Falling in love with her fiancé’s best friend is wrong—right? Not in Shania Miller’s case it isn’t. The man she vowed to marry has a second fiancée and failed to remember her after returning from Iraq. Now, unable to trust in love, she answers lonely hearts calls, saving up
enough money to attend a university three hours away from the only home she’s known.
Broken hearted, Shania and her son move to Briarwood, Indiana. Financial struggles don’t make her lose hope, although her optimism wavers. Will a complete family – one with a mommy and a daddy for her son – ever become a reality?
Morgan Hardwick stood silently by as his friend broke Shania Miller’s heart.His faith allows him to help Shania, especially after she’s abandoned by her fiancé and family. Why then, did he hesitate when she announced her broken engagement and love for him on his wedding day?
Content warning, explicit sex scenes and violence.
Can you ever really trust in love?
EXCERPT: He fidgeted with the blue tie while glancing out the church’s chancery window. Her rusty four-door jerked to a stop in a yellow zone of the parking lot. Shania jumped out of the SUV. Morgan’s heart pounded against his rib cage. Strands of brown hair caught in the wind fell from the knot at the nape of her slender neck, as she ran to the other side. The baby “everything” bag flopped against her side as she lifted Justin out of the car seat in the rear. Using tight fists, Justin rubbed his eyes, and then wiped his nose on her shoulder. While massaging his back, she kissed his plump baby cheek. There was no denying Shania Miller was an excellent mother.
A teenage girl wearing pigtails, jeans and a white t-shirt met Shania on the sidewalk near the bell tower. A quick transfer and Justin’s mouth opened wide as he struggled to grab his mother, kicking his feet in rebellion. Shania handed the bag to the tiny bit of female, and then kissed Justin’s forehead. Smoothing his hair, Shania said something to the youngster. A quick bob of her head toward the chancery window, then the overburdened teen pivoted to walk along the cement path. Shania glanced up and smiled. Love for her exploded inside him.
What had she wanted to say last night at the rehearsal? Her perfect lips drew his attention, making him miss most of her words. Unable to resist, his fingers had caressed her bare shoulder as he released her. He chastised himself for giving in and making the contact. Sometimes doing what was morally correct hurt.
“What are you staring at?” Tom asked from behind him. Hesitant to look away from the scene below, Morgan glanced at his best man, who was tugging his shirt at the neck. “Shania just arrived.”
Tom stared at him, reading him as he always did, and nodded. Morgan could never keep his thoughts hidden from him. “Are you sure you want to go through with this wedding? It’s not too late to call it off.”
Morgan grimaced. Was he that obvious? A few seconds later Shania rushed through the door and stood stock still, gathering her breath. His plebeian attendants hovered, mouths open, gawking at her. Granted, her sexy body was sheathed in a thin form-fitting dress.
“Leave us alone,” he ordered. The guys stopped their incessant ribbing for the first time in two days and dragged their feet toward the door.
Shania took his full attention. Though beautiful before, after giving birth to Justin she’d matured into a sexy voluptuous woman. Unlike her normal jeans and sweatshirt, she’d dressed in a revealing outfit and looked stunning. He’d been falling in love with her since the first day they met.
Should he call off the wedding as Tom had suggested? No, he and Shania could never be together, too many missed opportunities to become lovers. They would be buddies for life and remain simply friends. He tried to think mundane thoughts and proceeded to recite the Ten Commandments, waiting for her to speak her mind.
She dashed forward and halted within an inch of him. The scent of mint surrounded him, rushing out of her mouth, as she licked her perfect pink lips.
“Don’t marry her,” she demanded.
“What?” Commandments forgotten, he shook his head in disbelief and wonder.
Falling in love with the next door neighbor–impulsive.
Photo-journalist, Georgina Barrister, realized she had little time left in this world when her ex-husband handed her over as partial payment for a shipment of illegal imports. Apparently being the perfect wife, the perfect hostess, and the perfect lover, wasn’t enough for him. How would she escape, while on the high seas?
Special Agent, Jake Callahan has always believed love at first sight is impossible, until he meets Georgina Barrister Kaplan. His assignment, to follow a high seas trafficking case and she was a prime suspect.
Larkspur/LASR said: She is a first class storyteller with a unique way of telling it. Her love scenes are evocative, sensual and sizzle on the page, while her romance between our hero and heroine is sweet and sensual.
BEST BOOK: Long and Short Reviews
Shivers cascaded over Georgina’s body, the November cold penetrating her thin dress. She braced herself against the bumpy jolts as the speed boat hit rough water. The night was moonless, deep black ink surrounded them. The closer they got to the freighter, the faster her heart beat, a quick cadence to match the waves hitting the side of the vessel.
