Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Between the Veils: After Dark

Okay, so I've missed my last two releases, but I'm trying to make progress here, so.... ta da...

Today is release day for me. Book 1 of my new series with Resplendence Publishing is out today! And I have Authors After Dark to thank for it. Well, actually, I have the wonderful bloggers who attended the event to thank. 

Way back when, I was asked to do a blog about New Orleans from the perspective of one of my characters as a promotional piece for AAD. Since I'd never been to New Orleans, and quite honestly, the only character I had that had ever lived there wasn't exactly a fan of the place, I decided, like a few others, to create a new scene that occurred in New Orleans. In fact, I ended up writing the entire first chapter to this book. I was so intrigued by the outcome that I decided the story couldn't simply stop...left hanging so to speak. So I proposed a new series to my editor and is book 1.

I think what intrigued me most about the dubious first chapter was that I'd planned on the having a different hero. The main lead... Avery Smith... was going to be this spoiled rich kid asshole... then I got to the scene with the demon and bam....all of a sudden Avery's the hero and is bound on being redeemed. I love it when a story just surprises you like that.

Anyway, if you like ghosts and demons, this might be up your alley. Oh, and there's a fair share of hot loving, too... here's the blurb and a quick excerpt.

Temperance Dunnigan can’t believe she’s agreed to travel to New Orleans to be part of Avery Smith’s special ghost hunting squad—and in the midst of Mardi Gras no less. There isn’t a sane reason to be there…other than Avery. Though she considers him a spoiled, rich kid, his money is her ticket to finally getting some concrete evidence to lay the eternal question of spirits to rest.

Avery didn’t think twice about inviting one of the foremost paranormal investigators to his retreat. After all, Temperance is smart, daring and totally not his type. He’s more than aware of her feelings toward him and embraces the chance to work with someone he has absolutely no interest in…that is until she becomes entrenched in a deadly summoning. Saving her life wasn’t part of the plan and now he can’t stop his heart from racing every time she looks at him. They’ve got one week to figure it out before all hell breaks loose, and Avery loses more than just his reputation.

And a sneak preview...

