, had grown appallingly strong. Capturing them one at a time and shepherding them to the Ninth Circle of Hell where they were trapped for all eternity wasn’t a workable solution anymore. There were too many of them, and maybe not enough space in the bottom of Hell.

Because he was afraid of a firm answer regarding Hell’s demon storage capacity, he hadn’t asked Titania, though surely she’d know. If they couldn’t dump Irichna behind the Ninth Circle’s gate, he had no idea what they’d do with them. And if Abbadon consolidated his full power, Earth would be laid waste. Ronin clamped his jaws together. Apocalypse didn’t come close to describing what would happen if Abbadon were freed from protecting his demons and could concentrate on taking over Earth.

In addition to not inquiring too closely about the Irichna, I also haven’t asked about Oberon. Ronin grimaced again. If the King of Faerie were truly so tired of immortality he’d let himself fade into the Dreaming, Ronin didn’t want to know about that, either.

When did I turn into such a craven I avoid unpleasant answers?

Even though he wasn’t expecting one, a response popped up anyway. He’d loved a human woman once, but she’d died bearing their son, who’d perished right along with her. The major vessel serving her heart had ruptured, and no amount of Sidhe magic could heal her or breathe life into their dead child. Ronin withdrew from the other Sidhe after that, mostly because he didn’t want to hear their lectures about the whole debacle being his own fault. After all, they weren’t supposed to mate outside their blood. When he finally picked up the reins of command a couple of centuries later—or maybe it had been three—he held himself aloof and avoided confrontations with anyone, about anything.

He ground his jaws harder together. His internal inventory was damned depressing; it forced him to take a harsh look at himself, and he didn’t like what he saw. He glanced at Titania. She clasped Duncan’s and Colleen’s hands between her own, and his eyes widened. Had he truly spent the entire ceremony sunk in memories and self-pity?

It would appear so, he thought dryly. In moments, Titania would utter the final words, Duncan would kiss Colleen, and the ritual would be done. He barely had time to wonder why Titania hadn’t kicked up more of a fuss about Duncan marrying a mortal, when the bridal pair kissed.

The tiniest sigh escaped Roz, and he looked sidelong at her. Her full lips were parted in half a smile, and she looked captivated by the ancient binding that had unfolded, mostly without him paying one whit of attention to it. She leaned toward him, her earlier ire apparently forgotten. “They make such a lovely couple,” she whispered.

Ronin narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Duncan and Colleen, wrapped in one another’s arms and kissing enthusiastically. He didn’t know about the lovely couple part, because he didn’t view the world that way. “They do look happy,” he whispered back because he thought he ought to say something.

Bubba, who’d been standing off to one side, made a grab for a bag Ronin hadn’t noticed before. The changeling reached inside and Ronin’s internal alarm went off. The changeling was about to throw something at the couple. Had the creature been co-opted by demons? It wasn’t unheard of since their race contained a smattering of demon blood. Afraid if he hesitated he’d be too late, Ronin pulled strong magic and rose to his feet.

Before he could loose it, Roz fastened a hand around his lower arm. “It’s just rice,” she said, her voice still low. “He’s going to throw rice at them. Stand down.”

Ronin met her dark, luminous gaze. “What sort of custom is that?” he demanded. Magic thrummed around him, making the air shimmer in iridescent hues. The changeling indeed tossed rice high in the air, showering everyone within a ten-foot radius of him, laughed uproariously, and then did it again.

“An old one.” Roz tugged on his arm and he sat reluctantly. “Bubba adores Colleen. He’s laid his life on the line for her a bazillion times. He’d never hurt her.”

“Better safe than sorry,” he muttered, feeling like an ass. “How was I to know?”

“It’s okay.” She let go of his arm and patted one of his hands.

As long as he was in an apologizing mood—they were rare for him—Ronin exhaled sharply and said, “I’m sorry I, um, suggested you sit next to me.”

She cocked her head to one side and quirked a brow. “If you’d only suggested, it would have been fine, but you did a tad more than that.”

Flutes and guitars began to play Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” Colleen and Duncan turned and floated up the center aisle with Bubba right behind, still throwing rice. Even Ronin had to admit they looked radiant. He’d known Duncan his entire life, and he’d never seen his fellow Sidhe look so carefree and besotted with joy. In one wild, unrestrained moment, before he glossed his emotions over with rationality, he wanted the same for himself.

