Troubled Spirits by Sandy Wolters
Spirit Voices, Book One
Jody has been a conduit for ghosts her entire life. Not only do they come to her for help, but at times she experiences what they feel when they die. This gift or curse comes at a high personal cost—especially when a child is involved. There’s not a man alive who is willing to compete with troubled spirits.
Jared, a wealthy and determined high-powered P.I., has lived without love his entire life. In business if he wants something, he goes after it with a vengeance and is usually not denied. His life experiences have taught him that believing and trusting in others is a dead end street.
But on one magical night Jared meets Jody, and they soon find themselves on the brink of falling in love. But will the spirits surrounding Jody relinquish their hold on her in order for Jared to stake his claim or will their love disappear in an ethereal puff of smoke.
Page Count: 296
Word Count: 77865
“Of course, I’ll do that for you. Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell us why this is so important to you?”
Answering him with a slight nod, she leaned back into the cushions. Her eyes closed to help her gather the strength needed to tell Fiona’s tragic story.
“I find myself in an unusual position.” To calm herself, she reached out for the hands of her closest friends. Fiona’s story was a difficult one, but she knew Nathan and Terry would understand. Since they were aware of her history, they’d recognize how traumatic this problem had been for her. More than anything, she needed their strength right now. “I’m afraid a spirit has attached herself to me.”
Terry’s eyes widened in surprise, and, as usual, Nathan wanted to get to the heart of the problem. “What? That’s something new, isn’t it? Are you in danger?”
Jared dropped the pen he’d found and quickly stood. With a deep frown creasing his face, he held a hand out in front of him to halt all conversation. “Excuse me. What did you say?”
The familiar reaction had Jody’s heart sinking. She had to admit she did feel the tiniest bit bad for him. He’d had no clue the direction this discussion would take. Forcing a smile on her face, she knew it wouldn’t be long before he ran in the other direction. He’d end up bailing on her just like everyone else she’d been interested in had done.
She could pinpoint the exact moment his mind turned suspicious. His gaze penetrated as he visually examined every inch of her. When his expression softened and the warmth returned to his demeanor, she knew he’d probably devised some logical explanation for what she’d just said. At least that had been the pattern in the past with the men she’d been interested in. Maybe he attributed her comment to exhaustion. Maybe he just thought he’d misunderstood her. She’d have to speak concisely so her words wouldn’t be misinterpreted.
“I woke up last night to find a distraught four-year-old girl in bed with me.” No sugarcoating. She’d be straight up about her abilities, and he’d walk out. She hadn’t had time to get attached to him yet, so nothing gained. But for some reason, her heart sure felt like something had been lost.
“I don’t know when she died, but she’s determined to find her parents and talk to them.”
The color drained from Jared’s face.
Everyone could read his reaction just as clearly as if he’d shouted it at the top of his lungs.
“Are you telling me you’re a psychic?”
Jody didn’t miss the venom dripping from his last word. Somewhere from deep within her, she found the strength needed to face off with him. Allowing her anger and, yes, disappointment to shine through her eyes just as he had done, she stated as clearly as she could, “No. Psychic is a pretty broad term. I converse with spirits. I guess you’d call me a medium.”
Jared’s eyes narrowed to slits. She could see the wheels turning in his brain trying to figure out if she was a mental case or maybe just a charlatan. If she was reading his harsh expression correctly, she’d have to go with charlatan.
Fury raged within her. Lack of sleep and utter exhaustion had her wanting to lash out for being judged once again. However, before she could challenge Jared, Fiona sparked her annoyance.
Without giving Jared the opportunity to say anything, she jumped to her feet. Her mind registered that her quick movement had startled him when he took a step away from her. What seemed, to all in the room but her, to be a void space next to Jared, captured her full attention. Feeling as though she were about to lose her mind, her hands slid protectively over her cheeks as she bellowed at the top of her lungs, “Dammit, Fiona, stop that! Your interference is making it difficult to concentrate. I’m trying to help you. The least you could do is sit still for ten minutes!”
