Monthly Archives: March 2016

WRITING~THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE…


There’s no ugly. At least, I hope not. Though it’s a good topic for this week…Writing, 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses. Because, as with all professions, each author has aspects they excel at and some they don’t—which is why we all need amazing editors. I have some such editors (wink wink ladies) who keep me real. Gently remind me when I’ve fallen off the rails. Though recognizing your own faults is much harder than you realize. It’s not that hard to see it in someone else’s writing, but to find it in your own… I like to believe it’s because you have the whole story in your head. You don’t see holes or repetitive words until later. Usually until someone points them out, lol. See the good editor note above.

But, I’ll try to be honest here…

Strengths.
POV… I can honestly say I’ve got this. I rarely head hop in a story, or skew or whatever folks call it. I try to lean toward changing POVs each chapter. Sometimes it requires a shift mid-chapter, especially with menages. It’s not always easy to get in that equal time if there are four people vying for power. But… I do try exceedingly hard not to slip. And I stay with the main characters only. For the love of god, readers don’t need to know what the gardner is thinking, or the cashier. Or even the boss if he/she isn’t a main player. Just the facts, folks and just the main characters, whether it be one (not really my style but if you write first person, this is popular) two or more, as long as they are all the ones intimately invested in the outcome. And no, supporting characters don’t count. Give them their own book if you want to get inside their head.

Letting the sex develop organically…I know, you’re probably thinking… what the fuck? But, as I am an erotic romance writer, my books have sex. It’s part of the definition of the genre. As I’ve said before… there needs to be sex in my sex book. However, it also needs to happen when it should, not because you reached the magical third chapter. Hell, it can crop up in chapter one if it’s appropriate, or not until halfway through, which tends to be more realistic if the characters don’t know each other prior to meeting. Hell, even if they do there might be a mountain of baggage to climb before they jump back in the sack. Either way, I think I’m okay at letting the sex happen when and how it should and not having it feel forced. Of course, this often means my characters hump like bunnies once they finally get into the bed, or against the wall, or in the shower, or…. you get what I mean.

Suspense/action… Now, this is just my opinion. I’m sure some will disagree. You can’t please everyone, but… I love writing suspense. Love dropping hints to where it’s going but hopefully not giving it all away. Love writing epic action scenes. Fights. Chases. I’d like to think I’m doing them all justice. So, I’ll go with this. Fingers crossed. Because I’m hoping this is the reaction…

Weaknesses

Writing short…Yes, I view this as a weakness in the sense I have a hard time thinking small. Writing shorter piece effectively requires a focused viewpoint. Condensing the story down to a single event, quite often. And it requires skill to do it well. I have come to the conclusion, focusing small just isn’t my forte. I’ve tried… lord have I tried. What a lot of readers might not know is that a lot of call for submissions and other projects have an upper limit for word count. Quite often 20, 30 or maybe 40K is the most you can write, and well, for me, 40K is a mere minimum. When I try to shorten things, they always feel incomplete and rushed to me. I think of stories on an epic scale. Maybe it was growing up with all the epic movies of the time… Star Wars, Indiana Jones… or that even songs made a move from the standard 3 mins to over 5. I don’t know, but as you can tell just by this post, writing short—definitely a weakness.

Favourite words…Okay, what I mean is I tend to have a word or ten in any given manuscript that my lovely editor points out is the ‘word of the manuscript’. Hence, everyone growls, or leans or palms something. Not a hard thing to correct, but the point is…no matter how hard I try NOT to have this happen, it does. Every time. Not the same word, I’ll grant you that, but… something. Every. Damn. Time.

Interrupting the action with dialogue…Okay, so above I said suspense and action was a strength… as long as I don’t do this. Which, my editor is kind enough to remind me of. It’s nothing horrible, but… you know, life and death and my lovers decide now is the time to have a quick chat. Or in one book, my heroine decided to go for a run when she really shouldn’t. Now, granted, I’d probably do this to stay sane in real life, but… yeah. Knowing when not to interrupt the action sometimes requires another set of eyes for me. Though I’m getting better. I hear my editor’s voice in my head saying… now, Kris….would they really stop to do this? Yeah, it’s as frightening as it sounds (wink wink).

Okay, for better or worse that’s my post. Now, I’ll admit that spelling isn’t my forte all the tie either. But thankfully, there’s spellcheck. And I sometimes mix up words… though that tends to be isolated to each manuscript, kind of like the fave word thing. I just use the wrong one the whole freaking time. But…such is life. Please check out the other ladies and see what they think are their strengths and weaknesses.

Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica De La Rosa  |  Jessica Jarman  |  Gwendolyn Cease

MUSIC FLASH FICTION ~ HOW LONG WILL I LOVE YOU

Flash fiction time and this month’s song is by Ellie Goulding… HOW LONG WILL I LOVE YOU. It’s quite a lovely one, though I still say it has sad musical undertones for a love song. But, a nice deviation from some of the others we’ve had and will have. Though there’s nothing wrong with gritty when they pop up:)

Anyway, here is the video if you’re not familiar with the song (I hadn’t heard it before, though I quite like her other popular songs that I know) and the resulting fiction. And FYI… I couldn’t think of anything else to write, sigh. These seem to get harder and harder.

“All right folks, time to slow it down for all those lovebirds out there.”

Amanda Jones groaned, walking quickly towards a set of French doors as the lilting tones echoed through the room. People paired off, easy laughter and the haunting melody following her onto the terrace overlooking the lake. The moon had risen above the distant horizon, glinting off the water like dancing fireflies.

She stared at the shoreline, watching the waves lap against the rocky shore. The music drowned out the sound of the water, but the rhythmic motion seemed to match the rise and fall of the song, as if the ripples were following along.

She inhaled, drinking in the sweet scent of roses with a hint of summer rain, though there were only a few clouds starting to build in the sky. Her chest tightened as the song faded, another slow one breaking up the momentary void. Why she’d agreed to come to the wedding was still a mystery.

She sighed. Family. The greatest blessing and worst curse. She’d come back to watch her little sister get married, despite the fact she’d sworn she’d never return. Never be a pawn for her stepmother’s agenda. But then Trixie had called and Amanda had jumped on a train…returned to the one place she’d thought she’d finally escaped from.

“Thought I’d find you hiding out here.”

The low gravelly voice made her jump and she spun, staring at deep brown eyes as the edges crinkled with laughter. An easy smile lifted his lips as he moved towards her, stopping an arm’s length away.

He glanced over her shoulder, nodding at the lake. “I’ll say this much…scenery here never gets old.”

She stared up at him, trying to make her tongue form his name, but all that came out was a raspy breath. Somehow, she’d managed to avoid him all day, only to let all her guard down over some sappy love song. One that reminded her far too much of him. Of them.

He chuckled. “Tongue-tied, sweetheart? That I wasn’t expecting.”

A surge of anger bled through her surprise. She crossed her arms on her chest, tapping her foot  on the stone. “Brogan Keller. I’m not hiding. I’m enjoying the view. And I thought you’d finally left small town life behind you?”

“And I thought Hell had to freeze over before you came back here?”

“I hear there’s an early frost this year.” She backed up, leaning against the railing. “Besides, I never could say no to Trixie. But don’t worry, I’ll be gone the moment she gets into that limousine.”

“So, it’s back to running.”

“Call it whatever you want. I think of it as keeping my sanity.” She glanced at the open doors, watching the dancers glide around the floor. “I don’t belong here. Never did.”

Brogan released a weary breath, spinning to lean against the rail beside her. “You have just as much right to be here. Your father—”

“Is dead. And any ties I had to this place died with him. My stepmother and her new boy toy haven’t so much as said hello to me since I arrived this morning. If it weren’t for Trixie…”

Amanda turned away. God, what was it about this place, about him, that made her emotions so hard to keep in check? Made her usual defences slip away? Hell, she was a US Marshal. Surely, she could handle being around people she despised for twenty four hours.

Brogan nudged her. “Why come, then, when you knew it’d be like this? Trixie would have understood. Hell, all you had to do was lie. Tell her you had a case—”

“She’s my sister. And don’t start in with the whole half sister bullshit. She’s the only good thing that ever came out of my father marrying that monster. And I wasn’t about to abandon her on the one day she needed someone in her corner. Did you know her mother tried to break them up? Claimed her fiancé had a record…was only interested in Trixie’s money.”

Brogan snorted. “Why do I have the feeling you used your connections to prove your stepmother wrong?”

“Because I did. Turns out Ryan’s big dark secret was that he got arrested once during an anti-terrorism protest. Spent a few hours in custody before being released. And the man has more than enough of his own money.” Amanda huffed. “My stepmother just couldn’t stand the thought of losing control over Trixie. Of losing access to her funds.”

Brogan merely nodded as he shoved his hands in his pockets. “You look good.”

She glanced at him. “You don’t have to make small talk, Brog. Or pretend you want to be around me. We both know the truth.”

He clenched his jaw, a hint of blush staining his cheeks. “The truth? Which truth is that, Amanda, because as far as I’m concerned, I gave you exactly what you wanted—space. Freedom.”

“Is that what you call it? I seem to recall me asking you to move out to New Mexico with me. You’re the one who turned me down.”

