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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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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Why isn’t anyone Enthralled?

This book. Dear God, what is it with this book?

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Enthralled with Visions…used to be Ties of Family. Suck-ass title, I know, that’s why I changed it. The story was simple enough—a psychic medium is hired to investigate a family curse, but instead of dealing with the man who hired her, she gets stuck with his son, a world class skeptic. Except, traveling to the familial estate opens his eyes…and he’s the last generation, so all the shit comes down on his head, and she’s the only thing that can stop it.

Or can she?

Ah, a possible plot twist.

Well, this book was hard for me to write. No, not really…this book was hard for me to organize. I had all the pieces to it written in fine time, but figuring out where everything went was a hell of a process. I moved chapters several times.

It’s also really tricky because I open with a masturbation scene. Why? Nina is tough as nails, a turtle—hard exterior, pulls into herself for protection. Nobody gets close to her. Except, with Michael Marsden, she always gets caught on her back foot. She’s always vulnerable around him, starting with the very first chapter, where she mistakes him for a ghost and pays him no mind while she pleasures herself.

Needless to say, that gives him something of an advantage. Nina never really recovers from her embarrassment, and that opens doors she never expected.

So maybe that’s part of the problem? People read the sample and think ‘No way. No way am I reading this book that starts with sex—Jesus, so cliché!—and not just sex, but sex with one’s lonesome…’

*Ahem, ‘Lonesome’ being a key word*

Nina is lonely, and frightened. She puts up a big front—nothing scares her! She faced down a demon, she handles ghosts and Ghoulies with ease! She can even deal with crazy family members…but she’s terrified of having a relationship, terrified of having sex because she’s convinced no one can handle her kinks, and—most especially—she’s terrified of Michael, because he sees through all of it.

Nina, above any other character I’ve written, needs the emotional connection to another in order to find pleasure. For her, pleasure comes on the threads of pain, there are scenes that walk the dubcon line, but Michael brings out her vulnerabilities. He digs into her from the very first, and keeps on going until she has no other choice but to surrender—her pride is on the line, after all. It’s something of a triple dog dare…but he’s earned a measure of her trust and has offered a shoulder for her to lean on.

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Nina has a lot of heart. She’s protective and wants to help. She wants to get to the bottom of the Marsden family curse, she wants to set the bloodline free. She does what she must, even when it’s not in her best interests, or makes her uncomfortable…

And Michael? He’s stubborn, but he’s a man who appreciates strength, and Nina has that in spades.

Will you like this story? I really don’t know. I’ve given out over 300 copies of this book and haven’t gotten more than one review on it yet, so I have no idea what hits and what misses in this one. But it is currently on sale at Amazon, so now is a good time to see for yourself. (Um, and if you could let me know whether you liked it or not, that would be awesome!)

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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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Magic Matched: Motherhood

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In witching society, there is a strict hierarchy. Family covens are ruled by Mothers or Fathers who hold the bulk of their bloodline’s power and archaic rules are enforced, disregarding modern sentiments. Magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

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Christiana Davenold doesn’t want to be Mother, but her husband is pushing for her to be named heir. Milo just wants to protect his wife, and he believes the position of leadership would keep her, and their unborn child, safe from the challenges of her cousins.

But Mother Madeleine refuses to name a successor.

As the Davenolds gather in the hopes that they can heal their Mother from the dark magic attack that has left her weak and near death, Silviu Lovasz and Georgeanne Davenold find themselves at a turning point neither could have expected. Troublesome Family members, secret alliances and the unexpected arrival of Father Daniel Levy cause an emotional upheaval that will test them both.

Only love can see them through the danger, but in witching society, magic and politics are all that matter. The connection they’ve managed to forge will be tested as suspicion grows and trust is broken by the ultimate betrayal.

 

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~~Excerpt~~

Frustration heated the back of Silviu’s neck. “I’d hoped for a little more than a small moment, love.”

“Make an appointment,” she snapped. “Silviu, I have a lot going on right now. I appreciate you doing what you can to help my grandmother, but while she’s ill the Family problems come to me. I have a job to do and I can’t let everybody down.”

