Archive for January, 2012

Sneak Peek: Shadows Fall

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Today I thought I’d regale you with a sneak peek from Shadows Fall, the third book in the Asylum Trilogy coming out this year. This is an unedited excerpt…warning…scary stuff ahead!

**

Evil is spreading beyond previous boundaries, beyond the horrors of the past. Only one man and one woman can stop it.

Melissa Allan realizes something is wrong one windy, violent day. People are getting their just deserts. Karma is piling on the punishment, even for small offenses or misunderstandings hardly worth a blink. Melissa, owner of the only new age store in Simple, realizes that the air is disturbed, and that the former asylum on the mountain has something to do with strange happenings around town. Sensitive to the paranormal, she helps those in Simple who feel the need for advice beyond the conventional. Forces in town who want things to stay the same are against her, and she knows it.

Ex-marine Roarke O’Bannion hasn’t seen a freak out like this since he was in war. A search for his missing mother brings him to Tranquil View Condominiums for answers. He’s not interested in the paranormal and thinks people who believe in it just need more medication. He thinks Melissa fed his mother’s belief in ghosts, and he plans on giving her a piece of his mind. Instead he finds a woman who challenges everything he’s believed in, and makes him burn with desire.

When Melissa is in danger, he discovers he’ll do anything to save her, and together they’ll battle the unseen until midnight comes or the evil seething inside Tranquil View consumes them all.

* *

 

It was a perfect night for a haunting. Melissa drove her compact up the long drive toward Tranquil View Condos on Friday night, opening night for the haunted house. Tall pines clustered along the twisting, turning road that lead from the main highway into the former asylum grounds.

She hoped Jana wouldn’t convince everyone on the city council that Halloween should be banned in Simple. Live and let live was truly Melissa’s motto. People like Jana Peterson and nosy city council cabals offended her sense of fair play. She rubbed the back of her neck as muscles tightened. Spending too much time ruminating on irritations had made her back and neck ache. Was that why she’d decided to go to the Haunted House attraction at Tranquil View? To give her support to the people who created the event and attended it? After all it made money for charity.

Weather cooperated this evening. A dusting of snow off and on over the last two days had kept people skidding around town and generated a few fender benders. Nothing unusual. Melissa felt as if a certain something was off, different than last year at this time. Of course last year she’d been too wrapped in her own issues with moving to notice much about Simple’s idiosyncrasies. She’d settled in and made an uncomplicated life in Simple. She laughed softly. A simple life in Simple. As the saying went, it was all good.

Then she thought of her dinner with Roarke the other night and freaked. She’d broken her dating rule. She never kissed a guy on the first date. Especially not a guy like him who was a raging skeptic about the paranormal and had a rigid mentality. It had just happened, and he seemed as disconcerted by the event as she did. She sighed and decided to get over herself. Having fun tonight would serve as her goal. She wouldn’t concern herself over seeing Roarke tonight. No doubt he’d have plenty to keep him busy as a member of the spook team at the Haunted House.

She hadn’t reached the halfway point down the long drive, when she heard the throaty roar of an engine coming up behind her. She glanced in the rear view mirror and barely made out the outline of a large truck on her ass. Without the headlights on.

What the frig?

As if she’d summoned them, the truck headlights illuminated her car with a blinding flash.

“Crap,” she murmured on her breath. “What the hell is wrong with you, moron?”

The lights got closer and closer.

“If you were any closer,” she said, “you’d be in the backseat with me.”

The truck roared past her at tremendous speed. She didn’t get a good look at the person driving—she was too busy taking the next curve and slowing down. Let the nimrod endanger himself. She negotiated the sharp turn, half expecting to see the truck in a head on collision with another vehicle. Instead when she made it around the corner, the truck had disappeared. Up ahead, in a break through towering pines, the Tranquil View Condominiums came into view. Wind blew pine needles over her windshield, and she could have sworn she heard the wind moan.

“Perfect for a haunted house.”

She’d seen pictures of Tranquil View as it looked long ago, then on glossy brochures when it opened as condos. The local historical society museum on the main drag through town had a significant display on the place, but she’d never gone through the museum.

