Tag Archives: urban

Author Showcase – Karissa Laurel (The Norse Chronicles)

 

Midnight Burning

Solina Mundy lives a quiet life, running the family bakery in her small North Carolina hometown. But one night, she suffers a vivid nightmare in which a wolfish beast is devouring her twin brother, who lives in Alaska. The next morning, police notify her that Mani is dead. Driven to learn the truth, Solina heads for the Land of the Midnight Sun. Once there, she begins to suspect Mani’s friends know more about his death than they’ve let on. Skyla, an ex-Marine, is the only one willing to help her.

As Solina and Skyla delve into the mystery surrounding Mani’s death, Solina is stunned to learn that her own life is tied to Mani’s friends, his death, and the fate of the entire world. If she can’t learn to control her newfound gifts and keep her friends safe, a long-lost dominion over mortals will rise again, and everything she knows will fall into darkness.

 

Arctic Dawn

Alone and exhausted after her month-long sojourn as a shooting star, Solina Mundy flees to southern California to lie low, recuperate, and plot a survival strategy. The one person she trusts to watch her back is her best friend, Skyla Ramirez. But Skyla has been missing for weeks. The arrival of a dangerous stranger and the discovery of a legendary weapon of mass destruction force Solina out of hiding and back into the fight for her life.

Solina knows she won’t last long on her own. She must find out what happened to Skyla and unite her contentious allies if she hopes to track down this devastating weapon before her enemies use it to burn the world to ash.

 

Molten Dusk

While recovering from a devastating betrayal, Solina becomes increasingly drawn to Thorin as he helps her hunt down Skoll, the mythical wolf who vowed to kill her. If she can find and destroy the beast, she’ll bring a swift and brutal end to her enemies’ schemes. But nothing ever goes as planned in Solina’s strange new world.

During her search for Skoll, Solina uncovers a plot to unleash a battalion of legendary soldiers and launch an apocalyptic war. Before she and her allies can locate the fabled army, several ghosts from her past return to haunt her. Solina must fight for life and the fate of the world, or her hopes for love and a peaceful future will go up in flames.

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Midnight Burning Excerpt

As if he sensed my reticence, Val made the move that he must have thought would convince me to agree. But it was the wrong move. He swooped me into his arms and kissed me, hard and possessive. For a heartbeat I saw an image of the earth sinking into a sea of fire, but reality returned in the next moment. Val’s kiss was brutish, like he was trying to claim me. I didn’t care for it at all, and I shoved at him. “Val, stop it,” I said, turning away to gasp for breath. I reached for my fire, but I never got the chance to use it.

This time when Thorin appeared, it wasn’t in his usual silent and sudden way. His arrival was loud, like a steam train roaring into the station, crashing against Val and slamming him into the wall. I gasped and jumped out of the way.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Val?” Thorin raged like an angry giant. Fee-fi-fo-fum, indeed. “She made it clear that she wants you to leave her alone.”

Val shoved against Thorin, his biceps bulging from the effort, but Thorin held him in place.

She came to me,” Val said. “Apologizing, hoping to make up. Why don’t you ask her what she wants?” Val’s eyes darted to mine. “C’mon, Solina, tell us. You want me to keep my hands off?”

Thorin shoved him again. “It was a lot more than your hands.”

“Who do you think you are, Thorin? Her father? Her jealous lover? I know for a fact she’s never laid a hand on you.”

“You don’t know anything,” Thorin said.

Val’s certainty wavered for a second, his eyes flickering between me and Thorin. “Bullshit,” Val said, finally working up the force to push Thorin away. Val stormed over to his bed, grabbed the messenger bag containing his things, and slid the strap across his chest. “This is all bullshit.”

Fire simmered just under the surface of my skin, pushing like shaken champagne strains against a loose cork. The little devil on my shoulder urged me to let it out, convert all my feelings into a messy conflagration and burn down both Val and Thorin. Fortunately my voice of reason spoke louder. By the time I recovered my composure, Val was already out the door and making his way down the hall, so I turned my indignation on Thorin.

