Blog Hop: 12 Days of Christmas
Event Date: December 1st – 12th 2013
Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 1 cup LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Glaze (recipe follows)
COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.
FOR GLAZE: COMBINE 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.
Book Giveaway for the Hop Winners (See the Rafflecopter link below to enter)
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After centuries alone, can a vampire king trust the woman who’s woken his heart?
Jordan MacDougal, laird and King of his vampire clan, walks a thin line of civility between his clan and the local shifter pack. When his vampires began to disappear and the wolves accuse the intriguing woman who’s touched his heart of being evil, he discovers that the traitor in his midst may be closer than he thinks.
A newly turned vampire, Dalia Jensen wakes to an unusual and frightening new world with no memory of the past year of her life. Accused of working with the Master Vampire who held her prisoner, her inability to remember the truth leaves her reeling under the allegations of vicious past actions. Uncertain of her culpability, she’s unable to trust her own instincts as the reigning Vampire King turns her world upside down.
When the wolves call for her trial, demanding her life for those killed and tortured during that blank year, Jordan and Dalia must work together to find the truth, and save the love blooming between them.
Hungerstorm on Goodreads
Personal Blog Giveaway
$10 Amazon Gift Card
Share in the comments below (and make sure you leave your email address) what your favorite Christmas cookie is : )
Winner will be chosen after the blog hop ends on the 16th.
Grand Prize: $150 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
First Prize: One (1) eBook from Every Participating Author
To enter the giveaway, go to the RAFFLECOPTER HERE
For more Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes & Giveaways – Hop along the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop!
Firestorm (Heart of a Vampire, Book 5)
Release Date: 11/13/2013
Coming soon to: Smashwords Kobo
A Viking vampire must face his tortuous past to save the woman who holds the key to his future.
Eric Wulfgar escapes from twisted dreams, only to find they have followed him into reality. Feeling like a shell of the man he once was, his king’s orders to help a New Orleans vampire clan might require more than he can give. But he has no choice to leave the shadows and return to the living.
Cat Bienville is frantic. Something strange is stalking the vampires of New Orleans. When the missing turn up dead with no explanation and her sire goes missing, she runs out of options. Left in charge of her coven, her duty is to keep her people safe. Only, she’s not prepared for help to come in the form of a chauvinistic male with a tattered soul.
When friends may be foes, Cat and Eric must find balance with one another in order to unveil the evil in their midst, even as a bigger threat darkens the horizon. Yet, Cat’s past may fracture their growing love. For how can she give Eric her heart, when her deepest secret may be more than he can ever accept?
Caught in the deepest recesses of his mind, Eric Wulfgar curled on an ice-cold stone floor. So very cold it seeped into his bones.
Eternal agony ate at his limbs, into his very soul.
Laughter rang out from the unending darkness, so sweet and musical it should have warmed him. Instead it chilled him to his core. Fear shuddered through him as he realized where he must be. Her dungeon.
From the nothingness, a ball of light appeared. He blinked against the brightness. As his vision focused, he stared at his nightmare come back to life. The glowing orb highlighted long crimson hair framing an angelic face. Lines of cruelty etched around her shining green eyes and laughing red lips.
He stared at the sorceress, unbelieving, uncomprehending. She had killed his family, then captured him and his twin brother long ago.
He would not give in to the whimper building in his dry throat. The memories of this place and his time here with her, had been buried, locked so deeply he’d thought them gone. He’d not been forced to face them in a millennia.
Biting his tongue, he savored the coppery tang of blood filling his mouth, but it was faint, as if none of this was truly real. As he struggled to escape, she laughed harder. It was too late. He had no strength left.
And he cursed himself for such weakness.
Shadows crawled across the floor. Invisible hands grabbed him, flipping him onto his stomach, and yanking his arms and legs out wide.
Fire whipped along his back, burning from shoulders to knees, as she used her favorite whip–blazing with magical hellfire. Flames licked across his skin, over and over, digging deeper, until he was beyond hoarse and could only scream soundlessly. He welcomed the death hovering just beyond reach.
The lashes stopped.
Senseless from pain, his mind nearly broke as he remembered what came next. The sorceress would never let him die.
Her smooth, soft hands caressed his face and arms. She kissed his neck, her flowery scent making him gag.
“My beasts are hungry,” she murmured in his ear.