“They could solve most of these problems themselves.” He shook his head, irritation tightening his muscles. “They bring you silly things for no other reason than to occupy your time.”

She steered him to the right and opened an inconspicuous door. Inside wasn’t what he’d expected, until he reminded himself that the estate belonged to the secondary branch and wasn’t Madeleine’s primary residence. In New Hampshire, the Davenold Mother had a bright, opulent office, but the space he followed his betrothed into was dimly lit with a single, narrow window and filled with an overly large desk.

It was perfect.

“You have to understand how nervous they are.” Georgie’s tone turned mildly scolding, “Our Mother is ill with no cure we can find and the Family is frightened. I must provide them with the leader they need.”

Put that way, the Davenolds’ dependence on her made more sense. “You are the natural choice,” he conceded.

“Yes, and if I’m not available, the witches here are more likely to go to Suzette than Christiana. Most of the people running around here belong to the secondary branch. What did you need to talk to me about?”

There was no way he could tell her the truth. He knew she would reject him outright if she had even a hint of his plans. He would scare her off and offend her at the same time.

A flick of his fingers locked the door before he leapt on her. Silviu trapped Georgie against the desk and hauled her to his chest, his mouth coming down on hers before she could protest. He crushed her close, pressing his rigid dick to her belly and smoothing his hands down her back in a single, hard stroke.

He wondered if she could taste his desperation as he twisted his lips against hers and thrust his tongue into her mouth. If she could feel the thrum of his magic sliding over her, sinking into her, and if she would understand what it meant, if she understood what he was doing. He wondered if he cared what she thought as she went to her toes and moaned. Silviu pressed his advantage.

Her lack of magical knowledge was his saving grace and he fully intended to use it to the best of his ability while he still had the advantage. Before her suspicions became engaged. He gripped her hips and dragged her against his cock until Georgie was clinging to him for balance. He kneaded her ass and bit her lip.

She broke the kiss with a gasp. “Silver, I don’t have time—”

“Make time,” he growled, attacking her mouth again. He licked and rubbed, used the hard edge of his teeth against her soft curves and sucked her lower lip. “I need you, Georgie.”

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Magic Matched

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The game they’re playing turns treacherous

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A minefield of lies and betrayal

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adDelve into the emotions, dive into the erotic.

An extensive traveler who loves to incorporate various legends from around the world into her tales, 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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Which came first, the changeling or the champion?

I don’t know how other authors do it, but I seem to start everything out of order. Then I have to go back and write the story that should have come before. That tends to leave me with fully-written sequels I have to rewrite because I decided another book should have come first.

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For example, Changelings & Champions. This is now the second book in The Tithe Collector series, but I’d already written Myth & Massacre, which will now be the third. Myth & Massacre is focused on Wade, but Beryl was emotionally unstable in the first book, Santeria & Sorcery (are you keeping these all straight?). I felt the readers deserved to know why, and though the now-fourth book, Fallen & Framed (see the pattern?), has a lot to do with her, her reasoning behind her emotional instability, and her relationship issues, I thought it unfair to ask people to wait so long for those answers.

So I wrote Changelings & Champions. It took a long time, and was a complicated, disorganized process that had me bouncing between two books and an outline to see where certain things could fit and where the subsequent books would have to be changed. I love how it turned out.

I got a chance to show Beryl in a whole new light. If you weren’t sympathetic toward the fairy assassin before, you will be. She’s had a hard time of it, even Zahra feels a bit sorry for her. Oh, and Zahra got to show a different side of herself too. They all did, in fact, and I love that this series gives me the chance to let the characters grow and develop. As they learn to trust each other, as they come to rely on each other and love each other—as they form their own kind of family—more and more will be revealed. Their pasts are brought into the light, their emotions, vulnerabilities and inefficiencies are tested. And they find new strength.

In Changelings & Champions, Beryl is asked to investigate a series of magical spikes at the Red Raven Casino, the home of the Dark Fae Court, ruled by her aunt, Morrigan. She refuses to go without her team, and so the SCT finds themselves in Vegas. Wade doesn’t handle the environment well, Niccolo learns he’s something of a celebrity, and Zahra is bloated on all the magic streaming through the casino.