“What the hell?” I said. Thorin glared back at me, his eyes black and bottomless. “Who asked you to interfere?”

“Last night you announced to the whole house you were finished with Val. Then I come around the corner to find him plastered all over you, and you didn’t look like you were enjoying it.”

“Irrelevant!” I screeched. Thorin was intent on making me the damsel in distress, and I was sick of being underrated.

Thorin folded his arms over his chest and glared at me. “Who knew you were such a fickle creature, Miss Mundy?”

“It’s irrelevant because I was perfectly capable of handling Val on my own, but you always underestimate me. I’m not helpless. And stop calling me Miss Mundy. We both know you only do it to get under my skin.” I raged at him over the inconsequential because I didn’t want Thorin to know the depth of my confusion and hurt. Val’s insistence on treating me as some trophy to claim felt like a metaphorical fist squeezing my heart.

Thorin stepped closer and leaned down so that we were nose to nose. “And you continued to humor Val just to get under my skin.”

“Why won’t you understand that what happens between Val and me has nothing to do with you?”

Thorin leaned in even closer and dropped his voice. His warm breath brushed my cheek when he said, “Why won’t you understand just how wrong you are about that?”

“What are you saying?” My voice went dry and raspy as Thorin’s closeness filled my senses. My heartbeat changed from a frantic gallop to an anticipatory lope. My body was so quick to betray my convictions.

He brought his lips mere millimeters from mine and then stopped. His scent was thunderstorms and burnt sky. He cupped my face in his hands and rubbed a thumb over my lower lip. His touch was lightning, and it brought forth images of boiling clouds the color of bruises and winds like artillery, tearing into an army of shadows bearing claws and teeth. He growled, cursing in a language I did not recognize. If I’d had to guess, it probably translated to something along the lines of “damn it to hell.” Then he shook his head, and in a rough and broken voice he said, “I’m not like him. I won’t make his mistakes.”

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All the stories in The Norse Chronicles can be purchased separately.

See below for those links and for A Norse Chronicles novella, not found in the collection above. 


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Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, super heroes and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s curled up with a good book.

 

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Author Showcase – J.C. McKenzie (The Night House)

What would you pay for your freedom?

Caught by a powerful lord from the alternate realm of Arkavia, Taya’s offered the chance to avenge the dead, save her home world, and win her freedom.

Her days of stealing supplies and surviving among the remnants of Earth are over, but can she afford the price of Lord Thane’s deal?

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~~ Excerpt 1 ~~

The Tarka chuckled and shoved her away. She stumbled a few steps, dropped the sticks and unsheathed her blades. Her fingers gripped the smooth leather wound around the hilts. The power vibrated against her skin. The electrifying blue energy danced along the shafts and whined, begging for blood. She whirled around and her hood fell back. The wind pushed her hair across her face.

The Tarka remained expressionless and drew his second sword. He now wielded two blades like her. “Ah. Now we see the true you.”

She lunged. He parried. The power of the swords pulled at her. She fused with them, merging into one, as if the blades became extensions of her arms as she danced. The light reflected off the metal and she became a flurry of sharp edges. Each slash propelled her faster and she spun, transforming into a whirlwind of blades.

 

~~ Excerpt 2 ~~

The Tarka held perfectly still, gray gaze flashing, white-blond hair shining under the setting sun. He looked like a warrior angel sent to Earth to smite the pest-like humans.

She clutched her staff and brought it up with numb fingers.

He raised a dark eyebrow. “You plan to fight me with a stick?”

“I can hand it over and tell you what to do with it, if you promise to follow directions.” She moved the stick slowly. Not fast enough to give away her skill, but enough to warm her wrists and get blood flowing back into her limbs.

“I’ll take option number one, thank you,” he said.

“Fine with me. I’d prefer anything to becoming your next sacrifice.” They’d never confirmed the Arkavians were responsible for the bloody sacrifice they’d stumbled on, but no crazy magical beasts had roamed the forest since the portal opened, so they made an assumption. She glanced behind her at the trees and George’s exposed foot. What the hell had the Tarka done to him?