He wanted to cry out, to beg her to stop. But he was a warrior. A Viking. He refused to be as weak, as broken as she wanted. He would not bend to her desires.
When he responded with nothing but silence, she hissed, “Fine.”
Clutching his hair, she wrenched his head back, then slapped him. Her nails raked furrows down his cheek. The scent of his blood spiked into the air.
And the monsters came, drawn by their endless hunger. Wolves, bears. Other creatures so grotesque and hard to look at, he couldn’t even begin to name them.
Devouring him alive.
Finally, blessed darkness took his mind. For a while, he floated, unfeeling, unthinking.
As always, she forced him to wake. Then the healing began, even more agonizing than the rest. Eric’s mind wavered and he knew he would thankfully soon be lost.
The memories dimmed.
It was a short respite. Another feminine laugh echoed around him, this one childlike yet holding a chilling hint of lunacy.
The vision of the sorceress changed, merging into another memory. Long blonde hair curled around a youthful, innocent face. Fiona’s image was comforting, the twin of his king. She skipped across the dungeon’s stone floor toward him, smiling shyly. Yet, like the sorceress, it was false, hiding pure evil.
More recent evil, he knew, not sure where the thought came from. These memories had never been locked inside that dark well. Instead, they were the force that had shattered the barrier he’d long ago erected to hide the past.
All too soon, the pain resumed. His skin burned. No whip this time. Fiona used shards of rowan wood, one of the few kinds of trees remaining with enough earth magic to hurt the vampire he’d become.
She slid the tip of a dagger beneath his skin, then shoved another sliver of rowan into the wound. She moved down the length of his body, adding long, rough scars to those he’d received millennia ago. His skin burned as if, at any moment, it would melt from the intense agony.
Uncontrollable shudders wracked him from the pain. Nausea followed. He would have vomited if there was anything in his stomach. All he could do was heave until the cramps mixed with the fiery burning from the wooden slivers.
He desperately prayed to Odin, begging to fade back into mindlessness. But release eluded him.
From the surrounding darkness, seemingly so far away he shouldn’t be able to hear, his brother shouted their family war cry.
Fear coursed through Eric as a new vision appeared before him. His brother stood in a strange, dark place. Multicolored lights flashed over Brandon’s angry face. A ball made of thousands of shards of glass dangled from a high ceiling. It spun in circles, shooting refracted light over his brother.
Magic filled the air, trapping Brandon. It stank of the sorceress. As her laughter washed over him, he realized she’d finally come to claim their souls as she’d failed to do long ago.
He had to save his brother. Save them both.
With a cry of rage, he called on his ancestors’ berserker strength. His vision blurred. Finally refocused. Blinking in the dim, flickering candlelight, he worked to sort out his memories and thoughts.
Pain no longer leeched at his body, though he still felt weak as an infant. He lay on something soft, facing a blackened, rock hewn wall that didn’t resemble the sorceress’s hellish dungeon.
“Hush, now. It will be all right,” a woman said softly from behind him.
Strangely, her voice soothed a part of his ragged heart. He cautiously turned. The woman smiled at him, breathtakingly beautiful, with an angelic face and short blonde hair.
His lungs compressed, forcing his breath to rush out. As he clenched his fists, he realized he wasn’t chained. He watched her, hiding his triumph. She would pay for that stupidity.
With a roar, he leapt up and lunged toward her.
“Eric, stop,” the woman commanded.
His body obeyed. More damned sorcery.
“You’re safe,” she said, then began to hum.
He remained locked in place. Slowly, the tune came to him. It had been his mother’s favorite melody, one she’d sung to him and Brandon as children.
His focus cleared and he realized she was neither the sorceress, nor his king’s sister. Her short blonde hair was streaked with… pink stripes? Her eyes drew him in, mesmerizing, calming his rage.
“That’s right,” she whispered. “No one will hurt you here.”
“Where’s my brother?” His voice was a hoarse croak.
“My name is Dalia. Do you remember me?”
He tried to shake his head, but still couldn’t move. An overpowering urge filled him. Not anger, as expected, but an unfounded, yet undeniable need to protect this woman.
“That’s all right. It will come in time.” She continued to hum and his tense muscles relaxed a little.
Across the room, a door opened, letting in more light. A large man stood silhouetted in shadow. Eric’s instincts screamed. Keep the woman safe at all costs. His duty.
