Sneak Peek at Jericho, next in The Garguiem series by Lola White

Jericho

Chapter 1

 

Isaac had a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately. Stuffed into his car, surrounded by empty coffee cups and not-so-official paperwork, he tried to utilize his gift to make sense of the chaos creeping ever closer. His head was beginning to ache.

“I know you’re connected,” he told the two papers he held—one in each hand. Glaring between the reports, he dragged a particular priest’s face from the depths of his memory. “There’s a clear link between these cases. But what else are you hiding, Father Martin Rice?”

A couple of months prior, Isaac’s cousin Levi had been assigned to investigate what turned out to be a demon in disguise in Waterview. One of the involved clergymen had confessed to questionable activity upstate and so, a few weeks ago, his other cousin, Levi’s sister, Liah, had unofficially poked her nose into a gathering of priests in Red Leaf City.

She’d uncovered an orgy, and possibly a dangerous plot making its way up the Church hierarchy. She’d also been taken hostage, along with a number of kidnapped women, and put on display at a secret Satanic Mass, led by an imposter in cardinal’s robes. During Liah’s rescue, Isaac had caught a glimpse of a familiar face.

Father Martin Rice.

The priest had stood by a hidden exit, waving the pretend cardinal and his demonic whore to safety. Isaac had only seen a portion of the man’s profile as he took off his mask, and the bastard was across the room, the torchlight dancing dramatically over his cheekbones…

But Isaac never forgot. He never forgot a single thing, which was both his gift and his curse. He remembered the man’s image, as well as a labor-intensive pencil sketch matched to Vatican records he’d pulled up on his computer. He remembered…

Jericho.

“God damn.” Isaac let one sheet of paper drop to the car’s seat so he could rub at the pain centered in his chest. Looking up, scanning his surroundings through the windshield didn’t ease the tightness, either. The sidewalks were cracked, the gutters filled with trash and a few cars lining the curb were either without tires or spray painted with graffiti. “What the hell are you doing here?”

The question was not directed at himself. Jericho—his pain and salvation, both—had looked into Father Martin Rice more than a year ago. She hadn’t gotten far. Soon after picking up the trail, she’d been pulled into a different investigation concerning a demonic minister who’d developed a cult following and a habit of human sacrifice.

And that’s when life had fallen apart.

Isaac couldn’t afford to think about it just then. Determined to hold onto his courage, he organized his papers as quickly as he could and stuffed them back into their folders. With a deep breath, he grabbed a knife from his glove compartment because the neighborhood was alarming, and focused on the task at hand.

“Just knock. That’s all. Knock and ask. The bossman’s gonna need validation before he puts resources on this thing and you’re the only one with any sort of notes on this dude.” He practiced his speech for the hundredth time. “We need what you’ve got, that’s all. Whatever you had managed to find, because I never got a chance to talk to you about it before…”

Isaac faltered. Words always seemed to get stuck in throat at that point, so he still didn’t know what he would say after that. With a shrug, he decided to wing it.

His cell phone rang before he could open his car door. Putting off the inevitable with injudicious relief, he didn’t even check the screen before he answered. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?”

Isaac’s eyes widened and he sat up in a rush—not that he had far to go. The steering wheel punched into his sternum, stealing his breath long enough that he managed to find an response to the question. “Uh, hey, Bossman. I’m in my car. Why?”

Enoch wasn’t technically family, a cousin by marriage only, but he’d been put in charge of their branch of Garguiem operations nonetheless. That had caused friction and a fair amount of distrust, which wasn’t aided by his gift for uncovering truths. The man was persuasive, charismatic, and had a way of making people want to confess their secrets to him. Almost hypnotizing, to Isaac’s way of thinking—and definitely dangerous for the secret mission he and his cousins had undertaken.

“Where is your car, Isaac?”

“Car’s on the street, bossman, just where cars belong.”

Enoch must have known something was going on—after all, half the family agents in his employ had bailed on Christmas dinner and Isaac hadn’t been to the office in over a week. He didn’t want to get into hypnotizing range. Liah would skin him alive if he revealed the truth about her new boyfriend, and Enoch would roast him over actual coals if he was caught in a lie.

“Which street?” Each word came slowly, clearly, and greatly emphasized.

Isaac cleared his throat, unwilling to divulge such sensitive information. “What’s going on? Is something wrong?”

“Yeah, the people supposedly working for my branch of Garguiem operations are all currently AWOL.”

The man’s voice was too smooth, too calm. In-law or not, Isaac didn’t fully trust him, and especially not with so much going on. “Not all of us are missing.”

“Liah’s off the roster pending her appeal, Levi took off for parts unknown with Marcella and you’re not behind your desk, where I expected you to be over an hour ago.”

