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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.

 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Warm Welcome to Historical Romance Author, Haley Whitehall!


The Legend of Silverheels
I do a lot of research for my historical romance stories. I actually find the research the most interesting part of the writing process. I have a history degree and am a historian at heart. When writing Wild and Tender Care I had to research small pox outbreaks in the Old West. It was here I learned about the legend of Silverheels.
 
Silverheels was a dancehall girl who worked in the mining town of Buckskin Joe in Colorado. She was nicknamed Silverheels because she liked to wear silver slippers and was well-respected by the miners. History does not know her given name. In 1861, a smallpox epidemic broke out in the mining community brought to the town by sheepherders.
 
Silverheels nursed the miners, fed them, cleaning their homes, did their laundry etc. Eventually she came down with smallpox as well. When the outbreak passed the miners wanted to celebrate and thank Silverheels for taking care of them, unfortunately she was nowhere to be found. Most likely she thought she could no longer practice her trade as a dancehall girl now that she had a pock-marked face.
 
It is tricky to actually base a story on a real person. I, however, was inspired by Silverheels and she helped me develop my strong, feisty and caring heroine Ida Page.

Here is an excerpt from Wild and Tender Care:
The following day she focused on her usual pile of laundry. Scrubbing a pair of trousers, she did not know anyone had approached until she heard a man cough.
 
Stomach tightening, her spine snapped straight.
 
Dr. Steere nodded to her. “Miss Page, I did not mean to sneak up on you.”
 
“That’s quite all right, Doctor,” she said, her insides slowly unwinding.
 
“I see you are enjoying the sunshine.”
 
“If you consider running clothes over a washboard as enjoyment.”
 
He glanced up at the sun. “Colorado Territory does have pretty skies, don’t you think?”
 
What was this, a feeble attempt at small talk? She didn’t have the strength to keep up the charade any longer. It was much easier to be friendly. “A blue sky is a blue sky.”
 
He shook his head. “But this sky has horses and castles and giant flowers.”
 
She peered up at the clouds dotting the stretch of endless blue. Looking for shapes in the clouds had been a fun game when she was little. She pointed to a large cloud. “That one looks like a boat.”
 
Dr. Steere sidled up to her and followed her finger to where she was pointing. “Yes, it does.”
His masculine musk filled the air, surrounding her. A deep-seated ache migrated through her body and settled between her thighs. It had been a long time since she’d been with a man. Even though whoring had been her business, she’d learned to derive pleasure from her clients. A pleasure she’d been long denied. Dr. Steere was not like any of the usual men who had called upon her nightly services. His presence alone aroused her. She didn’t even need his touch to remind her body what to do.
 
Her long-suppressed need for male companionship rose to the surface. Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the corners of his lips twitching. Had he caught her looking at him?
 
If this was a game for him, she’d be happy to lose. Her heart raced, beating with eagerness to be with him. It would be more than sex with him. They had a deeper connection. He wanted to court her, make her his wife, and she longed for him to drop on one knee and ask her.
 
She could enjoy his strong, steady presence all day especially if it led to the bedroom. Damn, this was a precarious situation. He wanted her and her body wanted to be with him, but she knew the people of Big Rock better than he did. Was she ready for the storm that would follow?
While she was in charge of her own life, not the good Christians passing judgment on her, she did have to live within their community. Would it be more or less painful to live as Mrs. Steere?
 
Clearing her throat, she got his attention. “What is your business here, Dr. Steere? I take it you no longer require directions around town.”
 
“No, you explained the surroundings very well. It will just take time for me to get to know everything.” The way he looked at her left no question of whom he wanted to get to know.
 
Her pulse skidded out of control and her core heated. She put both her hands in her apron pockets to keep from running them up and down Dr. Steere’s broad shoulders.
 
She gulped air, grasping for her resolve to keep things strictly professional. “Did you come out here merely to discuss the clouds? I figured a doctor would have more important things to occupy his time.”
 
He put a hand on his chest. “The lady’s wit strikes again.”
 
She scowled. His sarcasm was not becoming.
 
“I was actually hoping you could get out bloodstains.” He took off his frock coat and then his vest, standing before her in a white shirt, tie, and trousers.
 
He was stripping in front of her. She couldn’t believe it! Yes, she’d seen many men strip for her before but that had been in the privacy of her room, not on the front lawn where anyone could see. Heat spread from her ears all the way down to her toes, and yet she could not tear her eyes away from the enthralling sight.
 