She turned to glance at the intruder, and the magic over Eric slipped. It was all he needed to break free of her spell. He jumped between her and the doorway, crouching to a fighting stance, baring his fangs. He ignored the light-headedness, his body shaking from weakness.
He’d never win this fight.
It didn’t matter. He would do his duty until death took him. From habit, he reached over his shoulder, grasping for his battle-axe, BrynTröll. It wasn’t there.
The man stepped closer, from shadow to light, just as he’d done millennia ago.
Eric dropped one knee to the stone floor, bowing his head. “Sire.” His voice was little more than a choked whisper.
“Thank the gods you’ve returned to us,” his king said. Rough hands grabbed Eric’s arms, pulling him to his feet.
The rush of anger, the need to protect the woman, spilled from him as if he’d been drained of all energy. He slumped against the man, staring into his face. “Jordan,” he whispered.
“Don’t talk. And you shouldn’t be standing.” Jordan half-carried, half-led him back to the bed and pushed him down onto the mattress.
The woman, Dalia, poured a glass of thick, red liquid, then held it to his lips.
The scent of blood hit him and his stomach roared. When he tried to grasp the cup, his hands shook so badly he spilled the warm drink over his chin and chest.
“Let me hold it,” she said kindly.
He drank. The taste–salty, coppery, yet sweet–only inflamed his hunger. He gulped it down.
As if reading his mind, Dalia refilled the cup four times. Finally, the ravenous ache settled to a bearable level. As warmth rushed through his chilled body, his mind grew clearer. The recent past filled the gaps in his memory.
Dalia, his king’s charge. Vampires from their clan disappearing. He’d been following a lead, trying to find them, when it led to a trap.
His king’s twin sister, working with other vampires and, strangely, wolf shifters. They’d all taken pleasure in torturing him.
He fisted his hands in his lap, trying to shove the memories away before they engulfed him.
Pushed them back into the dark depths with the rest. Locked them all up tight.
Slowly, they receded, but didn’t go far. Ghostly whispers hovered at the edge of his mind, flickering like images seen from the corner of his vision.
He once more saw his brother facing evil.
“Where’s Brandon?” he asked again, this time stronger.
Jordan sighed. “We have much to discuss. But you’re with us again. Right now, that’s what matters.”
Pain lashed over Eric’s back. There, then gone. He heard laughter, the sound promising more.
Jordan and Dalia didn’t move, didn’t seem to hear anything amiss.
Eric stared at his king, realizing that while he might be awake, his sanity was lost.
Two Weeks Later
In the impossibly cold March night air, Cathrina Bienville raced through the edges of the bayou, outside her beloved city of New Orleans. Even with her vamipiric speed–the trees and miniscule glimmers of light from distant plantations flashed by–there didn’t seem to be any way she could win this race.
Behind her, the baying of the chasing wolves grew louder as they closed in.
She tripped over an exposed root and fell, splashing face first into a puddle of bitter brackish swamp. Spitting grit from her mouth, she rose. Snowy mud dripped down the front of her dark sweater and jeans. Appropriate spy attire, she’d figured earlier.
Running once more, Cat tried to breathe deep. The growing ache in her chest screamed from a deeper pain. She prayed her fall hadn’t damaged something internal.
A branch sliced across her cheek, ripped at her long red hair falling from its bun. Strands tumbled in her face, obscuring her vision. She shoved it back, leaves and twigs poking from the tangled mass.
Freezing sweat dripped down her face, stinging her cuts and scrapes. The heady scent of blood surrounded her.
The howls drew ever nearer, making her stomach lurch.
What was supposed to have been simple–checking out a deserted plantation for her missing coven members and hopefully finding her sire–had turned into a dark, breathless flight from at least six wolves.
All of them out for her blood.
Not good odds. Not in her favor anyway.
At least she’d eaten recently. Right before the alarm had sounded, she’d come across a wolf in his human form. Just as he’d swung his blade for her neck, she’d whispered her precious command. Fire rose from the ground around his feet, distracting him long enough for her to sink her fangs into his delectable throat.
The magic from the shifter’s blood, the only thing sustaining her desperate flight, was fading.
She flashed through the trees, dodging claw-like branches that seemed to surge out and try to capture her in their grip. The ground sucked at her shoes with each step.
