Pocket Full of Tinder: Noon Onyx Book 4
Publisher: Black Willow
Noon Onyx is back!
In this long-awaited fourth installment, Jill Archer returns readers to the dangerous world of Halja, where demons, angels, and humans coexist in an uneasy state of détente.
Maegester-in-Training Noon Onyx feels like she’s done it all – mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons, and survived having her heart broken by both love and an arrow, but now she’ll face her greatest challenge yet…
Far to the north lies an outpost famous for its unrest – Rockthorn Gorge. The town’s patron has specifically requested Noon’s help. Her assignment? Help the neophyte demon lord build his fiefdom and keep what’s his. The problem? Lord Aristos – Noon’s new employer – is her erstwhile lover, Ari Carmine, the aforementioned heartbreaker. And the number one thing he wants is her.
When Rockthorn Gorge’s viaduct is destroyed by Displodo, an enigmatic bomber, killing a dozen settlers and wounding scores more, Noon sets off early to aid in the search and rescue. Ari is listed among the missing and the suspects are legion. But Noon’s search is just the beginning. Her journey forces Noon to confront not only those she loves, but also enemies hell-bent on destroying them.
The claw-and-ball had been chewed clean off. It lay on a patch of sunny parquet floor, just to the right of an antique, aubergine wool rug now covered with the splintered remnants of an eleventh century pedestal table and one very large, ghastly looking, somewhat repentant barghest.
Nova’s head rested on her front paws as her gaze shifted warily from me to Miss Bister, Megiddo’s dormater, or house mother.
“Megiddo’s lobby is not a kennel, Miss Onyx. That”—she motioned dismissively toward Nova—“beast can no longer be housed here.”
I opened my mouth to respond, but Miss Bister continued speaking, her tone rising only infinitesimally, her back as stiff as Luck’s lance must have been, and her expression just as hard. She pointed toward the previously priceless, three-footed piece of furniture that was now a worthless, two-footed pile of kindling.
“No amount of money – or magic – can fix that, Nouiomo. It’s beyond repair. I warned you. I made an exception to my ‘no pets’ rule because you never cause trouble. You never forget your key; you promptly pick up your deliveries; you change your own light bulbs; you double bag your trash. You leave nothing behind in the bathroom; you don’t monopolize the washing machines; you are exceedingly polite to the lift operator; you don’t sing in the shower.”
I suppressed a sigh. After a year and a half of painstaking efforts, harrowing experiences, and endless hours of education, my worth had just been measured by the fact that I could change a light bulb. I’d mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons (one regrettably, the others much less so), freed myriad immortals from an accursed, tortured bondage, and survived having my heart nearly destroyed by both love and an arrow, yet none of that meant bupkis next to the fact that I double bagged my trash. And yet…
I couldn’t really argue with Miss Bister either. Everything she’d said was true. And who was I to tell her what she should deem important? I respected that she valued domestic order and antiques. I did too, if not nearly as much as I valued the thing that now threatened our continued access to such. I glared at Nova, who swept one paw over her eyes as if she could hide from me and the evidence of what she’d done.
Barghests are giant hellhounds. They’re bigger than bears, fiercer than rabid raccoons, and uglier than naked mole rats. Their teeth are the size of railroad spikes, their claws as sharp as a sickle, their breath as foul as sewage gas. But they are also affectionate, brave, and loyal. What barghests lack in magic, they make up for in devotion. And even though I was plenty mad at Nova for chewing up Miss Bister’s table, I also knew it wasn’t Nova’s fault.
It was mine – for thinking the lobby of a demon law school dormitory would be a good place to keep her.
“Miss Bister, please,” I said. “I’m truly sorry. I know I can’t replace that exact table. But if you would just allow me to—”
“No,” Miss Bister said simply. “Either the beast goes… Or you do.”
I stared at the small, frail, magicless woman in front of me, trying desperately to think of some way to fix this problem. Wasn’t there something I could do, or say, or offer her that would make amends and convince her not to kick us out?
