IT’S HERE! IT’S HERE! When the concept of this firefighter box set stole into my brain back in May, this day seemed a loooong way off. But it’s finally the release day for UNCONTROLLED BURN, my firefighter novel found exclusively in the INTO THE FLAMES anthology.
1. The smile was reptilian, as if Satan himself had taken possession of this wayward soul.
It’s been a fairly productive week. I’ve been having a lot of difficulties with my current story. It keeps holding me up. I know I should probably set it aside and work on something else, but it’s about 3/4 finished and I’d just like to get through it and be done.
One of the things for me about this first draft is that I often don’t know exactly how the crime happened, I mean, I have an inkling of who did it and why, but the exact details elude me. In two of my books, I thought a particular person was the murderer, but near the end of my first draft someone else stepped forward and confessed. Wow! It was a shocker! My conscious mind hadn’t known, but because my stories flow organically, I let the characters lead me where they may and someone else emerged as the bad guy. Of course in both instances I had to go back and rewrite portions of the story to keep the villain’s identities a secret and yet make sure were hints for the reader. No one likes to get to the end of a suspense story and be blind sided. Misled, yes … but tricked … not so much!
I do love that part though. If I didn’t see it coming then how could my readers? Since I just got the goooorgeous cover for Heart’s Afire, the firefighter anthology which includes my vampire suspense novella, Shadows of Fire, I thought I’d leave you today with a little excerpt from chapter one. Enjoy! I’m off to see what trouble my wolfies are getting into and make myself finish that sucker!
EXCERPT from Shadows of Fire:
It wasn’t much of a noise, just a dull thud in the night. But it was enough to pull Professor Paul Morgan from his slumber. Heavy with the arms of Morpheus still around him, his blood thick with sleeping medication, Paul wasn’t sure what had roused him. But when it came again, a muffled bang from downstairs, followed oddly enough by the sound of rushing wind, he knew he needed to investigate.
Swiping at his eyes, Paul tried unsuccessfully to push away the last strands of drowsiness still clinging to his mind. Something deep in the pit of his stomach told him what had woken him had nothing to do with Zeus, his mischievous tabby and only companion since his wife had died nearly thirty years ago. Swinging his feet to the floor, Paul stepped into his leather slippers and grabbed his robe from the hope chest at the foot of his bed. Scurrying from the bedroom, fear and urgency pushed him forward.
The eerie orange glow emanating from his den at the foot of the stairs brought bile to his throat. Everything near and dear to him was in that room; his wife’s portrait, the marble Sphinx from their trip to Egypt, the antique bookcase she’d given him when he’d gotten the position at the university-the bronzed baby shoes. His feet barely touched the treads as he rushed down the stairs, caution and prudence gone with the desperate need to salvage his memories.
He came up short at the threshold. Swallowing hard, he tried to dislodge the heart stuck in his throat. A fire crackled safely in the fireplace across the room, the dancing flames sending a ballet of mesmerizing shadows along the paneled walls and casting the room in an otherworldly radiance. Fingers of fear lifted the hairs on the back of his neck.
A quick glance at his desk in the corner reassured him his research was also safe, but did nothing to assuage his fears. The papers he’d left stacked neatly for the magistrate’s office lay strewn about. The monitor of his computer silhouetted the head of a person sitting at his desk.
“Who are you? Wha … wha … what are doing?”
There was no response save for the clicking of computer keys.
“I’ll call the police.” Paul said.
A maniacal laugh rent the stillness, sending a chill of terror down his spine.
“No, Professor Morgan. We both know you can not do that.” With a flourish, a hand came down hard on the keyboard. The monitor flicked rapidly through several screens before going black.
“What have you done?” Paul rushed to the desk, a wave of nausea rolling hotly in his chest and bringing water to his eyes. Everything. Everything was on that computer.
I didn’t want it to happen this way.” The words carried sadness, but the face that turned to stare at him was pure evil. A face he barely recognized. “You really shouldn’t have been quite so diligent in your research you know. I’ve sent obvious warnings, hoping to push you from this foolhardy course for months. But you wouldn’t heed the signs.” The clicking tongue scolded him as if he were an obstinate child. Fingers steepled in front of lips thin with hatred. “A shame really. I will miss your friendly manner. But you have become too much of a liability for me to allow you to live.”
“You can’t get away with this.”
“Oh, I think we both know … I have … and I will again.” The monster slowly standing before him wasn’t the amicable person he’d known for decades. This person had morphed into a heinous murderer-a murderer with no conscience and a moral compass that pointed straight to hell.
Paul threw back his shoulders. Though he understood he would not survive this night, he would accept his fate with dignity. “I’ve already sent a copy of all of that to my lawyer.” His hand waved at the papers on the desk. “He knows. He knows and understands everything. He is painfully aware of our strained relationship. None of this will stop with my death.” Paul was pleased he could push the lie steadily through the panic clogging his throat.