His eyes narrowed as he spun to face her, all semblance of composure gone. “What the hell are you talking about? I showed up at the train station. In fact, I fucking sat there all day. You never showed up. But I got the letter you left me—and your message.”

Amanda took a step back only to have him snag her arms.

He tugged her against him, lowering his face until it hovered an inch from hers. “After everything we shared, the battles we fought to be together, I think I deserved more than a fucking note and a one-way ticket to California.”

“What?”

He released her, pacing away before spinning. “It’s been two years. The least you can do is finally tell me why. I deserve that.” He took a single step towards her. “Who was it?”

Amanda shook her head, trying to grasp onto anything he was saying. “What the hell are you talking about? There was never anyone else. And what letter? We were supposed to meet at the bus station.”

“We agreed on the train station.”

“Until you changed the location that morning. I got your text. Went to the damn bus depot instead, only Jacob was there. He told me you’d sent him to let me down easy. Said you weren’t willing to give up your trust fund just so I could go on some vision quest to find my father’s killer. Become something I wasn’t. I called you, from the terminal—you never answered.”

Brogan took another step. “This isn’t funny, Amanda. All I want is an answer, not some elaborate lie to make you feel better about fucking me over.”

“You were the one who fucked me over, baby. So if you’re looking for something, I suggest you go back inside and find it with someone who runs in your financial circle.”

She spun on her heels, taking the stone steps off to her right. After burying her feelings for two years, just being around Brogan was enough to make the damn air feel heavy, pushing on her lungs until simply breathing was a near impossible feat. She ran across the grass, not stopping until she reached the shoreline. The steady wash of the water against the rocks matched the frantic beating of her heart, and she closed her eyes in an attempt to calm down. She never should have come. Never should have reopened old wounds.

A hand locked around her shoulder, pulling her back then spinning her around. Her balance shifted and she tumbled backwards, before Brogan grabbed her, pulling her against his chest. Her hands connected with hard muscle, the heady scent of his cologne surrounding her. She tried not to breathe it in, but it seemed to seep through her skin until she could taste it. Taste him.

“Shit.” Brogan’s chin brushed across her head.

“Let go.”

“Are you trying to kill yourself? You want me to go to jail, now, for harming a federal officer?”

“What I want is for you to leave me the hell alone.”

“Not until you tell me what’s going on.” He eased back. “Tell me why you’re still lying to me.”

“What lie? I’ve never lied to to you, Brogan.”

“I didn’t send you a text. Never sent Jacob to meet you.”

“Then why…” She let the words die on her tongue as she gazed up at the house. Pieces started falling together, the raw clarity of them making her stomach heave in protest. “Oh my god.”

Brogan frowned. “You didn’t write that letter, did you? I tried calling, as well. You never picked up.”

“That’s because I never got any calls.” She drew in a few shaky breaths. “She switched phones. She actually switched phones. Got Jacob to text me from yours, and… Oh my god.”

“But why? She wanted you gone, why—”

“To punish me. I’m the reason my father died. He was out that night looking for me. If I hadn’t snuck out to see you…”

Brogan drew her in close, this time holding her gently in his arms. “It wasn’t your fault. You have to know that by now.”

“She blames me. She’ll always blame me. When my father died, she lost control of the majority of his money. It went to us, not her. And that was a far worse fate than living a lie as his wife.”

He sighed, using one hand to lift her chin. “So, you were going to meet me that day?”

“Of course I was going to meet you. God, Brogan…you were the one. You’re still the one. I never—”

He cut her off as his lips claimed hers, the intensity of the kiss pulling her under. She gave him control, relying on him to hold her up as the world collapsed into them, and the firm brush of skin on skin. She inhaled roughly when he finally released her, his forehead resting on hers.

She exhaled a ragged breath. “But—surely you’re with someone. After all this time…”

He chuckled. “I tried, but…couldn’t seem to get this feisty federal marshal out of my head. Though, I do have a cat. Your turn.”

“I just told you, you’re still the one. Do you really think I’d say that if I were with anyone? So no. No one.”

“Well, this certainly changes the nature of this meeting. Sounds like we have some talking to do.”

She grinned. “Talking? I’m standing here saying I never stopped loving you and you want to talk?”

His eyes darkened as he dipped down and picked her up. “By talking I mean I want to hear you scream my name. That’s if you’re willing to leave with me.”

“I packed my gun, so…I’ll risk it. On one condition.”

He arched his brow in question.

“You give me one slow dance before we leave…and never come back.”

 

And that’s it for me. Please check out the other ladies…

Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica De La Rosa

PROMPTLY PENNED ~ MARCH

I think the other ladies are trying to kill us off. Two flash fictions in a week. How did no one notice this in the schedule, because I think it’s all year long, lol. Anyway, it’s another episode of Promptly Penned. And not cheating this time, like the picture flash fiction. I WILL write something new, damn it, if it kills me….here’s the prompt…

“I thought I’d made it clear we have a no abduction policy.”