She wetted her lips and clenched her thighs, already feeling the moisture down below. He slipped off his tie and then proceeded to take off his white shirt.
 
Speechless, she gaped at his toned chest covered in a dusting of black hair.
 
“I suppose I should have changed at the office,” he said in an apologetic tone. “I wasn’t thinking.
 
I knew it was best to clean the bloodstain quickly. I was changing the bandage on a patient and my sleeve fell down.” He handed the shirt to her.
 
The right sleeve was coated in blood, still damp.
 
Somehow her lust-filled mind still managed to form a coherent sentence. “I will see what I can do.”
 
“Thank you. After medical school and the war I don’t have too much savings. I figure I’ll be scraping by until I build up a good practice. Of course, I realize many patients pay in kind out here.” His gaze migrated lower, pausing for a hairbreadth at her thighs and she pulsed with need.
 
“How much do you charge?”
 
“Charge?”
 
He pointed to the shirt she was holding. “For the washing,” he said, a taut smile tugging at his lips.
 
“Oh. Two bits.”
 
He nodded and began buttoning up his frock coat to hide his bare chest.
 
“I-I can deliver your shirt tomorrow,” she stammered.
 
“That will be fine, Miss Page. You know where my office is.” He walked all the way to the street and then stopped and turned around. “A doctor keeps long hours,” he called to her. “My door is always open.”
 
Blurb:
 
Ida Page has seen the worst the west has to offer. Snubbed by the citizens of Big Rock, Colorado, ever since the town cleaned up its act and became civilized, she has tried to change with the times. No other line of work available, she became a laundress after the mayor shut down the whorehouse, but the good people will not allow her to forget her past as a shady lady. She has given up on ever being accepted, let alone falling in love, until a handsome half-breed stranger arrives in town.

After the War Between the States, William Steere has been looking for a town to build a medical practice. He answered a newspaper ad placed by the mayor of Big Rock and hopes their desperate need for a doctor will overrule their race prejudice against his half-breed status. At the Independence Day picnic, he is introduced to all the town citizens except for one woman sitting off by herself. This redhead draws him to her with merely a gaze.

Can the two outcasts find love and acceptance in each other's arms or will the town’s cruelty and a smallpox epidemic tear them apart?
 
Buy Links:
Liquid Silver Books    ~    Amazon US     ~    Amazon UK     ~    Barnes and Noble     ~    ARe
 
Author Bio:
Haley Whitehall lives in Washington State where she enjoys all four seasons and the surrounding wildlife. She writes historical fiction and historical romance set in the 19th century U.S. When she is not researching or writing, she plays with her cats, watches the Western and History Channels, and goes antiquing. She is hoping to build a time machine so she can go in search of her prince charming. A good book, a cup of coffee, and a view of the mountains make her happy. Visit Haley’s website at http://haleywhitehall.com.
 
Where to find Haley Whitehall:
 
 

 


 

 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

One of Those Rare Introspective Moments

When I was tagged by my good friend, fellow paranormal romance author, Pam Moran, to take part in the blog equivalent of a chain letter, I groaned. Seriously groaned. My first thought was I don't have time for this, but I really like her and she needed my help, so I agreed. As these things often turn out, I'm glad I did. It's rare for me to take a step back and think about my writing. I'm usually too busy writing the next book, or editing the ones I have contracts on. Here's a shout out to Pam. Thank you!!

The questions I'll be answering are:

1. What am I working on writing?
My current project is a book that emerged from the month I recently spent in Antarctica. I just got back on April 1st, so the trip is very fresh in my mind. It was one of those life-changing experiences and I fell in love with the wild, remote grandeur of the South Atlantic, the Antarctic Peninsula, and South Georgia Island. The book, Icy Passage, is done and in the hands of the last of three beta readers. It's slightly over 100K words. Because the easiest way to describe it is with my blurb, here it is:
Fresh out of residency, Dr. Kayna Quan opts for a tour in Antarctica. Money is short, so she hires on as medical officer aboard a Russian research vessel heading for McMurdo Station. Primed for almost anything, she plays her paranormal ability close to the vest. Being odd man out in a world where most don’t believe in magic makes her wary and feisty.
Brynn McMichaels has been stationed on remote South Georgia Island for two years working as a research biologist. Missing human contact, he’s eager for a change. When cultures of the single-celled organism, archaea, overgrow their bins in his lab and begin shifting into another form, he worries he’s losing his mind and talks with scientists at McMurdo, who can’t wait to get their hands on his mutant cells. In a burst of uncharacteristic spontaneity, Brynn joins the ship that’s transporting his cultures, but he plans to catch the first plane out of McMurdo to rejoin civilization.