“That’s not all of us, Enoch. I mean, come on, there’s still—”

“I know my team, thank you. The people I want to see, however, aren’t here. I have a problem with this, Isaac. A big problem that’s making me rethink what, exactly, could be capturing the attention of my best operatives.”

“Like you said, people are taking some time off for important life moments, bossman.”

“Including you?”

Isaac started to sweat. “I’m looking into something.”

“Oh?” Enoch’s tone turned sugary. “You’re looking into the file I just put on your desk, perhaps? The one ordering a full evaluation of Archbishop Hallie?”

Hallie was the man who had kicked off the entire investigation. The man that had opened the rabbit hole Isaac and his cousins were currently falling down. He was a recovering alcoholic and had mentored a man serving a sentence for murder after a demon’s possession. Hallie had gotten suspicious and called an old friend for some help—a friend who happened to be connected to the Garguiem.

“Why do you need an eval for the archbishop?” Isaac asked.

“Levi emailed me his report on the happenings at both Waterview and in Red Leaf City. I must confess, he’s a better Garguiem agent than anyone had previously given him credit for.”

“Of course he’s good. He’s family, ain’t he?”

Isaac could almost picture Enoch rolling his eyes as his snort came through the phone’s speaker. “We all know he’s a loose cannon, never the greatest agent, though he’s a lucky son of bitch. He’s been hanging on by frayed threads since Gideon fell.”

“And?” Isaac held his breath, wondering where his supervisor was going with his observations.

“And I know I saw him at your aunt’s house during the Week of Wisdom, but he still had time to travel upstate and investigate a group of priests who only meet once a month?”

“Well, he’s got great timing. Lucky, like you said.”

“And he’s got a brand new friendship with a potentially corrupt archbishop.”

Isaac stilled. “You’ve got evidence?”

“No,” Enoch replied. “You’re going to get the evidence. Hallie’s alcohol addiction comes too damned close to corruption for my liking. I want you to compile a dossier on him—”

“I’ve already got one started.”

The sudden anger sweeping through him gave his words a snap he normally wouldn’t direct at his superior. Despite Levi’s assurances that Hallie was an upstanding member of the Church, and even disregarding Liah’s respect for the man, Isaac knew his job. Any time a new clergyman was given a glimpse into Garguiem operations a file was created.

“Enoch, I started putting together a report at my cousin’s request, when the mission in Waterview was passed on to him. By suggesting proper protocol wasn’t followed, you’re implying that I’m either stupid, or corrupt myself.”

“I don’t doubt any of my people.” A sigh came through the phone, reminding Isaac that Enoch had earned the respect of his colleagues for a good reason. His diplomacy skills were second to none. “I haven’t seen any reports and people are asking questions. While the rest of you get to deal with nothing more taxing than demons and asshole priests, I have to handle politics and the Vatican.”

“Someone’s riding you?”

Enoch gave the appearance of complete unflappability, as if he couldn’t care less what sort of orders came down the line. He had his own way of doing things and he’d make sure everything turned out all right—and make his agents look good at the same time. The man’s cousin, much to Isaac’s heartache, used to have the same quality about her.

“Cardinal Murphy wants to know how deep his old friend dug the hole, before he managed to pry himself loose. They’d fallen out of touch around the time Hallie got lost in a bottle and he only contacted him again when shit went sour in Waterview.”

Isaac rubbed his eyes. Cardinal Murphy was their liaison to the Vatican—soon to be their branch’s only one, as the other was set to retire. The man was incorruptible, chosen for his resistance to temptation, a real hard-ass. He and the archbishop had a history, and if he was suspicious, perhaps there was something to it.

“Yeah, okay, I’ll look into Hallie. If there’s something weird about the guy, I’ll find it.”

“I know you will. Where are you now?”

Tricky, tricky. Isaac smiled. “I’ll see you when I see you, Enoch.”

With that, Isaac ended the call and got out of the car before he second-guessed himself again. Leaving his phone behind, he crossed the street, gritting his teeth at the thought of people he loved living in such a run-down, dangerous neighborhood. He supposed that was part of the appeal, however. Plus, she would have a strict budget that would make the multi-family tenement and the wafting stench of garbage a necessary evil.

Necessary because she’d run and never come home.

Isaac clenched his jaw harder. The entrance was locked—hallelujah and praise God for small miracles. Double-checking the address and taking a deep breath to calm his nerves he scanned the identification markers on the call box he was surprised to see anchored next to the front door. Most slots were devoid of names. One had a crude, rounded square etched into the metal.

He pushed that button.

Acid bubbled and clawed its way up his esophagus. There was no answer but he knew the apartment was occupied—oh, yes, he absolutely knew, because if there was one thing in the world he knew it was her, everything about her, her habits, beliefs and idiosyncrasies. And Isaac never forgot.

He lay on the button. Finally, a response came. “Antioch. Did you lose your damn key again?”