The scent of magic drifted to her on the icy breeze. Her plantation, and the wards creating a barrier around it. Almost home, yet still seemingly so far.
Howls rent the air. They were so close now, she could hear claws scrabbling over the ground. She tried to push herself faster still.
The world became a blur, filled only by the sounds of her labored breaths, her thundering heartbeat, and the baying of the hounds at her heels. She caught the stench of wolves, wet fur mixed with decaying meat and blood.
The trembling in her legs slowed her pace.
Howls echoed as the pack sensed their prey within striking distance.
She broke through the last line of grasping branches. A few hundred yards ahead, a line of trees stood sentinel at the edge of her land, marking the boundary of the magical barrier.
A wolf snarled, slamming into her back, sending them both tumbling. It snapped its toothy muzzle at her neck. Fetid breath washed over her face.
She punched it in the throat. Clawing its fur, she shoved her last shreds of power into the command. “Incendium.”
Flames erupted from her palm, hungrily spreading over the beast. Its yelp escalated into a screeching wail of agony.
Shoving it aside, Cat rose to her knees. Not twenty feet away, the other wolves crouched. Bulky shadows glared at her with glowing, ice blue eyes.
She raised her arms, though the effort made her dizzy, and held her hands out, palms facing them.
The wolf beside her stilled. Burning hair and flesh wafted on the cold air.
The rest of the pack howled, the sound ear splitting. Then as one, they fell silent, watching her. None advanced.
Not giving them a chance to realize she had no strength left, Cat stood, trying to hide her shakiness. She walked backwards until she reached the barrier.
As she stepped through, magic swept over her skin in a tingling warmth. She lowered her hands and leaned against a tree. The pack approached the fallen wolf, their anguished howls resuming. Cat turned and stumbled over the stretching fields, towards her home.
New Orleans had never been normal, not since the long ago days when her father had claimed the area for the King of France. But lately, dark magics were running rampant through the city.
Dark enough to take out her sire, the leader of their local coven. Jacques Gervais was the most powerful vampire she’d met in her centuries of life. Not only was he missing, so was Cat’s best friend. Just a girl–it had only been a hundred years since her turning–Abby Cameron was still nearly as weak as a mortal. She didn’t know how to use her vampire powers well. If Cat didn’t find the two of them soon…
As she climbed the porch steps to her front door, her head bowed, her shoulders drooping from the heavy weight of worry, she had to admit she was lost and sinking fast. With the mystery of the missing and murdered vampires, the sudden arrival of so many wolves, and the dark magic flooding the city, she needed help.
She couldn’t solve this by herself.
Not with her life intact.
An errant thought hit her. That of a young vampire she’d once helped and befriended. Niki DeVeraux had ended up in some small town in Arizona. More importantly, she’d been taken in by a huge coven of vampires.
Cat wasn’t comfortable reaching out and explaining her problems to others–she’d been brought up to be a proper lady who kept such things to herself–but perhaps they’d be able to help. She had to do something, or her sire and best friend would certainly end up dead… and she’d end up murdered, right along with them.
Hope you enjoy 😀
1 Kindle Paperwhite and 5 autographed copies of Unbound…so there will
be 6 winners!!
Go HERE to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway and keep hopping!
And don’t forget to leave a comment here, with your email, to enter to win my own prize, a $10 Amazon Giftcard 🙂
I can’t choose my favorite warrior from my own books, it just doesn’t seem right. And there are so many warriors I love from other authors, pinning down one of them is impossible.
So, my Q4U: Who’s your favorite wicked warrior? And if that’s as hard for you to answer as it is for me, what’s your favorite kind of warrior (ie human, vampire, wolf shifter, ect)?
Leave your answer in the comments, with your email, to enter to win my own prize, a $10 Amazon Giftcard 🙂
Danica Avet and her crazy hotties from the Cabal of Hotness have come together to bring to you some BIG….Fun..lol!!!! We will have a Grandprize of a HUGE Amazon Card plus lots and lots of swag and books!!! So come join us for tons of Crazy fun.
$100 Amazon or Nook, Winner’s choice!!
Second place: $50 Amazon or Nook
Third place: $25 Amazon or Nook
To enter the contest, go HERE for the Rafflecopter and keep hopping 🙂 And don’t forget to answer the question below.
Leave a comment and your email, to be entered in my own prize, a $10 Amazon gift card.