But all I could think of was how useless some of the things our society valued most were. As Miss Bister had pointed out, neither magic nor money would help. If I was going to repair the table, I’d need to find another way. Which would take time. And that meant I’d need to find somewhere else for us to sleep tonight. Because if the beast was going… I was too.
“Yes, Miss Bister,” I said. “I understand.”
She narrowed her eyes, slightly suspicious of my now gracious defeat since I’d just spent the last half-hour trying to persuade her to accept various forms of reparation. But then she nodded, handed me a couple of paper bin bags, and left.
I slid one bag inside the other and stooped down to pick up the slobbery remains of Nova’s mangled chew toy. When I finished, she came over to me and nudged my arm with her head. She let out a woofy whine.
Was she sorry? She darn well better be!
I gave her a scratch behind the ears.
“Now that you’ve sharpened your teeth on my former dormater’s furniture, are you ready to eat some real food for breakfast?”
Jill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, White Heart of Justice, and Pocket Full of Tinder. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
Tour giveaway: $25 eGC to bookstore (winner’s choice)
Genre: Supernatural thriller romance
Publisher: Ann Gimpel
Date of Publication: February 29, 2016
Number of pages: 309
Word Count: 110K
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde
Author's Note: This book has been substantively rewritten and re-edited from the original. It's over 20% longer, and tells a more satisfying tale.
Tumble into the icy danger of Antarctica with a blazing hot romance. Mittens and fan required.
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 headed for McMurdo Station. Primed for almost anything, she plays her paranormal ability close to the vest.
Stationed on remote South Georgia Island for two years, Brynn McMichaels is 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, but they have problems of their own—bad ones. Brynn agrees to help. The weather’s too uncertain to send a plane, so he hitches a ride aboard Kayna’s ship and brings his mutant culture colonies along.
Attraction sparks, urgent, hot and powerful, between Brynn and Kayna, but her disclosure about her magic is a tough nut to crack. It doesn’t help that her dead father is stalking her. Lethal cultures, bizarre illness, and McMurdo’s refusal to let them land force Brynn and Kayna into an uneasy alliance. Will their fragile bond be enough to thwart the powers trying to destroy Earth, and them along with it?
Micah Greenwich sucked air as he pushed up from his squat, a weight bar balanced across his shoulders. He did one more squat before a wave of dizziness threatened to bring him to his knees. Gasping, he shucked the bar onto pins protruding from the back of the squat rack and grabbed one of the metal stanchions for support. A headache pounded behind one eye, and he felt nauseous.
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” he muttered, still clinging to the metal cage shoved in a back corner of the gym at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. No one was in the gym. Not at this hour. Granted, the perpetual night for part of the year, followed by perpetual day, yielded some odd circadian rhythms, but Micah rarely had competition for any of the gym machines or weight equipment late at night.
He glanced at the weight plates balanced on the ends of the forty-five pound bar, thinking perhaps he’d misjudged and put too much weight on it, but that wasn’t the issue. He shrugged. Maybe he was getting sick. Something was going around. So far, he’d been lucky during his brief stint at the southern end of the Earth and had avoided the colds and flus McMurdo residents passed among themselves like candy.
He wiped sweat from his face with a ratty towel and decided to call it a night—at least for working out. He still needed to stop by his lab. Because he was the newest and greenest microbiologist, he’d been assigned archaea, the most ancient single-celled life form on the planet. His cultures had taken a decidedly odd turn, though, a couple of weeks back—growing like mad and not looking like any prokaryote he’d ever seen. While he might have started with archaea, what was in his bins didn’t look much like them anymore.
Another wave of nausea battered him, and he folded his arms around his midsection, wondering if he was going to vomit. Saliva flooded his mouth, but he choked it back. Even though he didn’t feel like doing anything beyond finding his bed, he left the gym and made his way three buildings over to his lab. McMurdo was a series of prefab buildings with interconnecting doors and insulated tunnel-walkways, so you didn’t have to go outside into the weather. Antarctica never got particularly warm, and nights were always bitter.