The parking area in front was sectioned off into two separate areas—a large gravel type driveway led up to the front door. As she drove down the gravel way and took the first left into the fairly full parking lot, she noted the truck sitting in front of the front doors. Three figures unloaded and ran up the stairs into the building. She shook her head. Probably some teenagers hoping to find a scare. In Simple, thrills came few and far between. She parked under one of the ornate parking lot lamps. After assuring her cross body bag was secure, she gripped her keys in her right hand and left the car. Gratified to see the parking lots almost full, she hoped the next three weeks would generate the same. She assessed the building. Even barely illuminated, the asylum had a grey, imposing heart. A water fountain which had been put in recently didn’t run in the winter months. The facade had been totally repaired, every nook and cranny fixed. It looked, perhaps, much as it must have when it first opened in 1888. Despite renovations, the place could be called creepy in a purely esthetic sense. She understood they’d left the old graveyard behind the property intact, and the gymnasium behind the building they’d converted into a fitness and recreational center.

Wind slid its fingers through her hair, a breeze with a bony, icy touch. She shivered, glad for her parka, thick sweater and flannel lined jeans. Discomfort increased as she walked toward the place. Deep within she knew this building held wounds. An asylum always would. And those scars talked to her. They edged into her consciousness, demanding she pay attention.

A whisper here. An insane thought there. The building spoke from every brick, from every stone and window. She stopped and looked up at those windows, expecting to see a hundred faces peering out at her and asking for help. Instead windows stared dark and vacant, or they were lit within by a cheery glow. She took a deep breath and shoved away her sensitivities. She’d shielded herself with white light before coming here. It wouldn’t stop her from seeing ghosts or hearing them if they wanted to come into her space, but at least their emotions shouldn’t take hold.

As she approached the front of the building, the single occupant left in the black truck stared out at her.

A monster looked at her.

The person, man or woman, wore a horrific mask. Wild, dark hair hung in greasy strands around a cadaverous face. Sunken flame red eyes didn’t glow at her, but they commanded compliance and attention. A hawkish nose, thin lips and narrow face completed the disturbing package. She couldn’t look away, and as she passed in front of the truck and the mask followed her movements, every hair went up on her body. Unease crept over her skin like a thousand insects. She shivered and tore her gaze from those flame-filled eyes. Maybe this nutty driver was a part of the attraction?

She flexed her hand around her keys and kept walking. Her wrist ached and she still wore the bandage, but she could do some damage if she must. Just as she reached the huge glass double doors, the truck’s engine roared and the driver sped off. Gravel went every which way and peppered the steps.

 

Sneak Peek: Shadows Rise

Friday, January 20th, 2012

A Peek Into the Asylum Trilogy: Shadows Rise

When people think of romance writing they don’t often think of war as a part of the story. Yet war is a part of our life and our times. In the first story of my Asylum Trilogy, Shadows Wait, the asylum with its underlying darkness, misery, and ghosts becomes a character and the heroine and heroine must fight the supernatural and undeniable evil both human and not human.

The next story turned a little darker. I didn’t set out for the story to be darker necessarily. That would have meant I plotted when I don’t really plot my novels. I allow them to evolve. In the second book, Shadows Rise, which is set in 1918, war and the Spanish Flu are characters in the story. Both the hero and heroine are affected deeply by the war. As I did the research on World War I, the affect on me became more profound as well. I’d read about this war, but when I write historical novels I immerse myself in all the information I can get. What I learned about that war and the Spanish Flu that ravaged the entire world, gave me a profoundly new respect for the people who lived through it. Both of my grandfather’s were registered for the draft, but health situations made them ineligible to go to war. It dawned on me, when it never had before, that my father was born in May of 1918, only a few months before the Spanish Flu started its awful path through the United States and the rest of the world.

Many people of that time endured horrors a lot of us can’t imagine. As an author it’s my job to imagine those things and bring the story to life. I discovered a great satisfaction in creating a world where the hero and heroine could conquer their fears and grow. Characters are revealed through their war experiences, the pandemic, personal guilt, passion, and love. Added to that is the continuing character that is the asylum itself. For the evil has risen, it is stronger than ever, and it challenges the hero and heroine to a duel they hope to survive. Here’s a snippet (unedited) from Shadows Rise (release date to be announced). I hope you enjoy it.

* *

Asylum Trilogy, Book Two: Shadows Rise

A time of war, disease and supernatural threat tests the fabric of one woman and one man…

Annabelle Dorrenti is ravaged by her experiences in World War I, her body marked by wounds, and her psyche damaged by guilt. To save herself, she becomes a nurse at the asylum and discovers the haunting is just beginning. Perhaps she’s imagining the shadows that flicker nearby, waiting. A creeping dread presses in upon her, and she sees signs everywhere that something just isn’t right at the asylum. She doesn’t want to admit it anymore than she wants to acknowledge her building attraction to a handsome soldier as broken as she is. A man who blames her for his sister’s death.

