Saturday, May 27, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 17



The dwarves didn’t stay to see what they’d dug up. Being more than happy to have been of assistance to Mor, especially after she gave them a few precious gems, they returned to their caverns far beneath the earth.

Jared and Daniel however had no intention of leaving Mor’s home anytime soon. Not only did they want to see the wand, they also had to help her decide exactly what to do to hide it again. Although she assured them that the nahual could not follow their signatures back to her home, they none the less wanted to be certain that was, in point of fact, true.

“He’s an unknown factor,” Jared pointed out to her, “with unknown powers that could prove to be stronger than yours.”

“I have my knights to defend me then,” she replied, patting his cheek.

He sighed deeply but took his argument no further for the time being. “Shall we open the box?” he asked instead.

She nodded and started out of the room, stopping just long enough to tell the men to follow her, indicating that Daniel should bring the box with him.

“There she goes again. When’s she going to realize I am not here to be her servant?”

“When hell freezes over,” Jared replied with a laughing whisper.

They followed Mor down a long tunnel that lead deeper into the mountain. At one point it split into three parts. She paused as if trying to decide which one she needed, explaining when asked that the room they were going to moved whenever the whim overtook it. “A safeguard of sorts against those who might be looking for me or for what it contains. Today we’re in luck, there are only three tunnels to contend with. There have been times when there are as many a six or seven and you do not want to make the mistake of following the wrong one.”

“You’re the only one who can sense which the right one is?” Daniel asked.

 “Yes,” she replied shortly as if that was a stupid question.

“Hey, was just asking,” he told her. “Hell, you could have set this up so Jared would be able to as well, all things considered.”

“She did offer to, back when we were married,” Jared said. “I declined. There’s a reason the room is so well concealed, and even I could be forced to reveal the secret under the right set of dire circumstances.”

Daniel shivered at the thought and nodded that he understood.

Friday, May 26, 2017

It's release day for 'Once Bitten, Twice Shy: A Romance'

Once Bitten, Twice Shy: A Romance
 
Troy Bishop, the owner of a local costume shop, has been single and alone since breaking up with his ex five years before. Other than his employees, his only friends are his dog, Aurel, and his cat, Duchess.

Mike Parish is terrified of dogs, having been bitten by one as a child. So when Troy introduces himself while walking Aurel past Mike's house one evening, Mike's response is less than enthusiastic. The next time that happens, Troy manages to convince Mike that Aurel is not the beast he thinks he is.

That's all it takes for the two men to become friends. As they do, they discover that each of them have been in, and ended, a disastrous relationship. Can they learn to trust their growing feelings for each other, or will the phrase "Once bitten, twice shy" prove to be true and keep them apart?

EXCERPT:

"Not happening. No way, no how."

"But--"

"No! The last time you tried to set me up... Let's just say your taste in men sucks, Bel. I'm not looking for some muscle-bound, wannabe movie star with the brains of a gnat. Hell, I'm not looking period. Okay?"

Belinda sighed dramatically. "Okay, Troy. I think you're crazy, but it's your life."

"Exactly. Now what were we doing before you decided to play matchmaker...again?"

"Inventory," she grumbled, putting down her coffee cup and picking up the tablet she'd set on the counter. "You're not getting any younger, you know. You're going to be thirty-nine in two weeks."

Troy smiled ruefully. "That's right. Rub it in."

"Bel," Jake said, coming over to join them, "give him a break. Just because you've dedicated your life to making the perfect man"--he tapped his chest--"happy, doesn't mean he wants you to find one for him as well."

She rolled her eyes. "I may love you, but you're not perfect."

"You wound me to the core," Jake replied in mock dismay. "I'm practically perfect in..."

Belinda smacked his arm. "Do not even go there. Ms Poppins you aren't."

Jake smirked. "I was last year for Halloween. And you made the cutest chimney sweep."

Troy watched in amusement while the pair continued bantering as they walked back to where they'd been inventorying the men's period costumes.

He'd been telling Bel the truth when he'd said he wasn't looking for anyone. He'd been through one disastrous relationship that had ended five years ago. He had no intention of ever trying that again.
Not the disaster part, for sure. And not anything close to getting involved again. I'm doing just fine as I am. The shop takes up all my time and energy, and I like it that way.

With that thought in mind, he went back to what he'd been doing before a phone call, and Belinda, had interrupted him--doing his share of the stocktaking. He used to hate the boring but necessary chore when it had been done with a pad and pen. Now, since he'd taken the plunge and purchased three tablets, it was, if not fun, at least easier and faster.