Attraction sparks, hot and powerful, between Brynn and Kayna, but her disclosure about her magic is a tough nut to crack. Amid uncertainties, they join forces to puzzle over his cultures, an odd disease aboard the ship, and escalating international tensions that may keep them from docking at McMurdo. Caught up in a race against time, an elusive secret taunts them, but if they can’t trust each other, the world they know has no chance.
2.  How does my writing differ from other books in my genres?
That's a tough question to answer, but I think the primary difference is that my books cross genres. They have romantic elements, but are also urban fantasy or science fiction. Take Icy Passage as an example. It's an urban fantasy/romance, but with a science fiction overlay. Another difference might be that most of my books draw on mythology. Sometimes Greco-Roman, sometimes Celtic, sometimes Norse. I researched Chinese mythology for Icy Passage, which was a new venue for me.
3.  How does my writing process work?
Most of my books begin with a scene that comes to me. It's generally compelling enough that it pushes me to sit down and write. I have a rather intrusive muse. She even tracked me down in the South Atlantic after I'd been aboard a ship for over a week and kicked me good and hard in the backside. You guessed it, I began writing again. I had about half of Witches Rule completed for Taliesin Publishing when I returned. The other book I started writing on the Antarctica trip was Icy Passage. I decided to just jot a few things down and a couple thousand words later, I forced myself to quit and return to Witches Rule.
When I'm home, I aim for at least one chapter a day (3000-3500 words). There are days I write double that and sometimes more if the story has me in thrall. I'm a "pantser" rather than a "plotter." Over time, that's worked better for me as my craft has improved. It still takes me about three rounds of self-edits once I'm done, plus the back-and-forth editing I do while writing, though, to ensure everything holds together and there aren't any dangling plot threads. I do make notes of things to remind myself if I see something that needs fixing, and I keep storyboards so it's easy to check back on a character's hair or eye color.
My bottom line is I love writing. It's an altered state of consciousness where I can drop into a parallel universe and live the story along with my characters. I can't imagine a better avocation and I feel lucky to have stumbled into it.
What I want to do next is introduce another phenomenal author, my good friend, Anita Cox.
Anita has been writing general fiction, under her given name, for nearly a decade. In 2012 she strapped on a new name for a new genre and dove head first into writing erotica. Anita Cox's erotic debut series Dirty White Candy was picked up by Liquid Silver Books in 2013, but this wasn't her beginning. Under her given name she has written crime fiction (some with paranormal elements,) paranormal romance and suspense novels.
In 2014, she became a Director for the Erotic Author's Guild. Her altruistic nature found its purpose, assisting other erotic authors with issues specific to the genre. With a busy home life, Anita manages to ferret out enough time for each hat she must wear, though secretly, she wants to shut the world out and just write.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blood and Magic: A Surefire Binding for Darn Near Anything







Blood and Magic
Ann Gimpel
Taliesin Publishing
Available from:

Amazon
B&N


Can Luke conquer his past and claim the only woman he's ever loved?

Blurb:
Magic didn’t just find Luke Caulfield. It chased him down, bludgeoned him, and has been dogging him ever since. Some lessons are harder than others. Luke survives by embracing danger and upping the ante to give it one better. An enforcer for the Coven, a large, established group of witches, his latest assignment is playing bodyguard to the daughter of Coven leaders.
Abigail Ruskin is chaperoning a spoiled twelve-year-old from New York to her parents’ home in Utah Territory when Luke gets on their stagecoach in Colorado. A powerful witch herself, Abigail senses Luke’s magic, but he’s so overwhelmingly male, she shies away from contact. Stuck between the petulant child and Luke’s raw sexual energy, Abigail can’t wait for the trip to end.

Wraiths, wolves, and humans with dark magick attack. Unpleasant truths surface about the child and Abigail’s well-ordered world crashes around her. Luke’s so attracted to Abigail, she’s almost all he can think about, but he’s leery too. In over his head, he summons enforcer backup. Will they help him save the woman he’s falling in love with, or demand her immediate execution?
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Excerpt:
  …It wasn’t Luke but a long, drawn-out shriek that brought Abigail thumping back to consciousness, her heart hammering triple time in her chest. Eyes wide and staring against the darkness, she warded herself just in time. Strong magic battered her. She tried to sense Luke, but that was the problem with wards. They protected by forming an impenetrable barrier and corralled her magic inside.