Army Captain Cade Hale suffers from shell shock and the terrible fear that the dead haunt his every step. He knows that danger terrorizes the earth, but he also feels Tranquil View could cure him of addiction and grief over his sister’s death. He’s determined to lay the blame for her death where it belongs, directly at Annabelle Dorrenti’s feet. Drawn down to his soul to Annabelle, he hates their attraction and struggles against it. Yet he knows the asylum harbors evil, and his fear for Annabelle demands he protect her, no matter what the risk, no matter what she’s done in the past. When evil and illness manifest, Cade and Annabelle step up to challenge a horror far more insidious than insanity.

* *

Tranquil View Asylum

Simple, Colorado

October 1918

Annabelle Dorrenti limped as the ache in her left leg reacted to long hours on the ward. She continued down the hallway, albeit at a slightly slower pace. No point in paying attention to pain. Her shift wasn’t even half over.

Then a solider entered the asylum and changed everything.

Physically he looked fine—more than fine, actually. He came through the massive front doors, old metal and wood creaking and each assured step thudding on the floor of the rotunda. He didn’t look anything like the soldiers who resided here now, who had lived and died the last year or more. She was used to frail-looking military men with odd gaits, thousand-mile stares and souls so destroyed they’d never find their way back to sanity again.

This man had presence, and there was nothing fragile in how he presented himself.

He was big but not fat. Easily six feet three inches. Strength showed in his broad shoulders, trim waist and steady walk. His long wool uniform coat fit him as if tailored, his boots polished, his bearing upright and imposing. His height would intimidate most men and women, but his gaze would frighten. A dark, haunted gaze that would stay cloaked to strangers but could read a woman’s secrets within minutes. His face didn’t have the classic good looks of Douglas Fairbanks. She’d seen Fairbanks in only one film this year called Say! Young Fella and hadn’t been as impressed as the women who sighed and simpered at the mere mention of Fairbanks. Her friend Penelope Billings, another nurse at Tranquil View, thought the actor was the most handsome thing she’d ever seen.

No, this man was harder than Fairbanks. Raw with energy and grounded.

Real.

His jaw appeared carved out of granite and his cheekbones sculpted but far from pretty. His short hair, thick and black, fell in unruly waves that defied the short cut. It made him appear untamed, a wildcat few could cage or train. His mouth caught in a thin line etched with pain or disapproval, or maybe both. Something powerful radiated from him and mixed with a vulnerability that snatched the breath from her. She didn’t understand how she knew it, but he would become important in her life.

Compelled, she stepped into the rotunda from the north wing first floor ward. She’d intercept him and help. Perhaps he wasn’t a patient but a friend coming to see one of his wounded buddies.

Nurse Liza Olmaster saw him, too, as she strode from the administration offices located in the back. And when Nurse Olmaster latched on to a person they never escaped.

Annabelle hadn’t gone more than two steps before a powerful arm slung around her neck and drew her back into the hallway. She managed one strangled cry, surprise mixing with anger.

“What you doin’ Kraut? You think you’re going to spy for the Kaiser and tell those Huns where we’re at?” He pulled on her neck again and she gasped for air.

The gruff voice was thick with drug, but also strong with hatred. She recognized that foul-mouthed western accent right away. Problem was, she could barely squeak much less plead with Sergeant Martin “Pepper” Culpepper. Pain shot through her throat. She gripped the man’s hard forearm with both hands, but she couldn’t make him budge. If he crushed her larynx she wouldn’t have to worry about anything. She wouldn’t have nightmares, or sweats, or feel her heartbeat slamming relentlessly against her chest every time she tried to leave this building.

“Soldier!”

The deep, commanding voice boomed, startling her as much as Pepper. The man hauling her farther backwards into the hallway stopped, and as her eyes watered she tried to see through pain.

The handsome man walking toward her and Pepper brushed passed Nurse Olmaster. “Wait. I’ll take care of this.”

Nurse Olmaster, petite but blustery, took instant offense. “You have no business—”

“Shut up,” the new man said, his voice cold and harsh.

Nurse Olmaster gasped, and turned right around to dash back to the administration offices.

The tall man coming to her rescue took each step slowly, and he held up one hand. “Soldier, what are you doing out of your barracks?”

Was this man crazy? Yes, he probably was.

Pepper’s grip around her neck eased, and she realized she was wheezing like a bellows. “Pepper you know I’m not German.”

