SWEPT 2016 Paranormal Romance Guild Awards

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Three of my books were nominated for Paranormal Romance Novel of the year:

Falcon FIRST PLACE

Journey Man SECOND PLACE

Carnal

 

Three of my series were nominated for Best Paranormal Romance Series:

KNIGHTS of BLACK SWAN FIRST PLACE

KBS NEXT GENERATION SECOND PLACE

EXILED

Sending out a blessing to every one of you who took the time to cast a vote! May that gesture come back to you quickly and be joyfully multiplied.

Working harder than ever to earn this recognition. – Victoria

New TEEN series coming February 2017

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AMAZON http://amzn.to/2hKBhAt

“LOVED IT. I love mythology, but not as much as I loved this book. It’s different than any book I’ve ever read.” – Ethan
  •  A stunning new teen/young adult series like nothing else.


When it came to the attention of the old ones that their creations, the Earth gods, had been playing games at the expense of humankind for millennia, they put a stop to it. But the rebellious gods were far too addicted to their games to give them up. After several summit meetings, they voted to use their own children as players and locate the playing field in the most treacherous environment in the known universe… high school.

To make it even more interesting, they would strip their children of their memories and withhold the rules of the game. Like the other players, sixteen year old Ever thinks she’s an ordinary kid until she transfers to R. Caine. When mystery and mystic collide, she’d better wake up to her powers fast.
SUITABLE FOR MOST TEEN and YOUNG ADULT READERS.

EXCERPT…

My name is Ever Moore.

I know. It makes me wince every time I say it. When I’m eighteen, I plan to have it legally changed to something that doesn’t make people laugh. But right now I’m stuck.

My dad thinks puns are the highest form of humor. He calls it ‘word play’. That’s right. I’m the spawn of nerds. My dad creates video games. My mother is an ethics professor at UCLA who thinks the battle between good and evil begins at home.

If you want to know just how weird it can get at the Thanksgiving table, I can go one better. My grandfather was a big deal rock star in the seventies. You wouldn’t know the name of the band. So there’s no point in name dropping. After a visit, he exits with a two-finger peace salute like all the other well-adjusted hippie grandparents, but he doesn’t say, “Peace.”

He says, “Rock steady.”

Ugh!

My family is big on manners. They’re too strict to let me say what I think, especially about Buzz’s love life. My grandfather doesn’t want to be called Grandpa or Grandad or Gramps or anything close to normal. Oh no. He wants to be called ‘Buzz’. I have no idea why. That is not his name.

Anyway, the best protest I can mount is rolling my eyes. I keep trying to get his attention and roll my eyes back further into my head when he does the ‘rock steady’ thing, but he will not be deterred.

Anyway I was leading a completely typical and deliciously angsty teenage life in Austin, Texas when my parents were suddenly offered jobs in the LA area at the same time. It was weird, but weird is part of my normal. Always has been.

Since my grandad, the rocker, still lives in LA with the latest girlfriend who’s barely legal – she’s two years older than I am – moving seemed like a good idea.

To them.

 

JAX EXCERPT…

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Excerpt from JAX, Next Generation Book 2

“So you’re the vampire?” Jax opened his eyes to look at the owner of the deep male voice and found a man standing in the aisle by the empty recliner next to him. He nodded. “Want some company?”

For a split second Jax debated whether to tell the truth or not. The truth was that he wanted to be alone to further contemplate the mystery of Drogheda Daley and how she’d managed to do what no other woman, out of a hundred thousand, had done. Namely, to cause Jax to think about her after what he affectionately called the ‘nip and tuck’ was over

He wanted to be alone, but didn’t want to be rude. So he motioned to the unoccupied seat.

The man introduced himself as he sat. “Blake Lavers. I’m attached to Edinburgh. Paranormal Investigation.” The guy looked a lot younger than he sounded. He had coal black hair and pale green eyes that were highlighted by long dark lashes. Jax supposed that women probably found him attractive. “I guess it doesn’t get much more paranormal than being a vampire. So I thought I’d kill some time investigating.”

Jax rewarded Blake’s attempt at humor with a half-smile. “So this is an interview?”

Blake laughed. “Interview with a vampire? Good one. Yeah. I guess. If you’re up for it. But no matter what you say, it’s not going to end with me asking you to turn me.”

“No? And why’s that?”

Blake narrowed his eyes. “Sly. I’m the one asking the questions.”

“And I’ll answer if it’s an exchange. Perhaps you know things that would either inform or entertain me.”

Blake seemed to consider that. “Tit for tat? Quid pro quo?”

“Whatever you want to call it.”

“I should probably invite my partner over.” He glanced toward the front of the plane where a young woman with mahogany hair and the youthful look of a cheerleader was staring unabashedly. “Megan.” Blake grinned. “But I won’t. Maybe if you tell me stuff she wants to know, she’ll finally break down and sleep with me.”

Jax looked from Blake to Megan and back again, wondering if they were as young as they looked or if he was feeling the effects of being ancient, even if he also looked no more than twenty four.

“I’m feeling generous. You go first.”

“Any regrets? Are you glad you were turned?”

“Wow,” Jax said in a rare use of the modern exclamation. “You go right for the kill. Maybe you should have been a journalist.”

Blake suddenly looked older as his smile widened slowly. “Making a mental note that you ducked a direct and immediate reply. You stalling, vampire?”