Saint Louis Cemetery, next exit.
Temperance Dunnigan watched the sign disappear in her rearview mirror as she allowed the car’s speed to bleed off, staying right as the ramp appeared ahead of her. She’d had one hell of a time picking her way through the various road closures and weaving amidst a spider web of one-way streets and pedestrian-filled alleys. She’d even been forced to backtrack around a couple of police blockades and had sat at a stoplight for several minutes as a forty-foot dragon boat had meandered down the center of the street. Why she’d agreed to visit the offerings of New Orleans during Mardi Gras was a mystery to her. Mixing business with pleasure rarely resulted in anything other than pounding headaches and missed opportunities.
She sighed and guided the car to a halt. It wasn’t really a mystery. She knew damn well why she was here—Avery Smith. Infamous ghost hunter and self-proclaimed psychic, he’d sent her a personal invitation to join a few of his handpicked researchers in a weeklong investigation of some of New Orleans’ most notorious sites. And if Avery could be believed, there’d be no shortage of spirits, though she wasn’t holding her breath. She’d been there a day already and hadn’t spied anything vaguely transparent, other than the rest of investigators, who insisted on following Avery around like a pack of lovesick puppies.
She huffed, unclipping her seatbelt as she grabbed her keys. At least the back gate of the cemetery had been left open, a testament to what money could buy in this city, though she suspected her time would be limited. Thank god she’d tossed a few pieces of equipment in the trunk before leaving the hotel…or should she say escaping? Though the Lamothe House Hotel was known for its own paranormal activity, there wasn’t a chance in hell she’d catch anything on tape with the entire street partying outside her window. Ghosts might be adventurous, but she doubted even the most active spirits would put on a display with endless jazz music blaring through the rooms.
“Avery and his idea of ‘research’. What a crock of shit.”
The man was an ass at the best of times, a criticizing bastard every other minute of his life. He’d used his inherited wealth to buy his way into stardom then he’d looked down his nose at every other struggling paranormal investigator, who’d had the courage to go for substance over flashy tricks. Not that she wasn’t thankful for the opportunity his money had afforded her it was just…she hated walking to the beat of someone else’s drum. And god help her, the guy had his own freaking band.
A cool breeze tickled her skin, soothing the raw feelings as her hair billowed in the wind. Thankfully everyone else had elected to stay at the hotel, instead of insisting on joining her. She knew Avery had planned on visiting the cemetery first, apparently to ‘scout’ out interesting places, but he’d gotten caught up with the other investigators, allowing her to slip out unchaperoned. Besides, she wasn’t really in the mood for company, and she could only imagine what she looked like—faded jeans topped by a hand-knit sweater, both of which had seen better days. Her shoulder-length auburn hair hung in curly strands about her face, the tousled mass blowing in the wind. She hadn’t even bothered to put on any make-up, not that she usually wore any. But there wasn’t much chance of anyone spotting her at a graveyard at sunset and it wasn’t as if she had someone to look special for.
Temperance pushed away the annoying thought and glanced around the cemetery. This was the largest of the three burial grounds spread around New Orleans, and one of the most ornate. Towering marble tombs lined the rows, with the occasional tree casting finger-like shadows along the ground. The setting sun glowed at the edge of the horizon, staining the small gathering of clouds a fiery orange. She’d been warned not to come here alone, and never at night, but the sounds of Mardi Gras had grated on her nerves until she feared she’d go crazy. That was part of the reason she loved being a paranormal investigator…quiet, lonely places where even the hidden residents generally needed special equipment to talk to her. Besides, she wasn’t helpless. She’d taken years of self-defense training, and she knew how to maneuver through the stone monuments while maintaining the highest degree of safety…that and she’d promised herself she wouldn’t stay more than an hour…just enough time to snap some photographs, try to catch a few electronic voice phenomena on her digital recorder and take some temperature readings. It wouldn’t even be fully dark by then.
Temperance gathered her gear and locked her car, ambling over to the far end of the grounds. She could see why tourists flocked to this place…she’d never visited a cemetery quite like it. Historic and beautiful, it was more of a piece of architecture than a burial ground. But she hadn’t come to stare at the pretty tombs. She wanted to talk to their residents.
She lifted her camera, snapping stills of the various monuments from different angles. Sometimes she’d get lucky and catch strange light anomalies or shadows that would be revealed when she examined the footage later. The camera clicked in rapid succession as she walked up and down a few aisles, finally stopping at one of the tombs. But unlike the others, this one looked as if it’d been vandalized. Burn marks charred the face of the once pristine stone and someone had painted graffiti across the side. Dark-red pentagrams and strange symbols plastered the surface, the edges running down the face like dried streaks of blood. While she’d expected to see names and dedications scribbled across some of the tombs, the sheer malice emanating from the marks was disturbing, and the uncharacteristic defacement piqued her curiosity.
She glanced over her shoulder. The grounds were still empty, with only the long shadows from the setting sun following her movements. She snagged her bottom lip and decided to chance a closer look. Like many of the tombs, a fence of wrought-iron bars surrounded the grave, these ones high enough she’d have to climb over them. The pungent smell of urine greeted her first, and she nearly retreated when she noticed something glittering near the ground at the rear of the tomb.