“She wasn’t cooperating. What did you expect me to do?”

Once again, I will endeavour to use the prompt in the opening two lines… though I’ll have to add in a bit to make it work. That’s not cheating, right? Otherwise, it’s the same as everyone else, lol.

Promptly Penned

“I thought I’d made it clear we have a no abduction policy.”

Devlyn Adams ignored the biting tone, glancing at the Director in the mirror as she finished taping the laceration across her lower ribs closed. She shrugged one shoulder, wincing as the strip pulled tight against her skin. “She wasn’t cooperating. What did you expect me to do?”

“I don’t know, oh wait…try calling for backup.” Director Tom Smithers speared his fingers through his hair, destroying the perfectly combed style. “As it stands, I had to send in two clean up crews just to get the damn motel room put back together before someone called the cops. What happened to ‘observe and report back’? Of not making contact? And how the hell did a communications specialist get the jump on you?”

Devlyn tamped down the anger sizzling beneath her skin. After the night she’d had, the last thing she needed was to have her competence questioned. She turned, exhaling slowly as she stared at the man standing no more than a couple of feet away. “You know, I’m not sure what I find more insulting—that you’re pissed I did my job, or…” She waved at the wound. “You think that glorified secretary actually did this.”

The man’s lips twitched as his gaze dropped to her side then back up. He crossed his arms on his chest, still glaring at her. “What, exactly, are you trying to say, Agent Adams? That you didn’t just fuck up seven months worth of covert operations? That clocking your mark over the head and dragging her ass back to our facility—our previously undisclosed facility—was somehow for the greater good? Because not only will Ms. Evergreen know we’ve been spying on her, her damn superiors will know, too. Which means the chance of gathering more evidence is a big fucking zero.”

“I guess that depends on your definition.” She grabbed her top, clenching her teeth against the stabbing pain as she tugged it over her head. Thank god she always kept spare clothing at the damn office. “And I was under the impression the main objective was to keep Ms. Evergreen alive.”

“Devlyn. My patience is waning.”

She reached into her pocket, handing over a small USB drive. “That was all I could grab before I had bug out. But considering Slader showed up on her doorstep…”

He snagged her elbow as she went to move past him. “Slader?”

“The one and only. And he wasn’t there to sell cookies.”

“Shit. It’s happening already.” Smithers pointed down the hallway. “My office. Now.”

“Can I grab a drink, first? I hate taking Motrin without something.”

Devlyn bit back a smile when Smithers mumbled a string of obscenities, heading off in front of her. She detoured to the kitchen, grabbing a pop before making her way to his door. He’d left it opened at a forty-five, the telltale murmur of voices drawing her to a halt. She listened for a few moments, trying to place the familiar tone when the room went silent.

She cursed inwardly, drawing herself up before stepping into the room. Smithers watched her from the window on the opposite wall, two chairs positioned on her side of his desk. Shaggy brown hair and a leather jacket occupied the seat on the right, the width of the man’s shoulders making her trip a step. She’d recognize that silhouette anywhere. Her heart rate kicked up, her breath slightly raspy as she moved farther inside, her hands fisted at her sides. Now wasn’t the time for a freaking reunion, not if it involved him.

Smithers motioned to the chair, raising a brow when she merely crossed her arms on her chest, her gaze sliding to the man then back to her boss. The man snorted. “Just sit the hell down, Devlyn, before you fall down from loss of blood. Don’t think I missed how much was on that towel, or that you’d probably left a bunch more at the scene…and in your car…and…”

She waved for him to stop, this time staring directly at the other man. “I’ll sit just as soon as you tell my why the hell Ryker’s occupying the other one? Last time I checked, he’d bought a one-way ticket to ‘fuck you’.”

Ryker chuckled, gaining his feet before twisting to face her. Her chest tightened painfully as her lungs seemed to stop working. God, the man looked just as hot as she remembered. Tousled hair that brushed his collar. The perfect amount of scruff shadowing his chin and his eyes—she’d never seen eyes that blue. That captivating. She did a quick sweep of his body, praying he’d somehow lost his appeal only to swear under her breath at the obvious strength hidden beneath the leather and denim. She’d always been a sucker for a guy with an impressive torso and Ryker had muscles to spare.

He smirked when her gaze finally landed on his face. “I told the Director you’d be happy to see me. Glad you didn’t disappoint, Dev.”

“Oh, I’m happy to see you as long as I can use my gun to say hello.” She took a calculated step forward. “As I recall, I still owe you a bullet—or ten.”