Georgina drew in a shaking breath and tried to lessen her grip on the rail of the boat as they pulled beside the ladder. Her fingers ached with the chill of tension. She glanced at the freighter. It was oh-so tempting to simply fall into the water, but she’d freeze to death or get eaten by sharks. No, the only logical means of escape was catching a ride on the gray metal whale floating in the dark night, on a black ocean, surrounded by a mysterious fog.
She glanced at Kandi, her ex-husband’s current femme-de-jour, dressed in a sleek strapless azure dress and spiked heels, then to Tristan himself. She’d loved him once, but now even looking at him made her colder. His fingers wrapped around the rail of the freighter’s ladder. He grabbed her hand and tugged her from the seat.
Her spine tingled with dread. Tristan couldn’t be trusted. She knew better.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Georgina said. “You can let me off at the next port.”
Tristan gripped her hand tighter and pulled her toward the ladder. “Can’t.”
“Why not?” Georgina jerked Tristan’s arm, ready to throw him overboard. Did demons sink? Her stomach tumbled. Getting on that freighter would be a mistake.
Kandi slid beside Tristan and snarled, “Just get on the ship, Georgina, or I’ll throw your spoiled ass overboard and you can swim back to Virginia.”
Shocked at Kandi’s language and the threat, Georgina glared.
“It’s too late. There’s no going back…not for Gemma either,” her ex-husband spewed.
Damn him for using her best friend as a pawn.
Georgina’s heart rate went tachycardia. She blew slow breaths trying to slow the pace. She released his forearm, sat down on the padded boat seat, and crossed her arms.
“Georgina, climb the ladder.” Tristan’s jaws snapped together.
Kandi sighed and tapped her foot on the metal rail of the rocking boat.
Had Tristan really kidnapped Gemma? He had to be bluffing, but Georgina’s heart rattled against her chest. What if Gemma wasn’t safe? She’d already lost one baby, she couldn’t lose another. “I
Tristan gripped her arm and jerked her upright. She reached up with her other hand and dug her nails into the tender skin of his palm.
“She’ll go,” Kandi said.
Georgina sneered at the two, pivoted, and clutched the nearest brass rung.
The three-inch heels clipped the metal, and she slipped on the third rail of the ladder. Determined, she tightened her hold and stepped to the next rung. Homeward bound. A precarious scramble on steps or fear of the unknown wouldn’t prevent her from returning to her little house and Jake. Thoughts of the sleepy little town of Nero intruded. She’d often complained about the boredom and photographing nothing but dog and garden shows. Well, she’d trade her current situation for some of that routine any day.
Jake, her lover. Her heart clutched a little in her chest. Was he searching for her? She maneuvered up one more rung. In the back of her mind, she hoped Jake would come to her rescue.
A wintery breeze blew up her dress and she shuddered. She was beyond chilled in the clingy little dress. She clutched a metal bar and pushed the hem down. Her foot slipped, and her spiked heel dug into Tristan’s fingers. She applied as much pressure as possible.
Tristan roared. He slapped her rear with such force she pressed flush against ladder. “Keep going, Georgina. Move it.”
Bastard. She stepped to the next bar, releasing his hand.
Finally, she reached the top. Two goons, heavyweight bookends with matching blank
“Come.” One of the goons, with a melodic Russian accent, motioned with his head.
It didn’t sound like a request.
The men led them down a staircase, through a corridor, and into a square, frigid room. A stainless steel table and two metal chairs were the only furnishings. One seat was occupied by a man she assumed to be Aleksandr Stypopas, the captain of this fine vessel.
Like the gentleman he was, Tristan sat down on the other chair. A bottle labeled IKON Russian vodka sat in the middle of them like a referee. Kandi stood behind Tristan, her hand resting easily on his shoulder. Georgina stood to the side, as close to the door as possible.
While the men talked, in Russian or Ukrainian, Georgina deliberated how to convince Aleksandr to return her to the States. He was as dark and mysterious in appearance as the freighter. His shaggy black beard seemed blacker as a result of the elegant gray shirt and pants covering his thin body. Would this nightmare ever end? It had to be a dream, because Aleksandr was wearing Armani for God’s sake, at midnight, on a freighter, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He didn’t look like a man who did favors out of the goodness of his heart. Would he want money? She didn’t have anything to offer. Or did she? She shuddered at the thought. A raised voice captured her attention. What had she missed?
There was a palpable sense of menace in the air.
Aleksandr’s voice was oily and his smile– insincere. “Kaplan, we’ve been comrades for almost a year. Why the mistrust?”
“Do we really trust one another, my friend?” Tristan took a sip of vodka.
