Sunday, February 26, 2012

Going deep

When I first decided to write FREEFALL, a non-fiction account of surviving my husband's suicide, I wanted to help other suicide survivors or others coping with a traumatic death.  I intended to communicate that the hell they were experiencing was "normal".  I hoped to show them that they, too, could navigate the rocky road of grief and trauma.  What's happening, though, is I am breaking open with every word.

Sitting here at my desk surrounded by journals stained with tears and filled with sorrow, I realize how far I've come in the six years and nine months following my husband's death.  I am no longer the same person who began this journey.

Writing non-fiction like this is an entirely different process from anything I've done.  Fiction is fun, an adventure, an opportunity to entertain and explore a fantasy world.  Journalism is matter-of-fact, often time-consuming and headache producing.  This...going deep into my own grief, remembering the horror I felt and witnessed, reading my words written in a frenzy with tear marks wrinkling the pages...this is hard.

Is it worth it?  I don't know.  I feel compelled to share my journey because at one time I felt very alone.  I never want another grieving soul to feel that they are misunderstood, abnormal, crazy or lost.  I want somehow to communicate that they, too, will get to the other side of that dark valley.  I'm not a grief-guru...I'm just a writer who happens to have gone through a horrible experience and survived it.  Why would anyone want to read this story?  It's not an easy read.  I guess I don't know.  I'm compelled to write it, though, for whatever that's worth.

People in my life who walked with me--and those who stayed away because it was simply "too much"--may be hurt by this story.  It may seem unflattering to them somehow, even though this is simply my perspective during a time of all-consuming darkness.  I'm troubled by this, but at the same time want to stay true to my journals and the process I experienced.

I have new found respect for all who write autobiographies.  I'm sure they struggle with these same issues.  Once again I ask the question...is it worth it?

Surrounded by these journals, I'm thankful that I'm a writer and was able to pour out my pain in a healthy way.  I'm also grateful that I reached the other side, that I'm able to write romance novels that entertain, journalism stories that give me a headache, and non-fiction that will hopefully give someone out there hope one day.

Maybe it's all been worth it...every tear, every frantic scribble on the page, every struggle, every fall backward...because here I am living a pretty damn good life today.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A character is born


People often ask me what inspires my characters.  Often it's a situation that sparks my imagination or memorable trait from someone I've met along the way. In the case of KISS ME SLOWLY, I came up with the character of Grace Dupont first.  
Long ago--in my other life out in corporate America--I worked as a registered representative at a national brokerage firm.  During the day we would wire millions of dollars between mutual fund companies.  Almost every day millions of dollars would vanish into thin air.  Poof.  Gone.  This got my mind clicking away...the money had to be going somewhere, right?...it didn't just vanish.  But where did it go? 
And the best part?  We were told not to worry about it as long as the loss was under ten million dollars.  Yep.  We’d shrug it off and go on with business.  Wow, I thought, there’s a story here somewhere.  
Soon the idea for Grace Dupont, a forensic accountant who worked as cyber pirate on the side with the ability to swipe millions with a flick of her pretty little finger was born.  Oh, the damage she could do...and what fun I’d have writing about her!  Once I had the character in mind, I played with different scenarios until the diamond smuggling plot of KISS ME SLOWLY came to life featuring my sassy, sexy and smart character Grace Dupont.  
That's how it works with me.  A character arises from a spark of an idea...he or she gets traits of people I've known along the way with bits of myself thrown in for fun.  Everyone who knows me well always recognizes a bit of the real me in my characters.  I like that.  It's kind of like an artist's signature on a painting, but, in this case, only people who know me intimately can pick up on something in a character where they laugh and say, "that's Amber".  
Recently I met someone with certain traits that will make for a good character down the road.  Comical traits mixed with sociopathic and narcissistic qualities--can’t wait to write him. I'm excited to discover the perfect plot to highlight his unique "issues" and see what mayhem will be unleashed.  
For me, I always think of the characters first.  From them, the plot unfolds.  This is why critics call my stories "character driven" and I agree with that.  I fully form the characters and let them drive the story where it needs to go.  Usually I lose myself in the telling of it all and marvel at the outcome.  
I’m lucky to live the life I do where I’m able to have so much fun creating characters who set the world on its ear and put a smile on the face of those who read about them.  

