Add your light

Note: This post has nothing to do with writing or my books, so skip if you only want professional updates.

There are a lot of refugee crises plus other horrors going on in the world. If I listed all of them from just the past two weeks, it would turn into a novel-sized post. However, I wanted to share a story I’ve been following about the eviction of Christians from the Mosul city of Iraq. If you haven’t heard about it, here’s a brief recap: The militant group Isis seized control of Mosul and ordered that all Christians recant their faith and convert to Islam, or pay a heavy fine, or leave. Failure to comply would be result in their execution. For a more detailed account, go here or here.

Thousands of Mosul Christians left. At “checkpoints” on their way out, refugees say they were robbed of their few remaining belongings. Their former homes or businesses were seized and marked with a painted Arabic letter that stands for Nasara, or Nazarenes, meaning Christians.

Let me stress that anyone who has seen their faith used as an excuse to promote a hateful/violent agenda should be able to sympathize with Muslims who have no part in these or other extremists’ acts. Muslims all over the world have condemned Isis for this and other crimes, plus Christians are by no means the only group being abused and forced out of Iraq. Furthermore, it was his Muslim neighbors that saved 70-year-old Samer Yacub by convincing Isis soldiers not to kill him when he was unable to leave by the deadline, and Muslims have provided sanctuary to most of the displaced Mosul Christians in other parts of Iraq.

I’m writing this post for two reasons. First, out of a sense of awed humility. These Mosul Christians gave up everything they owned and trekked miles through the desert to go to camps with little water or electricity rather than recant their faith. I think of the things I struggle with as a Christian, and to say it pales by comparison is an indescribable understatement. Second, I found a charity to help the Mosul Christian refugees and I’m linking it here, if any of you feel inclined to donate as I did.

World Compassion.

If you don’t feel inclined, no harm, no foul.  As I said above, there are many humanitarian crises going on in the world, which is why I’m a regular donor to such charities as Doctors Without Borders, Unicef, CARE, IRC, Children International, Samaritan’s Purse and the UNHCR. For domestic charities, I’ve turned to Feeding America, Wounded Warriors and St. Jude’s, and because I’m an animal lover, ASPCA and The Humane Society regularly get contributions from me, too. There are countless other charities that help alleviate suffering both nationally and worldwide, so before any says “But what about ________? I can’t believe you don’t donate to them, too!” I am only one person, and like everyone else, my funds are limited. That means I have to say no far more than yes. I think the important thing is to remain open to caring for others, wherever that care is directed at and/or in whatever manner it can be displayed (donating, volunteering, a prayer, a hug or even a smile).  As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I believe that, which is why I ask that comments consist solely of your favorite charity/charities to help spread the word about them. There are more than enough comments on the internet assigning blame to this group or that group for the world’s problems, so in this comment thread, I’d like the focus to be on charities that are trying to spread a little mercy, love and light instead.

Alternate “middle” version of Destined For An Early Grave, Part 1

dfaeg-800x500If you didn’t read my post earlier this week, let me recap: my first four novels went through extensive rewrites, probably because they were also the first four books I’d ever written. Because of that, I have a lot of deleted scenes from them, and in some cases, alternate versions. Many of you have said that you miss Cat and Bones now that their story came to an end in Up From The Grave, so I decided to post a never-before-seen, deleted alternate version of the “middle” of Destined For An Early Grave. Because it’s so long (over 30K words!) I’m going to post it in four parts on my blog. Part One is now live, so scroll down to read. The remaining three parts will be posted on August 2nd, August 9th and August 16th. So for the next month, there will be free reading on my blog on Saturdays.

How did I end up with an alternate “middle” to Destined For An Early Grave, some of you may be wondering? Because I changed my mind about a subplot. In the original version, when Bones left Cat after the infamous “piano scene” to go to New Orleans, Gregor found a way to erase Bones’s memory of Cat, similar to how Mencheres had erased Cat’s memory of Gregor when she was a teenager. As you can imagine, having Cat erased from his mind changed Bones’s behavior dramatically, and thus the original middle of the novel was very different from the version that was later published. I decided to take that subplot out because so much had already happened to Cat and Bones in DFAEG that the memory loss seemed too burdensome. However, I’m sentimental, which is why I took the chunk out of the final manuscript, but didn’t delete it from my computer.

So, if you want to see Cat and Bones interacting with each other while Bones has no memory of their previous life, read on. For context, this alternate “middle” version starts on page 207 of the published version of Destined for an Early Grave, or 55% into the ebook, so if you want to familiarize yourself with what was going on back then, grab your copy and brush up. You’ll see some scene overlapping with only small changes at first, then the new content starts after Cat arrives at the military base.

In case you’re wondering, the entirety of the alternate “middle” ends right before Cat is turned into a vampire. After that, the story was pretty much the same as in the published version, which is why I call this a deleted “middle” section of DFAEG. Also, among other notable differences, Spade and Denise are already a couple in this version. Their romance originally happened off page, which changed when I got the green light to write First Drop Of Crimson.

Adult content warning: Some or all of these four parts will contain explicit language, violence, and sexual situations. This is also unedited, so my apologies in advance for any spelling or grammar errors. If you want to point those errors out, do so in the comments and I will correct the posted version.

Bones fangirl warning: His memory of Cat has been stolen, as stated above, so it starts out with Bones acting like he used to before he met Cat *cough, slut, cough*. If you don’t want to see Bones that way, don’t read this.

All explanations, warnings and disclaimers aside, here is Part 1 of the alternate “middle” version of Destined For An Early Grave:

###

The knock at the door didn’t wake me. Must have been too soft and tentative. Only when Vlad said, “Come in,” in a less than pleased tone did I wake up. God, he was right. My reflexes were shit.

Shrapnel stuck his head inside. I mentally berated Vlad for not giving me a chance to disappear into the bathroom. How incriminating did this look?

“Forgive me, Master, but the caller says it’s urgent. May I give you the phone?”

He held it close to his side, obviously nervous. Maybe Vlad was really grumpy when he woke up.

Vlad gestured in annoyance. “Very well, bring it.”

Shrapnel moved like a jackrabbit and then hurried out, closing the door behind him.

“Who’s this?” Vlad snapped into the phone.

Spade’s voice blared out next loud enough to bolt me upright.

“If you don’t put Cat on the line this time, I’m going to roast you alive in your own sodding juices –”

I snatched the phone away from him. “What is it? I’m here, what’s wrong?”

There was a loaded moment of silence. Too late, I realized what I’d done. Vlad lifted a shoulder as if to say, You’re stuck now.

“I was told he couldn’t be disturbed because he was in bed.” Each word was a blistering accusation. “That he was extremely indisposed. Lucifer’s bloody balls, Cat, is this why you haven’t returned my calls?”

“I-I-I didn’t…” Good God, I was stammering.

“Indeed!”

“Look, don’t even!” My anger came to the rescue. “If something’s wrong, tell me, but if you’re just going to play Pussy Police, you should start with your best friend. He’s probably nose deep in one right now.”

“He’s arse deep in mortal danger, if you still care,” was the icy reply.

That took all the hostility right out of me. Spade wasn’t one for hysterical exaggerations. I clutched the phone like it was slippery.

“What happened?”

Maybe I sounded as fearful as I felt, because Spade’s voice lost some of its anger.

“Fabian, your helpful ghost, has been in New Orleans trying to speak with him. From what he can deduce, which is little, Crispin’s mind has been altered. And Gregor’s lying in wait outside the city to kill him.”

“What do you mean, his mind has been altered?” My voice couldn’t get more shrill. Vlad winced.

“Just as part of your mind memory was erased years ago by Mencheres, it appears Gregor’s found a way to do the same thing to Crispin. He doesn’t remember Fabian. He doesn’t even know he’s at war with Gregor.”

I was so stunned, I couldn’t even gasp. How could Gregor have done that? How?

“Crispin went to New Orleans to have a meeting with Marie,” Spade continued. “After it took place, from what I’ve gathered, he started acting strangely. Then Marie closed the Quarter to any more undead visitors, and Gregor’s assembled a slew of forces beyond the city’s outskirts.”

That knocked me out of my temporary paralysis. I jumped up and began rummaging for clothes. Vlad scooted into my spot, unperturbed. “Are you there? On your way?”

“We can’t, that’s the whole bloody problem! Because of you, Gregor has clear rights to take Crispin out under our laws. And now Crispin doesn’t even know he’s under a death sentence. He’d likely walk right up to Gregor with a ‘fancy seeing you here’ before that filthy get slaughters him!”

“He doesn’t remember why he’s at war with Gregor?” The ramifications of that finally began slamming into me.

“Although Fabian’s very careful in what says since Crispin still doesn’t know what to make of the ghost, he’s never mentioned you, either,” Spade brutally supplied.

I sat on the floor, my knees weak. For a second, I couldn’t even breathe. Then I pushed my feelings aside and began to plan.

“He’ll need to be airlifted out of there. A helicopter would be best. We can arm it with silver bullets. We’ll do a midair transport onto a plane. Did you say you’ve been leaving messages for me about this?” I gave Vlad a truly menacing glare.

