Blog Hop, Freebie Friday

Tell A Story Blog Hop

Starting today,  join me and several fellow authors as we TELL A STORY…

Please join me from today, April 27 to Sunday, April 29 as we hop around the internet sharing stories…

Here are the other participants:

1. Allison Merritt 2. Romance With A Bite
3. Lisa Kumar 4. Eliza Lloyd
5. Lacey Wolfe 6. Ella Jade
7. Tamaria Soana 8. Theresa Stillwagon
9. Bella Street Writes 10. Further Explorations
11. Ahmad Darkside’s Musings 12. Anne Glynn’s smut
13. Books Are Cool 14. The Dark Lake Book Blog
15. Jennifer Lowery 16. Window Over the Sink
17. D’Ann Lindun 18. Cera duBois
19. Jenna Jaxon

Remember to leave a comment (with your email address) on every blog you visit to increase your chances at winning the awesome grand prize at the end–a giftcard to Amazon or to Barnes and Noble, your choice. The winner will be contacted by Allison Merritt after Sunday.

I will also chose one poster from my blog to win a copy of my upcoming release A Hunter’s Angel.  (I will contact the winner via email after the drawing next week; however, I cannot send you the book until July 20th which is my release day.)

~~~~~~~~~

Now for an original never-before-published short story…..coming soon to Amazon and Smashwords

Bloodwine

 Fifty years of war with the humans and the loss of his lifemate has jaded newly crowned vampire King Darius Constantinos. At a reception for the new king, the beautiful Queen Anastasia approaches Darius with an offer he can’t accept without betraying his heart, but how can he refuse the peace she promises?

***

Sometime in the future…

Why was he here? Darius hated parties. He moved away from the servant after receiving a glass of deep red wine. As he lifted the expensive merlot mixed with blood to his lips, he looked around at the many guests here to celebrate the crowning of the new king.

After hours of shaking hands and playing nice to the human dignitaries, he was finally free to mingle.

Damn, he wanted to get the hell out of here.

He found his brother on the dance floor with his wife. Lucian was everything the American vampires needed in their victory in the war with the humans. Why the hell did they think Darius would make a good king?

Maybe he could make an excuse of some pressing business and escape.

Darius looked around again. Right. Everyone he’d have business with was in this room.

“Sire?”

He turned at the voice of his son. The young vampire bowed.

“Markus, please. I’m still your father.” He waved the boy’s actions away.

Boy? His son had turned a century this past winter.

“As you wish, Father.” Markus’s shoulders dropped and his eyes dulled.

“What’s on your mind, my son?” Darius rested a bejeweled hand on his shoulder.

He glanced away. “I wish Mother could have been here today.”

Darius closed his eyes. “Me, too, son.”

For fifty long years, ever since a careless group of vampires went on a killing spree and compromised the secret existence of the vampires, Darius led the fight for their survival.

**********

The winner of the copy of A Hunter’s Angel is

Allison Merritt!

Yay, Allison!

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Freebie Friday

Freebie Friday

Cross-posted from Romance Writer Sara Walter Ellwood.

Welcome to another Freebie Friday. This is from my yet-to-be published Butterfly, Book 1 of The Cowboys of Colton, a contemporary Western romantic suspense….chock full of family feuds, lies, and secrets…and even a little murder too…

I’m really excited because this book has been requested by Lyrical Press…. Keep those fingers and toes crossed that they decide to give it a go and contract it…

If you’ve been following the past couple Six Sentence Sundays, I’ve been featuring sippets from this book.

Dylan is the town drunk, but he also served 13 yrs in the Army, the last stint as the commander of a Special Forces Team in Afghanistan. During the hunt for Bin Laden, his team fell into a trap and he blames himself for the deaths of the soldiers he commanded. But his qualifications as a carpenter and as having a degree in ag-business makes him more than perfect for Charli’s ranch–if she can help him get sober and stay sober.