Whatever was pummeling her seemed to have given up. She risked chinking enough of a hole in her warding to send a tendril of magic outward because she needed information. When it came, it terrified her so badly, her heart stuttered. Dark things surrounded them: wraiths, mad wolves—those who’d been turned to serve the other side—and humans who’d sold their immortal souls for forbidden knowledge. Had the girl rallied them? How could she possibly be that powerful? Luke didn’t seem to be anywhere. Abigail hoped he’d concealed himself out of harm’s way, because the two of them couldn’t make the slightest dent in the dark horde outside. The stagecoach rocked and she realized someone was climbing onto the roof. Throat so dry she could barely breathe, she mended her warding.

The books. That’s what they want… Let them haul the miserable things out of here. She knew she should risk heaven and hell to keep such knowledge out of dark hands, but Abigail didn’t see how throwing her life away would alter the outcome. She heard voices speaking the Satanic tongue, and then dragging sounds as someone transferred the trunk to the ground. Luke shouldn’t have bothered to put it back up top, she thought grimly.

What had the Girauds been doing with such arcane tomes in the first place? She supposed there was the slightest chance they’d been protecting them from falling into the wrong hands. Yes, by all means, let’s give Coven members the benefit of the doubt. Except it was a struggle, and she didn’t know who the hell to trust anymore.

She waited until it was absolutely still outside, and a tentative scan told her the dark host she’d sensed earlier had moved on, before loosing her wards. The minute she did, she felt Luke’s energy. He pulled open one of the coach doors. “I scared up a couple of horses from a nearby farm. We need to go after those books—and the girl.”

She fought down the protest that rose to her lips, but it slid out anyway. “There aren’t enough of us.”

“Fixed that problem too.” He smiled grimly. “I can ward you if you want to stay here, but if you’re coming we need to get moving. Don’t want to let the trail get too cold.” From the smirk in his voice, she knew he was being sarcastic.

She sent her magic spiraling outward and felt the books pulsing with evil. No way that path would ever get cold. “Why couldn’t I feel them this strongly before? I know the trunk had to have been spelled, but still…”

“The trunk was spelled, and by someone with magic to burn. It’s over in those trees. I guess Carolyn’s minions were in a hurry and didn’t have a wagon.”

Abigail felt like a rube. The book trunk had already been packed and sealed when she’d picked Carolyn up in New York. She’d never even thought to examine it. “Did you see Carolyn?”

“Yup.” His upper lip curled into a sneer. “Caught a glimpse of her riding a mad wolf.”

“Do you suppose there’s some way we could separate her from Goody Osborne?” Abigail bit her lip nervously.

Luke shook his head. “Even if we could—and I don’t think it’s possible—there are too many unknowns. Her parents might have been turned. If that happened, the kid could have embraced evil before it entered her body. By the time we sorted all that out, the dark would have had one too many chances to kill us.”

Abigail winced at the unvarnished truth in his words. Any residual doubts she held about the necessity of destroying the girl melted away. “Yes,” she said through clenched teeth. “I’m coming with you.”

Luke boosted her onto one of the horses. She pulled her skirts out of the way. It was a normal saddle and this was scarcely a time for modesty. Luke vaulted onto his horse, kneeing it, and they took off up the Overland Stage Road at close to a full gallop. “We’re making too much noise,” she sent.

“Doesn’t matter. They’ll expect us to come after them.”

She clung to the horse with her legs, enjoying the feel of not having to ride sidesaddle. Luke’s horse was larger, faster, and soon pulled so far ahead she could barely see him. She kneed her horse, urging it to greater speed, but the animal shied, and then reared. Abigail struggled for balance and called magic to calm the spooked animal. Something sprang at her and knocked her to the ground. She sent killing magic to stop its heart, before realizing what it was. Panting, she crawled out from under a black and gray mad wolf with blood dribbling from its nostrils, and glanced warily about. Were there more of them?

Carolyn stepped from the shadows. It looked as if she was alone, but Abigail suspected otherwise. “What do you want?”

“Simple enough. I plan to use you to get rid of Breana Giraud—and others.” A sneer twisted the girl’s features into something unpleasant. “You think people don’t know you’re part of Coven government?”

Abigail set her mouth in a hard line. “Fine. So the other side knows about me. Question is, who are you really?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” Carolyn stepped closer and turned her face from side to side as if posing for a photographer. “I gave you my name, but I am far more than that.”