“Jericho.” His throat closed, making him unable to go on. Heart pounding, Isaac could not breathe.

He’d chosen correctly, and the full-body tingle setting his spine on fire carried a strange mix of terror and relief. His ears delighted in the harsh, screechy tone that had streamed through the speaker, though his soul remembered when that voice was as sweet as spring’s first flower. Spots danced before his eyes and he had to lean against the wall to make sure he didn’t tumble down the steps as his legs gave out.

The silence finally penetrated his madness. He pressed the button again. “Jericho? Please…I need your help.”

“Isaac. Go. Go away.”

Her voice was strained, stuttering. Suddenly scared that she would walk away and stop responding at all, he rushed on, “Please, listen to me! Father Martin Rice, remember him? I know you have a box full of paperwork, Jericho. I remember, you know I do. I know you’ve got some information on Rice and I need it.”

“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We need what you’ve got, that’s all, Jericho. Whatever you managed to find, baby, because I never got a chance to talk to you about it but Liah was in trouble and I saw him and—”

“I’m sorry. I don’t have what you need.”

“Your files—”

“I don’t know where they are.”

“Please! I remember you telling me you’d found something, but then you had to go because…” Desperation ravaged Isaac’s senses, his throat swelled and tongue dried out. He forced the words, “Because you and Gideon were sent into that fucking church…” Memories swamped him and hijacked his speech. “And the bomb and the explosion and the sulfur igniting and…and he…then you…”

Isaac couldn’t breathe at all. He was sure his lungs had collapsed, as had he. Leaning against the wall, he let his tears flow and drip from his chin as he sobbed. He shuddered as fresh pain ripped him apart again.

“Please, Jericho. I need your help.” He needed her—to see her, to speak to her, to hold her once more. But he had to focus on what was possible to achieve.

“No…I…can’t.” Then harsher, “Why should I?”

“Because Rice is involved in something really big and really bad.” Isaac fought to make the garbled sounds coming from his throat seem more like actual words. “And because…because you’re my wife, my other half, and I need you. I need you.”

“No.”

“Jericho! Jericho!”

But she was gone. Isaac knew. The speaker remained silent and, eventually, he gave up.

For the moment.

 

Chapter 2

 

From the outside, the former girl’s academy looked like any other building. The city was full of moderately charming brick structures that had been converted into new usage without much remodeling. There was nothing special about the old school except the air of antiquated dignity clinging to the rain-washed bricks. Even the gargoyles decorating the roofline blended into the architecture of the bank next door and, with a bodega pressed to the building’s other wall, there were no grounds to maintain and no signage to advertise what was inside.

Most would never see beyond the darkly tinted front window. Even if they entered the building, they’d only reach the foyer, where they’d be stopped by Ruth, the epitome of grotesques and gargoyles, who guarded this lair of Garguiem with nothing more than a fingernail file and a take-no-prisoners attitude.

Isaac shuddered—and not just from the cold rain sliding beneath the collar of his jacket. In fact, Ruth was the reason he’d decided to enter through the grimy window in the alley, rather than the front door.

The window was a tricky piece of work. Every potential entrance of the Garguiem headquarters was triple protected by a variety of modern security alarms and archaic prayers. Disabling the contemporary technology was easy. Since he was in charge of organizing every bit of information that came through their particular region, Isaac had all the codes, and his memory was infallible.

The prayers were a bit harder. He lifted his hand. “I don’t fucking feel like saying this in Latin, O Lord. Open sesame won’t work and please isn’t always the magic word.”

He winced at his own twisted sense of humor, knowing it had skewed darker in recent months. There wasn’t much left to laugh at, though.

With a sigh, Isaac got serious. “In the likeness of Michael the Archangel, protector of men and leader of God’s Army, I beg entrance for no nefarious purpose, but seek truth in a matter close to my heart and necessary for the survival of the ones I love.”

The embellishments didn’t appear to hurt his cause. The dirty glass beneath his fingertips rippled with yellow light and, though soft, it was bright enough on that dreary day that Isaac took a quick look around to make certain he was alone. A muted click told him the window had unlocked.

He tumbled across the smallest opening he could get his broad shoulders through. Inside, the hallways were cool and quiet, echoing a bit much for Isaac’s peace of mind on the best of days—and today was not the best of days. The building seemed hushed and tense, the sound of his breathing bouncing off the walls. Isaac sluiced the rainwater from his hair, pushed the window back into place and wriggled his shoulders until he was certain he wouldn’t drip all the way down the hall.

Then he held his breath and crept toward his office.

Power pulsed around Isaac’s senses. He may not be a warrior like his cousins, he may not have Jericho’s intuition,  Liah’s empathy or Levi’s nose, but there was no mistaking the aura of the Garguiem. His people were descended from angels—banished to the earth after refusing to pick a side in the heavenly war. Made mortal and charged with the task of protecting the world from evil and corruption. Gifted with talents regular humans would never believe.