His expression sobered as he broke eye contact, scanning the room before settling on her again. “If I’d known you’d been hurt—”

“Save it. Any explanation you might have offered is six months too late.” She looked at Smithers. “You’re obviously busy. I’ll come back when you’re ready to discuss Slader.” She spun when the floor creaked behind her.

“That’s far enough, Devlyn.” Smithers voice boomed through the small space, making the hairs on her nape prickle. “I know you and Ryker have history, but…” He waved at the chair when she glanced at him over her shoulder. “Sit. Down.”

She pursed her lips, wondering if she’d make it down the hallway before either of the men caught her when the room dimmed a bit. She took a stumbling step forward, nearly tripping against the open door when a hand snagged her arm, tugging her against a wall of solid muscle. She blinked, giving her head a slight shake as some of the dizziness lifted, leaving her staring into a sea of blue.

Ryker tsked, forcefully maneuvering her over to the chair. “Sit, or you’ll need more than a row of Sterie Strips to keep the blood on the inside of you.”

She pulled against his hold when he crowded her, his face an inch from his.

He cocked his brow in that annoying way that made her want to smack the backside of his head. “Dev. Just…sit. Please.”

The painful tone of his voice caught her off-guard, and she all but fell into the seat as her legs buckled. Christ, she hurt. While the long, jagged cut along her ribs was the worst of her wounds, the multitude of bruises she knew were starting to purple along her torso weren’t much better.

Ryker waited to see if she’d push back to her feet before nodding and moving over to his chair. He kept half his attention focused on her as he slid onto the hard wood, motioning to the Director.

Smithers shook his head. “Stubborn, as usual.”

She glared at Ryker, shifting her gaze to her boss. “I’d say I’m being more than polite under the circumstances. And what the hell as Ryker got to do with the case?”

Smithers sighed, stepping over to his desk then palming the surface. “You said Slader showed up? Tried to kill our mark?”

“Rang the damn doorbell like she was expecting him. I barely had enough time to charge the room, break the window and stop the bastard from putting a few rounds in her head. Her screaming and trying to run off didn’t help matters any.”

“I’m sure nearly dying then watching a couple of trained agents try to kill each other was upsetting to the poor woman.”

“Then maybe she shouldn’t have gotten involved with organized crime.” Devlyn pushed a hand through her hair, wincing when she brushed across a few more cuts. “So…you were going to tell me why I’m sitting beside the one man I’d like to stab through the heart?”

Ryker chuckled again. “Like I’m the only man you want to do that to. I know you better, sweetheart. There’s a list.”

She looked over at him, giving him a sweet smile. “Yeah. One with your name written over and over and over.”

“Enough.” Smithers shook his head. “Damn you two are like fire and gasoline. Never know when everything is going to simply blow up.” He leaned toward her. “And Ryker’s here because there’s been a new development.”

She arched a brow. “Other than having an assassin gunning for me?”

Ryker shrugged. “Trust me. That’s nothing compared to what you’re really up against.”

Smithers sank into his seat. “Afraid the man’s right. Slader’s involvement confirms it, though I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t hoped Ryker was wrong. Exaggerating the situation.”

She took a deep breath, wondering if she’d hit her head harder than she’d thought. “Am I supposed to know what the hell you’re both talking about? Because I don’t.”

Smithers smiled. “Don’t worry. Your partner will fill you in.”

Her stomach dropped as a loud ringing sounded in her ears. “Partner?”

Smithers motioned to Ryker. “Afraid so, Devlyn. Until this case is closed, you’re on loan to the Agency. And Ryker’s your new partner.”

 

That’s it for me. Why are all these posts of mine so long, lol? Anyway, check out the other ladies. I’m sure they have some awesome tales to tell.

Bronwyn Green  |  Kayleigh Jones  |  Paige Prince  |  Gwendolyn Cease

 

PICTURE FLASH FICTION ~ MARCH

So, it’s picture flash fiction Monday for March and here’s the awesome photo… However…

 

Handprint

 

Here’s the thing. I’ve got nothing. Not a damn thing. My middle kid is in the midst of hockey finals, and I was at the rink for 5 hours tonight. Will be at the rink tomorrow for about 7… and I’m just out of ideas. I’m working on a new book, and all my focus is on that. I know, I had lots of time to come up with something but try as I might, I just didn’t have anything new materialize, so, you can either…

  1. Jump directly to the other ladies listed as so…

Bronwyn Green  |  Kayleigh Jones  |  Paige Prince

2.  I’ve reposted the Prologue to GRAVE MEASURES, as it actually fits this scene perfectly. And is actually one of my favorite images in the post. I know… it’s a copout, but I’ve just got nothing. Obviously, my planning ahead to not be stressing over flash fiction the night before hasn’t exactly been a stellar hit, but… I’m trying. Cheers,

Come to me, Daniel. I’m waiting. I’ll always be waiting.