By five o'clock they had finished inventorying the ground floor and were ready to call it quits for the day.

Belinda collapsed in one of the chairs behind the front counter. "Balcony tomorrow then back to what makes working here fun," she said, heaving a sigh of relief.

"Choosing my costume for Halloween?" Jake asked her.

She grinned wickedly. "Yeah. I was thinking maybe all leather and very little of that."

Jake shook his head adamantly. "Get that thought out of your head right now."

"But you'd look so sexy."

"Try for a sexy Gothic vampire with all the trimmings and you in a sheer nightgown as my willing victim."

"That would be a big 'no'. Sexy lady vampire and you as my willing victim."

Troy laughed. "You have two months to make up your minds and change them at least five times in the process. For now, let's get out of here."

Belinda eyed him thoughtfully. "I can see you in--"

"Nothing," Troy told her. "Or rather, not in costume. You know how I feel about that."

"Yeah and it's weird. Why own a costume shop if you don't want to dress in them?"

"Because, Bel, I'm a watcher, not a wearer."

"Does that make you a voyeur?" Jake asked with a grin.

"I guess you could say that, when it comes to costumes," Troy agreed.

"And life," Belinda muttered as she got up. "Someday..."

"Persistent little devil, aren't you?"

"Devils! That's it. We'll be sexy devils," Belinda said, linking her arm with Jake's as they headed toward the door.

Jake looked back over his shoulder at Troy, winking. "It didn't even take her five minutes to change her mind."

"Oh, shush. They could be sweet costumes."

Troy could still hear the pair debating costume choices as he followed them out of the shop after setting the alarm. When Belinda suggested Samson and Delilah, Troy chuckled. At five-ten and maybe one-fifty soaking wet, Jake was far from Samson material. Of course, she probably sees him as exactly that. Love can be very blind. "Very," he muttered, locking the door before heading to where he'd parked his car.
 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 16



Daniel put one foot against the warehouse wall and leaned back as he watched the two dwarves set to work. It had taken Mor only a few hours to find them and convince them to help. A father and son, the elder one was all growls and muttered expletives while the younger one was full of piss and vinegar—exactly what Daniel had expected. They also knew precisely what they were doing and were through the concrete floor to the earth beneath it quickly and relatively quietly.

“How much further down would ye have us go?” The elder one asked as he looked up at Mor, stroking his beard, which was so long that it was tied around his waist to keep it from dragging on the ground.

Holding up a hand for silence she concentrated. “If I am correct I would say another five feet. And please be careful, I don’t know what type of box or container is holding it.”

“Lass, we are always careful, especially when it comes to unearthing magic items.”

Jared refrained from laughing when the dwarf called Mor a lass. He knew for a fact that she had been alive even longer than Daniel and that was saying something. On the other hand from a dwarf’s perspective, he supposed, she would still be considered young.

“Yes,” Mor whispered reverently some twenty minutes later when the younger dwarf clambered out of the hole and handed her a plain wooden box about as long as he was tall. She stared at it pensively before turning to Jared and Daniel. “I think it would be wise to take this back to my home before opening it. Despite the fact that whoever put it to rest here may have thought that the spells that kept it concealed were enough, and while I don’t sense any traps on it, one can never be too careful.”

Jared was about to reply when he felt an approaching presence. Grabbing Daniel’s hand he pulled him across the room to where Mor and the dwarves were standing. “We should leave immediately.”

Everyone else felt what he had seconds later. With a whispered word from Mor they vanished even as the door to the warehouse opened.

A tall, willowy male stood outlined by the blazing sun. He uttered a vivid curse when he realized he’d arrived seconds too late. With mind and magic he tried to follow their signatures to their destination and failed. Another curse left his lips, followed by a tightly spoken whisper. “I may not know who you are yet, or where you have gone, but I do know what you look like sorceress, you and your companions. Best you hide well, wherever you have gone, for if you reappear I will find you.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Two great reviews for 'You Can Never Walk Away'!


Needless to say, I'm stoked. *G*




And

Smoke and Mirrors - 15



“How long will it take to contact your dwarf friends, Mor,” Jared asked.

“Hopefully not more than a day.”

“Meanwhile our not so friendly nahual could also find this building, since you were able to.”

Mor paced as she considered that. “Somehow I don’t think so. All of this was too fortuitous, the thunder, the rain at exactly the right time and place. We have a friend in high places I’d be willing to bet.”

“Or low places, depending,” Daniel muttered under his breath.