“He’s incapacitated. You won’t find any help from him.”

Taya snarled while her mind raced. The man hadn’t used any magic yet. Maybe he didn’t have any. Maybe only some of the blondes had power. Could she outrun him? She wasn’t fast, but he was bulky with muscle, and wore lightweight armour and a heavy cloak to stave off the damp cold.

Where would she run to? She couldn’t lead him to the others, and she couldn’t survive long in the woods without supplies.

The man cocked his head, studying her and probably reading every thought screaming through her head. “Sacrifice? Exactly what kind of fantasies have your kind concocted about us?”

“I would hardly call them fantasies.”

“What would you call them, then?”

“Nightmares.” Duh.

He nodded. “Is this where you tell me my evil ways are done?”

“I’m not sure. Is this where you make some grand speech about ridding the world of my kind or do you plan to preach about the superiority of your race and how you deserve to leach off our planet?”

“I’m waiting for you to finish warming up so we can get on with it.”

She fumbled and almost dropped the staff.

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View More: http://photos.pass.us/headshot2J.C. McKenzie is a book-loving, gumboot-wearing, unapologetic science geek. She’s the author of the Carus Series, an urban fantasy five-book saga published by the Wild Rose Press. Born and raised on the West Coast, J. C. sets the majority of her books in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with sassy heroines and brutish, alpha-type men.

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Author Showcase – Judith Sterling (The Cauldron Stirred) (The Stone Awakened)

~~ The following books are on sale until March 21st for only 99 cents! ~~

 

Guardians of Erin, Book One

 

Ashling Donoghue never dreamed moving to Ireland would rock her perception of reality and plunge her into a mystery that brings legend to life.

At seventeen, she’s never had a boyfriend, but she feels an immediate connection to Aengus Breasal, the son of the wealthy Irishman who’s invited her family to stay at his Killarney estate.  For the first time in her life, a guy she likes seems attracted to her.

But Aengus is secretive, with good reason.  He and his family are the Tuatha Dé Danann, ageless, mythical guardians adept at shifting between this reality and the magical dimension known as the Otherworld.  Evil forces from that world threaten the Breasals, the Donoghues, and all of Ireland.  Ashling must open her heart, face her fears, and embrace a destiny greater than she could ever have imagined.

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            The night air was deliciously cool. Moonlight and darkness held equal sway over the backyard thanks to the shifting clouds. I dashed across the lawn and halted in the exact spot where Aengus had stood. Panting, I looked around, willing some kind of clue to materialize.

            The ruins in front of me darkened as large, heavy clouds swallowed the moon whole. The wind tugged at my long, loose hair and pajamas. Tiny raindrops spattered on my nose and cheeks. I turned my palms to the sky, and cold rain pelted them.

            “Great.” Intending to return to the house, I swiveled around.

            I gasped. My right hand flew to my chest. “Aengus?!”

            The man himself stood an arm’s length in front of me. “Why are you here?”

            “You scared the crap out of me!”

            “Whisht!”

            “What?”

            “Shush!”

            Pop!

            The strident sound came from the ruins. I whirled around and stared at the dark keep.

            Aengus grabbed me from behind. He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. I reveled in the feel of his taut body, of his warm flesh against mine.

            Suddenly, everything changed. The rain stopped. The wind died. The entire landscape was bathed in the soft hue of twilight. Breasal Castle looked brand spanking new, just as it had during the bizarre dream in which I brought Aengus to the cottage. But this time, I knew I was awake.

            Dumbfounded, I gawked at the medieval magnificence before me. I had no idea what had happened and no desire to pull away from his embrace.

            His lips brushed my right ear, sending a shiver down my spine. “This way.”

            His right arm released me, and his left slid down to my waist. Maintaining body contact the entire time, he steered me toward the stand of oaks on our right.

            Once sheltered by the trees, he turned us around so we faced the castle.

            “Are we hiding?” I whispered.

            “We are.”

            “Why? And what just happened?”

            “I can’t say.”

            “Can’t or won’t?”

            “Both.”

