Review: Demon Assassins: Audio Book 3 Book Series, by Ann Gimpel Reply

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Listen to Hollie Jackson narrate a snippet right here!

Witch’s Bounty Demon Assassin Book 1

4 out of 5 Stars

Review:

Once again, author Ann Gimpel has created an enchanting world full of witches, demons, Sidhe, and more. This is the tale of Colleen, the first of the demon assassin witches we will meet. Colleen, Roz and Jenna are witches. They have a relatively peaceful life in Alaska, running a small shop and keeping to themselves. One dark day, the most incredible man Colleen has ever met saunters through the shop door. His name is Duncan, and he is Sidhe. He comes advising the ladies of a major problem…the Irichna demons are back and stronger than ever. Toss is a smartass changeling called Bubba, and let the mayhem begin!  I am a huge fan of Ms. Gimpel’s books, and this series is no exception. I found Colleen and Duncan to be exceptionally strong characters, and the story is a delight to read. It’s fast moving, but not too fast. There’s plenty of spice, and lots of pulse-pounding action. I would absolutely recommend this novel. I would also highly recommend reading the books in order. I am very eagerly anticipating book 2!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

assassin witches, Colleen is almost the last of her kind. Along with her familiar, a changeling spirit, she was hoping for a few months of quiet, running a small magicians’ supply store in Fairbanks, Alaska. Peace isn’t in the cards, though. Demons are raising hell in Seattle. She’s on her way to kick some serious demon ass, when a Sidhe shows up and demands she accompany him to England to quell a demon uprising.

Witch’s Bane Demon Assassin Book 2

4 out of 5 Stars

Review:

WOW! After an explosive first book, this second book in author Ann Gimpel’s incredible Demon Assassin series is fantastic! This tells the tale of Roz, a demon assassin witch with incredible powers, and an attitude to match. After the last demonic assault, Roz, Colleen, Jenna and Bubba all need a break. It won’t last long. The Irichna demons are growing bolder than ever. Back in Fairbanks for just a few days at the most, Roz, Colleen and Jenna are all taken by something that really wants to hurt them.  In comes a rescue party. All of the changelings, the Sidhe nobility (including Ronan, who Roz made quite a connection with), and more come riding to the rescue. I fell in love with Roz and her snarky attitude, while Ronan is a hero for the ages. I adored this book, and I’m eagerly anticipating book 3! I do suggest reading in order, as this book has more than enough heat and plenty of action that builds off the first book. This is not intended for young reader.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, and Roz launches desperate measures. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of evil, it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages and hooked up with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep.

In Roz’s secret heart, she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material – unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

Witches Rule Demon Assassin Book 3

5 out of 5 Stars

Review:

Absolutely explosive! I simply could not put this book down! This is book 3 in author Ann Gimpel’s incredible Demon Assassin series, and what a tale it is! This is the story of Jenna, the demon assassin witch who truly has no clue about who (or what) she is. She’s always felt like the odd one out in her group, the weak one; the one everyone had to protect. Things will soon change. With Jenna, Roz, Ronan, Duncan, Colleen, and the changelings all off to England to plan a final assault on the Irichna demons border world, things seem quiet. But that peace is not to last. Between political moves among the Sidhe, the changelings manipulations, and Jenna’s origins being revealed, she’s more than overwhelmed. And then there’s the issue with Tristan and Kiernan, two gorgeous fey men who both want Jenna. Can she handle them both? Will they survive this most daring plan of assault? Read on. I absolutely adore Jenna and her two fey. They are incredible characters, both strong and courageous, while still being doubtful and insecure. This series is going on my favorites pile! I would highly recommend reading in order. There is plenty of heat and more than enough action. This is not a story for young readers.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Jenna’s a special witch, sort of, when her magic works, which it often doesn’t. Frustration about her limited power eats at her. It would be pathetic to get killed for lack of skills a teenager could master.

Tristan is a Sidhe warrior. He fell hard for Jenna, but hasn’t had an opportunity to act on the attraction beyond a few kisses. Kiernan is haunted by visions, particularly an apocalyptic sending that seems to be coming true. A confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t understand his attraction to Jenna, but it’s so strong he can’t fight it. After a while, he doesn’t even try, despite recognizing Tristan’s claim to her.

Startling truths surface about Jenna’s magic, and then there’s the problem that she’s falling in love with two very different men.

About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

https://twitter.com/anngimpel

Review/Spotlight: Soul Dance Series, by Ann Gimpel Reply

4 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

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Review:

In this enchanting first novel of the Soul Dance series by author Ann Gimpel, we meet the heroine of this tale, Tairin, and her Gypsy Romany family. I was hooked from the first page. Tairin is a phenomenally strong character, and I absolutely fell for her. This novella follows her through her struggles as a young girl in 1700’s Egypt. In a few short days, her entire world turns upside down as she learns she’s half Romany and half wolf shifter, and that her family has disintegrated. Mother dead, father gone, and Tairin left on her own. What an amazing introduction to the Romany stories! I will most assuredly be reading more!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Tairin’s wolf is more than just a dream creature. She hates it, but it’s also her only friend.

1700s Egypt is a haven for magic-wielders of all kinds. Vampires hold court, staying one step ahead of the priests and priestesses who want them dead. Gypsy caravans roam the Nile from north to south and back again, plying their wares, telling fortunes, casting Tarot cards, and stealing from the gadjos.

Tairin Jabari was born in a caravan and has always believed she’s Romani. Why wouldn’t she? Her mother and father never suggested otherwise. The Rom have harsh rules. When Tairin’s first shift catches her unaware at thirteen, her father disappears, and the elders move with deadly speed to punish her mother for mating outside the blood.

Hurt, lost, confused, and fearing for her own life, Tairin runs away, leaving her mother’s smoking funeral pyre behind. If she could only find her father, he’d welcome her. He’s always loved her, hasn’t he? Only problem is he’s in a shifter settlement. With her mixed blood, they won’t welcome her any more warmly than the Romani. It doesn’t take long before Tairin discovers how desperately unprepared she is for life outside her protected caravan. With her survival on the line every single day, she and her wolf have some hard choices to make.

Tarnished Beginnings, the prequel to the Soul Dance books is only available in the Magic After Dark Boxed set.

About the Box Set:

Journey from the hills of Ireland to Victorian England, from medieval Italy to eighteenth century Egypt, from the United States to the sand-baked Middle East and beyond to explore forbidden magic, meet exotic gypsy lovers, navigate the pitfalls of ancient prophecies, battle vampires and shifters, and defeat evil sorcerers and hellish demons.

This unique collection, inspired by the rich and varied history of gypsies from all over the world, contains over one million words of captivating urban fantasy and paranormal romance fiction that’s guaranteed to keep you up long after dark.

Discover gypsy worlds where heroes roam and magic reigns with twenty-five brand new works from today’s New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling authors.

Each book within this collection is exclusive to the set and can’t be found anywhere else. Preorder now for a future filled with romance, mystery, adventure, and magical thrills!

*** Contributing Authors ***

New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Hamilton

USA Today bestselling author Caryse Locke

New York Times bestselling author Margo Bond Collins

USA Today bestselling author Ann Gimpel

USA Today bestselling author J.L. Weil

USA Today bestselling author J.A. Culican

New York Times bestselling author Tom Shutt

Melle Amade

USA Today bestselling author T.F. Walsh

Dean F. Wilson

Miranda Hardy

Award-Winning author D.N. Leo

David J. Normoyle

Megan J. Parker

Monica Leonelle

P.E. Padilla

Ainsley Shay

Megan Linski

Award-Winning author Julie Morgan

Cait Reynolds

Chloe Garner

Paris Andren

Cate Farren

Felicia Starr

Award-Winning author Nathan Squiers

5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

Ann Gimpel    Amazon    BN    iTunes    Google Play     Kobo

Review:

This is the second book in author Ann Gimpel’s incredible Soul Dance series. We again meet up with Tairin from book 1, but now it’s 200 years (give or take a few) in the future. Tairin has grown into her abilities as a wolf shifter, and has found a Romany tribe in Germany to accept her, given that her nature is well hidden. She anticipates leaving the caravan, given that she doesn’t age normally, but what she doesn’t anticipate is Elliott, the seer for the group. In a fantastical turn of events, Elliott has decided he’s the one for her. Now he just has to convince her. I fell into this book from the first, and never once slowed down. I found it to be breathtakingly exciting (vampires, shifters, and Nazi’s, oh my!) and full of heart pounding adventure, and more than a little romance. I am eagerly anticipating the third book in the series!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Description:

Germany, 1940

Half Romani, Tairin’s no stranger to hiding her mixed blood from gypsy caravans. What she can’t hide is her perpetual youth, courtesy of her shifter heritage. Every few years, she drops out of sight, resurfacing in a new country to join a caravan where no one knows her. She’s overstayed her welcome where she is, but Germany is at war, and travel has become all but impossible for everyone targeted by the Reich.

Elliott’s clairvoyance is strong, even for a Romani. Seer for all the caravans in Germany, he catches Tairin eavesdropping outside their leader’s wagon one night. He should turn her in, but it would mean her execution, and he can’t bring himself to do that. Instead, he interrogates her. Her magic is different, but he can’t figure out quite what she is.

Any association between Romani and shifters is forbidden, and Tairin shields herself from Elliott’s probing. She should leave right now, tonight. It would be easy enough. Shift to her wolf form and run, keeping out of hunters’ gunsights. She’s on the edge of flight when Elliott suggests a covert task to prove her loyalty. Tairin agrees immediately, kicking herself for being weak where he’s concerned. Shifters and Romani have no future together. Zero. Zilch.

She should be smart about this and vanish into the night—before he discovers what she is and destroys her.

5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

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Review:

WOW! In book 3 of author Ann Gimpel’s fantastic Soul Dance series, we now meet up with more shifters than ever. Tairin is there, along with Elliott, and her father Jamal, who she found and reconnected with. This story is Jamal’s love story. It takes place right at the end of book 2, so no time is lost between books. First shifter Meara (a vulture who is beyond ancient and insanely powerful) has recruited hundreds of varying shifters and Romany clans to work together to defeat the Nazi’s and their vampire allies. As they search for safe haven, Meara, Jamal, Tairin and Elliott stumble across an enigma. Her name is Ilona, and she’s managed to escape (barely) from the prison camp she was held at. As an incredibly powerful Romany, Ilona knows the shifters are not really to be trusted…or are they? The closer she gets to them, the more she realizes that perhaps they aren’t so bad. And when betrayal comes from within, can she trust them, and ultimately, can she trust Jamal with her heart?  I loved this book, and am eagerly anticipating the 4th and final book in the series!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Description:

Germany, 1940

Magic runs strong in Ilona, a gypsy seer. Powerful ability isn’t valued in Romani women, so she focuses her fortunetelling on inconsequential details. Nothing that could come back to haunt her caravan if a prediction went bad. Rounded up and dumped in Dachau prison camp, she has plenty of time to rue her decision to downplay her ability. If she’d taken the time to scry her own future, she’d still be free.

A wolf shifter, Jamal made the mistake of wedding a Romani woman centuries ago. His arrogance caused both death and heartache, and he’s been alone ever since. The recent threat of vampires joining the Third Reich has provided ample reason for shifters and Rom to lay their ancient enmity aside and work together, but their détente is fragile.

Jamal and a group of shifters come across Ilona after her escape from Dachau. Vulnerable, terrified, she’s fully prepared to fight. Her courage and mettle touch places in him he’d thought were dead, but she’s Romani. His last relationship ended so badly, the last thing he needs is to fall for another gypsy woman. He wrestles his tumbling emotions into submission, but when she trains her enigmatic, gray gaze on him, his resolve first weakens and then vanishes entirely.

About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

https://twitter.com/anngimpel

Spotlight: GenTech Rebellion Series, by Ann Gimpel Reply

4.5 out of 5 Stars

GenTech Rebellion Series Backstory

Sometime between the interminable wars in the Middle East and 9/11, the United States moved forward breeding a race of super humans. Clandestine labs formed, armed with eager scientists who’d always yearned to manipulate human DNA. At first the clones looked promising, growing to fighting size in as little as a dozen years, but V1 had design flaws.

Seven years ago, a rogue group turned on their creators, blew up the lab, and hit all the other breeding farms, freeing whomever they could find. In the intervening time, they’ve retreated to hidden compounds and created a society run by men. Women are kept on a tight leash because the men fear if they discover their innate power, they’d launch their own rebellion.

Visit Ann’s Bookstore

Review: 

I binge read the whole 5 book series and loved it. In the not so far off future, there is a rebellion of the genetically enhanced. The main story centers on a group of 5 women who escape from the compound where they lived. They meet up with a group of military men who are trained and modified to hunt the genetically enhanced. There is a lot to follow but basically everyone finds their happily ever after (HEA). Some stories hit little bit close to home, girl likes guy, guy says and does something stupid, they eventually get together, sort of thing. I do recommend reading all 5 books in order and if you can, one after the other, since they do follow the stories straight on through.

I highly recommend all of these books and anything else you can read by Ms. Gimpel. She’s a wonderful writer and always leaves the reader entertained. I haven’t read anything by her that I didn’t like.

Reviewed by Angel

Our Blog was given these books in exchange for an honest review.

Available For Purchase On:

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The line between hunter and hunted thins, blurs, and finally shatters.

Description:

After years as a black ops CIA agent, nothing surprises Roy Kincaid, yet his current assignment is close to a bust. How could his target—renegade genetic freaks—drop off the radar as if they never existed? Burnt out and discouraged, he hunches over a meal in a backwater diner when a half-frozen woman with the look of an abused runaway staggers through the door. On his feet in an instant, Roy kicks himself. His first instinct is to help her, make certain she stays long enough for the bluish cast to leave her lips. His second is to finish his meal and leave. The world is full of broken women. It’s not his job to fix them, but he can’t take his eyes off her.

Glory’s telepathic ability blares a harsh warning. Roy hunts those like her, but damn if he didn’t buy her dinner. Maybe she can fool him, just for tonight. Add a dry motel room to the meal. If she plays it very cool, he’ll never find out she’s on the run from the same group he’s targeted for death.

Enhanced genetics only go so far. A roadblock and her face on a Most Wanted flyer shatter her fragile truce with Roy. If her Handlers find her, they’ll kill her. If Roy finds out what she is, she’ll be worse than dead.

Excerpt:

…“Dessert, hon?” The waitress sidled back over to him, and Roy realized he was her only customer.

“Sure. What do you have?”

She rattled off a series of pies and cakes. He chose apple pie with a scoop of ice cream, and she left with his dinner plate. Roy slumped against the chair. He had to keep going. No choice. Not really. A good night’s sleep, coupled with the first adequate meal he’d had in a couple days might make a big difference in his attitude. At least he hoped they would.

He’d just begun on the pie, which had a surprisingly flaky crust, when a rush of cold air yanked his attention toward the door. A tall woman walked in. Long, dark hair caked with snow swirled around her, and she held her body tightly as if she were really cold. Roy glanced at her feet and was shocked to see a pair of tennis shoes with holes in them. Good God, had she been outside with such inadequate footwear? Didn’t she understand she could freeze to death? Even his stout boots didn’t do much to divert the cold.

Keeping her gaze downcast, she made her way to the counter and sat.

“Coffee, hon?” The waitress asked.

“How much is it?” the woman inquired.

“Two bucks.”

“Oh.” The woman’s shoulders drooped, and she swiveled the stool around, getting ready to go back out into the storm.

“No, you don’t.” The waitress’s voice sharpened. “I’ll stand you a coffee. You look about done in.”

The woman’s even features melted into what looked like relief before she turned back to face the counter. “Thank you. That’s really kind and I appreciate it. My wallet was stolen, and—”

“Never you mind.” The waitress patted the woman’s shoulder. “Bet you’re hungry too.” She poured hot coffee into a mug and handed it to the woman, who drew the steaming liquid to her lips.

“Maybe a little,” the woman ventured. She clasped the cup with fingers white from cold.

By now, Roy knew he was staring, but he couldn’t make himself turn away. There was something waiflike and alluring about the tall woman with long, black hair. Snow dripped off her, creating puddles around her stool. All she wore against the winter weather was a thick, gray sweater and worn jeans. No scarf. No gloves. No hat. He was close to certain her wallet hadn’t been stolen. She looked more like an abuse victim on the run to him. Maybe he could help her get to her intended destination, if it wasn’t too far out of his way.

He pushed his chair back and made his way to the counter. “Say—” he began, but she started and drew away as if she expected him to hit her.

I was right. Abuse victim for sure.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He kept his voice low, soothing. “Order whatever you want, and I’ll pay for it.”

She kept her gaze on her hands clutching the coffee cup. “I can’t let you do that, sir. I’m all right. Truly I am.”

Without waiting for an invitation, he took the stool next to hers and called to the waitress. “Bring her the same meal I just had.”

“You got it, hon,” rang from the direction of the kitchen.

“You are not all right,” Roy said. “You’re thin as a rail, and you were shivering when you came in here. In fact, you still are. I’ll bet your shoes are wet clear through.” When she didn’t respond, he ploughed on. “Let me help you.”

She shook her head. “Don’t want your kind of help. It always comes with strings.”

“Mine doesn’t.”

He pushed a little with his enhanced mental ability to get her to look at him. If she did, maybe she’d see truth in his eyes. A shudder ran down her thin frame, but she dragged her gaze upward reluctantly. Roy felt bad for forcing her, but he didn’t have time to soothe her wounded places, which he suspected ran deep.

Eyes a shade of green he’d never seen inspected him. Long, thick lashes framed those eyes, and they were set in a face with high cheekbones, a high forehead, and black eyebrows winging a track over porcelain skin.

“Who are you?” The words tore from him. He hadn’t meant to say them. She was nervous as a feral cat as it was.

She shook her head sadly. “No one. I’m no one. You’ll forget all about me when you leave here.”

Something shifted in his mind, but he fought it. Before he could determine if something real had just happened or if he were imagining things, the waitress showed up with the woman’s dinner.

“Here you go, hon. Hope medium’s okay for that steak?”

“Fine, thank you.” Before the words were out, the woman picked up the fork and knife and shoveled food into her mouth.

Roy congratulated himself on a good call. Even though she’d been reluctant to admit it, she really was starving. He had no idea what she’d do tomorrow or the next day, but it wasn’t his problem. While she ate, he observed her from the corner of his eyes. In addition to being hungry and underdressed, she looked young. Maybe twenty. He’d be surprised if she were much more than that.

He shook a mental finger at himself. The country was full of abused women running from the men who used them as punching bags before they raped them. It was one part of law enforcement work he’d never understood: why the women kept going back for more.

“There are safe houses for girls like you,” he said, and could’ve kicked himself. What the hell was wrong with his mouth tonight? He couldn’t seem to keep words on the other side of it.

She stopped chewing long enough to glance at him. “What’s a safe house?”

“A place where women like you can go so whoever’s after you can’t get to you.”

“What makes you think someone’s after me?” Color splotched across her white cheeks.

Roy took a deep breath. “I was a cop for a long time.”

Her entire body tightened, and he wondered if he’d been wrong about why she was out in the storm. “You said was.” She swiped a paper napkin over her lips. “Are you still?”

“No. Not anymore.”

She took another bite, clearly thinking about what he’d said. “These people you think are after me. Could they still find me in a safe house?”

He wanted to lie to her, but didn’t. “Sure. Anyone can find anybody with the Internet and all, but the people who run the safe houses won’t let anyone who might hurt you inside.”

She drew her arched brows together and drank some coffee. “I’d have to go outside sometime. Work. Earn my way.”

He nodded. Those things were all true. He scratched his head and pushed too-long hair out of his eyes. “Sometimes, when a man is really persistent, there are ways of setting you up with a different identity in a different part of the country.”

Interest lit her features, and she cut up the last of her steak. “Where would I go to have that happen?”

“I’m not sure, but we could check with local agencies in the morning.”

A blank expression washed over her face, as if someone had shut out a light. She shot him a look she might have given yesterday’s overripe trash. “Morning, huh? You’re just like all the rest of them, mister. Means I’d have to spend the night with you.”

Roy winced. He hadn’t been thinking. Of course she’d make that connection. “No.” He shook his head emphatically. “I’d buy you your own room for the night. You can clean up, get some sleep, and we’ll regroup in the morning after breakfast.”

She narrowed her eyes, and he felt himself drawn into their depths. “My own room with a locked door?”

He nodded solemnly, willing her to believe him. If he could just do one decent deed, it would make up for the last two weeks of beating his head into a brick wall. Maybe it would give him enough juice to keep hunting for the scientists who were a bunch of Houdini fuckers.

“Mmph.” She started on her potato, taking large bites. In between them, she said. “I’m trying to figure out your angle. If I’ve worked my way around to believing you won’t hurt me by the time I’m done eating, I’ll accept your offer.”

It was the best he was likely to get. Roy stood. “Fair enough. I’m going to finish my pie.” It was sitting in a pool of melted ice cream, but he didn’t mind. “If you’d care to accept my help, just stop by my table on your way out. If you walk past, I give you my word I won’t bother you.”

“Deal.” She said around a mouthful of food. Swallowing, she twisted to look at him.

It felt as if she were staring straight through him, but Roy held his ground even after he identified a zing of power withdrawing from his mind. What the hell was she, anyway? When she returned to her dinner, he retreated to his pie, thoughts racing a mile a minute. What the fuck was he doing? If he were smart, he’d forget his offer, throw enough money on the table to cover both meals, and run like hell for his car.

There was something about the woman, though, an appeal that drew him, snared him, and wouldn’t leave him be. He ate mindlessly, not tasting the pie. He knew the feel of freak mind control. Was that it? Had he inadvertently stumbled onto one of them?

Impossible. They’re never by themselves, and whatever she examined me with didn’t feel quite right.

Plus, she didn’t resemble the ones he’d killed before. They had dark hair, but animal eyes. Amber, not green like hers. Of course they’d been men, but simple genetics argued they’d all look much the same if they came out of the same petri dishes.

Were there other augmented humans beyond those he already knew about? The thought fascinated and chilled him at the same time.

He scraped his fork over the plate and realized it was empty. Slugging back long-since-cold coffee, he dug for his wallet and extracted what he was certain would cover dinner, laying bills on the table and placing his empty mug atop them.

The woman looked almost done with her meal. What would she do?

What would he do if she walked by him and out the door? Would he be able to keep his promise and not go after her?…

Available For Purchase On:

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We have to trust to fight side by side, but love’s so unexpected—and so irresistible —it trumps everything.

Description:

Honor takes a huge chance and flees her compound one wintry night. A genetically altered woman, she has no memories from before her kin staged a rebellion seven years before. Because of her enhanced physiology, she finds a home working for the CIA alongside four other women just like her. There are still plenty of rules, but they’re different, and she’s figuring out how to blend in.

Milton Reins burns through women and marriages. After the third one implodes, he swears off hunting for a replacement. Running the CIA is a more than fulltime job. There’s no time for anything else in his life, which is fine until Honor comes along. Training in the gym throws their bodies together and makes him remember the feel of a woman in his arms. Milton aches for her, but she’s a freak—the CIA term for test tube humans designed by scientists.

Honor wants Milton with every bone in her body, but it’s a terrible idea, especially after she delves into his head and sees his ambivalence toward her kind. Need drives them together, but their differences create roadblocks every step of the way. Fueled by anger and fear, she shuts him out. So what if the sex was great, she’s done.

Or is she?

Excerpt:

…“How about this?” Honor finished her drink and twirled the glass between her hands. “The other women and I are on top of things. We’ll make sure nothing…unexpected happens.”

“What if I pull rank and order Charity to stay here?” he demanded, not liking her answer.

Honor shook her head. “That’d be a bad idea.” After a pause, she added hastily, “Sir. With all due respect.”

Milton chortled. “You’re learning. Why is it a bad idea?”

Honor closed her teeth over her lower lip. “Like all of us, she’s finding her way. Figuring out where she fits in here. Even though we lived in the western United States, we may as well have been in Bangladesh for all the differences between living here and where we were after the rebellion.”

“You still haven’t told me why it’s a bad idea.”

“She needs to trust you. If you ride herd on her, treat her like the Nameless Ones treated us, she never will, and this…problem of hers will just get worse.”

Desperation flared, a glowing nimbus she nipped quickly, but he’d been paying close attention, plus he’d been inside her mind. Milton pushed forward with a combination of intuition and his augmented ability. “You’re worried it will get worse anyway.”

Her gaze skittered away. “Yes. No. Possibly. These things are hard to predict. Please.” She leaned forward this time and placed a hand over his where it lay atop his leg. “Let us handle it our way. I give you my word we’ll ask for help before it gets out of control.”

Her touch was warm, electric. Before he could stop himself, he set his other hand over hers, and turned the bottom hand upward, capturing her flesh between his. His mouth was suddenly dry, and his groin tightened with a rush of sexual energy so intense it stole his breath.

Words became a struggle, but he forced them out anyway. “Doesn’t sound very smart to me. Is there any chance she’ll switch allegiance?”

Honor’s eyes widened. “Oh hell, no. You mean fight for the Nameless Ones?” When Milton nodded, she was even more emphatic. “No. That’d never happen. She hates them just as much as we do.”

It was the main thing that had worried him: that he’d been playing host to a double agent—again. Some of the tension drained out of him, and he rubbed his fingers over Honor’s where they lay clasped between his.

“I really should go, sir.” She tried to pull her hand back, but he didn’t let go.

“Do you always do what you should?”

Honor looked away. “Not a fair question, sir.”

“Stop calling me that!”

“But you are my commanding officer.” Honor kept her voice soft, but the meaning in her words slapped Milton squarely across his forehead.

He released her hand. “Sorry.” He spoke stiffly. “I forgot myself. You’re free to go.”

The sadness he’d sensed earlier was back in spades. It flowed from her in slow, tired waves. He pushed, surprised when she let him inside her mind. Not far, but enough for him to view the loneliness she’d lived with all her life. Her only safety zone had been the dozen women in her dorm at the compound, and seven of them were dead. No wonder she needed to do everything possible to protect Charity.

Milton got to his feet and offered her a hand. She took it and stood too. “Thanks for helping me understand you a little,” he said.

“You’re welcome. Sometimes that way is easier than talking. Thank you for not insisting Charity stay here.”

“She’s important to you,” he said. “I didn’t fully appreciate how much you depend on each other until you allowed me into your thoughts.”

Milton didn’t know if he moved toward her, she toward him, or both of them simultaneously, but Honor ended up in his arms. He tightened his hold, enjoying the feel of her sleekly muscled body against his. She matched his six-foot height and fit perfectly in his arms. His cock hardened against her belly, and her eyes widened in surprise.

“Of course you’d be a virgin,” he murmured, stroking his hands down her back.

“We were off-limits to the Nameless Ones, but we talked about sex among ourselves.”

Arousal flashed deep inside him. Even though he knew he shouldn’t, he asked, “What did you talk about?” He cupped his hands around her high, firm buttocks and snugged her against his erection.

Desire apparently trumped discomfort, and she pushed against him. “Men. We talked about how penises get hard, and how one might feel inside us.” She licked her lips, and heat flickered in her eyes. “Sometimes we’d touch ourselves and mind link, so we could feel each other come.”

He’d never considered that possible use for his enhanced senses. The feedback loop from feeling what his partner felt right along with his own arousal intrigued him and made him hotter than hell. Honor pressed closer against him and kneaded his back.

Milton traced her full lower lip with his thumb. “Has anyone told you what a devilishly attractive woman you are?”

She shook her head.

