Book Cover: Polar Night
Part of the Polar Point series:
  • Polar Night
Editions:Kindle
ISBN: B01APLLHDM
Paperback
ISBN: 978-1523446117
Size: 5.50 x 8.50 in
Pages: 240

The Heart Points North.

Tamsin Norwood just wanted to study the eagles on Kodiak. Now, her life depends on her getting far, far away from the island and the madman who took her captive. Fate conspires, leading her to a magically concealed safe haven in Arctic Alaska.

The denizens of Polar Point are as complicated as they are fierce. From the wise old witch to the playful wolf and the snarky tiger, the secret community both baffles and intrigues Tamsin. But one resident in particular makes her question her very human instincts.

Polar bear shifter Fisher Frost never wanted another sleuth. Not after the tragedy that befell his family. Wild polar bears have it right: it's better to hunt alone. Alone means safe. Alone means steady. Alone means never losing another piece of himself. Fisher's resolve wavers when the dawn of polar night brings his true mate.

During the longest, coldest Alaskan nights, Fisher and Tamsin warm to one another. But can she melt this frozen bear? Will they survive the twists and turns fate has prepared for them?

This full-length novel is intended for mature audiences.

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Displaced People

The Cessna’s propellers whirred, filling the cramped cabin with a noxious buzz. To Tamsin Norwood, the sound represented freedom.

As the plane took flight, she gripped her seat until her knuckles paled. Rigid, she sat with her fleece hoodie pulled over her unkempt hair and a stolen coat draped like a blanket over her torso. From the side window, she watched as her hometown of Larsen Bay grew small. Soon, even the mass that made up the Kodiak archipelago was out of sight.

Relief flooded her system.

It wasn’t that she was happy to leave her entire life behind. But preserving that life—whatever remained of it—meant she had to get the hell off the island.

If she stayed, she’d die. Landon Poe would see to that.

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“Sky feels good.” The pilot’s gritty voice crackled in the headset he’d shoved at her before takeoff. “Not as icy as I’d expect for November.”

Tamsin didn’t reply. When she’d first spotted him on the dock, she’d nearly cried. With his ruffled blond hair and dimpled chin, he’d looked like salvation. He’d been such a dick, though, that she couldn’t find it in herself to make conversation.

She didn’t entirely blame him, of course. Begging for secret passage with only a handful of cash and no ID didn’t exactly make her Client of the Year. He’d taken pity, though, finally seeming to register her genuine distress.

Tamsin would deal with the port authorities. They could arrest her if they needed. At this point, she’d welcome a normal jail cell. Steel bars would be a step up from that makeshift prison back on Kodiak.

Ten minutes into the flight, she relaxed. When they were closer to Anchorage, she’d return to her taut state of red-fucking-alert. Poe would guess she’d taken a plane.

Like most predators, Poe was smart. He prided himself on anticipating his opponent’s every move. He considered every outcome, weighed every risk. He was narcissistic with an otherworldly confidence, but he was also paranoid beyond belief.

In the three months she’d known him, she’d studied him. What else was she supposed to do while he’d kept her handcuffed to rusty machinery in the abandoned cannery?

He’d sniff her out. He was a hunter, after all. Complete with sets of claws and fangs that had made her scream and cry the first time she’d witnessed him change.

No, shift. He’d called it shifting. Because apparently supernatural creatures not only existed, just like all the stories her grandma Tilly used to tell while gutting deer or de-scaling pike, they also boasted their own lexicon featuring words like mate and claim.

Growing up on Kodiak, Tamsin had lived alongside the local bear population for as long as she could remember. For all the bears she’d ever observed from the safety of the red-roofed fishing lodge she’d called home—a home he’d doused with gasoline and lit aflame—she’d never seen any creature as monstrous as Landon Poe, fully shifted.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Because Poe’s human form was almost as terrifying as his towering bear’s. It wasn’t that there was anything especially wrong with how he looked, even with that jagged scar running down his left cheek. But his eyes. There was something about his eyes.

He looked at you as if he were peeling away your skin with his every narrowed gaze. She’d been his prisoner for so long, he’d flayed her to the bone.

She was his, he’d asserted. Repeatedly. Usually while leering at her as if she were a side of buck he intended to devour.