“Whichever, Daniel, but she’s correct in that it seems someone wants us to get the wand, perhaps before the nahual does. And if that’s the case, it means he must be close. Mor, we need your dwarf friends here as fast as possible.”

She nodded. “I’ll need to go back home, but first I’m going to put up a warning spell to let me know if anyone enters the building, and I’ll leave a couple of distractions to keep them busy until we can get back here.”

“What sort of distractions?” Daniel asked; interested in what she had in mind.

“Oh I was thinking a couple of Krallinar and perhaps a Misty Horror as long as it behaves and doesn’t try to feed on the Krallinars’ life energy. That would sort of defeat their purpose as protectors.”

Jared lifted an eyebrow. “You have some interesting, umm, friends?”
  
“Let’s just say I have the powers to call up some creatures that are willing to do my bidding, as long as I repay them. And before you ask, the payment is their freedom for a year and a day in places where they’ll be able to do as they wish without harming others needlessly.”

“I can think of a couple of war zones you can send them to,” Jared growled.

Mor smiled. “Me too, but I’m talking about on the planes they come from. I wouldn’t let any of them loose here. The human race wouldn’t survive.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that, Mor, but yeah, on another plane works because I for one do not want to have to go hunting them here if they got totally out of control.” Daniel said fervently. “I hate to admit it but there are some Supes I’m not big on facing down if I can help it.”

She nodded before suggesting that they leave the building so that she could set things up. A few minutes later she joined them on the sidewalk, which was now as dry as if there had never been a rainstorm. Looking up at the sky she gave a brief, heartfelt thanks to whatever power had guided them, and then told Jared and Daniel it was time to get her home.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 14



Mor and the two men spent the better part of three hours cruising the ten blocks that she had indicated were the very general area where Circe’s wand was hidden. She was tense from the strain of trying to pin-point its location and frustrated by the fact that she was no closer to finding it than she had been a week earlier when she’d begun her quest.

“It’s here, I can feel it,” she hissed, “So close and yet so vague if that makes sense.”

“Very much so,” Jared assured her. “Like an itch you can’t reach to scratch.”

“Exactly.” She sighed, bending and stretching to release her tension. “Have you sensed this nahual at all?”

“Not so far,” Daniel told her. “There are plenty of Supes in the area but if he’s here he’s blocking very well, which is no surprise.”

A clap of thunder broke into their conversation and suddenly the skies opened up. Within seconds the trio was drenched as rain poured down.

“Okay, which damned god doesn’t want us out here,” Daniel growled as they huddled in the doorway of one of the warehouses.

Mor shushed him by dint of putting her hand over his mouth, her eyes wide with shock. “Whichever one it was they just put us where we need to be.”

“Here?” Jared’s look said she had to be kidding.

“Here.” Turning, she tested the door handle and then muttered a small spell. The door swung open on creaking hinges.

The room they entered was cavernous and to a human it would have seemed pitch black. The three Supes however had no problem seeing it in its entirety.

“It’s here, somewhere,” Mor said with conviction, closing her eyes to concentrate.

“Strange place to hide it,” Daniel muttered.

Jared disagreed. “This wasn’t always a warehouse. I’d suspect that the remnants of the original building, or buildings given how large this is, may be somewhere below us. We just have to find out what they were.”

As the two men talked Mor was pacing blindly, her hands outstretched in front of her. Suddenly, like a dowsing stick, they dropped down. “Here,” she said softly. “The wand is below us here.”

Daniel stomped his foot on the floor. “Through who knows how many feet of concrete and dirt. Somehow I doubt that the building owners will let us bring in jackhammers to dig for it.”

“Probably not, but what they don’t know about won’t hurt them,” Mor said slyly. “And I happen to be friends with a pair of dwarves who owe me a favor. I just have to find them.”

Guardian Angels – Protection (14)

"Ready to go?" Cass asked, when Kip let her into the apartment the next morning.

"We are, or more, we will be once someone"—Kip looked at Jamie who was not quite dressed—"decides which shirt to wear."

"It's Mack's fault," Jamie protested. "He said the blue one went better with my eyes but I want to wear the red one."

Cass chuckled. "Now you're a fashion consultant, Mack?"

"Sue me. I make one off-hand suggestion and now he's on the horns of a dilemma."

"Jamie," Kip said firmly, "put on the red one and let's get moving."

Jamie grinned at Mack. "See," he said before dashing into his bedroom. He came out a minute later, in the blue shirt. When Kip cocked an eyebrow, Jamie told him, "I'll wear the red one tomorrow."

"You're an evil influence," Kip muttered to Mack, getting a laugh in return.