He couldn’t resist the siren call of those lips. Milton angled his head and closed his mouth over hers. He kept the kiss tentative in case he wasn’t reading her signals right, but she ran her tongue over his mouth, tasting him. He licked, nibbled, sucked, and she kissed him back with growing fervor as her body radiated need. Her nipples hardened where they pressed into his chest, and she rubbed against his ridiculously erect cock.

About the time she pushed her tongue into his mouth, and he sparred with it, loving the taste of her, common sense intruded. He pulled back, his breath coming unevenly. He wanted to strip her clothes off, unwrap her, worship the amazing body he’d scuffled with in the gym, but tonight wasn’t the time. Not before a major offensive, and not with her in a direct line of command, with him functioning as her team leader. The women ended up his responsibility to remove Glory from reporting to Roy, but here was the same problem all over again.

Reluctantly, he placed his hands on either side of her head. “Honor, we can’t do this.”

“I know it’s wrong, but I’ve never been kissed before, and I…” She looked away. “…didn’t want it to end. I’m sorry, sir. I’ll do a better job of—”

“Goddammit, Honor. You’re not listening.” Frustration vied with desire and feeling like a shit for letting the situation get out of hand in the first place.

“Yes I am. You said what we did was wrong.”

“No, I didn’t, but the timing’s bad.” He paused a beat. “And you work for me, which means—”

“I know exactly what it means. I may have been sequestered in that compound, but I’m far from stupid.” She wrenched away from him and stumbled toward the door.

“Honor, please.”

She spun to face him. “This was a mistake.” Hurt carved furrows around her eyes. “I’m used to being by myself. Taking care of myself. Don’t worry. I won’t be a burden on you.”

“That’s not what I—”

She turned and fled out the door. Milton considered going after her, but recognized it was a bad idea. The attraction between them was so strong, there’d be no way to have a rational conversation.

Until they’d shared an orgasm or two…

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What does it take to move past a lifetime of hating?

Description:

Charity’s luck never ran strong because her original configuration was unstable. Her handlers designed experiments to fix the problem, but only made it worse.

Sick to death of living under their thumb, she jumps at a chance to escape her compound. She’s no sooner settled in as a CIA special operative—a role where she can put her augmented mind and body to use—when her wobbly genetics escalate.

Tony’s a freak—a genetically altered human waging war against the government. He snaps up an offer of amnesty, walking away from his role as a genetic researcher to work for the CIA. When Charity collapses in a severe seizure, he labors to save her life, but nothing’s working. In a last ditch effort, he joins his mind to hers and discovers he wants her more than he’s ever wanted anything. Only problem is she hates every single male freak for how they treated women in the compounds.

Charity recovers from her medical crisis, but all she can think about is Tony. Furious, determined to never let anyone like him near her, she blocks him from her mind, but he seeps back in anyway. Loving someone like Tony is a huge risk, a gamble that could throw her already precarious genes into a tailspin.

Knowing all that, why the hell is she considering it?

Excerpt:

Tony dialed his night vision up another notch and paced Frank as they ran hard around Langley’s perimeter. After being cooped up for hours in a plane, both men needed to burn off some steam. As Tony ran, scenes from his computer-like brain flashed before him.

After his petri dish birth on one of the breeding farms set up by the U.S. government, he’d been groomed from adolescence to work as a genetic researcher. None of them attended school; their knowledge was downloaded directly from huge mainframes operated by government scientists. He lived a comfortable life at his breeding farm near Portland, Oregon, but it blew up in his face seven years ago. He was twenty-two then and knee-deep in research to perfect those like him. Each successive strain was a bit better than the last, but problems still cropped up.

He’d been close to a major breakthrough—at least he thought he was, but it could’ve been a dead end like so much of his research—when a cadre of renegade freaks, genetically engineered humans just like him, staged a rebellion. They hadn’t cared for the decision to scrap the earlier prototypes, so they blew up every breeding farm they could find. After that, they created hidden compounds, like the one in Keyser, West Virginia where Tony ended up.

He hadn’t bought into the violence, but there wasn’t a hell of a lot of choice once it began. Normal humans shot them on sight after the rebellion, so he went along with the program and moved his genetic research to his assigned compound. He didn’t have nearly the access to materials he’d had prior to the rebellion, but at least he was still alive.

“You’re pretty quiet, buddy,” Frank observed.

“Sorry. I was thinking.”

The other man snorted. “Always dangerous. About what? Did you come up with something we missed on those hard drives Milton swiped from our headquarters?”

“Nah. Wish it were that straightforward.”

Frank slugged him in the arm. “Watch that esoteric stuff. Our programming’s not designed for it.”

“Maybe not, but do you ever wonder what will become of us?”

“The probability of that line of thought producing something of value is—”

“Not what I asked,” Tony snapped. “We’ve thrown in our lot with normal humans, V0 as it were. We can’t undo it.”

“So? You and I discussed this before we showed ourselves and requested amnesty. We could’ve remained hidden. They would have found Charity without our help, and then they’d have left. We didn’t take that route. Are you having second thoughts?”

“Not really. We didn’t fit in with the other Nameless Ones—except it was a ridiculous moniker, since we had names, we just didn’t tell them to the women.” Tony slowed when they came to a perimeter fence and turned to face the other man. Because of the physical strength built into his genetics, he wasn’t even slightly winded.

Frank stopped and tossed his hood back. Shaggy black hair fell to his shoulders, and he examined Tony through his amber, animal-like eyes with vertical slit pupils. All the men looked very much the same due to shared genetics. Tall, rangy, muscled. Both of them wore regulation issue CIA field gear they hadn’t changed out of yet.

“What aren’t you saying?” Frank asked.

“Not sure. Except I’m feeling like a man without a country. We didn’t fit in there, but we don’t fit in here, either. They don’t trust us. I saw it in Milton’s eyes that night you and I saved Charity’s life.”

Frank grimaced. “Shit, bro. We’re machines. We’re not supposed to have feelings. Who cares if they trust us, so long as they continue to offer us a place to work and live? When did you fall off the wagon?”

Should I?

Tony weighed the advisability of confiding in Frank, but if not him, then whom?

“Talk, or I’m going back to my apartment. I’m fine when we’re moving, but I’m getting cold. Can’t be much more than fifteen degrees out here. In fact,” Frank sent a short blurt of power outward, “it’s eighteen point three Fahrenheit, but there’s a five knot wind, which brings the ambient temperature to—”

“Never mind that. I know it’s cold without a weather report. I have a problem that runs deeper than the humans not trusting us. They made a commitment to us, same as we did to them. The odds of them welching on the deal—so long as we don’t fuck them over—is under twelve percent.”

Frank furled his brows. “Okay. So you have a problem. Is it something we could hash out inside where it’s warm?”

“I think better when I’m cold.”

“Fine.” Frank gestured with a gloved hand. “Whatever it is, get it out, so we can chase down something to eat and find our beds.”

Tony unclenched his jaw. It was either spit it out or shut up. Running probabilities about Frank’s reaction wouldn’t alter his choices. He squared his shoulders and began to talk. “I spent a long time—hours—linked to Charity when she was so compromised. I was the one who sent my energy into her.”

“I haven’t forgotten. So?”

“I developed a fondness for her during that time.” Very unmachine-like feelings tightened Tony’s gut.

Frank’s eyes widened. “Oh ho! You want to fuck her. I’m not seeing where that’s a problem. The women were off limits to us at the compounds, but the CIA doesn’t have those kind of rules.”

The unmachine-like feelings intensified, and Tony felt his face grow warm. “Yeah, I want her that way, but it’s more than that. I like her. She’s a bitch, sure, but she’s fresh and funny and spunky. We drummed the spirit out of so many of the women, but not her.”

“Have you talked with her about any of this?”

Tony shook his head. “No.”

“Why not? Seems to me that’d be the logical place to start.”

A snort blew past Tony’s lips. “Yeah, huh? Problem is I got a pretty good look inside her head. She hates us.”

Frank drew back. “Why? She never even met us before she and her group attacked our compound.”

Tony shook his head again. “It runs deeper than that. She hates all of us men—for how we treated her and the other women. Even if that weren’t there, it must’ve been appalling for her when she discovered the V4s slaughtered the females in our compound. Her team planned to rescue them. The V4s figured it out and beat them to the punch.”

“Yeah, but none of that was personal—” Frank began.

“Try telling her that. I’m sure it felt goddamned personal. Christ! The women’s bodies weren’t even cold when Charity stumbled onto them.”

“I’m not sure Charity found them, but the women who did certainly told her about it.” Frank jerked his chin in the general direction of their apartment building. “Let’s get moving.” When Tony fell into step with him, he went on. “Seems to me you’ve really only got two choices. One. You suck it up and keep quiet. We weren’t exactly designed to have mates. All our babies were created in test tubes—even after the breeding farms.”

“That was because we were afraid the women would pick our brains during sex, discover how powerful they were, and demand equality.”

“It doesn’t matter why,” Frank replied. “Even though I was a minority, I never believed it would’ve been the end of the world if the women discovered their innate power, but they didn’t. Regardless, over time, we got away from intercourse as a primary source of procreation.”

“We’re getting off course. What’s my second option?”

“Sit down and talk to her. Tell her how you feel.”

Tony rolled the probabilities of how that would go through his brain. “Less than an eighteen percent chance she’d be open to it,” he muttered.

Frank didn’t respond, and they ran the rest of the way to their building in silence. Once they were inside, Tony said, “Thanks.”

“For what? I didn’t help much. See you tomorrow at zero seven hundred.” Frank turned down the hallway that led to his apartment.

Tony climbed a flight of stairs to his quarters and let himself in. If getting something going with Charity was such a crapshoot, why couldn’t he let go of the idea?

When the answer came, he didn’t like it much. He’d broken protocol to save her, blending his energy with hers in an intimate pattern that wasn’t in any of the manuals. Apparently she’d gotten under his skin during the process, and now he was stuck. When he wasn’t busy, she was all he thought about.

He stripped out of his heavy field coat and tossed it over a chair. The rest of his clothes ended up in a heap on the floor. Everything could stand a tour through the washing machine, but not tonight. He headed for the bathroom and a shower with his cock standing out like a ship’s prow. He was hard almost all the time now, despite jacking off two or three times a day. Hard because he wanted her.

Crap!

He pulled the shower curtain aside. Once he got the water going, he stepped over the high rim of the tub. Even though he tried not to, his hands found their way to his engorged flesh, and somewhere between the soap and hot water, he made himself come with visions of what he thought Charity’s perfect, naked body would look like plastered behind his eyes…

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Trust is fragile. Hard to come by and easily broken.

Description:

Hope’s had her eye on Charlie for a long time, for all the good it’s done her. He’s not even aware of her existence—other than as a fellow agent working Black Ops for the CIA. Her friends, Glory, Honor, and Charity, found men to love, so Hope knows it’s possible. But the odds aren’t in her favor. Not in a world of normal humans where she’s a genetically modified aberration. Hell, even she refers to her kind as freaks. What man in his right mind would want one of those in his bed?

Charlie swore off women after his last marriage went down in drama-tipped flames fifteen years ago. His first mistress is danger. He fell in love with the adrenaline rush when he signed on as a Navy Seal right out of college, and he never got over the thrill of pitting himself against the impossible.

Hope caught his eye the night she escaped her compound, but years of ignoring anything resembling a feeling made it easy to ignore the attraction—until they’re paired on a mission. Her intelligence and resourcefulness impress the hell out of him, but her half-naked body, exposed after an animal attack, forces him to face feelings he was certain he’d buried for good.

Excerpt:

Hope blinked dirt out of her eyes and stifled a groan. She didn’t want to risk an energy flare looking for the others. Doing anything other than keeping her resources muffled was an enormous risk.

She took a mouthful of water from the canteen hanging off her field belt and swished it around her mouth. Time had passed since a blast hit her helicopter, knocking it out of the air. Maybe as much as an hour. Things happened fast after the bird was hit, and her team leader, Charlie McClaren, folded her hand around the ripcord on her parachute.

He’d all but pushed her out the open chopper door with exhortations to, “Watch out for the rotor, goddammit.”

A few other choice instructions were lost in the slipstream as she plummeted from the dying aircraft, her pounding heart stenciling fear from her head to her toes.

What was supposed to be a simple out-and-back mission had turned into something much more complex, never mind much more dangerous. She’d been expecting Charlie or Frank to materialize ever since she cut herself out of the tree her chute got tangled in, but neither man showed up.

She didn’t understand why. They couldn’t have landed very far away after the crash—assuming they made it out of the chopper intact. Too rattled by her first actual parachute jump, she’d neglected to watch for the other chutes, which would’ve told her the location of her teammates.

Were they dead? Or tripped up by the old growth forest?

She’d been careful chopping her way out of a particularly tall tree. Her caution ate up well over half an hour while she freed herself from where she swung thirty feet above the ground. She picked splinters out of her hands as she considered what to do next.

According to the GPS in her augmented brain, she was in a wooded corridor in north central Maine. She, Charlie, and Frank had been on a routine mission to pick up Cortexiphan, an experimental drug banned by the FDA, from a freak compound near Bangor. Not that they’d expected the freaks—a renegade group of genetically modified humans who wanted to take down the U.S. government—to just hand over the drug, but military planes had annihilated the settlement. No one expected it would be difficult to waltz in and locate the chemical.

Hope shook her head. Underestimating her people was always a mistake. The genetically modified were smarter, stronger, faster, and more capable of pivoting in response to adverse conditions than normal humans ever dreamed of being.

She sheltered in a thick grove of some sort of deciduous tree and leaned against one of them. Could she risk her communicator? Would telepathy be safer? Hope grimaced. Freaks had to be behind the attack on her chopper, which meant nothing was safe. Who else would shoot down a CIA chopper over U.S. soil?

She bit hard on her lower lip. She understood freaks—how they thought, what made them tick—because she was one. She’d escaped the compounds, though, and left that life behind.

“What do I do now?”

She started at the sound of her voice, not realizing she’d spoken aloud until she heard the words. A quick glance at the sky told her she didn’t have much daylight left to work with. Not that it mattered. She could always dial in her night vision, but it held a particular energy signature.

The flash of warmth in Charlie’s hazel eyes as he’d covered her hand with his, instructing her how to yank the ripcord, filled her mind. She liked him. A lot. But he barely knew she existed beyond her working under him. She’d made a few pathetic attempts at flirting, but he’d ignored her. Maybe her shy smiles were so subtle he hadn’t interpreted them the way she hoped, but that probably wasn’t it. She was a freak. He was a normal human, and a goddamned good-looking one at that. He could have his pick of women. No reason on earth to look twice at her.

Much like the genetically altered men she’d spent her life with, Charlie was tall and rangy, with dark hair and hazel eyes. He was addicted to danger the same as all CIA operatives. When twin fires burned in the backs of his eyes, it was all she could do not to throw herself into his arms and beg him to take her.

Here.

Now.

In front of everyone.

She tossed her head, muffling a snort. She knew next to nothing about men, sex, or love. Her entire primer on all things human was derived from hours of television and the Internet. Her other source of information came from pumping Honor, Glory, and Charity, three of her closest friends, about their relationships with CIA agents they’d hooked up with.

A branch crackled behind her. Hope lunged for her sidearm, thought better of it, and focused her mental kinetics. She didn’t loose anything—not yet. Power ran through her in high voltage jolts. Holding it in abeyance wasn’t easy, but she needed to know what she faced. The minute she targeted someone, her ability would glow like a beacon, alerting any genetically modified human in the area to both her presence and precise location.

“Hope! I’ve been hunting for you ever since the chopper crashed.”

Frank limped from behind a bush. He was well over six feet tall with heavy slabs of muscle providing superior physical abilities. Genetically modified like her, his shaggy dark hair brushed his shoulders, and his amber animal-like eyes with vertical slit pupils came close to radiating joy. Given Frank’s taciturn ways, that said a lot.

She siphoned off the lethal force dancing through her body an electron at a time. “Fuck!” She trotted to his side. “I almost killed you.”

A crooked grin lent him a boyish appearance. “I felt the energy build. Figured I needed to say something.”

Hope took a closer look. A wicked looking gash ran from below Frank’s right eye to his cheekbone, and his hands were abraded and bleeding. She ran a hand down his body, scanning for injuries.

Before she was done, he batted it away. “I twisted my ankle when I landed in a bramble thicket. It’s how I got so banged up—fighting my way out of thorns as long as my thumb. I’ve instituted a healing program. Should be better than new in a few hours.” Breath hissed from between his teeth. “Shit! After my last impromptu exit from a chopper, I promised myself I’d practice parachuting, but somehow I never freed up the time.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve never even come close to doing anything like jumping out of a helicopter. Didn’t like it much. Any idea where Charlie is?”

Frank shook his head. “I was hoping he’d be with you.”

“We may not have had all that fancy commando training, but I never would’ve guessed how easy it is to lose someone between an auto-rotating helicopter and the ground.”

“We have to locate him.” Frank narrowed his eyes, or he might have winced, she couldn’t tell. “You haven’t expended any power, or I’d have found you sooner. Charlie certainly hasn’t used any.”

“It’s not safe. Charlie must’ve figured that out.” She crossed her arms under her breasts. “Freaks did this, huh?”

He cocked his head to one side. “Who else? I’m surprised you asked. Their signature is all over it.”

Hope shrugged, feeling uncomfortable for missing something obvious. “Maybe it is. Once the chopper started going nuts, I kind of stopped thinking.”

He looked at her then. Really looked and ran his own scan of her systems before she could move out of range.

“I’m all right.” She took a few steps away. “If I weren’t, I’d have told you.”

“Needed to check for myself,” he said gruffly. “We have more latitude with two of us—but only if we’re able to tap into all of our abilities.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She frowned, still not feeling a hundred percent.

His face settled into the patronizing lines she associated with Nameless Ones, genetically modified men who’d made her life hell when they lived in compounds. All of them—men and women alike—were products of genetic research originally hatched up by the U.S. government. Appalled by how they were treated, they staged a rebellion, and blew up the breeding farms. While women had been an integral part of the rebellion, they’d been relegated to second-class citizenry after a few years of living in hidden compounds. Their abilities were superior to the men’s, and the men had been frightened of losing the upper hand—

“It means we need to risk exposure to find Charlie. We can’t leave without him.” Frank’s words broke into her thoughts, and she shelved her foray into the past.

Hope set her jaw in determination and moved back to Frank’s side, so she could join her mental energy with his more easily. “Ready.”

“Before we do something that’s certain to compromise us, have you looked for him?”

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The bigger the secret and the longer it’s been hidden, the harder it is to reveal.

Description:

Faith fled her compound one wintry night with four other genetically modified women. Glory, Honor, Charity, and Hope have all found men who adore them. Faith is happy for her sisters, but it’s lonely on her own. A man piqued her interest, but she ran the probabilities, and the odds of him ever being interested in her are thin. Tough and forbidding, Reginald was a field surgeon in the Middle East. He eats and breathes medicine. Besides, he’s married to the CIA. No wives in his past. Faith hacked into the personnel database to check.

Reginald Thomas agreed to run the CIA’s infirmary after a bullet nailed him in Afghanistan. He’s one of a handful of scientists who produced the original batches of genetically modified humans, and he’s laid low since their rebellion. The catastrophe rankles, but he hasn’t given up finding a fix for their genome problems.

A permanent bachelor for a host of feeble reasons, he’s substituted immersion in medicine and science for a personal life. Easier that way. And a whole lot cleaner.

The status quo might be sterile, but at least it’s trouble free. When Faith catches his eye, he fights his attraction to her, but it’s a losing battle. Loving her fulfills him, and he can’t walk away. What will happen if she discovers he helped create those like her? In a radical departure from his normal forthright manner, he buries that fact deep. If she never finds out, it can’t ever come back to bite him.

Excerpt:

Faith walked slowly across the CIA’s extensive grounds. She’d just seen Hope and Charlie off at the terminal building next to the airstrip. They’d looked deliriously happy, and Faith was grateful Charlie’s near miss with death hadn’t left lasting problems. She stuffed her hands into her pockets, wishing she’d brought gloves. For once it wasn’t raining, but it was almost dark, and the wind had a bite to it.

Milton Reins, head of the CIA, had been there to wish Hope and Charlie well too. He’d also been chockful of instructions about the Gulfstream business class jet until Charlie reminded his boss he was qualified to fly it.

Not quite ready to return to her apartment building and all the new women who’d been assigned housing there, Faith wandered aimlessly. Glory, Honor, Charity, and Hope—women who were like sisters to her—had hooked up with men they loved dearly. It seemed like an impossible fantasy come true.

A few months back, they’d lived at a compound in Washington State, sharing a dormitory with seven more genetically modified women just like them. Glory’s bravery freed the five of them who’d been willing to trust her, and Faith blessed the CIA every single day for taking a chance on them as agents.

More women had joined their ranks during a raid they’d just completed in Maine. Twenty to be precise. It made her heart glad the women had been able to lay their reservations aside and take a chance on a new life. One where they’d be treated like human beings rather than slaves.

She really should hustle back to the apartment building and see if any of them wanted to go to dinner. Faith remembered her first days on the sprawling CIA campus. How lost and overwhelmed she’d felt. It had helped that Glory was already there. The least she could do was pass on the goodwill to the new gals.

“Faith. Hold up.”

She glanced over her shoulder at the sound of Frank’s voice, but kept walking. Frank was genetically modified too, but he’d been one of the Nameless Ones, men who’d made the women’s lives holy hell in the compounds. He was also a genetic researcher. Her friend Charity had fallen in love with Tony, the scientist Frank defected with, but Faith didn’t harbor fond feelings for any of the genetically modified men.

During the seven years the CIA had hunted those like her, they’d labeled them freaks. The tag stuck, and she still thought of men like Frank as freaks, but not necessarily her or the women.

How’s that for hypocrisy? She smothered a snorting laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Frank caught up with her.

Faith shrugged. “I was thinking about how the CIA calls us freaks, and I’m good when it means you. Less good when it means me.”

“Doesn’t matter what they call us,” Frank countered. “They took us in. Gave us homes and work. They didn’t have to. How’d Charlie look? I’d meant to check him over one last time before he left, but didn’t get there in time.”

“Like the old Charlie. None the worse for wear. Dr. Thomas was there. I’m pretty sure he had some of the same concerns you do, but Milton told him to go back to his infirmary.”

Frank hooted laughter. “Bet that didn’t go over very well.”

“No. It didn’t. The doc stayed until Charlie and Hope headed out onto the tarmac.” Faith narrowed her eyes. “You’ve gotten to know him pretty well, huh?”

“Who?”

“The doctor.”

“In a manner of speaking, yeah. After Tony and I pulled a rabbit out of a black hole and saved Charlie, the guy decided we weren’t just a bunch of uninformed quacks pretending we knew something about physiology.”

“You’re mixing your metaphors.”

“So?” Frank angled his unusual amber eyes with their vertical slit pupils her way. Like all the genetically modified men, he was tall and broad-shouldered with a rangy build. Unevenly cut jet-black hair hung to his shoulders.

“So, nothing. Just pointing it out. Um, did you want something? I really should get back to the apartment building. We have all those new women, and—”

“Yeah I did,” he interrupted in true Nameless One fashion.

Faith shook off irritation. “Whatever it is, hurry up.”

He tucked a hand beneath her elbow in a distressingly familiar gesture. “How about joining me in the cafeteria for dinner? Tony and I got done early tonight, and he’s spending the evening with Charity.”

Faith jerked away from his touch. “The new women are my first responsibility,” she said stiffly, wishing Frank would take the hint and leave. If he were human, he might’ve, but subtlety and picking up on social cues weren’t part of how any of them had been programmed.

“Bring ’em along.” He grinned rakishly. “You may not like me, but one of them might.”

Faith stopped walking and stared at him. “What the hell, Frank? Any woman in a storm?”

“Now who’s mixing metaphors?” He looked down his nose at her.

Faith felt her face heat. “I’ll be in the dining hall in half an hour or so. If you want to sit with us, that’s fine—so long as none of the women object. They’re much fresher from a compound than me, so they may well run screaming from the room if you get too close.”

Frank closed a hand around one wrist, effectively trapping her. “Get real, Faith. I wasn’t in your compound, but it wasn’t as if we flogged the women. You make it sound as if we were the devil incarnate.”

“To us, you were. You rationed everything from food to blankets to when we had to show up to have our eggs harvested.” She angled her head to one side. “The men in my compound ate what they wanted. They weren’t half-starved like us. I bet they had more than one blanket. And they had private rooms; they weren’t stuffed twelve to a dorm like we were—”

“You can stop now.” Frank held up his other hand. “I’m sorry. I felt bad I didn’t do more at the time, and I still do, but you living in the past and hanging onto hostility and bitterness isn’t wise.”

“Why not?” she demanded. “What’s the phrase? He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it.”

“George Santayana said that, but you’re living in a different world now. The odds are better than seventy percent the CIA will effectively quell the rebellion sometime in the next six months. V4 has proven unstable. God only knows how many freaks were made with that configuration, but they’ll implode, which will further thin their ranks.”

“Fascinating,” she muttered, “but I need to get moving.”

Frank released her wrist. “I’d like to get to know you better, Faith, but I won’t be heavy-handed about it. Give it some thought, and let me know.”

She took a step backward. “What about wanting to give the women a thrill by having dinner with them?”

“Eh, I just said that to see if you’d react. Be jealous or something.” He actually looked mildly uncomfortable when he twisted his mouth into a frown. “You weren’t, and I’m crushed, but I’ll get over it.”

Without waiting for a response from her, he spun and took off at a quick lope.

Faith ran hard the other way, heading for her apartment building. Her thoughts were a roiling mess. Charity may have managed to square hooking up with a nameless one, but Faith didn’t have it in her to overlook their years of horrific treatment. The women may not have been beaten, but they’d endured every other type of abuse.

Except sexual.

Intimacy was forbidden in the compounds. The reason Glory had run away was because a Nameless One tried to rape her. She’d used her kinetics to kill him, been scared half to death, and gone out a window in the thick of winter with only a worn pair of tennis shoes and a threadbare sweater. It was hard enough in Washington, but by the time she’d hitchhiked halfway across the country to Minnesota, the cold had almost killed her.

Frank was a hunk of a man. All the Nameless Ones were, but Faith couldn’t see herself letting her guard down long enough to allow him inside her hopes and dreams, let alone sleeping with him. The thought of physical intimacy with someone like him made her vaguely ill.

She reached her building and tipped her chin so the retinal scanner could trip the lock and let her in. She was capable of employing kinetics to spring any lock, but so long as she was here, she’d do things the CIA way. After she nodded to the security guard patrolling the lobby, she pulled open a stairwell door and headed for the third floor.

Faith employed telepathy as she hastened up the stairs to see which women might be interested in joining her for dinner in the cafeteria. By the time she got to her floor, seven of the new recruits waited for her, milling about in the hallway. Faith recognized three of them since they were part of a group assigned specifically to her for weapons and martial arts practice.

A thought struck Faith. “I never asked, and we mostly communicate via telepathy when we train, but did you ever swap out your identification numbers from the compounds for names?”

A woman from Faith’s group squared her shoulders. Like all the genetically modified women, she had long, thick dark hair and clear green eyes. The women had sleekly muscled bodies, and were both tall and strong. “Some of us did,” she replied.

Faith smiled grimly. “That was one of the concessions we insisted on in my compound. We got sick of numbers, so we named ourselves and refused to respond when Nameless Ones called us by our numbers. Tell you what. Before we’re done eating tonight, at least the seven of you will have picked names.”

“Sounds like a plan,” another of the women said.

“Tell us about Hope and Charlie.” Another pressed forward and clasped her hands together. “It seems like such a fairytale romance. Everything went well? They’re off on a honeymoon?”