“No!”

Daniel Cartwright bolted upright, his echoed voice still hanging in the room. Sweat stung his eyes as it dripped down his forehead, his heart pounding against his ribs. He tossed back the thin blanket and swung his feet to the side, the cool press of the hardwood floor grounding him slightly. He stared at his hands until his vision adjusted to the dark, not surprised at the tremor that seemed to have taken hold.

It’d been six months, and he still dreamt of her every night. Still felt the panic of having her disappear. The pain of finding her bloody. Broken. Dead.

Daniel.

He cupped his hands over his ears, trying to block out the voice. Her voice. Not that it’d do any good. She’d simply move inside his head—whisper her siren’s song over and over like a message on a loop. Drive him to the edge only to disappear as the sun peeked above the horizon—the light stealing her power as the clawed away the shadows. But she’d return with the stroke of midnight. Test his sanity one more time…

An image flashed in his mind, the clarity of it stealing his ragged breath. She was dressed in white, her long chestnut hair lifting off her shoulders in the breeze. Those brilliant green eyes had filled with hope as she’d picked up her shoes and turned, walking barefoot along the path. She’d stopped and looked at him over her shoulder, laughing before daring him to catch her. Then she’d taken off, the soft cadence of her footfalls drifting along the breeze.

He’d waited. Given her a head start. Knowing he’d catch her before she’d reached the pond down the trail on the other side of the hill. He’d smiled, already imagining her silhouette flashing in and out of view amidst the trees as the path wove through a small copse—the source of their privacy once they’d reached the cool water. He’d pictured stripping her down—watching her pale skin gleam in the late afternoon sun. How she’d react to his every touch. How she’d feel moving beneath him, her body surrounding him, the slick slide of his cock mixing with the raspy sound of their breath. The way her fingers would clench his back as she climaxed around him.

After months of arguing and separate rooms, they’d decided to give their love one more chance. He’d taken her there—where they’d first made love. God, it seemed a lifetime ago. But he’d been willing to try—to give his heart to her one more time, even though a part of him worried she’d never truly be his. That his job would always stand between them—an invisible wall he’d never be able to break down.

His badge. That’s what it was ultimately about. His shiny silver star and the gun on his hip. Being a cop had been an attraction at first. Full of thrill and intrigue. Then the long shifts and lonely nights had started taking a toll. And she’d pulled away. Used every other excuse to wedge them apart, but he’d known the truth.

I’m waiting for you.

“Shut up, just shut the fuck up!”

He pushed to his feet, grabbing his pants off a nearby chair. He tripped toward the doorway, trying to tug the denim over his hips without stopping. It’d only fuel her power—give her more time to block his escape.

He stumbled into the hallway then headed for the foyer. The bedroom door slammed shut behind him, as the lights flickered on then off, a low buzz filling the air. He didn’t stop, barely registered the noise as he focused on the silver-colored knob twenty feet in front of him.

A chair scraped out from the kitchen table as he passed by, her ghostly silhouette wavering in and out of focus. He didn’t acknowledge her—knowing he’d never get out if he looked at her. Saw the wounds carved into her skin. The bruised pattern around her neck. Of all the bodies he’d faced in the line of duty, none had been that devastating—that gutting—until he’d found her…

He shook away the thoughts. He couldn’t have known. Couldn’t have anticipated that bastard would be lurking. Waiting to steal her away. Take away his last hope at even the semblance of a normal life. That their game would end as yet another statistic. A number on a case file.

You knew what he was capable of. You never should have left me alone.

Daniel bowed his head as he palmed the doorknob, her words stinging as much now as when she’d first appeared to him. The air cooled along his neck, and he knew she was standing behind him—waiting for him to weaken. To turn around.

He twisted the handle, surprised when it actually turned. He’d lost count of the times she’d trapped him there. How many times he’d been forced to relive that night—see her death through her eyes. Shit, he didn’t even know how she did it. If any of this was truly real.

Daniel.

He reefed open the door, staring out at the street. A light rain misted the air, blurring the glow of the lamplight into a wash of grays and yellows. He placed one foot beyond the threshold, willing himself out of the house door, when icy fingers cupped his shoulder.

He froze, the sheer pressure of the invisible touch holding him captive. His stomach rolled in protest, the acid taste of bile burning his throat.

He clenched his jaw, finally glancing back. The tattered remains of her short, white dress hung off her shoulders—the red patches bright against the fabric. As if she were somehow still bleeding. Her once soft hair shot out in a tangled mess from her head like a fuzzy halo of dull brown. But it was her eyes that always took his breath away. Hollow and sad, with more than a hint of bitter resentment shining in the green depths. He’d never thought she could look at him like that. As if he’d been the one to steal her life away.