            Until that moment, I’d forgotten I wore pajamas. Now I was acutely aware of it. Satin was pleasing to the touch, but something told me my attire had nothing to do with his grip on me.

            I looked up at him. “Not that I mind, but why are you holding me so close?”

            His hand tightened on my waist. “It’s necessary.”

            “I don’t suppose you can explain that, either.”

            With his gaze locked on the castle, he shook his head. He pressed his right forefinger against his mouth in a silencing gesture. Then he pointed up at the keep.

            High on the battlements, the black-haired woman from my dream—and from Branna’s painting—paced back and forth. Her hair whipped about her pale face and slender frame.

            She paused beside a gap in the crenelated wall and glared down at the fairy mound. Her colorless lips curled into a sneer. Then her human form morphed into a dark shadow, which fragmented into what seemed a million black particles. They swarmed into the air and shot across the twilit sky, disappearing into the distance.

            I took a deep breath. “So she’s real.”

            He nodded. “She’s real, to be sure. Come.” With his arm still hooked around me, he led me out of the woods and toward the fairy mound.

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Guardians of Erin, Book Two

 

Since moving to Ireland, Ashling Donoghue has tackled one challenge after another.  Now the mystery of her parents’ disappearance seems unsolvable.  Are they dead or only missing?  No one—not even the godlike Breasals—has a clue.  Hope and fear war inside her, but she’s determined to find answers and stay strong for her siblings.  Even as she hones newfound powers, her banshee-in-training sister Deirdre needs her support.

Ashling could use a little help herself.  She’s struggling to navigate her first romance, and while Aengus Breasal stirs her body, mind, and soul, his nemesis Lorcan does too.  Both men harbor secrets about her past life as Caer.  One has ties to Aoife, the scheming wind demon whose influence is on the rise.

As the Stone of Destiny awakens, so does the conflict within.

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            Thunder shook the night as the Dullahan’s black stallion reared beneath him on the sweeping lawn below. The horseman thrust his severed head toward the sky and called out the names of those he hunted.

            “Dylan Donoghue! Maeve Donoghue!”

            Powerless to stop him, I watched from the bedroom window. The glass panes infused my palms with the chill of death itself. Out of sight, my parents screamed, then fell silent. The sound of laughter followed.

            Exultant. Spiteful. Malignant.

            Aoife! The wind demon whose foul plot shattered my family with a single blow.

            Hate and despair welled inside me. “No!”

            “Ashling, wake up!” My sister shook me awake.

            She switched on the lamp between our beds, and I scanned the room. The same sash windows as in the dream. The same luxurious décor in shades of periwinkle, white, and gray. Even my slippers beside the bed were the same. But the night was quiet, and there was no immediate danger.

            Deirdre tucked her long, blonde hair behind her ears and gave me a knowing look. “Another nightmare about the Dullahan?”

            Nodding, I wiped the sweat from my brow. “And Aoife.”

            “Sounds almost as bad as my dream the night he took Mom and Dad.”

            “We don’t know he took them.”

            “We don’t know he didn’t.”

            “They’re not dead!” Dread clutched my heart, and I pushed out a long breath to calm myself. “They can’t be.”

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Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.

Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.

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Author Showcase – Tricia Copeland (Kingdom of the Damned: Kingdom Journals series)

Volume 1 (Kingdom Journals)

Alena’s story -$0.99 in ebook, Free on Kindle Unlimited)

He wouldn’t understand. He didn’t live in a pretend world. In truth, he did. Most beings, pure humans, walked around thinking they were the only type of people that existed.” –Alena

As a creature forbidden by both vampire and witch cultures, Alena is forced hide her identity. Her mother moves them from city to city searching for answers. When Alena finds Hunter everything changes. She believes their bond may be the. But her mother finds Theron, an equally handsome and mysterious suitor. Will the truth of his intentions be uncovered before it is too late? Or will her Mother’s kingdom be reduced to embers?