“Well, they’re not exactly married, so honeymoon isn’t the correct word,” Faith replied. “But I watched their plane take off, and they did look happy.”

A collective ahhhhh surged through the group, and seven pairs of green eyes shone with delight for one of their kind who’d found happiness.

Faith could relate, and it made her both sad and angry. Up until she’d fled the compound, the thought of falling in love was just a fantasy. Something that happened in movies she watched on the Internet, but nothing that would ever happen to her. Frank’s invitation—and his obvious interest—nagged at the back of her mind.

No. I’d rather be dead than hook up with a Nameless One. Charity may have, but I’m not her.

“Dinner?” Faith urged to quell her churning thoughts and trotted back down the stairway. If they got there after eight, the steam tables would be closed. Snacks were always available, but they weren’t as satisfying as a hot meal.

The women trailed after her, chatting among themselves. They sounded carefree, another emotion that had eluded them in the compounds where they’d had to watch their backs every single minute.

“What do you think about goddess warrior names?” One of the women joined Faith.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Faith offered. “A name is important. It symbolizes who you are. Humans don’t get to pick their own names, but some of the research I’ve read indicates that people grow into their given names—for good or for ill.”

“So I should pick a name where I have an affinity for the woman, right?”

About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

https://twitter.com/anngimpel

 

 

Review: Alphas in the Wild Books 1-4, by Ann Gimpel Reply

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5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/66cltHf

The books are also available individually.

Dark. Daunting. Unforgettable.

Survival adds a demanding edge to love in the wilds.

Tumble into second-chance love, where magics collide, mountain gods are out for blood, and aliens invade Earth.

Review:

Quick and to the point. A couple sweet and hot sexy scenes in the first story.

In the second story Craig and Tina act as if they have never been apart. Tina had caught the attention of a God who was willing to break the rules to get what he wanted.  Craig knows he won’t let Tina get away again. 
Sara and Jared have a sci-fi sort of story.  Very interesting read as they find each other out in the middle of no where.

Three very different stories with drama, excitement, and survival.

Reviewed by Fawnzy

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Hello Darkness, Alphas in the Wild Book One

Earth magics collide, forcing Moira Shaughnessy to take a chance on a man who hurt her so badly she never forgave him.

A ranger for the U.S. Park Service, Moira is in serious trouble. Fleeing from Ryan, her cheating husband, who’s also a Native American shaman, she stumbles into the arms of a man she never thought she’d see again. He hurt her once by choosing his magic over her. Would she be a fool to take a chance on him now?

Tim hasn’t seen Moira in ten years. When her name shows up on his patient roster in the rural clinic where he’s a doctor, he can’t believe his luck. Deeply held secrets forced him from her side, but he’s never forgotten her. Never stopped loving her. This time, he’s determined to make different choices, even if it costs him his birthright as the next Arch Druid.

Pursuing very different motives, Tim and Ryan follow Moira deep into the backcountry, catching her in a crossfire between Celtic and Native American magic. A freak blizzard compounds her problems, taxing her survival skills to the max. Against the specter of almost-certain death, Moira has some hard choices to make.

Click here for information and buy links.

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Alpine Attraction, Alphas in the Wild Book Two
Tina made a pact with the devil seven years ago. It’s time to pay the piper—or die.

Independent to the nth degree, Tina meets everything in her life head-on—except love. When an almost-forgotten pact with the devil returns to haunt her, Tina throws a trip to the Andes together to face her nemesis. Better to die on her feet than wait for him to make good on his threats.

Craig never understood why Tina walked out of his life years before. He’s never loved anyone like he loved her. His mountain guide service takes up all his time, but he’s never forgotten her. When his back’s been up against the wall, he’s invited her to fill in as expedition doctor, but beyond that, he’s kept his distance. Having his heart stomped on once was quite enough.

Caught between misgivings and need, Tina signs on as team doctor for one of Craig’s climbing trips to the Andes. Though he was the love of her life, she pushed him away years before to keep him safe. Even if he doesn’t love her anymore, there’s still no one she’d rather have by her side in the mountains. And if she’s going to die, she wants to make things right between them.

Click here for information and buy links.

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A Run For Her Money, Alphas in the Wild Book Three

Sara’s day begins like any other. A routine extraction in tandem with a local Search and Rescue team. Routine crashes to a halt when she ends up trapped in a hut, high atop Muir Pass in the Sierras. Four days later, running out of food for herself and her dog, she makes a bold dash for safety.

Jared’s walking the Muir Trail when all hell breaks loose. After hunkering beneath a boulder pile for days, he dares a difficult cross-country route, hoping it’ll put him into position to approach a backcountry ranger station. Surely one of the rangers will know what happened, because he sure as hell doesn’t. Jared locates the cabin, but it’s locked tight. He’s getting ready to leave the next morning when a helicopter lands, with Sara at the helm. There’s no time to trade war stories. It takes a leap of faith, but they throw in their lot together. Can they face the impossible and come out the other side unscathed?

Click here for information and buy links.

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4 out of 5 Stars

Fire Moon, Alphas in the Wild Book Four

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/hpWwI4k

Review:

Cara and John find romance all while fighting off dragons…yup, angry dragons.  This is a very descriptive story of climbing and surviving through a raging wild fire.  These two learn that believing in each other, even in some unrealistic circumstances, is the only way they will survive.  Dragons, magic, and spirit guides, all lead to a dramatic story.

Reviewed by Fawnzy

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Cara, a mountain guide with a hard luck past and John, a doctor running as hard as he can from his own demons, become unlikely allies. Fire raging through the Sierras forces them away from their planned route and makes escape a dicey proposition.

Cara struggles to outwit the inferno before it’s too late. John’s long-denied psychic side escapes its bonds, refusing to be ignored any longer. He recognizes the fire for what it is: magical creatures bearing the worst news of all. Fire dragons want Earth for themselves, and they’ll stop at nothing to make it theirs. Protecting Cara from the destiny that’s finally hunted him down turns into John’s top priority, but spirit guides shanghai him, forcing his hand.

He never wanted a woman in his life. Too many complications—but something about Cara touches his heart.

She was burned out on men and vowed she’d spend the rest of her life in the mountains, guiding clients—but something about John sings to her soul.

If they can survive the dragons that set the earth ablaze, a different kind of heat just might bind them to each other.

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Excerpt from Hello Darkness:

Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

Paul Simon, Sounds of Silence

Chapter One

Moira Shaughnessy’s booted feet hit the ground in front of the Family Medicine Clinic. Slamming the door of the dusty white Park Service pickup, she considered ignoring her boss’s orders, peeling out of the parking lot, and heading for the Baxter Pass trailhead. She had a crew to oversee, goddammit. A work project to complete. But her boss, John, had been painstakingly clear, both yesterday at Park Headquarters in Three Rivers, and a mere ten minutes ago on the sat phone. Granted, he’d been far more pointed on the phone.

“It’s not a suggestion, Moira,” he’d growled. “This is a directive—from me. I want to hear from someone with MD after his name before I authorize you to head up that work detail. Do not set one foot on the trail before you receive my orders, e-sign them, and e-mail them back to me.”

“But that’s usually a formality—”

“Not this time. No buts. I made you an appointment at the clinic in Bishop that clears some of our crews. They’re open until six. I already lost two rangers this summer in the Pinecrest fire. That was two too many in my book, so get your butt into that clinic.”

Moira gritted her teeth. She’d thought she could avoid dealing with the whole mess by leaving the office early yesterday and taking one of the northern passes over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but John tracked her down.

Phooey. I ran, but guess I couldn’t hide…

It was downright annoying that her boss needed a doctor to reassure him she wouldn’t collapse—or something—in the backcountry. For the briefest of moments, she felt like pounding her fist into the nearest tree, but then she pulled herself together. Nothing was wrong with her, except her slimy, cheating husband. Sure, she’d lost a few pounds since she left him, but she hadn’t been all that hungry.

Problem was, John remembered similar struggles from years ago when she first started working as a park ranger. She hadn’t eaten enough then, either, and grew far too thin. Just her luck, he’d been overseeing a backcountry work detail when she got woozy and fell off one of the mules.

Understanding surfaced; embarrassment followed. Her boss cared about her. That wasn’t a bad thing. Anger bled out of her with a whoosh.

“May as well get this over with,” she muttered.

Moira walked briskly to the clinic, pushed the door open, and headed for the counter. The antiseptic smell common to all medical offices hit her like a wall as she strode across the scrubbed linoleum floor.

“Yes?” A young woman with dyed red hair looked up from her computer screen with eyes so green she had to be wearing colored contact lenses.

“Moira Shaughnessy. I think you’re expecting me. My boss called from Kings Canyon-Sequoia Park Headquarters.”

The receptionist clicked a few keys. “Your insurance card, please.”

Moira blew out a frazzled breath and dug through her fanny pack for her wallet. Once she found it, she extracted the plasticized Blue Cross card, handing it over. “I’m really in a bit of a hurry—”

“Here’s your card back.” The clerk gestured at the nearly full waiting room. “The doctor will be with you as soon as he can. He had a full schedule before he agreed to work you in.”

“Is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes? I need to lock my truck. I, uh, didn’t think I’d be in here for very long.”

“Sure. So long as we know where to find you.” The phone trilled, and the receptionist picked it up, Moira obviously forgotten. “Family Medicine, how may I help you?”

Moira let herself back outside. Too restless to return to the overcrowded waiting room, she paced up and down the parking lot. Fall had turned the aspen trees lining Bishop’s streets to shades of red and gold that were quite striking, but all she could think about were the minutes ticking by. It was twelve miles from the trailhead to the top of the pass, and a couple more to where her trail crew was. Leaving today would be foolhardy at this point. She’d never even make the pass before night fell.

“Damn it!” She glanced at her watch. How long was this going to take anyway?

“Ms. Shaughnessy?” A man’s voice sounded from behind her.

She spun, surprised out of her funk.

And stopped dead.

“Tim?”

Moira stared at the tall, rangy man with long, white-blond hair and ice-blue eyes. He was dressed in teal scrubs and sandals with a stethoscope draped around his neck. A broad grin split the clean planes of his face. She’d forgotten how heartbreakingly beautiful he was.

“I saw the name and hoped it was you.” He held out a hand, but she remained frozen in place. “After all, how many Moira Shaughnessys could there be?”

She stood there, flabbergasted. What were the odds? She hadn’t seen Tim O’Malley since they’d both graduated from U.C. Davis. When she realized her mouth was hanging open, she shut it with a snap.

“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” One corner of his mouth turned down in an expression she remembered all too well.

“It’s just… I mean I never expected…” She felt warmth rise from the open neck of her buff-colored uniform shirt. Heat suffused her face until she was certain every freckle was outlined in bright, living color.

“Hey, mo ghrá. I know we didn’t split up under the best of circumstances…”

“No shit. And you can skip the beloved part.” A familiar anger stirred, but she batted it aside.

“Moira, I’m sorry. I was sorry then, and I still am.” He sounded so sincere, it tugged at her heartstrings. Part of her wanted to believe him, and part of her was afraid to.

“Grannie told me some of it—about the Arch Druid stuff. And you having to be celibate or something.”

He creased his brow, the smile fading. “I’m glad she did. I was sworn to silence about Druid affairs.” He cleared his throat. “In truth, I still am.”

“What she told me didn’t make it any easier. I tried to call you—a bunch of times.”

“I know.”

“Christ, Tim, it’s been close to ten years.”

He looked chagrined. “I suppose I know that too.”

Her heart, already damaged from her sham of a marriage, squeezed painfully in her chest. She’d loved Tim once. And thought he loved her. They’d known one another since they were children growing up in the same sprawling Irish immigrant community.

“So what happened?” She eyed him, struggling for equanimity. “It’s a long way from Druid to doctor. Or are you a nurse here?”

“Nope, I’m the doc. My training took up eight of the ten years since—”

The clinic door flew open. A harried-looking, overweight woman in white scrubs rolled her eyes. Her short brown hair stood up in spikes, and her muddy green gaze shot darts. “There you are. Dr. O’Malley, you have patients.”

He waved her to silence. “Fine, Bridgette. I’ll be in soon.”

“But—”

He made shooing motions with both hands. “I said I’ll be in soon.”

Bridgette screwed her face into a disapproving frown. “Whatever,” she snapped and banged the door shut.

Tim closed the few feet between them and laid his hands on Moira’s shoulders. “Can I buy you dinner? Or maybe just a cup of coffee, if you’re still mad at me and not willing to risk an entire meal.”

“I’d like that, but I’m on my way to work. See…”

She took a big breath, and an annotated version of her story tumbled out. She mentioned her divorce and her lack of appetite, but skipped the low points about her marriage, figuring it wasn’t really any of Tim’s affair.

“Last time I wasn’t very hungry was right after you and I broke up. I’d just started working for the Park Service. Unfortunately, John—that’s my boss—has a long memory.”

Tim listened until she was done talking, and then placed his stethoscope in his ears. “Take a deep breath.” He moved the bell to several locations on her chest, and then had her turn around and positioned it on her back. “Your heart sounds healthy to me.” He gripped her wrist, taking her pulse as he ran his gaze over her body in a familiar way that tightened her throat and made her belly clench with heat.

“What do you weigh?” He eyed her again. “Maybe one thirty?”

Moira nodded. No point in lying since he could drag her inside and plunk her on a scale. “One twenty-two.”

“It could be worse. Have you had issues with anorexia since—” color blotched his cheeks “—well, since us?”

Moira shook her head. “I’ve maybe lost ten pounds this time round.” She looked away. “The problem was a whole lot worse ten years ago.”

“Moira.” His voice cracked with emotion. “I’m sorry. Scarcely a day goes by—”

“Don’t.” The word tore out of her. “Just don’t. I have to get to work. I’d never have stopped, except John insisted.”

He stepped back a pace and nodded. “You should be fine, so long as you start eating again. What is it your boss needs?”

“A phone call, I think.”

“Not a fitness for duty statement?”

She shook her head. “No. Nothing so formal.”

Not yet anyway.

“Good, because that would require a real physical and some labs. Jot his number down for me.” He pulled a small notebook out of a pocket and handed it to her, along with a pen.

As she gave it back, he caught her hand in his. “I’ve thought about you so many times over the years. I guess I always believed—” The color in his face deepened. “When will you be back through Bishop so we can talk? Or better yet, I’ve got a few days off after today’s clinic. I could backpack with you. Meet you wherever you’re—”

“Uh-uh.” She shook her head. “It’s against regulations to bring civilians, other than the trail crew, on Park Service work projects.”

His blue eyes twinkled. She’d forgotten how intense they were, like a multihued ocean. “You told me you were heading over Baxter Pass.”

“Yeah.” She smiled back because she couldn’t help herself. “So I did. I’m also telling you not to follow me.”

He bent his head, and brushed his lips over hers. The kiss was so sweet and so fleeting, memories flooded her, and she pulled away, her heart doing flip-flops.

“If it won’t be different this time, don’t start.” Her voice held a thin, strained note.

“Things will be different. I would’ve called you. Almost did a hundred times, but I felt so rotten about—”

“Dr. O’Malley.” Bridgette clumped across the yard and grabbed his arm. “You have patients.”

He shook her off. “When have you ever known me to leave before I’ve seen each and every one of them?”

“Never.” She sounded sullen.

“And it won’t happen today, either. Get back inside, and hold down the fort. If you could take vitals on everyone it would be a big help.”

Bridgette’s gaze moved from Tim to Moira. Pursing her lips in an unpleasant expression, she stalked back into the clinic.

Tim turned to Moira. “It was wonderful to see you again. Here.” He scribbled something on one of the tiny sheets of notebook paper, tore it off, and handed it to her. “My cell. Call anytime.”

“I just may take you up on that.”

* * * *

Tim wasn’t ready to go back into the clinic. His emotions were too close to the surface. He watched Moira’s truck drive out of the parking lot heading south. The last time he’d seen her ate at him like an out-of-control cancer. They’d spent hours in his apartment arguing. Though he’d dissected it a hundred times, trying to figure out what he could’ve done differently, he’d never come up with anything useful.

He made a strong effort to stuff the memory into its subterranean hidey-hole, but it wouldn’t cooperate. Since the professional objectivity he’d need to face a waiting room full of patients had just scattered like so much dust, he set off at a brisk pace intending to circle the block. He knew from experience that once that particular memory surfaced, he had to let it play itself out.

Bridgette and the clinic would just have to give him a few minutes more.

“I tell you I’m done. Not just done. Fucking done.”

Tears streamed down Moira’s swollen, blotchy face.

“I’ve waited for you since I was sixteen years old, Tim O’Malley. That’s six years in case you can’t count. I didn’t expect much back then, but we’re nearly done with college. You won’t do any more than kiss me. You won’t live with me. You won’t talk about getting married. Fuck! Why am I even bothering?”

She jumped to her feet and ran to a window, gripping the sill hard enough to whiten her knuckles.

He grabbed her arm. “I—I do love you, Moira. I’ve told you I want to save sex until after we’re married.”

“Well I don’t. Besides, you never asked me to marry you.”

“You’re not being fair. There are things I can’t tell you.”

She whirled, her golden eyes on fire. “Fine. Keep your fucking secrets. And keep your fucking virginity. I talked with Father O’Brannigan—”

A chill marched down his spine. “You what?”

“You heard me. I had to talk to someone. Even he said it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had sex. He said God would forgive me so long as we got married. What’s the problem? Do you like boys? Jesus, even the clerk at the corner store is hotter for me than you are.”

Mo ghrá—”

“Don’t ‘mo ghrá’ me.” She twisted out of his grasp. “Get out of here. Don’t worry. I’ll be gone by the time you get back.”

“Moira—”

“For the love of Christ, just leave. If you ever loved me—” Her face crumpled and she sobbed helplessly, turning away from him.

Feeling like he was being torn in two, Tim stormed out of his apartment. The minute he got to the bottom of his steps, he began to run. He loved Moira. Loved her with every fiber of his being. But he understood his duty to his Druid heritage too. Slated to be the next Arch Druid, he was forbidden physical congress with women. His magic needed to be honed to the highest possible level.

Sex would interfere.

Tim ran until sweat streamed down his sides, despite the chill of an unseasonably cool June in California. A full moon hung low, clinging to the horizon. It was a lover’s moon. He cursed, drowning in irony. A lover’s moon, but not for him.

He wasn’t surprised when he ended up ten miles north of Davis at the Druids’ priory. Despite it being three in the morning, he pulled the bell chain. Its somber chime matched his mood.

The intercom next to the carved oak door crackled. “What business brings you here?” It was a standard Druid greeting, though the speaker sounded half-asleep.

“I must see Liam. Now.”

“Tim O’Malley. Is that you?”

Tim blew out a ragged breath. “Yes. Let me in, goddammit.”

A tone sounded, and the door swung open soundlessly on well-oiled hinges. A man he didn’t recognize hustled up the long hallway. “Master.” He inclined his head.

“I’m no one’s master. Go back to sleep. I know the way.”

Liam McAllister’s quarters were on the third floor of the rambling stone structure that had once been a Catholic monastery. Tim pounded up the stairs, his stomach so tight he wondered if he’d vomit. He’d just raised a fist to hammer on Liam’s door when it opened, and the Arch Druid stood before him. If the older man had been asleep, it didn’t show.

“Welcome, son.” Liam held out his arms, but Tim shook his head. Without waiting for an invitation, he stomped into the spacious quarters lined with leaded glass windows on two walls. The moon mocked him, front and center in those windows.

“You have to release me from my vows.”

Liam drew his thick eyebrows together. “You must know I cannot do that. You didn’t take vows. You were born to your calling.”

Tim spun to face the man who’d been like a father to him. Long, white hair framed his bearded face. Bright blue eyes radiated concern. The Arch Druid was tall—of a height with Tim—and wraith-thin. Black robes flowed around him.

“But it’s not like I’m the Dalai Lama.” He took a breath to steady himself. “You don’t understand. I love Moira. It’s tearing me up that I can’t have her. Christ! I can’t even tell her why I can’t make love to her—or marry her.”

Liam nodded slowly. He reached a kindly hand toward Tim. “Actually, you are a lot like the Dalai Lama. ’Tis the goddess who picks our progression. Would you care to sit, son? I believe a spot of spirits might calm you.”

“Irish whiskey won’t solve this.”

Liam made a snorting noise. “A dram of good Irish whiskey will solve practically anything. Or at least soften it till it feels more manageable.”

He pulled a decanter close and poured amber liquid into two cut-crystal shot glasses, pushing one toward Tim. “You will be able to wed once your training is complete, and you sit in my place.”

Battling frustration, Tim drained his glass. The whiskey burned going down. It matched the fire in his soul.

He trained his gaze on Liam. “You don’t understand. That may have worked hundreds of years ago. Not anymore. Look at you. Goddess willing, you’ll live another twenty or thirty years. Maybe more. By then Moira will be long since married to another. Hell, she could be a grandmother.” He banged a fist on one of the tables scattered about the room. A lamp rattled ominously, and he reached to steady it.

“Please,” Tim begged. “At least let me tell her why I can’t wed her.”

Liam shook his head. “I cannot do that. The workings of our society have always been secret. ’Tis how we’ve shielded ourselves from the machinations of the Church.”

“The Church isn’t still out to get us. Not actively, anyway.”

Liam turned on him, blue eyes ablaze. “Thinking like that will land you in trouble. Have you not followed their exorcisms? Or their dogma? And ’tis not just the Catholics I’m talking of here. What do you believe clerics think of those like us who call magic, engage in astral travel, and commune with gods, spirits, and the dead?”

Tim’s shoulders sagged. He felt like a sail with the wind knocked out of it, attached to a ship that would never find port. “That we were evil.”

Liam nodded. “Organized religion’s raison d’être is to rid the Earth of wickedness. Moira is Catholic. She goes to confession. I tell you, son, we cannot risk it. ’Tisn’t been so very long since they killed one of us. Surely you recall Sean Newbry. ’Twas scarcely an accidental drowning. His astral self came to me whilst he was dying.”

“And?”

“The parish priest caught him in the midst of a blood offering ceremony, talking with Earth spirits. Sean was certain the cleric followed him since he’d taken care to go deep into the Sierra foothills.”

Tim fought a sinking feeling. “You said drowning.”

“Are you certain you want the grisly details?”

“Yes.”

“Four priests waylaid him late one night, bound him, gagged him, tied a heavy weight about his waist—”

“Enough.” Tim sat heavily. He dropped his head into his hands and remembered what Moira told him about talking with Father O’Brannigan. What a fucked up mess this had turned into. He still cared about Druidry, but did he care enough to give up Moira for the rest of his life?

“Tim?” Liam asked after a long silence.

He looked up. “No matter how I slice and dice this, I don’t want to live without her. Hell, I don’t know if I can.”

“I understand.” A considered intake of breath and Liam continued. “I gave you permission to attend medical school. That was a concession as I’d rather you were here by my side. Then you came up with that idea about a public health degree.

“Mayhap it would be best if you didn’t see Moira—or even call her—at least for a while. Try to immerse yourself in your studies. Believe me, son, when I tell you the goddess takes care of her own.”

A sob rose from the depths of his soul. Mortified, Tim tried to swallow the next one down. He stuffed a knuckle in his mouth and bit down hard.

“’Tis all right. Life does not give us easy choices.” Liam got to his feed, walked around the table, and patted Tim’s back. “There is no shame in tears.”

Forcing himself to return to the present, Tim took a deep breath, and then another. He wasn’t twenty-two anymore. He could stand up to Liam if it came down to it. He pulled open the side door to the clinic and went to the tiny staff room, where he knew he’d find the afternoon’s schedule posted. Despite reliving painful memories, he felt more alive than he had in years.

The goddess had brought Moira back into his life. Things would be different this time. He’d see to it, even if it meant confronting Liam and walking away from Druidry forever.

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About The Author:

I’m basically a mountaineer at heart. I remember many hours at my desk where my body may have been stuck inside four walls, but my soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry.

Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), I finagled a move to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. Stories always ran around in my head on backcountry trips, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made me fear for my life, sometimes for company.

Eventually, the inevitable happened. I returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. It wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since.

In addition to turning out books, I enjoy wilderness photography. A standing joke is that over ten percent of my pack weight is camera gear, which means my very tolerant husband has to carry the food — and everything else too.

Links:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Review: Edge Of Night (A Collection of Short Stories), by Ann Gimpel Reply

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4 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

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Review:

I normally don’t review anthologies, but this one was rather fun. It’s honestly 9 short stories that are designed to entice the reader into reading more of author Ann Gimpel’s work. All of the characters are very well written and very relatable, and each of the stories moves very quickly. I was most intrigued by the tale Epiphany, as it’s very different than any other romance I have ever read. I would recommend this book for anyone seeking a quick, but highly entertaining, read.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Description:

Here’s a roadmap to Edge of Night. Welcome to an eclectic collection of nine short stories.

You’ve done time at the edge of night. Nail-biting, stomach-churning time filled with hissing snarls, menacing growls, the whoosh of unnatural wings, and the flash of hellfire. Time that lasts forever, but is over within seconds because time becomes unpredictable in places like that. You don’t want to stay, but it’s too fascinating—in a grisly, macabre, toe-curling kind of way—to turn your back on.

You recognize it, though. The place just at the threshold of darkness where it’s not quite safe anymore. Evil broke its bounds at the edge of night, or maybe it always ran free and we’ve been deluding ourselves all along.

Join me for nine supernatural tales. Monsters, demons, gods—fallen and otherwise—ghosts, aliens. A touch of science fiction. More than a splash of romance. From magical lands to a chilling glance into the past, Edge of Night has something to tempt everyone. Everyone who craves danger, that is. It takes guts to read the stuff woven into nightmares.

It’s a tough job, but you’re up to it.

Welcome to my world. A world where magic holds court and the dude next door just might be a demon. Or a shifter. Or an alien.

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About The Author:

Ann Gimpel is a USA Today bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients. Now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 45 books to date, with several more planned for 2017 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren, and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Review: Demon Assassins Series, by Ann Gimpel Reply

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3.5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

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Review:

 Colleen, Roz and Jenna are the last 3 witches who have the power to kill demons and escort them to the ninth level of hell. I absolutely loved this trilogy and want more! The characters are extremely well written and the story captures your attention. Each book adds another layer to the characters and you want more. Of the three books, Witch’s Bounty, the first book, is my favorite. The introduction of the series and the characters draws you in and doesn’t let you go. There are scenes that made me laugh and cry. This series was one of the few that I was happy that I could binge read, since I didn’t want to stop reading it.
   There are a few authors that are my “go to” and Ms. Gimpel was just added to this list.
Reviewed by Angel
Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

One of three remaining demon assassin witches, Colleen is almost the last of her kind. Along with her familiar, a changeling spirit, she was hoping for a few months of quiet, running a small magicians’ supply store in Fairbanks, Alaska. Peace isn’t in the cards, though. Demons are raising hell in Seattle. She’s on her way to kick some serious demon ass, when a Sidhe shows up and demands she accompany him to England to quell a demon uprising.

Gutsy, opinionated, and outspoken, Colleen refuses to come. Witches need her help, and they trump everything else. Despite breaking a prime Sidhe precept concerning non-interference in mortals’ affairs, Duncan offers his assistance. Colleen fascinates him, and he wants to discover more about her. Lots more.

The Sidhe might be the best-looking man Colleen’s ever stumbled over, but she doesn’t have time for him—or much of anything else. She, Jenna, and Roz are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. Even with help from a powerful magic wielder like Duncan, the odds aren’t good and the demons know it.