An excerpt of KISS ME SLOWLY
She didn’t know if she was angry or frightened, but aiming a gun at his head felt pretty damn good. “What are you staring at? Get out of there.”
She motioned for him to exit the guest room and enter the main cabin. He looked like hell. Scratches ripped up his chest, blood darkened the once white bandage on his shoulder, soggy pajama pants were stained and ripped at the knees and his feet, and it looked as if he had walked for miles barefoot. He limped to the curving white leather sofa and fell against the cushions. 
“What the hell happened to you?” she asked.
“Would you please put the gun down? You’re terrifying.” He slurred his words as he dropped his arms against the table as if they weighed a thousand pounds. 
“Terrifying is my current goal. Tell me what happened.” She scrambled to lock the hatch overhead before sinking on the edge of the sofa a few feet away from him. She kept a firm hold on the gun. “Talk to me, Jon.” 
His hands shook as he held them to his forehead. He looked like a shadow of the man she had encountered forty-eight hours ago. That man had owned the world and knew it. This one looked like the world was against him and knew it. 
“How did you get here?” She bit her lip. She needed to get away from here. 
“Someone took me from the house, dropped me on the street. I walked. Jumped the sea wall. No one is following me.” His gaze pierced into hers. “How did you know I was here?”
“I notice details, and you did a lousy job smearing your tracks.” She noticed the bulge in his waistband and realized he had a gun of his own. “What the hell is that? Take it out.”
His hands shook so violently when he laid the gun on the table that she worried he might shoot a hole in the hull.
“For God’s sake, just leave it alone,” she ordered. “I suppose you’re going to tell me you found that.”
“It’s not mine.” His eyes glazed over as he stared at the gun on the table. “It’s not mine,” he repeated.
“David said Ashley was murdered. The news thinks you may have been kidnapped. David brought it up because he thought my Jon Ryan resembled the infamous Jonathan Alexander. I swear, it’s one thing after another with you. Murder? What’s next? What can be worse than murder? Is that the house you’re talking about? Someone took you from Ashley’s?” Her own hands shook as she moved his gun further away from his trembling hands. “What happened? What have you done?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head and stared at the gun. Defeat swirled around him like a swarm of mosquitoes. 
She strode to the head and grabbed two beach towels. She couldn’t have him ruining the leather. He watched her through veiled eyes as she tossed the towels at him. 
“Dry off. Tell me what happened from the moment you went home with Ashley. Leave out nothing.”
She paced while he spoke. His entire body shook as he sat there huddled beneath towels telling her about sangria and murder. With every detail, he slumped further against her cushions. Her mind clicked into overdrive as she listened. Thinking, thinking, thinking…
He didn’t need to say he was terrified. She could see it in the shadows of his eyes. “I was unconscious, in and out, I mean. Someone pulled me from Ashley’s, drove me, told me to run. I think it was Craig, but I don’t know. I came to you.”
“You came to me.” Hands on hips, she contemplated tossing him overboard and setting sail to parts unknown. 
Because of him, she had nearly gotten arrested herself. Ms. Careful and Controlled nearly blew it over a kiss. One damn kiss from a guy she hadn’t known since high school. High school, for God’s sake. Damn it, she had lost all sense. 
Well, two kisses. Technically. Two. 
She cursed under her breath, laid the revolver on the countertop and pulled a bottle of rum from the freezer. Mind racing, she poured them each a glass over ice. 
“I think we both need a drink.” She curled onto the seat next to him. 
Both listened to the lapping of water against the hull without saying anything for a few minutes. 
“This is such a mess.” She spoke more to herself than to him. “I need to get out of here tonight.”
He said nothing, just held the glass between his hands and shivered. 
“You need to take a shower, get warm, what am I thinking? Damn it.” She knew the signs of shock. Pale skin. Glassy eyes. Body tremors. “Come on.” 
He looped his arm around her shoulders and limped beside her to the stateroom. Biting the inside of her lip, she used her shoulder to keep him steady while she worked his pants off of him. His teeth chattered loudly against her chin.
“When I imagined running away with you, the fantasy involved a lot more fun and less drama.” She managed a grin as they stepped in to the shower. He didn’t smile, but she saw light return to his eyes. “Take a shower. I’ll find some of Jerry’s clothes for you.” 
When it looked like he would fall down the side of the tiny shower, she cursed and stepped inside with him. Holding him up with her shoulder, she reached behind her back and turned on the water. She held his head between both of her hands and squinted against the water that covered them. 
“Don’t faint on me or anything, okay?” she asked when he simply shivered and stared and shivered and stared. “Damn it, you’re really messed up, aren’t you?”
Available in paperback and ebooks at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Joanna Lee Doster takes center stage for "Open Mic Monday"

Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit  
By Joanna Lee Doster
I’m Joanna Lee Doster, author of the recently published mystery thriller “Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit.” 
I transitioned from writing a non-fiction book “Celebrity Bedroom Retreats” (Rockport Publishers), celebrity profiles and decorating columns to writing fiction due to a powerful need to express myself with expansive epic stories, multi-layered characters that have interesting stories to tell. Thrown into the mix is my new found interest in the world of stock car racing, “Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit” was created out of my dreams and stories churning in my mind. 
This novel is about three generations of a prominent family with deep roots in motorsports. Mixed in are exhilarating car races, chase scenes, fiery crashes, intrigue, heroics, skullduggery, romance, and so much more to keep the reader on edge.
My core message is that “Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit” is a metaphor for life. People are racing either to or away from something. It’s not so much their destination that determines the type of person they are. It’s their journey to the finish line that determines that. Everyone chooses the path they take in life and how they travel on that path defines them.
The hero, twenty-three year old racing driver and two time champion is Sean Devlin, the son of the prominent owner of Devlin Motor Sports. Sean presents himself to the world and the people around him as a carefree, adventuresome hot shot who has an idyllic life. As the book unfolds, the reader finds out that Sean has been living a lie and that the true reason he has always been a daredevil, making speed and danger his constant companions, has been to cover up a deep hole of loneliness and shame stemming from the painful stigma of his childhood stutter. I wanted to show that my character Sean mistakenly believed he had to overcompensate for his handicap. As Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Sean’s mother force teaches him to drive right before his ninth birthday, thinking that speed and risk taking will make him forget about his stutter. Sean strengthens his resolve to overcome his dreadful childhood by focusing on the positive things in his life and re-channels his unhappiness into becoming a major force in racing. Sean finally realizes that he doesn’t have to prove himself any longer and as his girlfriend tells him, “Sean, it’s you who I love, not your trophies.” True heroes like Sean don’t need trophies for validation. 
Sean is a composite of people I know and have known, as well as some superheroes from childhood. Those overcoming the odds on their journey through life are the ones we should really be envious of. 
r
More about Joanna Lee Doster:

Facebook:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tantalizing Thursdays--The cut prologue from "RIPTIDE"

This prologue won't be seen in the released version of my next romantic suspense novel, RIPTIDE, so I thought it'd be fun to share here.  Enjoy.  Feel free to comment below. 