Yes, Poe would sniff her out. In all likelihood, he’d probably be waiting for her when she tottered off the plane in Anchorage. With his resources, he could reach the city far sooner than the bush pilot with his rickety ride.

Tamsin had to be smart. At the first sign of trouble, she could always hop a bus to Fairbanks. She still had university friends in Fairbanks. She wasn’t sure how she’d pay for a ticket, of course. She’d plonked down most of her stolen cash—stolen from the pocket of Poe’s seldom-used coat—to bribe the pilot, but she’d figure out the details when she arrived.

Anything was better than those handcuffs. Than Poe’s flashing yellow eyes. Than the endless loop of Tilly’s anguished screams.

With her forehead propped against the window, Tamsin let her eyes fall shut. She had forty minutes before she needed to be ready to move. To find the first badge-and-gun to cross her line of sight. To tell them she was Tamsin Norwood, researcher with the Fish and Wildlife Service, grieving granddaughter of Tilly Chernoff, and she was alive.

For the first time in months, Tamsin drifted knowing Poe wasn’t there to watch her sleep.

⋅⋅⋆∙⊱❖⊰∙⋆⋅⋅

A mile to the east, a modest herd of caribou thundered across the frozen beach. Fisher Frost sat perfectly still. Even as thick swirls of snow choked the crisp air, he could scent his prey. The surrounding flurry of white combined with the dim light of dawn ensured he would remain cloaked.

Growling, he waited. Polar bears were founts of patience.

Fisher was the first to admit his human tolerance was far less than his bear’s. He’d nearly slashed Hunter’s head off. Again. The goddamn wolf never knew when to keep his maw shut.

Life in Polar Point grated Fisher’s nerves. More often than not, he entertained the idea of setting off on his own again. He’d never wanted to be a part of this community. He certainly never wanted another sleuth. But Jo had been convincing.

Not for the first time, Fisher found himself wondering if the old witch had cast a spell on him. He couldn’t explain his continued presence otherwise.

Well, he could. But he didn’t like to think about the year leading up to his entry into Johanna Ashfield’s enchanted community for misfit shifters. Enchanted in so far as it appeared on no maps, boasted boundary spells for concealment, and generally served as an out-of-the-way camp meant to keep self-destructing supernaturals from implosion.

Fisher had certainly been ready to implode two years ago.

Jo did her best. And despite her petite frame, she somehow managed to keep a group of unruly, too-fucked-up-for-their-own-good male shifters under a modicum of control.

They were all wayward. From Fisher with his broken bear to Hunter with his wily wolf. Jaeger was as aloof as his tiger, but he was a powder keg with whiskers and a swishy tail. And then there was Alaric.

Even Jo had secrets.

Arctic Alaska was the ideal hideaway from the rest of the world. Its snow was so white, it almost fooled you into thinking you could be as clean and untouched, too. But Fisher knew he’d never clean his hands—or paws—of his sleuth’s blood.

The witch maintained they all needed each other. Fisher still thought that was bullshit.

Wild polar bears had the right idea: it’s better to hunt alone. Alone, there was no one snarking or snapping at your every move. No one complaining you’re a brooding mess. No one yapping like a scorned puppy.

Polar Point wasn’t perfect, but Jo had yanked Fisher from his breaking point just when he’d needed it the most. If he’d kept going down his former path, he’d have garnered more stains on his translucent fur. That trajectory also led to an inevitable finality. Fisher would have ended up with a bullet in his brain, whether by his own hand or someone else’s.

It wasn’t becoming of an alpha polar bear—even a former alpha like Fisher—to admit that an itty bitty witch with white hair had saved his life, but Jo had saved his. He wasn’t sure it was a life worth saving, but she’d saved it, anyway.

Out of respect for her and the tenuous community she was trying to build in Polar Point, he’d retreat for a while. He’d cool his nerves. Calm his temper. Soothe the rage that bubbled beneath his human skin and bruin fur.

The caribou were close. Their dark shapes moved through the flurry, emerging like ghosts from the haze of white. Fisher rumbled. With his head lowered and his ears folded against his head, he stalked forward, his icy gaze fixed on a target.

The bull screamed in alarm, but it was already too late. Crimson stained the snow.

Fisher could retreat. He could cool down. But he’d never deny that it still felt damn good to sink his animal’s teeth into something.