“I may have been remiss in not telling you my name. It’s Jaxon Kell. These days humans call me Jax. Not vampire.” Jax gave the P.I. a slow appraisal of his own. “You’re a chess player, aren’t you?”

“That’s two evasions and a delay still in progress. You can take a minute if you need to think about the answer.”

Jax grew serious and sighed. “Honestly. I’ve never been asked that question nor have I ever put it to myself. Probably because it’s entirely impractical. What would be the point of dwelling on what cannot be changed?”

“Practical or not, if you hadn’t made a good adjustment, you’d have a ready answer about regrets. Since you don’t, I’m going to put that in the ‘no’ column.”

Jax narrowed his eyes. “Are you a mental therapist?”

Blake burst out laughing then shook his head. “Hardly. Your turn.”

“Tell me about a case you’ve worked on that would make a good movie.”

Blake laughed again. “Well, Jax. I’ve got to admit that you’re not what I expected.”

“What did you expect?”

“Which question do you want answered this turn? Number one or number two?”

“Number two.”

“Hmmm. Ego gets ‘em every time. Maybe I’m a little Hollywood-influenced myself. I guess I expected you to be grim and brooding. Angsty. And older. I thought you’d be at least fifteen years older. I mean… Well, you know what I mean. Not in how old you actually are, but how old you look.”

“I understand.”

“When I asked the question about regret I would have thought you’d go on about what a nightmare life has been for you. I’m not getting the sense that your life has been a nightmare.”

Jax chuckled. “I hope this is not disappointing you, but I’ve had a pretty good life.”

“Yeah. That’s the vibe that’s coming through loud and clear.”

“Are you psychic?”

“A little bit. Everybody in P.I. is. A little bit. Your turn. What made you decide to, uh, come out of the shadows? That’s just an expression and not meant to cast aspersions. Can I just have a blanket ‘no offense’ waiver for the remainder of this exchange?”

Jax chuckled. Blake was the sort of person who’d be hard not to like. “Yes. You can have a ‘no offense’ waiver, but that was two questions. So it’s my turn.” Blake smiled and good naturedly shook his head at his own folly. “Answer the movie question.”

“Okay. A case that would make a good movie. Truthfully, they would all make good movies if they involved taking the camera behind doors with Megan. I’m thinking Megan undressed would be box office gold.” He raised his eyebrows for emphasis. “But I’m also thinking that’s not what you’re asking.” A quick glance at Jax confirmed that. “There was this guy who was convinced his wife was shtupping a ghost. They’d bought a Brownstone in Brooklyn to renovate.”

Jax felt his eyes glaze over for a second as he calculated the odds of talking to two humans in two days about renovating a Brownstone in Brooklyn and wondered if fate was screwing with him.

“That’s what we were doing in New York,” Blake continued. “The guy kept telling everybody that the place was haunted and that his wife had fallen for the spirit that came with the house. The wife, who was no longer enamored with the hubby, called Bellevue and the state got involved. Somebody on the inside… you know we’ve got people everywhere, somebody called Black Swan to report that a case involving something paranormal had been brought to their attention.

“To make a long story short. The poor devil was telling the truth. The wife was schtupping the ghost of a guy who’d been a previous owner.”

“How is that possible?”

Blake grinned and held up a finger in a way that was both dorky and utterly charming. “That can be your next question. Here’s mine. Again. What made you come out?”

“Symbiosis was upset and things had become unbalanced. If too many deadheads multiply too quickly, humans become extinct in a shockingly short time. Then where would I be? It was purely selfish. I need humans to survive. As a TV vampire once said, it’s like millions of Happy Meals walking around on two legs.”

“I see.” Blake blinked several times.

“You look like you weren’t expecting that answer.”

“I guess I wasn’t. Makes sense though.”

“Now you. How is it possible for a ghost to ‘shtup’ anybody?”

Once Blake recovered from being forced to think of himself as a ‘Happy Meal’ on two legs, he grinned. “You know the thing I love most about my job is that the unthinkable and improbable are the stuff of routine. When I come to work, I never know what’s going to happen. In this case, the spirit apparently becomes corporeal when sexually aroused. Afterward he fades into a form so diaphanous he’s virtually invisible.”

“Wow.” Even Jax couldn’t believe he’d used that word twice in one day. “Does that kind of thing happen often?”

Blake did a bobble head. “Let’s just say it’s not novel.”

“What happened?”

“With the marriage?”

“Yes.”

“I just gave you a pass on three questions. No more bob and weave. Tell me how you became a vampire.”

“I was a farmer near Yerk. That’s what it was called then. It’s known as York now.”

“England.”

“That’s right. I met an immortal in the town while running an errand for my father. She liked what she saw and turned me.”

“With your consent?”

Jax smiled. “What happened to the marriage?”

“They’re divorcing. The husband moved out. But the ghost told the wife where to find gold that he’d hidden behind a wall. It’s enough to make her rich by most standards of comparison. So she’s going to use it to buy the house herself.”

“I wish I could think of another word besides wow.”

Blake chuckled. “In this business, that word is my best friend. I’ve got to say that it’s kind of fun to wow a vampire with a ghost story.” Jax grinned and shook his head. “So. Consensual or not?”