“Soldier, what’s your name?” The tall man asked, inching closer.

The hard muscle behind her shifted, and pressure came down on her windpipe again.  “Martin Culpepper. My friends call me Pepper.”

“Well, then, Pepper…may I be so presumptuous to call you Pepper?”

“Sure.”

“Good. Now, this woman you’re holding is a German?”

Pepper’s arm loosened a little, but not enough to allow escape. She sucked in breath, enjoying the air almost too much to notice anything else.

“Yeah, she’s a German…Captain? You is a Captain?”

Hale tapped his insignia and the row of metals. “I am.”

“In the U.S. of A Army?”

“Yes. Where are you from, Sergeant?”

“Missouri.”

“A fine state.”

“Yes, sir.” Pepper loosened his grip even more. “Sir, I’ve brought you a prisoner. Those bastards done blew up my entire regiment sir. They left me alone.” Pepper’s voice turned ragged as he started dragging her back down the hall. His voice rose. “They left me with blood all over me. Blood and guts and aw Chrissakes Captain it was the most awful damned thing I ever saw.” Pepper’s voice broke. “You don’t understand. You just don’t understand.”

The Captain followed, his steps quick but not crowding the man. “I know how that is Sergeant.” The Captain had the gall to smile. “This one time I saw a man’s head blown keen off at the shoulders. Was the most horrible thing I thought I was ever going to see. Found out later it wasn’t.”

Annabelle considered that maybe the Captain had no intention of helping her at all, and fear slid up her throat like a bad taste. What if this new soldier was here for the same war sickness problem Pepper had?

The Captain gestured casually as he stepped closer. “I know they told you living in a building like Tranquil View would make you better.”

She couldn’t see Pepper nodding, but she could feel his movements. “They did say that, sir.”

“And does it?”

“Yes.”

She wanted to growl at the Captain. After all, he wasn’t the one dangling off this man’s arm and throat hurting like the Dickens. Now that the Captain stood nearer, she saw that his eyes burned like coal, their brown so dark they almost looked black. But there was nothing cold in his expression.

“Look Pepper even if she’s guilty I know you wouldn’t hurt a woman. It’s not the way we do things in the army. It’s not the way a real man would do things. Let her go now. If she’s my prisoner I’ll take it from here.”

She didn’t know whether to be relieved or to still worry about Pepper’s intentions. Fear still scuttled hot through her body. Annabelle remembered what her father told her before she went to war.

Darlin’ you’re going to see some things. Things no man or woman should ever see. My Daddy said Gettysburg killed him long after the war was over. You need to get it right in your head to be strong. Anything else and you’ll be like your Granddaddy jumping at his own shadow.

She’d thought she’d been ready. How wrong she’d been. Even leaving the war didn’t really mean leaving the war.

 

 

 

Perils Of Starting A New Novel

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Last week, between this and that and this and that, I started reading a historical book on the Beast of Gevaudan. Who or what is the Beast of Gevaudan? Let’s just say that I’ll let you look up the creature on the Internet. This so-called beast is a major character in my next novel, the second in a paranormal historical trilogy. This book is set in 1766, France, and I know my research on this novel is going to prove extensive. Like many writers, I get those initial first twinges when I start a historical novel. Though I know I’ve written complex, complicated historical romances before, there’s always that part of me that screams that the story is too complicated and two hard to write. I’m always wrong.

Next week I have two major projects to start. Tweaking, revising and submitting Daryk Warrior to an editor. Second, more reading and research on Wolfsbane (working title),) the story featuring the mysterious and horrid Beast of Gevaudan. Never fear, though. The beast is not the hero.

 

Historicals & Inspiration

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Historical romances are definitely a passion of mine.

I’ve written historical romances in the past, but have taken significant time out to write contemporaries. Why? Because my interest in historical writing comes as it comes. I can’t really write them on demand any more than I can write other novels on demand. I have to have a spark, and idea that grabs me by the throat.  My erotic time travel BRIDGE THROUGH THE MIST takes the reader back to 1318 Scotland. The hero, a Highlander, demanded that his rough and tumble world be created, and I said yes. After all, he did have that big sword and…oh, did I just say that out loud? I loved researching Scotland via books and computer, but in the 90’s I had the great fortune to visit Scotland several times. There’s nothing like being there…books and research can never convey quite the sounds, smells, visuals that visiting a country can. There’s nothing like standing in front of a great castle and savoring the wonder.