From Georgina’s viewpoint, Tristan’s hand appeared to be trembling. Damn. There were some underlying messages being sent back and forth that caused her alarm radar to go off. She glanced at Aleksandr. He was smiling. Like a crocodile.
Okay, Tristan, it’s time to leave—now! You’ll have to drop me off at the next port.
“Are you calling me a thief?” Aleksandr’s deep, heavily accented voice filled the tiny room like a sonic boom. He bolted to his feet and his chair clanged to the floor. The angry red glow on his face, either from the heated argument or from the drink, accentuated his gray appearance. His lips virtually disappeared into the mass of black facial hair as he sneered.
Tristan’s face remained calm. “Of course. Aren’t we all? We take items and sell them for a profit. The buyers are not important, nor the nationality, nor the cause, nor how illegal the goods. We steal them for the thrill of making a deal. For money.” His blond cropped hair, light crystal-blue eyes, and winsome smile widened, giving him the appearance of the boy next door.
Georgina stared at his devilish dimples while trying to get a grasp on the situation. She’d fallen in love with his dimples, before she’d fallen in love with the man. Now she looked past the façade and wondered how she’d been so foolish.
“I’ve never cheated anyone in my life, and I resent the implication, Kaplan.” Aleksandr nodded his head to one of his henchmen at the door. Georgina’s fight or flight urge was strong. She tensed and glanced at the exit, calculating whether she could get to it before the goons caught her. What she would do after reaching the entrance, she didn’t know. But she desperately wanted to go through that door.
“Please accept my apology. I meant no offense.” Tristan calmly lifted his half-empty glass of liquid fire and held it out to Aleksandr, for a customary salute.
Aleksandr stared at Tristan, a long, intense, soul-searching glare. “Ah, none taken. However, I do insist the whore be given to me as a fair trade agreement.”
Kandi gasped, edged closer to Tristan, and reached toward her diamond and jade bejeweled bodice. She tossed her long auburn locks out of the way and pulled the limited blue silk material of the strapless dress higher, trying to cover her endowments as much as possible. Her nipples protruded further as a result of her efforts. She folded her shaking hands at her waist.
“Consider it done,” Tristan said, the words ice cold.
Could this be happening? The scene was a Saturday B-movie event. People in real-life did not trade off their friends or family to get a shipment of…of…of whatever obviously illegal thing they were exchanging. The goods had to be contraband to make Tristan sweat. Georgina knew him well enough after six years of living together to recognize the signs of his anxiety. Regardless of how calm he appeared, he wasn’t in control of the situation.
Aleksandr’s eyes glittered with dangerous ecstasy. He turned his cold, calculating stare onto Tristan and leaned back in his chair. His jacket gaped, revealing an old fashioned .44 revolver in a gray holster strapped to the side of his chest. Her father had one just like it in his gun cabinet. The racketeer’s don’t-mess-with-me attitude made him the perfect bad guy for any mafia movie.
Georgina tried to ignore the chills running through her body. She pushed a dry wind-blown strand of hair behind her ear. In an effort to appear to be in command of her emotions, she clasped her hands in front of her and waited.
Kandi’s brown gaze turned toward Tristan. She reached over and grabbed his arm, spilling vodka onto the table top. He peeled her fingers loose one by one.
“Shut up, Georgina,” Tristan barked.
Aleksandr’s glance took in the clear pool of vodka, and a scowl formed on his hairy face.
Apparently he valued his alcohol.
The oppressive atmosphere grew weighty and thick. Sympathy coursed through Georgina. The black Russian wouldn’t give Kandi the spa treatment on this tub as she’d had on Tristan’s yacht. Tristan had to do something. Why didn’t he act?
“It’s done. Take her away,” Tristan spoke softly, as if the words were for his ears alone. He lifted his hand to his mouth and sucked the alcohol off. The goons started toward the door.
Georgina glanced at Tristan and witnessed the truth in his eyes.
Trade Agreement can be purchased at: THE WILD ROSE PRESS or any other reputable book vendor.
|Voted #3 best of the best books of 2009 by LASR.|
A stalled elevator.
A sexy gypsy.
A Straight-laced CEO.
Fate has a sense of humor.
Kerry McClure must secure her future as head of her father’s corportation. She needs to sign a contract with Rune Technologies to ward off a hostile takeover. When Kerry’s mistaken for a fortuneteller, she plays along, but could one night of fun jeopardize her CEO confirmation.
Stein Laxdale needs the business deal with McClure Ventures, or he’ll lose control of Rune Technologies to his ex-partner. He discovers Kerry McClure was the gypsy he gambled with and must decide if she is his biggest threat or his promise of a happily-ever-after.