“I’ve been leaving messages for you to call, but we only found out tonight about Crispin’s condition and Gregor’s ambush.”

Vlad shrugged, unapologetic. “You said you didn’t want to speak to them. This part is news to me. I would have told you had I known.”

I didn’t bitch at him. After all, it was my own fault for hiding, not Vlad’s.

“There’s a problem with your plan, Cat,” Spade said tightly. “Else we would have already done something similar. No one of any line is allowed in the city, and that means above it, too. It would be sentencing them to death by Marie’s decree, and she’s too powerful to dismiss. I’d risk it myself, but if one vampire or ghoul crosses the line into the Quarter, Gregor and his people will follow. It has to be humans of no vampire affiliation, do you understand?”

Yeah, I did. Now I knew why he was in such a twist to get ahold of me.

“Give me your number. I’ll call you right back.”

***

 “…testing three, two, one…you read me, Geri?”

Lieutenant Geri Hicks, my replacement with Don’s team, coughed and muttered, “Affirmative.”

She had a receiving line surgically planted under her skin, pumping my voice directly by her eardrum. If I shouted, she’d be in pain. Her microphone was less invasively located in her necklace.

“What’s your location, Geri?”

“Crossing St. Anne Street and heading toward Bourbon. The bird still show he’s there?”

I checked the satellite imagery of the French Quarter on my borrowed laptop. The plane’s turbulence didn’t help, but I could still spot Bones. And the woman next to him.

“Affirmative. There’s a small time delay, as you know, but he should be there. You doing all right?”

Geri was nervous. I couldn’t blame her. She had to bring Bones in without getting him or herself killed. Bones was lethally powerful, plus there was a good chance he wouldn’t recognize her. Yeah, I’d have been wigged, too.

“I’m good,” Geri said.

“Roger that. Now, go show him that he can’t turn you down twice.”

She made a noise that was almost a laugh. On her first mission, she hadn’t known her mock target was also her trainer. “This is so weird.”

No shit.

I was the only person Spade knew who had human connections without direct undead affiliations and who could amass airpower and support complete with cutting-edge weapons and technology. Sure, it could be argued that my old team had connections to Bones, but none of them were under his command anymore since I’d quit. I owed my uncle big for this.

We weren’t sure how “altered” Bones’s memory was. Only a few things were certain. Bones didn’t know about the strife with Gregor. He didn’t seem to be able to read human’s thoughts anymore, either, or he wouldn’t be with the double-crossing skank in the photo. Oh yeah, and he definitely had no idea he was married. What – if anything – he knew about me remained to be seen. Maybe I’d been reduced to old girlfriend status in his mind.

Or maybe I’d been vanished completely.

Since she was human, Geri couldn’t see Fabian. He was there, though, trying to convince Bones he wasn’t deranged while not getting noticed by any of Marie’s people. That wasn’t an easy task. When this was over, I’d owe him big, too. How does one repay a ghost? That was an issue I’d ponder later.

“Approaching target, going silent,” Geri whispered.

On-screen I saw her nearing Bones. He was at Pat O’Brien’s, in the outside area, drinking what I guessed was his usual whiskey. His arm was slung around a pretty brunette, who was almost glued to him. Even now, her hand ran along his hip.

I clenched my fists. Bitch, you and I are going to have a long, bloody chat after this.

Cannelle couldn’t hear my mental warning, but Vlad could. He lounged in the chair opposite me, the jet’s turbulence not bothering him. We were on our way to the rendezvous point if all went well.

“You really don’t like her.”

I didn’t answer out loud. That might confuse Geri, since I was wearing a headset.

No. I really, really don’t.

“I know this is forward,” Geri purred through my earpiece as the satellite showed her reaching Bones and his companion, Cannelle, “but after seeing the two of you gorgeous creatures, I can’t decide who I want to fuck first.”

“Attagirl,” I whispered. God, cheerleading someone to hit on the man I loved! Why couldn’t I have a normal life?

With dark appreciation, I watched Bones set his drink down. Not any line would have worked. The man was a frigging chick magnet, and Geri wasn’t his usual type. But with that opener? She’d gotten his attention, all right.

“Easy decision, luv.” Her necklace picked up every nuance of his accent. “Ladies first. Isn’t that right, Cinnamon?”

Cannelle’s knowing laugh pierced me straight to the heart. The plane’s armrest lost a chunk.

“She looks very fierce, chéri. I was hoping for softer company, non?”

Geri didn’t let Cannelle’s disparagement stumble her. She flicked her fingers in Bones’ drink, then made a good show of licking the alcohol off them.

“I’ll be as gentle as a lamb, honey.”

Geri really had come a long way since the person I’d trained months ago. Cannelle might still be wavering over her, but Bones wasn’t. He caught her wrist, slowly ran his mouth along her palm, and then did something I couldn’t see that made Geri gasp.

“Never let a drop of something precious go to waste.”

His voice was deep with promise, an orgasm for the ears. Hearing it directed at someone else was another stab in the heart, but I masked it. I had a job to do. Everything else was secondary.

Geri sounded promising herself. “Maybe you’ll show me what you mean?”

Bones handed her his glass. “Drink.”

She took a sip. I tensed everywhere when Bones set it aside and then took Geri in his arms. Through Geri’s microphone, I heard his body rubbing against her, her muted moan of enjoyment, and his masculine rumble as he pressed her closer.

A full two minutes later, he lifted his head. By then, I almost wanted him dead.

Vlad watched me without pity. “Someone else could be doing this.”

He was right. I’d insisted on being the relay. I didn’t trust anyone else for something so important, no matter that it was brutal for me.

“That’s what I mean,” Bones told Geri softly.

“You, ah…” she sounded breathless and a little flustered. “You certainly get your point across.”

“You’re doing great,” I said to Geri, very low. She couldn’t be distracted by worrying about how I was taking this. “Get him moving.”

“What was that?” Bones asked sharply.

We’d been worried about this. Vampires had great hearing, hence the receiver being under her skin. It was also why I’d insisted on being the relay. If Bones overheard us, I’d be the one talking him down. No one knew him better than me.

“What?” Geri tried playing innocent.

Bones began running his hands down the front of her, all business now. Cannelle’s confusion showed even on the satellite image. Something had to be done. Now.

“Sorry about this,” I apologized to Geri. Then louder, “Bones! Lean in and listen up, and for God’s sake, can you be less conspicuous?”

That startled him. Apparently a hidden voice snapping at him wasn’t what he expected.

Chéri?” Cannelle inquired. She shouldn’t be able to hear me. She was still human, even after all these years.

“Calm the bitch,” I barked. “She’ll get you killed.”

“Don’t fret, sweet, it was nothing,” he told her. Then rustling sounds preceded the image of Bones moving closer to Geri, holding her shoulders.

“What a lovely neck you have. Let’s see how it tastes.”

If I were Geri, I’d be gulping at the blatant warning that translated into, Anything goes wrong, and your jugular is mine. Fortunately, it allowed him to be right by the receiver.

“What’s your name, darling?”

Although Geri answered him with a fake one, I knew Bones was really talking to me.

“Don’t you recognize my voice?”

“No.” To Geri, “You don’t look an Alexander.”

A sob almost choked me as my worst fears were realized. I was completely gone from his memory. After everything we’d been through, now I was just an unknown voice.

“That’s the name of the ship that took you to Australia in 1788,” I replied, controlling myself. “You can trust me. I’m a…friend of Spade’s.”

“You’ll have to do better than that,” he said as his hand wound in Geri’s hair.

She began kissing his neck, making it look like he was giving her instructions. Cannelle seemed to be getting fidgety. I had to make him a believer.

“Your mother’s name was Penelope. She died of syphilis when you were seventeen. Madame Lucille poured a bottle of her favorite perfume on Penelope before her body was burned. Every time you smell violets, it reminds you of your mother.”

A highly personal thing to recount with someone else listening, but I had no choice. Loaded silence followed my words.

“Do I meet your standards?” Geri asked.

Bones still had her neck angled. I sucked in my breath.

“You’ll do,” he said at last.

I let out that breath in a sigh of relief. Bones might not know me anymore, but for now, he’d listen to me.

“First things first. Cannelle’s a traitor, and the city is surrounded. You need to get to the top of St. Anthony’s Cathedral as quick as you can, but be subtle. You’re being watched.”

“You’re so gorgeous, baby,” Geri said, catching his shirt in her hands. “Do we have to get to know each other? I just want to fuck like you can’t imagine.”

Bones disentangled himself from Geri to take Cannelle’s hand. “Hate to keep a lovely girl waiting. Come on, Cinnamon. This is who I want tonight.”

“Don’t I get to choose?”

I heard the pout in Cannelle’s voice and it was all I could do not to scream.

“Not this time, luv.”

Chéri –”

“Everyone else has been your choice,” he interrupted, leading them through the crowds. “Keep whinging, and I’ll make you wait until I’m done before you have her.”

“Little French whore,” I spat, unable to help it. Everyone else? Wasn’t that just great!