On the other hand, what if you’re writing a book set during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 London, England? I’ve always had a fascination for writing fictional stories based around true events, and because I’d been interested in Jack The Ripper’s antics for quite a while, I’d researched the heck out of it. When I took the plunge to write DARK, DEADLY LOVE (was Midnight Rose), I found all that fascination paid off. Lots of facts had sunk into my head, but I loved, loved doing the additional research. It took about five months to create the first draft of the story, plus a few months more to revise and edit. I ended up with a very long manuscript, but one I was so proud of, and one that satisfied me to the core. When I had that big ole book in hand, I sighed with relief. Yes, this felt good. No, it felt fantastic.

When I wrote LOVE FROM THE ASHES, my story set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the research once again consumed me. Because I’d always been interested in earthquakes, the science and the history of the event swept me up. Like an adventure, I rode the tide with the real life people who experienced the event, learned a lifetime of details. Again this story took me a long time to write, but once more the satisfaction was beyond compare. Where did I get the original idea for the story? I’d read that many marriage licenses were taken out the day after the earthquake. How romantic is that? So guess what my hero and heroine did? Yep, that’s right.

In ’05 a burning ache to write another historical started to consume me. Soon I possessed an inkling of where and when I wanted to set the story. Roman Britain. Oh, boy. If you want to cause shudders of dread in an author, tell them you are research ANYTHING to do with the Romans. Well, okay, some authors’ eyes will light up, other author’s mouths will round in a big O of admiration. Some will grunt and say how would I stand the research? I located tons of stuff on line and gobbled it up. I’d already accumulated two books on Roman Britain and read those. Then I bought books on the Roman Army and digested them with complete fascination. Watched my Gladiator DVD again. Watched my HBO Rome DVD set again. Sucked it all in. Wrote my notes about the plot, the characters, thought of their names. Soon I had a big, big idea for my book. I love this story, and I hope you’ll read FOR A ROMAN’S HEART.

I wrote BEFORE THE DAWN, which is set in 1850’s Pennsylvania, when I saw a documentary about Eastern State Penitentiary. What if a hero was framed for murder and survived five years in one of the most hellish prisons in the world? What kind of heroine would it take to see through his scars, mostly emotional, from five years of solitary confinement?

My latest historical creations include the first two books in my ASYLUM TRILOGY, SHADOWS WAIT and SHADOWS RISE. Both of these books were inspired by events that mattered deeply in the lives of so many people. In the coming weeks I’ll give you more and more information about the ASYLUM TRILOGY and its upcoming release this year.

So, for those of you who love historicals or historical romances, what makes them a rich experience for you? I’ll pick a random winner and announce next week who won a download of BEFORE THE DAWN.

 

 

Excerpt: Treacherous Wishes

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you had a fantastic holiday season filled with all the things most important and beloved to you.

I’m starting the year off with an excerpt of Treacherous Wishes, and erotic romantic suspense available now at Ellora’s Cave for only 99 cents and $1.49 at Amazon. It’s a full length novel! Treacherous Wishes is the sequel to Dangerous Intentions. You can also find two free short stories in the same “world” as these two novels in the Freebies section of my website. I hope you enjoy!

**

Just when you think the danger has passed…

Just when you’ve stopped looking over your shoulder…

Evil finds a way…

Tammy Carter lost her psychic abilities in the aftermath of tragedy. Now, years later, her power resurrects when evil returns to her town. Everything in her comfort zone is disintegrating, except for one thing—the searing attraction she feels for one man. The one man who might stand between her…and death.

Bodyguard Kyle Hawthorne doesn’t believe in the supernatural or in Tammy’s psychic gift, but when her life is threatened he’ll do anything to protect her. Professionalism requires a platonic relationship with his coworker at Taggert Security Team, yet the sizzling connection he feels for Tammy demands exploration every time he’s near her.

Tammy harbors lightning-hot fantasies about Kyle. Suddenly their sensual desires and emotional connections are too powerful to ignore, and as they seek to sate the long-denied sexual hunger, they spark a chain reaction of events that may bring them together, or allow the evil to consume them.

 

***

Less than two minutes later, the phone rang again. Once more she ignored it.

She thought of something that sent her heart into a rapid jig.

Was the front door to the office locked?

Putting her mug on the counter, she trotted out to the front area. When she reached her desk, she saw the door unlocked. Damn! This might be a secure building, but Tammy never left it unlocked when alone in the office.