Isaac never forgot. Some fucking talent, he thought.

He tried not to be bitter about being left behind, relegated to desk duty simply because he could remember various bits of information—including the workarounds to the ever-changing, highly sophisticated firewalls the Vatican employed on their computer networks. His ancestor Gargouille may have been recruited by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, but that didn’t mean his followers believed in the dogma or belonged to the traditions. The Garguiem policed the clerical hierarchy up to and including the Pope in order to prevent demons from infiltrating and conquering the organization. Isaac reminded himself that he used weapons of a different sort—no less cutting, and every bit as important as the swords the warriors he worked with wielded.

Making his way through the halls, Isaac finally reached his final test. The silence had given way to a murmured, one-sided argument occasionally interspersed with a loud curse word or two. He paused, then risked a glance around the corner. A quick peek told him Enoch was in his office. Isaac had to find a way past.

He supposed he could simply stroll by, casually raise a hand and toss out a careless ‘Hey, Bossman,’ as he normally would, but he didn’t want to take a chance of being stopped. And, with so many others having gone AWOL, Isaac knew he’d be stopped. Questioned. Especially after the last conversation he’d had with his supervisor, just days ago.

Even now, he was afraid that his commander would somehow sense the way his heart raced, maybe feel the temperature difference as Isaac hid and waited, swallowing down the worst of his panic as his temples beaded with sweat. Enoch’s gift seemed unnaturally persuasive sometimes—not just getting the truth out of someone, but compelling it. Seriously, the man was downright eerie. And with Levi and Liah avoiding their superior, Isaac had gotten caught in the crosshairs.

“Shit,” he whispered soundlessly. “Why me?”

But Isaac already knew the answer to that question. Enoch was his cousin by marriage, though that thought was too painful to dwell on some days. A few years ago, in a move nearly unprecedented in any Garguiem unit, and especially one with a host of eligible leaders like theirs had had, the powers-that-be decided their particular family group needed to be led by an outsider. Enoch was sent in and his reception was chilly, to say the least.

But he’d brought his beautiful cousin with him. And Isaac had taken one look at her and fallen deeply, madly, blindly in love. His entire body had tingled and his soul had grown wings. Jericho was undeniably his other half, his gift from God. The one person in the whole world that was meant for him. His salvation and his glory.

His eternal pain.

Their relationship had given Isaac just a little more leeway with Enoch than anyone else could claim. In Isaac’s opinion, it should have garnered a bit of sympathy too, especially after the past year and all that Jericho’s leaving had wrought, but the commander had ridden his IT tech harder than ever before. Enoch had kept him too busy for the misery that waited in the wings—Isaac knew, understood and some days even appreciated it. That didn’t help the current situation, however.

He took another peek. Enoch’s shadow moved restlessly against the wall and the sound of his breathing seemed to rush through the corridor. The man was irritated, agitated, not in a good mood. Isaac gritted his teeth and prayed his heart wouldn’t burst through his rib cage as he slipped a few inches closer.

“No, Cardinal,” Enoch growled. “She hasn’t gone back into the training program yet, but I will let you know the moment she—”

Isaac stopped, sucked in oxygen and pressed his spine to the wall. His superior was talking about Liah. She’d been ordered back into the Garguiem training program after one too many suspensions from duty. The Cardinal had to be Padraig Murphy. He was a stickler for the rules and he’d been riding Liah for a while.

“She just needs a break. I gave her some time off.”

Enoch was lying. After Liah had walked out of the Garguiem headquarters a few weeks ago, she’d gone to Red Leaf City. Isaac didn’t think investigating missing girls, stumbling over a group of corrupt, orgiastic priests and nearly being sacrificed in a Black Mass ritual would count as time off at all.

Liah had gone rogue without a single glance back, and she’d committed herself to a man who would be summarily murdered if Enoch even suspected his existence. And Isaac had to keep all of that secret from a man with a gift for uncovering the truth.

Biting his lip and sliding another inch toward the door, he contorted to peer beyond its edge. Enoch faced a false window. Stuck as they were between two other buildings, they’d installed square light panels in the walls and decorated them with curtains. Productivity had gone up. Just then, anyone would have believed the portal was real, judging by the way the bossman stood before it.

“I’m simply hoping time away from the stresses of this job will do her good. No, Cardinal, I haven’t spoken to her brother, either. Levi is also on vacation with his new fiancé. I thought they deserved some time—” Enoch’s shoulders straightened with a snap. “Of course I know where my people are.”

Holding his breath and wincing, Isaac threw himself across the open doorway. He froze, listening to Enoch argue a bit louder, his words rushed and short, biting. The Garguiem didn’t take orders from the Cardinals, but the liaisons they worked with demanded respect. Isaac and most of his cousins would have told the Holy See to get fucked eons ago, but maybe that was why they’d brought in an outsider to lead their unit. Enoch was keen on diplomacy.