Jax looked away momentarily and sighed. “That’s a hard question. My first reaction would be to say yes and no. The immortal who made me what I am asked if I wanted a carefree life, to be as rich as a king, to travel to exotic places and see marvelous things, to have eternal youth and have sexual power over women. I was a virgin and had never even been to a town the size of Yerk before. Naturally, I thought all that sounded great. Nothing was said about the downside.”

“And what is the downside?” Jax tipped his chin and gave Blake a slanted look. “Okay. Ask your question first.”

 

Blake kept Jax amused for most of the long flight overseas.

When the jet touched down, Blake said, “Where are you headed?”

“Venice. I’m on a recruiting mission.”

Blake smiled. “Gotta keep the Happy Meals reproducing.”

Jax grinned. “That ‘no offense’ waiver goes both ways.”

“Sure.” Blake stuck out his hand. Jax looked at it for a couple of seconds before shaking. “Let me know next time you’re in town. We’ll get a drink or something.” He caught himself. “I mean alcoholic beverages.”

“Yeah. I knew what you meant.”

“Maybe I’ll introduce you to Megan.” Blake lowered his voice. “But only if you agree she’s off limits.”

Jax chuckled. “She’s very cute, but you have my word. Megan is off limits.”

IT’S THEIR TURN!

KBS FALCON Website R

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FALCON: Resistance, Next Generation #1 will only be available on iTunes, B&N, and KOBO until release day.

IT’S THEIR TURN!

The next generation of the Knights of Black Swan have been inducted and vested with all the privileges and responsibilities of the legends in whose shadows they took their training. They are coming into their prime as servants of The Order, but still have most of their lives ahead. Or so each one hopes.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Victoria Danann, brings us a sizzling new take on the Knights of Black Swan. The boys are all grown up and bursting at the seams looking for action..

Black Swan believed they’d found the cure for the vampire virus, but it mutated and the resurgence threatened to be the extinction of humanity within a generation. But help emerges from a most unexpected source, a vampire.

Meanwhile, the new Director of Operations is cute, curvilicious and has Falcon reeling. And he doesn’t need distractions when he’s busy saving the world.

The epic saga that has won BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES the past three years in a row (Reviewers Choice Awards, the Paranormal Romance Guild) continues with a new crop of vampire hunters that we already know and love. Preorder TODAY and be one of the first to find out why KBS is called astonishing, breathtaking, nail biting, spectacular, unique, and a wild and sexy ride.

Early Readers Say…

“OMFG!!!!” – Cindy Foreman

“It marks the beginning of a new legacy to rival the original (Black Swan Knights)! “ – Debera A. Smith

“Gobsmacked and elated. The story was all I could wish for.” – Terri Morris

“I loved it. It affected so much that I dreamed about it last night.” – Ann Victor

“Best book of the year!” – Pam James

“Truly amazing,” – Deborah D’Agostino-Gardiner

EXCERPT #1

Storm wanted to appear nonchalant, but couldn’t help sneaking a glance at Ram when he said, “I’ll bet Elora would like to sashay by there tonight. We know she has a thing for talking vampire.”

Ram caught the mischievous gleam in Storm’s eye and knew Storm was teasing, but it was also a dig that didn’t go down easy. After three children and years of married life, the way Baka and Elora had interacted, back in the day, still bothered Ram. And Storm knew it.

Rammel carefully set his whiskey tumbler down on the table beside him before launching himself out of his chair so fast it looked like he’d been sitting on an eject mechanism. He flew across the space that separated them and attempted to get Storm in a headlock.

“What are you doing?!?” Storm wheezed, turning red and trying to get his breath while Ram’s forearm cut off his windpipe. “It was a joke!”

Ram didn’t respond to that protest because he didn’t care if it was a joke. He jerked Storm out of the chair by his neck, which was a testament to Ram’s strength because Storm was still a big well-muscled guy. As soon as they fell to the floor together, Ram hauled back and launched a fist that caught Storm in the side. Storm reacted by rolling over so that he could get enough room to clip Ram on the side of the face. Kay, of course, was yelling and doing his best to break it up, but in the process took punishing hits from both of them.

Several of the other knights came to assist Kay and fifteen minutes later, the three veteran members of B Team were standing in the Sovereign’s office being called on the carpet like they were kids.

“The. Hel.” said Glen, clearly furious. “Every trainee in Jefferson Unit has already heard that B Team were brawling in our own club lounge, rolling around on the floor like… like…”

“Brawlers?” Kay suggested.

“Famous legendary elite vampire hunters indeed.” The sarcasm was dripping from every word Glen uttered. “A fine example you set for the next generation tonight.”

“He started it,” Storm mumbled.

“You did not say what I think you just said,” Glen looked incredulous. “Is this some kind of midlife crisis?”

That hit a mark. All three men looked horrified. “We’re no’ yet even thirty five,” Ram protested.

“You’re acting like you’re not yet five.”

Ram glared at Storm. “There are just some things you do no’ say about an elf’s mate.”

Glen pulled back and studied Ram for a minute. “I don’t believe there is any power in heaven or hel that could make me believe Engel Storm insulted Elora Laiken.”

“Well,” Ram hedged, “he did no’ insult her per se.”

“Per se,” Glen repeated.

“Aye. Per se.”

Glen threw up his hands. “You know, I don’t really care what happened. If you were Z Team, I’d just roll my eyes and say, ‘What else is new?’ The three of you are going to be guest speakers at one ethics and decorum class per grade during this term.”