Bones stopped at a curb. “Careful, Alexander,” he said pleasantly. “Or you’ll trip over your narrow perspective.”

I knew that was directed at me, so I answered it. “Don’t go there, buddy, I married a whore.”

Vlad gave me a look. I waved a hand at him as if to say, I know, I know. I’m trying!

“Keep heading toward the church,” I said, back to business.

Then I removed my headset and spoke into my cell phone.

“Okay, Don. Deploy. They’re on their way. Tell Cooper not to drop the ladder until he’s fifty yards away.”

“Got it, Cat.”

I readjusted the headset. Geri had just been telling Bones that she wanted to have sex on the church’s roof, but Cannelle was protesting.

Non, there could be rats! Why can we not leave here for an evening? I told you I have very beautiful friends in Metairie I want you to meet.”

“Tell you what, sweet. We’ll go tomorrow. You’ve wanted me to meet these lasses for days, they must be terribly special.”

Oui. Tres magnifique.”

“Bitchsticks has been trying to get you out of the city, huh?” I said with rising anger. Maybe Vlad’s impalement thing wasn’t such a bad idea. “Now you know why.”

“Tomorrow we’ll do what you fancy, and tonight shall be my evening,” Bones went on. “I promise you’ll see a new side of me.”

And me, too. I was really looking forward to seeing Canelle in person again.

I couldn’t see the three of them anymore. They were off my satellite since they started walking. “Look around, Bones. Are you being followed?”

“It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it, ladies?” Pause. “I love this city. It’s so deliciously haunted.”

“Don’t worry about the ghost, if he’s the same one who’s been bugging you for days. He’s a friend.”

“I like haunted places,” Geri replied, keeping the conversation going. “You don’t think anyone will catch us climbing up on the roof, do you?”

Bones kissed her again. I couldn’t see it, but I could hear it. “Not at all.”

Okay. It was clear. God, I wanted this to be over soon. Safely, and soon.

“Here’s the score, Bones. A chopper’s going to do a pass over the church about two hundred yards up. He’ll have a chain ladder dangling. When you see him coming, you blast up with both chicks and grab it. As soon as you’re clear of the city, you’ll leapfrog onto the back of another plane. Spade will be on it.”

“Ah, here’s the church,” he said in reply. “Alexander, my lovely, look at me for a moment. You don’t need to fret about my eyes or my teeth, right? You don’t notice anything unusual about them. You’re not afraid, because you know I won’t hurt you. Say it.”

“You won’t hurt me,” Geri repeated. “I’m not afraid.”

So, that’s how he got around the glowy gaze and pointy teeth when he fucked humans. I’d thought as much, but had never wanted to ask. I knew more about his past than I already cared to. This scene was for Cannelle’s benefit, I guessed, since Bones knew Geri was in on his secret. Just going through the usual motions.

I thought I’d puke.

“Cinnamon, shall we?”

“If we must, chéri.”

“We must.”

After a few moments of noisy rustling sounds, Bones spoke again. “The roof at last. No rats, petite, quit cringing.”

Vlad, get the chopper’s ETA, I thought.

He complied with the mental directive and took my cell, hitting redial.

“They’re on the roof,” he informed Don briefly. “How long?…Yes.” He set my cell back down. “Six minutes.”

“You’ve got six minutes, Bones. Remember, you have to have both of them with you when you jump, and Cinnamon won’t want to go.”

“Come here, lovelies. That’s better.”

Bones’s voice changed. Became that luxurious purr that used to melt me. Listening to it now only made me pissed. Worse, next there was the breathiness and the soft chafing noises of kissing.

Then Geri said, “Hey now, sugar. Ease up a bit.”

“Why?” Cannelle’s voice was belligerent. “I am ready for you to please me.”

I glanced at the time. “Two more minutes. Stall but be cool, Geri.”

“Cinnamon, don’t be so greedy. I’ll sweeten her up for you. You’ll like it better for the wait. Why don’t you find a better use for your mouth than complaining, petite? Ah, yes. Like that.”

“Sonofabitch,” I spat. It didn’t require a satellite to know where he’d directed her mouth to.

“You, um, might not want to do that.” Geri sounded rattled.

Cannelle made a reply that was garbled. Vlad got up and started rubbing my shoulders. I was crying now. Silent, furious, useless tears.

“Accomplish your objective,” Vlad said, soft yet stern.

I beat my fists against my legs but didn’t scream like I wanted to. Instead, I watched the seconds tick past and tried to listen with clinical detachment for signs of danger. Unfortunately, most of what I heard wasn’t sounds of danger.

Ninety seconds…sixty…thirty…twenty…

“Ten seconds,” I rasped. “Nine, eight, seven…”

“Know something, Cinnamon?” Bones lost the seductive timbre to his voice and it turned into cold steel. “You’re not any bloody good at that.”

“…one!” I yelled with all the bitterness in me.

Then there were only the sounds of the helicopter before I heard a clanging of metal, a thump, and the words I’d been waiting for from Geri.

“We’re in!”

The chopper had special silent blades, which reduced its normal noise. It made Cooper and the two copilots inaudible, however. Geri still wasn’t, of course.

“Zip up, Bones, and I hope you’re rich.”

He laughed. “Why?”

“Marriage counseling,” she replied. “You’re going to need the best that money can buy.”

“Drop it,” I told her, very softly.

“I don’t know who misinformed you, luv, but I’m not married.”

“Is she still breathing?” Geri asked, wisely changing the subject. “You hit her pretty hard.”

“She’s alive.”

There was a sliding noise, and then Geri said harshly, “Try to shove my head between your legs, huh? Who’s happy now, bitch?”

“She can’t feel you kicking her,” Bones said, no criticism in his voice.

“Yeah, well, I can feel it, and I’m enjoying it!”

“Are you a friend of Charles’ also?”

Charles was Spade’s real name. Vampire never could just pick one. Great, now he was asking questions. That was my cue.

“She’s a friend of mine, Bones. So are the guys flying. Spade will explain everything when you see him. It should only be a few minutes until you’re clear of the city.”

“Then it is you I owe thanks to.” He sounded closer now. Must be right next to Geri. “How did you know my mother’s favorite perfume? I don’t recall ever telling Charles that.”

“Long…long story.” My throat closed off with suppressed tears. What was I going to say? You don’t remember me, but once, we were madly in love?

“You can tell me about it. I’ll take you and your husband out for a grand evening. Former whore, was he? We have something in common.”

Geri gave a bark of laughter. “Boy, you have no idea what you’re saying.”

I couldn’t break down now, so close to the finish line. “Don’t bother. We’re, ah, we’re separated.”

“Oh?” Pause. “Then it shall just be you and I.”

“I’m three hundred pounds, have bad scoliosis, and I just turned sixty,” I snapped.

Bones didn’t miss a beat. “Dinner theater, then.”

I laughed even as the tears started to flow again. I’d wanted confirmation that things were really over between us, and here it was. He didn’t even know me. It couldn’t get more over than that.

“I’m glad you’re safe, Bones. Tell Fabian thank you, he’s the ghost. He’s been a good friend.”

“And who shall I say is thanking him?”

“Cat.” I waited a second, but he had no reaction. “Cat says thanks.”

***

I waited until Bones had transferred to Spade’s plane as planned before unhooking my headpiece. Geri was probably delighted not to have my voice pumping into her eardrum anymore. Only Bones was doing the aerial jump; she and Cannelle were staying in the helicopter. Spade’s plane was supposed to rendezvous with me at one of Don’s locations, but that wasn’t necessary now.

I called my uncle. “Change Bones’s flight plan,” I said. “Don’t tell me where to, but don’t fly him where I’ll be.”

My uncle didn’t ask unnecessary questions. “All right, Cat.”

I hung up. Vlad had been watching me the entire time. I managed to muster what would have been a terrible imitation of a smile.

“That answers that.”

“He doesn’t even remember you, and it’s not as if his prior habits were unfamiliar to you,” Vlad replied, no false sympathy in his voice.

No, they weren’t. But I hadn’t expected to listen while Cannelle found the soft chewy center in Bones’s Tootsie Pop. He’d been on the other plane over two hours now. Spade had called my cell several times, but I didn’t answer. I knew they were safe. Nothing else needed to be said.

We finally landed at the base, though I didn’t know where. From the outside, most military installations looked the same anyway, not that I was looking. I had my eyes shut and my hand on Vlad’s arm as I got off the plane.

“Hello, Commander,” a male voice said.

I smiled still with my eyes closed. “Cooper, I’d say nice to see you, but give me a minute.”

He grunted, which was his version of a belly laugh, and soon I was inside the facility.

“You can open your eyes now,” Cooper said.

His familiar face was the first thing I saw, dark skinned and with hair even shorter than Tate’s. I gave him a brief hug, which seemed to surprise him, but he was smiling when I let him go.

“Missed you, freak,” he said.

I laughed even though it was hoarse. “You, too, Coop. What’s the news?”

“Geri’s chopper arrived thirty minutes ago. The prisoner was secured and awake. Ian is here. He’s been questioning the prisoner.”

That made me smile for real. I’d had Ian flown here because he was a cold-blooded bastard – and right now, I liked that about him.