Charli is new to Colton and has purchased the rundown Blackwell Ranch. She’s an heiress to a fortune from her grandfather’s farm equipment manufacturing firm, but she has a past she wants to keep buried.

Leon is the oilman next door. His ranch borders Charli’s and is richer than Midas… But Charli has something he desperately wants and it’s not just her body. He’s also Dylan’s step-uncle… Leon’s mother was married to Dylan’s Grandfather–and he got the ranch that should have belonged to Dylan’s mother when the grandfather died. Do I need to say family feud?

This excerpt comes from Chapter 3. Charli is working in her weed and vermin infested garden when her new manager shows up for his first day on the job.

The Snake in the Garden

Shielding her eyes with a gloved hand, Charli smiled. “Hi. You’re here. Good.”

Dylan stopped under the cherry tree and took in the entire yard with one sweeping glance. His inspection also included her, and something fluttered in her belly. “My sister told me you wanted to see me.”

“Yes. You’re hired, and I’d like you to start today.” She pointed behind her. “There’s a snake in the lake over there. It couldn’t be too far from the edge. I want you to kill it. Then I’ll show you around.”

His lips twitched in that ghost of a smirk. “It was probably a little blotched or broad-banded water snake. They’re harmless and common.”

Little? The thing was a good four feet long. And no snake is harmless.” When the meaning of the rest sank in, she shivered as the blood drained out of her face. “Common?”

“Yep.” He pushed back his dark brown Stetson, revealing some of his similarly colored short hair. “Water snakes are very common in this part of Texas. When I was a kid, I’d catch them from here and let them loose over on my granddad’s place to torment his wife.” His eyes twinkled at the memory. “Jock loved to watch me” he said referring to the previous owner of her ranch. “But if the one you saw is four feet long, it’s probably a cottonmouth.”

Charli glanced at the lake again. “Kill it. I don’t give a damn what kind of snake it is.”

He shook his head, and his lips twitched further into a genuine lopsided grin. She didn’t even care he was making fun of her because he was gorgeous when he smiled. The hard angles and plains still provided structure, but now small crinkles added life to his silvery eyes and a small dimple formed in his left cheek. The flutter in her stomach his assessment of her had started just got worse.

“No. And I doubt it’s a cottonmouth.” Dylan picked up a hoe from where she’d dropped it. “I’ll show you how harmless they are.”

He went to the edge of the water. Dylan prodded around in the overgrowth of cattails by the limestone lip. Charli jumped when he pulled the snake out of the water. It twisted around the end of the hoe.

He looked over his shoulder at her. “This little guy’s a blotched water snake. I’m not killing it. Or any of his buddies in here either.”

“It’s a damned snake! Get rid of it. Now!” Dear Lord, was the man nuts?

Dylan chuckled, the sound more than a little rusty as it drifted to her across the yard. “You aren’t really afraid of this fella, are you? This guy’s as harmless as a frog.” He shook the snake off the hoe and probed around in the water for a few feet. Turning, he headed back toward her through the high grass and weeds. For a guy with a limp, he moved fast.

“Maybe it is as harmless as a frog, but I don’t like them much either.” When he stopped at the edge of the garden, Charli backed up a step, and her feet tangled in the vegetation. With an ompff, she landed on her backside in the middle of a clump of weeds, bluebonnets and, amazingly, yellow daffodils.

Dylan laughed and held his hand out to her, which she ignored. With a shrug, he hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. “When I was on a mission in the South American jungle, pythons the length of my pickup would come into camp. We didn’t have to worry unless we woke up in the morning with our feet in the mouth of one.”

She widened her eyes. Was he serious?