“Oh, for…” Kay started.

“Not. Another. Word.” Glen walked over and opened the door to his office. “Get out. And shame on you.”

Standing in the outer offices, Kay looked at the door that had been shut in his face and said, “I didn’t do anything! In fact I tried to stop it.”

Ram and Storm started walking down the hall toward the elevator. Storm turned to Ram and said, “Look what you did now.”

“You want me to? Pull your shirt up so I can see.”

“There’s nothing to see. You on the other hand are going to need some ice soon if you don’t want that eye to swell shut.”

Ram reached up and touched it. “You got me good,” he smiled.

Storm’s face split into a proud smile. “You’re gonna be wearing my mark for a while. Elora’s gonna chew your royal rear end when she hears about this.”

By that time Kay had caught up. From behind them he said, “Maybe you two are having a midlife crisis.”

CARNAL – February 14, 2016

AmazonCoverCarnal

My photographer, Invicta’s Art Photography, took my model of choice for this project, Colin Lenn, into the Las Vegas desert to get this shot for the Carnal cover and I love it.

The first book in the EXILED series is tied to Black Swan with Rosie, aka Elora Rose Storm.

The angel, Kellareal, stopped the genocide of generations of hybrids, who had been bred for research and spent their entire lives imprisoned. Against orders, he spirited them away to a place where they would have freedom and purpose.

In a vindictive fit, Rosie Storm asked her mother’s friend, Kellareal, for a place to hide from her boyfriend and teach him a lesson. Kellareal knew just the place for Rosie to grow up and learn temper control among other things. The land of Exiled.

 

 

How do you mend a broken heart? – Kellareal

 

Elora Rose Storm, otherwise known as Rosie, left her dimension in a fit of immaturity over not getting her way. Some might say the behavior was easier to forgive in light of the fact that she was, chronologically, only fourteen-months-old. Her witch / demon genes had accelerated her physical and intellectual growth, but her emotional equilibrium lagged behind.

The Exiled were a race of human hybrids, who, for generations, had lived their entire lives as slave test subjects. When they became perceived as too dangerous to keep, their creators planned a genocide. Against Council orders, Kellareal intervened and moved them to a dimension where they would have the opportunity to establish balance between the human population and a race of stronger, faster, fiercer hybrids who preyed on them.

Rosie thought she was getting a few weeks of asylum. The last thing she was expecting was to meet someone like Carnal.

Black Swan wins BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES Two Years in a Row!!

2014%201st For the second year in a row, The Order of the Black Swan wins the coveted title of BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES from the academy of PNR awards – REVIEWERS’ CHOICE, The Paranormal Romance Guild.

Thank you to the reviewer committee of PRG for the nomination and thank you to Black Swan enthusiasts for voting. – Victoria

SOLOMON'S SIEVE WINS BEST VAMPIRE NOVEL of 2014

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Solomon’s Sieve wins Best Vampire Novel of 2014

REVIEWER’S CHOICE AWARD, The Paranormal Romance Guild

PASSIONATE BITES RELEASE TODAY November 25th

November 25th is upon us, and PASSIONATE BITES is live!

 AMAZON smarturl.it/PassionateBites

Ten hot vampire
romance novels by NY Times & USA Today bestselling authors.
 
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***Only available until Jan. 2015
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Passionate
Bites is a paranormal romance collection loaded with sizzling hot alpha-males
& badass heroines. From vampires to werewolves to witches & demons,
these dark, sensual tales of romantic suspense weave a tapestry of intrigue,
desperation, betrayal, & enough steamy desire to satisfy every taste.
DARKNESS SERIES, 1 & 2 – K.F. Breene
Sasha has
grown up with one surety: she’s not normal. Since she was little, she’s had
unexplained talents & seen strange shapes in the shadows no one else can
see. One night, everything changes. Suddenly she is immersed in a world full of
danger & magic. She must finally reveal her secrets in order to survive.
LUCA’S MAGIC EMBRACE – Kym Grosso
In the Big
Easy, vampire, Luca Macquarie, & witch, Samantha Irving, embark on a
spellbinding journey, searching for a mystical relic. With cryptic clues &
clandestine allies, will they destroy the dangerous amulet before others
acquire it? Will Luca give in to his erotic desire for the witch who magically
captures his heart?
DAMON – Teresa Gabelman
Damon
DeMasters, vampire warrior, has taken an oath to protect his own kind as well
as humans. Social worker, Nicole Callahan fights for the right of every child
placed in her care. Damon has been ordered to train Nicole & her colleagues
against the dangers they now face. Even as sparks fly, Nicole & Damon
depend on each other to protect the children of both races.
DESTINED – Brenda K. Davies
Terrified of
becoming mated like her parents, Isabelle has locked herself away to avoid
their fate. Despite her determination to remain alone, her world is rocked when
Stefan arrives at their door. Just as she begins to let her guard down,
Stefan’s dark & deadly past catches up to him & threatens to destroy
them both.
HONEYMOON BITE – Sharon Hamilton
Anne caught
her husband cheating before their wedding cake was cut, so she takes her
honeymoon in Tuscany alone. Bitten by a vampire on her wedding night, she is
left for dead, until Marcus Monteleone, her 300 year old fated mate, rescues
her. Will they be able to navigate Marcus’ rocky & dangerous past to have
an immortal future together?
A SUMMONER’S TALE – Victoria Danann
The
devastatingly seductive ex-vampire, Istvan Baka, is forced to relive his tragic
life as human & confront his past as vampire while his friends search for
him. That search ultimately proves that love waits patiently through lifetimes
for a second chance.
BLOOD AND SNOW VOLUMES 1-8 – RaShelle
Workman
“Lips red as rubies, hair dark as
night. Drink your true love’s blood, become the Vampire, Snow White.”
Every thousand
years the Vampire Queen selects a new body, always the fairest in the land,
& this time she’s chosen Snow White.
THE NIGHTLIFE SAN ANTONIO – Travis Luedke
Vampires,
Mafia & Sexy Mayhem:
EMT on call,
Adrian Faulkner resuscitates a beautiful woman after a mafia shootout. He can’t
explain why he picks her up in the hospital parking lot three days later, then
ducks the police. She wanted to escape. He wanted to get laid. They both got more than they bargained for.
MIDNIGHT CAPTIVE – Arial Burnz
After seven
years, James Knightly returns as a master swordsman, ready to captain a ship
& wed his childhood sweetheart, Cailin MacDougal. Waiting for him is a
dagger-toting hellion for a bride, an immortal father-in-law, & an enemy
bent on threatening the family James holds most dear.
***Over $40 in
bestselling vampire romance! BUY NOW at incredible discount!
 