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Book Cover: Winter Solstice
Part of the Ever Afters series:
Editions:KindlePaperback

The Afters Brothers are Cursed.

Every winter solstice for the last eight years, grizzly shifter Clayton Afters has roused from an enchanted slumber brought on by a dark curse. While his brothers are locked in their own forced hibernations, Clayton is allowed three months to tend to his family’s wintering apple farm.

With only two winters left before the curse swallows him whole, Clayton faces the impossible task of finding the one road to salvation: his true mate. Bordering on hopelessness, he has no reason to think his ninth winter under the curse will be any different from the last eight. True mates are rare, after all. Clayton isn’t even sure he has one.

He isn’t sure, that is, until he almost rear-ends her Camaro in the midst of a blizzard.

Penitent witch Clementine Weatherspoon has a penchant for fire, a knack for communing with the dead, and a complicated family tree. She never expected to meet her beloved in the middle of a snowy country road. She definitely didn’t expect him to be a towering bear shifter, either. But from the second she sets eyes on Clayton's inner light, she is smitten by the wild beast lurking beneath his golden stare.

On the darkest day of the year, Clayton and Clementine’s connection sizzles the snow. But fate has a peculiar sense of humor, and the winter solstice proves to be full of surprises for this fated pair.

This novella is the prequel to the Ever Afters series. It is intended for mature audiences.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Winter Solstice, 2014

“That oughta do it.” Clementine Weatherspoon tightened the cap on the vial of her favorite oils. Sage and frankincense would purify the entryways. Verbena would keep darkness at bay.

“It’s really gone, isn’t it?” Greta Carmichael breathed in deeply. A shock of white hair cut through her frizzy chestnut waves. “The air feels so different.”

She’s gone.” Clementine employed her gentlest tone. It never sat right with her when people referred to ghosts as its. Ghosts were once people, too, after all.

“Honey, you should pull out that trick on the Fourth of July. I ain’t never seen such a light show.”

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Clementine hummed as she stored the bottle in her satchel, ensuring that it was slotted into place beside her container of rock salt. “She’s found peace now. That’s all that matters.”

“It’s funny, old Aunt Aggie’s been creaking and groaning her way around the house all these years. It almost won’t feel right without her.”

“It was long past her time. Restless spirits become angry. I’m just glad I could help before she got a little too—”

Greta widened her blue eyes and nodded in quick succession. Clementine didn’t need to finish that thought, but she still felt an urge to comfort.

“Homes are like an old quilt. Everyone who’s ever stepped foot inside becomes a patch on the top layer. Even after they’re gone, they’re still woven into the house’s memory.”

“That’s a nice thought. You know, I was never one to put much stock in w—” Greta trailed off, hesitating over the word. “In what you do. But I’m mighty glad you can do what you do.”

Clementine pulled on her jacket. Not that it would help much against the building blizzard outside. “Happy to help.”

Greta reached into one of her dress pockets and retrieved a handful of cash.

Clementine shook her head. “You hang on to that.”

“Don’t be a fool. You saved Christmas! It’s my turn to host the family this year, and it just wouldn’t have done at all to have old Aggie throwing the plates against the wall. Please, take it.”

After she’d draped her satchel over her shoulder, Clementine pushed both hands into her jacket pockets. “No, ma’am. Thank you, but I don’t do this for money.”

Balls,” Greta huffed. “Hang on, you wait right there.”

Clementine considered sneaking out before the woman could return, but Greta was spry for her age.

“Here,” she said, forcing a covered pie dish into Clementine’s arms. “And take these, too.” She offered a canvas sack containing a few Mason jars filled with preserves. “There’s a jar of apple butter and two jars of apple sauce. All handmade from the best damn apples in the whole state.”

“Mrs. Carmichael, I couldn’t pos—”

“You can and you will.”

Clementine relented with a sigh. The pie was still warm. Cinnamon and nutmeg clouded her judgment. “Thank you. That’s very kind.”

“You enjoy. You earned it.”

When Greta opened the front door, a frigid gust of wind greeted her. Bracing herself, Clementine stepped out onto the porch.

“You all right to drive in this?” Greta asked, eyeing Clementine’s Camaro. “It’s awful dark out. You’re gonna slip and slide all over the roads in that thing.”