He glanced out a window at an inky sky shot with stars, and a reluctant smile split his face. It might be minus something outside, but it was beautiful too. He’d always loved wild, remote places, and Antarctica was about as wild and remote as it got—shy of signing up to be an astronaut, which was a long-standing dream of his.
Micah frowned, wondering if the astronaut gig was even possible. The United States had cut their funding for the space program rather dramatically. Besides, he needed more in the way of credentials to even be considered for something like that. With another swipe at his still sweaty face—the more he thought about it, the surer he was he was coming down with the flu—he pushed open the door to his lab and froze, not believing his eyes.
“Britta?” he called. “Marguerite!”
The women didn’t answer. They sprawled face down on the floor in front of his main workbench, clearly passed out. Wondering if they’d gotten into the high-grade, ethyl alcohol he used to preserve things, he called their names again, louder this time. The longer he looked at them, the weirder he felt. They were too still. Sudden fear gripped him, making the nausea worse.
“Jesus fucking Christ. Why me?” he muttered, and raced to the women. He bent, grabbed Britta’s shoulder, and shook her. When she didn’t respond, he flipped her over and stared at her cherry red face.
Fighting a deeply sinking feeling, he turned Marguerite over. She looked just like her friend and roommate. Micah squatted next to them and laid his fingers across their necks, searching for a pulse.
He placed his ear over their hearts, willing there to be something, anything, before he started CPR. Still nothing. He ground his teeth together, unnerved. How could there possibly be two dead women in his lab?
Even though he was pretty sure it wouldn’t do any good, he tilted Marguerite’s head back and breathed into her mouth before doing chest compressions. When he looked over at Britta, he understood he had to have help and lurched to his feet. Snapping up the wall phone, he punched in the after hours code for the clinic. As soon as one of the nurses answered, he screeched, “Send help now. Third micro lab.”
His headache worsened. So did his twisting, roiling guts, but he went back to the women. He didn’t need to be a doctor to recognize death. Despite the futility, he alternated CPR from one to the next. Five long minutes passed—but they felt like five years—before the door burst open.
“Christ!” One of the docs—Stewart maybe, Micah was too rattled to take a good look—pulled him off Marguerite. A tall, broad-shouldered woman Micah didn’t recognize examined Britta.
“Looks like carbon monoxide poisoning to me,” the female medic said flatly. “This one’s well past CPR.”
Dr. Stewart rocked back on his heels. “Yeah, her too.” He trained his blue eyes on Micah. “What happened?”
Micah shook his head. “Damned if I know. I just got here. I had dinner in the mess hall, worked out in the gym, and then I swung by here to check on my cultures.”
The woman narrowed her eyes and half-crawled to where Micah sat on the floor. She folded her fingers over his wrist and took him in with practiced hazel eyes. Her reddish hair was short, almost in a butch cut. She pressed her lips into a harsh line, frowning.
“I’m Ariana,” she said, letting go of his wrist. “One of the nurse practitioners. How have you been feeling?”
“Bad,” he admitted. “Think I finally succumbed to the community disease everyone else has.”
Dr. Stewart joined them and squatted next to Micah. He ran a hand down the side of Micah’s neck and listened to his chest with a stethoscope before exchanging a pointed glance with Ariana. “Where’s the CO meter in here?” he asked.
Micah gestured behind him. “On that wall.” He twisted to look at it, but the indicator light was green—safe. Maybe it was defective. His scientifically trained mind arranged informational bits into an unpleasant pattern. “The women,” he said. “If I’d been firing on all cylinders, I’d have figured it out as soon as I looked at the color of their faces. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning, didn’t they?”
“Probably.” Dr. Stewart said cautiously. “But it’s conjecture at this point.”