Mack went around the apartment to make certain all the windows were closed and locked then waited once everyone was in the hallway while Kip pulled the door closed and engaged the deadbolt. When they were outside, he headed to his car, promising he'd be back again that evening.

"We'll take your car today," Cass said to Kip.

"You're just trying to save on gas money," Kip teased, as they walked around to corner to the lot.

"That too," she agreed with a laugh, "but it's also easier."

"To keep him safe?" Jamie asked seriously, while he waited for Kip to unlock the car.

"Exactly."

"Like my…" Jamie quickly closed his mouth, climbing into the back seat and buckling up.

Cass got into the passenger seat then turned to look at him. "Like your what?"

"I'm not supposed to talk about him," Jamie murmured.

Cass frowned, glancing at Kip as he started the car and pulled out of the lot. "Who's he talking about? Was there some stranger around?"

Kip shook his head. "Only the pizza delivery guy and trust me, Mack made certain it was him before I could let him into the building, to say the least of the apartment. Jamie thinks he saw an angel in his room last night."

"Mack searched the place, I hope," Cass said tightly.

"Of course. I'll… tell you about it later."

Cass nodded, turning back to Jamie. "So what are your plans for the day?"

"Playing."

"Oh, that must be nice." She grinned at him. "Wish I could do that all day."

"Do you know how to?" he asked seriously. "I thought grownups just worked all day."

"We do, or go to school, like your dad."

"You go to school too?"

"Nope. I'm done with that, so now I just work."

Jamie frowned. "I don't think I want to be a grownup then."

She chuckled. "I don't blame you. There are times when I'd love to be a kid again."

"Me too," Kip agreed, turning the corner onto Emily's street.

A few minutes later, he and Cass were back in the car after saying goodbye to Jamie, who was at that point more interested in what his cousins were doing than in the adults.

"So, what happened last night?" Cass asked.

"Jamie said he saw an angel, his guardian angel. Mack thinks, and I agree, that its just Jamie's way of making himself feel safe. I'm going to talk to him tonight about that."

"You know," Cass replied, "there are stories about how some kids really can see their guardian angel."

"Don't tell me you believe in those fairytales."

"No," she replied, laughing. "Still… a lot of people do."

"The same ones who think aliens have invaded or vampires are their next door neighbors," Kip said scathingly.

"You mean vampires don't walk among us?" Cass looked at him in mock dismay.

Kip laughed. "If they do, I've never met one and I think I'd rather not."

"I vant to suck your blood."

"That was awful."

"I beg your pardon. I thought it was a good Bela Lugosi imitation."

Kip glanced over at her. "Bad imitation, and you look nothing like Lugosi. You're too…" He quickly returned his concentration to his driving.

"I'm too what?"

"Cute," Kip muttered.

"Oh. Well." Cass seemed flustered and quickly changed the subject, asking what she'd be learning today about fire investigation.

Kip told her, and then she found out firsthand while she accompanied him to his classes. Afterwards, she sat at the back of a high school classroom while Kip tutored two students in science.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 13



“I guess you haven’t seen much of Mor,” Daniel said softly while he and Jared changed clothes to something that would work if they decided to check out the club.

“Just what makes you draw that conclusion?” Jared kept his voice low too, as Mor was still in the apartment.

“She didn’t know we can link for one thing, and she still harbors hopes of getting you back again for another.”

“Vain hopes,” Jared replied as he watched Daniel standing at the closet trying to decide which shirt to wear. He never tired of feasting his eyes on his partner’s lean, muscular body that was so at odds with his boyish features. Anyone who didn’t know Daniel would probably think he was a young, probably spoiled, soft, dilettante and a fan of the retro look from the style of his hair. In fact he was just the opposite in all ways except for the last.

Daniel turned to smile at Jared. “Damned straight, because you’re mine now Bat Man and I’m not about to share you with anyone.”

Jared’s eyebrows rose in amusement. “Now when did I ask you to?”

“I know you,” Daniel said softly as he paced across to stand in front of his partner. “I know I’m the only man in your life and that I have been since we met.
But I also know you still harbor some small feelings for Mor, and,” he wrapped his arms around Jared’s waist, pulling him close, “I have a very strong sense that you’ve entertained thoughts about what it would be like to take her to our bed, with me there, too.”

Jared chewed his lip before nodding slowly. “Just…imaginings, nothing more.”

“Well un-imagine them because it is so not happening. I won’t share you with anyone, especially not her.”

“You’re possessive streak is showing again.”