“I’ll be just dandy,” Clementine said, heading down the sidewalk. She cast a fleeting smile over her shoulder. “I’m a witch.”

⋅⋅⋆∙⊱❖⊰∙⋆⋅⋅

‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ wafted from the Ford’s old speakers. Static obscured Bing Crosby’s melancholy delivery.

Clayton Afters had been awake for seventeen hours. Not that he planned on sleeping anytime soon. He avoided sleep during the few short months out of the year he was actually conscious.

Snow fell in heavy sheets around his trusty blue truck. He kept his speed measured and his gaze fixed on the road ahead. What little he could see of it, anyway. Enhanced shifter sight didn’t matter much when someone shook the snow globe.

Clayton didn’t mind the perilous drive. Blinding flurries aside, the rumble of the engine soothed both man and beast. Every bump in the road felt like breathing.

It’s funny what you miss when you spend most of your life trapped under the weight of a curse.

Clayton tried to avoid those thoughts as best he could. As he grew older, though, the thoughts were inescapable. His future hung over his head like a question mark.

From today until the spring equinox, he was free to live and just be. But it was hard to be anything when you knew your brothers were trapped in their own enchanted slumbers.

Braxton had the summers to roam. Dalton had the autumns to harvest. And Houston got to watch their endless acres spring back to life. Clayton got the cold and the dark.

He hadn’t felt the summer sun or watched the leaves turn gold in almost a decade. He hadn’t shared a joke or a beer or a shift with his brothers in just as long.

At least he still had Vangie. The lone Afters sister had been pardoned from the curse. She hadn’t gotten off easy, though. As far as Clayton was concerned, Evangeline Afters was a damn saint. She was their very own guardian angel. In place of wings, she wielded razor-sharp teeth and claws with a wit to match.

Vangie still believed there was a way for them to break free of the curse. Clayton could never bring himself to shred her hope. Braxton probably could. He’d always been the one with the temper to mirror his animal.

Clayton had always been the runt. The cerebral one, as Vangie liked to say. The one who thought before he spoke. The one who plotted and planned before he made a move.

He wasn’t sure that had ever served him well. Considering he’d yet to find his true mate, all his careful thinking and planning had never really amounted to much.

Cold crept into the old truck, and Clayton tightened his grip around the steering wheel. He passed the familiar sign for Ever Afters Farm and Orchards.

God, he hated that name.

Once upon a time, it had seemed charming. But the Afters were cursed, and there was nothing whimsical about their unhappy ever after.

Their lives were a fairy tale, sure. Complete with an evil witch. Most people forget that traditional fairy tales almost always end bloody.

There was no magic apple to bite. No castle wall to scale. No flaming sword to slay a beast.

They were the beasts. And Clayton had read enough to know that no one ever comes to save the beast.

He slowed, preparing to make the turn onto the long, private driveway that led back to the family farmhouse. A shock of red cut through the flurry of white, staining the air crimson.

Taillights.

“Sssshit.”

He slammed his foot onto the breaks. The truck skidded on the slick asphalt. He winced, readying himself for the inevitable collision.

Seconds before his truck met a canary yellow Camaro, everything went still.

Clayton blinked. It took a second for him to realize he was holding his breath. Exhaling, he threw the truck into park and hopped out of the driver’s side door.

Rounding to the front of the Ford, he squinted through the heavy snow. The truck had come within a hair of the other vehicle. The ass of the Camaro and the nose of the truck were so close, he couldn’t have slid so much as a toenail between them.

“The hell are you doin’ out here?” He strode toward the other driver’s door. “Farm’s closed! Come back for your tree tomorro—”

The window rolled down. A pretty redhead with green eyes peered out at him.

Cinnamon. She smelled like cinnamon. No, that wasn’t right. Sage. And rosewood. Verbena petals.

She smelled like snow and lightning. Like an old book and a mug of honeyed tea laced with whiskey. Like long nights by a crackling fire and endless mornings under crisp sheets.

Most of all, she smelled like mate.

Bear blood always ran hot, but Clayton’s grizzly now burned beneath his skin. This was it. He felt it in his marrow.

She was his. And she was beautiful. From her artfully arched brows to the slight cleft on her chin, her delicate features crumpled into a thunderstruck expression.

“Oh hell,” she whispered, gawking at him as if he’d just burst into flames.