Buy it today print or e-print: The Wild Rose Press
Stein Laxdale walked down the corridor reviewing his notes. He spun around to find the elevators. Damn, somehow he had gotten lost in the maze of Yellow Fever. Who named a hotel, Yellow Fever? Who would arrange a high-level meeting at a hotel called Yellow Fever? Kerry McClure, that’s who.
Rune Technologies would not succeed without the deal with McClure Ventures. Everything he and Ian had worked for depended on this one business contract. So, if the man wanted to meet in a casino, then Stein would meet him in the casino. He’d meet him in the kitchen, if needed, to get the agreement signed.
He had to secure this deal.
A service elevator door swished open. He shoved the notes into his swim trunk’s pocket, folded the shirt over his forearm, and stepped inside. He’d never get used to jet-lag. He punched the dim yellow button, and took a step back as he ran a hand through his hair. He had to get some normalcy in his life.
“Stop,” a woman’s voice said, as a small hand pressed against his back.
He turned and took a pace back. A gypsy stood before him, a sexy gypsy wearing a long flowing orange and gold skirt, with a white off-the-shoulder blouse and no bra. He had to look, it was Vegas after all and he was a man in need of creature comforts. He guessed her to be about five-foot-six with breasts that didn’t appear to be silicone-based. They were full, smooth and pliable as they rose and fell as she breathed, pushing against the tiny bit of supportive elastic of the see-through blouse.
He raised his gaze, her head remained bowed. She smelled like an exotic flower. He placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her face. She pulled back. Startled from his touch? In the next blink, her eyes softened. When he lowered his hand to hang limp at his side, her stance relaxed. Magnificent dark brown eyes stood out on her beautiful, delicate face. The gold scarf wrapped around her head hid most of her light brown hair, but added a glint to her eyes. She shifted from foot to foot as she straightened her blouse and tightned the belted scarf around her tiny waist.
“I’m sorry… Magda?” he nodded toward her name badge.
She shoved her blouse up onto her shoulders, closing off the gap which had allowed him full view of her breasts. “Quite all right. You didn’t see me.”
Kerry didn’t correct him. Her name badge sported Magda because she would perform as a gypsy in the Magda tent for the library fundraiser. She ran her glance from his eyes to his bare chest to his tight swim trunks, keeping her gaze there a little too long. “Are you with the Chippendales?”
She clamped her teeth on her quivering lip to hold the nervous laughter inside. Goodness, he was gorgeous. His swim trunks weren’t the typical boxer style, but tight fitting, with bulging pockets. Bits of white paper peeked out of one and the imprint of a cell phone outlined the other.
“No.” He unfolded his shirt and slid it over his head. The elevator jerked to a stop.
She crashed into him and grabbed at his waist with both hands. He’d pushed his arms through the sleeves, but the cloth hadn’t dropped into place before her fingers slid over the heat of his stomach. The cords of his slim waist and muscular stomach made her want to explore. Her heart pounded against her ribcage.
Chart the unknown.
Larkspur at Long and Short Reviews had this to say: Holy Cow what a great read! Ms. Keller gives us a love at first sight story. Stein and Kerry make a great hero and heroine.
I loved the characters, they were well developed and enjoyable to get to know. The writing style was great and was a credit to the author telling such a well written story confined in 148 short pages.For more visit: buy
August 30, 2009
A true-to-life Kerry McClure had this to say:
I just finished the book and I absolutely loved it!! I felt like I (Kerry McClure) was on a little vacation! I have told many friends about it so I hope they purchase it too!! My middle name is Jessica and my Maiden name was Cameron so the part about the limo driver and Jessica – I was seeing my ‘names’ everywhere! I really liked the end! Great twist and it explained so much! Thank you and good luck on your next novel!
Sincerely, Kerry McClure”
I must say, I don’t think a review could make me as happy as this one. Thank you!
Best Selling for over two months!
Before the actual conception, Mary Keefe’s chosen baby daddy robbed her grandfather’s jewelry store stealing a million dollars in diamonds. To save her family’s legacy , she must bear a child. With time running out, her only recourse is to take a previously scheduled cruise and find a suitable sperm donor.
For investigator, John Kajiyama, the mounting evidence against Mary Keefe is insurmountable. Yet, how could the beautiful woman falling into his bed be the jewel thief? In search of the truth, he embarks on an escapade that could unknowingly lead him to fatherhood.
EXCERPT: The bag of uncut diamonds fell from the safe and poured into Mary Keefe’s palm. She gaped in wonder. A million dollars’ worth of Canada’s finest, freshly mined from Whip Lake near Yellowknife. Slivers of ice appeared in the sharp edges, indicating what lay beneath the cool surface. She ran her finger and thumb over one of the chalky exteriors, anticipating what brilliant masterpiece she could create, devising a cut plan while envisioning a beautiful engagement ring.