Prologue
It didn’t seem real, couldn’t be real…  She choked back a sob and covered her eyes with a hand roped in blood.  His blood, her blood, dog blood...she didn’t know or care. She hugged a dead cocker spaniel against her chest and struggled to focus.  
Strangers in uniform asked questions, but the answers lodged unspoken in her throat. Static filled her brain.  She rocked back and forth as if a pendulum had replaced her spine.  
The front door stood open, allowing a view of the driveway.  Police cars, two ambulances and an increasing amount of media cluttered the lawn.  Red lights danced through the night.  She stared at their reflection against the hardwood floor at her feet and shuddered.  Coldness assaulted her bones like a million daggers.  
 “Instead of reporting the news,” she heard someone whisper, “Lauren Biltmore will be the lead story, eh, Joe?” 
Tears distorted her vision, yet she blinked them away. She had ignored the threatening letters and phone calls…had imagined herself untouchable.  A shiver quaked through her veins.  
“My fault,” she whispered, the words squeezing through the rawness of her throat.  “All of this is my fault.”
  A petite brunette dropped to her knees in front of her.   “Lauren, honey, please look at me.”  The woman shook her hard.  “Do you hear me?  Can you understand?”
She focused on the woman holding her hand.  Recognition burrowed through the static to pierce her consciousness.  Janet, her news director and best friend.  
“I killed him,” she said. 
“I know.”  Janet frowned.  “I know you did.” 
“He tried to kill me.  He killed Pete.”  Her fingers burrowed into puppy fur.  
“I’m sorry, baby.” 
“Kevin.  All along it’d been Kevin.”  
“You couldn’t have known.  None of us—” 
“He’s dead.”  
“It’s going to be okay now.  It will.  I—”
“No.  Nothing can be okay.”  She squeezed her eyes closed and willed the numbness to return. “It’s all over now, all over, all over…”
Janet lifted a strand of golden hair away from Lauren’s eyes and winced at the blood staining her fingertips.  “My God, Lauren, what did he do to you?”
“He’s dead.”  She struggled to concentrate on Janet’s face as it blurred and shimmied in front of her eyes.  All the voices in the room faded away.  “I’m dead.”
“No.”  Janet smoothed more hair from her face and leaned close.  “You’re alive.  You survived.”
“Dead.” Burying her face into Pete’s fur, she hummed a melody remembered from childhood, one that had once chased away the nightmares.  And she rocked and rocked and rocked…the nightmare remained.
“Ms. Biltmore, we need to get you into the ambulance,” a paramedic said.        
“I’ll take care of Pete.  You’re hurt.”  Janet pried the dog from her arms.  “You need to go with them.”
Too weak to protest, she surrendered to the paramedics who lifted her onto the stretcher.  Strangers’ hands examined her body.  An oxygen mask covered her mouth and nose.  She stared at the flashing lights and felt nothing.  
Dizziness rolled through her like ocean swells.  Ice replaced her blood.  Teeth chattered.  
Police cars parked on the grass of her front yard.  An ambulance backed toward the front door.  Several familiar reporters froze at the sight of her.  A helicopter with a spotlight flew low over the house.  
What are they looking for?  Kevin Lahey is dead.
Spasms rattled through her muscles.  A paramedic loomed above her in the confines of the ambulance.  Again he asked her…something.  His mouth moved in slow motion.  Words echoed and whispered in her mind, distant and garbled.  Panic shuddered in her heart.  She fought against the darkness that narrowed her vision.
“It’s all over now.  All over…” Words faded with her strength.  
* * * *
To stay up-to-date with my current projects and new releases, please follow this blog, follow me on Twitter as MtnMoxieGirl or shelf my current release, KISS MY SLOWLY, on Goodreads. 
Thanks for stopping by! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Welcome Author Chastity Bush to "Open Mic Monday!"