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PASSIONATE BITES Releases Nov. 25th

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PREORDER NOW $0.99.

AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/Passionate-Bites-Tales-Vampire-Romance-ebook/dp/B00NZESYT2/

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Prince of Demons 1, 2, 3

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Buy on the e-box set on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Demons-1-3-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B00T0PEM8M/

BoxSetFrontCover Also available in paperback on Amazon. Buy the print version here. http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Demons-Order-Black-Swan/dp/1933320753/

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 Too Much Story for One Book!

 

part 1 BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR…

After Dallas finance manager, Atalanta Ravin, was left standing at the altar in a publicly humiliating jilting, she quit her job, sold her house, gave away her furniture, and set off in search of a new life living on a boat in Boston Harbor. She got the adventure she’d always secretly longed for, but not in a thousand dreams could she ever have imagined that fate would lead her to her fantasy lover or that he might turn out to be a prince of demons.

Vampire Romance Books.com   … hooks you right from the start and there is no getting loose. 

Lightning Room Literary Reviews   This book made me laugh out loud, drew out of me a deep sigh of contentment and made me grin with anticipation for what’s to come.

Prince of Demons 1 BUY links:

AMAZON http://amzn.to/1wrdIMf

part 2 The Witches Say That A FEAR IS AN UNREQUITED WISH…

 

Prince of Demons 2 BUY links: Release Jan 3rd

In the second part of this rapid release trilogy, Lana wakes after a night of too much song, dance, and pub red ale to find herself in a demon dungeon sleeping on top of a fellow prisoner who happens to be seriously drool worthy. When the cryptic stranger proposes an escape plan, she goes along and gets the adventure she’d subconsciously longed for.

WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT.    

AMAZON http://amzn.to/1yMug4N

part 3 WISHES ARE MYSTERIES FILLED WITH SHADOWS and LIGHT

AMAZON  http://amzn.to/13OKqNh
YOU’RE INVITED to the Prince of Demons 3 release event Jan 19th

https://www.facebook.com/events/596078137164595/

 

Prince of Demons 1, CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT

When she was left standing at the highly polished altar of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in a four thousand dollar dress facing everyone who had ever meant anything to her, she decided Stuart Pruitt was easily the biggest asshole in the universe. Atalanta Ravin spent the next three weeks sitting in ice cream-stained yoga pants and a holey tee shirt, staring straight ahead while two sisters and her best friend tried to convince her that, even if he was easily the biggest asshole in the known universe, life wasn’t over. Not really.

For weeks, she’d been riding a sugar overdose that left her unable to sleep at the time she needed the escape of sleep more than ever before in her life. And it was showing.

“You look like shit, Lana,” Dizzy summed it up unapologetically.

“And why would I care?”

Dizzy had been her friend since they’d been college freshmen and learned that they had both been assigned to dorm rooms with certifiably sociopathic roommates. At the end of the first semester, they scored a room they could share together and had pretty much shared everything but boyfriends since then.

Dizzy was loyal to a fault, a trait highly prized in a best friend. Unfortunately, at least in that case it seemed unfortunate, she was also persistent to a fault.

“Lana, come out with us. You can’t just sit here in a puddle of Starcream and look like shit forever.”

“I can, Desdemona.” She used Dizzy’s birth certificate name knowing it would make her wince, hoping it might also make her give up and go. “Don’t you have something else to do? Go pester Robert. He’s got to be resenting the hell out of the time you’re spending over here trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do.”

“Exasperating, Lana. We can’t help you if you won’t let us.”

“I appreciate the effort, Dizzy, but I’m not going out. I need to spend some time processing. You know. On my own.”

Dizzy, the almost maid of honor, pulled back and stared at her for a full minute. It took even longer to push Dizzy away than it had to get rid of her younger sisters: twins who, like her, were named after figures from Greek mythology. They were responsible for the nickname, Lana, because they couldn’t quite manage Atalanta when they were babies.