“Mary, I’m taking off,” Lisa said from the doorway leading into the sales room. “Dental appointment, remember?” Mary sat at her desk and glanced at her part-time sales associate. Lisa’s bejeweled hand perched on her slender hip, and in the bright lights of the cutting room, all of her sparklers came out to play. Mary had fashioned at least two of the baubles. Unable to resist, she tore her attention away from her co-worker and focused on the rough natural diamonds. “Oh. Okay, Lisa, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Do you want me to put the closed sign on the door and lock it?” Her tone held resignation. A silvery blond eyebrow lifted. “Andre wouldn’t mind having a bit of freedom from guard duty.”
Mary laughed, fingering the soon-to-be resplendent stones. She must return them to their velvet nest. “You knew I’d be fascinated with the goods.”
Lisa chuckled and glanced at her watch. “Sorry, it’s too late to cancel the appointment.”
“No, don’t worry. I’ll put these away and sketch designs between waiting on customers in the lobby.”
Mary nodded to the door. “Yes. Please, go.”
Lisa took a step. “Good night. I’ll see you after you return from your trip.” She strode to the exit, her wide handbag flapping against her narrow side.
Mary sorted through nature’s mysterious stones one more time. At the click of the door, she stashed the rocks inside their dark blue bag.
The shuffle of feet drew her attention from the sack’s drawstring. Lisa must have forgotten something. Instead of her assistant, a tall thin man completely covered in black from his ski mask to leather shoes, swayed inside the room. Her heart beating as fast as the second hands on the clock collection at the south side of the jewelry store, Mary moved around the desk, intending to stuff the pouch into the safe and slam the door. “Who are you?”
The intruder didn’t deter her. However, the metal safe seemed farther away than it had appeared a moment ago. She crept forward, keeping the dark opening in sight. “My assistant will be back in a second.”
An arm came out of nowhere and wrapped under her breasts, preventing her upper body from moving. Despite her breaths expelling fast and in short bursts, she hurled the stones and threw her head back, connecting with the chin of her attacker.
“Shit!” a man snapped. A familiar voice. Please, it couldn’t be him.
The bag hit the rim of the safe with a thunk. As with all things earthly, the jewels fell.
She screamed loud enough surely her grandfather, in his office two stories up, would hear the vocal alarm. Where was Andre? God, she hoped he was okay. One huge hand completely covered her mouth and the other twisted her arm. Deep breaths brought scents, a mixture of plant fertilizer and pungent Axe cologne into her nostrils. Beneath the soft wool, she bit her lips, trying to keep them from trembling. “Go!” he shouted, releasing her mouth. He reached for the dark blue bag of a million dollars’ worth of jewels resting on the cream and gray tiled floor. His partner shuffled out into the lobby, and soon breaking glass rippled through the silence. Smoke billowed into the office. Damn, her new glass display cases, destroyed. Surely her grandfather heard the explosion and would come running.
Her teeth clung to her attacker’s wrist as he bent, until his hand flipped and covered her nose and mouth, forcing her to relax. He stood straight, easing the tension of the hold. Velvet rubbed against her stomach where the blouse had come free from her slacks. They had made love once, on this very floor. An image of him placing a few minor gemstones on her belly and moving them around with his tongue flooded her mind. She resented the intrusion of a romantic tryst now that Conrad Peabody’s true character had been exposed.
His gloved fingers continued to press against her mouth, jamming her teeth into the soft tissue. She finally got relief from the force when he moved his hand and used his teeth to pull off the glove. He stuffed the leather into his pocket, then transferred the bag of gems to his unencumbered hand. His breathing increased, pushing his chest against her back, as his fingers worked open the yellow binding of the casing.
Mary drew a sharp breath. There it was–the mole shaped like molar tooth–at the apex of his right thumb and index finger, confirming the identity of her attacker and thief—a dishonest, unfaithful, and untrustworthy lover. Conrad’s sigh was followed by a sickly sweet scent, which tossed her into darkness.
JEWEL HEIST (Manic Readers Review 4.5 Stars)
He’s almost an angel and she’s pure temptation.
Niall leaned against the cement statue of one of the founding fathers of State University and observed the newest Guardian Squad recruit, Mark Kepler. Mark prepared to send Charles Janes to Hell.
Three centuries had passed, and in all that time, Niall had met few humans who deserved to go to the first level of Hell as much as this one. Janes worked in higher education, influencing students with his wicked ways, intimidating his staff to the point that two out of three were on a depression drug. Niall didn’t drill into the professor’s mind to find out what methods Janes used to mistreat his wife and children. Although Mark had searched Charles’ past.