Sensing victory is within their grasp, they close in for the kill.

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Excerpt:

Rain worsened from a steady drizzle to a pounding, punishing deluge of icy sleet. Colleen Kelly strengthened the spell around herself. It sizzled where it ran up against the droplets. At least she wasn’t quite as wet as she would have been without its protection. Pavement glistened wetly in the last of the day’s light. It was just past three in the afternoon, but December days were short in the northern latitudes and Fairbanks was pretty far north.

“At least it’s not snowing,” she muttered as she pushed through a nearby glass-fronted door into the magicians’ supply store she owned with two other witches in the older part of downtown. Bells hanging around the door pealed discordantly. She sent a small jolt of magic to silence them.

“I heard that. Not the bells, but you. It’s supposed to snow this time of year. How could you possibly be pleased the weather patterns have gone to hell?”

Jenna Neil stalked over to the coatrack where Colleen stood. Blonde hair, hacked off at shoulder level, framed a gamine’s face and shrewd, hazel eyes. Jenna towered over Colleen’s six foot height by a good four inches, and her broad shoulders would’ve made most men jealous. Between her trademark high-heeled boots and a scruffy embroidered red cloak tossed over skintight blue jeans, she looked as exotic as the anti-hex hoop earrings dangling from each ear.

Colleen rolled her eyes, shook out her coat, and hung it on the rack. “Spare me your lecture about global warming, okay? It’s cold enough to snow. It just isn’t, for some reason.”

“Mmph.” The line of Jenna’s jaw tensed.

Indian spices wafted through the air, mingling with the scents of herbs, dried flowers, and desiccated body parts from small animals. Colleen’s stomach growled. Breakfast had been at six that morning—a long time ago. Pretty bad when even dried newt smelled like food.

“Did you cook something?” she asked. “And if you did, is there any left?”

A terse nod. Jenna turned away, walking fast. Colleen lengthened her normal stride to catch up. “Hey, sweetie. What happened? You can’t be in this big a snit over the weather.”

Jenna kept walking, heading for the small kitchen at the back of the store. “A lot of things. I was just having a cup of tea. Shop’s been dead today.” She disappeared behind a curtain.

Colleen glanced over one shoulder at the empty store. The phalanx of bells around the door would alert them if anyone stopped in. The minute she tugged the heavy, upholstery fabric that served as a kitchen door aside, the pungent tang of Irish whiskey made her eyes water. “You said tea.”

“Yeah, well I spiked it.”

Colleen grunted. “Smells like you took a bath in booze. What the fuck happened?” She grabbed the larger woman and spun her so they faced one another.

“We got another pay-your-tithe-or-die e-mail from our Coven.” Jenna’s nostrils flared in annoyance.

“So? That’s like the tenth one.” There were new policies none of them agreed with, so they’d joined with about twenty other witches and stopped paying the monthly stipend that supported their Coven’s hierarchy.

“It’s not what’s bothering me.” Jenna pulled free from Colleen, tipped her cup, and took a slug of what smelled like mostly liquor.

Colleen fought a desire to swat her. Getting to the point quickly had never been one of Jenna’s talents. She clamped her jaws together. “What is?”

“Roz called with…problems.” Jenna turned and started toward the steep staircase ladder leading to her bedroom above the shop.

“You can’t just drop that bomb and leave.” Colleen made another grab for Jenna to keep her in the kitchen. Worry for their friend ate at her. Of the three of them, Roz was by far the most volatile. “What happened? I thought she was in Missouri, or maybe it was Oklahoma, visiting that dishy dude she met online.”

“Didn’t work out.” The corners of Jenna’s mouth twisted downward.

Colleen quirked a brow, urging her friend to say more.

Jenna plowed on. “He only wanted her for her magic. Turned out he preferred men.”

“Aw, shit.” Colleen blew out a breath. “She must’ve been disappointed.”

Half a snorting laugh bubbled past Jenna’s lips. “Maybe now she is. At the time, furious would’ve been closer to the mark.”

Colleen’s throat tightened. “Crap! What’d she do? She didn’t hurt him, did she?”

“Not directly. She turned him over to the local Coven.”

“Thank God!” Colleen let go of Jenna and laid a hand over her heart. Roxanne Lantry was more than capable of killing anyone who pissed her off. It was how she ended up in Alaska. Roz hadn’t exactly been caught when her cheating husband and his two girlfriends went missing, but she hadn’t stuck around to encourage the authorities to question her, either.

Colleen and Jenna had already left Seattle when that little incident went down. Roz repressed her antipathy for Alaska’s legendary foul weather and joined them. Magically, she was strong as an ox, and she had a hell of a temper.

Colleen’s stomach growled again. Louder this time. It didn’t give a good goddamn about anything other than its empty state. She pushed past Jenna to the stove, lifted a lid, and peered into a battered aluminum pot. Curry blasted her. The spicy odor stung her eyes and made her nose run.

“Whew. Potent. Mind if I help myself?”

“Go ahead.” Jenna sat heavily in one of two chairs with a rickety wooden table between them. She picked up her mug and took another long swallow.

Dish in hand, Colleen slapped it on the table in front of the other chair and went in search of a mug of her own. There weren’t any clean ones, so she plucked one out of the sink and rinsed it. Back at the stove, she tipped the teakettle. Thick, amber liquid spilled from its stubby snout into her waiting mug. Jenna waggled the whiskey bottle in her direction.

“Nah.” Colleen settled at the table. “It would go right to my head. Maybe after I get some food on board.” She tucked in. After the first few mouthfuls, when the curry powder nearly annihilated her taste buds, the pea, potato, and ham mixture wasn’t half-bad.

Jenna drank steadily, not offering anything by way of conversation.

When Colleen’s dish was empty, she refilled her mug with tea, filched a couple of biscuits from the cupboard, and sat back down. “Are you going to talk to me?”

“I suppose so.” Jenna’s words slurred slightly.

Colleen cocked her head to one side. “I suggest you start now, before you forget how.”

“Oh, please.” Jenna blew out a breath, showering the small space with whiskey fumes. Colleen waited. The other witch could be stubborn. Wheedling, cajoling, or urging wouldn’t work until she was good and ready to talk.

Finally, after so long Colleen had nearly chewed a hole in her cheek, Jenna finally muttered, “Roz called.”

Colleen ground her teeth together. “You already said that. It’s how you knew what happened with the guy.”

Jenna nodded. “There’s more.” She picked up the whiskey, started to pour it into her mug, then apparently changed her mind and drank right from the bottle. “She’s in Seattle. Checked in with Witches’ Northwest, just to say hello, and because she wanted to touch base with people she’s known for a long time.”

Another long pause. Colleen batted back a compulsion spell. It wasn’t nice to use those on your friends. She shoved her hands under her bottom to reduce the temptation.

Jenna lowered her voice until Colleen had to strain to hear. “The Irichna demons are back.”

“But our last confrontation wasn’t all that long ago. Only a few months. Sometimes when we best them, they’ve stayed gone for years.”

Colleen shook her head. Even the sound of the word, Irichna, crackled against her ears, making them tingle unpleasantly. Irichna demons were the worst. Hands down, no contest. They worked for Abbadon, Demon of the Abyss. Evil didn’t get much worse than that. No wonder Jenna was drinking. Colleen held her hand out for the bottle—suddenly a drink seemed like a most excellent idea—and picked her words with care. “Did Roz actually sight one?”

“Yeah. She also asked if we could come and help. More than asked. She came as close to begging as I’ve ever heard her.”

“Erk. They have a whole Coven there. Several if you count all the ones in western Washington. Why do they need us?” Colleen belted back a stiff mouthful of whiskey. It burned a track all the way to her stomach where it did battle with all the curry she’d eaten.

Jenna just shot her a look. “You know why.”

Colleen swallowed again, hoping for oblivion, except it couldn’t come quick enough. She knew exactly why, but the answer stuck in her craw and threatened to choke her. The three of them were the last of a long line of demon assassins, witches with specialized powers, able to lure demons, immobilize them, and send them packing to the netherworld.

When things worked right.

They often didn’t, though, which was what killed off the other demon assassin witches. It didn’t help that demons as a group had been gathering power these last fifty years or so. Witches lived for a long time, but they were far from immortal, and demon assassin ability was genetic. She, Jenna, or Roz would have to produce children or that strain of magic would die out. So far, none of them had come anywhere close to identifying a guy who looked like husband material…

Colleen looked at her hands. Even absent a husband, none of them had a shred of domesticity. Certainly not enough to saddle themselves with offspring.

“What’s the matter?” Jenna grinned wickedly, clearly more than a little drunk. “Cat got your tongue too?”

As if on cue, a blood-curdling meow rose from a shadowed corner of the kitchen and Bubba, Colleen’s resident familiar, padded forward. When he was halfway to them, he gathered his haunches beneath him and sprang to the table. It rocked alarmingly, and Jenna made a grab for her cup. The large black cat skinned his lips back from his upper teeth, bared his incisors, and hissed.

“Oh, all right.” Colleen clamped her jaws tight and summoned the magic to shift Bubba to his primary form, a gnarled three-foot changeling.

The air shimmered around him. Before it cleared, he swiped the liquor out of her hand and drained the bottle.

“Would’ve been a good reason to leave you a cat,” Jenna mumbled.

He stood on the table and glared at both of them, elbows akimbo, bottle still dangling from his oversized fingers. “If you’re going to fight demons, you have to take me with you.”

“No, we don’t,” Colleen countered.

“You don’t follow directions well,” Jenna said pointedly.

“Isn’t that the truth?” Colleen rotated her head from side to side, starting to feel the whiskey. At least once when they’d humored the changeling, he’d almost gotten all of them killed. Problem was she couldn’t predict when he’d follow her orders, and when he’d decide on a different tack altogether. Then there were the times his fearlessness had saved them all.

Bubba might be a wildcard, but he was her wildcard.

“You forgot when I welcomed your spirit into my body—and kept it alive—while the healers worked on you.” Bubba eyed Colleen, sounding smug.

“If you hadn’t decided to play hero, and needed to be rescued, the demons wouldn’t have injured me.” Colleen winced at the sour undertone in her voice. That incident had happened five years before. Maybe it was time she got over it.

“Nevertheless.” He tossed his shaggy head, thick with hair as black as the cat’s. “When you conjured me from the barrows of Ireland, and bound me, we became a unit. You can’t go off and leave me here. It would be like leaving a part of yourself behind.” His dark eyes glittered with challenge.

“I hate to admit it—” Jenna sounded a little less drunk “—but he’s right.”

“See.” Bubba leered at them, jumped off the table, and waddled over to the stove with his bowlegged gait. Once there, he opened the oven, climbed onto its door, and peeked into the pot. He started to stick a hand inside.

“Hold it right there, bud.” Colleen got to her feet, covered the distance to the stove, and dished him up some of the curry mixture. “Get some clothes on and you can have this.”

He clambered down from his perch and over to several colorful canisters scattered around the house where she stashed outfits for him. Keeping Bubba clothed had been a huge problem until she’d hatched up a plan, and sewn him several pant and shirt combos with Velcro closures, since he didn’t like buttons or zippers.

The changeling dressed quickly and took the bowl from her. “I could’ve gotten my own food.”

“Better for the rest of us if you keep your paws out of the cook pot.” Jenna stood a bit unsteadily. “I’ll be right back.”

Bubba stuffed food into his mouth with his fingers. “Where’s she going?” His words came out garbled as he chewed open-mouthed.

Colleen looked away. “Probably to pee. Maybe to throw up. Um, look, Bubba, it might be wiser if we took a quick side trip to Ireland and released you.”

She glanced sidelong at the changeling spirit she’d summoned during a major demon war forty years before. He’d been truly helpful then, especially after he’d mastered English, which hadn’t taken him all that long. In the intervening time, he’d mostly clung to his feline form, eating and keeping their shop free of mice and rats. They’d lived in Seattle the first ten years or so after he joined them, relocating to Alaska to conceal their longevity. She dragged the heels of her hands down her face, feeling tired. It was getting close to time to move again, but she didn’t want to think about it.

Bubba shook his head emphatically. Food flew from the sides of his mouth. He scooped a glob off the floor and ate it anyway. “I have to agree to being released. I don’t want to go back to my barrow. I like it much better here.”

Colleen sucked in a hollow breath, blew it out, and did it again. Bubba was right. Rules were rules. He’d had a choice at the front end. He could’ve refused her. Witches respected all living creatures. The ones on the good side of the road, anyway. No forced servitude for their familiars, despite rumors to the contrary.

Jenna lurched back into the kitchen looking a little green. “You okay?” Colleen asked.

“Yeah. I drank too much, that’s all.” She rinsed her mug at the sink, refilled it with tap water, and sat back down. “Did you two come up with a plan?”

“I’m going.” Bubba left his dish on the floor and vaulted back onto the table.

Jenna rolled red-rimmed eyes. “That was the discussion when I left.”

“Your point?” Colleen swallowed irritation.

“Nothing.” The other witch sounded sullen, but maybe she just didn’t feel well.

“I offered to free him—” Colleen began.

“I refused,” Bubba cut in. He shook his head. “No recognition for all my years of loyal service. Tsk. You should be—”

“Stuff it.” Jenna glared at him. “We have bigger problems than your wounded ego.”

He stuck out his lower lip, looking injured as only a changeling spirit could, but he didn’t say anything else.

“I suppose we have to go to Seattle,” Colleen muttered, half to herself.

“Don’t see any way around it.” Jenna worried her lower lip between her teeth.

“What exactly did Roz say?”

“We didn’t talk long. Her cellphone battery was almost dead.” A muscle twitched beneath Jenna’s eye. “She’d just stopped in at Coven Headquarters and the group mobbed her. Said we had to come. They’ve already lost about twenty witches to stealth demon attacks.”

Colleen’s heart skipped a few beats. Twenty witches was a lot. Maybe a quarter of the Witches’ Northwest Coven. “Crap. When did the attacks start?”

“Only a few days ago. They’d planned to call us, but saw it as goddess intervention when Roz showed up.”

“Damn that Oklahoma cowboy.” Colleen pounded a fist into her open palm. “If his Coven doesn’t flatten him, I will.”

“He wasn’t a cowboy.” Jenna’s voice held a flat, dead sound. “He was supposed to be a witch. You know, like us.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Do you want to close things up here, or should I try to get someone from our Coven to fill in at the shop?” Jenna looked pale, but the tipsy aspect had left her face.

Colleen shook her head. “We haven’t sold enough in the last few weeks to make it worthwhile to pay someone to clerk for us.”

“Okay.” Jenna’s hazel eyes clouded with worry. “When do you want to leave?”

“If you asked Witches’ Northwest, we probably should’ve left three days ago.”

“How are we getting there?” Bubba squared his hunched shoulders as much as he could and eyed Colleen.

“Excellent question.” Jenna looked at Colleen too.

She raised her hands in front of her face, palms out. “Stop it, you two. I can’t deal with the pressure.” Colleen clamped her jaws together and considered their options. Roz already had a car in Seattle. It didn’t make sense to drive their other one down, plus it would take too long. Flying with Bubba was impossible. He looked too odd in his gnome form and his cat form didn’t do well with the pressure changes. They had to teleport, which would seriously deplete their magic and mean they couldn’t fight so much as a disembodied spirit for at least twenty-four hours after they arrived.

Jenna screwed her face into an apologetic scowl, apparently having come to the same conclusion. “Look, I’m sorry I’m not more help. There’s something about that particular mix of earth, fire, and air that I always bungle.”

Air whistled through Colleen’s teeth. It had been so long since they’d teleported anywhere, she’d almost forgotten Jenna’s ineptitude with the requisite spell. “How about this? You go down to the basement and practice. I’ll get a few things together…”

“What do you want me to do?” Bubba asked.

“You can help me,” Jenna said. “I’ll do better if I have an object to practice with.”

The changeling scrunched his low forehead into a mass of wrinkles. “Just don’t get me lost.”

“Even if she does, I’ll be able to find you.” Colleen tried to sound reassuring. She was fond of her familiar. In many ways, he was very childlike.

Heh! Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to have a kid. I already have one who’ll never grow up.

The bells around the shop door clanged a discordant riot of notes. “Crap!” Jenna shot to her feet. “First customer in two days. I should’ve locked the damn door.”

“Back to cat form.” Colleen flicked her fingers at Bubba, who shrank obligingly and slithered out of clothing, which puddled around him. She snatched up his shirt and pants and dropped them back into the canister.

“I say,” a strongly accented male voice called out. “Is anyone here?”

“I’ll take care of the Brit,” Colleen mouthed. “Take Bubba to the basement and practice.”

She got to her feet and stepped past the curtain. “Yes?” She gazed around the dimly lit store for their customer.

A tall, powerfully built man, wearing dark slacks and a dark turtleneck, strode toward her, a woolen greatcoat slung over one arm. His white-blond hair was drawn back into a queue. Arresting facial bones—sculpted cheeks, strong jaw, high forehead—captured her attention and stole her breath. He was quite possibly the most gorgeous man she’d ever laid eyes on. Discerning green eyes zeroed in on her face, caught her gaze, and held it. Magic danced around him in a numinous shroud. Strong magic.

What was he?

And then she knew. Daoine Sidhe. The man had to be Sidhe royalty. No wonder he was so stunning it almost hurt to look at him.

Colleen held her ground. She placed her feet shoulder width apart and crossed her arms over her chest. “What can I help you with?”

“Colleen Kelly?”

Okay, so he knows who I am. Doesn’t mean a thing. He’s Sidhe. Could’ve plucked my name right out of my head.

“That would be me. How can I help you?” she repeated, burying a desire to lick nervously at her lips.

“Time is short. I’ve been hunting you for a while now. Come closer, witch. We need to talk.”

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Description:

Last of the demon assassin witches, Roz, Jenna, and Colleen have escaped disaster so far, but their luck is running low. Demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, and Roz launches desperate measures. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of evil, at least it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages and hooked up with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep and hasn’t let go.

In Roz’s secret heart, she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material—unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

Ronin set his sights on Roz the day he met her, and he can’t get her out of his mind. Unfortunately, she’s so prickly getting close to her requires scheming. He casts an enchantment to lure her at Colleen’s wedding, but she senses the spell and calls him on it. Demons swarm out of the ether before he can come up with another strategy. Killing them trumps everything.

Roz is used to calling the shots. So is Ronin. Sparks fly. Tempers run hot, right along with an attraction too heady to ignore.

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Excerpt:

Roxanne Lantry—Roz to everyone who knew her—paced up and down the sodden lawn outside the huge old Victorian that housed the Witches’ Northwest Coven headquarters in Seattle. Rain pelted her from beneath a gunmetal sky, but it was better out here than inside. She fought an unfamiliar thickening at the back of her throat and balled her hands into fists.

“I will not cry,” she muttered to an inquisitive ground squirrel that ran across her boot tops, but telling herself and controlling her emotions were two different things.

One of her two best friends, Colleen Kelly, would be getting married in less than half an hour. Roz had been inside, in the midst of all the bride-craziness, but seeing Colleen swathed in cream-colored lace sent her into a tailspin.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

She kicked at a hummock of grass and yelped when it didn’t move, but the pain from her stubbed toes helped her focus. If she was honest, not an easy task when men were involved, she knew exactly what was bothering her.

“Yeah,” she mouthed the words, lecturing herself. “Two failed marriages and a whole bunch of loser dudes before, after, and in between. I’m jealous and I need a good, swift boot in the backside. Just because Colleen finally stumbled across Mr. Right doesn’t lower my odds of ever finding someone who’s gorgeous and magical and worships me.”

Now if I could only believe that…

Roz was happy for Colleen and Duncan, the Daoine Sidhe she was marrying. They made a great couple, but surely there was enough connubial bliss in the universe to sprinkle a little her way too. Her last go-round with a strikingly handsome Oklahoman she’d met online had ended in fireworks when he’d admitted all he really wanted was to tap into her magical ability. When the rubber met the road, he didn’t even like women. Her stomach churned. She hated being made a fool of. She’d turned the guy in to his Coven for false advertising and laying a trap to delude a fellow magic wielder, but she doubted they’d done much to censure him.

Water dripped off her nose. She stuck out her lower lip and blew upward, but the rain kept on dripping. Roz shook her fist at the low-hanging clouds, recognizing it for displacement activity. What she really wanted to do was pound her fist through the Oklahoman’s nice, straight nose.

Enough of this. Give it a rest. That happened months ago.

For Christ’s sake, I need to get moving, go inside, and trade my jeans and serape for fancy duds.

Roz took a few deep breaths to settle her angst. She couldn’t show her tear-stained face to the world. She’d never live it down. When she closed her eyes, the Oklahoma asshole formed behind her lids, taunting her. Roz clenched her jaw and summoned a calming spell. It seemed like cheating, but time was short. As the wispy edges of magic caught her up, they soothed her frazzled nerves and she turned hard right and headed for the house at a brisk trot.

She, Colleen, and Jenna Neil were the last of a long line of demon assassins. Witches with specialized powers, they lured Irichna demons, immobilized them, and sent them packing to the netherworld. When things worked right, she and her sister witches—along with Colleen’s familiar—shanghaied the demons and locked them behind the gate guarding the Ninth Circle of Hell.

The demons didn’t go without a fight, though, which was what had killed off the other demon assassin witches. It didn’t help that demons as a group had been gathering power these last fifty years or so. Witches lived a long time, but they were far from immortal, and demon assassination ability was genetic. She, Jenna, or Colleen would have to produce children or that strain of magic would die out. None of them had a shred of domesticity, so no one had signed up for motherhood. At least not yet.

I can’t put two weeks together without a major demon battle these days. How the hell could I take time off to raise a kid?

Rain ran down her neck and Roz shivered. Thinking about demons chilled her bones. Realizing she’d stopped walking, she plodded toward the house again and forced her thoughts to the magicians’ supply store she owned with Colleen and Jenna in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The other two witches had moved there months ahead of her. She hated the idea of all that snow and cold and winter nights that lasted twenty hours, but she’d boxed herself into a dicey situation and hadn’t had much choice. Her temper, never very controllable on a good day, had gotten the better of her, and she made short work of her cheating husband and his two—yup, count ’em—girlfriends. After that, she’d packed up and headed her aging Subaru north. Next stop, Fairbanks…

That had happened a few years ago. So many, it was almost time to move on before anyone noticed she and the other witches didn’t seem to grow any older.

Roz shook her head, not wanting to go there, either. She forced her mind back to the special skill she shared with Colleen and Jenna. She hated to admit it, but demons held the high cards these days, and she had no idea how to even the odds.

Aren’t I just the queen of cheerful?

She gave herself a mental shake with instructions to snap out of her funk.

Roz made it to the huge house and tugged on one of the ground level doors. When it didn’t open, she hit it with a jolt of magic, and the deadbolt snicked aside. She stopped long enough to shake water off her and then loped down a long corridor with a concrete floor toward one of the old mansion’s many stairwells. Fluorescent lights, recessed into the ceiling, gave off a sickly yellow gleam that matched her sour mood.

She’d just begun climbing upward when a rush of footsteps sounded from the hallway below.

“There you are,” Bubba, Colleen’s familiar, cried out and leapt up the stairs after her.

Roz glanced over a shoulder and saw he was in his normal form: a three-foot-tall changeling with oversized feet, long arms, and a bow-legged gait. His shaggy, black hair had been brushed until it shone, and his dark eyes glittered mischievously. Colleen had a hell of a time keeping him dressed, but today he sported black pants and a black jacket over a white shirt.

“Yes,” Roz countered, still feeling out of sorts. “Here I am. The question is why aren’t you upstairs with everyone else?”

“Colleen got worried. She sent me to hunt you down.” Bubba crossed his arms over his chest, looking pleased with himself.

Roz rolled her eyes. “Bubba, look—”

“Uh-uh.” He uncrossed his arms and waggled a finger at her. “Niall. Remember, you all promised to use my real name from now on.”

“So we did. Crap! I don’t have time for this.” She unkinked her neck and trudged upward.

“No kidding,” he agreed. “Everyone’s here, and you’re not even dressed yet.”

Rather than focus on her shortcomings, Roz changed the subject. “You’re looking pretty spiffy, bud.”

“Do you like it?”

“What I saw of it. It’s sort of like a black tuxedo, but with Velcro instead of buttons.”

“I hate buttons.”

Roz grinned in spite of herself. “I know you do, sweetie.”

She came to the third floor landing and pushed the stairwell door open, holding it for the changeling. “Run and tell Colleen I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” Without waiting for an answer, she walked briskly halfway down the long hall and let herself into her bedroom. Locking the door behind her, she unlaced her wet boots and toed them off. Next she shucked her sodden clothes, ducked into the bathroom, and gathered strands of coal black hair, pulling it into a ponytail with both hands. Once she had her hair together, she wrapped her head in a towel. She didn’t believe in hair dryers, so once she’d soaked as much water as she could into the towel, she grabbed her comb, made several sections, and plaited her knee-length, straight-as-a-stick hair, weaving it into a pseudo-French braid.

Before she left the bathroom, she inspected her face in the mirror. She never wore makeup because it made her look like a clown. Her bronzed skin and stark bone structure declared her Native American blood more clearly than words could have. She smoothed her eyebrows with a few drops of water and considered which of two outfits to wear. Colleen had said it didn’t matter to her, so long as Roz didn’t show up in her usual tattered blue jeans and combat boots.

With a snort of amusement, she padded back into the bedroom and pulled a long, beaded black buckskin skirt off a hanger. She stepped into it and laced the side fastening. Next came a turquoise deerskin top, also beaded, that clung to her like a second skin. In addition to not bothering with makeup, she also didn’t care for underthings, so the outline of her breasts was clearly visible through the soft leather. She slipped a heavy silver and turquoise necklace over her head, arranging her braid on top of it, and grabbed a matching ring off the dresser.

The only thing left was her moccasins. Roz wriggled her feet into them, enjoying the way the deerskin warmed and hugged her feet. Jenna always wore high heels, but Roz had never understood how she could tolerate them. They’d had a few heated discussions years ago before Roz finally gave up.

“To each her own,” she told the mirror. Satisfied she looked presentable, she focused the threads of her calming spell, strengthened it a bit to make certain she’d last through the ceremony without breaking down and bawling like an idiot, and let herself into the hallway.

The buzz of a crowd reached her from the main floor. She glanced toward the stairs and then the other way, wondering if Colleen was still up here. Figuring it couldn’t hurt to find out, she walked two doors down and knocked. The door flew open almost immediately and she looked into an accusing set of pale blue eyes.

“It’s about fucking time,” Colleen exclaimed. Auburn hair with lily of the valley woven into it swirled around her, falling to waist level. At six feet, Colleen was normally a good four inches shorter than Roz, but today she wore heels and they were of a height.

“Huh?” Roz murmured, confused. “I almost went downstairs. I had no idea you were waiting for me.”

“We’d planned to all go down together.” Colleen sounded sullen. “You know, like a proper wedding party.”

“If we were all that proper,” Roz said, “Jenna and I would be wearing matching—”

Jenna made chopping motions with both hands and unfolded her well-rounded frame from off the bed. Blonde hair, hacked off at shoulder level, framed a gamine’s face with shrewd, hazel eyes. Rather than her standard, thrift store couture, today she wore a short beige silk skirt, a lacy blouse, and her trademark high-heeled boots. Huge, golden hoops graced her ears.

She walked to Roz’s side and looped an arm through hers. “Don’t think anything of it. The bride—” she waved an airy hand Colleen’s way “—has been antsy as a scalded cat all day.”

Colleen closed her teeth together with an audible clack. “Maybe I’m making a mistake.”