“So much for keeping a level head and avoiding danger, girl.”
Temperance scolded her impetuous nature as she vaulted over the bars. One of the pointed ends caught on her jeans, leaving a small tear down the side. She brushed it off and turned on her digital recorder, determined to catch any electronic voice phenomena that might pop up as she edged forward, squeezing through the tight space between the bars and the tomb. This wasn’t her smartest decision, but as she stepped out on the other side, she knew it’d been worth the risk. A small medallion hid amidst the stone, one edge sparkling in the last rays of sunlight. She reached for it, when the air around her suddenly heated.
Temperance pocketed the medallion then pulled out her digital thermometer, scanning the immediate area. There wasn’t much to see, the view blocked by the massive tombs on either side. She ignored the prickling feeling down the back of her neck and pressed the button, watching as the temperature rose from a comfortable sixty-three to a blazing eighty-five. The hairs on her arms stood up, and despite the heat, a rash of goose bumps erupted across her skin—she wasn’t alone. And if her instincts were right, the presence was less than friendly.
She took a deep breath, clipping the gauge back on her waist as she thumbed at her camera again. A low rasp sounded behind and she spun, afraid she was about to be mugged. But what stood before her wasn’t human—at least not anymore. A figure in a black-hooded robe hovered above the ground, its body mostly transparent as it wavered in and out of focus. Tiny flames danced in circles around its hands, licking at the robe as if desperate to ignite it. Its face was shrouded in darkness, save for a slight wedge of pale skin near the side of its mouth. She stared at it, feeling her stomach drop when the edges of its lips curled into a sadistic smile.
“I knew you’d come…I’ve been expecting you.”
The disembodied voice echoed around her, the sinister tone sending shockwaves of panic through her veins. She took a step back, just as a set of hands wrapped around her waist and mouth.
She tried to scream, but nothing more than a muffled gasp made it past the fingers holding her captive. She shifted her weight, readying her elbow when a puff of warm breath coasted over her earlobe.
“If you want to live, I suggest you follow me, and quickly, before our demonic friend gathers enough strength to take you back to Hell with him.”
“Avery?” She glanced back at the man, pinned by the deep blue of his eyes. She’d never seen them so vivid.
“Now, Temperance. He’s already feeding off of your energy.”
Temperance nodded, allowing Avery to tug her away, back through the tight press of stone and over the fence. Bellows of rage sounded behind them, followed by the hiss of fire on stone, but she didn’t stop to look when Avery broke into a sprint, his hand still entwined with hers. She could feel the entity reaching for her, its fiery hands searing her skin, but she kept running, nearly slamming into Avery’s Porsche when the man veered sharply to his right.
He released her hand and slid over the hood, landing on his feet. “Get in!”
She stared at the vehicle. How the hell did he afford this kind of stuff?
“Damn it, Temperance, we can discuss my obscene use of money later. Now get in the fucking car before that demon drains every ounce of energy from your body!”
Temperance glared at him, hating that he’d seemingly read her expression so easily, but jumped in, clicking the seatbelt tight as he revved the engine and ripped out of the lot, skidding across two lanes as he hit the accelerator and peeled away. Her entire body got sucked into the seat, but at least the burning sensation on her skin diminished. She looked down at her hands and felt the color drain from her face. A black star at the base of her left wrist glared back at her, the edges tinged a dark red.
She looked over at Avery, but he merely shook his head.
“Consider yourself lucky. Another few minutes and your body would have been covered in those things. You wouldn’t have been able to leave if that had happened.”
She forced herself to swallow past the lump in her throat. “But I don’t understand…what the hell was that?”
“That, my dear, was the king bastard of demons…a nasty bugger who lures innocent virgins to his lair so he can drain them of their life force. They say once he has enough souls, he’ll walk the Earth and inflict pain and suffering on all of us.”
Temperance snorted at him. “Nice try, but there’s just a few holes in your story. There’re no such things as demons. You said that yourself in one of your more ‘dramatic’ interviews. That was nothing more than a ghost…albeit an evil one.”
“Guess I can’t argue with myself.” He nodded at her, though his eyes didn’t convey the confidence in his voice. “Any other flaws?”
She smiled at him. “I’m hardly a virgin.”
His eyes lit up with a fire that made her knees go weak and her flesh burn, in a way far more alluring than the ghost had caused.
He gave her body a long, slow sweep, ending it with a wink. “You don’t say…good to know.”
Temperance stared at him, wondering when he’d gone from asshole to charming hero without her even realizing it. And since when did a look from Avery Smith make her feel hot and lightheaded, as if all her blood had left her brain and pooled in her groin? She was more than aware of his feelings for her, or should she say lack of. That was another reason she’d accepted his invitation. No hidden motivation. He saw her as a professional—period. Besides, she wasn’t his type—her breast size didn’t equate to her IQ and she didn’t care about his money. So why was his lingering gaze making the temperature in the car rise until she was tempted to roll down the window?
She groaned and leaned back in the seat. If this was any implication of the remaining seven days, she was definitely going to be in for one hell of a long week.

Hope you enjoyed the book...

No comments:

Post a Comment