Janes was a tall, white-haired, gray-skinned perp. As he leaned against the brown wall of the university’s library, his frayed gray and black hound’s-tooth jacket and dark gray trousers didn’t stand out in the night. He’d chosen an excellent location, behind the statue, with limited lighting.
Scratch…hiss…scratch…hiss added a sick melody as his rough hands scraped the brick. Scratch, up slid his hands. Hiss, down slid his hands. And, in cadence, Janes pumped his cock in and out of the lovely co-ed. The scent of salty musk from pre-ejaculation caught in the midnight breeze, filtering into Niall’s nose, making him want to gag.
Groans and moans came from beneath the instructor of misdeeds. He had the young woman locked between his diseased penis and the hard concrete of the wall. Janes stopped pumping and peeked behind him. Even in the presence of a higher being, Janes’ cocky attitude continued.
Mark glanced into the man’s left eye, the only one visible from their viewpoint. “Charles Janes, this will be the last time you’ll exchange sex for grades and psychologically abuse the only people who by God’s grace care for you.”
Janes continued to bump and grind.
Niall wanted to laugh at Janes’ audacity. Didn’t he realize he was eyeballing a messenger from the highest deity?
“Miss Zico Newman, grab your book bag and leave.” Mark nodded.
Miss Newman shoved the pimping professor, pulled her jean mini-skirt down and wiped her mouth. She jerked her canvas sack onto her shoulder and softly padded along the cement path toward the parking lot.
A zipper’s grinding teeth disturbed the silence. Janes fastened his trousers and turned to face them. His lips twisted into a smirk. Mark flung out a pointed finger.
“Evil seeps through your pours. But no more. He who bewitches, the malevolent, and the evil eye. The sorcery of evil conjure it. Spirit of Heaven, conjure it. Bite the fire, bite the fire. ‘Tis between the Father of thee, the Son with me, and the Holy Spirit. So mote it be.” Mark’s vow came with a snap of lightning.
There wasn’t a chance of pleading or repentance. Charles Janes’ red soul went deep into the blazing pits of Hell and nothing but the pungent scent of sulfur and a few flakes of ash remained, blowing in the fall Arkansas breeze.
“You changed the incantation a little.” Niall unfolded his arms and shoved away from the long coat of the cement statue.
“Hope that’s okay. Henri never said anything, and I think Holy Spirit is more age specific than holy ghost.” Mark wiped his face where ashes had splattered on him and mumbled, “I know, keep up wind.”
Niall shrugged. “It works for me, evil twice, bite, fire and now spirit, kind of balances it out.”
He wasn’t surprised Mark had a strong streak of independence. According to his mentor, Henri Chambers, Mark had been able to delve into his psyche. Mark’s intuitiveness was the main reason he had been selected for the Guardian Squad. However, prying into the mind of one of God’s troops was unheard of—until Mark Kepler accepted the position of scythe-wielding grim reaper.
All American in appearance and only thirty years old, Mark was an infant. He made the correct decision to send Janes to Hell, and he got the transmission correct, but he wavered. A Guardian had to judge and charge justice in a moment’s time. If Mark had been prepared and had considered the facts using his mind instead of his heart, there wouldn’t have been a delay.
Niall shook off a smidgen of ash. “You hesitated for a second, which bothers me. When you created your Roll Call list, and you printed each name, did you delve into the mind of the person determining their true character?”
“Yes, of course. How else would I know their spirit?”
“Mark, sometimes their evil natures make me wonder how humans co-exist. The preliminary character analysis should be sanctified later as you approach the person, and at that time, their true character would be determined. If a change has occurred in their nefarious activities from the time you wrote his or her name to incineration, you need to discuss—”
“The process of retribution. If the individual had a desire to wash away his or her sins, I’d give him or her a moment to think about which way they want to go, Heaven’s Weigh Station or Hell.”
“Right. The key is in preparation. You need to look deep into each soul and it’s difficult with some. Older people are easier to make a judgment with, but evil is taking over earth, and the dark sides are being exposed at a younger age. Ten-year-olds are killing their parents or a neighborhood kid who disagrees with them. The world is changing and I’m afraid our job will become more complex, which means you cannot hesitate.”
“I understand. Prepare, no hesitation, and stay down wind,” Mark said with a straight face.
Was he being funny or serious? Niall couldn’t read the guy. More amazing was that Mark could block his thoughts as if he’d been a member of the Guardian Squad for centuries instead of a couple of years.