“You can stay here or come with me, it’s up to you,” I said to Vlad.

“I’ll come,” he replied, giving Fabian, who’d just floated up, a cursory glance. The ghost hovered over the ground next to Cooper, who couldn’t see him because he was human.

“Fabian, you’ve been incredible,” I said. “No matter what, I’ll take care of you. You’ll always have a place to stay.”

“Thank you,” he said, brushing his hand through mine in his form of affection. “I’m sorry, Cat.”

He didn’t need to say what for. That was obvious.

My smile turned brittle. “Whoever said ignorance was bliss was shortsighted, if you ask me. But what’s done is done, and now I have an acquaintance to renew.”

The ghost looked momentarily hopeful. “Bones?”

“No. The little bitch inside, and you might not want to follow me for this one. It’s going to get ugly.”

I didn’t have to tell him twice. In a whirl, Fabian vanished. Neat trick. Sucked to have to be a phantom to do it.

Vlad gave me a slanted look. “You’re not intending to see him at all, then?”

“No. We have no official ties anymore, and now he wouldn’t even be able to pick me out of a lineup. Plus, I’m a walking LoJack to the vampire who wants nothing more than to kill Bones. I’d say the best thing I could do is get away from Bones…and go back to Gregor.”

Vlad looked at me like I’d suddenly sprouted a second head. “Don’t be a fool. You can’t trust Gregor.”

I let out a noise that no one would misconstrue as a laugh. “I don’t. But I trust that I can keep Gregor occupied enough to lay off Bones until he and Mencheres can figure out how fix Bones’s mind.”

“You can stay with me. Gregor won’t dare to attack me to retrieve you; he has enough powerful enemies as it is.”

I touched his hand with a sad smile. “I appreciate the offer, really. But then Gregor will only use Bones to draw me out, and no matter how mad I am at him, it’ll work.”

Vlad said nothing, merely staring at me with a look I couldn’t decipher. I didn’t want to hear more arguments, so I headed toward my uncle’s office without waiting to see if Vlad followed.

Turned out, Don was waiting for me in the hallway. He looked…bad.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, instantly worried. Had Bones’s plane been tailed, or attacked, or worse?

“No.” He coughed. “I just have a cold.”

“Oh.” I gave him a hug hello. It surprised me when he squeezed back and held on. We weren’t a cuddly family.

Vlad sniffed the air. “A cold?”

Don let me go and gave him an annoyed look. “That’s right. Don’t concern yourself. I’m not contagious to your kind.”

He said it harshly. Jeez, maybe Don really did feel like shit. My uncle wasn’t normally so surly, even though vampires weren’t his favorite group of people.

Vlad looked him up and down and shrugged, taking out his cell phone to signify that Don didn’t merit a response. His fingers flew over it, texting the fastest message ever.

Don went right to business. It was his defining characteristic. “Dave radioed to confirm that Bones’s memory of you has been completely erased. He was astonished to hear he was married, and now he’s insisting on seeing you. Dave’s requesting permission to come here.”

“No,” I said at once. “You tell Dave to forget changing course. If Bones wants to satisfy his curiosity about me, someone can give him a picture. Gregor’s going to be mad as hell as soon as he realizes Bones has flown the coop, and if I’m with him, it’ll only make Bones easier for Gregor to track.”

“Is that the only reason?” Don asked in a quiet tone.

I had to look away and blink to clear my suddenly fogged vision. “Whatever chance we might have had – which was slim anyway, considering Bones left me and said everything but good riddance – it’s over now. I don’t know how Gregor did it, but when he carved me out of Bones’s mind, he killed any hope of a future for us. You can’t regret losing someone you don’t even remember, so…that’s that.”

My uncle didn’t argue, even though his expression said he was doubtful. “Ian’s been asking the prisoner about how Gregor did it. She hasn’t been very forthcoming.”

Oh, hasn’t she?

“Then it’s time for me to see my old friend.”

***

 Cannelle didn’t appear to have aged a day in the twelve years since I’d seen her. In fact, only her reddish brown hair was different with its new, shorter length. I guessed it was where she got her name. Cannelle. French for cinnamon.

She sat on a steel bench which took up an entire wall in the square, boxlike space. Cannelle wasn’t restrained, since Ian and Geri were in the room with her. Even if by some miracle she got past them, there were still three more guards outside the door. Her eye was black, and blood dripped from her mouth and temple, but she wasn’t cowed.

When I walked in, she blinked, then laughed.

Bonjour, Catherine! It’s been a long time. You finally look like a woman. I am very surprised.”

I felt a nasty grin pull my lips. “Bonjour yourself, Cannelle. Yep, I grew tits and ass and a whole lot more. What a difference a dozen years makes, huh?”

She went right for the throat. “I must compliment you on your lover, Bones. Qu’un animal, non? In this instance, his reputation was…not gracious enough.”

Bitch. I wanted to rip the smirk right off her face.

“Too bad he didn’t seem bowled over by your bedroom skills. I mean, the fact that you couldn’t get him to leave the city for a ménage a cinq doesn’t speak well, does it? And how do you even give a bad blowjob? Those words are usually an oxymoron.”

Ian chuckled with malevolent humor. “Oh, you two ladies have a history, do you? You might want to start speaking now, poppet. I’ve been gentle with you, but Cat has a wicked temper. She’ll likely kill you before I can reason with her.”

“Her?” Cannelle flicked her finger contemptuously at me. “She’s a child.”

Boy, did she pick the wrong girl in the wrong mood.

“Hand me that knife, Ian.”

He passed it over, his turquoise eyes sparkling. Geri looked a little nervous. Cannelle didn’t even blink.

“You won’t kill me, Catherine. You play the hard woman, but I still see a little girl before me.”

Ian regarded Cannelle with amazement. “She’s unhinged.”

“No, she’s just remembering who I used to be. Gregor made that mistake also, at first.”

I smiled at Cannelle again while twirling the knife from one hand to the other. Her eyes followed the movement, and for the first time, she looked uncertain.

“Remember that big bad bitch Gregor didn’t want me turning into? Well, it happened. Now, I’m in a hurry, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to circumcise you, and the only way you’ll stop me is by talking, so please. Please. Don’t talk.”

She didn’t believe me. When Ian held her and I cut her panties off, she was still giving me that I-dare-you glare. When I used my hips to open her legs, she still thought I was bluffing. Only when I severed the aforementioned tissue with a single upward swipe did she get the picture.

And couldn’t stop screaming.

“Whoa, I bet that hurts,” I said coldly. “Ian’s licking his lips at all that blood. You have a choice, Cannelle. We can put this thing back on and a dab of vampire blood’ll have you good as new. Or…”

“Put it back! Put it back!

“You’ll tell us what we want to know?”

Oui!

After listening to her go down on Bones, I was almost disappointed. “Ian?”

Cannelle was still screaming when he took her severed hunk of flesh, coated it with his blood, and slapped it between her legs like he was playing Pin The Tail On The Donkey. Then he sliced his palm and cupped it over her mouth.

“Quit wailing and swallow.”

She gulped at his hand. In seconds, her bleeding stopped and her flesh knit itself back together.

Geri couldn’t tear her eyes away from Cannelle’s mending clitoris. She shivered and rubbed her own crotch as if in reflex. I was more concerned with Cannelle’s face. Judging whether or not she’d go back on her word.

“Since we’ve established that I’m in a really foul mood, let’s move on to the question-and-answer phase. Oh, and if you make me use this knife again…I’m not putting anything back. How did Gregor do it? How did he steal Bones’s memory?”

Cannelle kept touching herself while staring at me in horror.

“Gregor had Marie perform a spell that erases part of a person’s memory. He thought you deserved to know how it felt to have the person you love forget about you and whore themselves with others, just as you had done to Gregor.”

Oh, how I hated Gregor. He wasn’t content to make me run all over the place with my hands covering my eyes. He had to make sure I did it with my heart ripped out, too.

“Why didn’t he just kill Crispin?” Ian asked. “If he had him defenseless enough for Marie to bollocks up his mind, why didn’t he shove silver through his heart?”

Cannelle’s mouth dipped. “The Queen of Orleans wouldn’t allow it. She said Gregor could only kill Bones outside her city. She didn’t want to participate in the spell or their meeting, either, but Gregor made her.”

“He forced her?”

Non, you misunderstand. He made her. ‘Twas his blood that raised her as a ghoul, and Gregor killed her other sire the night he changed her, so her fealty was to him alone. Gregor agreed to release Marie in exchange, and Marie’s wanted free of Gregor for over a hundred years.”

“And Bones would trust Marie because she always guarantees safe passage in her meetings.”  That clever, dirty schmuck. “Your part?”

“I was to fuck him, naturellement, and once assured that you heard of his infidelity, I was to take him to Gregor.”

She actually smirked as she spoke. My anger turned to ice.

“Is that all, Cannelle?”

Oui.”

I turned to Ian. “Think she’s got more?”

He met my gaze with equal coldness. “No, poppet. I think that’s it.”

I still had the knife in my hand, slick from Canelle’s blood.