Before she reached the door, a blast of scorching, vivid red blinded her and she stumbled back, falling to the floor and landing on her butt. She gasped, startled by the force.

Whoever or whatever had called her had entered the building and was close. Too close.

Tammy struggled to unscramble her senses as another wave of scarlet splattered across her vision. Power flooded her system and she stood, legs wobbly and step uncertain. Dread surged through her veins like electricity, and she knew she must reach the door and lock it before the fiend with the blood red aura could arrive first.

Now. Go. Hurry.

The crimson retreated, draining away like the lifeblood of the dying. She closed her eyes and the burning sensation left her body. Relief made her almost as dizzy as the vision, and Tammy took another step. Must lock the door. The person may come back.

She stepped forward and had just touched the knob when the door came open.

Tammy jumped back, a startled yelp leaving her throat. Her heart slammed in her chest as her heel snagged on the carpet and she started to fall backwards. Before she could make another sound, the big man in the doorway leapt forward and caught her in his arms. He hauled her against his chest.

“Tammy?” Concern drew Hawthorne’s dark brows downward and his lips thinned into a frown.

“You,” she said, sighing in total relief.

No red. No colors at all. She never saw colors when she was around Hawthorne.

“Were you expecting someone else?”

“No,” she said weakly. “I was going to lock the door when you came busting in and scared the bejeebers out of me.”

“You’re trembling.” He tucked her a little closer and the heat of his body warmed her.

“I think the air conditioning was up a bit high. I-I got cold.”

Although stunned, Tammy couldn’t ignore the fact she pressed against his tall, rock-hard body. The soft, denim shirt couldn’t hide the evidence of broad shoulders under her fingers.

No, he’d never be model handsome, but perhaps that was what made him interesting. Most women found Hawthorne’s dangerous air mixed with a sharp sense of humor almost mouth-watering. His face had a mixed-up perfection that belonged in the movies. Dark and deep, his brown eyes could switch from amused to frosty in a heartbeat. His almost too long nose matched well with his uncompromising jaw. Cocoa brown hair was cut close enough to his head to be neat, but not quite military length. Tammy had a notion if he let it grow much longer the waves would go wild. Despite his looks, his face could turn hard and unforgiving. No one could ever call him boyish.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.

His touch, his nearness had wiped away the terror. “I feel good.”

As she gazed up into Hawthorne’s eyes and cursed the gods that gave some men long sexy lashes, she saw something change within him.

A sudden, shocking warmth ignited in his eyes and flickered into full flame. “You feel great.”

Her mouth dropped in surprise. Was he flirting with her again?

Hawthorne’s mouth turned up in his trademark quirky smile. Between tender and hard, his mouth looked undeniably masculine. His hands moved in a caressing motion over her back, then held still, keeping her pressed to him.

Suddenly Tammy was downright breathless. His warm, spicy scent had teased and tantalized her many times before, but now she felt every inch of him, every nuance. Something had changed and it sent waves of heat straight to her toes. His six-foot-four frame towered over her five foot six inches. Her body responded despite the fright, as her breasts mashed against his muscled chest and her thighs plastered to his.

Lean without being skinny, big boned and perfectly muscled, Hawthorne looked capable of kicking anyone’s ass. His jeans slicked along narrow hips, tight butt, and long, powerful legs. Tammy licked her lips and swallowed hard as another fluttery sensation darted into her stomach.

Maybe she should say something before he thought she had lost her mind. Tammy pushed against Hawthorne’s chest and eased from his arms.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry? I thought you were waiting for me?” he asked.

“I got another one of those phone calls and I remembered the door wasn’t locked.”

It didn’t help when he came close, standing so near she inhaled a whiff of his aftershave again. He cupped her shoulder. “You look a little shaky.”

She realized that she’d been rubbing her arms. “I’m fine.”

As if to contradict her, her body rebelled and a wave of nausea replaced the desire she’d felt moments ago.

“Can’t fool me.” His quiet voice soothed her senses. “You’re pale as the dead.”

Barb’s grave. The caller had awakened the dead. “I’m okay, Hawthorne.”

Hawthorne didn’t look convinced. He shoved a hand through his already mussed hair. “What did the caller say?”

“Stupid things. It’s nothing.”

He looked doubtful. “All right. About ready to go?”

“Yeah. Let me get my coat.”

But then the queasiness increased and as Tammy turned, she pressed her hand to her stomach. Before she could say or do a thing, dizziness assaulted her.

“Hawthorne—”

Darkness blotted every color from her vision.

**