“The final phase of your certification is to approach family members and friends for recognition. We’ll visit the bar you and your sister, Tori, owned and operated and then stop over with Tori and Henri. Hopefully, all of their memories of you will have been erased. She won’t remember she had a brother. None of your friends will recognize you. Are you ready?” Niall disliked this part of the testing for a new recruit. The most difficult aspect of becoming a member of the Guardian Squad was leaving your loved ones behind. Critical to the success of a Guardian was being able to abandon people he cared about and not seek them, or any of his descendants, in the future. Heartbreaking was how he’d describe the ceremonial visit. Many times the chat with loved ones made a grown, logical man weep, as all humans seek acknowledgment.
Niall thanked his mum and da for not having genes of an empath. To observe the separation of Guardian from his family was difficult enough without feeling the emotions of loss, betrayal, and anger. Having the abilities of an empath would just about kill him—if he were alive.
“You mean I’m to see and talk to Tori?” Mark asked, hope igniting his blue eyes.
“Yes, you’ll see and talk with her. Next we’ll go to Dark Shadows. Two years have passed, and it may seem like only two days in our time, but it’s a long time in the human experience. Changes have occurred. If Echo was successful in wiping your friends and acquaintances’ memories, they will not recognize you. It is important to understand, if you hadn’t chosen to become this elite member of Heaven’s core, they would know you. They would express their love for you. Do not lose your faith because someone you hold dear sees you as a stranger and turns away.” The entire time Niall was eulogizing this key element of becoming a member of the Squad he thought of his family he’d left in Ireland in 1849. They had been poor, dirt poor. He became a Guardian in order to help them. He missed his kin more, instead of less, through the years. No doubt others felt the same way, and he hoped to prepare Mark for the reality of not existing to people he’d known his entire life.
“Henri made the point very clear. I get it.” Mark swiped evil dust off his shirt. “How long will it take?”
“Forever. You never stop thinking about the ones you love, even if they’ve forgotten you.” Niall failed to prevent his voice from seeping with sadness. He shook his head. Why did he feel so melancholy? Kepler wasn’t his first fledgling. “Your recruiter, Henri, experienced a rare occurrence. One doesn’t become a member of the Guardian Squad, then return to human life. Despite how much time has passed.”
“Why was Henri allowed to return to Earth, in human form, and age alongside my sister?” Mark crossed his arms at his chest. Standing at six foot, he was taller than Niall. But in his business, size wasn’t relevant. Niall might not have the height, but he could kick ass if needed.
“Exceptional as a swordsman and knighted by the King of France himself, Henri had gained the favor of the ancients. Despite the lack of blood flowing through the council members’ bodies, their souls continue to have hope, and they dream the dreams of mortals.” There it was. Although he displayed no outward body language, Mark blocked a piece of his thoughts, a spark of something that urged Niall to search the recruit’s mind. He was hiding an element of himself that might affect his abilities to perform as a true Guardian. “So, Henri was granted life. He retains his memories of his years of being a Guardian. The occurrence happened on a whim of the esoteric council, and they will more than likely never grant life to an immortal again.”
Mark finger combed his bright blond hair. “Could we do the bar first? I might need to recover once I see Tori, and she doesn’t remember me.”
“Yes, of course. Midnight here in Arkansas, one in the morning at Dark Shadows.” Niall held out his hand. “Lead the way.”
They teleported to Cyan, Indiana. Mere seconds had passed. Niall enjoyed the rush of his molecules shifting from place to place. He never felt the heat others complained about, just a melody of dynamic lights and pleasant tingles. Mark, on the other hand, arrived a little unsteady. His face was pale, marked by the blush of red staining his cheeks.
“Accelerated pulse, heightened awareness?”
“You’d think after two years I’d be used to the reconfiguring.” Mark rubbed his thighs.
“Usually the heat and fatigue enters the fragile part of your foundation. Your thighs must be the weakest area of your body.” Niall rubbed his chin. “When we get back to the office, I’m going to add a regimen of calisthenics to your training.”
“Do you mean weightlifting or running?” Mark lifted an eyebrow and then swiped a lock of hair from his forehead.
Niall thought he was in tune with the current language, but apparently not. “Yeah, that’s what I mean. You’ll have time since your powers are stronger than most. You won’t need to go through the additional training to learn how to project items into space or discuss issues with spirits.”
Mark inhaled. “Both then. Smell that? Yeast, fried foods, the sweat of a hard-working man. Dark Shadows hadn’t changed. I’ll re-experience all the things I loved about the bar.”
“I’m hoping they’ll have a dark, thick beer,” Niall replied and held open the heavy, rounded oak door. “Your tavern looks a little medieval in nature. Your interests and tastes always seem to lean toward antiquity. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were blood kin to Henri.”
“Yes, Henri and I are alike in many ways. Let’s get a sandwich. Brandi makes the best grilled burgers in the state.” Mark rushed into the bar.