“That cherry red color is a dead giveaway,” Ariana said with conviction. “Nothing else will do that.”
“We’ll wait for an autopsy before we make statements like that.” The doctor eyed his colleague coolly.
“Yes, Doctor. Sir. King of all things medical.” She set her lips in a thin line, clearly biting back further sarcasm. “Meantime,” she ground out, “I’m pretty sure he—” she jabbed a finger at Micah “—has whatever killed these two.” She stood and punched numbers into the wall phone. “I’m calling security.”
Dr. Stewart sifted his hands through his untidy, blond hair. “Tell them to alert maintenance. Until we figure out what killed these two, we’ve got to get out of here. Now.”
Micah straightened. “Wait a minute,” he sputtered. “The meter says it’s safe. For all we know, Britta and Marguerite got poisoned elsewhere and just happened to be in here cleaning when they collapsed.”
Dr. Stewart got to his feet and hauled Micah upright. “For tonight, we’ll put you in the infirmary and run tests to check if your hemoglobin’s been compromised. I’ve got to alert the boss and talk with base security. We’ll to get to the bottom of this.”
“But my lab—”
Dr. Stewart made a chopping motion with one hand, and the rest of Micah’s protest died unspoken.
Ariana hung up the phone and nodded at Dr. Stewart. “You take care of the boss. I’ll deal with security and maintenance. Need to get the gas sniffer in here to make sure there’s not a leak.”
Micah tried to focus, but the room spun crazily. He really was wiped out. Much more tired than a thirty-year-old man had a right to feel.
“Can you walk?” Dr. Stewart nudged him.
Micah focused bleary eyes on the physician. “Yeah. I think so.”
“How are you feeling?” Ariana asked the doctor.
He shrugged. “Normal. But it takes time for exposure to take a toll. Micah probably lives in this lab, except when he’s asleep.”
“Yeah, but,” Micah pointed out, “those women didn’t. They clean all the science labs. Maybe one of the other ones is the problem.”
The doctor folded an arm around Micah’s waist supporting him, and led him out of the lab. “I’m on it. By the time you wake up, we’ll know more.”
Micah staggered through the door, flanked by Dr. Stewart and Ariana. “What are you going to do about the women?” he asked.
“You were there when I alerted base security. They’ll take care of them,” Ariana assured him. “For tonight, focus on getting well.”
* * * *
It hadn’t been just that night, though. Micah spent the next three days in the infirmary sucking bottled oxygen. When that didn’t clear his red blood cells fast enough, the doctors ordered chelation treatments. In the meantime, he had a chance to think, and he didn’t care for what he came up with. Besides, it was so fantastic, no one would believe him.
Maintenance had given his lab, and the other three microbiology studios, a clean bill of health, which meant he could go back to work tomorrow. Even more disturbing, the entirety of the science wing where the dead women cleaned showed zip in the way of evidence of a gas leak. In the interest of thoroughness, maintenance had checked the female dorms too, and found exactly nothing. Autopsy was conclusive regarding cause of death, but no one could figure out how the women had been exposed to a big enough dose of carbon monoxide to kill them.
The same was true for him—major exposure to something pigging up his hemoglobin, but without an identifiable source. Another few hours without medical intervention and he’d have been just as dead as Britta and Marguerite.
Armed with that knowledge—and a phalanx of unanswered questions—Micah spent his downtime in the infirmary mapping out a series of tests to run on his strange archaea colonies. He had suspicions, but needed facts before he presented them to Jack DeVoe, the man in charge of McMurdo operations. If he went to him now, Jack, who had a Ph.D. in biochemistry, would laugh him right out of his office. And there would go Micah’s hopes of earning his chops, so he could go on to something more prestigious than working at McMurdo Station.
First off, thank you so much for inviting me to guest post on your blog. I sort of feel like I did years ago when I’d return to school in the fall and the first project was to write about my summer vacation.