She’s arrogant. Perhaps I can use that in some way. Abigail spread her hands in a placating gesture. “Because I’m used to seeing you as Carolyn Giraud, I’m not certain who you are.” She paused for emphasis. “I’d like you to tell me.”

“Certainly.” A feral grin made the child look like something out of a nightmare. “It is always better to know who your adversary is.” Her voice became soft and silky. “I have access to magic you would kill for. You may not know it, but you’d like to work for us.” She laughed, but it sounded more like broken glass shattering against itself, than a twelve-year-old girl’s mirth. “We have real power, not that paltry tripe the Coven settles for.”

Abigail waited. When Carolyn didn’t say anything else, she said, “I’m listening…and considering your offer. Life is always better than the alternative.”

“Ha! They said you couldn’t be turned, but I told them they were wrong. I am The Promised, resurrected out of legend. Goody Osborne was but a start, and this little girl is merely a convenience.” Something like an outraged squawk followed the words, but Goody silenced Carolyn almost immediately. “What I really want is you, Abigail Ruskin.”

Shit! She couldn’t be The Promised… “You mean the Dark Messiah?” Abigail scrunched up her face and held her breath, hoping against hope she’d gotten it wrong.

“The same.” A supercilious expression etched into the girl’s features. “At least the other side has heard of me. Warms my black, black heart.”

“The books—?” Abigail hunted for a connection while she rode herd on terror that threatened to immobilize her, and clouded her judgment. If ever she needed a clear head, it was now, but her mind raced feverishly.

“They weren’t doing the girl’s parents any good moldering away in that underground chamber. I’d actually been searching for them for years.” She flashed a sly smile. “They used to be mine…”

 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Traveling Blues


Coming through Buenos Aires on our way home from Antarctica, my big green travel duffel did not come down the chute with everything else. It’s actually the stuff nightmares are made of because if I lost a bag in the hinterlands of South America, I’d probably never see it again. How do I know? Because it’s happened to me before.

Anyway, I left Bob guarding the luggage we did have (except I kept my backpack) and I trudged down to the Aerolingas Argentinas luggage department. It must have been half a mile. I showed them the bag claim ticket for this missing bag, described it in my fractured Spanish, and they called this grizzled old dude over, who had zip in the way of airport ID hanging from his neck like everyone else. Jose did not make eye contact with me (never a good sign) and shuffled out the doors, presumably in search of my bag. I trotted back to tell Bob what was up, made my way back to the luggage department and stood around waiting. In the meantime, Argentineans are “kiss happy.” They kiss everybody on both cheeks. Strangers grabbed me up and planted kisses on my cheeks just because I happened to be standing there.  

 Buenos Aires has TWO airports. We still had to take a bus (90 minute ride) across town to the other airport, which was where our flight to Atlanta was departing from. I had the bus tickets, but I didn’t want to leave without my bag. Thank God we had a seven hour layover. Anyway, after about forty minutes, I wandered back to the counter and told them I had to get to the other airport, so I needed a firm yay or nay about my bag so I could fill out their forms for lost luggage. That seemed to galvanize the crew in maƱana land. Someone raised Jose on the walkie-talkie and about ten minutes later he shuffled back in with my duffel. I could have hugged him! There are no skyways at that airport. We walked down steps to get off the plane and took a bus to the terminal. I’m guessing they were sloppy unloading the luggage and my duffel fell off the open cart on its way to bag claim.

All’s well that ends well. We got to the international airport with two hours to spare and had pizza and Starbucks while we waited for our flight to Atlanta.

 

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Witches Rule! Win a $50 Amazon GC


Witch’s Bounty
The Witch Chronicles, Book 1
By Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Taliesin
Release Date: 3/6/14
Genre: Dark Paranormal Romance

63,000 words
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A demon-stalking witch teams up with a Sidhe, but their combined power, never mind their love, may be too late to make a difference.




Blurb:

One of only three remaining demon-stalking witches, Colleen is almost the last of her kind. Along with her familiar, a changeling spirit, she was hoping for a few months of quiet, running a small magicians’ supply store in Fairbanks, Alaska. Peace isn’t in the cards, though. Demons are raising hell in Seattle. She’s on her way out the door to help, when a Sidhe shows up and demands she accompany him to northern England to quell a demon uprising there.

Duncan swallowed uneasy feelings when the Sidhe foisted demon containment off onto the witches two hundred years before. He’s annoyed when the Sidhe leader sends him to haul a witch across the Atlantic to bail them out. Until he sees the witch in question. Colleen is unquestionably the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. Strong and gutsy, too. When she refuses to come with him, because she’s needed in Seattle, he immediately offers his assistance. Anything to remain in her presence.