He snorted and shifted his stance. “Of course that was better than our heads being swallowed first.”

“Oh…Oh!” She struggled to her feet and brushed at her jeans. “If you aren’t careful, you’ll be fired before you even get started. I want that snake and any of his ‘buddies’ removed from my lake.”

“I’m not killing the snake.” He put his hands on his hips, narrow hips that drew her eyes to the way his jeans fit powerfully built legs. “If it was a cottonmouth, I would, but the water snakes keep down the populations of more unsavory critters like mice and rats.”

“My, my, if this isn’t a scene right out of the Bible.” A smooth voice drawled from the opposite side of the flowerbed by the gate.

Both Charli and Dylan turned to Leon Ferguson standing on the stone walk. She hadn’t heard him drive up the driveway, and considering the thin line Dylan’s mouth formed, he hadn’t heard him either.

Leon had his hands in the pants pockets of his dark gray designer suit. His white Stetson cast his brown eyes in shadow.

“Ferguson, what are you doing here?” Dylan barked.

Leon ambled toward them on the stone path. “I’m saving a young maiden from torment. What are you doing here, playing the part of the devil?”

“I’m Miss Monroe’s new manager.” The deadly edge of Dylan’s voice matched the flintiness of his eyes. “If there’s anyone to save the young maiden from, it’s you.”

“Mr. Carter, please.” Charli turned to Leon. “Leon, is there something I can do for you?”

He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth in a face handsome enough to belong to an actor. “I was just passing by on my way home and decided to stop. How are the boys working out?”

Dylan’s stance widened and his hands flexed at his slides. “What boys?”

“Charli and I have entered into a business arrangement.”

She lost the battle with the urge to wrap her arms around herself. As much as she appreciated Leon’s kindness, respected him, and was even a little attracted to him, something about him didn’t set right with her. He represented her peers in the community. According to Mrs. Pratt, besides the Cartwrights, she and Leon were undoubtedly the wealthiest residents in the county. No one in Colton could learn about her past. It would ruin her, and Leon, no doubt, had the means to dig up the dirt.

“Really?” Dylan stepped closer to her in a protective manner. The whisky he’d drunk that morning tainted his breath as the warmth of the exhalations tickled her cheek. “What kind of business arrangement?”

Charli could protect herself. Dylan Carter wasn’t any safer than Leon Ferguson. Stepping away from Dylan, she forced her arms to her sides. “Mr. Carter, I can handle this.”

She faced Leon. “I’m amazed by how much the men got done since starting on Monday. The foreman told me last evening they’d be reseeding another fifty acres for hay this morning. And they have the corrals fixed and started on the fencing in the north pasture.”

“Good, good.” He glanced at Dylan. “I’ll be going unless you need a more reliable exterminator. I couldn’t help but overhear about your snake infestation. I can give you the name of the company that has gotten rid of the snakes in our lakes over on Oak Springs for years.”

Although he presented the perfect solution, she didn’t the like way Leon had looked at Dylan as he said the word “exterminator.” “No, Mr. Carter is quite capable of getting rid of the snake.”

“Oh, I’m sure he is.” Leon tipped his hat. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, Charli.” Dylan’s jaw tightened as his uncle glanced at him. “Dylan, it’s good to see you up among the living again.”

Leon headed back to his Porsche. With no pretense of lowering his voice, Dylan said, “Now, there’s a snake no one wants in their garden.”

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A Hunter's Angel, Freebie Friday

Freebie Fridays–A Hunter’s Angel

I’m starting something new this week.  Every other Friday will be Freebie Friday.  Basically, I’ll post either a small snippit from one of my manuscripts or soon-to-be released book or a short story.

This Friday, I’m posting an excerpt from A Hunter’s Angel, releasing on July 20.