Ronin felt Roz’s gaze still on him and knew he couldn’t ignore her comment. “You’re right,” he said stiffly. “I did do more than that.”

She repositioned herself so he had to look at her. “Why?”

Because I’ve wanted to strip you naked and worship your body from the day I met you. He cloaked his mind, hoping he’d been fast enough and she hadn’t read his thoughts. “I’m not quite sure,” he stumbled over the words, because they weren’t the truth.

Her dark gaze never left him as she weighed his statement. Finally she nodded, almost to herself. “When you figure it out,” she said and winked broadly, “be sure to let me know.”

Heat rose from his neck and swooshed over the top of his head. Damn! He was a Sidhe and a warrior. It was unseemly to blush like a love-struck maid. He opened his mouth to stammer some sort of reply, but she got up, along with the rest of the guests. “Come on,” she said. “I’m starving.”

He’d been afraid the second the ceremony was over, she’d race away from him as far and as fast as she could, but she’d just invited him to eat with her, at least he thought she had. He bit back a smile until just the edges of his mouth twitched. Maybe she didn’t abhor him as much as it seemed when she’d shot him that poisonous look once she sensed his magic.

I learned something. I have to ask her, not simply push her to do what I want. He hurried after her swishing skirt, not wanting to lose her in the crowd. He could always locate her, but the less magic he used until she got to know him, the better.

*

Roz caught up to Jenna just inside the dining area and hugged her. “Wasn’t it just perfect?” she gushed, still caught up in the mystical pull of dual wedding ceremonies.

Jenna hugged her back and nodded. She disentangled herself and eyed her friend. “What the hell, Roz? It isn’t like you to fall all over yourself.”

Roz settled her face into its usual, stern planes. “There. Is that better?”

Jenna grinned. “Yup. There’s the grumpy witch I know and love. What happened to you anyway? I looked back and you were trailing after that hunky Sidhe.”

“He snared me in a spell.”

“Ooooh.” Jenna clapped her hands together. “He must be interested.” She leaned close. “What did he do during the ceremony?”

Roz felt her face redden. “Nothing. I got mad at him once I realized he’d bamboozled me. Hush. Here he comes.”

“Awesome.” Jenna practically vibrated with enthusiasm. “He can eat with us.”

“I already invited him.”

A knowing look crossed Jenna’s face and she opened her mouth, but Roz hissed, “Can it, sister,” just before turning to Ronin and asking, “Where would you like to sit?”

He half-bowed—a courtly, old world gesture that drove home just how old he was—lifted Jenna’s hand to his lips, and said, “Nice to see you again, Miss Jenna. Anywhere the two of you wish to settle is fine with me.”

“Maybe we should get our food first,” Jenna suggested brightly, “since the tables will fill fast.”

“Good idea,” Roz snapped, feeling unaccountably jealous. Ronin hadn’t kissed her hand, but he’d been quick enough to snatch Jenna’s.

“If you don’t want him…” Jenna spoke in their telepathic speech.

“I thought you were interested in Tristan.” Roz led the way to a buffet table and picked up a plate.

Jenna smirked. “I am, but he’s not here.”

Roz dished up an interesting looking salad, brimming with shrimp and crab, and followed it with a few slices of rare beef and a roll. They found a table beneath a leaded glass window and laid their plates down.

“I’ll get us something to drink.” Ronin smiled. “Preferences?”

“What are you getting?” Roz asked, avoiding Jenna’s gaze.

“Mead,” he answered. “It’s what I prefer.”

“I’ll take Irish whiskey,” Jenna trilled and settled into her seat.

“Just bring me a glass of one or the other,” Roz muttered. “I’m not picky.” As soon as Ronin was out of earshot, or close enough, she glared at Jenna. “Leave him alone.”

“But you’re not even sure you’re interested in him,” Jenna protested.

“And how would you know that?” Roz stuffed a forkful of salad into her mouth, chewed with a vengeance, and swallowed.

The other witch dropped her gaze, looking sheepish. “I, um, peeked.”

Roz slammed a fist on the table hard enough the dishes rattled. “You looked inside my head without asking?”

“’Fraid so. Sorry.” Jenna started eating with a studied nonchalance.

Roz exhaled and then did it again. Both of them were lonely; getting angry with her longtime friend wouldn’t serve any purpose other than creating bad water under the bridge they’d have to clear at some point. “Jenna. It’s the wedding ceremonies. All the old magic in them makes us want what Colleen and Duncan have.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Jenna’s hazel gaze met hers and she looked repentant, her brows drawn together. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” Roz smiled crookedly. “Let’s not fight. Not today.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Shifters + International Espionage = Dynamite!