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 Volume 2 (Kingdom Journals)

Camille’s story – Free on Kindle Unlimited

“… the previous night’s vision, or whatever it was, ended with a name I heard clear as day, as if the people were in my room. Ivy, the girl and boy recited together.” – Camille Could her dreams be real? Is she the key to freeing witches from their curse? Of course not, right? Thinking that her only chance at a normal life lay in a new treatment, Camille joins Dr. Antos and a group of teens for a month long camping trip in Iceland. There she meets Jude, a fellow schizophrenic. Dr. Antos invites Camille and Jude to extend their work with him on the island of Sardinia. Camille is suspicious of Dr. Antos’s intentions but her dad goes missing, leaving her no choice but to travel to Italy. Is she walking into a lion’s den or has her illness invaded her reality?

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Volume 3: (Kingdom Journals)

Jude’s Story: Free on Kindle Unlimited

Jude only knows one thing: he must rescue Camille. It doesn’t matter what must be done to save her from the evil coven, he will do it. But once she’s recovered, what will his role be? How does he fit into the trinity’s prophecy? Find out in this urban fantasy adventure novel that finds the Kingdom Journals characters traversing the globe in search of Camille, and the key to breaking an age-old curse.

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~ Newest Release! ~

Volume 4: Anne’s Story

Kingdom of the Damned is a stand-alone prelude to the Kingdom Journals Series.

“…he that believeth not shall be DAMNED” – Mark 16:16

In 1557, witches burn her home and family. She escapes with the help of a family friend and they hide among humans. At seventeen, another atrocity ignites Anne’s passion for justice. Circumventing the globe, she seeks to unite the vampires and build peace. Powerful enemies amass against them, but her friends number many, including a surprising and mysterious hero. In a war for survival, love feels extravagant, and heroes don’t always prevail. Can she best her enemy and find happiness at last?

 

 

Foreword

The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

cursed are you above all cattle,

and above all wild animals;

upon your belly you shall go,

and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life.”

Genesis 3:14

 

The Edict of Châteaubriant, signed 27 June 1551 by King Henry II of France, censored Protestant rhetoric and enabled seizure of funds for punishment. The Edict of Compiègne, of 24 July 1557, allowed the death penalty for crimes of heresy. The witch community, garbed in the Catholic faith, hunted and killed vampires under the guise of bringing the pagans to justice.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Mabon – The Fall Equinox – 21 September 1557, France, during the reign of King Henry II

 

A vampire has memories from the time they are born. I recall my mother’s face and her warm skin, the sound of her voice. I’ll see you tonight in your beautiful red dress. I love you. She kisses my forehead.

In the evening, I slide the garment over my head, and Elizabeth curls my hair with a hot iron rod. She fits the sash around my waist and into a large bow on my back. I sit in a chair, waiting for the sun to set as she dresses her children for the party. Her daughter Elle twirls in a circle, making her skirt fan out. Even though Elle is older, I am as tall as her, because she and her brother, Hank, are halflings.

Hank is two like me, but not as big or smart. He fiddles with his collar buttoned tight around his neck. As the sky grows dark, I climb atop the chair near the window, impatient to be united with my family and to begin the festivities. An orange glow rises over the hill where my house lies in the next valley. The color looks different than any sunset I remember.

I run to Elizabeth. “Elizabeth, the sky.”

“What child?”

“Come see.” I grab her hand and pull her to the window.

As I push up on my toes to look out the glass, I see flames shooting above the ridge. Men carrying torches summit the hill and race towards us. At one’s signal, they circle the house, making a ring around Elizabeth’s cottage.

“Finn!” Elizabeth yells.

“There’s no way out.” Finn’s eyes dart around the room. I can smell the fear rolling off his skin.

Elizabeth points out the window to a tall tree. “When we open the door, run.”

Wide-eyed, I nod. Elizabeth scoops up Elle, and Finn grabs Hank. Opening the door, they sprint towards the forest. I dart off in the opposite direction. A large dog barks on my heels, but I am fast and reach the tree before the animal overtakes me. Low branches form stairs, and I jump to the first. I feel a tug at my skirt and hear it rip as I reach for the second limb. I catch it and swing to a higher branch. The beast jumps and yelps, but I focus on the limbs above. The branches become thinner, and the space between them shorter as I climb, hand over foot, until I feel the trunk sway with my weight.