“Which should be no surprise to you whatsoever,” Daniel growled while cupping the back of Jared’s head with one hand. “I maybe young, relatively speaking, but I know what I want, what I wanted from the moment I saw you, and that was you.”

Jared stared into Daniel’s eyes, seeing the truth in his words as he had so many times before. “Just as I wanted you on first sight, my wonderful jaguar.”

The kiss they shared then could have turned searing, which would have had them stripping and ending up on the bed, embroiled in a wild sexual coupling. But they were both well aware that Mor was waiting for them just down the hall.

They pulled apart slowly. Jared took one more quick taste of Daniel’s mouth and then swatted his ass. “Choose a damned shirt would you please.”

With a laugh Daniel returned to the closet and took out the first one his hand fell on, donning it quickly. “Let’s go face her majesty and get this show on the road.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 12

Jared and the others were bent over a map spread out on the dining room table at the apartment. “This is as close as you can pinpoint it?” he asked.

“I’m afraid so.” Mor’s long fingernail traced a circle that encompassed ten city blocks.

Daniel crossed to the computer as he said, “Well it’s better than we had before, Jared. Let me bring up the satellite maps so we have a better idea of what buildings are there.”

“Looks like it’s mostly warehouses from the size and shapes of them,” Jared muttered as he went to stand behind Daniel.

“Nope, not all of them.” Mor pointed to one that encompassed most of a block. “I visited this place during my initial search of the area. It’s a new club, mainly for Supes, though they let humans in too sometimes, if they’re with a Supe or aware of them.”

“You’ve been there? You go girl,” Daniel chuckled. “I’ve heard of it, of course, but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.”

“It’s…interesting,” Mor told them. “They’ve broken the building up into a great many different spaces to accommodate everyone’s proclivities; for those who like the loud vibrant club scene atmosphere, to those who have more, shall we say, specialized tastes.”

“Meaning sexual or otherwise?” Jared frowned as he thought about that.

“Both. If you were hungry you could get fed by willing minions. If Daniel was into rough sex his needs would be met. There’s a room for the wee folk so they don’t get trampled if they want to be in their own form, heavily guarded to stop any troubles that might ensue.”

“And the large folk?”

“Have part of the basement area. Those trolls and gargoyles can really rock when they put their minds to it. Pardon the pun.”

Daniel rolled his eyes as he printed out the maps they’d need.

“You do realize that this club probably isn’t where the wand is. Too many Supes might feel it’s presence if they’re sensitive enough,” Jared commented.

Mor shook her head. “I can barely feel it and I’m attuned to such things. It’s well concealed, and warded I think. That’s not to say you aren’t correct in your assumption, but we shouldn’t bypass the club just because of it.”

“First things first. We’ll walk the area in question while you probe for the wand and Daniel and I link to see if we feel the nahual anywhere close.”

“You can do that?” Mor looked at him in surprise.

“Yes. That’s what makes us such a good team of enforcers, very little gets past us when we put our minds to it.”

“Literally and figuratively,” Daniel added, chuckling. “We might even be able to feed you some energy if you find yourself starting to fade from the pressure of an intense search.”

“Thank you,” Mor replied sincerely although the smile she gave them was centered much more on Jared than Daniel. “That might help.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 11



“Enough!” Jared glared at the pair. “Mor, I cared for you once but now I consider you a dear friend and nothing more.  After a hundred years you should realize that.”

“A mere few months in the grand scheme of our lives,” she retorted.

“Perhaps, but it is what it is. Daniel and I are together and I plan on that remaining so.” Jared squeezed her hand but his eyes were on his partner.

“I do as well,” Daniel replied softly.

“Now that that’s settled,” Jared said with smile for Daniel, “let’s get back to the business at hand. Mor can you narrow down the area where the wand is hidden, at least to within a few city blocks?”

“I can and I have.”

“Now if we could only do that for the nahual,” Daniel said.

Mor nodded. “If he is within close proximity I will know, but that is the best I can do for you.”

“It stands to reason that, if he’s indeed looking for the wand, he has probably zoned in on the same general area as you have, Mor. So that may be our best bet for finding him.” Jared stood with a glance at the others. “So I suggest that we go there now. That is, of course, if you’re willing to join with us in the hunt, Mor.”

“Now how could I pass up an offer to spend time with you, Jared?”

Daniel bit back his immediate reaction to her words and smiled instead. “I’m sure both of us will enjoy the company of a wise and beautiful woman.”

Mor laughed. “How hard did you have to bite your tongue to keep from saying what you really felt my cute jaguar?”

“Fairly hard, but I managed it,” Daniel replied with a grin. He held out his hand. “Friends for now?”

