Release Blitz: The Devil’s Necromancer by Alexa Piper #LGBTQ #murdermystery #darkfantasy @prowlingpiper

Title: The Devil’s Necromancer

Series: Hellbound 1

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 154

Genre: Romance, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Paranorma, Suspense, Urban Fantasy, Gay, Magical Creatures, Dark Desire, Zombies, Murder Mystery

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Synopsis

Lionel, a necromancer and consultant for the Brunswick Police Department, wants nothing to do with immortals. Specifically, he wants nothing to do with Lucifer, who shows up on his doorstep one day with a ridiculous proposal. Lucifer, also known as the Devil, wants Lionel to be his pretend boyfriend. Except the pretend part is something the Devil doesn’t really seem to care for.

Lucifer has read enough romance novels to know that a good dose of forced proximity might be just the thing to get the stubborn necromancer he desires into his bed. The Devil’s plans are soon complicated when Lionel proves more uncooperative and oblivious to love than Lucifer could ever anticipate.

While the Devil wants to claim Lionel, all Lionel wants is to get away from Lucifer. Meanwhile, magic users are being murdered in the city. Lionel cannot escape the implications of those murders for long, and the case soon takes a different turn. Will Lionel be able to escape the Devil’s thrall, or will the necromancer fall for the immortal seducer?

Publisher’s Note: The Devil’s Necromancer contains scenes involving dubious consent that some readers may find offensive.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Alexa Piper

It was past midnight, and the stars that looked like sprinkles of white chocolate in the velvety dark night sky were overshadowed by the city lights and the waxing moon. I lay on the embankment, North Bridge’s metal frame rising just to my right and further hiding the chocolate sprinkle stars. My feet were wet, but I didn’t mind, not the embankment or the wet feet or the stars melting away in the light and the artificial structures around me. The zombie was oozing all over me from its — his — caved-in skull, and I did mind that. Zombie ooze was a bitch to get out of clothes, even if I’d given up on wearing colors years ago. Black simply was the safest bet for a necromancer.

Zombies reeked when they weren’t really fresh, and this one was ripe — fish-market-in-the-summer-heat-three-days-after-closing ripe. I looked up and considered my life choices, all of which had led me here.

“Do you need CPR?” someone said. It was a warm, manly voice, and I was reasonably sure it could make chocolate melt, star-shaped or otherwise.

I stuffed my self-pity away and turned my head to get a better look at the speaker. He was as handsome as a devil, with skin that looked like marble in the glow of the city at night. His hair shimmered liquid black, but it might have been some shade of brown in proper lighting. It went well past his ears and looked styled with care to get that messy, I just got up out of bed after a night of hard fucking look.

“Why the fuck would I need CPR?” I asked. My voice didn’t sound like I’d just considered crying a moment ago, and I was proud of that.

The guy shrugged. “It’s hard to tell with humans. Your kind is so accident prone, and you seem to be having trouble breathing. Or maybe you hit your head? Do you remember how you got here?”

Did he fucking think I was suffering from amnesia or a head injury or something? “I’m having trouble breathing because I have a fucking dead zombie on my chest, asshat,” I said. In my considered necromantic opinion, I was being perfectly polite, even though I couldn’t be sure what kind of creature the guy was. I’d given him a quick glance with my mage sight, and human he was not.

Jeez, I hated gods and otherworldly beings.

“All zombies are dead,” Mr. Sexy said. “It’s a prerequisite. This one seems to have had its brainstem properly destroyed, however.”

“Oh, smarty-pants, thanks a bunch for the lecture. The basics of necromancy have ever escaped me, even after I raised my very first corpse thirteen fucking years ago.” It had been a blackbird that had died when he crashed into a window at my school. I had cradled the poor thing in my hands as it breathed its last, had cried, and that had triggered my necromancer power. Pretty boy did not need to know that. Every other person I’d ever told had made fun of me for it.

“You could have suffered a head injury with amnesia. How am I supposed to know what you know?” He walked toward me. His movements were silent, cat-like, and more elegant than was right. Even despite the zombie oozing out on me, my cock couldn’t quite ignore him. Seriously, though, what was up with his fixation on first aid and amnesia?

He grabbed the zombie by the legs and pulled the dead-dead corpse off me. “Oh. You caved in its skull with a rock,” he said when he saw the murder weapon in question, the goo glistening on its stony surface. Well, it wasn’t really a murder weapon, seeing as how the zombie had been dead, but details. “How traditional.” He held out a hand to me, and I took it and let him pull me back to my feet. “I’m Lucy, by the way. Short for Lucifer, but I prefer Lucy. As in Lucy Westenra, the woman who almost single-handedly turned Dracula into the first reverse harem romance novel ever before she made the wise decision to claim immortality instead. She was such an underrated character, and I really don’t know why people don’t like her more.”

I dusted myself off. Didn’t help with the wet feet or the zombie ooze, which I really only distributed, like soft butter on hot toast. The shirt I was wearing was ruined. Good thing I had a dozen other plain black shirts just like it back home. “Maybe because she fucking ate children.”

He shrugged. “Well, everyone has a craving now and then. No one judges women’s monthly chocolate cravings, and I don’t see how that was so much worse.”

My brain caught up with the conversation. Lucifer? The Lucifer? The fucking Morning Star, seducer of stuffy virgins and lover of apples? I looked at him. Up at him. Asshole was tall and handsome, the kind of guy I could only ever talk to with about three drinks in me. “You’re the Devil? Satan? Beelzebub?”

“Lu-cy,” he said, slowing down as if he was reconsidering the brain damage thing. Even his eyebrows were perfect, which I only noticed because he pulled one of those up, something most people couldn’t do in real life. He could. And he looked hot doing it. Hotter.

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Meet the Author

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | BookBub

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New at Changeling Press: The Ambrosia Directive by Mikala Ash #steampunk #romanticsuspense @ash_mikala

The end is nigh. It’s all or nothing! Elizabeth Hunter-Payne has been abducted by her archnemesis Vladimir. Lucius, his patchwork man, a chimera assembled from body parts of the dead, “rescued” her from a sham charge of murder.

Now a pariah, separated from everyone who cares, Elizabeth finds herself in a luxury country estate where the gentry throw off the shackles of convention and consume copious quantities of an aphrodisiac called ambrosia and participate in salacious shenanigans involving wanton servants, well-endowed sex machines, and a familiar doppelganger. All provide cover for Vladimir as he advances his ultimate plot: to destroy the empire and possess Elizabeth body and soul.

Save 15% at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mikala Ash

My New Home
April 1860

I dreamt of the realm of love.