They were fiery, freckled redheads named Nike and Nemesis. They’d tried sympathy as far as patience would carry, then turned to threats, vowing to abandon her to her Triple Pecan Crusted Rocky Java Chip Starcream until all that she would require from them was a selection of mumus.

With a sigh of resignation, Dizzy rose saying, “Okay. I actually get that. Call me when you want to talk. If I don’t hear from you by Tuesday…” She let that hang in the air and seemed to be mulling it over. “You know I never liked him. I always knew he was a prick.”

Lana spluttered. “Liar. You were crazy about him.”

“On the inside.” Dizzy looked indignant. “I hated him on the inside.”

“Whatever.” She waved a hand in the air and blew a half-hearted kiss, but Dizzy proceeded to prove that it would take more than a wave of dismissal and an air kiss to get rid of her. Lana had doubts that even the National Guard could deter Allision when she was on a mission.

Eventually Lana had stood in a warm shower not particularly caring about the water temperature, reluctantly pulled on clean clothes and let Dizzy comb out and blow her hair like she was a doll. When Dizzy was satisfied with the cleanup, she marched her prisoner out to Nike’s car where the twins waited and deposited Lana in the backseat

“Where are we going?”

“The Four Sixes.”

It was a chic urban bar on Turtle Creek in the heart of Dallas urban posh, named after one of the famous ranches of Texas. Dizzy’s rescue party never made it inside though.

Nem had started to reach for the big brass handle that was an eclectic cross between Southwest and art deco. The door opened before she touched it letting the muted sounds of thumping bass escape and touch everyone nearby with the vibration. Lana saw out of the corner of her eye that the people who emerged were a couple. He had his arm over her shoulder. They were laughing, nudging and leaning into each other.

What she didn’t notice, until she realized her companions had gone stone still, was that the male half of the happy couple was none other than Stuart. The other half was Lana’s very own goddamn administrative assistant, Stephanie. When the soon-to-be former employee registered that she’d come face to face with the ex, who was also her boss, she was suddenly much more interested in her shoes than in meeting Lana’s gaze.

Stuart nodded to the group in general then added a curt, “Excuse us,” as he placed a hand to the small of Stephanie’s back and gave her a little push to get her started in the right direction. The two of them had almost made it all the way to Stuart’s precious royal blue Audi before Lana’s brain reengaged. A red hot curtain of fury descended in front of her vision as all the missing pieces fell into place and her body took on an agenda of its own as surely as if it was possessed by a devil. With a quickness that would make a superhero proud, she whirled and began sprinting after them.

Stuart and his date had just reached the car, which he had parked himself because Stuart didn’t trust valet parkers. He’d pointed his key fob, been greeted by the car’s answering tweets. Stephanie’s face froze in silent horror when she saw the rundown coming, but Stuart had no warning. Lana didn’t slow the charge. The only adjustment she made was to put her hands out in front of her at the last second. The result was slamming into Stuart from behind with such force that his body was thrown into the side of the vehicle and his face bounced off the roof of his car. Hard. Hard enough to draw blood.

When he turned around and looked at Lana, the devil who had possessed her whooped with satisfaction on seeing reddened eyes and blood dripping down the front of a prissy custom made shirt. With cuff links. Christ. What a tool!

“What the fuck, Lana? I think you broke my nose.” He looked at the blood on his hand as he brought it away from his face and spat. “I should press charges.”

She gaped, but not for long. Stuart’s apparent disconnect with the trail of damage he’d left behind caused Lana’s fury to gel into a cold anger and even colder laughter.

“Press charges, Stuey? Unless you want a lawsuit to pay my family back for a wedding that cost as much as your average priced house, I’d rethink that threat. A hundred pounds of fucking shrimp, Stuey! That’s a lot of fucking shrimp. Fifty cases of Dom Perignon. Shall I go on? Or maybe I’ll just turn my cousins loose and let them take it out of your hide.”

She hoped her smile looked every bit as menacing as the images of revenge that were chilling her blood. He paled a little at the thought of the triplets who were Lana’s cousins. Yes. Multiple births ran in the family on her mother’s side.

Those boys, the McKesson triplets, were privileged, but that was just disposable package wrapping. They were descended from wildcatters who were, well, wild and probably carrying the genetic ancestry of horse thieves. Or worse. The family joked that attempts to reconstruct genealogy met a quick dead end because their forbearers had been one step ahead of the law when they’d come to America. They may have changed names again when they left some landing point on the Eastern seaboard and pushed west. One thing was sure. They weren’t carrying the genes of farmers.

Everybody in Dallas knew the McKesson name by reputation. Among other things, it was rumored that they preferred to settle disputes out of court. So to speak.

Atalanta always laughed it off when she heard those whisperings and said that people love to believe bigger than life stories. From her perspective, her cousins weren’t people to be feared. In her mind they were boys, ripe for teasing, who fumed if you tricked them at blind man’s bluff and ate unhealthy amounts of Bananas Foster if given half a chance. That didn’t stop her from using the rumors to her advantage though.

Lana turned her attention to the soon-to-be-pink-slipped admin. Only then did she recognize that the expression she’d become accustomed to seeing on Stephanie’s face was guilt. Lana had thought Stephie was having some kind of trouble. Maybe money. Maybe a boyfriend. As her boss it wasn’t up to her to ask.

Looked like it was a boyfriend problem after all.