After a moment’s hesitation she took it. “Friends…for now.”

“Now that that’s settled,” Jared said, “do you need anything from here before we leave, Mor?”

She touched the chain around her neck as if to make certain it was still there and then shook her head.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guardian Angels – Protection (13)



Not too much later, Kip tucked Jamie in after they made it through two chapters in the book. "Love you," he said, "and sleep well."

"Love you too," Jamie said drowsily, closing his eyes.

However, as soon as Kip left, Jamie sat up. The only light came through the window but it was enough for him to make out the furniture. He stared hard at where he'd seen the angel, barely whispering, "Are you still here?"

He sighed when there was no reply. "I guess you left. I wanted… If you can hear me, please watch over my dad. Don't let the bad guy hurt him."

Lying back down again, he curled up under the covers.

There was a tiny sound, no louder than a mouse. Opening his eyes, he peered around. "You came back."

"I did," Hal said softly. "Only for a minute, so I could tell you we're watching over you and your dad. But you mustn't tell him I said so or tell him you saw me again." He smiled. "It's our secret. Okay?"

"Okay," Jamie whispered.

"But you can talk to your dad about how you feel about what's happening. He'll understand, and he'll do his best to make you feel better."

"I… guess. I… okay."

"Good boy. Now go to sleep."

"Night, Angel. Thank you."

"Good night, Jamie. Sweet dreams."

"Why did you do that?" Dave asked.

"So he'll stop worrying. He was, you know, even though he hasn't told his father."

"You read his mind?"

Hal nodded. "I don't think a kid that age can be as—I'm not sure blasé is the right word, but you know what I mean—about what's happening as he was acting. So I checked. He's scared, which isn't surprising. I figured if I told him we were here, it might help."

"Too bad we can't do that with everyone."

"Do you think Kip would believe you if you suddenly appeared to him?"

Dave chuckled softly. "Probably no more than I did, the first time I really saw you."

"Exactly. So we'll both do our best to keep our charges safe and pray we're more successful than I was with you."

Dave looked as if he was going to say something in reply. Then, shaking his head, he hugged Hal tightly instead, murmuring, "That we will."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

'Galen's Destiny' has arrived!

Galen's Destiny
 
What would you do if you turned eighteen, with your whole life ahead of you, only to find out you were a dhampir, destined to spend your nights hunting vampires? Would you accept your fate, or walk away? Galen faces that decision, and makes the right choice.

By the time he's twenty-five, he's an expert at what he does. Then fate intervenes when a powerful elf emerges who wants to rule the world. Will Galen, with the help of his father Rénald, a loup garou named Marc, and two elves, Ian and Ewan, be able to foil the rogue elf's plan? And, in the process, can Galen find true love ... without dying before that happens?

EXCERPT:
    Galen got lucky and found a parking space only two blocks from the cathedral. As he walked toward it, he found he was scanning the area for anyone who seemed -- strange. "Of course half the people who hang around here at this time of night are strange," he said under his breath.

    When the cathedral came into view, he moved quickly across Colfax, wondering if Luc was there -- or if he really would show. Luc was -- standing by the front steps -- and Galen joined him.

    Without preamble, as he began to walk east up Colfax, Luc said, "This is a prime hunting ground for them, given the fact dealers, prostitutes and the homeless hang around the area."

    "And hello to you, too," Galen replied.

    Luc glanced at him momentarily, smiling slightly. "Sorry. When I'm on the hunt I tend to focus on what I'm doing."

    For the next half hour or so, Luc led the way up and down various alleys between Colfax and Sixteenth. Galen realized he was seeing a part of the city he didn't know existed -- all dark squalor and depravity. He stayed close to Luc while they walked past people buying, selling, and using drugs. Too often, in Galen's opinion, they came upon johns being serviced kids barely into their teens. In no case did they pay Galen and Luc the least bit of attention.

    It was getting late, and Galen was about to tell Luc he'd had it with his tour of the circles of hell, when Luc turned down another alley and came to a halt. He pointed, putting a finger to his lips to caution Galen to be silent.

    Ahead of them, halfway down the alley, Galen saw a dark shape. For a second it vanished, only to reappear farther down the alley by a pair of what Galen though were homeless people, huddled by a dumpster. The figure stood, looking down at the pair, then grabbed one of them, hauling him to his feet. There was a muffled cry of surprise before the figure -- Galen now saw it was a man -- took shape in the darkness of the alley. The man gripped his victim's chin, forcing his head back.