It is a wondrous place not found on any navigator’s chart or cartographer’s globe. It is a strange land founded on the extremities of human emotion, bounded only by imagination and endurance, lapped by limpid oceans of joy, contentment, and safety, harried by turbulent seas of jealousy, despair, and disappointment. We are blessed if we can but visit this arcadia where colours are overbright, fragrances are both fleetingly delicate and ferociously evocative, and a mere touch is the fuse that ignites explosions of exquisite sensation. Doubly blessed are those fortunate enough to live their whole lives within its shimmering borders.

I was riding in this strange land beside my dear husband Jonathan as he was before he left for the war. He and I rode through this perfect dreamscape on horses of infinite grace and swiftness, not knowing we were but visiting, and our time here short. Beneath a cerulean sky, and over undulating hills of verdant green we rode, laughing and urging each other on. Faster and faster we went, the wind rushing through our hair, raindrops stinging our cheeks.

Jonathan and I were fresh from making love beneath the overarching limbs of weeping willows on the banks of a looking-glass lake. Our sweat had dried, our pulsing inner muscles relaxed, the delicious languor replaced by bursts of playful energy. We’d indulged in tickling and wrestling, and, of course, kissing. Diamond drops falling from our leafy ceiling heralded a spring shower, so we had dressed swiftly and took to our glorious steeds.

As if by magic two others glided in and joined us. Felix was the first man I had made love to after Jonathan’s death. His was a beautiful soul, and it was he who had reawakened my sensuality, and taught me how to break the shackles of convention.

Then came Baudry, Dr. Jack Baudry, an honourable man who like me was an Agent of Her Majesty the Queen. He had said he loved me and had proved it, risking his life for me time and again. I deeply regretted our parting. Pride and jealousy had tainted my heart. But this was no time to think of that final argument. It was much better to remember our passionate lovemaking on the rug in front of his fireplace, the flames warming my flesh outside, his tongue setting me alight on the inside. It was marvellous to see his handsome smiling face.

Surrounded by the three men who had kissed my heart, I was exultant, my blood pumping and my soul singing. I could ignore the grim reality that Jonathan was dead, Felix had been beaten to an inch of his life, and Baudry, wonderful Baudry, was lost to me. In my dream the four of us rode on, carefree and laughing.

Oh, the joy! The thudding of hooves over the soft grass, the rapid breathing of the horses, the jangling of the bridles and stirrups, and the sweet laughter of my gallant husband by my side. We approached a hedgerow, and I turned a mischievous eye to my darling, and with a saucy wink urge him to jump with me. I catch but a glimpse of a little man who abruptly stands, emerging from the shadows like some malicious goblin. My horse screams and shies in surprise, rears up to pummel the creature with its hooves, and I am unseated, light as a dandelion flying through the blue until the green rushes up to meet me, and all goes dark.

“Elizabeth?”

I opened my eyes. “Jonathan?”

He gazed down at me, his beautiful eyes clouded with loving concern, the fine planes of his face creased with anxiety. With one hand he pressed a damp cloth against my forehead, and with the other squeezed my fingers. His touch was warm and reassuring, and my heart commenced to gallop.

Jonathan? My darling Jonathan? I see him, but how could this be? Something is wrong. This cannot be. I tell myself this is a lie.

My Jonathan is dead, his body mouldering these five years in the muddy battlefield of Sebastopol.

Yet Jonathan continued to tenderly caress my forehead. I screamed.

“Elizabeth. Do not be afraid. It is I. Nathanial Royston. Your brother-in-law.”

“Nathanial?”

Nathanial Royston. The doppelganger. My beloved husband’s twin, parted from his brother as a newborn, and taken to a new life in India. For a moment confused images from Grove Hall Asylum filled my mind. I had been looking down at a photograph I had plucked from the hand of a monster. The bloodied image showed a man resembling my dear husband sitting in a madman’s laboratory, smiling at Vladimir, the Russian agent responsible for Jonathan’s death. I had assumed from the start the picture to be of Nathanial and not my husband, the photograph just another sick antagonism by the obsessed Russian.

I screwed my eyes against a throbbing headache. “Nathanial?”

“Gently now, sister. You have been unwell.” He puffed up a pillow and gently placed it behind my head.

“I have?” I looked around me. I was enveloped in silken sheets and soft woollen blankets, surrounded by luxury. The bed, a velvet-draped four poster was a bower within a sweetly scented room that was crowded with tall-backed chairs and Oriental style screens. Atop a dressing table where coloured perfume bottles glinted, was a gilded mirror reflecting the cool yellow light of the lamps. Wine-coloured velvet curtains fell from ceiling to floor. A comforting blaze in an ornate fireplace cast the room in a warm golden glow.

“Where am I?” I said, my voice husky and dry.

“Somewhere in England, the country, but where I cannot say.” He filled a glass from a crystal decanter on the nightstand and brought it to my lips. “Here, drink this.”

The golden liquid emitted a luscious aroma that was thick and sweet. “What is it?”

“Ambrosia. It will refresh you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

New Release: The Curator’s Vampire by Alexa Piper #vampires #paranormalromance @prowlingpiper

After returning from France, Robyn wants nothing more than to snuggle in the arms of her vampire husband and lover, Maxim. When Maxim, New Amsterdam’s vampire hunter, is called to work, Robyn finds a mummy has been added to the art collection she manages. While Maxim follows his case, Robyn decides to dive headfirst into yet another mummy mystery.

Maxim has been working on a case that might involve a dark conspiracy, but more than anything, the case forces him to confront scars from the past. He can no longer hide how damaged he is from the woman he loves. He may have hidden the truth from her for too long already, and Maxim fears that Robyn will find him unworthy of her love and desire.

In the aftermath of Maxim’s tumultuous case and the emotions it’s forced him to confront, the mummy turns out to be more murderous than anyone expected. It’s not a mummy’s curse that’s been triggered, but the beginnings of a conspiracy Maxim fears he and those he loves may not easily be rid of.

Available from Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Alexa Piper

Niccolo and Sibylla sat in the lounge area of the Paris airport. Sibylla kept tugging her hair back behind her ears — when she wasn’t stirring her cappuccino or rearranging the packets of sweetener in their holder on the table.

“Stop fussing,” Niccolo told his sister in flawless French. “It makes you look suspicious.”

Sibylla jerked her hand back from the sweetener packets and stopped her hands from going to her hair again by folding them in front of her as if in prayer. She took a deep breath, but Niccolo could tell it wasn’t doing much to calm her. He understood that all too well.

“Do you see her yet?” Sibylla asked. She wanted to look over her shoulder. Niccolo could tell.

Niccolo let his gaze drift to the terminal beyond, the stores advertising high-end brands or selling overpriced gifts to travelers who forgot to pick something up for a loved one in Paris. Tourists and business travelers alike brought color and voices from halfway around the world to the scene, but Niccolo couldn’t see the woman they were here for. “Not yet,” Niccolo told his sister.