“Please, don’t insult my intelligence.” The murderer gathered the papers on the desk and tapped them on its polished cherry surface, elegant fingers aligning the edges before setting them neatly in a pile. “We both know these are the only copies. And we both understand what is to come is inevitable. Preordained if you will …” The smile was reptilian as if Satan himself had taken possession of this wayward soul.
“You won’t get away with this.” Paul was repeating himself, but terror had stripped him of coherent thought.
“But I already have.” Something small flew from the long fingers. Blue flames erupted in the fireplace. A ball of fire jumped to the leather chair next to the hearth. Another flew to the Aubusson rug he and his wife had gotten on their honeymoon fifty years ago.
“What you began … I will finish tonight.”
Paul lunged for the decorative throw on back of the couch, intent on pounding the growing flames into submission.
Another burst of evil laughter split the air as the glass vase on the hearth exploded in the growing heat. “That’s right old man. Try to stop it.”
Paul brought the blanket down hard on the fire spreading like a sickness across the rug. The thick smoke choking the air filled his nose and burned his lungs. It was no use. The flames were spreading faster than he could control them. He needed to get out. Abandoning the blanket, he turned to run.
He saw the small ottoman only seconds before it crashed down on his world.
*copyright Nina Pierce 2009*
Here is the tenth installment of Test Drive a short story about a car salesperson and the two men who have kidnapped her.
********** TEST DRIVE **********
Brent’s hand shot out and connected with a sickening thud against Paul’s jaw bone. The impact snapped Brent’s head to the side and it came up hard against the driver’s window, rendering him momentarily unconscious. Fearing for her life, Margo fought to control the car careening into oncoming traffic. Brent lunged for the wheel. Quick reflexes on everyone’s part, kept the cars from colliding and the other driver communicating his protest with his horn.
Brent maneuvered the slowing Saturn to the opposite side of the road. He pulled the gun from the waist of Paul’s pants and fell against the back seat, ragged breathes matching Margo’s.
“Sorry about that. I told you, my brother has a wicked temper.” Brent tucked the gun in his pants and slid to the door behind Paul. “Not the first time I cold-cocked him. I have a feeling it won’t be the last.” As he slid out of the backseat, Margo opened her door and bolted for the road.
“Margo!” Brent’s shout didn’t slow her down as she ran across the road into the safety of the trees. Feet thudded behind her, but she would not get back in the car. Not with two fighting brothers with short tempers and a couple of guns behind them. How had one test drive gotten her to this place in her life?
Panic pushed her without caution. Her foot slipped between two rocks hidden beneath the carpet of dead leaves and Margo came down hard on her knee. Pain shot out of her mouth on a scream. Despite the knives of agony shooting up her leg, Margo worked to free her foot so she could get away from these madmen who had come into her life less than an hour ago.
It was no use. Brent was upon her before she could work her foot out of the useless high heel.
Brent came up behind her, his breathing coming in ragged pulls. She wondered if he had the gun pointed at the back of her head now. She wasn’t brave enough to look over her shoulder to find out. If he was going to kill her, he’d have to do it like a coward and shoot her in the back. She closed her eyes and the ruined images of her life played like a slideshow in her mind.
The withering body of her mother. Her dreams of a college education. Giving up her life for her father’s happiness. Settling for a loveless relationship with Dylan. There was no happiness in the movie playing in her head. Only sadness and heartache. She had nothing to live for. Margo fell forward giving into the inevitability of the end and prayed it would come quickly and without pain.
But it wasn’t the report of a gun she heard, it was the quiet crooning of Brent’s voice as his strong hands ran down her calf and eased her foot gently from the rocks. She rolled over on her back, the pain causing waves of agony that nearly made her wretch.
“Don’t move. I think you’ve broken it.”
Tears rolled down her temples. She hadn’t wanted to cry, but everything was so wrong. Wrong with this situation–wrong with her life.
He misinterpretted her sadness, she could see it in the depths of his eyes and the lines furrowing his brow. “Margo, don’t cry. I won’t let Paul hurt you.” Brent knelt down next to her. “He’s just uptight. We’ve worked a long time on this and you’ve made things a little more …” He smiled at her. “Complicated.” He brushed the tear away with his thumb. “We just don’t know how to get you back through the border, you can’t use these plates.”
“I’m not going back.”
Yay! I’m so excited! The second book in the Tilling Passions series is coming TODAY!
DEA agent, AYDEN SCOTT, is determined to bring down the drug cartel smuggling heroin into central Maine. Undercover as Austin Shaeffer, Ayden is working as lead investigator for the first time since the debacle in Miami that killed his younger brother. He will use any means necessary to extract information, including seducing the feisty red head, DEIRDRE TILLING, who is employed by the suspected drug baron. But can he become embroiled in a sexual liaison while keeping his men safe and his identity secret?