Roz and Jenna turned to stare at her. “What?” Jenna asked, incredulous.

“Hey, if you don’t want him—” Roz began.

“No shit,” Jenna interrupted. “Tall, blond, drop dead gorgeous. Those green eyes are to die for and those shoulders.” She made panting noises. “The couple of times I saw him without a shirt, I almost came just watching his muscles rustle beneath his skin when he walked.”

Colleen rolled her eyes. “You two are impossible. Can’t a bride have a case of jitters without her two closest friends turning into vultures?”

“No.” Roz looked down her nose at Colleen. “Considering how long and hard I’ve hunted for decent partner material…” She let her words trail off before the extent of her jealousy leaked out.

The door blew inward and Bubba marched in, hands on his hips. “Come on. Everyone’s ready.” He lowered his voice, but not by much. “I think Duncan’s worried that you—” he pointed at Colleen “—got cold feet.”

“She nearly did,” Jenna muttered.

“Aw, crap. Guess I need to go tell everyone the wedding’s off.” Bubba did an about face, but before he could sprint through the open door, Colleen snatched him up.

“You’ll do no such thing.” She swallowed audibly. “I’m ready. I guess.”

“Let go of me.” Bubba writhed in her grasp.

“Not before you promise to keep your mouth shut.”

Roz smirked. Circumspection was not exactly the changeling’s long suit. She walked to Bubba’s other side. “I’ll take him.” She held out her arms.

“I can walk,” the changeling said with a great deal of dignity, “as soon as Colleen lets go of me.”

“You haven’t promised,” Colleen said. “Please, sweetie. It’s important to me. A girl needs to have some things stay private.”

He blew out an annoyed sounding breath. “All right. I promise.” Colleen relaxed her grip. Shaking himself like a dog might have, the gnome-like changeling chuckled. “Too bad. Something like that’s a prime piece of gossip.”

Colleen broke into a broad grin. “Right up your alley, eh?”

Roz made shooing motions. “Let’s get going. You don’t want all that food the Sidhe catered to get cold do you?”

“I don’t care about food,” Colleen mumbled. “I’m so nervous I probably won’t be able to eat a thing.”

“Well I do,” Jenna said. “I’m with Roz. Let’s get this show on the road.”

“Have a couple belts of whiskey,” Roz suggested. “It’ll do wonders for your nerves.”

The hallway air brightened and shimmered. When it cleared, Titania, Queen of Faerie, shook floor-length silvery hair out of her ice blue eyes and pushed it over her shoulders. A diaphanous gown, more jewels than fabric, floated around her tall, thin frame. “Is there some problem?” she inquired with asperity, and her gaze zeroed in on Colleen.

Colleen half curtseyed.

Roz considered it, but didn’t because Titania wasn’t her queen.

“No problem at all.” Colleen inclined her head. “We were just on our way.”

The Queen of Faerie’s severe expression softened. “Thank the goddess. For a minute there, I was afraid you were going to break Duncan’s heart.” She strode forward and thumped Colleen’s chest with a bony forefinger. “If you ever hurt that boy, I’ll hunt you down and make you very sorry.”

“That boy—” Colleen held the queen’s gaze “—is a thousand-year-old man.”

Titania furled her perfect silver brows. “Details. Besides, it’s rude to contradict me. Privilege of age and rank and all that. Let’s go. I haven’t performed a marriage in centuries. I’m quite looking forward to it.”

Colleen’s eyes widened. “I thought Naomi, the leader of this Coven, was going to join Duncan and me.”

“We both have roles to play.” Titania’s mouth twitched. “Surely you didn’t think I’d let one of my own be bound in marriage without my magic involved.”

“I have no idea what I thought,” Colleen managed, but she looked ready to throttle the queen.

Before things got any tenser and Colleen started in about it being her wedding, Roz herded them out the door and down the hallway. Colleen stopped for a moment at the head of the stairway, tension rolling off her in waves.

Roz wrapped an arm around her. “It will be fine,” she whispered. “Just fine.” After a quick hug, she let go.

As if those six words did the trick—or maybe it was the hug—Colleen swept down the long, curved staircase, looking regal. Roz, Jenna, and Titania jostled one another as they made their way down the twenty-five steps. Bubba made an end run around them and fell in behind Colleen, where he picked up her lace train.

They marched through the dining area where caterers and witches bustled about laying out a spread of food that smelled delicious, into a large, luxurious room that took up much of the bottom floor of the old Victorian. At one point, they’d talked about having the ceremony outside, but the weather put the kibosh on that idea. Roz wondered why they’d wasted their breath even considering an out-of-doors event. It was the winter solstice in Seattle. She bet there’d never been one when it wasn’t raining like crazy—or snowing.

Chairs lined the wood-paneled great room, and a fire burned merrily in a huge stone fireplace that took up one end of the sumptuous space. Old-fashioned chandeliers were festooned with hundreds of blazing candles. Witches sat on one side of a center aisle, Daoine Sidhe on the other. Roz guessed between three and four hundred people were in attendance—more Sidhe than witches. Everyone turned in their seats to stare at Colleen, and a collective aaaaah surged through the room.

Roz clamped down on a grin. Colleen really did make a lovely bride, with her Irish complexion and red tresses. The creamy lace dress was perfect. White would have made her look washed out. Titania strode around all of them and took her place at the head of the room. Roz noted with amusement that Naomi held her ground when Titania tried to push her to one side.

Before she and Jenna left Colleen to find their seats, her gaze landed on Duncan—Lord Regis—and her heart nearly stopped. All Sidhe had an ethereal beauty, but Duncan practically glowed. Dressed in a black tuxedo with a crimson cummerbund and diamond studs, he cut an impressive figure with his high forehead, sculpted cheekbones, and strong jaw. Longish blond hair had been braided in tight rows, but the severe style suited him and make him look like an ancient warrior.

Roz averted her gaze, afraid he’d catch her staring, but he only had eyes for his bride. She said a quick prayer asking the goddess’s blessing on their union and turned toward the witches’ side of the room.

Because Ronin came up from her other side, she didn’t notice the Sidhe leader until he wove an arm around her shoulders. “I saved you a chair next to me.”

Her heart slammed into double-time rhythm. She’d met Ronin two weeks before at his castle in northern England, and they’d shared several spirited conversations over meals. Something magical and electric had sparked between them, but she’d chalked it up to everyone’s emotions running full tilt. She’d just escaped demons by the skin of her teeth, and he was dealing with shame or guilt—or whatever he felt—about forcing witches into being demon assassins two centuries before. While his attentiveness had been welcome—and more than a little flattering—she’d been more focused on her relief at being alive than anything else. Besides, after the Oklahoman, she’d sworn off men—forever.

Ronin smiled, not looking anything but glad to see her, and her heart did a funny little flip-flop, in addition to beating much too fast. Dark hair hung loose to his shoulders, and his blue eyes twinkled warmly. Every bit as handsome as Duncan, he was dressed in formal clothing, black with a blue cummerbund, and what might have been ruby studs.

“I can’t,” she whispered. “I’m supposed to sit over there.” She gestured in the general direction of the witches’ side of the room.

“No one will notice,” he assured her and hooked his hand beneath her arm.

Roz didn’t fully understand why she let him guide her to a padded straight-backed chair near the front of the room and help her into it, but there was something irresistible about his energy. Too late, she recognized a mild compulsion spell. Anger spiked, but now wasn’t the place to give in to it. With every shred of self-discipline at her disposal, she forced her attention to Duncan and Colleen reciting their vows, and to Naomi, who’d muscled her way in before Titania could get rolling.

When Ronin draped an arm around her shoulders, she shot him a harsh look that made him move it damned fast. Good, she thought. It’s about time the Sidhe realize their days of pushing witches around are over. Yes, he was gorgeous, and he seemed interested in her, but the last thing she needed was some overbearing mage mucking things up. She still wasn’t quite certain how Colleen’s marriage to Duncan would impact her and Jenna. They’d always been kind of like The Three Musketeers, demon style. The permanent addition of a Sidhe was bound to have some effect. Exactly what was hard to gauge.

Who am I kidding? We didn’t just get Duncan. We’re stuck with his kinfolk now too. All of them.

She bit back a sigh. If the series of meetings a couple of weeks before in the U.K. was any indication, she, Jenna, and Colleen would have to fight to be recognized as anything remotely close to equal.

Roz snuck a glance at Ronin. He sat straight in his seat, his profile heartbreakingly beautiful. His long-fingered hands were clasped together in his lap. She couldn’t stop herself from wondering what they’d feel like stroking her body. Warm. Electric. Compelling.

Maybe I should give him a chance, a tiny, inner voice piped up.

Bosh.

Roz tried for a stern note, but the other part of her brain wouldn’t shut up.

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Description:

Jenna’s a special witch, sort of, when her magic works, which it often doesn’t. One of three remaining demon assassins, she and her sister witches, Roz and Colleen, are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. On the heels of Roz’s and Colleen’s weddings, Jenna is headed for the U.K. when a demon confronts her. Any other witch could teleport out of the plane, but not her.

Frustration about her limited power eats at her. It would be pathetic to get killed for lack of skills a teenager could master.

Tristan is a Sidhe warrior, but his primary gift is attunement to others’ emotions. He fell hard for Jenna, but hasn’t had an opportunity to act on their attraction beyond a few kisses because she returned to Alaska, and he’s been in the field fighting demons.

As seer for the Sidhe, Kiernan is haunted by visions, particularly an apocalyptic sending that seems to be coming true. A confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t understand his attraction to Jenna, but it’s so strong he can’t fight it. After a while, he doesn’t even try, despite recognizing Tristan’s claim to her.

Startling truths surface about Jenna’s magic, and then there’s the problem that she’s falling in love with two very different men. At first she believes she has to pick one of them, but her spirit refuses to walk away from either. It’s impossible to choose between a seer with dreams in his eyes and a beautiful man who intuits her every need. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?

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Excerpt:

Jenna Neil sank heavily onto her airplane seat and kicked off her high heels, shoving them beneath the seat in front of her. With a small sigh of relief, she rotated her ankles to take the pressure off her aching arches. She’d always loved heels—the higher the better—and insisted on wearing them, never mind they definitely lacked a comfort factor. Once she’d shot past six feet, she figured it didn’t matter if she added a few inches to her already overbearing height.

A flight attendant leaned over to hand her a pillow and blanket. Jenna tucked the pillow behind her head as she listened to the safety briefing and estimates of their arrival time in London.

She closed her eyes, but it didn’t ease how tired and gritty they felt, and smoothed her too-short denim skirt down her thighs. A red wool sweater and matching denim jacket finished off her outfit. She’d been so excited about getting out of Alaska and away from the layers she was forced to wear through the winter, she’d probably underdressed for the current jaunt. Less trendy clothes were tucked in her checked luggage, but they weren’t exactly accessible.

The last few days hadn’t offered much opportunity for rest. She, Colleen Kelly-Regis, and Roxanne Lantry-Redstone—Roz to everyone who knew her well—were the last of the demon assassin witches. Having escaped Irichna demons by a ridiculously narrow margin—again—the three of them were on their way to the U.K. where they could do it all over again.

Jenna grinned ruefully. Demons running amok through the British countryside had thrown witches and the Daoine Sidhe together after two hundred years of enmity. It had also netted impossibly hunky husbands for her sister witches, but that was beside the point. Staying alive was a much more front and center problem.

Because Irichna demons had become so much more aggressive, everyone but her thought it would be best to travel separately. She hadn’t agreed, but she’d been the one dissenting vote. As far as Jenna was concerned, there was always strength in numbers, but the others were convinced their current strategy would confuse the demons long enough for everyone to regroup on the eastern side of the Atlantic. Colleen and Roz were teleporting with their husbands. Niall, Colleen’s Irish changeling familiar, was making his own way back home along with two Scottish changelings, Llyr and Krae. Jenna had never been much good at teleporting, so she’d opted to fly commercial. It would place her arrival at least twelve hours after everyone else, but she could live with that. At least the first leg of her journey, from Fairbanks to Seattle, and thence to New York, had been uneventful.

Thinking about Irichna made her shiver, so she unfolded her blanket and draped it around her shoulders. Demons didn’t get much worse than Irichna. As Abbadon’s chosen henchmen, they played for keeps, and Abbadon was the biggest and baddest of Hell’s denizens, so nothing was off limits. Demon assassin witches had been a craw in his throat for a long time, and lately he’d upped the ante to get rid of them—permanently.

Them means me, and I’d do well not to forget that.

Jenna blew out a weary breath. One of her not-so-distant ancestors had been forced into demon containment two hundred years ago by the Sidhe, breaking every rule that bound magic-wielders, but the Sidhe hadn’t cared. In the intervening years, demons had managed to kill every single witch with demon-assassin ability—except for her, Roz, and Colleen. The Sidhe were primed to take back some responsibility for ferrying Irichna to the Ninth Circle of Hell where the gatekeeper locked them away, but that hadn’t exactly happened yet.

She gritted her teeth and unclenched hands she’d balled into fists around the edge of the thin airline blanket. The aircraft backed out of its slip and headed for one of the many runways at JFK Airport. While it would be lovely to have help with the demons, working with the Sidhe held its own set of problems. For one thing, most of them were insufferably autocratic, which was how Jenna’s great-grandmother had ended up being suckered into picking up the demon banner in the first place.

Even though Titania, Queen of Faerie, appeared marginally tolerant of Colleen’s and Roz’s marriages to Sidhe now, she’d given Duncan quite a bit of grief over his proposed marriage to Colleen at the front end of things. By the time Ronin, the de facto Sidhe leader, made it clear he’d set his sights on Roz, Titania had backed down a few notches, probably because they were beset by Irichna.

Jenna thinned her lips into a hard line. Hundreds of years before, Ronin’s human partner had died in childbirth, and the child along with her. Apparently, both the Queen and King of Faerie made it clear Ronin had sunk himself by choosing to marry someone outside his race. In the face of their indifference, Ronin had carried his grief alone.

It’s just like it is with humans. Everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on…

Jenna tamped back a cynical grin. The Sidhe had made strides accepting other races, but they had a way to go before they moved beyond their intolerant past.

Jenna pictured her friends’ husbands, and a small sigh escaped. Like all the Daoine Sidhe, Duncan Regis and Ronin Redstone were heartbreakingly stunning. Duncan’s blond good looks and green eyes provided a counterpart for Ronin’s dark hair and deep blue gaze. When Jenna scratched the surface and did a little soul-searching, she had to admit she’d never expected to find a permanent partner. Girls like her—well rounded and obscenely tall—weren’t exactly in demand. Colleen was beautiful with her waist length auburn hair and pale blue eyes, and Roz was unusual and striking. Her Native American heritage and long, lean frame turned heads whenever she passed by.

Guess I’m the odd witch out these days…

Jenna pressed her lips together. It remained to be seen how her friends’ marriages would impact their lives. Some things would have to change because she couldn’t quite envision Duncan and Ronin simply moving in to her Fairbanks, Alaska, home along with their new wives. For one thing, all the Sidhe maintained amazing abodes in the U.K. Places that resembled castles more than houses.

Jenna reined in her thoughts. There were a lot of unknowns, but the main problem would be surviving the next few weeks. Once they got the Irichna on the run—if that were even possible—then she could figure out more prosaic things, like if she’d be the only one still living in Fairbanks and running their magicians’ supply shop. Before the thought even finished forming, she knew that arrangement wouldn’t work. She, Roz, and Colleen had to stay together, and if the others insisted on remaining in the U.K., well then she wouldn’t have much choice in the matter. If she returned to Alaska by herself, she’d be a sitting duck for Irichna to swoop down and overpower her.

She shivered again and considered asking for a second blanket.

In an attempt to divert herself and maybe unwind, though it seemed unlikely, Jenna started to push her seat back and then remembered she wasn’t supposed to quite yet. The plane’s engines were revving, but they hadn’t left the ground. She heard the captain instruct the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for takeoff and tried to relax in her plush first-class seat. If the goddess was good to her, maybe she’d catch a few hours of sleep before the plane landed.

A flurry of supernatural energy caught the edges of her attention, and Jenna’s gut twisted into a sour knot. She sat up straight and craned her neck to scan the cabin, defensive magic at the ready. Her eyes widened in disbelief as Krae’s unmistakable form shimmered into being, and the changeling bounded into the empty seat next to Jenna. Her long, bright red hair hung loose, and her eyes shone like emeralds. Krae’s stocky body was draped in wide-bottomed green silk pants and an embroidered black tunic. As was usual with changelings, her feet were bare. The creatures drew their power from the earth, and Jenna assumed they didn’t want layers of leather or rubber or neoprene between themselves and their magical well. With their three-foot height, broad shoulders, and longish arms, they looked like a missing link between humans and the great apes.

“What are you doing here?” Jenna kept her voice low.

“Don’t worry,” Krae replied, not exactly answering Jenna’s question. “No one can see me except you.”

“Where are Niall and Llyr?”

“Niall joined Colleen and Duncan, and Llyr is with Roz and Ronin.”

Of course, why didn’t I think of that?

Jenna cleared her throat. “Why did you make different plans?”

Krae cocked her head to one side and crinkled her gnome-like face, making her look even more outlandish. “We discussed it and decided you might need help.” A corner of her mouth curved into a frown. “Personally, I thought it was a bit overdrawn, but Niall was most insistent about remaining with Colleen.”

“Can he join her teleport spell after it’s already set in motion?” Jenna was curious, but if Krae could teleport into this aircraft, maybe the other two could tap into a spell she’d always considered sacrosanct.

“Not directly, but he communicated with Colleen telepathically, and she altered her destination to pick him up. Llyr did the same with Roz and Ronin.” Krae dusted her palms together and grinned. “Nothing easier.” The changeling swept her agate-green gaze around the first-class cabin. “When will they feed us?”

“As soon as we pass through ten thousand feet, which won’t be long since we just took off.” Jenna paused for a beat. “If you weren’t thrilled about the plans to get to the U.K., why didn’t you speak up back in Alaska?”

“We did. No one listened to us. Roz and Ronin were so wrapped up in lust and pawing at each other, all they wanted to do was get to his manor house as fast as they could.”

“Well, they did just get married,” Jenna pointed out in defense of her friend. “And I don’t recall anyone but me voicing concerns about splitting up to travel.”

“That’s because you weren’t paying attention, either. Look, sweetie, if the Irichna win, no one will be tupping anyone.” Despite being much shorter than Jenna, the changeling managed to send a withering glance her way.

“Point taken.” Jenna shot an equally scathing glance back. “Next time, if you feel strongly about something and no one’s paying attention, talk louder.”

“Rehashing the past is a waste of time.” Krae bounced up and down in her seat. Jenna considered telling her to fasten her seatbelt, but if no one could see her, there wasn’t much point. “Be sure to take everything they offer foodwise,” the changeling instructed. “I’m hungry.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem since I’m not.” Jenna lapsed into silence.

“Why so glum, witchy girl?” Krae trained her ancient eyes, which probably didn’t miss a trick, on Jenna.

“Oh, no particular reason.” Jenna stifled a snort and rolled her eyes. “I find facing death several times a day downright exhilarating.”

A bell sounded, and the fasten seat belt icon winked out. Moments later, the first-class cabin flight attendant leaned close. “Are you all right?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jenna snapped and then winced at how surly she sounded.

“I heard you talking and thought maybe you needed something.” The flight attendant smiled encouragingly. Airlines had moved past using Barbie clones long since, and this woman was middle-aged with streaks of gray in her dark, shoulder-length hair, the beginnings of wrinkles around her blue eyes, and a kind expression.

“Food,” Krae prodded, not bothering with telepathic speech.

“Thanks for being concerned.” Jenna managed a genuine smile for the cabin attendant. “I am hungry, so snacks would be appreciated whenever you get around to serving.”

“Of course.” The woman smiled back. “I’m Suzanne.” She tapped the nametag hanging around her neck. “Just press your call button if you need anything. Other than that, relax and enjoy your flight.”

“You could’ve been a bit more assertive about our dinner,” Krae complained.

“I’m guessing they can’t hear you, either.” Jenna switched to telepathic speech.

“Of course they can’t.” Krae blew out an annoyed-sounding breath. “Look, witchy-girl, draw a spot of magic and shield your speech. That way no one will bother us, and we can talk.”

Feeling like an idiot because she hadn’t come up with the idea herself, Jenna drew the requisite spell before she spoke again. “I was actually hoping to sleep.”

“You can do that after we eat and talk.”

Jenna turned to face the changeling and raised a quizzical brow. “This is starting to sound bigger than you. Whose idea was it for the three of you to split up, and for you to join me?”

Krae’s generous mouth twitched into a grin, and she jabbed a finger in the air between them. “Smart witch.”

“You didn’t exactly answer me.”

“No. I didn’t.”

Jenna pressed her tongue against her teeth to manage her annoyance. The last thing she needed was a rousing game of twenty questions, so she trained what she hoped was a non-confrontational gaze on Krae and shrugged. “We have seven hours, feel free to take your time.”

The changeling’s green eyes sparkled with mischief. “You’re burning up with curiosity. I can smell it.”

Jenna didn’t bother to point out she was so trashed from the past few weeks that she doubted she had enough energy to burn up with anything. Suzanne handed her a bottle of water and a tray with an assortment of appetizers. The flight attendant had no sooner moved on to the next passenger than Krae bent over the tray and dug in.

The changeling looked up after inhaling half the finger sandwiches and most of the nuts. “Sure you don’t want any of this?”

“Help yourself.” Jenna adjusted her seat so it tilted backward, twisted the cap off the water, and drank deeply.

“Beer, wine, or a cocktail, miss?” a masculine voice asked.

Jenna glanced up at a cabin attendant she hadn’t seen before. He was tall and rangy with very blue eyes, white-blond hair, and a gold band on the third finger of his left hand. She swallowed a smile. With looks like his, he might have begun wearing the ring in self-defense, to slow the tide of women throwing themselves at his feet. He arched a brow and gestured toward the drink cart.

“Um, maybe a cup of coffee with a side of Irish whiskey.”

“Excellent choice.” He beamed at her, displaying very white, very even teeth. He may have winked, but she wasn’t quite certain. “Would you care for cream or sugar?”

“Both.”

Once he handed her drink over, she uncapped the small bottle of spirits and dumped a little into her cup. She’d traveled through so many time zones already, it scarcely mattered whether it was evening yet, and the liquor might have a salutary effect. The steward’s gaze traveled up her body in frank appraisal before he moved to the passenger across the aisle. Jenna’s face warmed a few degrees. What the hell? Was he sizing her up for a quickie in one of the plane’s johns?

Krae twisted her head and stared at the man. The air glistened wetly where the changeling deployed magic. She wasn’t particularly subtle, and the man’s spine stiffened, but he didn’t turn around.

“He felt that.” Jenna pitched her mind voice just for Krae and shielded it to boot.

“Indeed he did.” Krae narrowed her eyes. “Do you know what he is?” Jenna shook her head. “Pity,” the changeling went on, “neither do I.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to send more magic his way,” Jenna murmured. “As it is, what you did tipped him off. How did you know something was wrong?”

“How else?” Krae shrugged. “I almost missed it, but something…odd drew my attention when he looked at you. If he’d been human, his gaze would have held more heat. Instead there was an…unnatural hunger.” She hesitated. “More like he was relieved he’d found you rather than wanting sex.”

A shudder iced Jenna’s blood. Unlike Roz and Colleen, she couldn’t simply teleport off the airplane. Her heartbeat sped up. “Maybe you should leave,” she told Krae. “No point in both of us being trapped.”

“Uh-uh. We hold our ground for now. It’s possible his presence has nothing to do with you.”

“Not very fucking likely.”

Krae picked up another small sandwich and stuffed it into her mouth. Jenna snuck a peek at the steward just in time to see him disappear through the curtain separating first class from the remainder of the aircraft. Because she was desperate for information, she sent a tendril of magic snaking outward and yanked it back as soon as she determined the man wasn’t an Irichna disguised as human. Duncan had run up against one masquerading as a priest near the Witches’ Northwest Coven headquarters in Seattle. It had lured two female teenagers and would have drained them of life if Duncan hadn’t intervened. As it was, he wasn’t certain either had survived because he’d left them at a hospital and hadn’t hung around long enough to find out.

Jenna ran options through her mind, not liking any of them. She didn’t want to end up in a pitched battle inside the aircraft. Hell, they’d probably lock her away as a terrorist the minute the plane landed, and Irichna would pick her off from her cell.

“I was serious,” Krae’s out loud voice intruded. “There’s at least a small possibility he’s simply some sort of mage. He might have gotten a magical hit off your aura and was curious.”

“What did you want to talk about earlier?” Jenna changed the subject because she could speculate about the mystery steward from now until he made a move against her, and it wouldn’t change the outcome, other than making her more aware to watch out for him.

“How much do you know about my race?” Krae countered, answering Jenna by asking a question of her own.

“Mostly what I’ve gleaned from living with Niall for forty years. Why?”

Krae popped the last sandwich into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “We’ve always known we would have a key role to play in major battles against the Irichna. It’s written in our histories, and we’ve prepared as best we could.”

Jenna drew her brows together. “Niall never mentioned it.”

“It’s quite possible he didn’t know. We’ve done our damnedest to keep that particular bit of knowledge quiet, so the Irichna wouldn’t target us before the time came to play our part. Not that we didn’t inform our people—and try to coach them—but Niall’s been gone for a good many years.”

Jenna rolled her shoulders to offset the iron bar of tension sitting between them. “You sound like a preacher threatening the latter days are nearly upon us.”

“They are.” Krae’s expression turned deadly serious.

“More whiskey, miss?”

Jenna started at the sound of the steward’s voice. He’d returned to the cabin so quietly, she hadn’t heard him. “Um, no.” She resisted the temptation to look at him. It would give her more information, but that was a two-way street.

“As you will, miss.” He pushed the drink cart past her. It made quite a bit of noise, which led her to suspect he’d used magic to muffle his presence earlier.

How long had he studied her without her knowing?

Why hadn’t Krae sensed him?

Worse, he’d apparently made his way back to the front of the plane, pushed the rattling cart past her, and served other passengers without alerting her to his presence. Not good. Jenna shielded her mind—just in case—and clamped her jaws together when he sashayed into the curtained galley alcove between first class and the cockpit. Her heart thudded against her ribcage, and her throat was dry. It was looking like she’d need to do something, but what would attract the least attention?

Krae uttered a muted expletive in Gaelic, bolted from her seat, and whisked after the steward. Jenna stared after the changeling with her mouth hanging open. She pushed upright, remembered her seatbelt, and fumbled with the clasp. By the time she was free of it, a flash of multicolored light practically blinded her, flaring above, below, and through the curtain. Heedless of the other first class passengers, who couldn’t sense expended magic anyway, she threw her power wide open.

Jenna didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until it whistled from between her clenched teeth. She drew her lips back, hissing in satisfaction once she realized the blast of power had come from Krae, not the man. Balancing on the balls of her stocking-clad feet, Jenna strode forward and pushed past the curtain.

The steward was shaking his head back and forth, his face screwed into a mask of pain. Power flashed from the changeling’s hands. “No more,” he rasped, tottering from foot to foot. “I won’t hurt either of you.”

Jenna dragged an invisibility spell over all of them, layered a don’t look here spell over that, and prayed to the goddess no one would enter the small, enclosed space for the next few minutes.

“What are you?” She shoved the question hard into his mind.

“I already figured that out,” Krae said sourly. “He’s a minor demon sent to keep an eye on you and report back.”

“I already told you I hadn’t,” he whined. “And I won’t. You can bind me with magic.”