Secure in the knowledge that his commander was too wrapped up in his own troubles to notice he’d had company, Isaac continued down the hallway toward his high tech office. The holiest of holies—or at least that’s what he called it. The inner workings of their operation lay beyond a thick steel door guarded by biometric locks designed to allow only him and Enoch access.

Isaac lifted his hand to a metal plate on the wall. The device grew warm beneath his palm as it scanned his prints. He stood still, with his face slightly elevated while twin lasers moved over his ear and gouged into his eye. Fingerprints, retinal scans and ear comparisons complete, he then stuck out his tongue and waited for the drop of holy water. A sharp pinch in his finger where it pressed against the metal plate was immediately followed by a soft chime that made him paranoid he’d be discovered, but the DNA analysis took nearly no time at all and soon the steel door whooshed open.

With a backward glance to make certain Enoch hadn’t heard his entry, Isaac stepped across the threshold into his own domain. A wall of computers waited for another round of fingerprint scans before they would turn on and spill their secrets, but he walked past them, uninterested just then. What he wanted wasn’t in the computers. The only listing associated with Father Martin Rice in the database read ‘Pending input by Garguiem Operative 23875’.

Jericho.

Isaac rubbed his chest and headed back into the stacks of hard-copy documents. Manuscripts and scrolls, medieval Illuminations and hand-written notes, evidence collected in boxes, all piled neatly on shelves stretching from floor to ceiling in three long aisles. He didn’t need to look anything up in there, however. He’d catalogued every single piece of data he’d inherited or gathered since he’d been assigned to the job and Isaac had never forgotten any of it.

At the very back of the large space, in a dim corner where no one ever thought to look, he sought a box without identification. There was no case number on the front, no description of what was inside. A band secured the lid. Coded with a specific, voice-activated password, even Enoch, when that bastard was at his most intrusive, wouldn’t be able to get the seal open without Isaac’s full cooperation.

He prayed while he opened the box. Still, the pain nearly took him to his knees when the dim lighting, high overhead, sparked off a simple piece of gold. Isaac picked it up and, for the first time in a year, put his wedding band back on.

His finger felt as if it had caught fire. Not his ring finger, but the one next to it. The middle finger that boasted the faint Mem, the small mark that told the world that Isaac was one of God’s lawmen too. The same rounded square he’d found etched into a call box in the middle of a ghetto.

He looked at the picture he’d left in the container. Jericho was beautiful, with dark curls and perfect skin, but that wasn’t why he’d fallen so hard for her. Her laugh and her smile, the spark of mischief in her chocolate eyes. The way she’d encouraged his sense of humor and made him feel like her equal even though he wasn’t half the warrior she was. Her kindness and compassion. Her scent. Her taste.

He stroked his finger over the image. “What do you expect me to do now, Jericho?”

Coming in 2018

Meanwhile on KDP…

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Ignoring My Inner Perfectionist

So, yes, I’m participating (unofficially) in NaNoWriMo. I can’t say it’s fun, but it’s getting words on the page. Every morning, I wake up (early) and spend my first hour of the day writing. It’s still dark and I’m tired. I’ve also been ignoring the fact that what I’m writing might be crap. It might be repetitive and it hasn’t begun to touch on the depths I want my character to discover.

But, on this 6th day of NaNoWriMo, I have nearly 12,000 words written. And that is better than none, which is what I had on October 31.

I’ve been thinking about this story for a while. As most stories do, it has undergone massive transformations in what I want, what I would say and what I would tell. I decided to go back to my original concept, only because that’s the one that had gotten me excited. I did change some things, finding inspiration in Dante’s Purgatorio and waffling on genders until I settled on the M/M concept I’d started with, but lacking any erotic content. I can change everything again later, if need be.

I decided to incorporate a vague concept(s) brought to us by Dante Alighieri in his famously enduring trilogy the Divine Comedy—Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Dante was an Italian poet who lived in the Middle Ages. He wrote the Divine Comedy seemingly as a socio-political commentary, much like I do occasionally with My Bone To Pick. He pointed out the bad things going on, some of the good things, and expressed both guilt and regret over the things he’d done, too. His friends and his enemies were both called to the carpet, and his home city of Florence went so far as to exile him. They regretted that later, and even created a false tomb for him after death though his body was interred in Ravenna.

His Comedia is still regarded as one the greatest pieces of literature.

I’d only read Inferno, so I find myself searching the internet nearly every day for Purgatorio references. In Purgatory the sins his MC encounters on his travels has a difference in the severity of the same deadly sins in hell. Hell is primarily reserved for sins that were intentionally harmful, while purgatory seems more neglectful. I’m trying to incorporate that distinction in a general sense.