Sibylla nodded. “I’m scared, Nico.” She’d been skeptical about coming here, and she still was.

“I know. I am too, but we have to do this.” He said the words to her, but also to himself. Certainty was always fleeting and had been so all their lives.

Sibylla nodded. Her knuckles turned white as she forced her hands to remain still.

Niccolo looked over Sibylla’s shoulder again. His eyes fell on the woman from his visions. She was running and awkwardly dragging a bag behind her, which she then dropped in order to hug a dark-haired, olive-skinned man who hugged her back eagerly. They almost seemed like family, and if it weren’t for their obviously different features, Niccolo would have thought this man her brother. And he wasn’t alone. Niccolo knew who his companion was.

“Don’t turn. That’s her, and her husband’s assistant,” he told Sibylla.

Sibylla bit her lip. “The vampire hunter’s assistant?”

Niccolo nodded. It hadn’t been easy to find out things about Maxim Vallois and his new wife, Robyn Somerton, but thanks to his visions, Niccolo had known what to look for, and the Internet had delivered at least some insights.

“Merde,” Sibylla said. “Do we still talk to her before the flight?”

The woman had now moved on to hug the taller of the two men, the one with the sandy-blond hair Niccolo had recognized as Vallois’s assistant. The man with the darker hair whom Somerton had greeted like a brother had picked up her bag, and his wide smile distracted from the wet sheen of presumably happy tears in his eyes. They didn’t seem like they were going on a different flight or going their separate ways, flying off to different countries.

Niccolo shook his head. “I think it’s better if we wait. In my vision, it was just us and her, so we’ll have to find another time. We should head to the gate, but don’t stare.”

Sibylla snorted. “That’s just his assistant, but I really don’t want his attention. And I may be nervous, but I’m not stupid.”

Niccolo shrugged. “I never said that. But that other guy seems very protective. Almost like close family.”

“Eyes down. Got it,” Sibylla said, her tone bitter enough to hide the desperation.

Before she got up, Niccolo reached out to take his sister’s hand in his. “New Amsterdam will be good for us. You have to trust me, Siby.”

She looked at him with her dark brown eyes that mirrored his own. “I trust you, Nico. That doesn’t mean I can’t be scared at the same time.”

Nico knew how that felt. Every other vision he had these days scared him. Following them got increasingly harder as a result.

“Right,” he said. “We can do this.”

“We can do this,” she agreed. Then, she tugged her hair back behind her ear and flinched when she noticed. “I hope they have plenty of booze on that plane. It’s a twelve-goddamn-hour flight.”

And they’d have to ignore the hunter’s bride for every minute of those twelve hours. Niccolo sighed. “Maybe we should get a drink before we head to the gate and board.”

“A drink would be so much better than coffee right about now,” Sibylla agreed. She pushed her cappuccino away. The frothy top had already considerably deflated, leaving just a half-full cup of brownish liquid with the odd bubble showing.

They went to buy overpriced liquor to calm their over-stressed nerves. It only helped so much, but it was better than trying not to stare at Robyn Somerton while they waited to board.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter!

Find the author online: Website | Facebook | Instagram | BookBub

New Release: Looking Glass Foes by Mikala Ash #steampunk #romanticsuspense @ash_mikala

Could the handsome Peter Smythe be the one? Elizabeth is mightily attracted to the dedicated and brave journalist and faces the struggle of balancing her duty to save the empire with nurturing a budding relationship.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is on the brink of finally bringing her arch nemesis Vladimir, the Russian agent responsible for her husband’s death, to justice. But the past has a habit of nipping at her heels and with it the risk of bringing everything she has achieved crashing down.

Set against the backdrop of a steam-driven world, our story begins with an airship-led commando raid and takes Elizabeth along a twisted path of betrayal and villainy.

Get it Today at Changeling Press

Preorder for July 2nd at Online Booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mikala Ash

The general and I were standing on a raised platform by the East London Water Works, a half mile north of Grove Hall with the railway between. I gasped in wonder as the airship restarted its engines to combat the wind and maintain its position over the asylum. Tiny shadows emerged from the airship’s grey hull like ants hurrying from their nest. The dozen members of Her Majesty’s Royal Aerial Marines took to the ropes and descended with consummate skill toward the sleeping asylum. It took them no time at all to reach the sloping roof, and a dozen heartbeats later the uppermost windows of the institution’s main building.

While the airborne assault had been making its indefatigable progress, elements of the Queen’s Light Infantry, with silent efficiency, barricaded the surrounding streets and encircled the asylum, while specialised ground forces made their way across the darkened grounds ready to breach the doors at zero hour.

The general checked his watch. “Only a minute now.”

The enterprise had taken the general an amazingly short time to arrange. Of course, the military had been in a state of readiness for months given the threatening situation across the channel. Russia was ever threatening after the humiliation the Czar had suffered in the Crimea, Napoleon the Third of France was in an expansive mood after his success in the same conflict, and the Austrian Empire was mobilising, watching our global trading empire with envious eyes and dreaming of world domination. The prospect of all-out war had been building like a storm cloud, and the expected deluge would be heavy indeed.

Such was the backdrop of our world in 1860. It was only the scientific and technological advances such as the airship Prince Albert that we had made over the last decade which kept our homeland and empire safe. Our ambitious competitors were catching up. However, their endeavours had taken a darker turn, as evidenced by the horror of the patchwork man, and the use of soporific gas that could confuse and render harmless a whole city.

Vladimir was just one of our malevolent foes. The question this morning was how violently would he and his murderous minions resist capture? I said a silent prayer for the Queen’s men risking their lives tonight. I had brought them here, and I would bear responsibility for whatever happened. That was a heavy thought indeed.

Butterflies, the flighty children of fear, skittled about in my belly causing me to doubt the success of our enterprise. For reassurance I glanced over my shoulder. Standing behind the general and I were men on whom I placed the greatest of trust. Felix, who helped Archie at my Investigations Bureau, but was much, much more, and my fellow Agents of the Queen, Bisby and Oxley.

Missing this momentous morning was Archie, my husband’s batman, and the son we never had. He was at home caring for Marianne, his fiancé of only a day. Brave Marianne had been instrumental in bringing us to Vladimir’s den, risking her life and had, for her impetuousness, been held hostage by a patchwork man. Not surprisingly she was having trouble dealing with the horror that had so nearly cost her life, her exhausted sleep racked by night terrors. Archie chose, and rightfully so, to remain at her side.

Felix, his handsome face hidden by the upturned collar of his coat and scarf, noticed my gaze, for I saw his gleaming teeth as he offered me a supportive smile. My body responded instinctively. How often had he given me that smile as he lifted my body to the heights of sensuality with gentle and expert caresses I could not tell. His natural allure, together with the skills gained from his experience as a prostitute, had attracted me like a flower lures a bee.