None of my days are ever the same, but there are things I do most days including making breakfast and taking care of my two wolf hybrids. I make an attempt to get some exercise every day, but sometimes it doesn’t happen.
When I’m writing, I try to finish a chapter a day, so around 3000-3500 words. I also edit the chapter I wrote the previous day. Even though I’m technically retired from my “day job,” I’m busier now than I ever was when I ran mental health programs. And that got a whole lot worse when I switched from publishers to being a totally independent author.
Take last night, for example. I sat down to format a book for print, figuring it would take half an hour, tops. Well for some reason Word didn’t cooperate, and the header gave me fits. I finally finished it, but by then, it was time for bed.
The best days are the ones I spend outdoors, though. When I do absolutely nothing to drive my writing career forward. They’re important days. They rejuvenate me and give me the energy to hang in front of my computer screen. The backcountry also gives me lots of material for my stories.
I’m an early riser. Always have been. So I’m often up at five, and almost always out of bed before six. I get the coffee going and cut up fruit for breakfast. By that time, hubby is up, and he takes both dogs out for their first walk of the day. After breakfast, we’ll frequently go for a two hour hike—sometimes longer. I live in a mountain paradise, and I’m still spry enough to enjoy it. Hope that part never goes away.
I try to write during the afternoons and evenings. Hopefully, I’ve gotten most of my correspondence out of the way over breakfast, and a bit of marketing too. We enjoy travel, own a motorhome and we frequently take fairly long road trips. We travel internationally too.
My life’s not sounding terribly exciting, but I’ve carved out a pattern that works pretty well for me most of the time. There’s balance between my mind, my body, and my spirit, and when you get down to it, it’s hard to ask for more than that.
Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.
To connect with the author online:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Genre: Superhero Romance
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Date of Publication: February 1, 2016
Number of pages: 234
Word Count: 70,000
Cover Artist: Fred Machuca & Ricky Ostendi
With a heart as pure as platinum and electricity at her fingertips!
Soaring like a falcon at the speed of light!
When arch villain Momo threatens to destroy the world with The Big Zapper - a weapon of mass destruction the likes of which has never been seen before - it's up to Alexa Manchester and her new electricity-harnessing superpowers to stop him.
With a little help from her sexy chauffeur, Sigfred Sawyer, and some exciting encounters with the mysterious and handsome Blue Arrow, soon Alexa's love life is charged up, too. And to defeat the seemingly invincible Momo, it might just take the naturally super power of love to save the day.
Offering all the Kabam! Pow! Zap! of beloved comic book sagas with the beating heart of a love story, this over-the-top, genre-blending send-up is sure to delight superhero fans and romance readers alike.
Alexa started for the elevator, but Chin led her to the stairs. They descended four levels and opened the two-foot steel door to the generator room that housed The Magpie. No workers were present. Maybe they’d all gotten out without injury.
“Wait here,” she told Chin.
“You have a family, Charlie. I’m ordering you to stay here.” She paused. “This is my responsibility.”
When he reluctantly nodded, she entered the cavernous generator room. The normally ultra-bright lights inside the generator room had dimmed. A long row of generators with turbines that usually hummed and spun had gone silent. As she neared the control room, she heard only the echo of her high-heeled shoes tapping against the concrete floor. Alexa hurried along to The Magpie.
The generator was the size of a small house and resembled a child’s toy top sitting on a gigantic snare drum. To her surprise, the outer casing was glowing white hot.
The Magpie unexpectedly shook.
She listened for the sound of a spinning turbine. When she heard nothing, she reached out a hand to feel for anything different—a vibration, a change in temperature. The device was radiating heat. Impossible—her father had always said that the energy would never escape the insulated ceramic casing.