~~~~~

Chapter 1

 

Four dead bodies in four weeks on my watch do not make a good impression. Recently appointed Police Chief Grace Wallace exited her Crown Vic at the edge of the field. Clayton, Pennsylvania, hadn’t seen more than two murders the entire twenty years Grace’s father had been the chief before his death six months ago.

She pulled her Goretex jacket tighter around her to fend off the bitter February wind and freezing rain. Picking her way over the stubble of corn stalks poking up through last week’s melting snow, she reached the officer heading toward her. “How bad is it this time? Gordon didn’t say when he called me.”

Ben Anders, her best friend and lieutenant, shook his head. A shower of water drops dripped from his wide-brimmed, plastic-protected campaign hat. “It’s bad, Gracie. Seventeen-year-old female this time. Gordon actually knows her. The FBI should be here any minute.”

“Dear Lord.” She looked over at Officer Gordon Fagan kneeling by the body in the distance. He worked with other officers collecting evidence. When she resigned from the Philadelphia PD, she thought she’d left the endless crime behind. “Has the family been notified?”

“No, not yet. But she was reported missing this morning before Larry Barkley found her,” he said, referring to the dairy farmer who owned the field. They trudged toward the cordoned area through the semi-frozen muck of the cornfield. “The girl had been out on a date earlier in the evening with Barkley’s oldest son, but according to Barb Barkley, he dropped her off at a friend’s house sometime before the last milking which was before nine p.m.”

She looked over at the farmers standing at the edge of the field under the meager protection of a giant pine tree and winced. Larry and Barbara Barkley were pillars of the community. Barbara, in fact, unwittingly reminded Grace of what she’d missed about her hometown during one of the most difficult times of her life. The day her father died, Barbara, along with Grace’s aunts, organized to help her do everything from planning the wake after the funeral to boxing up his things two months later.

Clearing her throat, she focused on Ben again and curled her shoulders forward, trying to hide within the warmth of her coat. “We’ll have to question the boy.”

“Yeah, I know.” Ben kicked at a plod of half-frozen clay. “The Barkleys are some of the nicest people in the township. Makes me sick to even think about what they’re going through.”

She frowned and looked away. “Me, too.”

“You don’t think the boy did it, do you?”

“Not really, but he could’ve been the last person to see her alive.” She glanced over at the farmers. Larry had his arm around Barbara’s shoulders as the state police detective questioned them. Simple, hardworking, God-fearing people.

No one had expected the Philadelphia recluse, Jeffrey Cavanaugh, of being a cannibalistic serial killer, either. Simple, hardworking, stayed to himself. Those had been the things his neighbors had said about him after Grace, her PD partner, and Ian McHenry’s FBI team arrested him for a ten-year murder spree.

“Do you still think this is similar to the serial killer you investigated in the city?” Ben surprised her by voicing her thoughts.

She pulled her hands from her pockets. The clay soil stuck to her shoes and icy rain stung her face. She angled the brim of her hat over her forehead and wiped at her eyes. “Could be. But now’s not the time to theorize about it. Let’s wait to see what the FBI thinks first.”

Grace remembered when she brought up her theory about Cavanaugh possibly believing he was a vampire to Ian. The FBI agent had disagreed with her until the facts pointed to no other conclusion.

She shook the images out of her head of the mutilated bodies of over thirty young women and men that had accumulated over ten years in several basement freezers. And with the memories, the face of the investigation’s FBI Special Agent in Charge, Ian McHenry, the man who mutilated her heart.

She focused on the current case. The last three Clayton victims were older than the seventeen-year-old girl lying in the mud. “I hate serial killers.”

“Don’t we all.” Ben shoved his hands into his pockets. “Who’d ever thought this could happen here? They’re all so young. And the bodies are ill-concealed, as if the bastard wants them found.”

“We have a psychopath who’s teasing us.” As they came upon the scene, Grace steeled herself. She had never completely gotten over the shock of seeing a murder victim for the first time. Even after six years of detective work in Philadelphia, investigating some of the most gruesome crime scenes, she still couldn’t comprehend the violence that human beings could inflict on others.

Sergeants Sam Benton and Gordon Fagan gathered evidence under the watchfulness of one of the state cops. They put the items into small plastic baggies and paper envelopes—hair, fibers, anything that could give them a clue as to who had done this heinous act. Two other state police officers searched the surrounding area for other evidence. The last person standing over the victim was County Coroner, Jonah Swartz.

At last, she looked at the body. The halo of golden curls framing the gray face of the dead girl struck her first. Before she was murdered, she’d been rather pretty. Grace imagined her eyes were a vibrant blue or possibly green. The girl didn’t look peaceful in death. Grace wasn’t sure if she’d ever seen a corpse look peaceful. Most of them mirrored the horror that ended their lives, shattering their dreams, stealing their futures.

“What do you make of it, Jonah?” She looked up at the coroner.

His troubled gaze met hers. “I don’t know, Grace. You’re supposed to be the hotshot, big city detective.”