Colleen can’t believe how gorgeous the Sidhe is, but she doesn’t have time for such nonsense. She, Jenna, and Roz are the only hedge Earth has against being overrun by Hell’s minions. Even with help from a powerful magic wielder like Duncan, the odds aren’t good and the demons know it. Sensing victory is within their grasp, they close in for the kill.

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Excerpt:

…The bells around the shop door clanged a discordant riot of notes. “Crap!” Jenna shot to her feet. “I should have locked the damned door.”

“Back to cat form.” Colleen flicked her fingers at Bubba, who shrank obligingly and slithered out of clothing, which puddled around him. She snatched up his shirt and pants and dropped them back into the canister.

“I say,” a strongly accented male voice called out. “Is anyone here?”

“I’ll take care of the Brit,” Colleen mouthed. “Take Bubba to the basement and practice.”

She got to her feet and stepped past the curtain. “Yes?” She gazed around the dimly lit store for their customer.

A tall, powerfully built man, wearing dark slacks and a dark turtleneck, strode toward her, a woolen greatcoat slung over one arm. His white-blond hair was drawn back into a queue. Arresting facial bones—sculpted cheeks, strong jaw, high forehead—captured her attention and stole her breath. He was quite possibly the most gorgeous man she’d ever laid eyes on. Discerning green eyes zeroed in on her face, caught her gaze, and held it. Magic danced around him in a numinous shroud. Strong magic.

What was he?

And then she knew. Daoine Sidhe. The man had to be Sidhe royalty. No wonder he was so stunning it almost hurt to look at him.

Colleen held her ground. She placed her feet shoulder width apart and crossed her arms over her chest. “What can I help you with?”

“Colleen Kelly?”

Okay, so he knows who I am. Doesn’t mean a thing. He’s Sidhe. Could have plucked my name right out of my head. “That would be me. How can I help you?” she repeated, burying a desire to lick nervously at her lips.

“Time is short. I’ve been hunting you for a while now. Come closer, witch. We need to talk.”

***

Duncan Regis eyed the grim-faced woman standing in front of him. She was quite striking with such stunning bone structure—high cheekbones, square jaw—she could have been a runway model. Her unwavering pale blue eyes held his gaze. Dressed in brown wool slacks, a multicolored sweater, and scuffed leather boots, she had auburn curls that cascaded to waist level. A scattering of freckles coated her upturned nose. Her lips would have been full if they weren’t pursed into a hard line.

He knew he was staring, but couldn’t help himself. Colleen was tall for a woman, close to six feet, with well-defined shoulders, generous breasts, and a slender waist that flared to trim hips. He smelled her apprehension and was pleased she was able to cloak it so well with the defiant angle of her chin and the challenge in her icy stare.

Despite his earlier command, she didn’t move. Annoyance coiled in his gut. He could summon magic and force her, but he wanted—no, make that needed—her cooperation. Compulsion spells had a way of engendering lingering resentments. He smiled, but it felt fake so he gave it up. “I like women with spirit, but I’m used to being obeyed.”

She frowned and tilted her chin another notch. “I’ll just bet you are. I’m not coming one angstrom closer until you tell me why a Sidhe is hunting for me.”

Surprise registered. He tried to mask it, just like he’d attempted to disguise himself in a human glamour. Duncan tamped down a wry grin, wondering if his second ploy had worked any better than his first.

“Not really.” She tapped one booted toe. “I read minds. You’ll have to do a better job warding yours, if you want to keep me out.” Colleen exhaled briskly. “Look. Maybe it would be easier if you just told me why you’re here. I’m sort of busy just now and I don’t have a bunch of time to spar with you.”

“You don’t have any choice.”

“Oh yes I do.” Anger wafted from her in thick clouds. Along with it a spicy, rose scent, tinged with jasmine, tickled his nostrils and did disconcerting things to his nether regions. He resisted an urge to rearrange his suddenly erect cock. Colleen unfolded her arms, extended one, and pointed toward the door. “Out. Now.”

“You’re making a terrible mistake—”

“Maybe so, but this is my turf. If you force me with your magic, you’ll have broken the rules that bind your kind—and the covenant amongst magic-wielders.”

Duncan’s temper kindled, but it didn’t dampen the lust seeping along his nerve endings. Rules be damned. He could flatten this persnickety witch, or better yet, weave a love spell and bind her to him that way. Maybe he should do just that and have done with things. He clasped his hands behind him to quash the temptation to call magic. The movement stretched his trousers across his erection, making it obvious if she chose to look down.