My favorite holdiay of the year is Halloween. I still love dressing up, though I can claim I do it for my kids 😉
Then there’s the candy. Can we say Chocolate?
So, my Q4U: What’s your favorite part of Halloween? Why?
It’s Blog Hop time! We’re going to kick things off with The Sultry Summer Reads Blog Hop from Sept. 11th – 16th where our grand prize is a loaded Kindle Fire HD 7″, Second Prize is $100 Gift Card to Amazon or B&N. (Rules for the hop are listed on the Safari Heat site. http://safariheatbooktoursandauthorservices.blogspot.com)
Discover some great authors and check out their giveaways
Want to know who’s participating? We have best selling authors Maggie Shayne and Dianne Duvall, plus awesome authors Bella Street, Mimi Barbour, Jami Gray, Linda Kaye Frazier and oh so many more!
Want to win a gift? Then leave a comment below sharing your fav title/author who’s heated up your summer.
Commenters will be chosen from all the blogs for various giveaways EVERY DAY OF THE HOP for our PRIZES!
I’ll be giving away a $5 amazon gift card. To enter, simply coment below. Make sure you include the following information (blog hop format enters you into the hop prizes as well):
FYI: You’ll get four entries to the grand prizes for following me on twitter, facebook and this blog But you are not required to do any of them.)
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While the past few weeks have been SUPER BUSY getting everything ready for school to start back up for the kidlets, the day is almost here. They go back this week, which means I’ll soon have my days back to get writing and other work done.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE summer time when the kids and I get to spent so much awesome time together.
But, at the end of summer, I do really look forward to having my time back, LOL.
So, for those of you with kids going back to school, enjoy!!!
Writers write. Right?
Ask just about anyone what the number one rule of writing is, and you’ll hear this.
From Ray Bradbury, to my inspiration Stephen King, authors who get many books written tell you the same thing.
The key to writing, as Red Dwarf recently mentioned, is BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).
But sometimes, life can become so complicated, stressful, engrossing and time consuming that writing falls by the wayside.
Even for those who have been writing for years, publishing books. Even for those who’s writing is their stress relief and they’d never imagine not writing because it’s not only just so important to them, writing is part of that person.
Then what happens?
A writer isn’t writing 😦
The all-knowing “They” say it takes about a month for a habit, good or bad, to form in your life.
Writing, starting or getting back to it, is at the core a habit. BICHOK doesn’t happen all on it’s own.
So, after too much time away, I’m getting back in the saddle.
Even though I love writing, getting back to it on a daily basis is a struggle. I’m having to deliberately sit down with the intention to write a minimum word count.
When writing my last book (Magicstorm HoaV #4), I could easily do my daily word count of a few thousand words a day. The words weren’t always easy, but the dedicated time and using it every day was just part of my habits.
Now, I’ve realized that I need to be more reasonable with myself. I’m asking me and my muse for a minimum of 1 hour a day, and 1000 words. Once I can attain that easily (and in a few weeks, the kids will be back in school so the time at least will be easier to find) then I can increase it and work on getting back to my pre-life/stress/suckage that I used to have.
How about you? Do you BICHOK every day? How do you make sure writing every (or most every) day is one of your habits?
Over at The 7 Evil Dwarves, Dreamer and Red Dwarf have talked about the “ideal” writer’s life.
I read their posts and had to laugh.
Sure, I’d love to wake up at my preferred time (noon-ish), schlup around the house while drinking at least two pots of coffee, then gently ease into a comfy chair and write for hours, only broken by eating and refilling the coffee pot.
HA! I say.
Instead, here I am, in the dog days of summer.
Between the weather and wrangling my kids all day, I’m lucky to squeeze in an hour of writing at night, after the required hours of summer time tug-o-war to get them to bed 😉
It’s also hard to jump back in the saddle of both writing and blogging after the past
few many months when life has interfered so much I’ve barely been writing at all.
So, what is your “perfect” writing day, or for readers, your perfect reading day, like?
Check it out and say hello 🙂
Obsession by Sharon Buchbinder
A desperate mother…
A Mexican drug lord…
A dangerous match.