Looking down, I see the men with the torches have surrounded Elizabeth and her family. Flames close in on them, engulfing the group in smoke. A bitter smell assaults my nose. The men douse the flames, and when the air clears, I see forms lying on the charred ground. I watch as the men retreat, leaving Elizabeth and her family lying atop the charred grass.

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Tricia lives in Colorado with her family and four-legged friends. She writes young and new adult fiction including fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, and romance titles. If not out on the trail, you can find Tricia on your favorite social media!
Find Tricia and her books at www.triciacopeland.com or on your favorite social media.

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Author Showcase – Rebecca Chastain (Madison Fox Urban Fantasy Series)

Reading Order

1. A Fistful of Evil

Madison Fox just learned that her ability to see souls is more than a sight: It’s a weapon for fighting evil. The only problem is she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing.

On the positive side, her money problems are over and her coworker is smoking hot. On the negative side, evil creatures now actively hunt her, and deadly experiences are becoming the norm.

When she thinks it couldn’t get worse, a powerful evil sets up shop at a local hotel’s video game convention, and it’s got its eye on more than the gaming geeks—it’s hungry for Madison’s soul. Madison needs to become an expert illuminant enforcer overnight to save her job, her region…and her life.

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2. A Fistful of Fire

 

Madison Fox survived her first week as California’s newest illuminant enforcer, but if her grumpy boss, Mr. Pitt, was impressed, he hasn’t told Madison. In fact, there’s a lot her boss has been closemouthed about, including the dark secret haunting his past.

But Madison’s problems are just igniting. Neighboring regions report an uncharacteristic flare-up of evil, fire-breathing salamanders blaze unchecked across the city, and Black Friday looms. Trapped doing cleanup amid mobs of holiday shoppers, Madison watches from the sidelines as dubious allies insinuate themselves in her region.

As suspicions kindle and the mysterious evil gains strength, Madison must determine who she can trust—and whose rules to follow—before her region and career go up in flames.

 

 

 

2.5 A Fistful of Flirtation 

Madison finally gets her date with Dr. Love—and if they had picked any other restaurant, she might have had a chance of enjoying it, too . . .

~~ NOTE TO READERS  (From Rebecca) ~~

If you have not read A Fistful of Evil and A Fistful of Fire, this novelette will include SPOILERS. Catch up on the series first so you don’t miss out! 

A Fistful of Flirtation will be available to readers who sign up for my VIP newsletter http://www.rebeccachastain.com/newsletter/

 

 

3. A Fistful of Frost

Madison’s job—and soul—are on thin ice.

Madison Fox is determined to reform Jamie, her half-evil pooka, but the bond linking her to Jamie works both ways. Already, it has manipulated her into bending the rules. If she continues down this path, she could doom her soul. Since her judgment can’t be trusted, a high-ranking inspector now dictates Madison’s every interaction with Jamie, and each directive drives them further apart. 

Unfortunately, Madison has bigger issues than the potential degradation of her soul. Winter has struck with a vengeance. Frost moths plague the entire state, reinforcing the artificially frigid temperature. Worse, cold-blooded, soul-stealing enemies are flocking into her region from the north—creatures Madison has little defense against. 

With the inspector scrutinizing her every misstep, Madison is in for the battle of her life. If she hopes to survive, she must make an impossible choice: save herself and her region or save Jamie.

An imaginative urban fantasy filled with heart, humor, and plenty of butt-kicking action—A Fistful of Frost is a book you won’t want to miss.

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I expected the inspector to look like an Army Ranger, tall, muscular, and radiating an “I could kill you if I wanted to” vibe. The woman who stepped from the car shattered my assumptions. Midfifties, petite, and pale, with a slash of bright auburn in her chin-length white-blond hair, Inspector Pamela Hennessey didn’t look authoritative until her assessing gaze landed on me. Then I fought not to squirm.

“Madison Fox and the pooka Jamie,” she said, not quite a greeting and not a question. It would have sounded rude if not delivered in her posh British accent. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“All good, I hope,” I quipped.