My MC, Christian, killed himself, which should put him straight to hell according to Dante and his medieval beliefs (some of which persist today). Suicide is a mortal sin, no coming back… Except Christian learns from his guide, Cato (yes! The same name as the guide in Purgatorio, but a totally different take) that spirits called Siphons had attacked him until he couldn’t fight back emotionally. They drained him of all energy and positivity and left nothing but negativity until there was literally no light left in his world. True energy vampires (having just set one of the human variety free from my life, this concept is highly motivating to me).

Christian is getting a second chance after death to prove that, given a different set of circumstances, he would choose a different way. Hopefully.

This is non-erotic, but there is a romance. In just a few more days, I’ll bring Christian to meet Beattie, a poor, beleaguered young man just over the age of majority, so it’s not too weird. Christian is twenty-two.

Beattie’s father is the CEO of a private hospital specifically dealing with mental health issues. Beattie is gay, which his father isn’t too happy about, and also sees spirits, which is the ultimate reason he’s locked up. His brother and sister are fighting their father in court to get their brother reinstated as a fully competent adult, but, in the meantime, he’s in the hospital getting attacked by the same type of spirits Christian was attacked by.

Now, Cato the guide has been having a hard time getting Christian to feel any emotion after being so damaged by the energy vampires, let alone getting him to feel empathy for others. But something about Beattie captures Christian’s attention, and he discovers they have so much in common. He starts to care, then he falls in love…

And Beattie with him.

Of course, they’re doomed for what might amount to be a tragic ending in the world of Romance, but they will each get a different type of happy ending. This story is about learning to love others just as much as you learn to love yourself. It’s acknowledging that not every love you receive in your lifetime is meant to carry on until the end of days, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

I’m excited, no matter that I sometimes want to take a day off (God, and that’s only a week in) or that I want to go back over and pick this story apart with a fine-toothed comb. I want to edit my mistakes, but I’m resisting. I’m letting this thing go, letting it grow wild like a vine, I haven’t even plotted the damned thing except a synopsis so I know what should be happening, but not when. When I’m finished, on December 1, I’ll start looking it over and see what I’ve got.

Until then, I’m going to bury my control-freak perfectionist in a closet somewhere and write for the love of writing.

You can find daily excerpt s of this story on my Facebook page.

Casey at Night reads Levi

I’ve been blessed to meet some amazing, wonderful supportive people in this industry. One of those people is Casey Carter, the author of provocative, sexy stories such as The Encounter, John, Open House, Tribeca and Murder. Casey has begun a Periscope feature where she reads excerpts of stories from participating authors. I am now one of them. Casey was kind enough to read an excerpt from Levi, the first book in my series, The Garguiem.

You can watch her live reading on replay here.

Levi cover 2000x3000

 

The Garguiem are descendants of Fallen angels, those who were cast out for not choosing a side in the Heavenly War. As penance, they now fight evil and corruption, but a group of them led by Gargouille was recruited to protect the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages by the Archbisshop of Rouen. Churches under their protection were marked with gargoyles and grotesques to keep the lurking evil at bay.

Jump to modern times… Levi is asked to investigate demon activity in the St. Ambrose parish, where he meets Marcella. He knows she’s Garguiem like him, but she’s determined to be  a nun. Levi leads her down the path of temptation, which makes her a target of the very creature Levi is searching for…

This is excerpt Casey Carter read:

In the space of seventeen days, Marcella had gone from being an almost-nun with peace in her heart, to a woman tempted beyond all reason by a sexy, tattooed stranger.

Which is why she sat in the last pew of St. Ambrose, listening to Father Tom practice his homily instead of using her free time to finish some of the blankets she’d promised to knit for the homeless shelter. She felt Tom might have been speaking directly to her, for all the relevance his words held. He spoke of temptations of the flesh and how too many met their downfall through the frivolous pursuit of pleasure.

But his words went in one ear and out the other. Marcella’s thoughts were too full of other things, like gargoyles and angels, tattooed hands that held her close and kisses that set her on fire. A future far different from the one she’d imagined, filled with danger, fear and potential loss. Levi claimed she didn’t belong with the Sisters of Clemency of the Divine, but rather with him. Because she was Garguiem.

Marcella felt she was an ordinary woman, trying to live a peaceful, contemplative life in service to God through obedience and chastity. She was not a horny fighter of the demonic, no matter that she’d been pressed into service as Levi’s secretary. And no matter that Levi set her nerves tingling in a way she wasn’t sure she could handle.

What she felt wasn’t just lust for his body, which she was certain she could have ignored. It went so much deeper. The more time she spent with him, the more Marcella came to respect Levi. He was intelligent and honorable in his own way. He was a man of faith, though his faith didn’t resemble anything she was used to and he was generous—not just with her or those positioned in the church hierarchy, but with strangers, the homeless, people passing by on the street. He shook every hand offered to him no matter who it belonged to.