But Beryl runs face-first into the demons that plague her. No, not Aza Shepherd, he’ll make a return in later books. The former fairy assassin has no choice but to brazen out the hostile welcome she receives, and soon the entire Special Collections Team is aware of all the things Beryl wishes she could hide.

Join the Special Collections Team as they investigate magical crimes, pay penance for their own sins and a find a place where misfits like them belong.

Changelings & Champions

Magic is necessary to all things, but too much of it is sending the emotions of the Dark Fae Court to extremes.

The Fae Nation’s championship boxing match is the highlight of the year, but there’s a chaos-creating surge of energy accompanying every exhibition bout leading up to the main event. With the championship looming, the Special Collections Team is called to Las Vegas to investigate the magical disturbances at the Red Raven casino, the home of the volatile Dark Fae Court.

But the fae are not the only ones affected by the instability. The Dark Court is a hostile environment for the SCT, dragging them closer to emotional breakdowns and lines drawn in the sand. Dangerous royals, randy revelers and relationship dramas have the Special Collections Team close to folding, until a pair of changelings ups the ante.

 

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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The Bane Moon

When I began my story about a witch with no magic, I pictured an event so rare, though naturally occurring, that it would have to be destiny, and have to speak of destiny. I chose a full moon, and called it a Bane Moon.

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In my Magic Matched series, Georgeanne Davenold is a Bane-born witch, born under the very rare Christmas full moon, but in the book, this corresponds with the winter solstice.

No, I didn’t get it wrong. I had decided to give my witches a combination of beliefs and customs that would set them up as the forerunner to the neo-pagan religions, traditions and lifestyles we still have around us today. But I also wanted my witches to have a greater, though subtle, influence through history.

 

Now, we celebrate the solstice, or the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, typically on the 21st of December. But over the centuries, the calendar has gone through changes, science has advanced and timepieces have become more accurate. Back in the olden days, they were using sun-lit rocks, stars and seasonal cues, and it turned out the ancient pagans were pretty spot-on, all things considered.

The winter solstice, in ancient days, was celebrated on December 25th. (This is fairly simplistic, but trust me, okay?) In the general timeframe of what we now know is the shortest day of the year (northern hemisphere), the ancients celebrated with a wide variety of customs and rituals meant to bring people together during the darkest of days (literally!) and share a communal sense of optimism for brighter days to come. (Ahem, again, literally…) Examples include Yule and the Feast of Saturnalia.

So when the early Christians began making inroads, they saw a way to insert their own rituals and beliefs into the festivities, and voila! We got Christmas.

I think that’s pretty fascinating, but also really important. Think about how many cultures and religions all celebrate holidays around this time, and think about why. For me, it goes back to the need of being with friends and family in the darkest of days, sharing a communal sentiment about optimism, hope and love. This is the season where we gather together, we eat, drink and be merry (hopefully), knowing that the dark days are just about behind us, and soon the sun will shine bright and warm.

Twenty-three years ago, my witches had a full moon on Christmas. For Georgie, the moment of her birth set her destiny. Bane witches have no magic…or do they? Bane moons are very rare, after all, so who can say what magic she has or doesn’t have? She’s the key to unlocking Silviu’s ability, so maybe she’ll find a bit of her own somewhere in the mix.

This year, we have a full moon on Christmas. My wish for you, no matter what holiday you celebrate, is that, like Georgie, you can meet your destiny in the coming days, that you, too, have/find/accept the gifts you’ve been given and look forward to brighter days ahead.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a season filled with joy and love. And hope, because, for me, that’s the whole point.

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The Tithe Collector Series

The Tithe Collector series might be the trickiest one I will ever write. It’s definitely the trickiest I’ve written so far. In a big way, though it’s fairly subtle for a while, this series is a Cinderella tale…many Cinderella tales, all woven together.