Forever and a Day
The Company Store, Book 2
by Ann Gimpel

Sequel to the runaway bestseller Miranda's Mate!

Taliesin Publishing
Release Date: 7/1/14

Amazon
B&N
ARe
Taliesin

Espionage operations and runaway love travel halfway around the globe as Tamara and Lars stay one step ahead of death. Tension heats to boiling, but it’s not half as hot as the attraction licking at their heels.


 

 

 

Blurb:
Tamara MacBride has a much bigger problem than hiding her shifter side from the world. By the skin of her teeth, and with a smattering of Irish luck, she manages to kill her sister’s murderer. Escaping from the scene of the crime is proving much harder than she anticipated. Just when she thinks she might be safe, her cab driver shrieks and slumps over the wheel. She cowers in the back seat, too scared to run, expecting the next bullet will be for her.
An unknown assailant terminates Lars Kinsvogel’s target. Pleased by the outcome, after all dead is dead, Lars exchanges the glitz of Monto Carlo for a nearby airport intent on collecting the private plane he left there. He’s no sooner arrived when a cab jumps the curb. His instincts blare a warning, but Lars ignores them and trots over to investigate. There’s not much he can do for the cabbie, but his passenger is still very much alive—and absolutely stunning. It takes some tall talking, but she agrees to come with him.

Espionage operations and runaway love travel halfway around the globe as Tamara learns to accept her shifter side, and Lars embraces what’s been missing from his long life. Initially reticent to trust one another, it takes a series of crises and a near-fatal accident for them to take a chance on love—and each other.

Excerpt:
Lars Kinsvogel sucked in an annoyed breath. Anxiety and greed thickened the air in Monte Carlo’s Place de Casino, and he stifled a choking sound. Damn his hypersensitive shifter senses. If it weren’t for them, the desperation hovering around him wouldn’t be quite so palpable. Casinos were always like this, though, a haven for the rash and reckless. What had likely begun as a harmless pastime turned into hardcore addiction for an unfortunate few, forcing them to return again and again despite diminishing returns.

Hope springs eternal. All the poor sods need is one more spin of the wheel, another hand of cards… Lars looked up, right into the croupier’s beady gaze.

“Would monsieur like to place a bet?” The croupier grinned with all the warmth of a hammerhead shark, displaying a mouthful of bad teeth. What was it with the French and their aversion to dentistry? Lars shook his head and made shooing motions with one hand. He’d have to either join the baccarat game soon, or move on, but he could get away with loitering for a few more minutes without drawing undue attention to himself.

His target, a powerfully built man with Asian features revealing his half-Chinese ancestry, had an arm slung around a striking brunette. Maybe she was one of the hookers who worked the casino circuit, maybe she was a steady thing for the man. Lars considered it and decided she could be both. Around five feet eight, she had a lush, curvy body, hair cut into a stylish bob that fell a few inches past her shoulders, and memorable eyes the color of a restless ocean. A short, black sheath hugged her like a second skin. Open nearly to her waist, it displayed half her full breasts. Even though Lars’ appraisal was surreptitious, he forced his gaze elsewhere. The woman was sex incarnate, and he didn’t need anything diverting him from his objective.

Jaret Chen pressed chips into his companion’s hand and urged her to pick a number. He gave one of her breasts a familiar squeeze, which earned him a smile, perfectly rouged lips stretching over impossibly straight teeth—and a slight shake of her head. Color stained her tanned skin. Lars realized he was looking at the woman again, wondering how her breasts would feel beneath his fingers. She seemed uncomfortable with Jaret’s frank exploration of her body, so she probably wasn’t a pro. For some unexplained reason, Lars felt relieved. The woman was too elegant to earn her living lying on her back.

He snorted to himself and studied the flashing display above the baccarat table. Maybe the woman wasn’t French. That might explain her perfect teeth—and her discomfort with having her body mauled in public. At least she held Jaret’s attention. So far the drug dealer hadn’t spared him so much as a sidelong glance. Lars had never met the man, but knew a great deal about him from an extensive dossier provided by The Company, Lars’ international security employer. Deeply involved in the heroin trade from the Middle East, across the Mediterranean, and into Europe, Jaret was one of the principals in a large operation—and Lars’ current project.