“Cannelle,” I said in steady, clear tone. “I’m going to kill you. I’m telling you this so can take a moment to pray, if you choose, or to reflect, whichever. You lured my husband around will the full intention of taking him to his slaughter, and that’s just not forgivable to me.”

“Cat, no,” Geri said.

I didn’t answer her. Cannelle gave me a look filled with malicious defiance. “But Bones isn’t your husband. Gregor is.”

“Semantics. You’re wasting time. Get right with God. Fast.”

“I am a human,” she hissed. “A living, breathing person. You may have it in you to wound me, but not to kill me.”

I ignored that, too. “Marie got her freedom for her role. What did Gregor promise? To change you?”

Another hostile glare. “Oui. It’s my payment for all the years I’ve served him.”

“You backed the wrong horse,” I said. “If you would have told Bones what was happening, he’d have turned you himself. He’s honorable that way. Instead, you tried to get him killed. You’re not going to be a vampire, Cannelle, but I’ll let you die like one.”

She stood up. “You wouldn’t dare. Gregor would kill you.”

Then she looked down. The silver knife was buried in her chest. It even vibrated for a few seconds with her last remaining heartbeats. Cannelle watched the handle quiver with astonishment before her eyes glazed and her knees buckled.

I stood over her and felt more of that awful coldness.

“Maybe Gregor will kill me for this, Cannelle. I’m willing to take that chance.”

***

I took my time in the shower, but the scalding water pouring over me didn’t make me feel warm. It did clean the blood off, however, and that was a start. Finally, I shut it off and grabbed a towel. No more stalling. I had things to do whether I wanted to or not.

The locker room was empty. Geri had left me something to wear, even though she clearly disapproved of what I’d done. Still, she had no recourse since Don just tugged his eyebrow and said it wasn’t civilian business. If she stayed long enough at this job, Geri would lose a lot of her current sense of right and wrong. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but it was a fact all the same.

Geri’s clothing donation turned out to be an ankle-length yellow dress with purple flowers. It looked springtime and happy. I felt wintry and depressed. It seemed like months since I’d worn clothes that were mine. I wouldn’t know my own panties if they bit me in the ass.

She’d left her toiletry bag out, too. Guess that was a hint. I helped myself to the toothbrush and toothpaste, although I didn’t care if Gregor was offended by my breath. The only makeup I bothered with was lipstick because my lips felt like sandpaper. Then I looked into the mirror. Now that I was clean, I looked like death warmed over instead of cold, grim death.

Cannelle’s face kept flashing in my mind. Cold, grim death. That’s what I’d given her.

A knock sounded at the door. “Can I come in?”

Geri. I sighed. “Sure.”

She came inside the locker room, and from her expression, she was still upset with me.

“Before you say anything,” I began, “you should know –”

“I’m not here about that,” she interrupted. “Well, yes, but not how you think.”

“Oh. Um, if it’s about what you did with Bones, I realize –”

“Good Lord, Cat, quit guessing.” Geri began to pace. Her ash blonde hair was in its usual bob, and the muscles in her legs flexed with her movements. “It’s not about that, though Bones makes out like a demon, doesn’t he? I want this off the record before I go any further.”

I was intrigued. “All right. Just between you and me.”

“I heard you say that you and Bones were finished. Is that true?”

That widened my eyes and raised my hackles.

“Why? Now that you know he’s single, you want more of what he gave you? Liked what you saw when he pulled his dick out?”

She stopped pacing. “Ease up, Catzilla. I’m not after your man. I was wondering if you’d be after mine.”

Huh? “What are you talking about?”

Geri flounced on a nearby chair. “I’m seeing Tate.”

That one I hadn’t anticipated. I stared at her for a moment before finding my voice.

“How long?”

“A few weeks. Don doesn’t know. Neither does the rest of the team, though I think Dave and Juan suspect. I know Tate’s still hung up on you, but I’ve let it slide. You’re married and never around, so I just figured he’d get over it. Then last week, he jetted off as soon as he heard that you and Bones were having problems. Now Bones doesn’t remember you and you’re not going to re-introduce yourself, so I want to know if that opens up the field for Tate.”

Professionally, I was annoyed at Tate for fraternizing with a junior officer. On a feminine level, I felt bad for Geri. She clearly had strong feelings for him to be discussing this with me, because we didn’t know each other that well.

“I don’t see Tate as anything more than a friend, and that’s not going to change,” was all I ended up saying.

She cocked her head. “You might want to tell him that.”

“Believe me.” I opened the door, suddenly anxious to leave. “I have.”

***

I didn’t make it to the end of the hall before I was grabbed from behind, my senses picking up the inhuman power in the air too late. I let out a yelp, wondering how a vampire could’ve breached the base’s defenses –

“Hallo, Cat,” a voice I recognized said.

Spade. I quit kicking, dread washing over me. If he was here…

“How in the hell did you get here?” I snapped, looking around as soon as he released me. Thankfully, Bones was nowhere in sight.

“Someone with far more sense than you texted me your location,” Spade replied.

“Who?” I began, then stopped as I remembered Vlad texting someone right after arguing that I shouldn’t return to Gregor. Damn that meddling Romanian.

“Crispin wants to speak with you,” Spade went on. “He’s just showering now.”

I let out a bitter laugh. “With bleach, I hope, and a strong germicide.”

A flicker of remorse shadowed Spade’s expression before it hardened. “Good thing you showered as well, else I suspect you’d reek of Vlad.”

I was about to correct his false assumption about me and Vlad when I stopped. Why should I? “Could be worse,” I settled on. “I could have made Bones listen to us.”

Spade closed his eyes. “Crispin’s incredibly sorry about that. He would never have done such a thing if he’d known who you were.”

Even though I wanted away from Spade – and the compound – before Bones got out of the shower, I had to ask. “How much is gone?”

His eyes opened. “Anything to do with you. That has consequences to quite a lot of the past several years. Crispin wasn’t aware of his new status as co-ruler of Mencheres’s line. He thought he was still under Ian. It appears his powers have been affected as well. He’s not as strong and he can’t hear humans’ thoughts. In short, he is as he was before he met you.”

That only solidified my resolve to return to Gregor. Gregor had been stronger than Bones before the effects of this awful spell. If Bones was back to his power level of seven years ago, he’d be toast against Gregor.

“Is this – is this permanent?”

“We’re not sure. Mencheres doesn’t think so, but it will take time. How long, no one knows.”

Spade cocked his head. I didn’t hear anything alarming, but then Spade grabbed my arm.

“Crispin’s done. You’re coming with me.”

“No,” I said, tugging hard. I wasn’t nearly ready to see Bones again.

“He’s in the conference room,” he went on, not letting go. “Your uncle arranged for the two of you not to be disturbed.”

Was everyone against me? I tried logic next, since attempting to wrest away wasn’t working.

“Come on, Bones has enough to worry about without adding me to the list –”

“Bollocks,” Spade snapped. “Now, shall it be kicking and screaming, or under your own power? Either way, you’re going to see him.”

I knew him well enough to know that he meant what he said, and if I kept resisting, this would turn into a fight that would draw Bones’s attention long before I could run away.

I drew my shredded emotions behind a shield that I hoped was strong enough to keep me from falling to pieces.

“Fine. You can let go of my arm.”

He gave me a jaded look. “Consider me overzealous.”

Smart of him not to let me go, because when we came to the door and I could feel Bones on the other side, I began to panic. Spade must have sensed that. He whipped the door open, shoved me inside so hard that I almost tripped, and slammed it behind me.

I froze after I regained my balance, then slowly turned around.

***

Read Part 2 next Saturday, August 2nd, right here on my website blog.

Contest winners, tour schedule and Cat & Bones special announcement

TBA cover 2 First, let’s get to the contest winners from last week’s giveaway featuring Arcs of The Beautiful Ashes. Almost a thousand people entered (yes, you read that right – my jaw dropped! :)) but I only had ten Arcs to give away, so apologies in advance to most of you who didn’t win. Ten people did, however, and here they are:

Jocelyn Barnette, Rachel Schneider, Debbie Richardson, Joclyn Davis, Judy Glaser, Penny Noble, Heather Shadix, Elizabeth Chapson, Teresa Kleeman and Elizabeth Chin.

Congrats, all! Replies have been sent to your entries with instructions. Hope you enjoy the book!

Speaking of The Beautiful Ashes, I just received my tour schedule from my publisher. I’ll be traveling to several cities to celebrate its release, and we’re even breaking up the stops to accommodate for Labor Day. Some of the signing feature only me, but several of them are joint signings. To be honest, joint signings are my favorite because then we can turn it into a panel-type event for readers. And hey, if you’re going out to meet an author, why not meet two for the same time and effort, right? *wink*. So, mark your calendars if you’re in any of these cities! I would love if you were able to come out:
.