Thanks for having me here today! I have to admit, blog posts aren’t my forte, but for you, I’ll give it a shot. 
I started writing romance about four years ago at the urging of my husband, and am currently working on my first ever ménage. This is an entirely new concept for me, but much to my surprise, it’s coming along nicely. I got into reading romance at a young age and remember the first romance novel I ever read was For the Roses by Julie Garwood. I loved this book and being a hopeless romantic, fell head over heels in love with reading romance. After having my kids, like many moms, I stopped reading, but picked it up again when I came across the book, A Reckless Beauty by Kasey Michaels. After that, I couldn’t seem to go a single day without reading. 
Currently, I have two new books that will be hitting the shelves soon, The Stranger Next Door, and Guarding Eden. They’re both contemporary romantic/suspense involving cops/detectives, private investigators, a devious villain, and lots of hot, sweaty, naughty fun to tie it all together. 
  If contemporary isn’t your thing, and you’re more of a paranormal buff, then you’re in luck! At the moment I have three paranormals available, Killer Kisses, Passions Bite, and A Taste of Terror. All are total fun, especially my favorite to have written, Killer Kisses. 
I also have a western/historical romance entitled Tumbleweeds available, which is getting all sorts of great reviews.
I’d like to thank you for having me here today. Talking about my work always gets me pumped up to write more. If you have time to check out my work, I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear from you.
Killer Kisses Blurb
The man straddling the Harley was, in one word…juicy.
Adult novelty store owner Tina James loves a good adventure, and the man peering at her through onyx black eyes is the closest thing to adventure she’s ever come across. Unless of course, you count the mugging at gunpoint she experienced only hours earlier.
Leather clad Alex Monroe and his big bike just moved to number one on Tina’s sexiest man alive list, and with every searing kiss, every white hot caress, Tina finds herself living out her wildest fantasies with the man of her dreams.
But is it all too good to be true?
There’s something about Alex, from his unusual habit of only leaving the house at night, to his amazing speed and strength that has Tina wondering what exactly the man she’s falling head over heels for is hiding?
Meeting Tina James is the best thing that’s happened to Alex in the last five hundred years. She’s spunky, sassy, and beyond sexy.
But there’s a problem…or three.
Alex is a vampire, Tina’s a mortal, and he’s searching for a rogue vampire who just so happens to have his sights set on her as his next victim.
Now, not only does Alex have to find a way to tell the woman he loves what he is, he has to catch the killer before he loses her forever.
Killer Kisses Excerpt-
Chapter One
“So, was he big?” 
“Are you serious?” Clenching her jaw, Tina James took a deep breath. At barely five foot tall, she rarely met someone who wasn’t big, in her eyes. When the officer continued to stare at her expectantly, awaiting a response, she blew out a frustrated breath. 
“He was about six feet tall.” 
“And his build?” 
“We’ve been through this already,” she snapped irritably. “Didn’t I just say he was big? And, if I remember correctly, I described him to you when I came in… three hours ago!” 
“Yeah, but that’s beside the point, and height and build are two different things,” he shot back. “Now, what was his build?” 
Leaning back in the rickety wooden chair with a sigh, Tina tilted her face to the ceiling, closed her eyes, and sent up a silent prayer for patience. 
“I just want to make sure we have our facts straight. Now, what’s his build?” 
Glaring at the officer seated before her tapping his pen rapidly against the pile of papers, Tina leaned her forehead into the palm of her hand and grumbled, “He was about your size. What are you, about two-seventy, two-eighty?” 
“Two-twenty, thank you.” 
Right,” she mumbled sarcastically. Who’d he think he was kidding? 
She knew her snarky attitude wasn’t getting her anywhere, but she couldn’t summon the energy to be sorry for any hurt feelings she might have caused. 
Since walking into the police station over three hours ago, the cop seated before her had sported a major attitude. His rude comments and behavior grated on Tina’s already frayed nerves. 
I thought the police were supposed to be sensitive to the victim, she thought to herself. Instead, this one had been nothing but a giant pain in the ass. The thug who mugged her seemed more pleasant, polite even, compared to this guy. 
Go figure. 
Narrowing his eyes, the officer reached across the desk and handed her a piece of yellow paper and a business card. 
“I think I have enough,” he huffed. “Here’s your copy of the report and my card. We’ll call you if we hear anything, but don’t expect it. In my experience, your purse and all of its contents are long gone by now. It’s best if you just move on.” 
“Just move on?” she mimicked with an exasperated flick of the wrist. 
“Yep, move on,” he repeated as he leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers behind his head. 
That’s easy for him to say. He wasn’t the one who would have to clean up the mess the thieving creep who snatched her purse was undoubtedly making at her expense. There was no sense in arguing. This guy, unlike most cops, was useless. 