The devil in Lana was roused to dancing in triumphant circles when she startled Stephie into taking a fearful stumble backward by doing nothing more than taking a step toward her.

 

 

Lana felt her sisters on either side of her, trying to pull her away. “Come on, sis. Everybody here knows who’s boss,” Nemesis had said. Lana glanced at her sisters just in time to see them throwing identical pointed glares at both Stuart and Stephanie.

Nobody said a word on the drive back to Lana’s house. Her girls were sensitive enough to know that there wasn’t a single word in the English language that would be better than the silence.

When she was finally alone – as she’d wanted to be in the first place, she thought bitterly, she let emotion overtake her. Tears pooled then gushed onto the pillow where she’d landed on her bed, curling into a ball as she fell. She cried freely for the first time, not so much because of two humiliations, a very public jilting and an excruciatingly embarrassing confrontation. Not even because of the high price tag of a wedding that was a nonstarter.

She cried because she hated herself for missing the fucker. He may not have been a great lay and he may not have had any character to speak of, but he’d been company for three years. Long enough to build every aspect of her life around him as if she’d gradually become remnants of personality circling his sun.

She reminded herself that, being perfectly honest, she needed to amend that. He’d been good company until the past six months when his job had become so demanding that he was either away or out late more often than not. He’d been too busy to take part in any of the wedding planning. “Whatever you want will be fine with me, Lana. You have good taste,” he’d said. She didn’t think much of the distancing at the time.

 

She woke up early the next day, still in her clothes, tangled in bed covers. She rose to go to the toilet then took a look in the bathroom mirror. Her eyes were almost swollen shut from going to sleep crying. She hated what she saw in the mirror and might have broken it if she wasn’t superstitious, the remnants of a heritage that couldn’t be documented, but could be substantiated as Scot-Irish. So instead of shattering the mirror, she came to a conclusion.

Sometime during all the hours of staring straight ahead, not really hearing what people were saying, she’d arrived at a point of absolute clarity. She needed a change. Not a small change. Not even a big change. A change of such monumental proportions it would effectively be hitting the reset button on her life.

She changed into plain pajama pants and a comfy well-worn tee, turned the ringer off on her phone, then sat down in front of the TV with a box of tissue and a grease-stained box of cold day-old extra pepperoni pizza. She chomped into one of the stiff slices thinking that one of the finer privileges of relationship mourning was punishing the body with bad food, alcohol, and no exercise while ignoring the domestic hallmarks of civilized living such as laundry, dishes, garbage control and personal hygiene.

Punching the remote she began going through channels one by one. Stuart had taken control of the remote when their relationship was still new and had never considered relinquishing it, not even on special occasions. He always went straight to the guide and picked out something he already knew he liked and wanted to see. Stuart liked what he called “tried and true”. He had his favorite restaurants and stuck with the same menu items. He had a morning routine, an evening routine, and a weekend routine that involved the same people, places, and things. No sense of adventure whatsoever.

Lana no longer needed to be concerned with Stuart and his damnable preferences. She was her own person. On her own. She would reject Stuart’s lack of adventure. She would channel surf all night if she felt like it! She punched the air with every flick of the remote button as if to say, “Take that, Stuey! I will yield the remote to no man ever again.”

Moving past a cooking show, a rerun of a seventies sitcom, something about criminal midgets who loved pit bulldogs, a home show, a black and white movie starring Tyrone Power, another cooking show, a thing with a boat, and a band of ferret-like creatures standing on their hind legs in a field of brown grass. Then she stopped and backed up two channels. It was the home show.

They were doing a series on alternate lifestyles and that particular installment featured a handsome bachelor who lived on his boat. She washed the mouthful of pizza back with a swig of tequila straight from the bottle and turned the volume up.

Twenty minutes later, by the time the show was over, she knew exactly what she was going to do. She was going to quit her job as portfolio manager for Gelz Leageman Capital and sell her bungalow. It wasn’t a Highland Park estate, but it was an eye-catching brick cottage in one of the posh Dallas park cities. It had been a great investment even if it was next to the noise of the north-south toll road that cut through the middle of the city.

She’d take the proceeds and move far, far away. To New England, where she would buy a boat. To live on.

For somebody who was not quite thirty, she’d done alright for herself. She’d stayed out of trouble, gotten good grades, and made her parents proud. In the process of living up to expectations, she’d accumulated enough net worth to be able to cash in a 401K and do nothing for a while until she decided to do something else. She had no memory of waking up without a goal to pursue. Hitting the reset button meant she would find out what it felt like to wake up without a plan. Maybe she’d do jigsaw puzzles until she got tired of them and then switch to crosswords. Maybe she’d watch every movie she’d wanted to see and hadn’t. Read every book that had been reviewed by the New York Times. She might learn to knit. It was cold where she was going. She’d need lots of knit stuff. Scarves and hats and afghans and such.

She’d never experience another summer with dead brown grass on the sides of the roads and blackened burned out areas every few yards where people had tossed lit cigarette butts as they sped by. She always thought it made the Metroplex look like a version of highway to hell. She wouldn’t experience daily air quality alerts, the result of living in the world’s most populous inland area. Or the constant spring and summer threats that went with residing in “tornado alley”.

Yes. She wanted to live someplace that didn’t have tornado alarms. Clean air. Blue water. Cool days. Sure there might be snow. And ice and single digit temps. Every place had its downside.