Startled, Clayton straightened. Had he frightened her?

Before he could reply, she’d rolled up the window and snapped her attention back toward the road.


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Book Cover: Rite of Spring
Part of the Ever Afters series:
Editions:Kindle
ISBN: B018SS44O8
Paperback
ISBN: 978-1519648747
Size: 5.50 x 8.50 in
Pages: 286

The Afters Brothers are Cursed.

Grizzly bear shifter Houston Afters’ every waking moment serves as a reminder that time ticks against him. Alpha of his sleuth, Houston rages against the dark magic that forces him into seasonal hibernations. With only three days before the summer solstice, Houston knows there is only one way to survive his final spring: he must find and claim his true mate.

Seasoned hiker Hope Hemmington never imagined her venture up the Appalachian Trail would lead her into the world of the paranormal. At the mid-way point in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia where two great rivers converge, Hope learns to trust her instincts and the tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome man who is intent on protecting her from the shadowy figure that stalked her on the Trail.

As the solstice looms over Ever Afters Farm and Orchards, Houston and Hope must come together to face the unfolding mystery surrounding the Afters sleuth.

This full-length novel is intended for mature audiences.

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

June 2015

The Appalachian Trail had kicked Hope Hemmington’s ass. Repeatedly. But she’d kept going. Through torrential rainstorms, exhaustion, skinned knees, chaffed thighs, and the creepy assholes who tended to hang out around trailheads, she’d kept going.

Through-hiking was an endurance trial. She’d discovered her physical limitations, and then she’d discovered how to push past them.

The real test had been mental. Once upon a time, her father had told her, “If you’re gonna to set out into the wild, you better make sure you like yourself. More than that, you better trust yourself, too.”

Sage advice. And she’d mulled over it off and on, usually at night when the forest lived and lurched around her.

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After departing from Springer Mountain in Georgia, Hope had been excited. She’d had a plan. And damn it all to hell, she’d had purpose.

Two-and-a-half months into her trek up the trail, she’d seen and smelled it all. Black bears. Foxes. The occasional skunk. She’d made a game of counting chipmunks, but she’d lost count a quarter of the way through North Carolina. She’d broken bread with strangers, had shared sleeping quarters with mice, and had even earned herself a trail nickname after she’d offered her last Honey Bun to a flagging older gent who’d needed a bit of Trail Magic to help him through a rough patch of rocky terrain.

Honey Bun Hope and her Doggy Dog Dodger had made good time overall, and Hope had been happy enough. Tired and achy, sure, but happy enough.

The halfway point in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia should have felt like a true milestone. It should have been a victorious checkmark on her overall plan. Instead, the signpost felt like salvation. She headed toward the trailhead’s exit into the National Historical Park, pulling Dodger along with her.

She usually never had to pull. She and Dodger had always been in accord. The German Shepherd could be as sweet and soppy as anything when it was just the two of them, but he was as fierce as a wolf when his canine instincts kicked in. He was the ideal trail companion, and she’d been especially thankful for his presence on more than one occasion. Dodger kept Creepy Trailhead Assholes at bay, after all.

But last night, Dodger had been tense. Hope shared his unease.

Once she’d almost cleared her home state of Virginia, she’d noted a distinct lack of fellow hikers on the long stretches of trail leading into West Virginia. Hope hadn’t seen another soul in twenty-four hours, and she’d passed only a handful of others in the preceding days.

Last night had seemed off. Even now, in broad daylight, the tree line felt dangerous.

Down in Georgia and Tennessee, she’d spotted modest-sized black bears that had gone about their business without giving her much notice. Her heart had hammered to see them so close, certainly, but those fleeting moments of rational fear were pitiful blips compared to the skin-crawling sensation that now threatened to consume her.

“Come on, Dodge,” she said, giving the leash a firm tug. “Let’s go.”

Dodger followed, but his gait remained stiff. Every minute or so, he’d cast a glance back toward the dense clusters of trees. Hope didn’t follow the direction of his gaze. Since the early hours of morning, she’d been certain something—or someone—was watching her. She hadn’t seen anyone, of course. Still, a thousands-of-years-of-evolution-taught-us-to-sense-these-things instinct told her she needed to get off the trail. And her father had raised her to follow those types of instincts.