A year after a barbaric childbirth, complete with a near-death experience and an encounter with her guardian angel, Angie Edmonds is just happy she and her son, Jake, are alive. She’s finally in a good place: clean, sober, and employed as a defense attorney. But at the end of a long work day, she finds herself in a parent’s worst nightmare: Jake has been kidnapped and taken across the Mexican border by a cult leader who believes the child is the “Chosen One.”
Stymied by the US and Mexican legal systems, Angie is forced to ask the head of a Mexican crime syndicate for help. Much to her chagrin, she must work with Alejandro Torres, a dangerously attractive criminal and the drug lord’s right-hand man. Little does she know Alejandro is an undercover federal agent, equally terrified of blowing his cover—and falling in love with her.
“Who are you? Who is that giant? What did you say to him?”
The pony-tailed man flashed a grin, the smile reaching his sky-blue colored eyes, giving him an appealing boyish look. “The big guy’s name is Tio. I told Tio to truss Raul up like the pig he is and to bring him to Isabel Ramirez. She’ll know exactly what to do with him.”
“Who are you?”
The movie-star-handsome man stopped, bent down until he was eye-to-eye with Angie.
“I found your passport tossed onto Raul’s desk, Angela Edmonds from the U.S. of A. I like that name. You look like an angel.”
She shook her head and the street twirled. “I’m no angel.” She steadied herself on his well muscled, naked arm. Rather than creeping her out, the skin on skin contact with her rescuer reassured her that he was a real human and not an angel conjured up in fevered religious delusion and desperation. “You sound like an American. You haven’t answered my question. What’s your name?”
“Torres.” Still holding her ID, he strode to the driver’s side of the car, hopped in and flashed a dazzling grin. “You could call me your hero because I’m taking you to see the woman who can help you find your son. My name is Alejandro Espinosa Santoyo Torres. But most people just call me Alejandro.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After working in health care delivery for years, Sharon Buchbinder became an association executive, a health care researcher, and an academic in higher education. She had it all–a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it an obsession) kept beckoning her to “come on back” to writing fiction. When not attempting to make students, colleagues, and babies laugh, she can be found herding cats, waiting on a large gray dog, fishing, dining with good friends, or writing. You can find her at www.sharonbuchbinder.com
Paranormal Romance Guild Winner Best Mystery/Thriller, 2012
Where Sharon Buchbinder can be found on the Internet
Twitter @sbuchbinder https://twitter.com/sbuchbinder
The Wild Rose Press http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/
Please welcome Magicstorm into the world, Heart of a Vampire, Book #4.
When a mortal cop must delve into the paranormal, only a Viking vampire can save her soul, and her heart.
Detective Celeste Wilder knows who she is, a damn fine cop. But when the recently dubbed ‘Cult Murders’ start back up, this time targeting city prostitutes she’s sworn to protect, she’s thrown into a world of paranormal creatures she never believed existed. And now, they’re out to keep her from uncovering even more secrets.
An immortal Viking vampire, Brandon Wulfgar knows something is strange the moment he sees Celeste valiantly fighting for her life against a group of rogue vampires. When he’s asked to work with her–solve the crime while keeping the mortal woman safe–he figures no problem.
But as the undeniable connection between them grows and danger appears from every side, they will have to trust one another not just for their lives, but for their very souls.
Brandon Wulfgar sat stiffly on the icy metal chair. He took a hefty gulp of his drink–a mix of blood and whiskey–never glancing away from his twin brother. Eric lay in the bed, facing the stone wall of the dungeon room. He mumbled in his dreams, the quiet mutterings occasionally punctuated by short, guttural screams. Was he reliving the painful past they’d shared, or that of Eric’s own more recent tortures?
The room stank of cold sweat, permeated by fear and agony.
Brandon’s hands clenched and the mug cracked. It crashed to the floor, shattering.
He stared at the white shards of ceramic covered in crimson. The sight mirrored how he felt, unable to help his brother pick up the pieces and leave the darkness he’d descended into.
With a sigh, he stood and headed for the hall. His king’s new wife was going to be pissed he’d broken yet another cup. He snorted, the sound lacking any amusement. Dalia would just have to deal with it.
He opened the door, then stopped short.
Dalia stood in the hall, arms crossed, tapping her foot. Her short pink-streaked blonde hair settled around her pointed chin and her green eyes flared, vampire-red circling the irises. “Again?” she demanded.