“That’s not good enough,” Jenna growled. “Demons lie.”

“So do changelings and witches.” He shot her a venomous look that belied his promises of non-interference.

“We’re wasting time,” Krae said and settled into a low chant.

A look of horror twisted the steward’s handsome face into something unrecognizable. He tried to walk past them but clearly couldn’t move. The air thickened, took on a blackish tinge, and stank of ozone just before smoke rose from the creature and he vanished.

Jenna drew back, impressed. Whatever Krae had done was magic well beyond her own abilities. Footsteps sounded on the far side of the curtain. Suzanne. Jenna recognized her energy and ducked into a passenger restroom. If Krae was powerful enough to banish the demon, shielding herself from the flight attendant should prove trivial. Kicking herself for being sloppy, Jenna pulled the magic from her spells to make the cramped galley appear as normal as possible.

“Paul,” Suzanne’s voice was pitched low, “your drink cart’s here. Where are you?”

Jenna flushed the toilet and splashed cold water on her overheated face. She took her time drying off and settled her features into a bland expression before stepping out of the john. With a nod and a smile at Suzanne, she pushed the curtain aside and returned to her seat. Krae was already there, doing her best to mask a self-satisfied grin.

“Okay, I give up.” Jenna eyed the changeling. “What did you do?”

“Teleported him outside the plane. Nature took care of the rest.”

Jenna thought about it. “While it’s good he’s gone, how will we know he didn’t report in somehow?”

“We won’t,” Krae said shortly. “Which means we’ll have to be very careful not to lead the enemy right to wherever we’re staying after we land.”

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About The Author:

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Review: Coven Enforcers Series (Books 1, 2 and 3), by Ann Gimpel 2

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Blood and Magic (Coven Enforcers Book One)

book-1

4 out of 5 Stars

Available for Purchase on:

Amazon    BN    iBooks    Google Play    ARe    Author’s Store

Review:

Author Ann Gimple has another terrific series on her hands! In the Coven Enforcers series, we are introduced in Book 1, to Luke and Abigail, two very strong heroes who have to battle Heaven and Hell in order to survive. The storyline is very fast, never once slowing down. I fell for Luke, hard, because he’s just an amazingly written character full of life and happiness. Abigail is a delight to read, and I instantly identified with her. This is the first novel in the enchanting Coven Enforcers series. I would suggest reading them in order to get the full story. This book is definitely going on my favorites shelf!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Magic didn’t just find Luke Caulfield. It chased him down, bludgeoned him, and has been dogging him ever since. Some lessons are harder than others, but Luke embraces danger, upping the ante to give it one better. An enforcer for the Coven, a large, established group of witches, his latest assignment is playing bodyguard to the daughter of Coven leaders.

Abigail Ruskin is chaperoning a spoiled twelve-year-old from New York to her parents’ home in Utah Territory when Luke gets on their stagecoach in Colorado. A powerful witch herself, Abigail senses Luke’s magic, but has no idea what he’s doing on her stagecoach. Stuck between the petulant child and Luke’s raw sexual energy, Abigail can’t wait for the trip to end.

Unpleasant truths surface about the child. While Abigail’s struggling with those, wraiths, wolves, and dark mages launch an attack. Luke’s so attracted to Abigail, she’s almost all he can think about, but he’s leery too. The child is just plain evil. Is Abigail in league with her? It might explain the odd attack that took out their driver and one of their horses. In over his head, he summons enforcer backup.

Will they help him save the woman he’s falling in love with, or demand her immediate execution?

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Excerpt:

…Cursing her long skirts and cumbersome petticoats, Abigail used magic to skip the coach steps. Power blazed from her hands before she could see what she was aiming at. She was afraid if she took even a few seconds to hunt for a target, something would get her. Being dead wasn’t desirable, but it was better than the other things wraiths could do to her. Those turned her blood to ice chips.

With her booted feet planted firmly on the ground, Abigail finally got a good look at the wraiths. She drew magic from deep in the earth and sent it chasing after them when they jumped sideways to evade her magic. Insubstantial as tall, thin puffs of smoke, they had glowing charcoal eyes. Long, blood red claws graced what passed for hands. Binding their victims with fiery strands was a favorite trick—just before they sucked your soul right out of you, leaving a handy vessel for one of their masters to occupy. Wraiths used to feed only on the living, making them into new wraiths. They’d been bad enough then, but now they functioned as hired thugs for practitioners of the Black Arts. It lent them the ability to operate in broad daylight. Abigail wondered which group of sorcerers this crew worked for. The Alchemical Council? Black Magick?

Good God but there were a lot of them. Why? Surely they weren’t interested in the contents of the coach, which only carried mail and Carolyn’s substantial luggage. Ducking and spinning to escape being entwined in a blazing net, she thought about the girl’s steamer trunks. Abigail only helped pack two of them. The third had been locked and ready to go. Could that possibly be what the wraiths were after?

She shut off her thoughts so she could focus. The ragged sound of her own panting thrummed loud in her ears as she chucked one killing blow after another. Bolts of blue-white light flared from both hands. No point in running anything less than wide open. For each wraith she obliterated, three more showed up to take its place. Her chest ached from breathing sooty air and wraith stench.

Heat seared her back. Damnation! Her skirts were on fire. Abigail funneled magic behind her to quell the flames, but it didn’t work. Smoke stung her nostrils. Fire had already eaten a long gouge in one of her hands. If she dropped to the ground to deal with her burning clothes, the wraiths would pounce. Terror licked at her along with the flames.

In spite of her brave thoughts earlier, she didn’t want to die. Not here. And not like this. She cursed her corset. It was hard to get a decent breath. If she’d known she was going to have to fight—

“Keep after ’em,” Luke growled from behind her. “I have your dress under control.” She felt him drape something heavy around her shoulders—a lap robe he must’ve snatched from inside the coach—and press it close against her with his body. Gratitude wrapped warm tentacles around her. Having him right next to her made her already pounding heart do flip-flops, but she forced herself to focus on something other than all those rock-hard muscles jammed against her back.

“Are they all on this side of the coach?” she wheezed, still struggling to breathe. Between the smoke, her stays, and Luke’s body so near, it was a losing battle.

“Pretty much. Guess they want you more than me. Actually, they’ve been trying to get to the trunks up top.”

A discordant warning note sounded in the back of her mind. What the hell was in the girl’s luggage that would draw wraiths? Her back wasn’t hot anymore, so she assumed the fire was out.

That fire, maybe. The one inside me is just getting going…

She squirmed from more than the smoke and struggled not to turn around and press the front of herself against Luke. They had bigger problems than his undeniable charisma. Luke didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move away, though. He remained front to back with her, and she absorbed power flowing from him. Damn, but he was strong. What she wouldn’t give for that kind of magic.

It would help if I could breathe…

With difficulty, Abigail forced her mind away from Luke’s charms. “The driver?” She hadn’t been round to the front of the wagon to check.

“Dead.”

“Ever driven one of these things?”

“Concentrate on killing, woman. If we can’t get shut of the wraiths, ’twon’t matter a diddly damn.”

Blood and Sorcery (Coven Enforcers Book Two)

book-2

5 out of 5 Stars

Review:

Blood and Sorcery is the second book in the magical Coven Enforcers series by Ann Gimpel. This novel picks up right where the first book, Blood and Magic, left off. In this installment, we again meet up with Josh and Breana, Josh is another Coven Enforcer, like Luke, while Breana is a very important member of the Coven. The storyline is again, extremely fast moving and engaging. I felt an immediate connection to Breana, who ends up locked in a situation she has no hope of controlling. When events quickly spiral out of control, Josh and the rest of the Enforcers must pull out all the stops to save the Coven, and Breana with it. As with the first book, this is an instant add to my favorites shelf!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Description:

Joshua committed his life to fighting Black Magick. Not sure who he hates worse, dark sorcerers or the clerics who tortured and mutilated his family, he lives on the road with his horse and his magic, working as a Coven enforcer. Breana Giraud is the only woman he’s ever loved, and until very recently she was married to someone else.

Breana’s husband, Don, sold his soul to the devil, embracing dark practices. Along the way, he corrupted their daughter. While Breana could’ve turned him in to Coven justice without a second thought, she couldn’t bring herself to implicate her child. Still reeling from her daughter’s death at the hands of evil, and grateful her husband met the vicious end he deserved, she feels broken, damaged. The last thing on her mind is falling in love.

Joshua tries to hold back, give Breana room to mourn her losses, but if he has his way, she’ll become his wife. With Don dead, and the path to his heart’s true love finally clear, he’ll do anything he can to make her his. Even if it means fighting his way past the dark mages’ leader, who wants her for his own.

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Excerpt:

Salt Lake City, Utah Territory

Breana Giraud bolted upright in her bed, the darkness around her shattering into fire-tinged motes of black. Heart thudding hard against her chest, throat constricted with fear, she reached for power, intent on shrouding herself in a protective spell. Goddamn her husband. He was at it again. It was like him to wait until she was sleeping—and she had to sleep sometime.

Once upon a time, she’d cared about Don—a witch with power to match her own. But he’d been seduced by the dark and become deeply entrenched in Black Magick. Shielding herself against him drained her, but she didn’t have any choice. Sucking air around the narrow place that used to be her throat, she sent magic spiraling outward. She didn’t sense him near, but the enchantment that just dragged her from a sound sleep had Don’s name—and sliminess—stamped all over it.

Her eyes snapped open. Don was dead.

Dead.

What the hell was happening to her?

He couldn’t harm her anymore, so why was his stench all over the room? It wasn’t even the bedroom they’d shared. She’d moved to the far end of the hall to escape the horrible memories that swamped her every time she thought about him.

Guess that didn’t work very well.

She pressed her tongue hard against her teeth and reached for her magic again. Surely she could summon a mage light. Simplest of spells, it required almost nothing in the way of power. Finally, after she was shaking and sweating with effort, a wavery blue light formed, casting the bedroom in eerie shadows. Breana urged her light to burn hotter, brighter. Her teeth were chattering, and she felt as if she’d never be warm again. Icy sweat dripped down her sides.

She tugged the heavy, wool blanket around her shuddering form, but it didn’t help so she dragged air hard into lungs that had nearly forgotten how to cooperate. And then did it again. And again, until she was able to clamp her jaws in a harsh, desperate line.

Her light flickered and brightened, and the ball of fear making it hard to breathe eased the slightest bit. Falling back asleep was laughable, so she dug her way out from under the covers and pulled a robe woven from soft, cream-colored wool over her linen nightdress. Sheepskin slippers came next.

At least the godawful chill that had permeated the air was dissipating, and the reek of evil along with it. Brimstone held a sulfur taint that burned the back of her throat and made her skin prickle with a million points of discomfort.

She blinked back tears as she made her way downstairs, her mage light bouncing over one shoulder. The dark had taken both her husband and her daughter, and robbed her of what had once been a warm and comfortable marriage. She hated Black Magick with a passion. Hated what it had almost done to her as she walked a tightrope between her husband’s demands and her responsibility to the Coven.

“Yeah, and I did a shitty job all the way round,” she muttered as she poured a cup of tepid coffee into a mug. It was bitter as all get out from sitting on the back of the woodstove since early the previous morning, but she gulped it down anyway, wanting the quick stimulation.

Too keyed up to sit, she wandered to a window and looked to the east. Dawn wasn’t far off, but the horizon was still dark. Days were growing longer, but it was still winter, and it might not get light until seven. She’d sent a meticulous letter to Coven headquarters in New York. Within it, she detailed her sins in not turning her husband and daughter over to Coven justice—once she fully understood their allegiance had shifted to dark power.

That letter had certainly arrived by now.

What would they do to her?

A snort of derision curled her mouth into a bitter smile. She knew what she’d do to someone in her position. Banish them from the Coven for starters. After that, it would be anyone’s guess, but the Coven wouldn’t be out of line demanding her life as punishment for shielding her family from what they deserved.

Not much she could do. About any of it. No. She needed to keep going, day by day, and let the wheel spin as it would. She’d find out soon enough. Certainly by this coming summer when most—if not all—of the Coven had relocated to Utah Territory. At least she’d given Luke and Abigail a good start by marrying them. Memories of that day—and their joy—kept her going through the hardest spots.

She plodded back to the stove and poured the last of the coffee into her cup before she opened the woodstove door and sent a jot of magic to stir the embers. Once they crackled merrily, she added chunks of wood and refilled the kettle on the back of the stove with water from the pump next to the sink. The chores were automatic, and they settled her nerves enough to dissect what had driven her awake.

Coven enforcers, a group of hard-bodied, sharp-eyed men, who kept witches on the straight and narrow, had seen to it that both Don and her daughter, Carolyn, met their end in mage fire, purging their souls of darkness. And they’d killed Alistair MacDuff, head of the Alchemical Council. She and Abigail had seen to the death of Alistair’s henchman before he, too, was dumped in the purification of mage fire.

“Guess we didn’t get them all,” she muttered as she ground coffee beans with a mortar and pestle.

“If them refers to who I think it does,” Joshua drawled from the kitchen doorway, “of course they’re not all dead. That fresh coffee I smell?”

Breana curved her mouth into a soft smile. “You know damn good and well it is. I drank the dregs from yesterday morning. Hang on till the water boils, and I’ll brew a fresh pot.”

“Don’t rush. I got time.” Joshua moved closer to the stove, extending his hands toward its warmth. Tight-fitting, buff-colored leathers, similar to what most Coven enforcers wore, hugged him like a second skin. Flame red hair hung loose to the middle of his back.

Breana turned to face him squarely and crossed her arms beneath her breasts. “Looks as if you got up in a hurry. Your hair’s not braided.”

Blood and Illusion (Coven Enforcers Book Three)

book-3

5 out of 5 Stars

Review:

Blood and Illusion is the third and final novel in the Coven Enforcers series by Ann Gimpel. In this third novel, we meet up with Sam, one of the most powerful Coven Enforcers, and a whole mess of witches who are not part of the Coven, but are still being threatened and killed. The leader of this ragtag group of witches seems to be Isla. I openly admit it, Isla is my favorite of all of the characters in these novels. She’s smart and sassy, yet still soft and gentle. Sam is a real warrior who must use every single trick he knows (and then some) in order to save these wild witches. The storyline picks up right where Blood and Sorcery, the second book, leaves off. I felt it was a perfect conclusion to the story, and wrapped it up quite nicely. As with the other 2 novels, this one is added to my favorites shelf. I look forward to reading more from Author Ann Gimpel.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Description:

Not all witches join the Coven. Fiercely independent, Isla heads up her own small band in the San Francisco area. She’s never needed help before, but dark sorcerers drive her and her group into hiding, trapping them.

Sam’s worked for the Coven as one of their enforcers forever. He’s been there so long, the Coven is the only mistress he knows. It’s a lonely life on the road thwarting wickedness and Black Magick with his guns, his magic, and his horse, but it’s been enough to satisfy him. Until now.

A group of witches is in deep trouble. They’re not part of the Coven, but Sam is sworn to protect all witches and he rides to their assistance with several of his brothers. Nothing prepares him for the outspoken spitfire who ends up riding double with him. She’s forthright, opinionated, and downright hostile, but he’s drawn to her self-sufficiency—and her undeniable beauty. Soon, Isla is all he can think about.

Dark forces are on the move. Protecting the woman he’s falling in love with is at the very top of Sam’s list. If they manage to survive, he’ll tame her. Claim her. Make her his.

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Excerpt:

…Isla huddled with six other witches in a basement beneath one of the warehouses lining San Francisco’s docks. Her hair hung in filthy strands. Grime caked beneath her nails, and she stank, but at least she was alive. Russian sorcerers—or at least sorcerers who spoke Russian—had killed four of her sisters before she’d dragged the rest of their small band to a defensible position and swathed them in layers and layers of magic.

It had been a short-term solution, but they hadn’t had any choice. Not really. Only problem was they had no easy way out. If they dismantled their spell, the sorcerers would find them in a trice. If they remained where they were, eventually they’d starve to death. She was far weaker than she’d been a week ago when they’d barricaded themselves into the underground room with its dirt floor and dirt walls. Small cutouts high on two walls coincided with ground level, and provided their only source of light.

In desperation, she’d used her power stone to call Hester Thorne, a witch who’d been instrumental drawing their group into a cohesive unit. Hester promised help, but it had yet to materialize. Breath steamed through Isla’s teeth as she bent forward and stirred the shallow pool she’d created from a broken pot made of crockery and water dripping down the walls. It took a while, but the water had finally grown deep enough to become a scrying instrument.

Weariness dogged her, and her vision blurred. She squeezed her eyes shut, willing them to focus next time she dragged her lids open. Thinking it might help, she pushed herself upright and walked around the six- by ten-foot room.

“What are you doing?” Kat eyed her balefully out of bloodshot blue eyes. “I was asleep.” Dirty blonde hair had been braided to keep it out of the way.

“Aye, and ye’ll be asleep permanently if ye’re not careful,” Isla shot back, the brogue from her native Scotland thicker than usual. It was one of the reasons she and Hester had bonded so tightly. Shared roots from Scotland’s Highlands and islands.

“Isla! Come look at your pool!” Rowan cried. Silver hair fell about her, dragging in the dirt, but her brown eyes were lit with hope.

Isla skidded to her knees and stared at the water’s surface. Nine men strutted down the rock-strewn sand fronting the ocean. Tall, rangy, hard-bodied and clad in leathers, it was obvious they were used to ruling the world. At first she thought they were a new passel of sorcerers, but she forced herself to look closer.

Not trusting her first take, she took a ragged breath. Maybe she wished for salvation from the room that was likely to become their crypt so desperately, she was imagining things, “What does it look like to you?” she asked Rowan.

The other woman turned to face her. “Help. That’s what it looks like. Those men are bleeding power, and it’s the good kind.”

The other women skittered across the floor, jostling one another to get close to the pool so they could see.

“Be careful!” Isla cautioned. “Else ye’ll tip the dish, and we might not live long enough for me to refill it.”

Her heart hammered against her ribs as she took in the men. One of them in particular caught her attention and held it. Long, blond hair spilled across his shoulders, and his eyes were a bright, turquoise blue. Strong bones carved his cheekbones into bas-relief, and his jaw was square, determined. Buff colored leathers covered him, and they were skintight, leaving virtually nothing to her imagination. Broad shoulders led to deeply muscled arms and narrow hips with a high, tight ass. Long legs disappeared into boots that laced to his knees.

Her throat grew dry. Many a year had passed since she’d experienced such an immediate reaction to a man, and it confused her.

Must be because I’m half-staved.

Och aye, and ye know better, the other half of her brain inserted dryly. Whoever he was, he was one gorgeous man.

Understanding slammed into her, and she was ashamed she hadn’t put two and two together immediately. “They must be the aid Hester promised.” She glanced at the other women.

Rowan lurched upright. “If that’s true, then we need to go outside and help them.”

Isla licked her chapped lips. “They’re not looking as if they need any help, but at least that way they won’t have to hunt for us, and mayhap we can leave this accursed place.”

“You’re the one with the strongest magic,” Kat pointed out. “And the only one who can project telepathy beyond the enchantment hiding us. See if they answer.”

Isla exhaled sharply. It was a reasonable suggestion, but not without risk. If she was wrong, and those men were actually allied with the dark, she’d have given away their position. Opened them to a certain death. Or worse, imprisonment at the hands of evil.

“I was in your mind,” Rowan said, her voice surprisingly gentle. “We’re as good as dead now. I say we chance it.”

“I was coming around to the same conclusion.” Isla breathed deeply to center herself and drew out her pink moonstone. Before she could think things to death, and her courage failed utterly, she linked to the stone and sent her magic thrumming outward. No need to make things fancy, so she settled on the shortest phrase imaginable.

“Are ye who Hester sent?”

Depending on the answer, she’d ask for proof and take things from there.

author

About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

Bewitching Book Tours

Review: Rubicon International Books 1 and 2, by Ann Gimpel 3

Rubicon International BK 1

5 out of 5 Stars

Garen (Rubicon International Book One) by Ann Gimpel

Available for Purchase on:

Amazon    BN    Kobo    ARe

Google Play    iBooks    Or buy direct from Ann at this link.

Review:

Fantastic new series from an awesome author. Characters with depth and warmth and complexities galore! And a world built on imagination, truth and mystery. Add shifters into the mix and you have a perfect set up for stories that take you away and make you think. The heat Ann brings with her romance is also an added bonus. IF all this sounds good then please make yourself the gift of this new series and get started. I fell in love with strong, sexy Garen, It made things complete that he found his mate. Miranda is the perfect match. Stubborn, beautiful and a spy!! Not that there are not problems to solve and a war to fight. Danger is at every corner but Ann helps them navigate and weaves a wonder story in the process. I MOST HIGHLY RECOMMEND GAREN by Ann Gimpel. Just the beginning of Rubicon International!!

Reviewed by Wildcatnana

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

As an agent for an international espionage firm, Miranda has her hands more than full. Between secretly lusting after her boss, Garen, and making sure the dirty little secret about her double life as a wolf shifter remains hidden, she’s still a virgin at nearly thirty.

Sent to eliminate the head of a human trafficking organization in Amsterdam, she barely escapes with her life. Injured, frightened, and under attack the second her private jet lands in the U.S., she’s not certain where to turn.

Garen’s watched Miranda just as surreptitiously as she’s been eyeing him.

Unfortunately, the fact that she works for him is a showstopper. Plus, he has a few secrets of his own that have kept him single. When Miranda insists on heading up a covert operation, he can’t come up with a plausible reason to stop her. Watching her sprint headlong into danger damn near kills him. He wants to hold her, love her, protect her.

Miranda’s life is on the line. Will Garen risk exposure to save her?

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Excerpt from Garen:

The Gulfstream G280 shuddered as it banked hard right. Miranda Miller pushed one of the window blinds out of the way. Damn. Black as pitch outside the aircraft. She felt like warmed-over crap. Her mouth tasted sour, and her eyes were hot and gritty. She rubbed them and tallied how long it had been since she’d slept. At least two days. She reached for a Styrofoam cup in its no-spill metal holder, sloshed cold coffee around her mouth, and swallowed.

Her headset hummed. “Wakey, wakey, fraulein,” a heavily accented German voice rumbled. “We land at JFK as soon as the tower clears us.”

“What?” Fear sliced through her fatigue. “I told you we needed a smaller airport.”

“Sorry, fraulein. This one was closest. We are below recommended minimums on fuel.”

She considered asking the pilot why he hadn’t planned better but decided not to antagonize him. It was bad enough they were flying without a copilot—probably against FAA regulations. She had a dummied-up commercial pilot’s license tucked in her wallet under one of her many assumed names. Hopefully it matched the one on her phony passport. She hadn’t had time to check. If it came down to it, she’d been instructed to tell the tower she copiloted the flight.

As if he’d read her thoughts, the pilot’s next words were, “I need you to move into the cockpit, fraulein.”

“Alrighty. Give me a minute.”

“You do not have much more than that. I do not wish further difficulties with the U.S. authorities.”

Miranda wondered just what other problems the pilot might be referring to. She almost asked him, and then decided she didn’t really care. Her international security company engaged professionals. Most of them came from either the military or law enforcement and had checkered pasts. She unbuckled her seat belt and stumbled to her feet. Her crumpled, black pantsuit stank, but maybe only to her lycan senses. She hoped humans wouldn’t be able to smell stale blood.

A muffled chortle made its way past her lips. Maybe once anyone got a whiff of days old sweat, they’d give her a wide berth. Her body ached, especially her ribs where her target had slammed a lead pipe into her. She fingered her side and wondered if anything was broken. Not much you could do for ribs. They had to mend on their own.

A few steps took her to the tiny head in the rear of the aircraft. She splashed cold water on her face and winced when she took a good look at her scraped knuckles. Her target in Amsterdam—head of a worldwide human trafficking organization—had been much harder to eliminate than she’d expected. She’d needed her supernatural speed and strength—and her wolf form. One more face-dunking in cold water and she grabbed a towel to dry herself.

“Now, fraulein.” The jet shuddered again as its landing gear clicked into place.

The pilot sounded so exasperated, she rushed down the aisle and hurtled through the already-open cockpit door. He grabbed her arm and threw her into the empty seat.

“Watch it!” she snapped. Her upper lip pulled into a snarl. Claws pressed against the ends of her fingertips. Miranda struggled for control. Her wolf wanted to kill the human who’d manhandled her.

“Sorry.” The pilot’s voice was mild. She recognized compulsion beneath his words and wondered what the hell he was. “I do not wish to draw anyone’s attention,” he went on smoothly. “The rules regarding business-class jets are in constant flux.” He glanced at her with gray eyes that didn’t miss much. “Are you hurt?”

She nodded. “My assignment ran into unexpected snags.”

“Will you require medical attention before you proceed to the West Coast?”

She snorted. What a subtle way of asking if she’d been shot or stabbed. Lars Kinsvogel—or whatever his name really was—had obviously dealt with people like her before. Something he said caught her attention. “Won’t you be my pilot?”

He shook his head. “Someone fresh will relieve me.”

“Will I be able to stay aboard?”

He shot her an odd look. “Of course not. You must go through customs.”

She rolled her eyes and pressed her lips into a thin line. “That’s why I wanted to land somewhere inland.”

His gray eyes narrowed to slits. “All flights from foreign destinations are subject to customs, no matter what the airport. Is this your first international assignment?”

Heat rose to her face. “No.” She was damned if she’d say anything else. She didn’t know him from Adam.

The radio crackled. The pilot responded in pilotese and banked the plane. “Flights from Europe are cleared to land at certain airports. With the fuel we have left, we could have landed in Philadelphia or Newark, but I have a feeling those two destinations would not meet your needs, either. What are you afraid of?”

Miranda wasn’t certain what she could tell him. Company policy was clear. Talk to no one. “Never mind.”

She thought about Garen, her boss and chairman for Rubicon International. She’d been half in love with his razor-sharp mind, lithe build, salt-and-pepper hair, and sky-blue eyes for years, but he didn’t see her as anything but a junior-grade agent. Rumor had it he scarcely acknowledged employees until they became full-fledged operatives. If her fellows were any indication, she had a way to go. At least a few more assignments. And then there was the problem of her being a lycan.

She sighed, and fantasies of Garen went up in smoke like they always did. It was nice to dream, but Miranda steered clear of men. Between her wolf side and her somewhat unorthodox career, intimate relationships carried too much risk of discovery. She relied on her fingers, a vibrator, and the occasional one-night stand to take the edge off her needs.

The jet banked yet again and dropped lower. Its wheels made contact, and the pilot hit the brakes. Because she wasn’t belted in, Miranda nearly plunged into the instrument cluster. Lars made an aggravated clucking sound, but he didn’t say anything. They taxied off the runway.

“Since I have to get off, I need to get my things together.”

“Wait until the aircraft comes to a complete stop, fraulein.”

He sounded so much like a bot, she stifled a laugh. The plane moved smoothly into an enclosed hangar. Once it rolled to a halt, she pushed out of her seat, returned to the passenger compartment, and unhooked her small duffel from the wall. Lars’ breath hissed against her ear. “Where are your weapons?”

“On me and in my bag.”

“Put everything in your bag. Clips separate.”

“I’m not that stupid.” She pulled a 9mm semiautomatic from its shoulder holster and punched the button to discharge its clip. She drew back the slide, extracted the chambered bullet, and stuffed it into the clip. Next came a snub-nosed .38 revolver and two knives. She spun the chamber to make certain all the bullets were out and then placed everything in locked gun cases in her carry-on.

Lars still stood practically on top of her. She met his gaze, noticing he was a few inches taller than her five feet eleven. “Yes?” She quirked a tired brow.

“Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?” He settled his hands on her shoulders. She smelled his arousal and knew he had a hard-on without even looking.

“Christ! Not now.” She spun from beneath his grip. “Let’s just get through customs and allow whoever’s knocking to search the plane.”

“We will have some downtime in the terminal. At least an hour.” He sounded hopeful.

Miranda looked at him. Really looked at him. Lars was attractive in a Teutonic sort of way, with ice-blond hair and gray eyes. His trim body suggested he worked out. Interest flickered but then died. She shook her head. “I haven’t slept for forty-eight hours. I’m dead on my feet.”

“Why did you not sleep during the flight? The air was smooth.”

Good question. She’d wondered the same thing. “I have no idea. Too keyed up, I guess.”

He shouted something in German to whoever was pounding on the side of the jet and took her arm. “I will watch over you until you are safely back in the plane.”

She opened her mouth to tell him it wasn’t necessary, but something in his face stopped her. In that moment, she understood he was a trained operative just like her. His role this time around happened to be pilot, but she was certain he’d stood in her shoes before. “Which branch of the military trained you?”

He shook his head and let go of her arm. “It does not matter. Follow me, fraulein.”

She shouldered her duffel and walked to the rear cabin door. Lars had just sprung the locks. He spoke soothingly in German to an obviously agitated customs officer standing at the top of the stairs. The agent’s beady, black eyes settled on her. “Do you speak English?”

“Yes. Is there a problem, sir? It’s been a long flight, and both of us are tired. It took me a while to get my bag together.”

Nostrils flared, the agent looked intently at her and then stepped into the aircraft, waving them down the jet’s steps. “Customs is the last door at the north end of the hangar,” he barked. “Don’t even think of running. This hangar is locked and fully alarmed.”

Lars placed a hand beneath her elbow and guided her across a concrete floor. “It is best if we do not deviate from a straight line,” he muttered.

“Holy crap,” she said. “Why are they so uptight?”

He shrugged. “As you Americans say, it goes with the territory.” He grinned, displaying very white, very even teeth. “Everything we do and say between here and the customs area is filmed and recorded.”

Rubicon International BK 2

5 out of 5 Stars

Lars (Rubicon International Book Two) by Ann Gimpel

Review:

What a great follow-up on Garen, book 1 of Rubicon International!! I thought I was in love with Garen but Lars is even better. A lonely shifter who has given up on love, he spends his time doing dangerous missions for his company. Little did he know what fate had in store. As in Garen, Ann makes these characters come to life and feel like old friends. Each character is put together painstakingly carefully and the result is seamless. The story is full of danger, love and mystery. The beautiful Tamara makes a wonderful heroine for Lars. Surprises abound and the world of Rubicon International starts to become more solidified. The more we learn, the more there is to learn. That is why I cannot wait for the next book. Ann Gimpel knows how to write!! I am a fan forever. She has joined the ranks of half dozen authors that I will buy each and every time a new book comes out. I know the quality will be there every single time. Please to yourself a favor and get started on this new series. MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Reviewed by Wildcatnana

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Tamara MacBride has a much bigger problem than hiding her shifter side from the world. By the skin of her teeth, and with a smattering of Irish luck, she manages to kill her sister’s murderer. Escaping from the scene of the crime is much harder than she anticipated. Just when she thinks she might be safe, her cab driver shrieks and slumps over the wheel.

An unknown assailant terminates Lars Kinsvogel’s target. Pleased by the outcome—after all dead is dead—he exchanges the glitz of Monte Carlo for a nearby airport, intent on collecting the private plane he left there. He’s no sooner arrived when a cab jumps the curb, and he races over to investigate. There’s not much he can do for the cabbie, but his passenger is still very much alive.

Trying to hustle Tamara out of the cab is tough. She’s frozen by fear, but when Lars lays out the rest of his plan to move her out of danger’s path, her temper flares. He can’t leave her alone in Monte Carlo. Can he convince her to trust him in time to save her life?

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Excerpt from Lars:

Lars Kinsvogel sucked in an annoyed breath. Anxiety and greed thickened the air in Monte Carlo’s Place de Casino, and he stifled a choking sound. Damn his hypersensitive shifter senses. If it weren’t for them, the desperation hovering around him wouldn’t be quite so palpable. Casinos were always like this, though, a haven for the rash and reckless. What had likely begun as a harmless pastime turned into hardcore addiction for an unfortunate few, forcing them to return again and again despite diminishing returns.

Hope springs eternal. All the poor sods need is one more spin of the wheel, another hand of cards… Lars glanced up, right into the croupier’s beady gaze.

“Would monsieur like to place a bet?” The croupier grinned with all the warmth of a hammerhead shark, displaying a mouthful of bad teeth. What was it with the French and their aversion to dentistry? Lars shook his head and made shooing motions with one hand. He’d have to either join the baccarat game soon or move on, but he could get away with loitering for a few more minutes without drawing undue attention to himself.

His target, a powerfully built man with features revealing Chinese ancestry, had an arm slung around a striking brunette. Maybe she was one of the hookers who worked the casino circuit, or maybe she was a steady thing for the man.

Lars considered it and decided she could be both. Around five feet eight, she had a lush, curvy body, dark hair cut into a stylish bob that fell a few inches past her shoulders, and memorable eyes the color of a restless ocean. A short, black sheath hugged her like a second skin. Open nearly to her waist, it displayed half her full breasts. Even though Lars’ appraisal was surreptitious, he forced his gaze elsewhere. The woman was sex incarnate, and he didn’t need anything diverting him from his objective.

Jaret Chen pressed chips into his companion’s hand and urged her to pick a number. He gave one of her breasts a familiar squeeze, which earned him a smile, perfectly rouged lips stretching over impossibly straight teeth—and a slight shake of her head. Color stained her tanned skin. Lars realized he was looking at the woman again, wondering how her breasts would feel beneath his fingers. She seemed uncomfortable with Jaret’s frank exploration of her body, so she probably wasn’t a pro. For some unexplained reason, Lars felt relieved. The woman was too elegant to earn her living lying on her back.

He snorted to himself and studied the flashing display above the baccarat table. Maybe the woman wasn’t French. That might explain her perfect teeth—and her discomfort with having her body mauled in public. At least she held Jaret’s attention. So far the drug dealer hadn’t spared him so much as a sidelong glance. Lars had never met the man, but knew a great deal about him from an extensive dossier provided by Rubicon International. Deeply involved in the heroin trade from the Middle East, across the Mediterranean, and into Europe, Jaret was one of the principals in a large operation—and Lars’ current target.

He sized the man up. Maybe six feet, he had a barrel chest. Strongly muscled arms strained against the fabric of his cream-colored, silk dress shirt. His art deco tie had been loosened. Dark eyes, pronounced cheekbones, and straight dark hair cut short blended with his business attire. For all intents and purposes, he was indistinguishable from the phalanx of wealthy—and wannabe wealthy—men circulating through the casino. Lars glanced at his own cream-colored silk shirt and black linen pants. With the exception that his tie was still firmly knotted, he and Jaret were dressed as twins.

Guess neither of us wanted to stick out in anyone’s memory.

Lars glanced at his Rolex. Close to midnight and time to move on. He’d seen enough. Now it was a matter of figuring out where and when to strike. These things always went more smoothly when he was close to invisible. He melted into the crowd and made his way outside. The casino fronted the French Riviera, and Lars stood looking out at the Mediterranean for long moments. The water was quiet tonight, waves barely slapping the white sand beach. His cell phone, set on silent, vibrated against his hip, and he tugged it from a pocket to look at the display.

Private. Damn! Could be anyone.

Lars punched the answer icon, held the phone to his ear, and waited. No need to say anything until he knew who was on the other end.

“Are you somewhere you can talk?”

Lars inhaled sharply as Garen LeRochefort’s voice came through the phone’s speaker.

Another shifter, Garen had founded Rubicon International with Lars hundreds of years before. The mechanics of the spy game had changed drastically between the late seventeen hundreds and modern times, but the basics—kill or be killed—hadn’t altered much. Everyone who worked for Rubicon International was some type of shifter. Lars’ animal form was a mountain lion, Garen’s a wolf.

Lars loped farther down the beach until he cleared several couples engaged in deep, hungry kisses before responding. “What has happened?” Something must have, or Garen wouldn’t have risked contact.

“You need to leave.”

“But I have not—”

“Doesn’t matter,” Garen cut in. “I’ll explain when you’re back in the office on a fully encrypted line.”

Lars thought about his twin engine Piper Seneca waiting at the Nice airport, twenty-four kilometers from Monte Carlo. It gave him freedom to come and go, and was much cheaper to operate than the business class jets he also owned. “Maybe I could still—”

“No!” The one word thundered so loud, Lars moved the phone away from his ear. “Don’t even go back to your room.” Garen hesitated. “Old friend. Trust me on this.” The line went dead.

Lars stared at the iPhone’s display and dropped the device back into his pocket. He’d been compromised. He wasn’t certain quite how, and a part of him was curious as hell. He kept walking, swinging in a wide circle to head back toward the Hotel de Paris. Garen had said not to return to his room, but if he was careful, maybe he could learn something critical that would help their side.

“Ja, forewarned is forearmed,” he muttered.

Keycard in hand, he let himself into a side door of the rambling old structure, got his bearings, and started cautiously up a stairwell. His suite was on the second floor, at the very end of the wing facing the Mediterranean. He’d always loved the old hotel with its thick, patterned carpets and antique lighting and furnishings. Staying next to the walls, he used a bit of shifter magic to cast a don’t look here spell. It wouldn’t keep someone determined from seeing him, but it didn’t require much magic, either.

He entered the second floor a few doors from his own and scanned the empty hallway, his senses on high alert. Midnight was early in Monte Carlo, a city where people frequently stayed up through dawn and slept the day away, so he fully expected to see other guests, but the hall was mercifully empty. He padded silently toward his door and examined it, wishing he’d set a trap. He inhaled, trying to sort scents, but there were too many to make sense of. He could leave, just walk away like Garen had almost ordered him to, but Lars had never been a coward, and he was more intrigued than frightened. He’d spent years worming his way out of dicey situations. This was just one more, and he was damned if he’d walk away from his things. Not unless he had to.

He took a deep breath, tugged his guaranteed-not-to-set-off-metal-detectors .32 caliber revolver from its ankle holster, and shoved the key card into the slot in the door. A tiny electric motor hummed before the deadbolt snicked out of the way. He turned the latch, kicked the door open, and pivoted from side to side, scanning the sitting room of his suite, gun at the ready. Lars waited in the doorway, barely breathing, and then he heard a muted click, followed by an unmistakable whirr, and knew.

A bomb.

He cursed in German, not knowing if he was more annoyed with the turn of events or with himself for not taking Garen’s advice and getting the hell out of there.

* * * *

Tamara MacBride pushed the betting chips back into Jaret’s hand. “Sure and I’m not feeling like wagering just now,” she murmured. “Why don’t you do it for me?”

He shot her an odd look. “But you like to gamble.”

You only think I do.

“Something we had for supper didn’t quite settle. Would you mind if I sat somewhere?” She swayed a bit on her feet to make her statement more realistic and sent a weak smile his way. In truth, she was a bit nauseated. Between sweat and greed, the air in the casino stank of humanity’s darker side. Expensive colognes added a queer edge, their rich scents intensifying as their owners’ anxiety rose. If she hadn’t been a shifter, she might not have noticed, at least not as much. So far, she’d done a decent job hiding what she was from Jaret. She aimed to keep things that way.

He ran a thick index finger down the bare skin between her breasts. “We could return to our rooms.”

She crinkled her face in what she hoped looked like an apology and did her best to ooze regret. “Better wait until my tummy settles.” He was arrogant enough, he had no idea how repulsive she found him. Thank all the bloody saints, she’d managed to keep any sexual activities between them tamped down to nothing because of his heroin habit. According to a bit of Internet research, she supposed he could probably get hard, but the drug suppressed orgasms. At least so far, he’d been much more interested in his next shot of dope and drifting into an opiate-induced dreamy void than in bothering her for sex.

Jaret returned his attention to the baccarat table. “I’ll just be over there.” She pointed to a row of padded Louis Fourteenth chairs with bowed legs. Jaret nodded absently. His pupils were very small, so he was still fully under the influence of his last shot. That meant she had at least a couple of hours before he’d need to leave the casino.

Tamara tottered to a chair on ridiculously high heels. They made her feet ache, but Jaret liked it when she dressed like a fancy woman and pleasing him was high on her list. She settled onto the plush seat and slipped her shoes off. A waiter stopped and arched an inquiring brow. Nodding pleasantly at him, she ordered club soda. Rubbing the bridge of her nose between two fingers, she made a grab for her courage. So far, her plan had gone off without a hitch. The only thing left was to finish things off.

The waiter handed her drink over, along with a bowl of salted nuts, and she set both on a nearby chair. The ebb and flow of noise in the crowded room eddied around her. A quick glance at Jaret reassured her that he was still deeply engrossed in gambling—his second favorite addiction, right after heroin. He didn’t care much for women, other than as window dressing and so the other men would see him as some sort of stud.

Ann Gimpel

About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Reviews: Wolf Clan Shifters Series, by Ann Gimpel 2

Wolf Clan Shifters Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

Available for Purchase on:

Amazon    AmazonUK    BN    Kobo    iBooks    ARe    Google Play

Review:

A heartwarming tale of love and danger

I have to admit; this is not the type of novel I normally read. With that said, it was immensely fun. I found the storyline to be intriguing, leaving plenty of room for future stories (of which there are two, so far), and explaining plenty about the characters central to the story. I adore Jed. Jed and Alice are a very dynamic pairing, and the other characters all play off that relationship. I admit, it’s an intriguing story. 1936, California. Alice loves to mountain climb, and is an engineer, which was unheard of for women in those days. On a climbing expedition, Alice and her friend Brent run into trouble. Little does Alice know that her world is about to change. After meeting Jed, Alice realizes that she may have been wrong about shifters. Yet when those around her begin to pose a danger, can Alice and Jed overcome it? And can Alice learn to accept Bron and Terin? It’s a fantastic story that would make a great beach read!

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond 

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

It’s 1936. Thirty-year-old Alice has given up on finding a husband. Between civil engineering and mountain climbing, her interests are so masculine, she scares men away. A poor route choice strands her—lost, hungry, and scared—next to Lon Chaney’s cabin deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Jed senses a woman stumbling down the steep, inhospitable mountain behind his borrowed cabin. Her scent tantalizes and excites him. Mates are scarce these days, and if his nose is right, she’s his fated one. His and his two pack mates, that is, who are mercifully gone at the moment. Jed crafts a careful strategy, knowing the mate bond might not be enough to convince her to stay once she finds out it will link her to all three of them—forever.

Alice adds Jed to her list of problems when he melts out of the shadowed darkness. At first she declines his offer of help, but he keeps talking until she ends up inside the cozy log cabin in front of a roaring fire. His skilled hands and a shot of whiskey heat her blood to molten, and her carefully tended world explodes into desperate hunger to make love with the man rubbing her weary feet.

As caught up in lust as Alice, Jed takes a chance. A big one. Will mating with her before disclosing everything turn out to be a huge mistake?

Excerpt from Alice’s Alphas:

Her breath whistled loud in her ears. Brent had told her to hightail it for the car, but she had a feeling something bad had happened to him. No matter how she felt about him running off, it wasn’t right to just leave him. It had been dark for hours, and she wondered how late it was. Even if she stumbled the few miles to her car waiting next to Glacier Lodge, she was too tired to drive anywhere. The lodge wasn’t any help. It wouldn’t open for the season for another couple of months. There might be a phone inside, but she’d have to break in.

Alice considered her options. If she made the lodge, she’d crawl into her car and fall on her face from exhaustion. It would easily be mid-morning before she got back up here to even begin searching for Brent. Survival in the mountains often hung by a thread. She was the only one who knew where he was.

He may have abandoned her, but she couldn’t do the same and desert him. Not and live with herself afterward.

Alice moved toward where she thought the trail was, intent on setting up a fireless camp to wait out the night. She had enough food and a full water bottle. No tent or sleeping bag, but she’d survived worse conditions. A fire would’ve been welcome, but she couldn’t risk—

“Hey there. You. Show yourself, man,” a deep voice called from behind her. Light flared, illuminating the forest. Footsteps crunched over rocks and twigs as the person approached.

Alice stiffened. People looked at her build and assumed she was male. It had happened to her before—and more than once. She considered running, but burdened with her heavy boots, climbing hardware, and the moonless night, she didn’t want to chance a headlong flight. Besides, the man might have a gun.

“Why should I?” She spun to face him, ready for almost anything.

“What? You’re a woman?”

Alice grasped her ice axe in both hands. “Leave me alone,” she grunted through clenched teeth. “I’m tired and my friend is…lost.”

“Whoa.” The man held up both hands, one of which gripped a flashlight. “Put your axe down, sweetheart. I’m not going to hurt you.” He was tall, maybe six-feet-four, with straight, red-blonde hair. Despite his height, he had a slender build. A well-defined jaw and sharp cheekbones suggested Nordic blood. It was tough to tell in the reflected light, but his eyes looked blue.

“Go back inside. You can see I’m not any kind of threat. I’d head down, but I need to be moving at first light to hunt for my friend.”

The man cocked his head to one side. “Big guy with red hair?”

Terror gripped her. Her throat narrowed. Breathing became a struggle. Since she couldn’t manage words, she nodded and steeled herself to hear the words, he’s dead. Alice bit her lower lip and gazed mutely at the stranger.

“Look, I think he’ll be okay. We were out hunting and heard something big falling. Thought it was the deer we’d shot at. Turned out to be your friend—”

“Awk! You shot Brent!”

The man waved his hands in front of him. “Calm down, woman. Christ, you’re strung tighter than a fiddle. Take a couple of deep breaths. No, we didn’t shoot him. Your friend was unconscious because he hit his head on a rock, so we carried him back here. My two buddies took the horses and hauled him down to the lodge. We only had three horses which is why I’m still here. Anyway, they were planning to drive him to the hospital in Bishop. I don’t expect they’ll be back much before the middle of tomorrow.”

At least that explains why there’re no horses here.

Alice shook her head, digesting the information. “I need to get moving, then. I can drive to the hospital and meet them.”

The man held out a hand. “I’m Jed. Jed Starnes. You look beat. There’re mountain cats on the prowl. Shot one a few hours ago. They get worse at night. More aggressive. You got a gun?”

She shook her head and ignored his outstretched hand. He looked chagrined and dropped it to his side. “Well, then, handshake or no, you need to come with me. Got a nice warm fire going inside. You look wet clear through. Nothing you can do tonight, anyway. Get a few shots of Irish whiskey in you, a little soup, and some sleep. Come morning, you can go after your friend.”

It sounded good. Too good. She kept her ice axe poised. “How’d you get access to Lon Chaney’s cabin?”

Jed threw back his head and laughed. “That’s easy. Ever since Chaney senior died in nineteen-thirty, his son’s been letting some of us who work with him have the keys. All we have to do is ask. Damn shame the old man died right after he got this place built. It’s a beauty. You really should take a look inside.”

She blew out a breath. “What is it you do?”

“I’m a production manager for Paramount.”

“I thought they were in receivership.”

He laughed again. “We are. But we’re still making movies.”

Something about Jed put her at ease. Or maybe she was just too weary to think straight. She slowly dropped her hands. Tethered to her wrist, the ice axe dangled, not quite hitting the ground.

“That’s better, sweetheart,” he crooned. “Follow me. I promise I don’t bite.”

She trailed after him and climbed the broad steps leading to the cabin’s heavy wooden door. He unlatched it, took the lantern from its hook, and motioned her through ahead of him. Alice scanned the large room. One end was an enormous stone fireplace. The other held a kitchen of sorts with a pump mounted next to a sink. A curtained alcove probably contained a bedroom. The lower walls were the same large, flat fieldstones mortared together she’d seen on the outside. The upper walls were wooden planks. Alice sighed. It was warm. Truly warm. She didn’t realize how chilled she was. Her face stung from the sudden temperature shift.

She took off her headlamp and set it on a table. Next she unbuckled her waist belt and dropped her pack in a corner, followed by her axe. The click of a deadbolt falling into its metal hole snapped her to attention. She made a grab for her axe, but Jed beat her to it. “Don’t know about you,” he said, hefting the axe over a shoulder, “but I’m not fond of weapons inside.”

She’d been right about his eyes. They were a rich midnight blue. Something about them made her tingle deep inside. Alice pushed the thought away. She was still a virgin at nearly thirty, and likely to stay that way at the rate things were going in her life. Almost as if they’d been listening in on her thoughts, her nipples pebbled into points of awareness.

What am I doing?

She shook herself back to reality. A stranger she’d just met had locked her into this cabin and taken her only means of defense. Trepidation trumped lust. “Why’d you lock us in?” Because she tried hard, her voice only shook a little.

He flashed the key in front of her and dropped it into his pants pocket. “Never know who might wander by. I wanted to make certain we’re safe is all.” He made a huffing sound. “Most women appreciate that sort of thing.”

“No one would come up this trail in the middle of the night.”

“Hey, I’m sort of a city boy. We believe in locking the bad guys out.” He shrugged. “If you want to hang your jacket, there’re hooks by the fire. It looks pretty wet to me.”

Alice crossed her arms over her chest and stared at Jed. He stared back. Tension sizzled in the air between them. She held out a hand. “My axe.” She gestured to guns on racks along the walls. “Looks as if there are plenty of weapons in here. Besides, my ice axe isn’t a weapon, it’s a climbing aid.”

“Let’s just say I’m not enamored of watching my back. Look—” he balanced her ice axe against a wall, stepped away from it, and spread his hands in front of him “—you’re apprehensive because you don’t know me. How about if I’m feeling the same way?”

She sidled past him and tucked her axe behind her pack where it had been before. “I have no idea how I’m feeling,” she muttered, “other than tired.”

Jed moved past her to the sink and pumped water into a glass. Crossing the cabin, he handed it to her. “Drink this,” he suggested. “Once you’re done, let me hang your jacket near the fire where it can dry a little. It’s so wet, steam’s rising from it.”…

Wolf Clan Shifter bk2 Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

Available for Purchase on:

Amazon     AmazonUK     Kobo     iBooks     BN     Google Play     ARe

Review:

I will happily admit that this novel started off much different than what I anticipated. Author Ann Gimpel has created a magical world of shifters. And not just any shifters. There’s wolf, coyote, bear, and others. One of the best things about this world is that each of the shifters has a distinct soul that carries through to the reader. As does each other character in the story. Megan’s Mates is the second novel in this series. It starts fast and never once slows down. Megan is a sweet girl who has gotten in over her head with some very bad people. As she flees, who should come upon her, but Alice, Jed, and the rest of the clan from the first book! Events spiral nearly out of control from there, but with the help of her mates, Megan can overcome anything. I thoroughly enjoyed it; so much so that I read it in a day! I would recommend reading these books in order.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond 

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Calgary, Alberta 1936

After witnessing what might’ve been a murder, Megan is frantic to escape the Garden of Eden cult, so she catches the night train north out of town. Her lifetime commitment to the cult may well be her death sentence, but she’s not sticking around to let them frame her.

Wolf shifters, Les and Karl, eke out a primitive existence on the flanks of the Canadian Rockies. Between Hunters who want to kill them and a wildfire raging out of control, they’re glad when Jed, their clan leader, shows up. And even more delighted when they see who’s in his car.

Jed’s mate, Alice, spied Megan by the side of the road looking lost and desperate and offered her a ride. Before Jed’s car even stops rolling, Les and Karl know she’s their mate. So skittish she’s barely willing to exit the car, Megan busies herself helping Jed and his pack mates unload supplies. Can Les and Karl convince her to join her life to theirs? If she does, will the risks she faced as a cult member pale in comparison to being mated to shifters?

Excerpt from Megan’s Mates:

The phone jangled again. Loud and strident, it made Les’ sensitive lupine hearing ache. It took him a moment to realize he needed his human form to make the noise go away. He’d tried to ignore the damned thing, but whoever was calling wouldn’t give up. Every time he ventured near the house, it was ringing. With an aggravated growl, he commanded his body to shift.

As soon as he had feet rather than paws, he strode through the door of his cabin deep in the woods, jaw tight with annoyance. The remote location a few miles outside Rocky Mountain House often lost phone service for long periods of time.

“Yes and too bad this isn’t one of them,” he muttered, snatched up the receiver, and barked, “Yes, I’m here.”

“It’s about damned time. I’ve been trying to get hold of you for days.”

Les’ eyes widened. “Jed?”

“Who the hell else?”

Les brayed laughter. “Good point. It’s not as if very many people have this number. What’s up, boss? I thought you were coming my way months ago. The boys and I wondered what happened.”

“Now that I have your attention, hang up.” Jed’s voice held a sharp edge that Les remembered all too well. “We’ll do this a more private way.”

“You got it.” Les dropped the black receiver back into place. He kicked the door shut to keep the cold breeze out. It didn’t bother him as a wolf, but he was naked, and the air had a chill edge to it. He trotted into the bedroom and had begun to dress when Jed’s voice sounded in his mind.

“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you for a week.”

Les sank onto the bed and pulled a quilt over his still-bare legs as he considered where to start. Jed was clan leader for wolf shifters. He needed all the information Les could provide. “First off, we’re all still okay.”

“That’s a relief. When I couldn’t raise you, I was afraid Hunters had killed everyone. Made me half-crazy not to know anything. Anyway, we pulled into Calgary last night, so I’m finally close enough to use telepathy.”

“Is your new mate with you?”

“Affirmative. Bron, Terin, and Alice are with me.” Jed blew out a breath. “You may have heard through the grapevine, we’d originally decided to come north as part of our wedding trip, but Hunters nabbed half a dozen of us in northern California. It took a major offensive to free our people. Even so, we lost a couple.”

Les nodded, and then realized Jed couldn’t see him. “Yes, I know. We’ve had problems of our own. Hunters almost got your cousins, Ron and Chris. We killed them, and I’m still waiting for the fallout on that one since we also killed the whole posse that came afterward, hunting for their fallen companions. All five of them.”

“How many total? Was there any choice?” Jed’s voice was stern as he peppered Les with questions.

“Seven. No, no choice.” Anger tightened Les’ muscles. He’d like to kill every goddamned Hunter in the universe, but he wasn’t about to tell Jed that. And there hadn’t been any choice, not really. They’d been surrounded. The only thing that saved them was taking a firm offensive position.

Jed broke into Les’ thoughts. “What’d you do with the bodies?”

“Don’t worry, boss. No one will ever find them. We dragged them to the very bottom of a cave system where there’s a vent to an upper cave and burned them.”

“How long ago?”

Les thought about it. He’d spent much of the last month as a wolf, which skewed his time sense. “Maybe a week.”

“You still haven’t told me why you weren’t answering your phone.”

“We’ve all been in our wolf forms. There’s a fire burning out of control between our pack and the crest of the Rockies. A couple of the cabins farther west incinerated—”

“Humph,” Jed interrupted, obviously not concerned about an out-of-control wildfire. “Any of you find mates yet?”

“What do you think? It’s not as if the odds are in our favor.”

“Maybe Alice can change that. Women trust her. She’s actually scared up three mates since she joined Bron, Terin, and me.” A hesitation. “How close did you say that fire was?”

“My cabin’s not in any immediate danger. It’s fall and I’m expecting it to rain soon.” Les scratched at month-old beard growth on his chin. “It’s pretty primitive here, boss. Nothing like your digs in Hollywood.”