Levi trapped her in a confused world where her struggle to remain virtuous left her ashamed of her body’s interest in his. But needy of it. Desirous and curious, as her heart urged her on.

Soft footfalls sounded behind her. The church was closed and locked until evening Mass—unfortunate, but there were simply too many villains in the world to leave the church open as they’d done in years gone by. Still, she didn’t turn to look at who was approaching because Father Tom never paused in his speech. He gave a little wave and smiled, and that was enough to tell Marcella that Levi was about to intrude on her peace.

He sat next to her, but she knew he would. And when he sat entirely too close, the length of his leg pressed to hers and their shoulders overlapping, she wasn’t surprised. She’d been avoiding him since they’d kissed at the soup kitchen, but she knew she’d eventually have to face him again.

Just not in church. She tried to shuffle away, but his big hand caught her knee and held her still.

She lost her breath. Memories from the last time she’d felt the heat of his hand on her legs swamped her. Levi’s palm burned through her skirt and radiated all the way into Marcella’s calf. Tingles worked their way north, and though they stopped at her upper thighs, the sensation echoed far higher and made her heart pound. She gripped the crucifix around her neck and prayed for strength.

“Shh,” Levi whispered. “Easy.”

It was all well and good for him to give her the order, but he didn’t take his own advice. His fingers rubbed Marcella’s knee in slow circles, pressing hard enough that the fabric of her skirt didn’t mute his touch, but enhanced it. The texture of the material sliding against her skin as Levi massaged her knee seemed to feed into the heat of his hand and sent the fire in her nerves blazing higher.

Then his heat was on her directly, scorching her leg and singeing her lungs. Marcella choked on her gasp, wondering when he’d managed to gather her skirt until his fingers slipped under the hem and touched the space just above her knee cap. Skin-to-skin, electrifying. Dangerous.

She couldn’t move. Scandal, temptation and confusion waged war in her body. Marcella’s cheeks grew hot and she wondered if Father Tom could see how she stiffened, if he could judge Levi’s actions, hidden by the top of the pew in front of them, by the shade of red crawling down her neck. She held her eyes too wide as she stared at the priest and tried to pretend that nothing blasphemous was taking place inside her body.

But she didn’t stop Levi’s fingers from drifting higher. She didn’t know how to and didn’t know if she wanted to—she couldn’t seem to force her hand to cover his and make it be still because shockwaves were ripping through her. She was confused and disoriented, her thoughts sluggish in comparison to the physical sensations Levi heaped on her. They sat in church, listening to a sermon on the sins of sex outside the bonds of marriage, and Levi was bold enough to smooth his fingertips over her naked thigh.

Small circles grew bigger. Hard presses grew softer. The sensation of his skin sliding against Marcella’s became elusive, drawing her closer as her curiosity swelled. A moth to the flame, Marcella’s nerves strained to feel more. She wanted to know what came next and, as the minutes ticked by, she relaxed the set of her thighs. They parted slightly—enough to let Levi slip higher.

Oxygen grew scarce. She felt as if her breathing had become too loud, maybe even echoing all the way through St. Ambrose’s nave, though that could have just been the impression given by the dull throb in her ears. The flames of the candles wavered and Father Tom’s voice faltered, but Marcella knew it was all in her head because, from the corner of her eye, she could see that Levi paid a great deal of attention to the priest.

Marcella lost her fear and relaxed, letting Levi do what he would and trusting that he would protect her from Father Tom’s discovery. She felt safe enough to let her legs fall open. Secure enough to start appreciating the slow slide of fingers on the interior of her thighs, working higher, smoothing over the curves of her muscles. Reaching for her.

She realized then, in that instant, that she trusted the Garguiem completely.

Levi slipped her skirt up until it pooled over her lap. His fingers dipped under the fabric, just out of sight but so close to her heat that Marcella flinched and held her breath. Electricity snapped between her legs and she softened—deep inside she grew liquid and heavy. He ran a fingertip down the center of her underwear in a stroke so gentle, so delicious, that Marcella released the breath she’d held in a shaky rush, tensing so she didn’t give herself away with a violent shiver.

When Levi’s finger stroked down, the fabric of her underwear shifted and Marcella learned that she’d wet them through. Her body had flooded and Levi took advantage, pressing the rough cotton between her folds, adding a textured layer she couldn’t have predicted to his fondling. He made a wide circle and caught her clit in the stroke. Lust set off a flare in her lower belly and Marcella gritted her teeth, desperate to hold back her groan.

Levi’s breath left him on a quiet chuckle that drilled down into her stomach to mingle with the desire squeezing inside her. Marcella felt the sound might as well have penetrated her pussy. Interior muscles clenched and heat surged. It was all she could do not to arch up into his caress as he rubbed her clit.