Santeria & Sorcery comes out in just two weeks, and I am nervous. More so than with any other book I’ve written, in fact. The Tithe Collector has a lot of characters, and they each have plots and backstories, romances and futures. Every chapter is written in first person, from four different points of view…I know a lot of readers don’t like that, but the story simply wouldn’t work otherwise.

Four main characters have to learn to work as a team, but they’re all starting from different places. They all have deficiencies that may be ordinary in the normal course of their lives, but once together and in the situations they find themselves in, become magnified. And sometimes, their weaknesses end up being their greatest strengths.

Zahra is a magic-addicted djinn charged with the capital crime of consorting with humans. Niccolo is a vampire who betrayed his goddess. Beryl is a fairy assassin demoted for her transgressions against a queen. Wade is the only human on the team—the only one not being punished, but he’s been assigned to Special Collections for some purpose the others can’t figure out.

They’ve been brought together to investigate magical crimes as penance for their own. But the information they receive, and what they think they know, isn’t always true or straightforward. They are lied to, manipulated and misinformed, because there is a bigger purpose unfolding.

Why am I nervous? There are many threads in this tapestry, and I have to make certain they all come together in a sensible way. With every chapter in first person POV, what the reader gets is the perception from that character—good, bad or ugly, not to mention truth or lie. Events are portrayed in a way fitting that character’s viewpoint, and through the series each character evolves. They learn as they go—about many things, but especially about the rules of their world, the fabrications, and themselves. As they learn, so too, does the reader.

I invite you to enter a world hidden within our own. One where djinn, angels, faeries and deities blend into society. One where vampires and shifters shared a common ancestry with humans, who would be the most powerful creatures in existence, if they weren’t blocked from using magic. I invite you into a world where committing magical crimes means paying in death or taxes, and love may leave a tithe collector insane.

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The Tithe Collector

zahra teaserZahra is addicted to human magic. Sick with craving, charged with a capital crime, and with her sister being held as leverage by the Djinn King, Zahra is forced to join the team as the tithe collector, the one position certain to deepen her addiction.

 

niccolo teaserNiccolo is a vampire who, after failing out of the military, became the lover of his goddess, only to commit an act of adultery that left him handfasted to a bouda shape-shifter and filling the role of enforcer on the team, a position Nic knows he is inadequate to fill.

 

beryl teaserBeryl was the most feared Fae assassin of all time, but she’s been demoted to the team’s investigator. Like Niccolo, she committed an act of adultery, but for Beryl, the punishment is especially humbling, having lost everything she values and forced to work with people she considers lesser beings.

 

wade tWade is the only member of the team honored with his inclusion. He is human, Blessed by the king of gods and exploited for unfathomable purposes. Wade was saved from death and meeting the king of gods has made his faith unshakable—which he’ll need because his mission is to create a viable squad out of the misfits he’s been assigned.

Magic is necessary to all things, but like any other source of power, it can be abused. The king of gods has created a Special Collections Team to deal with illegal magic users, those who break the law set forth by the Council of Five. Being part of the team is not an honor however, but a punishment for the crimes the teammates have committed themselves.

From tragic romance to zealous belief, the Special Collections Team is in over their heads, but still must find a way to be successful in their investigations, pay their penance and learn to work as a team.

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In Santeria & Sorcery, their first case finds them in Miami, where trouble has come to the attention of the Council of Five. A sorcerer is stealing magic to set himself up as a god, but the team is new and each are unused to working well with others. Their personal issues also hinder their investigation—dealing with bloodthirsty boyfriends, jealous fairy kings and a dangerous fallen angel on top of their own emotional deficiencies take a toll.

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Changelings & Champions, Book 2

Changelings & Champions

Magic is necessary to all things, but too much of it is sending the emotions of the Dark Fae Court to extremes.

The Fae Nation’s championship boxing match is the highlight of the year, but there’s a chaos-creating surge of energy accompanying every exhibition bout leading up to the main event. With the championship looming, the Special Collections Team is called to Las Vegas to investigate the magical disturbances at the Red Raven casino, the home of the volatile Dark Fae Court.