Instead of giving him the finger and telling him which bus to take straight to hell, as she had overwhelming urge to do, Tina nodded and flipped the card over, only to frown at the number scribbled across the back. 
“Is this your cell phone number?” she asked, cocking a brow with disbelief. She shouldn’t have been surprised because this guy had dirtbag written all over him, but she was. 
Grinning, the officer leaned back even farther in his chair and let his eyes roam over her openly. He could have passed as a handsome man with his dark brown hair and light green eyes, but his cocky attitude and insensitivity cancelled out the few good features he possessed. All Tina saw when she looked at him was a giant asshole with a badge on his chest and powdered doughnut residue on his tie. 
“Look, lady, I work eighteen hours a day.” He shrugged. “I’m lucky if I have time to shower, shave, and hit the sheets for a couple hours sleep. I don’t get a lot of time to look for a woman. Am I supposed to just let a hot little bit like you walk out without at least trying?” 
Biting her cheek, Tina fought the urge to let the stream of insults and obscenities rolling around on her tongue burst past her lips. 
She’d sat in the crowded station all night for him to tell her there was nothing the police could do, and now he thought he could hit on her? She’d met some doozies in her time, but this guy took the cake. 
Scowling harder, Tina flicked the card back onto the cluttered desk. If he thought her an easy conquest, he was in for a huge surprise. 
“Well, Officer—” She glanced at his name tag, as she hadn’t cared before now what the jerk’s name was—“Briggs, if you want to find a woman, my advice to you is this; lay off the doughnuts and stop being such a prick.” 
While his face reddened with silent anger, she slipped her hands into her jacket pockets, lifted her chin, and made her way through the crowded station. Weaving past prostitutes, pickpockets and others like herself awaiting assistance, Tina shook her head. 
I hope they don’t expect to be helped, she thought, peering at the victims of unknown crimes lining the bench outside the main office. 
Stepping through the heavy double doors, out of the hustle and bustle of the station and onto the much quieter sidewalk, Tina couldn’t help but wonder why her amazingly good day had taken such a turn for the worse. A blast of cold air slammed against her face and sent a chill rattling through her tired body. The days were warmer than usual for this time of year, but the nights still held a bitter chill. 
Wrapping her scarf around her neck, thankful the crook had at least left her that; Tina closed her eyes and inhaled the cool night air in an attempt to quell her rising ire. The police station had held countless people the entire night, and she’d been more than a little surprised at the fact considering the late hour. 
“Crime never sleeps.” she mused aloud. 
Taking another deep breath of the fresh night air, she smiled sadly; thankful for the calming effect it produced on her anger-fogged mind. 
Thinking back on the events of the day, she could only wonder what kind of voodoo had been cast upon her to cause the day to end so badly. She couldn’t remember doing anything horrible enough to bring on a bout of bad karma, but who knew? Life was funny that way. 
The entire day had flown by in a whirlwind of nonstop activity. Her shop remained busy from the moment she opened and hadn’t stopped until closing time. Then, like they say, all good things must come to an end, and she’d been mugged at gunpoint while trying to hail a cab right outside her store. 
Tina had lived in the city all of her life and never once feared for her safety. Despite the fact that she’d been mugged for the first time tonight, she refused to let that change. This was her city, and muggings happened everywhere, every day. She wouldn’t let some thief frighten her. 
It could have been a lot worse, she reminded herself. At least it was only a small-time crook that held her up. It could have been the psycho murderer the cops were looking for. That nut job had been killing three women a month for the last six months. While the thief might not have the power to frighten her, the memory of a murderer running loose did. 
Suddenly, her bravado fell, and she found herself overcome with the desire to be home, snuggled deeply into her king-sized bed, safe and sound, with her alarm engaged and the trusty security guard at his post in the lobby. 
Looking at the desolate street and sidewalk, she groaned inwardly as the last two people disappeared into the police station. Glancing at the payphone situated next to the street, she groaned inwardly. 
It was cold, and she was tired, and she wasn’t getting anywhere just standing around. Reaching into the pockets of her jeans, she cursed, not surprised to find them void of everything except lint. 
“Shit.” 
She didn’t even have change to call a cab. Flicking a piece of lint from between her fingers, she fought to control her temper. Looking closer at the phone sitting next to the curb, she couldn’t bring herself to be too upset she lacked the coins to use it. The filthy, haggard object looked as though she would need a round of penicillin after touching it. 