What they were doing was sacrilegious, dirty and filthy, desecrating the church. She knew she should have been ashamed, but that emotion had been burned out under the heat of Levi’s hand and her own curious lust. In her past, Marcella had been kissed and even touched, but never with such results. She’d never gotten warm and soft and wet, had never wanted a man to go back to the spot where his finger could trace designs directly over the peak that seemed to swell and pulse inside her underwear. She would have stopped anyone else long ago, but Levi was different.

What should have been wrong felt so right. A dark little devil inside her head whispered that pleasure was a gift she should accept. It told her the experience would make her decision to join the Sisters easier, a comparison between what her faith demanded for her future and what her body could feel in the moment. She would finally know what she’d be giving up. Her rational self struggled to shut that voice up, but her body and heart rebelled. What Levi did felt too good to stop.

He pushed his finger under the elastic edge of Marcella’s underwear. Her muscles tensed just in time to keep her from arching off the pew, her thighs jerked and her fingers caught Levi’s wrist. He made a low, rough noise that told her he knew exactly what he was doing and how it made her feel. He knew the temptation battering her better than she did and understood that her body wouldn’t let her stop until it achieved the goal he’d set before it.

Marcella loosened her hold on his wrist and let him continue.

Levi is available on Kindle Unlimited

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Release Day for Liah!

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liah-2000x3000Synopsis

She’s an empathic warrior who refuses to feel her own emotions. He’s an abomination hiding his truth within the robes of a priest.

When Liah travels to Red Leaf City to investigate a group of clergymen she believes might be corrupted beyond forgiveness, she meets Father Anthony Angelli, a man who sends her suspicions—and her libido—into overdrive. He’s hiding something, but Liah can’t find any evidence of wrongdoing and she’s got her own issues to deal with.

Tony can’t drop the matter. Refusing to let his colleagues get away with their crimes, he starts his own investigation, dragging Liah back to town even as he vows not to fall to the temptation she embodies. Unfortunately, his interference puts them both on display at a wicked gathering, and the only way to get out alive is to expose the truth—then pray for mercy.

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Delve into the emotions, dive into the erotic.

An extensive traveler who loves to incorporate various legends from around the world into her tales, author Lola White likes to twist reality at its edges in her stories. She likes delving into the emotions of her characters, finding their strengths and weaknesses and seeing how they get themselves out of whatever trouble has found them—if they can.

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The Psychic Trilogy

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Demons, monsters and ghosts…three psychic women must face their deepest fears, because their freedom can only be found in the dark.

Seduced in Dreams

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After years of denying her psychic ability, Meggie must now face her deepest fears…

When reluctant clairvoyant Meggie Kain absorbs the memories of an erotic encounter with what she mistakenly believes to be a Succubus, she finds herself claimed, tainted with its darkness and fighting for her freedom.

Roommates Jim and Kyle need help banishing the sex demon binding itself to them. Meggie has only ever wanted to be normal, but now that the demon is transferring its attentions to her, she must delve into the darkest parts of her psyche and sexuality, breaking down barriers she’s spent her life hiding behind.

Joining together in a carnal triangle is the trio’s only hope in their battle against an entity that literally wants to love them to death.

About Lola White

Delve into the emotions, dive into the erotic.

An extensive traveler who loves to incorporate various legends from around the world into her tales, best-selling author Lola White likes to twist reality at its edges in her stories. She likes delving into the emotions of her characters, finding their strengths and weaknesses, and seeing (and showing) how they get themselves out of whatever trouble has found them—if they can.

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From Taboo to Traditional

You see, Liah came first, and she’s something of a wild child. But, a few chapters into her story, her brother, Levi, started yelling at me. I had to switch focus, and once that happened, everything changed.

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What started as a naughty idea for a kinky tale took a hard right turn into romance territory. But what can you do when your characters are determined to write themselves?

Levi became the hero of the first book in my new series, The Garguiem, and he decided he was an honorable guy, a man of faith, though his faith may not look like yours or mine. His respect for the Church is skewed by the nature of his job, but his faith is unshakeable.

Marcella’s a bit more traditional…which is fairly common for nuns, right? She’s always been a believer, but she turned to the Church in the darkest of times and found refuge. Levi is trying to convince her to leave the convent, as he’s convinced she’s his other half.

Marcella’s faith is tested in ways she never expected. With demonic influences sweeping through the city, she’s roped into helping Levi with his investigation—and soon realizes she has a very important part to play.

As I said, Levi is the first in the series, and each novel will build upon the last in an overall story arc. While each book will be complete in its own right, not every loose end will be tied in a pretty bow, leading you farther down the path of temptation, conviction and duplicity.

The Garguiem fight evil and corruption with weapons of faith, duty and love – necessary munitions as, one by one, they pull together to expose and confront the greatest threat the Church has ever known.

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