But the fae are not the only ones affected by the instability. The Dark Court is a hostile environment for the team, dragging them closer to emotional breakdowns and lines drawn in the sand. Dangerous royals, randy revelers and relationship dramas have the Special Collections Team close to folding, until a pair of changelings ups the ante.

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Conjurers & Candy Canes
A Christmas special!

Santa is missing, and the Special Collections team has been called in to find him. While investigating the candy cane factory he disappeared from, two teammates are caught in a conjurer’s trap, and only quick thinking, and a lusty wish, can set them free.

 

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Enter the Witching World: Betrothed

In witching society, magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

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Silviu and Georgeanne have been betrothed since Georgie’s birth. Their Families are determined to see the two witches combine their magic into a  force that will rule over all the covens. They are two witches of myth and legend, Magic Matches. Ten years ago, the pair broke all the rules, resulting in a separation that left Silviu hungry for reunion and Georgie distrustful of her betrothed.

 

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Neither Ileana Lovasz nor Eliasz Levy are looking for love. Humiliated by a string of broken betrothals, Ileana only wants freedom from her manipulative grandfather. Ambitious Eliasz simply wants an alliance with Ileana’s brother Silviu, a man rising through the witching ranks. That is, until the Lovasz woman arrives at his home and stirs up emotions he’d never thought to feel. Ileana embarks on a bold plan of seduction to tie Eliasz to her side, and her brother’s politics, but she never imagined the man would seduce her, in turn.

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Ileana, Eliasz, Silviu and Georgie must build an alliance that will help them all get what they want but, with too many lies and too many enemies, the game they’re playing turns deadly. When the two women come under attack, neither Silviu nor Eliasz knows which is the target. They only know they will protect the women their hearts have claimed as their own, even though that means defying the traditions of witching society, risking every goal they hold dear and confronting the dangerous members of their own families.

betrothed_800BETROTHED is Book 1 of the Magic Matched series-Silviu and Georgie’s first step toward lasting love and ultimate power in the dangerous world of witches.

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Magic Matched: Betrothed

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In witching society, magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

But neither Ileana Lovasz nor Eliasz Levy are looking for love. Humiliated by a string of broken betrothals, Ileana only wants freedom from her manipulative grandfather. Eliasz simply wants an alliance with Ileana’s brother Silviu, a man rising through the witching ranks. That is, until the Lovasz woman arrives at his home and stirs up emotions he’d never thought to feel.

Silviu has bigger things on his mind than his sister’s marriage. Georgeanne Davenold, Silviu’s betrothed and the key to his rise in power, is back in his life after a ten year separation that left her distrustful of his intentions. Their union is a novelty, spanning the divide between Matriarchal and Patriarchal Families. Their union is also alarming, combining the influence and magic of two witches only heard of in myth and legend.

Ileana, Eliasz, Silviu and Georgie must build an alliance that will help them all get what they want but, with too many lies and too many enemies, the game they’re playing turns deadly. When the two women come under attack, neither Silviu nor Eliasz knows which is the target. They only know they will protect the women their hearts have claimed as their own, even though that means defying the traditions of witching society, risking every goal they hold dear and confronting the dangerous members of their own families.

Get it now at  Totally Bound            Amazon                 Barnes & Noble                 Apple                All Romance

 

Excerpt:

“Georgeanne Davenold is now old enough for me to do exactly as I wish to her, without her Family’s interference.”

Vasile stared at his son for a long moment, leaving Silviu feeling weighed and measured, evaluated in a way he’d grown used to, years before. It still wasn’t easy to keep calm under the silver stare.

“Don’t lose your head, my boy. This isn’t some female to take without consideration.”

Silviu hefted a brow. “I’ve never had any complaints.”

Vasile scowled. “You put your damned heart on your sleeve and you’ll lose every advantage you’re likely to gain with that girl. She’s been molded in Madeleine’s image. Do not underestimate her.”

“That’s exactly what you want, Father. A woman as strong as Madeleine. Her entire life has been arranged by you for that very reason. She was always meant to be Madeleine’s second reign.”