August 30th, 3:pm Malaprops

55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801

September 4th, 7:00pm BooksAMillion

125 South Hampton Drive
Clarksville, TN 37040  Ph: 931-648-1100

September 5th, 6:30pm. Joint signing with J.A Redmerski (Song of the Fireflies)

The Booksellers of Laurelwood
387 Perkins Road Extended
Memphis, TN 38117 901-683-9801

September 18th, 6:30pm. Joint signing with Ilona and Gordon Andrews (Magic Breaks)

Book People
603 N. Lamar
Austin, TX 78703

September 19th, 6:00pm. Joint signing with Melissa Marr (Made For You)

Katy Budget Books 

2450 Fry Rd
Houston, TX 77084

September 20th, time tbd. Fresh Fiction event, details to come.

Fresh Fiction
Dallas, TX

September 22nd, 7pm. Joint signing with author Melissa Marr (Made For You)

Barnes and Noble, Tyson Corner Mall 
7851 L. Tyson’s Corner Center
Mclean, VA 22102

September 23rd, 6pm. Joint signing with author Melissa Marr (Made For You)

Barnes and Noble
1035 Emmet Street, Suite A
Charlottesville, VA  22903

September 24th, 6:30pm. Joint signing with author Melissa Marr (Made For You)

Fountain Book Store 
1312 East Cary Street
Richmond, VA  23219

Don’t live near any of these cities? Feel like you keep missing out on the cool stuff? Well, if you’re reading this, then you have an internet connection, so I have something for you :).

DFAEGBBBMy first four novels went through extensive rewrites, probably because they were also the first four books I’d ever written. Because of that, I have a lot of deleted scenes from them, and in some cases, alternate versions. Many of you have said that you miss Cat and Bones now that their story came to an end in Up From The Grave, so I decided to post a never-before-seen, deleted alternate version of the middle of Destined For An Early Grave. Because it’s so long (over 30K words!) I’m going to post it in four parts on my blog. Part One will go up this Saturday, July 26th, with the remaining three parts to release on August 2nd, August 9th and August 16th. So for the next month, there will be free reading on my blog on Saturdays. Hope you enjoy!

How did I end up with an alternate middle version of Destined For An Early Grave, some of you may be wondering? Because I changed my mind about a subplot. In the original version, when Bones left Cat after the infamous “piano scene” to go to New Orleans, Gregor found a way to erase Bones’s memory of Cat, similar to how Mencheres had erased Cat’s memory of Gregor when she was a teenager. As you can imagine, having Cat erased from his mind changed Bones’s behavior dramatically, and thus the original middle of the novel was very different from the version that was later published. I decided to take that subplot out because so much had already happened to Cat and Bones in DFAEG that the memory loss seemed too burdensome. However, I’m sentimental, which is why I took the chunk out of the final manuscript, but didn’t delete it from my computer.

So, if you want to see Cat and Bones interacting with each other while Bones has no memory of their previous life, come back on the above dates. For context, this alternate “middle” version starts on page 207 of the published version of Destined for an Early Grave,  or 55% into the ebook, so if you want to familiarize yourself with what was going on back then, grab your copy and brush up.You’ll see some scene overlapping with only small changes at first, then the new content starts after Cat arrives at the military base.

That’s it from me for now. Hope you’re enjoying your week so far!

Snippet I wasn’t intending to post yet

My friend and fellow author Ilona Andrews mentioned on her blog today that my cover for The Beautiful Ashes doesn’t hint at any of the action in the book (spoiler alert to anyone who hasn’t read my books: there’s ALWAYS action in them. In fact, I should make a drinking game out of how many people lose their heads per story, but that’s another blog topic ;)) Anyway, Ilona’s already read The Beautiful Ashes because she’s one of my regular critique partners, and when some of her readers agreed that the cover only portrayed the romance element (spoiler alert 2: all my books have THAT, too :)) Ilona emailed me and said “Give me an action scene snippet so I can prove to everyone that I’m right!” I complied since Ilona’s a little scary, heh.

So here’s the scene I hadn’t intended to post yet, if you’re interested. It takes place a few chapters after the previous scene snippets (here and here, if you haven’t read them). By the way, mad props to Ilona for the creepy cloud graphic!

demon-eyes

Scene snippet #3http://www.ilona-andrews.com/blog/2014/07/17/beautiful-ashes-excerpt/

Arc giveaway of The Beautiful Ashes!

Hi everyone! As I promised last week, here is the contest to receive an Arc (advance reading copy) of my upcoming NA novel, The Beautiful Ashes. If you haven’t heard of this book yet, here’s the back cover description:

TBA cover 2In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate. 

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who’s bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn’t mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn’t: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side, Adrian on the other, and nothing but ashes in between…

Releasing August 26th, 2014. 

 Read excerpts from The Beautiful Ashes here and here.

Now, to the contest, open to readers wherever you live in the world.

The Prizes:

10 winners will receive an Arc of The Beautiful Ashes, Broken Destiny book one.

All winners will be chosen by Randomizer. To enter, please follow the rules below:

1. Send an email to  jeanieneprizes AT gmail DOT com.  (obviously replace the “AT” with an “@” and the “DOT” with a “.” in your email.)

2. Make sure to include your name and the email address you want to be contacted at if you win, if it’s not the email you’re sending your entry from.

3. You can only enter ONCE. Duplicate entries will be deleted.

4. Contest starts now and ends July 22nd at 11:59pm Est. Winners will be announced July  23rd on my blog.

Good luck, everyone :).

The Beautiful Ashes excerpt and contest head’s up

Hi all! Somehow, it’s been ten days since I posted a new blog. Times flies when working on a new book! Because I don’t have anything interesting to talk about (I already mentioned work; that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing) how about a new excerpt? This is from The Beautiful Ashes, my upcoming New Adult paranormal romance, which releases August 26th. Haven’t heard about this book yet? Description and details are here. If you want the shortest summary possible, The Beautiful Ashes features star-crossed lovers with opposing supernatural destinies who get caught in a war between angels and demons. This series will be a trilogy.
TBA cover 2In the scene below, my heroine Ivy has been dealing with several awful things. Her sister is missing, her parents just died in a car crash, and Ivy has been kidnapped by a mysterious stranger named Adrian after a cop tried to kill her.  If all of that wasn’t enough, Ivy is also starting to realize the hallucinations she’s had her whole life might actually be real. If you didn’t read the previous excerpt I posted from Chapter Two, go here and you can have the entire context for the scene below. Of course I think that everything is better in context, but that’s just my opinion :).

Oh, and as a head’s up, I’ll be holding a blog contest sometime next week giving away Arcs of The Beautiful Ashes, so if you’re interested, be sure to check back for your chance to win. In the meantime, hope you enjoy the teaser!

***

Even on a good day, I hated when guys were cryptic. Those of the Testosterone Persuasion already came with a mountain of senseless tendencies—did they really think they needed to add purposefully vague statements on top of that?

The fact that Adrian refused to elaborate on his enigmatic warning while I was tied up in his backseat made it unbearable. As the time ticked on, I consoled myself by imagining hitting him in the head with something heavy. Or leaning over the seat and choking him with the band of duct tape around my wrists. If the back of this vehicle had had a cigarette lighter, I might’ve gotten creative with fantasies about that, too.

Guess being kidnapped turned me into a violent person.

“Are you a sex slaver?” I asked abruptly.

“Someone’s watched Taken too many times,” Adrian said, and the amusement in his tone grated on my last nerve.

“Why wouldn’t I think that?” I shot back. “You saved my life, but you’re taking me somewhere against my will, and you refuse to untie me.”

“You picked truth, remember?” was his infuriating response.

I swear, the first heavy object I got a hold of…! “You didn’t give me that, either.”

“Yes, I did.” He said it with a heavy-lidded, backward glance that would’ve made me straighten up and smile if he’d done it while we were sitting at a bar. “Just not all of it, but don’t worry. We’re here.”

With that statement, Adrian turned down a long road that led to a set of soaring, elaborately carved gates.

“Wait a sec while I open the gates,” he said, turning the car off and taking the keys with him.

I waited…until he was far enough away for me to make my move. Then I leaped over the seats. When I yanked on the driver’s side door, however, a large hand on the window prevented it from opening.

“Why am I not surprised?” Adrian said with irony dripping from his tone

I stared at his hand, as if that could explain how the rest of him was attached to it. A second ago, he’d been in front of those barbarically ornate gates, doing something that caused them to swing open with a mechanical moan.

No one could move that fast. Or, more accurately, no one should be able to move that fast.

“What are you?” I breathed.

His teeth flashed in a smile that was predatory and sexy at the same time.

“A couple hours ago, I wondered the same thing about you.”

Me? Before I could ask what he meant, he opened the door and let me out. Ice raced through my veins when I saw the knife in his other hand. That was also the moment when I noticed the sign on the gates: Green-Wood Cemetery.

“Don’t,” I gasped.

He raised a brow, cutting through the duct tape around my wrists. “You’re the one who wanted to be untied.”

My arms fell to my sides while relief roared over me, replacing the surge of fear-fueled adrenaline. Just as quickly, something snapped inside me. All the grief, anger, fear and frustration of the past ten days hurtled through my defenses, turning me into someone I didn’t recognize.

A rage monster.