She hated losing her temper, but her nerves were being stretched to the limits. The little girl had been dancing around Jared as if he were a Maypole. In her current exhausted state, Fiona’s shenanigans would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for her to focus on the importance of this meeting.
Chastised, Fiona trudged over to the empty chair and sat down. “Sorry.”
Bone Dance by Lee Roland
Bone Dance Series
One by one, the magical inhabitants of Elder Valley are disappearing and it’s up to Maeve, a runaway witch with an erratic nature and dubious powers, to save them. Maeve’s been a vagabond, riding the roads with her trucker friends, but the magic she’s tried to escape for years is forcing her home. Worse, it has given her responsibility for a strange lonely witch, an impertinent little harpy, and a love-struck dragon. With an evil sorcerer’s thugs in furious pursuit, Maeve must keep her charges safe as they race across the country to save her home from death and ruin.
Page Count: 396
Word Count: 94285
Magic knows magic.
Red sand exploded and twisted into whirlwinds as the dragon landed. Thick, solid legs folded to absorb the massive shock, and dense claws punched into the earth. Eighty feet of reptilian splendor touched down with the poise of a champion gymnast coming off a high bar. Headlights flashed across silver scales, and each scale was a polished coin, ready to spend in some enchanted world. A rough, horned head peered at them with kaleidoscope eyes. Flor gripped the steering wheel with pale hands and whispered in a strange, clipped language.
The dragon’s wings swept up into the night and diamond points of light fractured in a million rainbows as they melded into human form. Silver-haired and slender, almost androgynous, it might have been difficult to determine gender—if he hadn’t been naked and obviously male.
“Oh my.” Flor spoke in a breathless whisper.
Maeve stroked Harriet’s head. “Raymond. Has he been mean to you again, sweetheart?”
With exquisite grace, the dragon walked to the driver’s side of the vehicle. Flor pushed the button, and the window murmured as it slid down.
“Raymond,” Maeve said. She didn’t ask what he wanted. Harpies might talk too much, but dragons spoke in their own time.
Opal flecked eyes glimmered in the dash lights as Raymond reached in to grasp a handful of Flor’s midnight hair. The pace of Flor’s breathing increased. She quivered when his long fingered hand caressed her face and throat.
Maeve glanced down at Harriet. “I don’t suppose it’ll do any good to tell her not to look in his eyes.”
“Too late.” Harriet sounded smug. “Already got her.”
Flor smiled at Maeve. Maeve wasn’t sure if the smile said “lucky me” or “go to hell.”
Harriet was right. Raymond already had Flor under his spell. It wasn’t unusual for witches to bond with dragons in human form, and the enchantment would eventually ease. How fascinating, though. Maeve had known Raymond all her life, and to the best of her knowledge, he’d never shown that kind of interest in any witch.
Raymond released Flor, opened the back door, and climbed in. Leaning between the bucket seats, he gently grasped her hand, kissed it, and sucked her fingers like a little boy savoring sweet candy.
“Eweee-uu,” Harriet said. “Nasty.”
Raymond reached for the harpy. She ducked under Maeve’s arm, scrunching herself against the door.
“Stop that.” Maeve smacked Raymond’s hand.
Raymond gave a deep, seductive dragon’s laugh, so at odds with his slender body. The sound didn’t affect Maeve, but Flor squirmed in her seat. Maeve wrinkled her nose as the sweet pungent odor of magic and lust pervaded the air.
“Flor, could we move along?” Maeve flipped her hand to show forward movement. “I’ll drive if you want. No telling who or what’ll show up next.” The sudden appearance of magic where it shouldn’t be rattled her. Like standing on a railroad track, feeling the sudden vibration of an onrushing train. Harriet and Raymond were a welcome surprise, but there were other creatures she’d prefer not to meet in the wild, empty Utah desert.
Flor sighed and the vehicle rolled forward again. Raymond transferred his affections back to her hair, gently drawing strands over her shoulder and rubbing them across his face.
Maeve decided to get the worst over. “So, what are you two doing here?”
“Tana sent us,” Harriet chirped.
Raymond kept his fingers in Flor’s hair as he spoke to Maeve. “Tana wants you to come home.”