My first sight of him had ignited the dormant woman within, as if my true self had fallen into a sort of death with Jonathan’s passing. For five years I had been a walking corpse, cold and withered, but with hot blood still bubbling deep within, demanding expression. Felix possessed the key to its release. Meeting him had been a striking revelation. I immediately longed to have his arms about me, desired his lips upon mine, needed his fingers stroking my flesh, and demanded his hardness within. Though I felt guilty, as if I were betraying Jonathan with this almost uncontrollable craving, I hired Felix as my tutor in bedroom diversions. With tender care he resurrected my carnal nature. Though my desire was strong, he coaxed me out of my initial timidness and skilfully guided me, transforming me from cold widow into a true wanton, where I became the uninhibited leader taking us both to exquisite release. Though it had been months since our last intimacy I still longed for his sultry gaze…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

Preorder: The Tethered Goat by Mikala Ash #steampunk #murdermystery @Ash_Mikala

Hell-bent on revenge for the death of her husband, Elizabeth takes the initiative and sets a daring trap for Vladimir, the Russian spy she suspects of the deed. Meanwhile, Peter Smythe, a handsome and dedicated correspondent, is investigating the disappearances of street people in the docklands of London.

The discovery of a horribly mutilated body of one of the victims reminds Elizabeth of the horrendous acts perpetrated by the Whitechapel murderer known as the Collector. Elizabeth slew that monster, itself a creature of Vladimir, and she fears this is a new apprentice.

Sparks fly when Peter and Elizabeth come together, and they set off on a roller-coaster adventure in a fogbound steam-driven world. When the hunted becomes the hunter, Elizabeth is the bait!

Get it at Changeling Press

Preorder for May 7th at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mikala Ash

Alone at last.

I was sitting unaccompanied in a Cumberland steam-cab. By myself, without anyone to protect me.

It was a strange sensation after the intensity of the last few months. A return to normal, as it were, to a time before I began my Investigation Bureau, and before I became an Agent of the Queen.

A time when I had been just an ordinary widow.

“Ha!”

I pardoned myself for what was a small, but understandable, expression of conceit, for I’d given my protector, the ever-reliable Bisby, the slip. I forgave myself the sin of self-congratulation, so enamoured I was on the audacity of my cunning subterfuge. Sin or not, it had been a nice piece of work, using guile, disguise, and a certain boldness. I was still panting, and my heart still pounded with the excitement of it. Perspiration was running cold beneath my shift, and inside my button boots my feet ached appallingly. Despite these reminders of physical effort, the exclamation of conceit turned into a slightly manic chuckle, then into a full-blown belly laugh. Goodness knows what the cabbie perched above the cabin thought.

Today had been intended to be more practice of the techniques taught to me by Oxley, himself an Agent of the Queen, and assessed by the aforesaid Bisby, another agent. The two, posing as footmen, had been assigned to protect my household from the attentions of the Russian agent, Vladimir, a diabolical monster who I’d bested only a few months ago, when I’d killed his murderous slave, The Collector, who had terrorised Whitechapel with a series of brutal mutilation murders. Oxley could, I am certain, gain renown as a teacher, for I’d learned a great deal over the last few weeks. Tomorrow my skills in evasion were to be formally put to the test. The challenge being to evade Bisby for the period of one hour.

“Do you think I’ll be ready for tomorrow’s test?” I’d asked Oxley in a suitably tremulous voice, when he saw Bisby and me off after breakfast.

“We must crawl before we can walk,” he replied sagely. “Just remember what we’ve been practising, and you will do well.”

“I’ll try,” I said with a dash of uncertainty.

Of course, that was nonsense. I’d been ready for over week, so I took the opportunity of taking the test today instead, and not just for an hour. Bisby or Oxley had only themselves to blame, for I had given them fair warning with my dreadful overacting. I mean to say, pinched cheeks, fluttering eyelashes, trembling lips and a voice hesitant and pitched slightly higher than usual? I gave it everything. Proof that even the best Agents of the Queen can be the victims of feminine wiles.

Naughty of me, I know, but necessary, for it was integral to my grand plan.

To be strictly honest, I hadn’t thought it possible to evade the suffocating twenty-four-hour protection the general had erected about me. It seemed impenetrable, a forbidding brick wall a hundred feet high and a mile thick. As silly as that sounds, that’s the way I felt. Of course, a lady was never alone in public. She was either accompanied by her lady’s maid, a burly footman, a relative or mature female friend or companion, or, of course, by her husband. Such was the condition of women of quality, as we are termed in the year of our Lord 1860. Our virtue, and by that, I mean our reputation, was never safe if we were out in public alone.

Yet here I was.

Alone.

Admittedly the protection I suffered went even beyond what would be considered normal for the upper middle echelon of society. Whenever I left the house either Bisby or Oxley would be with me, disguised as footmen, a decadent luxury for a widow like me. At least they were not dressed in ostentatious livery as those working for the gentry. If those two professionals were not with me, I was with Archie, my late husband’s young batman during the Crimean War, who I considered the son we never had, and who now managed my Investigation Bureau, or with Felix, my former teacher of the erotic arts, a former prostitute and now assistant to Archie. If not with them then I would be in the company of Baudry, a doctor who had been intimately involved in my cases and had also graced my bed.

That was not the full extent of it. The general, my mentor, a confidant to the Queen, and commander of the clandestine force of agents protecting the realm, took it one step further. In addition to assigning Oxley and Bisby to watch from within my household, he also posted watchers over my house and staff. Thus there were eyes focussed on me all the time, unrelenting, and though invisible, the knowledge of their existence was like a heavy shadow from that imaginary brick wall, enveloping me, pressing in on me from every side, suffocating the life out of me. The general feared the eyes of Russian agents were also set fast upon me, ordered by the indefatigable Vladimir, awaiting his signal to strike.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

Book Tour: Brushed Off by M. Lee Musgrave #murdermystery @pumpupyourbook

As emerging socialite Camille strives to be accepted into LA’s elite, its hottest artists are being murdered and she doesn’t realize she is the key to the mystery…

By M. Lee Musgrave

Title: BRUSHED OFF
Author: M. Lee Musgrave
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Pages: 186
Genre: Murder Mystery

Artist James Terra and his married lover Nicole find themselves in a tangled web while searching for the killer of LAs hottest artists. Homicide detective Cisco Rivas ask James for help with LAs zany art community. The case quickly turns into a quagmire of intrigue and vicious jealousy amongst the dazzling talent and wealth of schizophrenic Los Angeles. James wants Nicole to leave her husband. When another artist is murdered, she joins the hunt for the killer. A leading art collector is attacked. Cisco is pressured by influential city movers and shakers. Young emerging socialite Camille is up to her neck in strife so James and Nicole make a deal to protect her. Cisco discovers a smuggled exotic drug used by all the suspects including a stealthy porn star. James keeps everyone from knowing his health is precarious. The killer and a secret accomplice targets James, Nicole and Camille.