Glaring back at the station, she shook her head. The least that pea-brained cop could have done was let her make a phone call inside, but, no. He’d been more interested in what she was doing after he got off work than in making sure she made it home safely. He acted as though he couldn’t care less she’d been robbed. 
But it came with the territory, she supposed. The minute people found out she owned an adult novelty store, they immediately thought of her as some kind of sexual deviant, running around the city with a big purple dildo in her purse, willing to grant favors or turn tricks to whoever asked. 
Now here she stood, five miles from home, with no way of getting there except to hoof it. Everything of importance had been in that purse. Her BlackBerry, her wallet with all of her cash and credit cards, her checkbook and driver’s license, the keys to her apartment, even her favorite Gloss Blossom lip-gloss. 
It would be hell canceling the cards and replacing her other items. She wondered if the people who preyed on others ever felt remorse for the trouble they caused. 
Probably not. An officer of the law had sent her out into the night with a killer on the loose not ten minutes earlier. 
Glancing down at her feet, she groaned. Why had she picked today to wear stilettos? 
“Because you're an idiot, that’s why,” she grumbled to herself. 
She wasn’t getting anywhere just standing around. Deciding to get it over with, she started walking. The sooner she got home, the sooner she could wash the stench of the night away and welcome a new day. 
Anger threaded its way through her once again as she made her way down the sidewalk. She could only imagine the damage the mugger was inflicting on her credit cards. They were probably maxed out by now and he’d moved on to writing checks for insane amounts, all while his crackhead girlfriend talked up a storm on her BlackBerry and used all of her favorite lip gloss. 
Tina did her best to help others and to never take others for granted, which was why it was so hard for her to believe some people could be so cruel. Fighting back tears, she continued to trudge forward, her shoes pinching her feet with every step she took. 
Once she got home, she could call the credit card companies and bank when they opened and try to repair any damage that jerk had done. She would also have to replace her cell phone. Half of her life was stored on that little device. 
Raising her face gently toward the star cluttered night sky; she let the cold air wisp across her face. There was no reason to feel sorry for herself, and she wouldn’t let this one incident ruin her outlook on life, but she couldn’t shake the melancholy feeling swamping her, at least not at the moment. 
Shaking her head, she wondered sadly, What’s the world coming to when you can’t even step out of a sex shop without getting robbed? 
* * * * 
The cold, night air swirled around Alex as he rode down the desolate streets. The motorcycle beneath him rumbled, sending a wave of comfort throughout his tired body. He was a long way from home, and for Alex Monroe the old saying was true; there’s no place like home. 
He’d spent the entire night in his hotel room searching through cold case files, going back years and years, looking deeper at unsolved murders, trying his hardest to find something, anything that would lead him in the right direction. He needed to find this murderer and fast. It was only a matter of time before he slipped up and exposed their kind to the entire world, spelling disaster for them all. 
Only sparkly, vegetarian vampires appealed to most people nowadays, and he was neither sparkly, nor vegetarian. 
Rounding the corner, Alex wondered if his contact inside the precinct would have any new leads to share with him. He doubted it; the local authorities didn’t have a single shred of evidence to help lead them toward who the killer might be. He’d hoped to find some connection between the recent murders and some of the unsolved ones from the past, but so far, he’d hit a dead-end. 
The sooner he got this mystery solved, the sooner the women of this city would be safe…from this killer anyway. There would always be others wreaking havoc somewhere, and he would be there to hunt them down. 
It was his job. As an Immortal Detective, he would do whatever it took to end the terror rogues caused with their senseless killing. 
Pulling next to the curb in front of the police station, a flash of gold caught his attention. Taking a closer look through the dim streetlight, he frowned. A lone woman walked along the desolate sidewalk. Her long, sandy-blonde hair whipped in the breeze as she pulled her lightweight jacket tighter around her small frame. 
“What the hell is she doing?” 
Didn’t she know there was a killer on the loose? Why would she be walking the streets alone at three o’clock in the morning? Sometimes Alex couldn’t help but wonder how humans had lived so long without being overrun by his—or any other—species. 
Before he knew what he was doing, Alex pulled away from the curb and rolled his bike along the street beside the woman. Alex wasn’t your typical knight in shining armor. He wasn’t even what someone would consider valiant. It just wasn’t in his nature, but something inside him wouldn’t let him turn his back on this woman. 
“Are you all right?” he called loudly over the rumble of the motorcycle. 
Stopping, she turned to face him, and all thought fled his mind at the beauty revealed before him. Large, sea green eyes bore into him as her gaze widened cautiously. Despite her petite stature, her legs, encased in tight, distressed jeans, were long and shapely. 