As Hope passed a weather-worn sign reading, ‘Welcome to Harpers Ferry,’ the hair on the nape of her neck stood upright. Her stomach knotted. Her throat tightened as if to contain a brewing scream behind her tonsils.

She picked up the pace until she was outright running down the path, with Dodger snarling a warning behind her.

⋅⋅⋆∙⊱❖⊰∙⋆⋅⋅

Houston Afters slashed his claws across the old sycamore, shredding its trunk. As anger management therapies went, mauling a tree was only mildly helpful. So much of Houston’s life had always been out of his control. He was proactive by nature. His dominant animal refused passivity. But even a massive black grizzly couldn’t claw its way out of dark magic.

The final days of spring heralded change. Houston was no stranger to the bittersweet breeze. He’d once damned the humid nights and their reminder of the looming seasonal change, but he now mourned for all the future winds that would never rustle his fur or kiss his human skin.

This was to be his last spring.

Soon, he’d sleep. Like every other late June, he’d crawl into his den—well, a spacious bedroom in his family’s sprawling farmhouse—and close his eyes. Unlike previous years, however, his eyes would not open again after the long crawl past summer, fall, and winter when his brothers would rouse from their own enchanted slumbers.

The Afters brothers were cursed. Spelled by a witch, the quadruplets’ close bond had been severed before they’d even reached their twentieth birthday. Houston had not spoken to Braxton, Dalton, or Clayton in almost a full decade, but he watched over them daily. When it was his season to rouse, at least.

Houston’s routines were simple. Frustrating, but simple. In the mornings, he’d steal into their respective rooms and sit by their sides for however long he deemed appropriate. Some days involved more idle, one-sided chatter than others. Clayton usually ended up with the largest earful of Houston’s rambles.

Houston couldn’t say why he’d always been closer to Clayton. The four of them shared everything, from faces to birthdays, but Clayton had always been special.

After a sleepless night, dawn had demanded a break from routine. Houston had gone out back and changed into his truer self without so much as a pause by his brothers’ rooms. The night had been chilly. Not that the cold air affected him; bear blood pumped hotter than any normal human’s. Still, the creeping chill served as a reminder of Houston’s failure.

He hadn’t found his true mate.

Spring after spring, he’d searched. And spring after spring, he’d returned to his forced hibernation.

True mates were rare, if they even existed at all. Houston and his brothers had been damned with an impossible fail-safe. And here he was at spring’s end, ten years into a curse he couldn’t shake with no true mate in sight and an eternity of sleep stretching out before him.

So Houston did the only thing he could: he raged. By full sunrise, he’d reduced the old sycamore to a pile of splinters.

Once he’d pulled himself together—and pulled on some clothes—he headed back to the farmhouse. He scented coffee brewing in the kitchen before he even entered through the back door.

“I happened to like that tree, you know,” said his scowling sister.

Evangeline Afters had a tongue as sharp as her grizzly’s canines. Out of the five of them, Houston’s bear had always been the largest and most dominant, but Vangie was their constant guardian. Though Houston was technically the alpha, he often wondered if his sister hadn’t earned the status through her unwavering vigilance. Ever Afters Farm and Orchards wouldn’t be standing today without her careful, calculated management. More than that, it was Vangie who watched over them throughout their long months of forced hibernation.

“It was blocking the light,” Houston groused.

“Boarshit.” She poured coffee into Houston’s usual mug and slid it across the island countertop. Houston captured the mug before it slid overboard. Hot coffee sloshed onto the worn wooden surface.

“That kind of language is unbecoming of a sow.” He offered an affectionate grin with the hope of distracting her ire. Vangie merely narrowed her hazel eyes and raised her right middle finger.

Houston turned to the window over the sink and took another sip of coffee, pretending to scan the aisles of the western orchard containing their crop of Afters apples. Pink-tinged blossoms dotted the green-covered branches on all of the trees except one. That particular tree teemed with fully ripened apples. It hadn’t always, of course. Something had happened to it over the winter, but Vangie would never explain short of a cryptic remark. It’s Clay’s tree now. Whatever the hell that meant.

“We gotta talk about this some time.”

“Not today we don’t.”

“When, then? Tomorrow? The next day? How about we schedule it for a week from now? Oh, wait. We can’t. You won’t be here.”

“We don’t know that.”