 

“Who is killing the contemporary artists of L.A.? Why are they shoving paint brushes down their victims’ throats? Who’s next on the killer’s list? In Brushed Off artist and public-TV art show host James “Sketchy” Terra finds himself smack in the middle of things, racing to help his homicide detective buddy unravel a puzzle as urgent as a splatter painting and as complex as an M.C. Escher drawing. Lee Musgrave’s swift and energetic novel pulls its readers through the studio doors into a brash and entertaining world of big ambitions, bigger egos, love and sex and secrets and shady wheeler-dealing. Calling on his long experience as an artist and curator as he cruises from the beaches and bars and galleries of L.A. to the hidden havens of the Santa Monica Mountains, Musgrave creates a compelling collage of mystery-novel action and art-world exposé as he paints a portrait of the Art of Murder.”

—Bob Hicks, two-time Pulitzer nominee and Senior Editor, Artswatch  (orartswatch.org)

“Brushed-Off is a unique, atmospheric work of Los Angeles mystery fiction. Not only does author M. Lee Musgrave provide an engaging case, which ends in an explosive climax, but he also paints a vivid portrait of the city’s beautiful but dangerous art scene from an insider’s perspective. A welcome addition for those who enjoy contemporary L.A. noir.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

Brushed-off by Lee Musgrave paints an interesting and revealing series of passages about the Los Angeles art scene. The opening picture of LA’s beach community, its oddball characters, mixed with homeless wanderers draws the reader into this story as Sketchy and Duie (his dog) discover a friend dead under a pile of destroyed paintings and a totally wrecked studio. Sketchy, an artist-videographer, and his homicide detective friend set off to find answers. More suspicious deaths in the art community pressure the duo to find the killer. Looking for a link to the murders, Sketchy takes the reader deep into the lives of the artists, collectors, and beautiful people who inhabit this world of creativity. With his video documentary work as cover, the threads he discovers unravel a tapestry of crime that only an artist could perceive in the glare of so many colors.

Musgrave uses a number of conventions to depict details of color, texture, and location to convince the reader that this is a plausible tale told by an observant artist. The twist of a detective using a well-connected artist to investigate leads plays well in this adventure. Musgrave takes the reader on trips through LA and its several neighborhoods with Sketchy chasing leads, dead ends, and discoveries. He hides the motive for murder until the final segments and this lets the reader enjoy the scenes he composes in this montage of Los Angeles from its world renowned beaches to the mansions overlooking them. Brushed-off is an enjoyable mystery, especially for fans of the art world.

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Cecil Brewer, critic Readers Favorite

The gathered early morning beach crowd seemed excited yet strangely aghast. The thought occurred to me that perhaps a street artist had left another fourletter graffiti epistle on the exterior of Brice’s studio. The last one had been extremely insulting to him and you could still see a ghost image of it under the gray paint which had been hastily slapped over it. As I got closer, no new graffiti was in sight so I scanned the swarm of joggers, strollers, and assorted exercise enthusiasts and spotted old Mac sitting on the curb near the front. He’s the unofficial street gleaner around the hood and lives in the alley beneath some stairs. Gesturing for Duie to stay by my side, I approached the old man.
“Kind of early for you, isn’t it Mac?”
His right hand rose slowly to mop his leathery face. He lifted his head, strained to focus his watery blood-shot eyes and spoke in a low, sadly earnest manner.
“He was always good to me. You know, one of the few who would share like you do.”

Even with the more than usual layers of dirt on his face, it was obvious he was distraught. He had spoken more words in one sentence than I had ever heard him utter before.
“Do you mean Brice? Did something happen?” I said.

Apprehensively I sat down beside him on the awkward concrete. Mac dropped his hand and looked directly at me. Perhaps for the first time I noticed how aged he really was.

“I was passing by, you know, working the street, looking for little favors people leave for me. You know. Like you do.”
His voice was more somber as he fondled the buttons of his multi-stained khaki shirt.

Embarrassment rushed across my face. The most I had ever given him was the tattered Macintosh he had worn for the past two years. He is never seen without it. In fact, that’s why everyone calls him Mac. None of us ever bothered to ask him his real name. It was a way to be friendly without causing discomfort or getting too involved.
Shamed, I stood up. A strange brew of anxiety and curiosity led me through the small group near the door and straight into Brice’s studio. Duie rushed in behind me as my olfactory receptors signaled something peculiar wafting from inside. It was a bizarre mixture of paint fumes and a grotesque unrecognizable spice. Duie even sneezed.
Brice was never a tidy artist, but a quick glance revealed the normal casualness of his studio was now in complete chaos. A strong feeling that I was intruding crawled up my back.

“Who does he think he is?” someone behind me said. I wanted to answer, but somehow I knew my voice was not the one I wanted to hear.
Paintings were thrown everywhere. Many had broken stretcher bars and holes clobbered through them. The scene looked as though a small tornado had come through the open skylight, had a kick-boxer fit, and left without disturbing anything else in the neighborhood. Every quartsized canister of paint Brice owned had been opened and its contents generously distributed into a Pollock-like camouflage that covered everything.
“Surely Mac didn’t do this?” I whispered to Duie as he instinctively leaned against my leg. “No, Brice maybe, but not Mac.”

Every artist goes a little wacko once in a while. Maybe Brice was dueling with a yellow scalene and things got out of hand. My notion was answered before I could exhale.
Beyond the turned over easel, sticking out from behind more broken paintings were two aged Teva sandals dappled with a rainbow of paint splatters. The heels were together, the toes akimbo. I froze in place as Duie tiptoed toward them with his neck stretched and nostrils flared.
As I stepped carefully around the disquieting pile, trying not to disturb even the smallest fallen brush or blob of paint I saw a mass of oozing gunk. It was Brice, on his back. His arms were at his side and his face was covered in thick, gooey globs of Hooker’s Green.
He looked exhausted, as though he’d copulated with every painting he ever sired. Even though the pile of canvases, paint canisters, and brushes covering him was a mess, for one sharp yet fleeting moment it impacted my visual cortex as if the scene was an intentional edifice.
My eyes focused on his contorted mouth. It was open and overflowing with an ugly mixture of green paint and dark red blood. In the middle, where his tongue should be, was a smidgen of gold. It’s very familiar blunted form was instantly recognizable. I bent down for a closer look. I was right. It was the handle end of a number 15 size brush. You could still read the manufacturer’s code number peeking through a smear of green paint.
Hoping Brice might take a big gasp of air if I removed it, I reached my hand forward and instantly felt a stout vise grip my shoulder.
“Don’t,” a voice of authority said.
It was Cisco. I stood straight up, perhaps a little too quickly for I felt a brief twinge of vertigo. I call him Cisco. His real name is Francisco Rivas, police Detective Rivas.
“You know better than that,” he said.
I suddenly felt weary as the colors surrounding us swirled like the merry-go-round at the pier and the vise moved to grip my arm. I could even hear the faint tinny sound of mechanical music as if it were far off in the distance or at least buried deep within my memory.