    Seconds later, Luc was beside them, holding, much to Galen's shock, a short sword that glimmered in the dim light from the street. With one swift movement, Luc swung the sword, separating the attacker's head from his body. Instantly the attacker disintegrated. As Galen watched, Luc said something to the two homeless people, locking his gaze on each one as he spoke.

    "Now do you believe?" Luc said, appearing at Galen's side again.

    "I ..." was all Galen could say while he tried to assimilate what had happened.

    "One vampire bites the dust -- and becomes dust," Luc told him with a dry smile.

    "They couldn't see him until it was too late?" Galen asked.

    "Nope. No one but the two of us knew he was there."

    "That's ... I'm having a hard time believing ..."

    "That what you saw really happened?"

    "Yeah. Where the hell did the sword come from? You didn't have it a minute ago."

    "This?" Luc reached over his shoulder. When he brought his hand back into view he was holding his sword. "It's invisible, as is the sheath, until I need it."

    "Nice trick." Galen held out his hand and Luc gave him the sword. "It's definitely real enough."

    "What? You thought it was a figment of your imagination?"

    "Honestly, if I wasn't holding it, and hadn't seen you decapitate the vampire and him turn to dust, I'd think I was high on some of the drugs they sell around here. Hell, maybe I am."

    "No, Galen, this is all real. Vampires are real. And so are we -- you and I."

    "Fearless vampire hunters?" Galen's shivered. "This is… How did I…?"

    "Are you ready to leave?" Luc asked.

    "Unless you're planning on finding more of them, hell yes."

    "It's not like the city is teeming with them. Or at least not with ones who are killers," Luc told him as they left the alley. "In this day and age, most vampires are baggers."

    "Are what?" Galen asked, still trying to come to grips with the fact he now believed everything Luc had told him.

    "They get their blood in bags, from blood banks set up specifically for them. Oh, don't go looking for one. They don't have signs over the doors. But they do exist."

    "I suppose it's a good thing they do." Galen shuddered. "How the hell am I going to tell Mom?"

    "I would suggest you don't," Luc told him dryly.

    "Yeah. She might freak."

    "You think?"

    "So now what?"

    "Now, you go home. Tomorrow, we'll get together again and I'll take you to meet my mentor."

 

Smoke and Mirrors - 10



Mor waggled a finger at Daniel. “I could make you do as bidden.”

“Like hell. You try any of your little magic games and you’ll have one very pissed off jaguar on you hands.”

“Oh will I?” She began to murmur an incantation.

“Stop, both of you,” Jared ordered. The tone of his voice brooked no argument and both Mor and Daniel went quiet. “Now Mor what is this article you’re looking for?”

“The Wand of Circe.” She smiled at the look of shock on Jared’s face. “It is real, it does exist, and it is somewhere in the city at the moment. I can feel it’s presence but someone or something is blocking me from its exact location.”

Jared shot a glance at Daniel, who nodded slightly. Seeing the look that passed between them Mor asked them to explain.

“There is a nahual in the city as well. With what you just told us, the chances are that either he has the wand or is also searching for it,” Jared told her.

“If he had found I doubt he’d still be in the city,” Daniel pointed out.

“You might be correct. So we’ll work on the assumption that he’s also searching for it.”

Mor looked between the two men. “Who is this nahual?”

“So far we have no idea,” Jared told her. “Neither does the Supe Council which is why they assigned us to find him. And that is why we were looking for you in the first place, Mor.”

“And here I thought it might be because you were going to get rid of your pet jaguar and come back to me. After all he did steal you from me to begin with.”

“I couldn’t steal something that you didn’t own in the first place,” Daniel said with a sly grin.

“No I didn’t ‘own’ him. For two hundred years he was with me willingly,” she shot back, “until you came along and seduced him.”

Daniel smiled with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “If that’s what you want to believe go for it but I think you know better.”

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 9



Smoke and Mirrors - 9

“All right I stand corrected; this is hardly a cave in the normal sense of the word.” Daniel looked around in appreciation. Other than the fact that there were no windows, it could have been a luxury apartment in a high-rise condo building. Thick carpets covered the stone floors and tapestries in rich colors hung on the walls. The furniture was an eclectic mix of antique and modern that worked well together despite the disparity.

“I hope it meets with your approval,” Mor said sarcastically as she stepped through one of the several arches carved into one wall. She turned to Jared and her look of displeasure turned into one of modified delight. “To what do I owe this visit my dear?”

Daniel bristled at her words but kept his peace, for the moment at least. However when Mor stroked Jared’s cheek with too much familiarity, Daniel quickly moved closer to his partner.