Tana—Aingeal Nyx Pallas, High Witch and Matriarch of the Random Clan—wanted her wayward granddaughter to come home? Not impossible, but highly unlikely given the circumstances of Maeve’s departure years ago.
Sister of a Sinner by Lynn Shurr
A Sinner’s Legacy, Book Three
Junior Polk wants only one thing more than to be drafted by the Sinners football team–the love of Xochi Billodeaux, whom he’s adored since the feisty Mexican girl saved him from bullies as a weak, fat child.
Having the ability to see auras, Xo is distracted from seeing Junior for the man he’s become because of the “dark men” who appear to be following her. Surely, people will consider her crazy if she tells them what she fears–even Junior who swears he would die for her.
When she is snatched off the street by a false Mayan priest who believes her sacrifice to the goddess Ix Chel will restore a man’s vigor, Junior and three companions race to Cozumel to save her. Would Junior truly give his life for hers?
Page Count: 300
Word Count: 78365
Angel’s caring older lover arrived to take him home well fed and tipsy on tequila shots. “Muchas gracias for watching over him, Xochi,” he said, pecking her cheek. Giving up on both Junior and Connor, Rachelle had departed around one with a man she met on her way back from the restroom and danced with twice.
“I wish she wouldn’t do that. I worry about her,” Xochi said.
“What, you can’t tell if he’s a bad guy with your magical powers,” Connor mocked. For lack of anything else to do, he’d consumed four Coronas.
“His aura is brown, the color of deception, but that goes for lots of the men here who will tell a woman anything she wants to hear in order to score. However, as you should know, doctor, there are all sorts of diseases she could pick up, and when drunk, the risk of sloppy, unprotected sex that leads to pregnancy. I didn’t notice any sickness on the guy, but I don’t see the future.”
“Yeah, sloppy unprotected sex, that’s how Dean got Beck, but he’s a great kid,” Tom added. “You ready to go, Legs?” he asked his wife.
“If you are.” The couple departed while they still had the energy for safe marital sex.
A man approached the table. To Junior, he looked like most of Xo’s many dance partners: brown, lean, slicked-back black hair. This one also sported a pencil thin mustache and three gold chains. “My turn,” he claimed.
Xo shook her head. “No, I promised Martin Segura this dance.”
“He went home early. We traded.”
Xo answered him sharply, so unlike her. “No trades. Last dance, Junior.”
He stood at her prompt, mountainous and muscular. Something wrong, but he didn’t know what. The band struck up the next number. They pushed past the stranger. Junior took his beloved in his arms and wondered if she felt the same warmth that suffused his body when they pressed together. Onlookers shouted, “Olé, Olé, Olé” at every pass they made across the floor as if he conquered his partner instead of cherished her.
The moment came for the lift over his shoulder, sore if he admitted it from doing the same move with so many others that evening, but Xochi soared as she were made of black swan feathers and landed lightly facing the audience. He pressed his lips against her nape where the waves of her dark hair parted and swore he felt an extra surge of heat from her body. Those that remained watching applauded wildly. From the sidelines, the man with the thin mustache glared at them with his dead black eyes.
Xo turned in Junior’s arms. “Time to go home.”
She insisted on remaining in the barroom while waiting for her favored driver despite the noise and dimness rather than out in the balmy May night where knots of men and women stood smoking and chatting on the broken sidewalk. When the taxi pulled up in front of Paco’s, Xo bolted for its door and flung herself into the backseat. Junior joined her and carefully placed one arm around her shoulders, held her tight. She trembled, and he swore he could feel the frantic beat of her heart fast as a frightened dove against his chest.
“Did I do something wrong? Was the lift too much for you? Or was it the kiss?”
“No, no, nothing you did, Junior. The lift, the kiss is part of the dance. That man who wanted to be my partner, he is one of the dark men I’ve been seeing lately everywhere I go. Soulless men with auras so black they seem to make a hole in the universe. New Orleans is a big city, often a sinful city, and I’ve seen them before, but never so many or so close to me.”
“I’ll protect you, Xo. You know I’d give my life for you.”
“Don’t say that! No one should have to make that choice.”