Cisco’s focused stare at my anesthetized face caused the illusory music to quickly fade and the circling kaleidoscope to resume its previous resting place. I began to feel lucid again, but my frame of vision felt shaken and quirky.

“Go outside, Sketchy,” he said in an almost inaudible voice. “And take Duie with you.”
With faded breath, I uttered, “He may still have a chance.”       Cisco glowered at me again, gestured toward the door and put his hands on his hips, revealing his badge and gun. The move was an obvious signal for me to leave. I did.

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2ZzWiCj

Check out my book at Goodreads!

Author/Artist, M. Lee Musgrave holds a Master of Art degree from CSU, Los Angeles. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship. His artwork has been in solo and group exhibitions world-wide. As a Professor of Art and curator he organized hundreds of exhibitions involving artists, collectors and a variety of related enthusiast. Those many experiences and his ongoing personal art activities inform his writing about LA’s exciting art community.

Website: www.leemusgrave.com

Facebook: Lee Musgrave | Facebook

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The Square and the Circle by Mikala Ash #steampunk #RomanticSuspense @Ash_Mikala

Cover Art by Bryan Keller

A murder at a séance. In an age of rationalism and science, spiritualism has taken hold of the popular imagination. At the home of Lord and Lady Summerhayes, a séance ends in a horrific climax — a man is drowned in ectoplasm! Impossible! But there’s nothing Elizabeth Hunter-Payne and her Investigation Bureau like better than to investigate an impossible mystery.

Victor Drake was at the table and tried to save the hapless victim. His smoldering good looks and irresistible allure take Elizabeth’s fancy, and her carnal desires are reciprocated. Together, can they solve the mystery? Another thrilling adventure set in a steampunk world of airships, steam-powered aircraft, and swords disguised as lavender umbrellas.

Get it Today at Changeling Press

Preorder for March 5th at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mikala Ash

Lavender Umbrellas and Death at a Séance

Tuesday, January 10, 1860

“A murder at a séance,” I repeated incredulously. “A séance? You mean ghosts and such?”

Lord Arthur Summerhayes was an elegantly dressed white-haired man in his early seventies. A military background I surmised, as he wore enormous and immaculately clipped side whiskers, made popular by troops returning from the Crimea. In his youth, and clean-shaven, I believe he would have been a handsome man.

“Indeed I do, Mrs. Hunter-Payne. I’m talking spiritualism, mediums, apparitions, spirit controls from beyond the veil, and communicating with the beloved dead. The whole battalion, if you have my meaning.”

I was taken aback by the notion, and I struggled for a response. I knew spiritualism had become a popular pastime lately despite this being the age of rationalism, and surrounded as we were by very real advances in science and engineering. Airships droning away above the city and steam-powered aircraft patrolling the clouds were common sights now, as were Cumberland cabs steaming along every street and thoroughfare. Submarines skulked beneath the waves, and automatons had even entered domestic service. The list of technological marvels was endless. Gone for the most part was the age of horse and carriage in which I had been born.

I’d read in The Times that after the war in the Crimea, and the more recent mutiny in India, both of which incurred such great loss of life, there had arisen an ever growing desire of the bereaved to contact their lost loved ones. Spiritualists, those purporting to be able to contact the spirits of the dead, had conveniently materialised to meet the demand.

Séances, as I understood them, were ritualised gatherings of people in a darkened room sitting in silence around a table, holding hands, awaiting a spirit to contact them through the auspices of a medium. For some it was an amusement; merely a parlour game. For others it was an earnest and sorrow-fuelled desire to contact lost loved ones. Newspapers made light of the pastime, ridiculing believers and taking particular glee in exposing frauds and charlatans. The church proclaimed it sacrilegious, no doubt believing the practice subverted their monopoly over the afterlife.

That was the extent of my knowledge and my interest. I understood quite intimately the emotional need of the bereaved to have some form of contact with their loved ones. My thoughts rested always with my late husband Jonathan who had been killed in the Crimean War. I had given the possibility of actually contacting him scant regard, thinking it slightly foolish whenever the thought arose. Though I would give anything to see him again, and know for certain he was at peace, I admit to being highly sceptical of the notion of mediums being able to accomplish the task. Jonathan lived in my mind, and in my dreams; an ever-present reminder of the deepest love and consuming passion I could ever hope to experience. I glanced at his portrait, and my longing for his company struck me like a blow to the chest.

“I need your help,” Lord Summerhayes said urgently. His face was creased in anxiety, his faded blue eyes pleading. “Or my wife and I shall be ruined. Not that I care for myself. I am old, ready for whatever is next. It is for my wife that I fear.”

“I’ve not any experience in spiritualism,” I said carefully, in case Lord Summerhayes was a believer.

“Devil of a thing. Absolute nonsense, of course,” he said. “But murder nonetheless. Man drowned by ectoplasm.”

Just in time I stopped myself from appearing particularly obtuse by repeating the unfamiliar word. I was aware, however, of my mouth hanging open and thought that I must appear quite vacuous.

His lordship continued. “In my own drawing room, would you believe. Terrible slimy stuff. Ruined the carpet. Dashed inconvenient.”

Until that astounding announcement my morning had progressed prosaically enough, though it did bring with it a touch of novelty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: The Redwood Asylum by L.A. Detwiler #paranormal #horror @ladetwiler1

From the USA Today Bestseller L.A. Detwiler comes a new eerie horror filled with secrets, ghosts, and murder.

The dead do talk … if you’re brave enough to hear their sinister secrets.

In a thick forest sits a forgotten stone building, The Redwood Asylum. Once inside, the criminally insane, the darkly disturbed, and the eternally confused residents learn one thing very quickly: they are at the mercy of ruthless evil in many forms.

At twenty-six, Jessica Rosen starts a new job at Redwood in the hopes of forgetting an insidious past. She quickly realizes, however, that Redwood harbors malevolent secrets and beings in every chilly corner. On her second day adjusting to her job, the unstable man in 5B quickly latches onto Jessica in an unsettling way. When his rantings and warnings start to make sense, though, Jessica will be taken on a ride of secrets, murder, and dangerous beings. As she begins to uncover the horrifying truths behind the man’s past , the terrors of Redwood Asylum will follow her home and make her question her own sanity.