He blew out a shaky breath, noting the way it misted in front of his mouth. “Isabel.”

She jerked back at her name, and he couldn’t help but wonder if it held any power. If he somehow affected her as she did him.

She recovered quickly, making the remaining chairs around the table shake. “You left me.” Her words bit at what little remained of his heart.

He shook his head, repeating the token saying that had kept him from giving in. From following her into the abyss. “Never. He took you from me.”

“You knew how dangerous he was.”

“Isabel, no—”

“You. Knew.”

Daniel could only bow his head. He’d known Jacob had harbored feelings for her. But he’d never thought the man—his best fucking friend… He raised his gaze to meet her icy stare. “I’m sorry.”

“Then prove it. Come to me. I’m waiting for you.”

“You know I can’t.”

“You can’t? Or you won’t?”

“Both, I suppose. Someone has to make sure he pays. It’s my job—”

“Your job was to love me. Protect me. But you didn’t love me, did you? It was over. You were going to leave me. Discard me like garbage.”

Guilt soured his gut, heaving it in protest. “No. You know that’s not true. I was trying to fix things. Fix us.”

“Then why didn’t you follow sooner?” She seemed to hover closer to him, her feet not even touching the floor. “You wanted him to capture me. You wanted me gone.”

She glared at him, this time breaking the glass next to the door. Pieces shot through the air, one cutting his jaw.

He didn’t bother wiping at the blood. “No. Never.”

“Then come to me.”

He set his jaw, firming his hold on the door as he finally turned away. “I can’t.”

He launched himself onto the porch, fighting against the pull of her icy grip. Scratches rose along his neck before he managed to break free—stumble down the three stairs to the walkway. Pain flared through his limbs, a sharp ache stabbing through his heart.

He twisted slightly, staring at the house, his gaze drifting to the glass. Solid once more, it reflected the eerie light of the lamppost, the flawless surface mocking him.

He closed his eyes. He couldn’t live like this. Wondering from one day to the next if he was losing his mind. If anything was real, or if he was caught in some kind of endless loop. Groundhog day from hell.

He drew a quick breath. He needed to stop the cycle. Break free of the guilt. Rid his mind of the memories. The nightmares. Find a way to move forward—do everything he could to put the bastard behind bars.

Bastard. Jacob. He was going to find a way to ensure his best friend never hurt anyone else ever again.

The panicky sensation ebbed slightly, the feel of the cool mist calming him. He exhaled, spinning toward the street as he opened his eyes.

Isabel hovered an inch from his face, those dull eyes burning into black. “I’m done waiting.”

Daniel gasped as his body flew backwards, skidding across the foyer and into the kitchen. The front door slammed shut behind him, the light in the hall flickering again. The glass in the entryway frosted over, blocking out everything beyond the pane except the outline of a handprint as it slowly materialized amidst the white, smearing off to the right.

He scrambled to his feet, darting over to the cupboard as dishes rattled along the counter. A couple lifted up, wavering in the air before shooting across the room—shattering against the far wall. He did his best to block out the sounds—the scrape of her feet along the floor, the wheeze of her breath through her punctured chest—tossing spices and bottles over his shoulder until he found what he was looking for.

He spun, nearly dropping the box of salt as he watched her vanish, appearing several feet closer in the space of a heartbeat. Daniel tamped down the fear, opening the lid then pouring a steady line of white crystals around him—the lopsided circle flashing in and out of view as the lights cut out then popped back on. He had no idea if the token gesture would work. If what he’d witnessed on different television shows held any weight. Hell, a part of him believed he was still in his bed, imagining everything. But fuck if he had any other ideas. And just thinking about spending another night pinned to a wall—watching her die over and over…

Isabel screamed, racing toward him only to stop at the edge of the circle, her body jerking backwards as it hit the salt. She hissed, trying to break through the barrier, again, only to recoil, bits of her flesh curling into smoke. Hard, bitter eyes gazed at me as she swept her arms up, sending all the remaining dishes crashing to the floor.

She bared her teeth—a glimpse of white amidst her graying silhouette. “I knew you didn’t love me. You’ll never be free, Daniel. I’ll never let you go.”

She vanished, the misty remains of her body slowly fading. He drew in a few shaky breaths, trying to calm the staccato rhythm of his heart. In all the times she’d appeared to him, it’d never been this bad. Never his violent.

He waited until the air began to warm again, the icy glass thawing into streaks of dripping water, before gathering his courage. He glanced up the hallway. The light in his bedroom was on again, a strip of yellow shining beneath the closed door. All he had to do was make it outside, only this time, he wouldn’t stop. Wouldn’t look back until the house was nothing but a reflected light in the ghostly fog.