A different voice sounded in his head, rich, vibrant, and definitely female. “I’ve been listening in. Shameless of me not to have said something earlier. Don’t worry about me. My life was a whole lot simpler before I met up with Jed and my other two mates. Besides, I’m looking forward to meeting the clan members here in Alberta.”

Les’ mouth twitched into half a smile. “You must be Alice. We’ve heard a lot about you. Are you really six feet tall?”

Alice snorted, making Les wish he’d kept his mouth shut. After all, Alice was mated to his clan leader. “How about if we leave the details open, and you can see for yourself when we get there? Jed says it’s a four or five hour drive, and we should arrive sometime tomorrow. Is there anything we need to bring from the big city?”

Les gazed around his one-bedroom cabin as if he expected a grocery list to materialize. He cleared his throat before remembering he didn’t need his actual voice. “Um, we’ve been pretty much living off the land this past month, so anything you bring would be welcome.”

“I get the picture.” Jed broke in with a laugh. “We’ll fill up the trunk and the rest of the back seat.”

Les couldn’t help himself. “Who gets to sit next to Alice?”

Female chuckling made his heart lighter than it had been in a long time.

“Oh, they fuss and snarl a bit, but they sort of take turns. It’s nice actually, to have three doting mates.”

“I’m sure it is.” Les brushed a wave of sadness aside. He’d love to have a woman to fuss over, alongside Karl, his pack mate. They’d hunted for years for a female to grace their lives without success after their first mate died in childbirth in the 1600s. A few promising candidates crossed their path when they’d lived in Edmonton, but Hunters had driven them out of the city fifty years before.

“We’ll be there by tomorrow afternoon.” Jed’s voice was gruff, and Les figured his clan leader could read his mind.

“I’ll alert the troops, boss. Everyone will be really glad to see all of you. And to meet your mate.”

Les waited, but a certain emptiness told him Jed had signed off. He shoved the quilt aside, finished dressing, and called Karl through their telepathic link. It didn’t take long before paws scrabbled against the door, and Les remembered he’d shut it. By the time he crossed the small space and pulled the door open, Karl had found his human form and stood shivering, arms wrapped around his tall, spare frame. Black hair hung to his waist in tangles.

“Thanks. Damned cold out here.” The wolf shifter bounded into the room, giving the door a shove as he passed through it. “What’s up?”

“Jed’s here.” Les spread his arms wide and rolled his eyes. “Along with his lieutenants and their new mate. We’ve got to clean this place up.”

“Why? It’s always been good enough for us.”

Les slugged him in the arm. “You weren’t listening. Jed’s mate will be here.”

“Oh, I get it.” Karl chortled, his dark eyes gleaming with glee. “Maybe if we didn’t do anything, she’d take pity on us and—”

“Right. Find some clothes, and we’ll get to work. I don’t think Jed, Terin, or Bron will want their new mate waiting on the likes of us.”

Karl sprinted for his sleeping alcove toward the rear of the log cabin’s main room. Drawers banged open. “Fire’s getting closer,” he called over one shoulder. “Maybe it would be better for all of us to get together in Red Deer.”

Les considered it. “Nope. Too soon since we axed those Hunters. That’s where they were from—there and Edmonton. I don’t want any friendly sheriff asking questions if they discover we live out here. Are you sure the fire’s closer? Maybe the wind just shifted direction.”

“It’s definitely closer. The smoke’s thicker, and I can actually hear it burning from the rise a couple miles west of here. At least my wolf can.” Karl slid his legs into trousers and pulled a sweater over his head before shoving his feet into an ancient pair of sheepskin slippers. He turned to Les. “Where do you think we should start? Come to think of it, when do you want to alert the rest of the clan, or should I do that?”

“We can take care of that later tonight. How about if you work on the dishes? I’ll sweep and get the kettle going for laundry.”

Karl strode to the sink and pumped the handle for water. “Eww.” He wrinkled his nose. “How long have these plates been here?”

“Does it matter?” Les lugged a large, cast iron kettle in through the back door and hefted it onto a wood-burning stove. He opened the firebox door, levered a pocket knife out of his pants, and started shaving tinder. “Let’s warm some water. That should help.” As he worked, Les dialed in his lupine senses and scented fresh air coming through the back door. It was indeed tinged with smoke. What bad timing for a major fire. If it drove them into one of the nearby towns, they’d risk discovery because Hunters could scent them.

“Les?”

He looked up from his half-built fire. “Um-hum.”

“Maybe it’s time to move on.”

“No!” Les banged a fist down on his thigh. “I’m sick of running. If the fire gets this far, we’ll come back when it’s over and rebuild.”

“But we’ll never find a mate out here.”

“Just do the damned dishes. We’ve got enough problems without adding to them.”…

Wolf Clan Shifter bk3 Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

Available for Purchase on:

Amazon    BN    Kobo    Google Play

Review:

Well, this is the third book in author Ann Gimpel’s Wolf Shifter series, and what a blast it is! In the very first scene, we meet our latest heroine, Sophie, who lands herself in a spot of trouble after following her deluded brother. Jed and crew to the rescue, and the story takes off at breakneck speed. I loved Sophie and her tale. Enter in more shifters, this time coyote shifts from Las Vegas. Blake and his crew get much more than they bargained for with Sophie. As their world falls down around them, Sophie, Blake and the rest of the gang must fight to save their way of life. I devoured this book in one day as well. To be honest, this is my favorite book in the series, although they are all outstanding. This book made me eager for a fourth book, which there is plenty of opportunity for. As I mentioned previously, I highly recommend reading the books in order.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Late 1930s, California.

The winds of change are blowing hard as shifters gather deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a war powwow. Tempers run high as they argue their next move.

An unexpected attack from more Hunters than they’ve ever seen forces their hand, and Blake, alpha for the coyote clan, fights alongside his brothers. He’s grimly pleased when every single one of their enemies is finally dead, the bodies chucked into glacial crevasses.

Sophie Laughing Wolf tracked her hated brother into the mountains. Gifted with foreseeing, she wants to make certain he ends up just as dead as he was in her vision. When the large group of men he’s with are set upon by shifters, mythical dual-natured beings who can take animal forms, she hides, calling on earth power to shield her.

It doesn’t work. Two shifters, back in their men’s bodies, haul her from her hiding place once the battle ends and drag her before their chief. He spares her life—for now—but she senses the animosity the others have for her. They see her as a threat, a witness to multiple murders.

When the mate bond strikes, she fights its pull. So does Blake. He can’t believe the gods would be so cruel as to bind him and his lieutenants to a woman with blood ties to Hunters—their ancient enemy. She runs from her fate. So does he, but the bond burns bright, transcending everything.

Excerpt from Sophie’s Shifters:

Jed slipped and slid down the glacier, grateful his mate Alice wasn’t there to read him the riot act. An accomplished mountaineer, she’d have laughed herself sick after the second time he fell on his ass and slid twenty feet.

“Goddammit!” Terin screeched from behind him and went flying past on his stomach. He shifted mid-slide and dug his claws into the icy surface to stop his suicidal descent. Once he’d stopped on the uphill side of a boulder, he shifted back.

Jed drew to a halt next to him. “Good thing you didn’t bother getting dressed. Your clothes would be strewn over the last fifty feet of ice in shreds.”

“Yes and no,” Terin muttered, glancing pointedly at Jed’s shoes. “My boot soles would have helped—a lot. Jesus but I’m glad Alice isn’t here to see this.”

“Keir’s doing okay in bare feet,” Bron noted, catching them up. “And I’m not doing that bad, but the soles of my feet hurt like hell—and I miss my claws.”

Jed eyed the edge of the glacier. Patches of rocks and dirt, interspersed with ice, began a couple hundred feet below them. Walking would get much easier then. He grabbed one of Terin’s arms. Bron seized the other one, and together they lurched over the remaining rock-studded ice.

“We have a problem,” he said without preamble.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Bron muttered.

“We have to get home and make sure Alice is okay,” Terin added.

Jed winced. He’d wanted to leave someone home with the women, but neither Alice, nor Megan—Les and Karl’s mate—would have any part of that. He reached for Alice through the mate bond, but she was too far away for him to sense anything.

“Which particular problem were you alluding to?” Bron asked. “Somehow it seems like more than getting out of these mountains with our hides intact.”

“It is,” Jed said tersely. “Les and Karl found a woman. They’re holding her back in the cave.”

Terin stopped dead. “What? Is she a climber like Alice, who got stranded up here?”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s it,” Jed muttered.

“We’ll find out soon enough,” Bron broke in. “Shit! If she came with the Hunters, we’ll have to kill her.”

“That already occurred to me.” Jed shot a pointed look at his lieutenant. “Keir said the same. He was standing close enough to hear when Les gave me the bad news.”

“Damned shame.” Terin shook loose from them. “I’m good. I don’t need you two to nursemaid me anymore.”

They covered the remaining half mile to the cave in silence. Terin and Bron went to collect their clothes, and Jed strode briskly to a back corner where he sensed Les and Karl. Crouched behind them in a quivering mass was a woman with her head buried in her crossed arms. Long black hair shot with thick silver streaks spilled around her onto the dirt floor. She was swathed in dark colored wool and flinched away when Jed hunkered next to her.

He probed her mind and found terror so gripping, it obliterated everything else. He started to tell her not to be afraid, but the words died on his tongue. He couldn’t give her any guarantees, and he wouldn’t lie to her.

“Who are you?” he asked, keeping his voice gentle.

“We tried that, boss,” Les said.

“At first, all she did was moan,” Karl added. “She got quieter after a while, but she hasn’t answered any of our questions.”

“Where’d you find her?” Jed asked.

“After we lifted the last of the bodies in our sector out of the moraine, so others could move them up the mountain, Les and I sensed something living. It wasn’t a Hunter, but it was human, so we dug a little.”

“Didn’t have to go far,” Les cut in, “before we found her hiding between a huge piece of deadfall and a big rock.” He shrugged. “Without our wolf senses, we’d never have discovered her.”

A low whimper escaped from the woman, and Jed laid a hand on her arm. “What’s your name?” he repeated.

“Just get it over with.” Her low, musical voice was strained. Hysteria trod near the surface.

“Get what over with?” Jed probed. Maybe if he could get her talking, he could learn something.

The woman lifted her head from her crossed arms and Jed’s eyes widened. She was absolutely stunning with huge midnight blue eyes. Pronounced bone structure and copper skin suggested Native American blood flowed through her veins. Sharp cheekbones, a hawk-bridged nose, and a squared-off chin lent her an exotic cast.

She tilted her chin at a defiant angle. “You have to kill me. I know too much. Get it over with. The others—” she cast a spurious glance Les and Karl’s way “—they were waiting for you to make the decision.” Her mouth worked as if she’d tasted something bitter. “Anyway, get it over with. I took my chances when I tracked my brother today. If he’d known, he’d have forbidden me to come.”

Jed frowned. “One of the Hunters was your brother?”

The woman nodded mutely. “Yeah, that’s what I just said, isn’t it? Get it over with, white man. If you’re going to kill me, do it. If not, let me go.”

Bron and Terin had joined them once they’d dressed. Bron passed a hand over the woman’s head, and Jed felt him probing with shifter magic. “You have white man’s blood too,” Bron murmured.

The woman shot him a scathing look. “Not much. What of it?”

“Where we come from in Canada,” Les said, “Indians are friends to those like us.”

She curled her upper lip in withering scorn. “We have enough problems without associating with shifters. You’re nothing but trouble. Bad enough we got stuffed onto reservations, land no one else wanted.”

Jed tried a different tack. “Why’d you track your brother today?”

She buried her head in her arms again, refusing to look at him.

“Please.” He gentled his voice. “Give us something to work with. Les and Karl, my brothers who found you, didn’t harm you.”

“Only because they were waiting for you, their chief.” Her voice was muffled.

“Goddammit!” Les squatted in front of her and yanked her head upward. “Karl and I could’ve killed you. We didn’t. We were not waiting for Jed to make that call. Tell us why you were tracking your brother.”

Jed heard compulsion flow beneath the other shifter’s words.

The woman drew back. She tried to combat Les’ spell, but the contest was laughable. “To stop him,” she said. The words were clearly dredged from her, but they held the ring of truth.

“Good. He needed to be stopped,” Les said. “Why’d you think he’d listen to you?”

The woman’s face crumpled and she started to cry, big noisy gulping sobs that ripped through her. “It’s not what you think. I didn’t try to make him listen to me,” she managed between ragged breaths. “I have the gift of prophecy—farseeing—and I knew things would go to hell for all of them today.”

“Do your visions always come true?” Jed probed. Despite the problems the woman presented, her story fascinated him.

She nodded, but didn’t say anything further.

“Did your brother know you followed the Hunter group?” Jed asked.

She shook her head. “No. He doesn’t share my gift. His magic came mostly from the goddamned white man’s Church.”

“Odd none of the rest of them sensed you behind them,” Karl muttered.

“Not odd at all,” she shot back, choking a little on snot running down her face. “I can blend my energy into the rocks, the dirt.”

“We found you,” Karl pointed out.

“Because you were in your natural form, and wolves sense such things far more acutely than men.”

Jed waved Karl to silence. This was going nowhere fast. Returning his attention to the woman, he said, “So you came along, but didn’t talk with him. Didn’t try to warn him. Help me understand why.” Jed hoped things might get clearer, but so far they were just becoming more confusing.

“Let me get this straight.” Bron hunkered next to Les and caught the woman’s gaze with his dark one. “You saw in a vision that your brother would die, and you came along anyway but didn’t try to warn him. Did you want to make certain he was dead?”

Jed silently offered his lieutenant credit for shrewdness. If the woman knew today would end in a bloodbath because she’d seen it—and she made no attempt to warn her brother—what other reason would she have had for trailing after him.

The woman’s sobbing escalated. She tried to jerk her chin out of Les’ grip, but he held fast. “Yes,” she gasped out. “Yes. I hated that bastard. He…used me, hurt me the way men hurt women, when I was only ten years old and never stopped until I ran away when I was sixteen. No one believed me. No one c-cared.” Her last words were almost obliterated by sobs.

Suddenly her phrase to stop him took on a whole new meaning. Jed just stared at her. “So it’s not that you didn’t say anything today. You never told him anything.”

She did yank her chin away then and spat on the dirt floor. “Hell no. I haven’t spoken to him in ten years, but he’s blood and he shows up in my visions.”

Running on instincts that had rarely failed him, Jed glanced at the four wolf shifters ranged around him. They didn’t need to talk. After hundreds of years of working together, they understood one another.

“Stand up.” Jed told the woman.

“Why?”

“Did you see your own death in your vision?”

An odd look washed over her face before she shook her head and pushed herself upright. Standing she was of a height with Jed, and her hair reached past her ass. She squared slender shoulders. “Is that a backhanded way of saying I can leave?”

Jed shook his head and hurried to add words before she sank into a puddle of terror again. “You’re right that we can’t allow you to return to your life. We have no idea who you are, who you’d tell. We could wipe your memory of us, but you’d still recall the death that happened in this canyon.”

“What are you going to do with me?” Her voice shrilled and she jerked her chin upward. “If you think you’re going to abuse me like my brother, think again, white man. I’d rather be dead.”

“We don’t do that to women.” Terin pushed into her line of vision so she had to look at him.

“Not what I’ve heard,” she retorted. “My brother said he learned it from you.”

“Bull crap!” Jed said succinctly. “I’ve never known a shifter to take a woman against her will. Not on my watch, and not in my clan.”

“You planning to bring her home with us?” Bron quirked a dark brow.

Jed nodded. “The only question—” he focused on the woman “—is whether you come willingly, or we knock you out and carry you down the mountain.”

“Home as in staying under the same roof with five men?” Her face twisted into a grimace. “No. Not happening. Just kill me here and get it over with.”

“We’re mated,” Karl informed her. “Les and I have a mate. Her name is Megan. And Jed, Bron, and Terin are mated to Alice.”

The woman tossed her head. “Fine. Just because you located some sluts who—”

Jed snaked out a hand and slapped her hard across the face. He grabbed her head between his hands and forced her to look at him. “Never say one bad word about my mate. I love her. So do Bron and Terin. Don’t disparage what you don’t understand.”

A shocked look blossomed on her face and she muttered, “Sorry,” before looking at her feet.

“Let go of her, boss.” Bron pulled Jed’s hands away. “She only understands what she’s lived. And it hasn’t been pretty.”…

Wolf Clan Shifter Author

About the Author:

I’m basically a mountaineer at heart. I remember many hours at my desk where my body may have been stuck inside four walls, but my soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry.

Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), I finagled a move to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. Stories always ran around in my head on backcountry trips, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made me fear for my life, sometimes for company.

Eventually, the inevitable happened. I returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. It wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since.

In addition to turning out books, I enjoy wilderness photography. A standing joke is that over ten percent of my pack weight is camera gear, which means my very tolerant husband has to carry the food — and everything else too.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

 

Bewitching Book Tours

Review: Icy Passage, Ann Gimpel Reply

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5 out of 5 Stars

Available for Purchase on:

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Review:

This book took my breath away! The story of scientific discoveries, world peace vs. war, and romance with a paranormal edge is just too good to pass up. I loved Ann Gimpel’s writing for several years and to get the chance to read and review this one was an honor. The worlds she builds, both normal and paranormal are so real, I could easily believe the science she was using. And the love between the main characters was sizzling. I loved Kayna from the start and Bryne was perfect for her. The ancillary characters were also very well done and I was able to immerse myself in the story from page one. Gimpel has a way of writing that is so real and so perfect that no matter what genre she writes in, it is always a story worth reading. Make yourself a very happy reader and get Icy Passage and start your reading adventure. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Fresh out of residency, Dr. Kayna Quan opts for a tour in Antarctica. Money is short, so she hires on as medical officer aboard a Russian research vessel headed for McMurdo Station. Primed for almost anything, she plays her paranormal ability close to the vest.

Stationed on remote South Georgia Island for two years, Brynn McMichaels is eager for a change. When cultures of the single-celled organism, archaea, overgrow their bins in his lab and begin shifting into another form, he worries he’s losing his mind and talks with scientists at McMurdo, but they have problems of their own—bad ones. Brynn agrees to help. The weather’s too uncertain to send a plane, so he hitches a ride aboard Kayna’s ship and brings his mutant culture colonies along.

Attraction sparks, urgent, hot and powerful, between Brynn and Kayna, but her disclosure about her magic is a tough nut to crack. It doesn’t help that her dead father is stalking her. Lethal cultures, bizarre illness, and McMurdo’s refusal to let them land force Brynn and Kayna into an uneasy alliance. Will their fragile bond be enough to thwart the powers trying to destroy Earth, and them along with it?

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Excerpt:

Micah Greenwich sucked air as he pushed up from his squat, a weight bar balanced across his shoulders. He did one more squat before a wave of dizziness threatened to bring him to his knees. Gasping, he shucked the bar onto pins protruding from the back of the squat rack and grabbed one of the metal stanchions for support. A headache pounded behind one eye, and he felt nauseous.

“What the fuck is wrong with me?” he muttered, still clinging to the metal cage shoved in a back corner of the gym at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. No one was in the gym. Not at this hour. Granted, the perpetual night for part of the year, followed by perpetual day, yielded some odd circadian rhythms, but Micah rarely had competition for any of the gym machines or weight equipment late at night.

He glanced at the weight plates balanced on the ends of the forty-five pound bar, thinking perhaps he’d misjudged and put too much weight on it, but that wasn’t the issue. He shrugged. Maybe he was getting sick. Something was going around. So far, he’d been lucky during his brief stint at the southern end of the Earth and had avoided the colds and flus McMurdo residents passed among themselves like candy.

He wiped sweat from his face with a ratty towel and decided to call it a night—at least for working out. He still needed to stop by his lab. Because he was the newest and greenest microbiologist, he’d been assigned archaea, the most ancient single-celled life form on the planet. His cultures had taken a decidedly odd turn, though, a couple of weeks back—growing like mad and not looking like any prokaryote he’d ever seen. While he might have started with archaea, what was in his bins didn’t look much like them anymore.

Another wave of nausea battered him, and he folded his arms around his midsection, wondering if he was going to vomit. Saliva flooded his mouth, but he choked it back. Even though he didn’t feel like doing anything beyond finding his bed, he left the gym and made his way three buildings over to his lab. McMurdo was a series of prefab buildings with interconnecting doors and insulated tunnel-walkways, so you didn’t have to go outside into the weather. Antarctica never got particularly warm, and nights were always bitter.

He glanced out a window at an inky sky shot with stars, and a reluctant smile split his face. It might be minus something outside, but it was beautiful too. He’d always loved wild, remote places, and Antarctica was about as wild and remote as it got—shy of signing up to be an astronaut, which was a long-standing dream of his.

Micah frowned, wondering if the astronaut gig was even possible. The United States had cut their funding for the space program rather dramatically. Besides, he needed more in the way of credentials to even be considered for something like that. With another swipe at his still sweaty face—the more he thought about it, the surer he was he was coming down with the flu—he pushed open the door to his lab and froze, not believing his eyes.

“Britta?” he called. “Marguerite!”

The women didn’t answer. They sprawled face down on the floor in front of his main workbench, clearly passed out. Wondering if they’d gotten into the high-grade, ethyl alcohol he used to preserve things, he called their names again, louder this time. The longer he looked at them, the weirder he felt. They were too still. Sudden fear gripped him, making the nausea worse.

“Jesus fucking Christ. Why me?” he muttered, and raced to the women. He bent, grabbed Britta’s shoulder, and shook her. When she didn’t respond, he flipped her over and stared at her cherry red face.

Fighting a deeply sinking feeling, he turned Marguerite over. She looked just like her friend and roommate. Micah squatted next to them and laid his fingers across their necks, searching for a pulse.

Nothing.

He placed his ear over their hearts, willing there to be something, anything, before he started CPR. Still nothing. He ground his teeth together, unnerved. How could there possibly be two dead women in his lab?

Even though he was pretty sure it wouldn’t do any good, he tilted Marguerite’s head back and breathed into her mouth before doing chest compressions. When he looked over at Britta, he understood he had to have help and lurched to his feet. Snapping up the wall phone, he punched in the after hours code for the clinic. As soon as one of the nurses answered, he screeched, “Send help now. Third micro lab.”

His headache worsened. So did his twisting, roiling guts, but he went back to the women. He didn’t need to be a doctor to recognize death. Despite the futility, he alternated CPR from one to the next. Five long minutes passed—but they felt like five years—before the door burst open.

“Christ!” One of the docs—Stewart maybe, Micah was too rattled to take a good look—pulled him off Marguerite. A tall, broad-shouldered woman Micah didn’t recognize examined Britta.

“Looks like carbon monoxide poisoning to me,” the female medic said flatly. “This one’s well past CPR.”

Dr. Stewart rocked back on his heels. “Yeah, her too.” He trained his blue eyes on Micah. “What happened?”

Micah shook his head. “Damned if I know. I just got here. I had dinner in the mess hall, worked out in the gym, and then I swung by here to check on my cultures.”

The woman narrowed her eyes and half-crawled to where Micah sat on the floor. She folded her fingers over his wrist and took him in with practiced hazel eyes. Her reddish hair was short, almost in a butch cut. She pressed her lips into a harsh line, frowning.

“I’m Ariana,” she said, letting go of his wrist. “One of the nurse practitioners. How have you been feeling?”

“Bad,” he admitted. “Think I finally succumbed to the community disease everyone else has.”

Dr. Stewart joined them and squatted next to Micah. He ran a hand down the side of Micah’s neck and listened to his chest with a stethoscope before exchanging a pointed glance with Ariana. “Where’s the CO meter in here?” he asked.

Micah gestured behind him. “On that wall.” He twisted to look at it, but the indicator light was green—safe. Maybe it was defective. His scientifically trained mind arranged informational bits into an unpleasant pattern. “The women,” he said. “If I’d been firing on all cylinders, I’d have figured it out as soon as I looked at the color of their faces. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning, didn’t they?”

“Probably.” Dr. Stewart said cautiously. “But it’s conjecture at this point.”

“That cherry red color is a dead giveaway,” Ariana said with conviction. “Nothing else will do that.”

“We’ll wait for an autopsy before we make statements like that.” The doctor eyed his colleague coolly.

“Yes, Doctor. Sir. King of all things medical.” She set her lips in a thin line, clearly biting back further sarcasm. “Meantime,” she ground out, “I’m pretty sure he—” she jabbed a finger at Micah “—has whatever killed these two.” She stood and punched numbers into the wall phone. “I’m calling security.”

Dr. Stewart sifted his hands through his untidy, blond hair. “Tell them to alert maintenance. Until we figure out what killed these two, we’ve got to get out of here. Now.”

Micah straightened. “Wait a minute,” he sputtered. “The meter says it’s safe. For all we know, Britta and Marguerite got poisoned elsewhere and just happened to be in here cleaning when they collapsed.”

Dr. Stewart got to his feet and hauled Micah upright. “For tonight, we’ll put you in the infirmary and run tests to check if your hemoglobin’s been compromised. I’ve got to alert the boss and talk with base security. We’ll to get to the bottom of this.”

“But my lab—”

Dr. Stewart made a chopping motion with one hand, and the rest of Micah’s protest died unspoken.

Ariana hung up the phone and nodded at Dr. Stewart. “You take care of the boss. I’ll deal with security and maintenance. Need to get the gas sniffer in here to make sure there’s not a leak.”

Micah tried to focus, but the room spun crazily. He really was wiped out. Much more tired than a thirty-year-old man had a right to feel.

“Can you walk?” Dr. Stewart nudged him.

Micah focused bleary eyes on the physician. “Yeah. I think so.”

“How are you feeling?” Ariana asked the doctor.

He shrugged. “Normal. But it takes time for exposure to take a toll. Micah probably lives in this lab, except when he’s asleep.”

“Yeah, but,” Micah pointed out, “those women didn’t. They clean all the science labs. Maybe one of the other ones is the problem.”

The doctor folded an arm around Micah’s waist supporting him, and led him out of the lab. “I’m on it. By the time you wake up, we’ll know more.”

Micah staggered through the door, flanked by Dr. Stewart and Ariana. “What are you going to do about the women?” he asked.

“You were there when I alerted base security. They’ll take care of them,” Ariana assured him. “For tonight, focus on getting well.”

* * * *

It hadn’t been just that night, though. Micah spent the next three days in the infirmary sucking bottled oxygen. When that didn’t clear his red blood cells fast enough, the doctors ordered chelation treatments. In the meantime, he had a chance to think, and he didn’t care for what he came up with. Besides, it was so fantastic, no one would believe him.

Maintenance had given his lab, and the other three microbiology studios, a clean bill of health, which meant he could go back to work tomorrow. Even more disturbing, the entirety of the science wing where the dead women cleaned showed zip in the way of evidence of a gas leak. In the interest of thoroughness, maintenance had checked the female dorms too, and found exactly nothing. Autopsy was conclusive regarding cause of death, but no one could figure out how the women had been exposed to a big enough dose of carbon monoxide to kill them.

The same was true for him—major exposure to something pigging up his hemoglobin, but without an identifiable source. Another few hours without medical intervention and he’d have been just as dead as Britta and Marguerite.

Armed with that knowledge—and a phalanx of unanswered questions—Micah spent his downtime in the infirmary mapping out a series of tests to run on his strange archaea colonies. He had suspicions, but needed facts before he presented them to Jack DeVoe, the man in charge of McMurdo operations. If he went to him now, Jack, who had a Ph.D. in biochemistry, would laugh him right out of his office. And there would go Micah’s hopes of earning his chops, so he could go on to something more prestigious than working at McMurdo Station.

Ann Gimpel

About the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Find Ann At:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.autor

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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