She ignored the sting in his voice. Jonah Swartz believed her completely wrong for the job of police chief, even despite her experience as a top-notch Philadelphia homicide detective. Most of her father’s colleagues had wanted Ben appointed police chief after her father’s death last summer.

Jonah looked down at the girl and shuddered. “She’s the same age as my Katie.” He shook his head, as if ridding himself of the correlation to his daughter. “Have you come up with a motive?”

She wasn’t about to discuss her ideas yet. “No, other than he’s a sick son-of-a-bitch.” Every possible generic motive—rape, robbery, revenge—had been discredited. None of the victims had been sexually assaulted or robbed, and there were no connections between them to conclude revenge. It appeared the only thing he wanted was to slit the victims’ throats and drain them of their blood.

Which only managed to convince her more they were dealing with another vampire-wannabe, like Cavanaugh.

She pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and tugged the edge of the girl’s rain-soaked sweater away from the jagged slit. Nothing. No bruising, no signs of struggle, and most disturbing— no blood. Not a drop. Even Cavanaugh’s victims had fought him before he’d killed them. The more recent bodies had been covered with bruises from their struggles with the serial killer.

When her team raided his home, not only had they found the frozen body parts in the basement freezers, but also the bloody clothes from his last three murders stashed away in a garbage bag.

“I don’t get it. It’s almost like the bodies were drained before he slit the throats,” the coroner said.

Grace let go of the sweater. She sat back on her haunches and stared at the body. “How does he do it?”

Nothing explained the lack of blood or signs of struggle. The use of a drug to subdue the victims was discredited when none was found in their systems. Of course, there was hardly enough blood left in any of them to test. Had this creep simply walked up behind them, drained their blood with some method of phlebotomy, and then slit their throats to mislead the investigation?

She tucked those thoughts away to think on them later and looked across the body to her oldest officer. “I’m sorry, Gordon. Ben said you knew her.”

Grace had never known any of the murdered victims she investigated in the city, which she considered a blessing. It was bad enough that, by the time she was done with a case, she often felt attached, especially to the victim’s family.

With the four murders within her jurisdiction over the past month, she’d either known them personally or their families and friends. Each murder chipped a little more away from her as she shared the town’s collective grief.

With a flash of obvious grief in his blue eyes, Gordon paused with a pair of tweezers and a small baggie poised in his gloved hands.  “Sadly I do. She went to school with my eldest boy. Her name is Christina Murphy. Good student, track star.”

After a moment, Gordon cleared his throat and jutted his chin toward one of the larger plastic bags next to him. “Those are the contents of her pockets. Like the others, nothing seems to be stolen. She was carrying a Visa card and about twenty-five dollars on her.”

“Well, it’s obvious she wasn’t killed here.” Sam finished zipping a bag with what looked like three strands of short dark hair in it and labeled it with a thin black marker. “Where the heck is the FBI? We’ll be done before they get here.”

“I’m glad the Feds are finally on the case.” Jonah stood back with his arms crossed over his wool coat, waiting for the police to finish their jobs.

As a typical big city cop, she always resented when the Feds came breezing in and took over a case, usually after she and her department did all the dirty work. However, she wasn’t in the big city anymore. She didn’t have an expert medical examiner on the case who had years of experience in forensic science. Jonah had held the elected office of coroner for ten years. He was good at determining if a person died of natural causes, but with the grisly side of unnatural death, he was somewhat at a loss.

In a strange way, her quaint little town was perfect for a serial killer. Everyone, including the police, thought it was safe. Grace was fast realizing there were no safe places.

She heaved in a sigh and removed her gloves. “I don’t know anyone from Pittsburgh.”

With a creak in his knees, Gordon stood and stretched his back. “I’d rather have that team you worked with in Philly. According to some of the state cops, they’re the best at catching sickos like this creep.”

No, she wanted to scream. She could never work with Ian McHenry again. Instead, she distractedly muttered, “I’m sure Pittsburgh has good agents, too.”

“But we are the best of the best, Chief Wallace.”

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