Letting his eyes sweep over her boldly, he took in every inch of her lithe body as though admiring every brushstroke of a masterpiece. Her skin was a flawless, creamy ivory with a pinch of rose color staining her cheeks and nose from the bite of the crisp night air. 
“Listen,” she said wearily, “if you’re looking to rob me, you're too late. Someone beat you to it about three hours ago.” 
Smiling, Alex shut off his bike. 
“Actually, I was just wondering why a beautiful woman such as yourself would be walking alone in the dark when there’s a killer on the loose.” 
She is beautiful, he mused. 
Stunning even. He’d lived a long time and faced countless women, but could remember none who matched her in beauty. The impulse to reach out and grab her, to pull her against his chest and explore every delectable inch of her, rocketed through him like a bolt of lightning. 
Taking a deep breath, Alex struggled to rein in his fast-rising desire. 
What had gotten into him? There was one rule he refused to break; never get involved with a mortal. Once they found out his secret, it was all over, but something about this sarcastic little bundle pushed him, urging him to learn more about her. 
Just the sight of her held him on a razor’s edge. The silky glide of her voice only added to his desire. 
Cocking a brow, she tilted her head. “I didn’t have much say in the matter. Some skuzz-bucket robbed me after I left work. He took my purse, which had everything in it, and the creepy cop who took my statement didn’t offer to give me a ride home or let me call anyone to come pick me up. So, here I am.” She finished, waving her hand in the air with exasperation. 
She was feisty, and much to his surprise, he found he liked it. Alex never cared much for loud sarcastic women, but something was different about this one, and he couldn’t fight the feeling that he was supposed to know her. If he’d learned one thing in all of his years, it was to follow his instincts, and at the moment, his instincts were screaming for him to grab hold of this woman and not let go. 
He couldn’t let her continue on her way. Not only was it dangerous for her to be out alone this time of night, the knee-high black leather boots over her jeans looked like they would cripple her before she reached the end of the block. 
How the hell do women wear those things? 
“What was the cop’s name?” 
“Briggs.” She grimaced. “He even tried to give me his number.” She shuddered as though the thought disgusted her, and he chuckled. 
He would have a little talk with his contact about Officer Briggs’s unacceptable behavior, but for now, he needed to get her on the back of his bike and her thighs pressed firmly against his hips. 
“Let me give you a ride.” 
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think so.” She laughed cynically. 
“Why not?” 
Suppressing a groan, Alex watched as she propped her hands on her wonderfully curved hips. 
“Because, I’ve already been mugged tonight and I don’t wish to add raped and murdered to the list.” 
Alex couldn’t contain the laughter that burst from his lips. 
She’s witty, too. 
“What’s so funny?” she snapped irritably. 
Calming his laughter, Alex dismounted his bike. “I’m sorry. I have no intention of harming you. My name is Alex Monroe, and I’m here helping the local authorities catch the Monthly Murderer.” He extended his hand to her. 
He was also a five-hundred-year-old vampire, but didn’t think she would appreciate that little tidbit of information. She was already baring her claws like a cat backed into a corner, and he’d learned a long time ago it was never good to put stress on an unstable structure. 
Based on the night she just described having, one false move and he would catch a swift kick to the balls before she ran away, leaving him to wonder who she was, and aching to see her, and he would ache, he realized. 
Just the thought of never seeing her again sent a piercing pain through him. It was absurd, these feelings he was experiencing. He didn’t even know her name and yet, he felt…connected to her somehow. 
He watched silently as she gazed at him and some of the wariness left her expression. The wind gusted around them, and her sweet scent flowed over him. She smelled exotic, sweet, and wild. He felt his fangs try to shift, yearning for just a sample of her sweetness. Taking a calming breath, he willed them back into place. 
“Can I see some I.D.?” 
“Why?” he asked curiously. 
“Well, you expect me to believe you're a cop. It would help if you could show some I.D.” 
Nodding, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wallet, flipping it open to reveal a silver badge given to him by his contact inside the precinct. 
Taking a small step forward, she examined the badge, and then nodded once. 
Reaching out cautiously, she shook the proffered hand and cast him a small smile. A frisson of excitement tingled through him at the feel of her small hand cradled within his. Gently, he rubbed his thumb over the inside of her wrist discreetly, savoring the feel of her soft, warm skin. 
“I’m Tina James,” she said confidently, before asking, “You’re really a cop?” 
A smile tugged at his lips
“Something like that.” 



Author Chastity Bush
Author of- Killer Kisses, Tumbleweeds, A Taste of Terror, Passions Bite, and Guarding Temptation
Coming soon: The Guarding of Eden, The Stranger Next Door, and Reluctant Angel.