Landscaping in the rural Maine town of Delmont hasn’t always been DEIRDRE TILLING’S only passion. Up until two months ago, it included her lover, Brianna. A bisexual, Deirdre has cultivated romances with both sexes, only to find hurt and disappointment her only bounty. Now, she’d like to give up on love. But with everyone in her family in a committed relationship, will Deirdre be able to find satisfaction in the sexual release offered in one-night stands or will she continue to seek out the emotional stability only a monogamous relationship can offer?
Love’s Bounty unravels the mystery of the torrid relationship between a cop bent on proving himself and a woman struggling with her sexuality and the subsequent discovery of drug running up the Maine coast.
Please enjoy this EXCERPT:
Cautious, and working to keep his jangled nerves from pumping his legs in a dead run, Ayden strolled to the shelter of the dinghy. The noise grew louder. Ayden realized he wasn’t moving away from the sound; he was aimed toward it. What a fool. It was a beautiful fall night. Lovers were using the upended craft for a little sex party of their own.
Turning on his heel, he started to walk away, and the noise came again. It wasn’t the moan of sexual pleasure. It was the keening sound of sadness. Someone was crying. And from the quiet hiccuping, it was female. Christ, he didn’t need this right now.
He pushed at the hair blowing in his eyes. Swiveling his head, he debated between the refuge of the path and the complications in the boat. Chivalry won out. He stepped warily around the bow.
The redhead sat on the wooden slats, her bare feet digging restlessly in the sand, her face cupped in her hands. Between shuddering breaths, she sputtered angrily into her bent knees, but her tears and her fingers kept the words from him.
“Uh-hmm.” He cleared his throat, not knowing how else to get her attention.
“Holy shit–” She tried to jump to her feet, but banged her head on the iron rigging attached to the upside of the boat. She fell down hard. “Crap.” Her hand flew to her head.
“I’m sorry, you okay?” Ayden reached for her, but she shook him off.
She looked up at him. Even in the pale light, he could see the anguish in her eyes.
“Actually, I’m not all right.” She pushed herself up, ducking her head away from the oarlock. She wiped at the sand on her bottom. “You scared the living shit right out of me.”
Biting back a smile, Ayden watched her glistening tears turn into fury. That he could handle. An angry woman was one hundred times easier to placate than a despondent one.
“Again, I apologize.” He held out his hand to her. “Austin Shaeffer.” How easily that name slipped off his tongue.
“Deirdre Tilling,” she said as she slipped her hand into his.
Her grip was surprisingly firm. Ayden liked the touch of her palm against his skin. Not all soft and pliant, but callused and rough. He wondered how it would feel running up his back. His body came to full attention with those thoughts.
She was a beautiful woman. Her breasts swelled enticingly just above the bodice of her dress. Her long, muscular legs that he’d admired in the great room, started somewhere around her neck. No wonder Jameson had been seducing this lovely creature.
Jameson. Right. He mentally shook his head. Focus, Ayden. Tonight was about gathering information, not sexual conquests. But then again, there was that two birds and one stone thing.
“You come to Jameson’s parties often?” His voice sounded more at ease than he felt.
She pulled her hand from his and rubbed at the spot on her head. “What? Jameson? Oh, Shawn. No, never been to one of his parties. I’m one of his employees. Damn, this hurts. It’s already forming an egg.”
Ayden ignored the fact she’d called him Shawn. He urged his cock to relax. Obviously, he wasn’t getting any action from an employee who referred to her boss by his first name.
“Here, let me take a look at it.” He ran his fingers through her hair. It was soft as silk sliding over his hand. How good would that feel on his belly and thighs? His balls pulled up tight to his body. “Oh, yeah. You did a nice job. Probably could use a little ice.” At this rate, so could he, but not on the head on his shoulders.
“I did a nice job? Me? You were the one sneaking up like some pirate looking for a lost treasure.”
She had no idea how close to the truth she was.
I luurrv this couple. They are so broken … each in their own way. But in their brokenness they find one another. But it’s those same flaws that nearly tear them apart.
In a romance, I enjoy reading about strong men with vulnerabilities, especially when the heroine is the one to expose them. I just sigh and fall in love with them even as they fall in love with each other.
What kind of relationships do you like reading about?
Anyone who comments here on my blog between now and 8 pm EDT on Tuesday, May 20 will be thrown into a hat. I will draw a random name and they will receive a free download of the first book in the Tilling Passions series, Blind Love.
So I’m snoopy dancing all over the house, waiting for 7 pm EDT tonight, when Love’s Bounty will be available.
Click HERE to buy your copy!