“Boarsh—”

“Vee, we don’t even know if it’s for real.” That was a lie, and they both knew it.

Now you doubt? A damn decade of being awake for three months out of the year, and now you choose to become a cynic?”

“What else am I supposed to do?” Squaring his shoulders, Houston faced his sister.

Vangie’s reply came out in a whisper. “Don’t give up.”

He’d expected her to snap at him. He’d wanted her usual snark. He needed his sister to rear up with her claws out, ready to brawl. The bear inside his chest was still pacing back and forth, spoiling for an outright battle, for anything to assure him that he was still here. Her broken whisper was so much worse than the battle-inflicted damage he craved.

Vangie inhaled deeply as if to steady herself. “I made a call.”

“What kind of call?”

“I’ve been researching. I found this seer, and—”

No.” Houston held up a hand. “Fuck no! Have you lost your damn mind?”

“Hou—”

“Vangie, we’ve been down this road. How many sandals-wearing, shawl-draped assholes did Ma bring in over the years? And not a damn one of them ever did jackshit except take our money. If this is my last week, I’m not spending it with a charlatan!”

“She’s a real witch.”

“According to which Yelp review, exactly?”

“I didn’t use Yelp,” Vangie said, indignant. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I was on this Facebook group, and—”

“Do you hear yourself?”

“We have to do something! We can’t lose you. I can’t lose you. You have less than a week and then you won’t ever wake up again. If this seer lady is a bust, fine. Then we’ll look for something else. But we have to try.”

The last time Houston had seen tears in his sister’s eyes, they’d just finished burying their mother. Three springs had passed since Evelyn Afters’ sudden death, but time hadn’t lessened the weight of their loss.

Houston didn’t speak. He threw his gaze to the scuffed kitchen floor and clenched his jaw.

“I’ll be damned if I cry about this.” Vangie wiped at her cheeks with the palms of her hands. She tossed a tumble of her dark hair behind her shoulders and pulled it into a loose bun at the nape of her neck. “And I’ll be double-damned if I have to cry over you. We’re gonna find a way out of this. She’ll be here in the afternoon. I expect you to play nice.

Rubbing a hand down the side of his face, Houston groaned.

“Don’t give up yet, Hou,” Vangie urged. “Don’t lose hope.”


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Book Cover: End of Summer
Part of the Ever Afters series:
Editions:Kindle
ISBN: B01D0WB90E
Paperback
ISBN: 978-1530592944
Size: 5.50 x 8.50 in
Pages: 316

The Afters Brothers are Cursed.

Grizzly shifter Braxton Afters is a creature of chaos. He wrestles with his beast every waking day. Even brawls at the local bar can't sate its ire. Add on the strain of a decade-long curse, and you have one angry, aimless bear. As his final summer draws to an end, Braxton doubts he’ll ever find a mate who could put up with both him and his inner monster.

Grace Florrie knows monsters. She’s painted them often enough thanks to her animal’s unorthodox gifts. Grace never thought of her visions as a blessing, though. Their horror taught her to keep a tight grip on herself. Control, after all, is the only way she maintains her sanity.

When Braxton rescues Grace from the sinister schemes of a wicked witch, he has no idea that Grace might just rescue him in return. With the equinox looming over Ever Afters Farm and Orchards, chaos and control collide. Can Braxton and Grace find a balance even as the mystery surrounding the Afters sleuth unfurls around them?

This full-length novel is intended for mature audiences.

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Damascus, Maryland

Summer Solstice, 2015

A pair of chubby pigeons waddled across the sun-lit grass. Their soft coos calmed Grace Florrie’s frazzled nerves.

Kinda.

Even perching on her favorite bench in Damascus Park didn’t help when the visions came.

Still, the park was quiet, and she was thankful for that. The peace wouldn’t linger for long, of course. Not once the flock of out-of-school children descended upon the green.

Movement drew her gaze to the left. Jack Aimes shuffled along the sidewalk, leaning his weight on a scuffed walking cane.

He took a seat beside Grace and turned, regarding her with a shrewd frown.

“Go on,” he said, waving his cane. “Get.”

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Grace took flight. Landing a few feet away, she watched as the old man pulled a Ziplock bag from his pants pocket. He reached inside, retrieved a fistful of bird seed, and tossed the mix of millet and corn kernels toward the greedy pigeons.