Niall entered the tavern. He adjusted to the humidity, the scents of fried onions, spilled liquor, and the beautiful sight of attractive women wearing short skirts. The servers wore tight black shirts with Dark Shadows embossed in silver calligraphy. Americans were his favorite of all the humans. They knew how to live life to the fullest, no holds barred. Niall jingled the coins in his pockets and grinned. This would be fun.
Mark found a vacant stool and rested an elbow on the brass railing. He chatted with a thin older woman with white hair piled high on her head. She gave him that hospitable customer greeting smile and moved to the tap to fill a mug with draft beer.
Niall sidestepped a robust man. By the odor coming from his breath, he’d consumed a vast amount of alcohol. The inebriated boob stumbled, slamming into people and chairs.
“Tom, you need to wait on the cab I’ve ordered. You are not, I repeat not, to drive.” A tiny black-haired beauty slipped behind Tom.
“Ah, Brandi love, dump that fireman and come live with me.” He ended the platitude with a belch.
“Boxer, come escort Tom to the curb and wait for his ride.” Brandi dragged the waddling man forward a few steps.
A balding Goliath took hold of the drunk’s arm and, nearly lifting him, rushed him to the exit.
Niall didn’t need to see the woman’s face to recognize her soul.
She pivoted, coming toe-to-toe with Niall and threw out a tiny pale hand. “Hi, I’m Brandi Sedgewick…the owner of Dark Shadows. May I get you something to drink?”
Niall took a deep breath. His heart hurt. His lungs must have collapsed because he could not release the air. Shake her hand, nimrod. With trembling fingers, he tugged his hands from his pants pocket. Coins splattered on the floor.
She gave a brief laugh and dropped to the floor. Niall joined her, picking up bits of copper and brass.
“Here you go.” Brandi handed him a few pieces of silver. Her touch sent quivers through him. She must have been equally affected, as her fingers shook. Time had passed, so much in fact, he wasn’t sure he’d recognize her if he chanced upon her. But he had. The woman in front of him causing his disabled heart to thump was his true soul mate, his wife.
Brandi clutched her hands together, and Niall evaluated the coins in his palm.
“I have one coin missing.” Niall had to find the worn gold piece. She looked at him as if he were a member of the lowest class. “It has sentimental value. Passed down through generations of Howards. The queen’s head is barely visible, but …”
“The coin is like a security blanket.”
Bam! She crushed him in one devastating blow, reducing him to an infant and depleting his manhood. Two things rushed through his mind: Echo was an exceptional eraser since Brandi didn’t recognize him after numerous reincarnations and his bride was still beautiful in form and essence.
October 1, 2010
To Purchase this dark fantasy: Dark Sun
|Shadow of the Hawk|
|Shadow of the Hawk
Cover Art: Louisa Gallie
Grant uses shifting and clairsentience searching for a means to an end, until he touches Kristina Palmer. A jolt of normal excited him and for the first time, in a century, he’d have to navigate a relationship the old-fashioned way. But will the sweet paranormalist allow him, a shifter, to seduce her?
Cold drops of liquid splashed against her cheek. She’d lost consciousness. How could she have let that happen?
All rights reserved by jj Keller
Jensen ran his hands over the surface of the credenza. She envied the authentic Kingwood, she wanted him to run his fingers over her as he did the exotic floral-designed inlay. Would he realize she was authentic also?
One amazingly detailed bronze statue of Pan and a crystal ball held court on the marble tabletop. Jensen lifted the statue and examined all ten inches of it.
“Pan, half-man, half-goat, is a symbol for male virility and sexuality. While seated on the boulder, he’s holding a musical instrument, a syrinx. His eyes are focused on the nymph at the other end.” She lifted her gaze to meet his, connected, and then half lowered her lids. “The nymph is Echo, a great singer and dancer who scorned the love of any man. Her long flowing hair encases her shoulders. Her mouth’s open in song. As you can see, one of her delicate, muscular legs is raised above her head. A seductive look is in her eyes.”
Jensen had a similar pained expression on his face to Pan’s as he lowered the statue. Her heart beat with a fast cadence to match Aphrodite’s tail thumping against the floor. The crystal ball glowed, while it absorbed the first revitalizing light of the day. His fingers ran over the surface of the clear glass orb.
“You’re slyly courting the unknown. Do you want to see what is hidden in the depths of the oracle?”
All Rights Reserved.
This book is the second in a series. The final chapter will be coming soon. Mikhail’s NEW chemically created superpowers are passed onto her children. A shifter assists them in saving innocents and the enemy is brought to justice. Look for it…Shadow of the Hawk.