“And your first, but she’s your weakness,” Vasile spat, abruptly leaning forward in his chair. One rigid finger drilled into his desktop, emphasizing his point. “I don’t know what the hell it is about her, but I could see it the moment you met. Do not jeopardize all we’ve worked toward for a female who will never allow you to be her weakness. She has her own agenda and, with the sole exception of that Beltane night, she’s never given us any reason to think she would be willing to put it aside to please you!”

Surprise held Silviu for a breathless moment, a hideous vulnerability sweeping over him at how easily his father had read him. He cleared his throat with effort. “We both want to lead the covens. What makes you think her agenda wouldn’t match mine, if properly explained to her?”

“You won’t win the heart of a matriarchal female,” Vasile countered. “You’re too…male, for any of them. So, don’t even bother to try.”

Silviu hid the fear spearing through him by slouching back in his chair, a deliberate insouciance that was all that ever truly fooled his father. “I know. It’s a political alliance, not a love match.”

Vasile lost some of the tension in his shoulders. “Only Georgeanne can unlock your full potential, only she can provide a conduit for all the magic that should rightfully be yours. Together, you could join the Families, power from both sides of the Schism. Just think! You will rule with your combined power over all the covens.”

“Just as you wanted, Father.”

With one last searching glance, Vasile shifted back in his chair, a crafty gleam sparkling in the depths of the eyes he finally turned on his daughter. “Eliasz wants you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she scoffed. “He doesn’t even know me.”

Vasile shook his head. “There is no earthly reason why the powerful Levys would want to ally themselves with our Family except Eliasz’s lust. We aren’t politically relevant.”

“But that will change,” Silviu said.

“Yes, but no one in the Levy Family knows the extent of my plans.” Vasile raised a brow at Ileana. “You will do everything in your power to keep Eliasz’s attention and win his heart. Do you understand me?”

Ileana’s eyes went wide. “Throwing me into Eliasz’s bed, then?”

Vasile pointedly eyed the tiny skirt riding high on his daughter’s thighs. “Are you going to tell me you’re a virgin?”

“I won’t tell you anything on the matter at all, Father.” Ileana cocked her head. “What makes you think this time will be any different from before? Grandfather is going to find some reason to pull back from this alliance.”

Vasile’s hard face went rigid. A low growl ripped from his throat. “The old fool has no idea how much he’s cost this Family. He is the reason we have no power in the witching world, but so long as he wields the magic of our bloodline we have no weapon strong enough to bring him down.”

“We need this alliance,” Silviu said, turning to take Ileana’s cold fingers and squeezing gently. He tried to give her comfort, hope. For so long, they’d been each other’s support in the face of their Family’s machinations. “The Levys are no joke, Iley. This one will go through.”

“You can’t promise that,” she argued.

“We’ll do our best.” Vasile rapped his knuckles against his desktop. “But you’ll have to do your part, girl. Wrap that man around your finger. I know you can do it. You can be very charming when you put your mind to it. People naturally like you.”

“Convince him to elope with me, perhaps?”

“If need be, yes.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Silviu glanced at his sister, the sudden calmness in her voice sounding alarms in his skull. She only used that tone when she was about to challenge the archaic, patriarchal rules they were forced to live by.

Vasile seemed unaware as he moved on to his favorite subject—intrigue. “Now, as for the meeting with the Levys, I will expect very specific things from both of you.”

It was nearly the witching hour before they were given permission to leave their father’s presence, lectures and orders still ringing in Silviu’s ears. When he slipped out into the cold hallway, he shut the study door behind him carefully, calmly and with complete control.

Only then did he lean back against the wall, close his eyes and let a shudder born of too many emotions to fully contain roll through him. Tension and intrigue fell from his shoulders, making him feel half his weight, now that his father’s focused gaze was no longer resting on him.

“Now’s your chance, Silver,” Ileana whispered.

He nodded. “And yours. We will both be bolder than we’ve ever dared before.”

“I’ll give it everything I have,” she promised.

Dragging in a deep breath, gathering his cracking armor of calm around him once more, Silviu set off toward his bedroom, making his own plans for Georgeanne Davenold that had nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with pleasure.

Totally Bound