Can Jessica solve the secrets of the man in 5B in time to save herself, or will the terrors trap her in Redwood’s evil clutches forever?

A spine-tingling page-turner by USA Today Bestseller L.A. Detwiler perfect for paranormal horror fans.

ADD TO GOODREADS

Release Date: March 12, 2021

Preorder at Amazon

MY REVIEW:

5 stars!

Who doesn’t love a good horror story involving ghosts?

The way the story is narrated reminds me of Stephen King’s Rose Red, which happens to be a favorite of mine. Yes, there have been countless books about haunted asylums, and there will certainly be more. The ramblings of a mad man, locked away at Redwood, make nurse Jessica sympathetic. She wants to help him find peace, not realizing she’s placing herself in danger.

Jessica’s role in the story wasn’t just that of a nurse who wanted to help others. She had a dark secret in her past, one that would play a prominent role in her future. She also seemed to fancy herself a detective, and with determination, dug into the patient’s past trying to find the truth. Sadly, some things are better left buried.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I’d definitely be interested in more stories featuring Redwood, and I want to know more about the other staff.

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.

New Release: A Shot in Darkness by Lou Sylvre #LGBTQ #RomanticSuspense @sylvre

Sure the danger that dogged their steps in Los Angeles has finally passed, Brian and Jackie seal their hopes for a new beginning with a New Year’s Eve kiss. Though Brian’s trauma at the hands of criminals has left its mark, they do their best to leave troubles behind and enjoy a Scotland honeymoon. The ancient city of Glasgow offers nightlife, historic sites, long walks through snowfall, great Scotch whisky, a cozy fireside — and a blazing hot private encounter with a cool, cool ghost.

But every time somebody wins, someone else loses. When Brian helped State Department cop Jesse Douglas take down a crime ring, a rogue FBI agent lost everything. She blames Brian, and with the help of false identities and very good skills at disguise, tracking him and Jackie down in Scotland poses no problem. When a final encounter in the Highlands turns deadly, the key to keeping Brian alive lies in Jackie’s hands. With everything he loves at stake, can he call up love, courage and confidence in time to take that single, vital shot in darkness?

Get it at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Lou Sylvre

To most people, it might not seem possible that a month could go by while a newlywed couple hardly spoke to each other. But as Jackie sat in his great-uncle Kaholo’s Nebraska living room staring out the bay window while, outside, December shed snow all over its last abbreviated afternoon, he reflected that this was exactly what had happened to Brian and him.

That truth didn’t surprise him in the least. The last crazy weeks had only been a continuation of the chaos that had started long before their wedding. The events they’d begun by calling “the Espen case” and ended up calling “the mess with that asshole Vintner” had started weaving its sticky web in and around Jackie and Brian’s lives almost a full year earlier. The day Brian walked into Vasquez Security, Incorporated’s Los Angeles office to take on the role of branch manager, he’d walked into the first ropy but invisible strands of disaster.

If only Brian had known what was to come, maybe he would have turned back around and walked out.

No. He wouldn’t have.

Jackie almost laughed at the notion as soon as he thought it. Brian had been hired by Jackie’s uncle Luki, who owned the company, to do a job. He just wasn’t the kind of guy to renege on a commitment once he’d made it.

Probably why he stayed with me.

Yeah. Their love story hadn’t been a bed of roses either, even though Brian had a funny habit of bringing the fragrant blossoms home and sticking them all over their apartment in vases in an effort to romance Jackie, his chosen lover and submissive. And now… husband. He’d tried so hard to get Jackie to take his marriage proposal seriously, but Jackie had artfully dodged it for months. Perhaps that was understandable, in light of everything else that was going on.

Jackie had relocated to Los Angeles to be with Brian, and the city’s devil Santa Ana winds — and the memories and associations they held for a once-fragile Jackie — had assaulted him from day one. LA had not been kind to him when he was a homeless teen, and it continued its mean tradition now, almost a decade later. He’d witnessed a kidnapping, and the same day had an accident that set him back on his heels physically and mentally, then as soon as he recovered, another one. And then an amputation. The months and months of disbelief and hurting and healing and grief that followed remained in Jackie’s memory a strange nightmare, as if the time then had been a living thing.

And it hadn’t been an easy time for Brian either. But, even then, long before any vows were said, Brian had certainly made a commitment to himself to be the lover, the Dom, the man Jackie could count on. And he had stayed, remained steady at Jackie’s side even when Jackie had tried to shut him out. He’d cried, he’d loved, he’d cajoled and comforted. He had failed, at times. In an odd twist, sometimes broken Jackie had led Brian out of darkness.

But when Jackie’s chips were all in and he desperately needed a win, Brian had come through and played the best cards in his deck. He’d shown Jackie love, wrapped him in safe, careful knots, and set him flying in joy.

”Look,” he’d said. “You’re beautiful. I want you to see it. I want you to know.”

Jackie had seen, and his love for Brian, already spreading wide, had grown deep roots that, he liked to think, helped them both hold steady when the shit started hitting the world’s biggest fan.

The shit — the detritus of the Espen-Lieb-Vintner disaster — had been lying littered over their lives in Los Angeles. The Thanksgiving holiday break they’d taken in Colorado, complete with everything from a private night of fun kink, to a relaxed and joyful family dinner, was like fresh air. Maybe it made them a little high, because they got married while they were there.

Cue the giant fan.

The Colorado fairy tale ended, and the nightmare of the next few weeks began. Jackie hadn’t been with Brian — first his new leg needed fixing, then he’d been taken into hiding for safety. But Brian had almost constantly faced imminent danger, and Jackie’d hardly slept.

For weeks he’d worried, while Brian, on his own in LA, went undercover as an informer for the feds, at the same time pretending to work for Vintner, who could vie for the title of “nastiest piece of criminal shit Jackie had ever encountered.”

Then came the day the tide of trouble had turned to crisis, when Brian had been taken off the streets at gunpoint to be Vintner’s “guest.” The police sting went all wrong, but that same day Vintner’s organization imploded. Shot point blank and carrying the bullet in his abdomen, Brian escaped through LA’s network of tunnels. While Jackie’s uncle Luki helped the law bring down Vintner aboveground, Brian had hung on to consciousness in the hidden corridors underground and somehow done what was in front of him to do — bring a bad man out of the tunnels to face justice and shepherd a remnant of Vintner’s trafficking victims to safety.

That, Jackie thought, was courage.