Daniel placed one foot on the outside of the circle, waiting a few moments to see if she’d suddenly materialize. An eerie silence filled the house, nothing but his forceful exhalations registering in the stillness. He gauged the distance—fifteen feet. Maybe twenty. He only needed a few seconds…

He sprinted toward the door, feet pounding the floor as he reached for the knob, gasping when icy fingers wrapped around his ankle, tripping him onto his one knee. He palmed the wood, still reaching for the handle as her nails dug into his flesh, burning lines along his leg.

He kicked at her hold, his foot passing through her torso as she tightened her grip, sending a stabbing pain up his body and into his chest. Black smudges smeared across his skin as a deep cold settled around his heart, the resulting pressure making it hard to breathe.

Isabel’s face appeared in front of him, her smug smile glaring back at him. “Mine, Daniel. Forever.”

He managed to slide forward slightly—wrap his fingers around the handle—when the damn thing turned in his hand. He glanced over his shoulder as the door flew open. A man and a woman stormed through the opening, shotguns poised at their hips. The guy fired, a blast of white power bursting from the muzzle.

Isabel screeched, recoiling in seeming pain before winking out, the pressure in his chest easing. He fell onto one elbow, coughing as he tried to catch his breath, his vision dimming at the edges. A hand cupped his face, tilting it up. He forced himself to focus, stunning green eyes staring back at him.

The woman smiled—a splash of pink amidst the gray. “You okay?”

He furrowed his brow, trying to process the words when she snapped her fingers in front of his face.

“Hey? Detective Cartwright? I asked if you were okay?” She swept her gaze down his body, frowning. “Hey, Jimmy. Our friend’s got lacerations on his ankle. More on his neck. Lots of bruising, too.” She brushed her fingers over the skin on his neck. “Fuck! Pretty damn sure he’s got blotches of ectoplasm on him. That’s a first. And I think he’s in shock.”

“Who the fuck are you?” He cursed inwardly at her amused smile, his voice more than strained.

She cocked her head to the side. “Okay, maybe not as shocky as I’d thought. The names Arrynn. Arrynn Baker. This is James White, but we all just call him Jimmy.”

Daniel glanced at the man in question.

The guy waved at him, giving him a wink. “Yo, Danny-boy. What’s up?”

Daniel opened his mouth, closing it when the girl—Arrynn—cupped his jaw again and turned him to face her.

“Look, I know this is probably a lot to take in right now, but… Trust me. It’s nothing compared to what you’re about to discover.”

He forced himself to swallow, nearly gagging in the process. “About to discover? You mean it’s worse than…” He waved his hand at the interior. “This?”

“Oh, sweetie, this is nothing. You should see what vampires and werewolves do to a kitchen.”

“Vampires?” He shook his head. “Fuck. I’ve gone mad. This is all a dream and I’m probably in some kind of fucking facility, drooling all over myself while a bunch of male nurses feed me colored pills!”

Arrynn chuckled. “Actually, that’s probably the most sane thing you’ll say for a while. Too bad it’s not true. What happened here…” She mimicked his wave. “All real, sweetie. And it’s just the beginning. But something tells me, you’re up for the job.”

“Job? What job? What the fuck are you talking about? How the hell did you even know to come here?”

“We’ve been watching you for a while. Seems your partner was…concerned. You’ve been acting a bit odd. A few of the things you said around him…” She shrugged. “Made him wonder if there was something else going on. Something…paranormal.”

“Paranormal?” He snorted. “Fuck.”

“Hey, be thankful. If he hadn’t called it in, we never would have been watching from across the street.” She whistled. “Haven’t witnessed a spirit toss a guy like that in a long ass time. And when you didn’t come out…”

“This is crazy. It can’t be real.” He leaned against the door. “What do you want from me?”

She winked, slowly straightening. “It’s more what you want from us. I’m talking about a whole new reality for you, Daniel. One that starts with you taking my hand, and us getting the hell out of here.”

She extended her arm, beckoning to him with her fingers. He swung his gaze back to the kitchen, staring at the shards of glass and porcelain before releasing a slow breath. He looked up at her, clasping his hand around her forearm as she helped lever him to his feet.

An easy smile lifted her lips as she motioned to the open door. “Smart choice. After you.”

He rolled his shoulders, limping the few steps it took to reach the porch. An echo of Isabel’s voice sounded inside his head, the pleading words barely recognizable.

You’re mine. Forever.

He took one more step, ignoring the mournful rasp of his name as he turned to Arrynn. “Where are we going?”

“Home. Your new home.” She extended her hand again, this time shaking his. “Welcome to Threshold. This is where things get interesting.”