Maybe she’d make new friends. Maybe she wouldn’t One thing was certain. It would be very unlikely that she’d run into anyone who had witnessed the color drain from her face when her intended had stood at the front of a church and blurted out, “I can’t. I just can’t,” right before he’d bolted out a side door and left her standing there staring at the best man.

The best man. In her mind she kept replaying the look of pity and apology on his face as he blinked at her with uncertainty as to what to do next since the groom no longer between them. She remembered how she didn’t want to turn her head to the right and see the shocked expressions of eight hundred well-dressed guests.

Later that day, face still mottled red with fury, Lana’s father had promised to take care of Stuart in his own unique Texan sort of way. “I’ll neuter the son of a bitch and throw his balls in with the calf fries down at the restaurant for some stranger to enjoy. Ignorance is bliss. Unless you’d like to have the privilege for yourself, little girl.”

Getting an unbidden image of that, she’d gagged twice.

“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate it, at least the sentiment behind it, but I’m thinking I’ll pass. And unless you want to end up in Huntsville, I think you better find another way to express your displeasure. You know sometimes I think you skipped the twentieth century altogether. You just popped in right out of 1886.”

He nodded. “Something to be said for simpler methods, if you know what I mean.” He looked at her meaningfully.

“Yes. I know what you mean and so does every electronic listening device with surveillance distance.”

Her comment gave him pause. He looked around uneasily as if someone was eavesdropping and kissed her on the top of the head as he was making ready to leave. “You worried about what you say in your own house? There’s no excuse for that. Ever heard of McKesson Security?”

She sighed. “I’m not worried about what I say inside my own house because I don’t plot crimes out loud.”

Lana’s father simply grunted at that as if to say maybe she was slow. “Come have lunch down at the store tomorrow.”

She was pleased that he had calmed a little and smiled. “We’ll see. Maybe.” She caught his sleeve as he turned toward the door. “You know I’m, um, sorry about the expense and…”

“Don’t you dare apologize!” He’d turned red in the face again and she immediately regretted having said something to cause it. She worried when his coloring went so out of whack. “You haven’t done a thing to be sorry for. It’s that dump of steaming yellow horse turds that needs a good dose of sorry.” He lowered his chin and stepped in closer. “You know your cousins…”

“Dad! Don’t say another word!” He stopped. She grabbed hold of his lapel and squeezed like it had nerve endings. “And make sure you’ve got them under control. Please.” Leaning in she whispered, “Stuart is out of bounds. Let karma deal with it.”

Her dad looked at her incredulously and then guffawed. “Karma! Shit.” He left shaking his head.

Yeah. That’s what she’d told her dad alright. Then she proceeded to break Stuart’s nose herself. Guess the thing about apples not falling far from trees isn’t just horse honky. She didn’t feel a bit of remorse about it. The fucker’s nose was in need of rearranging and she was glad she’d been the one to do it.

 

She was thus replaying the events in her head when the oddest thing occurred. She’d been staring at the TV that had been the source of her inspiration, and maybe salvation, while her mind had been elsewhere. Then she felt something unusual. It wasn’t sorrow or despair or grief. It wasn’t any of the emotions that usually hang with broken heartedness. It was excitement, sort of a tingly rush at the thought of pulling up stakes, leaving everything and everyone she knew behind. A transformation. The true essence of total “make over”.

She was throwing caution to the wind. Hell. She wasn’t even going to give reasonable notice at work. She knew they had two people prepped and groomed to step in if necessary. So it wasn’t like it would be a serious hardship on anyone. If it ruined her future career? She shrugged at the thought not being able to imagine caring about it anymore.

She took a moment to examine the flutter of anticipation in her tummy and concluded that she liked the adventurous Lana. The one who would leave everything familiar and embark on a whole new life at the drop of a hat.

Quit the job. Sell the house. Give everything away that won’t fit on a boat and move so far out of her comfort zone she might not even be able to remember her own resume.

She chuckled at the thought that it was like putting herself in a witness protection program. Well, not really. She knew that when she got where she was going and decided what she was doing that she would let her family know where she was. And Dizzy, who wouldn’t hesitate to deliver a lecture and say she’d tumbled off the rack. In her fantasy, Lana imagined her reply. “You were hounding me to get out. So I got out. Far out.”

The prospect was delightful from every conceivable angle. Damn. She wondered if there was even a remote chance that Stuey had done her a favor. She hated to admit it, but Stuey was just metrosexual enough that she didn’t have a hard time picturing him in a dress with many layers of tulle in the skirt, holding a star tipped wand. Bing. There you go, little lady. A whole new life to replace the one you thought you had, but didn’t.

Looking around she said, “I’ve got to get this cleaned up. You go up for sale tomorrow morning.” The walls didn’t reply, which made her like them all the more. She decided that talking to herself felt good and could become a habit with little effort. Maybe, once she was moved and settled in, she’d get a cat. She’d be that strange young woman from Texas who lived on a boat with a cat and talked to herself.

Such was her train of thought as she went about picking up Coke cans, tissues and other debris, preparing to face an upheaval that the old Lana would never have considered in a hundred years. In a couple of hours she had the place looking like a little bit of yuppie chic heaven. She heated up a frozen dinner in the microwave and ate in front of the computer. It didn’t take long to decide where she’d start looking for a new home.

Constitution Marina, Boston.