Something dark streaked from the back of the shop and planted itself in front of him, hissing and spitting. Gaia’s tits. A cat. He stared at it. Hmph. Maybe not a cat after all. Duncan reached outward with a tendril of magic. Before it reached the creature, Colleen bent and scooped it into her arms. The not-a-cat wriggled and hissed, but she held fast.

“Leave him alone,” she said through clenched teeth. “He’s mine.”

Duncan narrowed his eyes. “Damn if it isn’t a changeling. How’d he end up with you?”

Her foot tapped the scarred wooden floor again, its beat so regular it could have been a metronome. “I asked you a whole lot of questions.” She took a step backward. “But the only one I want to know the answer to is—”

“What the fuck are you doing?” Jenna wavered into view, having teleported in from somewhere. Her gaze landed on the cat. “Thank Christ! For a minute there I thought the little bastard got away from me.”

“Jenna,” Colleen snapped. “The Sidhe have deigned to call.”

The other woman whipped around and stared at Duncan. He stared back. What was it with these witches? Had they taken some sort of potion to supersize themselves? She made Colleen look positively petite. Jenna sidled closer to Colleen; part of her height came from high heels, but she was still an imposing woman. “What does he want?” she growled.

Duncan cleared his throat. “I’m right here. You can ask me.”

“Fine.” Jenna put her hands on her hips. “What are you doing here?”

“How do you know I want anything?” he countered, trying to buy time to figure out what to do now. He hadn’t counted on two witches, and a changeling.

“Because if you didn’t, Colleen would have shooed you out of here by now. You really do need to leave. We’re busy.”

He snorted. “Yes. Colleen made that abundantly clear.” He looked from one witch to the other. At least his erection was fading a bit. Crowds always had a dampening effect on his libido. Many other Sidhe thrived on group sex, but he’d never appreciated its appeal.

“Either tell us what you want right now,” Colleen moved toward him, cat still in her arms, “or leave. I’m going to count to three—”

“Maeve’s teeth, witch! We’re on the same side.”

“Generally speaking,” Jenna joined Colleen about three feet away from him, “that’s probably true, but the Sidhe have never helped us.”

Colleen quirked a brow. “No, they haven’t.” Her eyes narrowed. “And I have this prescient feeling that Sidhe-boy here is about to ask for a pretty big favor.”

“Sidhe-boy?” The dregs of his lust scattered; he crimped his hands into fists. “Show some respect.”

“You’re not respecting me,” Colleen said. “I’ve asked you to leave—twice. No, make that three times.” The not-a-cat finally twisted free. He skimmed over the distance to Duncan and buried his claws in his leg.

“Why you changeling bastard!” Duncan shook his leg. The thing didn’t even budge. He bent, curled his hands around the furred body, and tugged. The thing bit him. Anger flashed. Magic followed. The changeling howled and fell into a heap on the floor.

“Goddammit!” Colleen shrieked. “He was just trying to protect me. If you’ve killed him…”

“I didn’t. He’s only stunned.” Duncan rubbed his ankle, glanced at the puncture wounds on his hand, and directed healing magic to both places.

Colleen sprang forward and gathered the creature into her arms. Duncan felt her magic quest into its small body. She blew out an audible breath. Cradled against her, shrouded by her long hair, the changeling mewled softly.

Duncan shook his head. He’d hoped to be subtle, accommodating, encouraging, so the witch would at least hear him out with an open mind. The time for that was long past. “All right.” He spread his hands in front of him. The flesh wounds on the one were already nearly closed. “I’m here because we’ve had problems with Irichna demons—”

“Christ on a fucking crutch,” Jenna cut in. “Seems like they’re on everyone’s mind these days. We were just—”

Colleen rounded on her. “Shut up!”

“Oops. Sorry.” Jenna held out her arms for the changeling. “I’ll just take him and—”

“No.” Colleen’s voice was more like a growl. “You’ll stay right here.” She placed the changeling in the other witch’s arms and turned to face Duncan. “I know you’re Sidhe, but who are you?”

“Duncan Regis.” He held out a hand. She ignored it, so he let it drop to his side.

“Regis, Regis,” she mumbled, her eyes narrowed in thought. “Ruling class from somewhere in Scotland.”

He nodded, impressed. “Northern England, at the moment, but the border has moved around a bit over the years. I do lay claim to Scottish roots. I didn’t know witches studied our family lines.”