My hand cracked across Adrian’s face with enough force to make it tingle and burn, and still, it wasn’t enough. I began beating on his chest, part of me horrified by my actions, but the rest urging me to hit him harder.

“What is the matter with you?” I yelled. “You pull out a knife with no explanation? I thought you were going to kill me!”

Adrian grabbed my hands. Any sane person would have recognized how overmatched I was and calmed the hell down, but I was way past sanity. With my hands out of commission, I kicked his shin hard enough to send pain shooting up my leg. He grunted, backing me up until I was pressed against the car hood. Now I had a wall of steel behind me and a wall of muscled flesh on top of me.

“Stop it,” Adrian ordered, his strange accent thicker with his vehemence. “I promise, I’m not going to hurt you!”

My breath came in pants. Adrian countered my attempt to drop down and wiggle free by pressing his thigh between my legs. I stopped that course of action at once, which was the same as admitting defeat. I couldn’t use my arms to push him away. He felt more solid and heavy than a stone gargoyle.

“Get off me,” I said between ragged breaths.

“Not until you calm down,” he replied sternly. Then the barest grin tugged at his mouth. “Feel free to take your time.”

I glanced down, only now registering that my breasts were pressed against his chest just as tightly as his thigh was wedged between my legs. Any movement on my part caused an embarrassingly personal friction, as if inhaling each other’s breaths while we panted wasn’t intimate enough.

I tried to slow my breathing, not to mention my galloping heartbeat. If not for his grin, I wouldn’t have known he thought anything of the compromising position he had me in.

If nothing else, he didn’t seem angry that I’d slapped, kicked and pummeled him. Now that my reckless rage had passed, I realized how stupid I’d been. One punch from his massive fist would’ve meant lights out, but he hadn’t hit back. Instead, he’d promised that he wouldn’t hurt me. Despite his kidnapping me and his refusal to give me answers about what was going on, I decided to believe him.

“Sorry I attacked you,” I said, my voice no longer shrill.

He shrugged like he was used to it. “Don’t worry. You were overdue for a breakdown, anyway.”

Just how many people have you kidnapped? I almost asked. Since I didn’t really want to know, all I said was, “Can you get off me? You’re heavy.”

He slowly uncurled his body from mine, but that silvery blue gaze stayed glued to me. I shivered, suddenly aware of how cold it was, now that I wasn’t covered by over two hundred pounds of warm-blooded male.

Adrian shrugged out of his coat, revealing a crew-neck black shirt that hugged his physique like it was paying homage. Of course he’d noticed the shiver. I wondered if anything escaped those piercing eyes.

I put it on. The hem had been mid-calf on him; it pooled on the ground with me. I’d never felt dainty around a guy before. I was comfortable at a size eight because I didn’t have to starve to maintain it, and my five-six height meant I could usually wear heels without being taller than my dates. Next to Adrian, however, I seemed to drop twenty pounds while also shrinking a few inches. Of course, his bulk was all muscle. Feeling him on top of me had made that clear….

I nixed that line of thought before it led to other, more dangerous musings, and tightened his coat around me.

“If we’re not here so you can kill me and bury my body in an empty plot, what else is there to do at a cemetery?” I asked with admirable calm.

He laughed, the deep, masculine rumble teasing something inside me that was too stupid to realize kidnappers were off-limits. That’s why I refused to notice the chin dimple it revealed, or how his lower lip was fuller than the top one.

“Lots of things, but we’ll get to that later.”

“Sure there’s going to be a later?” I challenged him.

“Of course.” Another tantalizing smile. “Since you and I are from the same line, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me.”

Line? “You think we’re related?”

His gaze brushed me like a physical caress. “Not like that, thankfully. That would make our first date awkward.”

I stared at him in disbelief. “You’re hitting on me?” I finally managed. “Do you have any idea how twisted that is?”

He shrugged. “I don’t do subtle, it wastes time. Besides—” the silvery part of his eyes gleamed like liquid moonlight “—if you say you don’t find me attractive, I’ll know you’re lying.”

Under other circumstances, I might have blushed at being busted ogling someone I’d just met, but my kidnapper was hitting on me! Should that make me more afraid, or less? He’d already saved my life once and had had plenty of chances to harm me since, yet he hadn’t.

Plus, I wouldn’t be much fun as a date if I was dead.

“How about we hold the date talk until you give me the answers you promised?” I said, part of me wondering if tonight could get any stranger. The other part felt happy for the first time in over a week. Stupid ovaries. Down, girls, down!

Adrian’s expression turned serious. “I’m taking you to the person who can give you those answers.”

“Zach?” I asked, remembering Adrian mentioning the name.

“That’s him. This cemetery is almost five hundred acres, so if you don’t want to spend hours walking around in the cold—” he went over to the passenger side of the vintage-looking muscle car and opened the door “—get in.”

He was giving me a choice. Or at least, the illusion of one. If I ran, we both knew he could catch me.

The car’s interior light showed a hint of stubble trying to break through the smooth skin along his jaw, shadowing it in a way that was far too attractive. His exotic accent wasn’t helping, either. If I was ever kidnapped again, it had better be by an old, ugly guy. That would be less confusing to my emotions.

And less embarrassing. What idiot got caught lusting over her kidnapper? No wonder he’d asked me out. He must have thought I gave “easy” a whole new definition.

I walked over, thinking that even if I could run away from him, I wouldn’t. My sister was trapped in a place that shouldn’t be real, yet somehow was, and Adrian was my only ally because he could see the same crazy things that I did. More importantly, Adrian had proven that he was able to kill those things.

If he was able to help me save my sister, I’d not only take him up on his date offer. I’d pay for everything and seriously consider putting out.

I got in the passenger side, hearing the door lock as soon as he shut it. I tried to open it. Nothing. My sense of unease returned. What kind of person saved people just to kidnap them, and had a vehicle you could only exit from the driver’s side?

Then again, as Adrian slid into the seat next to me with an almost spooky fluidity, I realized what kind of person he was might be less important than what he was.

***

Audio winners and tonight’s Twitter chat

Hi again. Time to announce the winners of last week’s audio book giveaway! Since I can’t choose between you myself, as usual, Randomizer picked the winners out of the entries. Without further ado, the 10 winners who will receive a single title audio book out of the Night Huntress series (winner’s choice which audio book) are…

Adam Ryan, Kim Roberts, Carrie Poersch, Lisa Guertin, Raven Click, Diana Kubo, Amanda Carney, Janja Papac, Eva Oravecz and Sherita Eaton.

Congratulations, all! I will be contacting you by email to ask which audio digital title you’d like to receive, then forwarding your answers to my audio publishers, who will send you your free audio download.

And now, the grand prize winner, who will receive digital download audio titles for the entire Night Huntress series plus digital audio downloads of the newly-released Night Huntress World novellas (Reckoning, Happily Never After and Devil To Pay) is…

Dora Arndt

Congratulations, Dora! I will forward your name to my audio publishers, who will furnish you with your prizes.

To all the winners, hope you enjoy the audio books! To everyone who didn’t win, I’m sorry, but you have another chance tonight. As I mentioned in my previous post, my audio narrator Tavia Gilbert and I are having a live Twitter chat tonight (July July 1st) from 8pm – 9pm EST. At the end of the chat, Tavia and I will each give away 10 more digital audio download titles from the Night Huntress series or the Night Prince series to ten new winners (winner’s choice which title). That’s a total of twenty winners between the two of us! To enter this giveaway, all you need to do is ask us a question during our Twitter chat with the hashtag #AudioChat. My Twitter name is @Jeaniene_Frost and Tavia’s is@Taviagilbert. Your question can be about audio books, written books, the process of writing or recording, why you should try audio books if you haven’t already, or whatever else you’d like to know. Remember, only participants in the chat will be eligible to win, so don’t be shy! At the end of the chat, the twenty winners will be randomly chosen by HarperAudio from among those who participated.

Congrats again to the winners, and good luck to everyone tonight! Looking forward to chatting with those of you who can make it :).

Audio pricing update, Twitter chat with giveaway, etc.

ALA picHi everyone, hope you had a pleasant weekend. Mine was spent flying to Las Vegas and back for the ALA (American Library Association) conference. I had a great time at the panel and two signings, so big thanks to everyone who came out! Here’s a picture from the “Isn’t It Romantic” panel, showing authors (from left to right) Deborah Coontz, Shelley Coriell, Ryan Winfield and myself.

Now, let’s get to the audio novella updates.  As I mentioned in my prior post, the audio editions of my Night Huntress World novellas Reckoning, Happily Never After and Devil To Pay released on Tuesday last week. To celebrate that release, I held a contest giving away those novellas plus more audio books in my series (contest details here and it ends tonight, so enter if you haven’t already!).

Plus, tomorrow (July 1st) from 8pm – 9pm Eastern Time, my audio narrator Tavia Gilbert and I are having a live Twitter chat where we’re giving away twenty audio digital titles, winners chosen from readers who participate in the chat. What do I mean by  ‘participate’? All you need to do is ask one of us a question during our Twitter chat with the hashtag #AudioChat. My Twitter name is @Jeaniene_Frost and Tavia’s is@Taviagilbert. Your question can be about audio books, written books, the process of writing or recording, why you should try audio books if you haven’t already, or whatever else you’d like to know. Remember, only participants in the chat will be eligible to win, and make sure to use the hashtag #AudioChat with your question so that we can easily find it. As an added bonus, I’ll also give away an Arc of The Beautiful Ashes to one of the audio chat participants, so set a reminder for tomorrow night and come on out!