It didn’t matter he dwarfed her with his six-foot-four height, nor that he was ten times stronger. All she had to do was shoot that look of hers and even the strongest of the vampire warriors living in the castle crumbled as if facing a disappointed mother.
Brandon merely shrugged. “I’ll clean it up.”
“Yeah, right.” Her gaze softened as she looked past him to Eric. “No change?”
She straightened, rubbing her hands together. “Jordan wants to talk to you. I’ll sit with your brother. And I’ll clean up the poor cup. Again.” Shooting him an ironic look, she added, “We’re almost out of dishes.”
It wasn’t true, but she had a point. He’d gone through an awful lot of mugs lately. But it wasn’t on purpose.
As the older twin, albeit only by five minutes, he’d been raised to protect his brother. To fight the world, side-by-side. Yet he was failing miserably, unable to draw Eric from the cocoon of sleep where he’d escaped.
Dalia entered the dungeon room, and leaving the thick metal door open a bit, sat in the chair Brandon had vacated. She leaned back, hands folded in her lap and started humming. Her voice was soft and airy, a sound guaranteed to get soul-deep inside anyone listening and make them feel better.
As an Omega, she could calm people’s ragged emotions. More recently, with her magic growing, she no longer needed to look into their eyes to gain that connection. Her voice could suck anyone in when she tried.
Brandon’s shoulders tightened when her voice brought no reaction from Eric. It took most of his will to leave, but he forced himself to walk down the icy hallway, and upstairs to his king’s chamber.
Inside, Jordan reclined in a chair, facing the fireplace. The man held a glass of amber-colored liquid. A second full glass sat on the table beside him.
“Sit for a while,” Jordan stated, his Scottish brogue thicker than normal.
Brandon twitched at the tension in Jordan’s voice, and crossed the room to the waiting chair on the other side of the table.
“Any change with Eric?” Jordan lifted his drink and sipped, trying to act casual as he ran a hand through his short blond hair.
Taking his own glass, Brandon gulped it down. The smooth whiskey burned his throat, then settled warmly in his gut. “No.”
Jordan sighed, shifting to face Brandon fully.
Trepidation filled him. The man was normally direct.
“The ‘cult killings’ have started once more in the city,” Jordan said, his gaze dark with anger and confusion.
“But Connor killed the demon behind them just a few weeks ago,” Brandon protested.
“Aye. Yet, here we are.”
Brandon set his empty glass back on the table before he broke that one too. “So is Connor returning?”
“He’s busy with something else.”
“What? His refound family?”
“Nay. Something for the Magic Council.”
Considering the man was a Judge for the council, it shouldn’t be surprising. “So they’re not sending him back?”
A sinking suspicion crawled into his gut. “Then who are you sending to investigate?”
Jordan just stared at him.
Jumping to his feet, Brandon paced to the fireplace. “I can’t go. Eric needs me–”
Jordan’s voice broke through his agitation. “Needs you? He hasn’t said two words in the last month. He doesn’t respond to anything we try.” He stood, arms behind his back, as Brandon paced. “Someone has to take care of the problem. If it’s another demon, you’re the only one I can send.”
Anger turned his stomach, bile burned up his chest. “I can’t leave my brother.”
Jordan’s voice cracked like steel. “You’ll tell me no?”
Stopping short, Brandon slowly swung around and met his king’s blazing red gaze. He’d never told Jordan “no,” since the man had rescued both him and Eric from living agony. But to leave his brother…
The tension in his shoulders ached. His chest tightened and he gave his king the only answer he could. “When do I leave?”
In the lingering heat of the evening, Celeste Wilder strode from her unmarked car towards the flashing lights shining from the alley. Near the yellow police tape, cameras flashed as bystanders tried to capture anything interesting they could put online or sell to the news.
Whipping back her long black hair, she muttered under her breath, “Mierda! Gotta start keeping a damn hair tie in the car.”
One of these days, she was actually going to remember, so when she was called into a crime scene unexpectedly, she didn’t have to deal with the looks she was getting now. It was difficult enough being a female detective without flaunting her femininity. More importantly, it got in the way.
Like usual in Arizona, the weather had bypassed spring entirely. Sweat dampened her neck, making her loose curls cling uncomfortably to her skin.
“Daily, let me in,” she growled at the nearest officer blocking the alley.
He hurried to pull back one of the sawhorses. “Yes, ma’am.”