“Witches don’t, but I did.”

“Any particular reason?” He was almost sorry he’d asked. She had strong feelings about the Sidhe, and he was about to find out why.

The changeling yowled, obviously recovered from his semi-comatose state. Jenna cursed and set him down. “Damn it! He scratched me.”

Duncan thought about saying something cheery, like welcome to the club, but bit back the words.

Colleen rolled her eyes. “He wants to talk. There’ll be no peace until he shifts.” She flicked magic toward the creature winding itself between her booted feet. The air shimmered and a rather large gnome took form.

He rocked toward Duncan with a bow-legged gait that made him look like a drunken sailor; his open mouth displayed squared off teeth. “I’ll tell you why she knows about you.” The changeling drew himself to his full height of about three-and-a-half feet. “She came to the Old Country looking for help during the last demon war. You Sidhe were too high and mighty to get your hands dirty, so she had to settle for me.”

Colleen snickered. “Not exactly the way I might have described it, but close enough. Hey, Bubba! Get some clothes on.”

“Later,” the changeling snapped without looking at her.

“Which of us did you approach?” Duncan made the question casual. Whoever turned Colleen down had broken the covenant binding magic-wielders to come to one another’s aid in times of need. He wondered if she knew.

“Of course I do.” She sneered. “Your thoughts are as transparent as a child’s. Even Bubba here,” she pointed to the changeling, “does a better job masking his feelings when he puts his mind to it.”

“Thanks.” The changeling glowered at her before transferring his attention back to Duncan.

“What kind of name is Bubba?” Duncan linked to the changeling, and was surprised by the complexity of his thoughts. Maybe the witches had been a good influence.

“You didn’t have to just push your way in.” The changeling screwed up his seamed face in disgust, but didn’t draw back. “My true name is Niall Eoghan.”

“Clothes,” Colleen reminded him.

Bubba made a face at her, turned, and walked behind one of the display cases. When he emerged, he wore wide-bottomed green trousers and a black shirt.

“Irish.” Puzzle pieces clicked into place and Duncan transferred his attention back to Colleen. “You never did tell me who you’d asked for help. It appears they not only turned you down, but chased you across the Irish Sea.”

“We left voluntarily,” Jenna said.

Colleen’s lips twisted in distaste. Whatever she remembered apparently didn’t sit well. “We spoke with two Sidhe at Inverlochy Castle outside Inverness. They refused to give us their names, but said they were princes over your people. They heard us out and sent us packing. Gave us twenty-four hours to leave Scottish soil.”

“I was all for staying,” Jenna chimed in. “After all, we had passports.”

“Was it just the two of you?” Duncan asked.

“Roz was with us,” Colleen said.

Understanding washed through him. “Three. You brought three to maximize your power.”

Colleen’s full mouth split into a chilly smile. “We were under attack by the Irichna. Would you have done any less?”

“Probably not. So after we, that is, the Sidhe—”

We worked fine,” Bubba said flatly. “Unless you’ve decided to renounce your heritage.”

Duncan traded pointed looks with the changeling. “Speaking of magic, you’re stronger than any changeling I’ve ever come across.”

“That’s because you’re used to our feeble Scottish cousins. They were stronger before you stripped their magic and diverted it for your own purposes.”

“Enough.” Colleen snapped her fingers. “Or I’ll change you back into a cat. We don’t need a history lesson just now.” She shook her hair back over her shoulders. The movement strained her sweater tighter across her breasts. Duncan dragged his gaze elsewhere.

“About the Irichna—” he began.

“We can’t help you,” Colleen said flatly.

“Why not? We’d pay you well.”

“It’s not a matter of money, although I’m not sure you could afford us.”

“We have an, um, previous engagement,” Jenna offered.

“Whoever it is, we need you more than they do.” He looked from one witch to the other.

Colleen dropped her gaze and rubbed the bridge of her nose between her thumb and index fingers. When she looked up, the skin around her eyes was pinched with worry. “I’m not sure it’s a matter of who needs whom more.” She speared him with her pale blue gaze. “Do the Sidhe know why the demons are so much more active here of late?”

He debated how much to tell her. Given her ability to burrow inside his head, it was unlikely he’d be able to hide much. If he told her everything, though, it might piss her off. Hell’s bells, it annoyed the crap out of him. “Not exactly.”

Her nostrils flared. “You can do better than that. If you can’t, the door is behind you.” She folded her arms beneath her breasts. “Talk now or leave now. It’s all the same to me.”