That’s the good news. The bad news is, when the audio novellas released last week, they initially went out with the wrong retail price. As soon as I found out, a flurry of emails were exchanged between me, my agent and various people from my audio publisher, plus I updated my previous blog telling readers to hold off on purchasing the audio novellas until the prices had been fixed.

Here’s where we stand today: Some retailers have already updated their product pages for the audio novellas to reflect the correct pricing, which is $13.99 for Happily Never After, $11.99 for Reckoning and $11.99 for Devil To Pay. Some retailers are still in the process of getting the prices updated, so some audio novellas on a retail site are showing the correct price and some aren’t. Some retailers, however, are exercising their contract option to sell the audio novellas at prices well above the retail rate, and they have a legal right to do so just as they have a legal right to discount prices to below retail, too.

How much control do I have in all of this? None, since I am neither the retailer nor the publisher, so I don’t determine the initial sell price or determine whether distributors sell a product above or under that price. All I can do is to keep you informed about what’s going on.  With that in mind, here are links to retailers who are selling the audio novellas at or under the correct retail price (note: I will keep updating this list as – hopefully – more retailers stop charging over the publisher base price.)

Reckoning at  Downpour.com,  Ambling Books, Audiobooks.com

Happily Never After at Downpour.com,  Ambling Books, Audiobooks.com

Devil To Pay at Downoour.com,  Ambling Books, Audiobooks.com

Even though I don’t have any control over this, I still want to extend my sincerest apologies. I’m truly sorry for any confusion or inconvenience these pricing issues have caused. If you previously purchased one of the novellas at the incorrect/inflated price, I suggest that you look into that retailer’s return policy.

That’s it for now. Be sure to check my blog tomorrow, when I announce the winners of last week’s blog contest.

New audio releases and giveaways!

ETA: Post has been amended to link only to audio retailers who are NOT charging more than the publisher base price. Buyer beware: some retailers are currently charging double the base price for these novellas. The correct base prices are 13.99 for Happily Never After, $11.99 for Reckoning and $11.99 for Devil To Pay. 

Hi everyone, I’m delighted to announce that audio editions of my Night Huntress World novellas are finally available. They are all narrated by the fabulous Tavia Gilbert, who also narrates my regular novels. First up is…

Reckoning audioReckoning. This urban fantasy story is a prequel to the Night Huntress series written in Bones’s point of view right before he meets Cat. Marie Laveau also has a cameo, and you learn why Bones was banned from New Orleans for years, as he later mentioned to Cat in Destined For An Early Grave. This story was inspired by my going on ghost tour in New Orleans and learning about the infamous LaLaurie house – and what took place there. Originally appeared in the UNBOUND anthology.

Description: In New Orleans, a pair of undead serial killers are about to turn Mardi Gras into a horror show—unless the immortal hitman Bones can hunt them down first.

Order at:   Downpour.com,  Ambling BooksAudiobooks.com

 

HNA audioHappily Never After. This paranormal romance takes place after the events in Halfway to the Grave and before One Foot in the Grave. Bones has a brief cameo, but the story revolves around new characters. I’ve called this story my homage to Goodfellas and Love At First Bite, if you can imagine those two plotlines meshing *wink*. It was also inspired by my favorite Italian restaurant, Café Martarano, whose meatballs are to die for.

Description: Isabella Spaga is about to reluctantly walk down the aisle with Mr. Dangerously Wrong…but not if dashing vampire Chance has anything to say about it. As a favor to Bones, Chance has come to derail this wedding of beauty to the beast. Now if only he can keep his hands off the bride. Originally appeared in the WEDDINGS FROM HELL anthology.

Order at Downpour.com,  Ambling BooksAudiobooks.com

DTP audio

Devil To Pay. This paranormal romance takes place after the events in At Grave’s End and before Destined For An Early Grave. Bones, Cat and Mencheres appear as side characters, but the story revolves around new characters. It was inspired by a dream I had where somehow, I knew I’d been possessed by a demon. Scared me into waking up in a cold sweat! Originally appeared in the FOUR DUKES AND A DEVIL anthology.

Description: Blake Turner had it all—until a demon decided to take residence in his body. Plagued with constant black outs and a trail of dead bodies in his wake, Blake thinks vampire Elise is his best chance at ending the nightmare. It’s just too bad he’s fallen in love with the gorgeous vamp right before he has to die…

Order at:  Downoour.com,  Ambling BooksAudiobooks.com

And now, to celebrate the audio release of these novellas, a giveaway!

The Prizes:

10 winners will receive one digital download audio title from the Night Huntress series, winner’s choice which title.

1 winner will receive a grand prize containing digital download audio titles for the entire Night Huntress series plus digital audio downloads of the newly-released Night Huntress World novellas (Reckoning, Happily Never After and Devil To Pay.)

All winners will be chosen by Randomizer. Contest prizes are supplied by Harper Audio and Blackstone Audio (thanks, guys!). International entries are welcome. To enter, please follow the rules below:

1. Send an email to  jeanieneprizes AT gmail DOT com.  (obviously replace the “AT” with an “@” and the “DOT” with a “.” in your email.)

2. Make sure to include your name and the email address you want to be contacted at if you win, if it’s not the email you’re sending your entry from.

3. You can only enter ONCE. Duplicate entries will be deleted.

4. Due to adult content, you must be 18 years of age old or older, and/or you have the consent of your parent/guardian.

5. Contest starts now and ends June 30th at 11:59pm Est. Winners will be announced July 1st  on my blog.

 

Like I said in my prior post – wait, there’s more! :)

Tavia and I are also holding a live Twitter chat on July 1st from 8pm – 9pm EST. At the end of the chat, Tavia and I will each give away 10 more digital audio download titles from the Night Huntress series or the Night Prince series to ten new winners (winner’s choice which title). That’s a total of twenty winners between the two of us! To enter this giveaway, all you need to do is ask us a question during our Twitter chat with the hashtag #AudioChat. My Twitter name is @Jeaniene_Frost and Tavia’s is @Taviagilbert. Your question can be about audio books, written books, the process of writing or recording, why you should try audio books if you haven’t already, or whatever else you’d like to know. Remember, only participants in the chat will be eligible to win, so don’t be shy! At the end of the chat, the twenty winners will be randomly chosen from among those who participated.

Thanks and good luck, everyone!

ALA, audio snippet, Twitter chat and upcoming giveaway

Hi everyone, hope your weekend is treating you well so far! First up, a new appearance. If you’re attending the ALA (American Library Association) conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV next week, guess what? So am I :). You can find me here:

ALA imageSaturday, June 28th

8:30am-10:00am “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Panel, Room S219. A panel of popular romance writers will discuss their books and will sign copies following the program. Panelists: Ryan Winfield (Jane’s Harmony), Deborah Coonts (Lucky Bastard), Shelley Coriell (The Buried), Jeaniene Frost (The Beautiful Ashes) and Penelope Douglas (Rival)Moderated by Barbara Hoffert, editor of Library Journal’s Prepub Alert.

11:00 – 12:00pm Signing Arcs of The Beautiful Ashes. Harlequin booth # 363.

 

NALitParty6_25Not able to attend ALA but still want to live chat with me? Head over to Twitter on June 25th from 8pm-9pm Eastern time for the #NALitParty chat with Ann Aguirre (@MsAnnAguirre), Cora Carmack (@CoraCarmack), Chelsea Fine (@ChelseaFine), me (@Jeaniene_Frost), Jamie McGuire (@JamieMcGuire) and Monica Murphy (@MsMonicaMurphy). We’ll be talking about good books, bad boys and anything else you ask us *wink*. To follow the chat Wednesday night, just click the #NALitParty hastag on Twitter.

But wait, there’s more! Be sure to check back on my blog this Tuesday the 24thbecause I’ll be posting a really cool giveaway. I can’t tell you what I’ll be giving away yet, but there’s lots of it, so don’t miss out.

Want something free right now? Remember the scene I posted from The Beautiful Ashes a little while ago? My audio book narrator, the fabulous Tavia Gilbert , created an audio version of it, so to listen, just click the “play” button below.

If for some reason the play button above doesn’t work, here is the direct link: https://soundcloud.com/taviagilbert/the-beautiful-ashes-excerpt-by-jeaniene-frost-narrated-by-tavia-gilbert

Speaking of The Beautiful Ashes, I received two quotes from authors whose books I love, so I was doubly flattered and delighted:

“Jeaniene Frost brings her signature wit, sizzle and extraordinary imagination to this epic new series. I was addicted from page one.” #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout

“Jeaniene Frost is blessed with a creative soul.” #1 New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon

That’s all I’ve got for now. Enjoy and see some of you next week, either online or in person :).