“We’re here for two reasons actually,” Jared replied, stepping a pace back from her and closer to Daniel. “Have you been to your house in the city recently?”

Mor scowled, either from his moving away, because of his question, or both. “I have,” she replied tersely.

“Do you know who did that?”

“No, and I have no idea what they would have been searching for.” She stalked gracefully to one of the sofas, her white hair flowing behind her in a striking contrast to her mahogany skin.

“I was told you were looking for a new antique of some kind. Did you find it, or could someone have thought you did?”

“Damn, Evan never could keep his mouth closed,” she muttered in disgust. “No, I haven’t found it yet, and it’s not really an antique in the usual sense of the word.” Mor patted the sofa beside her and after a moment’s hesitation Jared sat.

“Daniel my dear,” Mor said with saccharine sweetness, “why don’t you go through there,” she pointed to one of the arches, “and follow the hall to the kitchen. I have coffee brewing and there are goodies in a pastry box on the counter that only need putting on a plate.”

“Who died and put you in charge of me?” he growled, crossing his arms over his chest rebelliously.

Jared leaned back watching the two of them with open amusement.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 8



A quick search of the house told them no room had been left untouched. They found the note that Jared had put in her mailbox still there, along with what looked like at least two days worth of mail.

“Who told you she actually was back in the city?”

“Evan. Apparently he saw her at a restaurant. They talked for a few minutes he said, about antiques and some item she was after, and then they went their separate ways."

“I wonder if she found it and that’s why this place was tossed. Given the places that were searched it probably isn’t too small.”

“If she had it here she would have put it in the safe, not behind the books or under the mattress,” Jared pointed out.

“But whoever was searching might not have known that. And it was humans, not Supes.”

“Yes, hired help probably, as a Supe would have left traces that she would pick up on.”

“So did the humans, and if this was done in the last few hours I can track them.”

“Tonight, Daniel. I don’t think walking down the street in jag form is going to go over too well during the day, even if you’re on a leash.”

“Yeah I know.” Daniel sniffed the air and then dropped down on one knee to sniff the floor by the front door. Shaking his head he went to the back of the house and sniffed again and paced from window to window. “They were transported in so that shoots that idea.”

“That being the case, it might have been by someone Mor knew well enough that they’ve visited her here. Where the hell is the woman?”

Daniel shrugged slightly. “I’m beginning to wonder if something’s happened to her.” 

“That’s what I’m afraid of, too. Either that or she’s seen this,” Jared flung out an arm to encompass the mess in the living room, “and is hunting them. Or she’s gone to ground.”

“Seems to me the next step, then, is to go pay a visit to her cave.”

Jared smiled slightly. “It’s hardly a cave even if it is deep under the mountain.”

“Dark elves live in dark caves, at least in my book.”

“Whatever, as the teens are wont to say, however I agree, we should check there next.”

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 7



“Haven’t seen her Jared, sorry.” The clerk at the front counter of Mordollwen’s antique store frowned. “As a matter of fact she hasn’t even checked in, in the last couple of days, which is not like her.”

“Probably hanging around the local sex shops terrorizing the under two-hundred set by showing them what happens to naughty little boys,” Daniel muttered.

“Shush, she’s not that bad, just a bit…over-sexed at times.”

“A bit?” Daniel shook his head but kept quiet for now.

“If you do hear from her please tell her to get in contact with me,” Jared said to the clerk. “It’s of vital importance that she does. If the damned woman had a phone this would be much easier.”

The clerk nodded in commiseration but refrained from commenting as a customer came up to the counter, asking to see one of the dolls locked in a display case across the main room.

“So where to next, Jared?”

“I suppose back to her house again. At least we’ll know if she got the note I left.”

“We’re breaking in?” Daniel’s face lit up at that thought.

“Easy there. We’re not technically doing a break-in, just a drop in,” —Jared put his arm around Daniel’s waist— “literally.” As he finished the sentence they landed in the living room of Mordollwen’s house.

“Okay,” Daniel said as he looked around. “Either she’s a lousy housekeeper or someone’s been looking for something."

Jared had to agree. Every drawer in the large desk on one wall had been pulled out, the contents emptied onto the floor, the pillows on the two sofas and the chairs were standing on their edges and it was obvious that someone had checked behind the books although they’d been left on the shelves, not tossed onto the floor as well.

“We’d better check the rest of the house,” Jared said angrily.

“She’s not here, dead or alive,” Daniel told him after sniffing the air. He knew Jared was as aware of that as he was, but felt the need to say it anyway.