She eyed me up and down, giving me a noncommittal, “Mmm.”

My smile froze at the corners.

Rose climbed from the driver’s seat and shut the car door with more force than necessary. The Latina empath gave me a curt nod, as if we were strangers and not coworkers and friends. What the hell? I stopped pretending to smile. Jamie shifted closer, brushing his gloved hand against mine, worry crinkling his eyebrows as he read the tension of the group. I gave him a shoulder bump to reassure him, pretending to be relaxed. Pamela’s gaze snapped from our touching hands to our shoulders to our faces, and I fought the urge to leap away from Jamie as if I were doing something wrong.

“Give me a net and let’s get your purity test out of the way, Madison,” the inspector said.

“Pardon me?” Wasn’t a purity test a medieval way to judge a woman’s virginity? Not only had that ship long since sailed, but I also didn’t see how it would be relevant—or anyone’s business. I checked Brad’s neutral expression. Did details about my sex life fall under the impress her or don’t embarrass me category?

The inspector rounded on Brad, wispy-fine hair flaring on either side of her pink headband earmuffs. “She doesn’t know what a purity test is? You haven’t tested her once in the last five days?”

“Madison’s purity has never been in question.”

A warning frizzled down my spine at Brad’s bland tone. She’d put him on the defense. I glanced to Rose for a clue, but she only grimaced and looked away.

“Don’t let your recent victories make you arrogant, Brad,” Pamela said. “Of course her purity is in question. She’s bonded to a pooka.”

Aha! This wasn’t about virginity; this was about Jamie’s dual nature and the metaphysical bond he’d placed on me. I’d been warned—repeatedly—to be careful of Jamie’s darker half; more than one bonded enforcer had been corrupted by a pooka’s morally ambiguous influence. No one had mentioned purity tests.

“This is to see if Jamie has . . . changed me?” I asked, choosing my words carefully in deference to Jamie. Nothing in his expression said he took offense to the insinuation that our link might have tainted me. He saw nothing wrong with wielding atrum as readily as lux lucis, and if I failed a purity test, it’d probably make him happy.

“Changed you?” Pamela echoed. “No. I need to know if the pooka’s bond has sullied you.”

So much for being tactful. I peeked sideways at Jamie, but he hadn’t reacted, his gaze focused beyond Pamela on the people walking by.

“Is there a problem?” the inspector asked.

“No. Of course not, but, Inspector Hennessey—” I shot Brad a desperate look.

“Call me Pamela. Never Pam.”

“Got it. Um, Pamela—”

“She doesn’t know how to make a net,” Brad said for me.

“Why not?” Pamela demanded, spinning to confront my boss again, the hem of her wool coat flaring to reveal the calves of her pale leather boots.

“I haven’t had the luxury of instituting a methodical training regimen with Madison.”

“Mmm,” Pamela said.

I was starting to hate that noise.

“And if she encountered a frost moth?” she asked.

“She has a lighter.”

One I’d purchased this afternoon at Brad’s insistence. Shaped like a small blowtorch, with a trigger to ignite the flame, it was the fanciest lighter I’d ever owned. It also had the distinction of being the only lighter I’d ever purchased with the intention of using as a weapon—or at least I thought that was the plan. I pressed my lips together. Now wouldn’t be a good time to confess that after reading Val’s entry on sjel tyver, I’d completely forgotten to ask the handbook about frost moths—what they looked like, where to find them, or how to kill them.

“I can instruct Madison on nets now,” Brad offered.

The inspector shook her head. “Let’s get the inquisition out of the way.”

The what?

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REBECCA CHASTAIN is the USA Today bestselling author of the Madison Fox urban fantasy series and the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles fantasy trilogy, among other worksInside her novels, you’ll find spellbinding adventures packed with supernatural creatures, thrilling action, heartwarming characters (human and otherwise), and more than a little humor. Rebecca lives in Northern California with her charming husband and two bossy cats.

Website: http://www.rebeccachastain.com/
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Twitter: @Author_Rebecca or https://twitter.com/Author_Rebecca
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