She pushed past him, taking in the scene. Phoenix PD officers guarded the sight from the lookie-loos, while the coroner hunched over a body only partly hidden behind a rusty dumpster. Overlaying the scent of rotting garbage, she caught the distinct coppery odor of fresh blood.
“Who was first on scene?” she demanded from an obvious rookie as he nervously flicked his notepad open and shut.
“Um, I was, detective, um, ma’am.”
She read his name-tag. “All right, Portensky. Details.”
He fumbled open the notebook, nearly dropping it. “The call came in at 8:02 p.m. I was dispatched, and arrived at 8:09. I didn’t see anything at first.” The kid paled, swallowed hard, then continued. “Then I smelled it.”
“Any information on the caller?” She studied how the dumpster had been pulled away from the wall. Black and red lines of wax snaked from the brick to the center of the alley.
“No, ma’am. Distorted voice, barely clear. Dispatcher said she wasn’t sure she’d even heard the address right.”
“Make sure your report is on my desk by morning.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He hustled toward the street, as if trying to put as much distance between himself and the body.
Unfazed, Celeste headed right for it.
Hovering over the body, the coroner, Frankie, glanced up. Weariness dulled her dark eyes. “Hey, girl. Rough night?”
“About to get worse.”
Frankie sighed, pushing her long bangs from her eyes with the back of her hand, then waved at the body. “No name, no ID.”
“I assume that’s why I was called in. These are my streets,” she replied.
“Sad state this last month, with all these killings.”
Shrugging, Celeste stepped closer. The woman lay mostly exposed, tattered remains of her clothing spread back from her chest. A small piece of red cloth had been draped over her face. Bleach-blonde hair spread around her head, the tips soaked with blood. The killer had taken a knife to her throat and chest.
“Time of death?”
“Her temp is still high. I’d say in the last hour.”
Considering Portensky had been dispatched less than a half-hour ago, it was possible the rumors were true. This cabrón was calling it in before his victim was dead.
Frankie pulled off her gloves. “What kind of sicko mutilates young girls? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Aren’t they all sickos?” Celeste replied, forcing her emotions away. The victim’s wounds were ragged, as if caused by a serrated weapon. They still hadn’t figured out what the killer was using.
“We’re ready,” Frankie said.
Nodding, she replied, “Go ahead.”
Frankie lifted the red cloth from the body to seal it in an evidence bag.
Celeste’s breath caught, hitching in her tightening throat. “La madre que te parió!” she cursed.
No woman, just a girl.
Baby had been fifteen, max. She’d worked the streets, saying it was better there than at home.
Trying to get these girls into shelters was a trial. Every time Celeste got one off the streets, five more took her place. But Baby had been sweet, mostly clean, not the hardened type Celeste was used to dealing with.
And next week, there was an opening at one of the shelters Celeste worked with that Baby had agreed to enter.
Three damn days.
Swallowing hard against the dark, useless emotions trying to choke her, Celeste forced herself to move, to get on with the job. She noted the wounds and the bruises covering the girl’s face and upper arms. A broken necklace of cheap, brightly colored glass lay discarded near her left hand.
A dark smudge against Baby’s pale skin caught her eye. “What’s that?”
Frankie bent closer, snapping some photos, then gently turned the girl’s hand over.
A black mark had been drawn on her wrist. A question mark with a bar crossing the center of the straight line. Celeste drew a replica in her notebook.
“Didn’t see anything like this on the other bodies,” Frankie said as she took more pictures.
“I didn’t either. They were only left on the walls.” She continued to note the details of the crime scene as the morgue techs wheeled away the body, along with the scattered trash on the ground. They took it all. Anything could hold a clue.
As the other officers dispersed, Celeste stood back and watched. Waited for the scene to clear so she could search for clues. See if she could find more of the strange markings, some sort of runes, like at the other scenes.
As she waited, tapping her foot impatiently, her anger burned hotter.
These “Cult Murders” as the press called them, were supposed to have been solved weeks ago. They had disbanded the taskforce on her captain’s orders.
The city began to breathe easier.
Until a few nights ago, when they’d started up again.
I’ll be giving away a $5 Amazon gift card, INT, Winner to be drawn next week on May 1st.
In the comments section, please tell me which of the Hero’s from the Heart of a Vampire series is your favorite so far : ) (Shane, Jordan or Connor)
Make sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.