A second later, she was cast into the air as though she were bait at the end of a fishing rod. But instead of crashing to the floor, she remained suspended in midair above the top of the generator. Some sort of magnetic force had gripped her in a vise. Her ears filled with a high-pitched sound that was piercing but strangely pleasant. Her body went numb, melted, and she fell into a paralytic state. Paradoxically, she felt nothing and everything all at once. But there was no pain, only tranquility, as if she were in the midst of an improbable, yet wonderful dream. She could no longer see or hear or touch, because she no longer existed in human form. Still, she had a complete awareness of what her body had been. She was indefinable and yet remained conscious.
Suspended above the generator, she sensed something urging her to let go. She resisted, finding herself in a battle of wills to the death with The Magpie.
But machines didn’t have wills, so how could this be?
A memory of days past came to Alexa. She thought of the many times she’d followed her father along the tributaries of the Kensington. Gentle waves lapped against the smooth silt lining of the placid river. Often, she’d remove her shoes to let the sandy mud squish between her toes. Barefoot, she would walk along the shallows and collect unopened shells that she’d gather from just below the surface, hoping to find a freshwater pearl. Now, she flashed on how she’d never found that perfect pearl, which was an odd thought to have at this final moment. So, this was how her life would end.
She was no longer afraid. Morphing into a plasmatic state, she was pulled through The Magpie’s casing, as though she were subatomic particles able to penetrate anything. The deeper inside she traveled, the more at peace she felt. Once inside the inner core of the turbine, her life force was instantly absorbed into a pure-white spinning ball, which sparkled with beams of silver light. She’d finally found her pearl, and if this was heaven, she was home.
She was at peace.
“Electromancer,” a man whispered.
“What did you say?”
“You must leave here at once.”
I am always up for a good superhero story. It calls to the geek in me I guess. I don't even mind if they are a bit overly cheesy or corny, as long as we are getting the wink, wink, nudge, nudge from the author/director. After all most superheroes are over the top, bigger than life, caricatures of archetypes. Shouldn't we expect their stories to be the same? When I saw this book, I just knew I had to give it a shot before even reading the blurb.
The book is mostly set in Britannia, but also reference two cities called The Big Apple and The City of Angels. Needless to say, I think we can all figure out where the cities are in this parallel universe. Due to the inclusion of Britannia, we gain that wonderful dry sense of humor that can showcase such emotional self-restraint. When that stiff upper lip is juxtaposed against powers that are affected via strong emotions, you can feel and see the struggle the characters are going through.
There were a few surprises and twists in the book. Obviously certain characters were more than they seemed, but some characters I thought would be bad guys, turned out to be good guys after all. The action read pretty well, and though there were POVs from several characters, never too many that you couldn't keep track of who's head you were in. This being a superhero story, meant that suspension of believe started with page 1. But the author never went too far out, and stayed true to the feel of the book. I had a good time with this, and in the end I finished with a smile. 3 Stars.
Thanks to Bewitching Book Tours and Daco for the opportunity to read and review the book.
Daco is an award-winning author of the espionage-thriller series featuring CIA operative Jordan Jakes. Her debut novel, The Libra Affair, was a 2013 #1 best seller. Of The Libra Affair, Publishers Weekly said, “The keenly sharp intelligent female characters soar in this edge-of-your-seat adventure...”
Her short story The Pisces Affair was a 2015 Global Ebook Awards double gold medalist (Best Thriller Fiction and Best Science Fiction), a 2015 Shelf Unbound Notable 100, a 2015 Royal Palm Literary Award winner, and a Publishers Weekly “PW Pick”.” In its review of The Pisces Affair, Publishers Weekly wrote, “Jakes is a lively and witty narrator with the wits and skills of James Bond, and readers will savor her fresh perspective on being a woman in the male-dominated spy world.”
Her story The Virgo Affair is part of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded (Diversion Press, October 2015), an anthology, including numerous best-selling authors.
Electromancer (F+W Media, Inc./Crimson Romance, February 2016), is her first superhero novel, featuring Electromancer and Blue Arrow.
Upcoming works include The Scorpio Affair, a Jordan Jakes novel, and The Ophiuchus Affair, another Jordan Jakes short story.