He sized the man up. Maybe six feet, he had a barrel chest. Strongly muscled arms strained against the fabric of his cream-colored silk dress shirt. His art deco tie had been loosened. Dark eyes, pronounced cheekbones, and straight dark hair cut short blended with his business attire. For all intents and purposes, he was indistinguishable from the phalanx of wealthy—and wannabe wealthy—men circulating through the casino. Lars glanced at his own cream-colored silk shirt and black linen pants. With the exception that his tie was still firmly knotted, he and Jaret were dressed as twins.

Guess neither of us wanted to stick out in anyone’s memory.

Lars glanced at his Rolex. Close to midnight and time to move on. He’d seen enough. Now it was a matter of figuring out where and when to strike. These things always went more smoothly when they were nearly invisible. He melted into the crowd and made his way outside. The casino fronted the French Riviera; Lars stood looking out at the Mediterranean for long moments. The water was quiet tonight, waves barely slapping the white sand beach. His cell phone, set on silent, vibrated against his hip, and he tugged it from a pocket to look at the display.

Private. Damn! Could be anyone.

Lars punched the answer icon, held the phone to his ear, and waited. No need to say anything until he knew who was on the other end.

“Are you somewhere you can talk?” Lars inhaled sharply as Garen LeRochefort’s voice came through the phone’s speaker. Another shifter, Garen had founded The Company hundreds of years ago. The mechanics of the spy game had changed drastically between the late seventeen hundreds and modern times, but the basics—kill or be killed—hadn’t altered much. Everyone who worked for The Company was some type of shifter. Lars’ animal form was a mountain lion, Garen’s a wolf.

Lars loped farther down the beach until he cleared several couples engaged in deep, hungry kisses. “What has happened?” Something must have, or Garen wouldn’t have risked contact.

“You need to leave.”

“But I have not—”

“Doesn’t matter,” Garen cut in. “I’ll explain when you’re back in the office on a fully scrambled line.”

Lars thought about his twin engine Piper Seneca waiting at the Nice airport, fifteen miles from Monte Carlo. It gave him freedom to come and go, and was much cheaper to operate than the business class jets he also owned. “Maybe I could still—”

“No!” The one word thundered so loud, Lars moved the phone away from his ear. “Don’t even go back to your room.” Garen hesitated. “Old friend. Trust me on this.” The line went dead.

Lars stared at the iPhone’s display and dropped the cellular device back into his pocket. He’d been compromised. He wasn’t certain quite how, and a part of him was curious as hell. He kept walking, swinging in a wide circle to head back toward the Hotel de Paris. Garen had said not to return to his room, but if he were careful, maybe he could learn something critical that would help their side.

Ja, forewarned is forearmed,” he muttered. Keycard in hand, he let himself into a side door of the rambling old structure, got his bearings, and started cautiously up a stairwell. His suite was on the second floor, at the very end of the wing facing the Mediterranean. He’d always loved the old hotel with its thick, patterned carpets and antique lighting and furnishings. Staying next to the walls, he used a bit of shifter magic to cast a don’t look here spell. It wouldn’t keep someone determined from seeing him, but it didn’t require much magic, either.

He entered the second floor a few doors from his own and scanned the empty hallway, his senses on high alert. Midnight was early in Monte Carlo, a city where people frequently stayed up through dawn and slept the day away, so he fully expected to see other guests, but the hall was mercifully empty. He padded silently toward his door and examined it, wishing he’d set a trap. He inhaled, trying to sort scents, but there were too many to make sense of. He could leave, just walk away like Garen had almost ordered him to, but Lars had never been a coward, and he was more intrigued than frightened. He’d spent years worming his way out of dicey situations. This was just one more, and he was damned if he’d walk away from his things. Not unless he had to.

He took a deep breath, tugged his guaranteed-not-to-set-off-metal-detectors .32 caliber revolver from its ankle holster, and shoved the key card into the slot in the door. A tiny electric motor hummed and the deadbolt snicked out of the way. He turned the latch, kicked the door open, and turned from side to side scanning the sitting room of his suite, gun at the ready. Lars waited in the doorway, barely breathing, and then he heard a muted click, followed by an unmistakable whirr, and knew.

A bomb.

He cursed in German, not knowing if he was more annoyed with the turn of events or with himself for not taking Garen’s advice and getting the hell out of there.