But that hadn’t been the worst of it for Jackie. Because an ambulance took Brian away — in custody, as if he was the criminal, and Jackie waited for hours in what might have been the coldest, harshest surgical waiting room ever, at County-USC hospital. He got word that Brian was safe, out of surgery, recovering, and he breathed. But he couldn’t see him. Brian was in police custody — a jail inmate. Jackie hadn’t cried then, nor when Sonny hugged him and took him “home” to a hotel room. He’d figured he was just too tired and burnt to cry, yet his wet pillow and sore eyes told him he’d cried in the night.

As if he’d been keeping his tears secret even from himself.

It would have been difficult — impossible — to pretend all that hadn’t happened. If he could have, though, he would have jumped at the chance. Now that it was all over but the shouting, as they say, it felt impossibly heavy.

All of which was why tonight — New Year’s Eve — with its implied celebration of fresh starts, seemed like an extraordinary gift…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The sweethearts on her pages are men who end up loving each other — and usually saving each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very, very sexy. As if you’d want to know more, she’ll happily tell you that she is a proudly bisexual woman — a mother, grandmother, lover of languages, and cat-herder — of mixed cultural heritage. She works closely with lead cat and writing assistant, the (male) Queen of Budapest, Boudreau St. Clair. She lives in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, and hearing from a reader infallibly brightens the dreary weather. Find her through her links listed here, or drop her a line at lou.sylvre@gmail.com.

New Release: The Hunter’s Mummy by Alexa Piper #paranormalromance #vampires @prowlingpiper

Ravelle is looking forward to being back in France. All she wants is to have wine with her daughter-in-law, catch up with an old vampire acquaintance, and get closer to Yanis, who is a breath of fresh air to Ravelle. She is not looking forward to working, and a seasoned vampire hunter like Ravelle should be granted a simple, quiet vacation.

Yet the hunter soon smells murder on the air, and where there’s murder, there is a corpse, and where there’s a tenderly wrapped corpse, there tends to be a crime, in Ravelle’s experience. So rather than pursuing wine, Ravelle will have to solve all the mummy’s mysteries.

Available November 13th at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Alexa Piper

Ravelle felt a mix of excitement and relief rise in her belly as the plane was getting ready to touch down. In the seat next to her, Robyn was stretching and yawning, and Ravelle saw the duller colors of her emotions floating out.

“You should be more excited,” Ravelle said, and her human daughter-in-law interrupted her stretching to look at Ravelle. Robyn’s storm-gray eyes and fair skin, framed with dark hair, always made Ravelle think of the heroines of fairy tales that were mostly set in dark woods and involved the killing of bears or wolves, possibly both.

“Huh?” said the human.

“This will be fun.”

Robyn tilted her head. “That’s what you said about the flight attendant three hours ago.”

“Daughter, I was just a little hungry three hours ago, and he looks delicious.” He did, but Ravelle in fact had not been able to sneak the man into a private area to have a taste. Not that she would ever do such a thing if the flight attendant in question weren’t willing to be snuck into a private corner to give Ravelle a taste. But one could fantasize, and fantasizing was about the only thing that kept cross-Atlantic air travel bearable, or so Ravelle thought — that, and the thought of being back in France.

“I told you, you can have some of my blood.” Robyn held her wrist up for emphasis.

Though said quietly, it drew the attention of another passenger, an older Frenchman who had been eyeing Robyn and Ravelle with suspicion ever since they had walked aboard and taken up two first-class seats behind him. Clearly, the human felt their kind, meaning vampires and those who associated with them, should travel coach, or not at all.

He probably thinks Robyn is my private blood donor slash lover, Ravelle thought. At least that’s how he looks at her. Ravelle swallowed the distaste the man’s bile-colored disapproval induced and instead focused on the conversation with Robyn. His emotions had flickered in colors of suspicion and scorn all through the flight, and it was people such as this one who made Ravelle dislike her own vampiric skill of seeing a person’s emotions like colors around them. It made ugliness so very obvious.

“I am not so hungry that I would drink from you. Besides, I wasn’t really just hungry for blood. Or at all.”

“Oh.” Robyn considered this. “Well, I’m sorry you didn’t find, uhm, anything suitable at the wedding. To slake that hunger blood can never slake.”

It had been an entertaining enough wedding, however, made more notable by a good amount of creative murder preceding it. Ravelle was still sad for the goat, because she had always felt a fondness for those baaing creatures with the strange eyes.

Ravelle smiled at Robyn. “I found my son had chosen to wisely marry his love, and my grandson, while needing a massive amount of prompting, followed suit and married his love without first checking his schedule. I assure you, I am quite satisfied with your wedding. Even if I do admit yours and Maxim’s combined rhyming is not the joy you two think it is. For the people around you, that is.” Ravelle caught a glimpse of the flight attendant. “Though I wouldn’t mind some giddily giving and glistening garçon.”

Robyn followed her gaze. “Who wouldn’t give their last groan to get the garçon.”

Ravelle saw the colors of her emotions change, not quite the hard obsidian of loss, but a darkening blue. Robyn was missing Maxim, and if Ravelle was any judge, her adoptive son was missing his bride as well, and probably showering any person inadvertently crossing his path with verse and meter to hide it.

“I’m sure he’ll call before we even have a chance to pick up the luggage.”

Robyn looked at Ravelle, then looked away. “Am I being that obvious?”

Ravelle shook her head. “I’m just that observant. Where else did you think Maxim got that from?”

“It thought he had, with eyes of flame, been tracing the ignorant Jabberwock before he took, with vorpal blade and snicker-snack, his head and turned the beast of carelessness quite dead,” Robyn said, slaying Carroll’s poem, because Maxim certainly did not get his bardic nature from her.

Ravelle moaned. “And now there are two of you manxome foes. It is no wonder Heath and Brian decided to leave town for an impromptu honeymoon.”

Maxim’s dhampire son and his Lar husband had, in fact, made a startlingly quick and efficient exit, likely because Heath was a very organized packer and planner. Ravelle, in contrast, had needed almost an entire week to convince Robyn a trip with just her mother-in-law was in order.

“Are you accusing me of reckless rhyming?” Robyn asked in mock shock as the plane bumped lightly upon touchdown. The deceleration pushed them both back in their seats.

“Yes,” Ravelle said. “But as your husband loves to remind me, it is not a crime to rhyme, and certainly no offense punishable by hunter.”

Robyn gave her a curious look, and Ravelle watched the colors of her emotions shift to curiosity. “So are we doing that? Hunting things? Is that why we told Maxim he couldn’t come?”

ABOUT ALEXA PIPER

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Her retelling of Dracula, A Tale of Honey and Garnet Wine, might be a cursed manuscript, and every writer should have at least one of those. She also loves writing series, and her Fairview Chronicles follow a ragtag gang of supernaturals who try to make their city safer. Mostly. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter!

Alexa Online: Faceook | Twitter | Instagram