Daco holds a B.A. and M.A.S. from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Authors Guild, Alabama Writers Forum, Florida Writers, and Alabama State Bar.
To connect with the author online:
Website | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads
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Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Date of Publication: February 26, 2016
Number of pages: 250
Word Count: 80,240
Cover Artist: Debbie Taylor
Former Junior Miss Kentucky Emerson Shaw won pageants using martial arts as her talent and Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” as her guide, but a painful secret leads her to the University of York, and puts her in the path of tattooed and pierced bad boy, Michael Nightingale.
Michael is a Traveller, part of an ancient line of mercenary gypsies who protect the world from vicious monsters called the Moktar. When Emerson gets attacked, she has no choice but accept Michael’s offer of protection or face certain death.
Traveller society, full of outdated rules and ridiculous superstitions, isn’t a good fit for the headstrong Emerson. Traveller women aren’t allowed to fight. Traveller women aren’t allowed to win. Traveller women aren’t allowed to leave. But Emerson will do what she must, even if it means losing the one person who matters most.
“Who are you and what do you want from me?”
I took a deep breath. It probably wouldn’t be a good start to tell him he occupied my every waking thought and most of my dreams, too. I decided to go with a more conventional approach.
“You’re here every morning, and I thought I’d say hello.” I stuck out my hand. “Emerson Jane Shaw.”
He surprised me by reaching for my extended hand and holding it firmly. His hand, large, warm and rough, had cuts and bruises all over the knuckles. He had faint bruises on his face, too, and some small wounds still in the process of healing. He’d been in some kind of fight recently.
It didn’t surprise me. He had the look of a warrior about him, the lean strength and watchful eyes of a predator, and he was lethal. Sun Tzu would have seen it, too. He would have recruited him without a moment’s hesitation.
“Michael Nightingale.” He stared at me with those hypnotic eyes as he continued to hold my hand, using it to pull me nearer to him.
“I know. Mrs. Burke told me.” I couldn’t focus on what I was saying while he touched me, not that I’d done such a great job up until now with my witty repartee.
He tilted his head to one side, studying me the way a lion studies a gazelle before he eats it. His face was only inches away from mine.
“Do you like to flirt with danger, Emerson Jane Shaw?”
“Not usually, but today I can make an exception.”
The touch of his hand sent an electric current through my body that made my heart speed up and my brain slow down. He was intoxicating. I almost had to fan myself.
Abruptly, Michael let go of me and stood up, shoving his books into his backpack. I stood up, too.
Michael glared at me, threw some bills on the table and stomped out of the shop. Like an idiot, I grabbed my backpack and followed him.
He walked quickly through The Shambles, dodging pedestrians and umbrellas with ease. I wasn’t quite as lucky. The rain poured down, filling the street with puddles. Michael wore combat boots and jeans. I had on a useless pair of flats and no jacket. It only took seconds for me to be soaked to the skin and miserable. In minutes, I looked like a little blonde drowned rat.
I’m pretty fast, even in slippery shoes, and I was motivated. I kept him in my sights until he reached a side street at the end of The Shambles that led down a narrow lane. I was only half a block away when he turned and looked at me, his eyes locking with mine, and disappeared.
He hadn’t walked away. He hadn’t moved. He’d been there one second, and gone the next. Running as fast as I could, I reached the spot where I’d last seen him and looked down the lane and on either side of the street. My ribbon flew out of my hair, blowing away in the wind as I slid on the wet cobblestones and nearly fell. I skidded to a halt, realizing I hadn’t been fast enough. It was a dead end, and he was gone.
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Abigail Drake has spent her life traveling the world, and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and International Economics in college and worked in import/export and as an ESL teacher before she committed herself full time to writing. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, fun, and sexy. Abigail is a trekkie, a book hoarder, the master of the Nespresso machine, a red wine addict, and the mother of three boys (probably the main reason for her red wine addiction). A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.
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