She croaked her indignation. Ravens were unpopular; this was nothing new. She didn’t want his dusty bird seed, but come on. She was better than a damn pigeon.

Once more, Grace took flight. She beat the air with her wings, venting her irritation.

She’d spent her adult life grappling with her broken bird. She could fly just fine; it was the other aspects of her nature that had never worked. If she had a flock, she might manage better. Birds were intensely social creatures, after all. But no one wants to be around the girl who can glean the dark deeds that cloud your past. No one wants their indiscretions exposed or their heartbreaks laid bare.

Genuine intimacy was difficult enough to attain on its own. Intimacy via uncontrollable revelations on the part of your busted bird’s flawed magic? No one wants that.

Not humans. Not shifters. Not even an unkindness of ravens.

Perhaps that’s why the reputation of ravens as portents of doom still ruffled Grace’s feathers, even after a lifetime as an avian shifter. Most days, she’d give just about anything to experience a normal vision. To see the future rather than the past.

At least something could be done about the future. The past remained etched in stone, unchanging in its horror.

Her latest vision was proof of that.

She’d experienced bloody dreams often enough that the sight of pooled, sticky scarlet was expected. The worst part, however, was the pain. The despair. The hopelessness.

The vision had been a landslide of all of those turbulent emotions and more. If she’d sat down to paint the event, she’d have used up all her red and black oils.

Anguish had rolled forth in waves, quadrupling with every fresh angle of the scene. She’d witnessed the same young man four times.

Four times, she’d watched him struggle. Four times, she’d heard him scream through an amalgam of grief and agony. Four times, she’d watched him fall dead to the ground.

He’d seemed so familiar, but Grace was certain she’d never met him before. She was good with faces. She painted everyone she’d ever caught a flash of, right down to young Jack Aimes with his buzzcut and M60.

The denizens of Damascus knew old Jack as the kindly owner of the diner on Main Street, but Grace knew him by the colors of his past. She knew him by the deep greens of a Vietnam jungle and military fatigues; by the stormy gray of the overhanging skyline on the darkest day of his life; by the deep crimson of the unarmed teenaged boys he’d gunned down and wept over while rain washed away the evidence of his sins.

No, Grace had never met the young man before, but playing witness to his multiple deaths had been enough to knock her out for two solid days. Post-vision hangovers were worse than any tequila-fueled bender. They stuck around longer, too.

Flying, at least, soothed her pounding headache and calmed her tousled nerves. Dawn lit the sky with vibrant pinks that swirled into hazy purples. The pastels tapered into a blue that promised a beautiful start to the summer.

But even the warm breeze wasn’t strong enough to tear her thoughts from the apparent Lazarus of her vision.

Grace darted through the air, navigating a current. She dipped her head, earthbound. Inches above a stony path leading out of the park, she pulled up, her talons grazing the ground. As always, the thrill of a near crash made her beat her wings with renewed fury.

Rising high above the tree tops, Grace flew home. She spared a few extra moments to simply soar on a gust that ferried her over rooftops. Those moments were precious. Those moments meant she could keep the headache at bay for just a little longer.

Landing in her small backyard, Grace adjusted her wings. Folding them to her body, she hopped up the stone steps to her back door and nudged her beak to the cat flap. Grace’s self-loathing didn’t extend deep enough for her to own an actual cat, but the flap was useful in that it eliminated the need for backyard naked time. The nosy widows neighboring either side of Grace’s one-story Cape Cod would just love an eyeful of her bare ass. She’d fuel the Nightingale Lane gossip circle for weeks.

A foot into her kitchen, Grace paused atop the checkerboard tile floor.

Something was wrong. She didn’t feel the usual tingle-and-pressure that preceded a vision, but certainty flooded her hollow bones.

There was someone in her house.

Turning to the cat flap, she knocked her beak forward, readying herself to fly once she was outside. The flap did not open outward. Through the clear plastic door, she registered a dark shape.

A hand.

Someone was holding the flap shut on the other side.

Claws clicked on the tiles behind her. Fear bristled her feathers. Slowly, she turned.

A towering timber wolf bared its jagged teeth and snarled. Its feral yellow gaze blazed a hole into her middle, freezing her to the spot. The beast pounced, snapping its jaws over her right wing.


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