Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Virtual Book Tour

A home of her own, a man of her own, her wedding day fast approaching, the life Connie Bennett had only dreamed about.  She should be thrilled, right?  So why isn't she?  Excellent question!

The assorted shape-shifters, vampires and other government experiments she and her cohorts rescued from the FARM have been acclimated--mostly.  An old acquaintance, Private Gary Vance, returns to make them rethink that comforting notion.

You'd think by now, Connie would realize life doesn't always go like you wish it would, or expect it to.  But, even if she had, never in her wildest imaginings would she have predicted this!

A were-jaguar’s on the prowl. Posing as a kitten he’s taken in by Becky and even though all his powers are unknown, he’s accepted as just another experiment gone wrong.  Way wrong!

As Raf, Terrell, Leeann and Jimmy make preparations for the upcoming nuptials; Connie can’t seem to keep her mind on the joyful event.  What is mistaken for wedding anxiety turns to something far more sinister.

Private Vance has his own agenda.  He plans to make Tom pay for all the agony he endured at the FARM and Connie is his tool of choice!  First his hypnotic pheromones are used to seduce her and bend her to his will.  She will be pregnant with his offspring by the wedding and it will be the last thing Tom Thornton hears as he dies by his brides hand.

A bloody rosewood danger in her hand and her beloved new husband on the bedroom floor snaps Connie from her hypnosis into a psychotic break.  Demons from her past, present and possibly her future threaten her destruction.

It will take more than Raf to save the day and bring about a happy ending.


The sound of wolves howling seemed somehow comforting, even with the more exotic calls added to the mix. In the bright light of the full moon, the shadow of something huge darkened the snow on the front lawn. A chorus of girlish giggles drifted down to where I sat huddled in blankets on the porch, hot chocolate in hand. Leeann provided her version of “pony rides” to the girls; she was the pony, or rather, a dragon, a weredragon, at least for tonight. Becky and Fi shrieked as they dived toward the house. I loved to hear them laugh.
The girls asked for a unicorn, which unfortunately, wasn’t part of Leeann’s repertoire, yet. A polymorph, a shifter who changed into several different animals or combinations thereof, she gained an animal per year. Fiona, Leeann’s daughter, or more probably, her clone, might do the same when she hit puberty. Our adopted daughter Becky seemed like a normal little girl. But then again, so did Fi. Appearances are often deceiving. I had learned that lesson the hard way. The screen door banged shut and I turned to find Raf balancing a tray containing a cup, a steaming pot and a bowl of mini marshmallows.
“I thought you might need a refill. Aren’t you freezing?” he asked as he set the tray on the table. He hurriedly tossed the blanket aside preparing to crawl in. A growl emanated from within its depths. “Oh! You have a built in heater.” Ignoring the warning, he wiggled closer to the annoyed heat source.
His teeth chattered. Temperature variations didn’t bother most vampires, but Raf wasn’t your typical vampire, as a matter of fact, all indications were, he wasn’t one. He wrapped his hands around a cup of cocoa and sighed.
“Hey, what can I say? Willy loves to snuggle and his normal temperature is 102 degrees. That beats the hell out of 28.” Another growl came from the depths of the blanket as Raf sidled up to the warmth. Willy showed his disapproval at being the filling in our sandwich. “Hush Willy, you know you wouldn’t hurt Raf.” My dachshund loves him, not so surprising since he saved his life more than once. That…and you just couldn’t help love Raf.
“So how go the wedding plans?” Raf asked between sips. “Red, green and white, right?”
“Yeah, that much is decided,” I answered on a sigh. My head started to throb immediately. “How did this turn into such a big mess? What happened to my simple wedding?” I massaged my temples. Raf pulled my left hand away from my head and raised it to his mouth. The usual shiver of anticipation ran through me. He bit into my wrist and my sigh became a moan before I could stop it. The tension poured out of me like water, or the aftermath of an orgasm. At least we were past the stage of being embarrassed. I snuggled into the crook of his arm and he rested his lips against my temple. Willy growled. High in the air, the girls giggled.
“Better?” he whispered into my hair.
“Always.” Having Raf around made everything better, easier somehow. Anyone could siphon off the extra blood my body produced. Most days we had a line of volunteers to do just that. We needed to issue numbers or something. But with Raf, the bloodletting took on a different flavor, almost sexual. Closer to what my fiancĂ© Tom and I shared, but not. Calm surrounded me, my brain cleared of unimportant clutter in Raf’s presence. Tom usually had the opposite effect. Not a bad thing, until lately, as I turned into Bridezilla. The transformation wasn’t pretty.
“So, we’ll have a few more guests. Karen can make as many invitations as we need. She’s only waiting for you to decide on the design. Have you?”
“Holly with red berries, embossed on pure white. Would red lettering be gauche?” I asked hesitantly. I mean, it was a December wedding, red was my favorite color and the groom was a vampire, as would be many of the guests.
“The wedding should be any way you want it. But to answer the question, no, I think red would be perfect.” He grinned, as if inordinately pleased with himself.
“You already ordered them didn’t you?” Why I should be amazed at this point was anybody’s guess. We connected from our first meeting. We got each other on many levels, some came with perks, like the little added benefit of being able to read each other’s thoughts. Our link was weird, strange, wonderful, bizarre, and terrifying. The same description might be applied to the past year and a half. Tom didn’t seem upset by what Raf and I shared. The same could not be said of Terrell, Raf’s on again, off again, sweetie. Currently, off. Raf’s face fell and I cringed, “Sorry.”
I did mention the whole mind reading thing, right?
“Not your fault, Doll. He has to accept all of me for our relationship to work. If he can’t, it wasn’t meant to be,” Raf said philosophically.
“Understood, but I’m still sorry. I get where he’s coming from. I’d be jealous too.” He gave me a look. “Okay, maybe I get jealous of you and T, but I manage. It’s like I’m your sister…” I trailed off when he raised an eyebrow. “Have it your way. Our relationship is—special. If we don’t understand it, how can we expect anyone else to?”
“I know Doll. I guess I’d just hoped he would be like you.” He tousled my hair and grinned, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “You’re the most accepting person I’ve ever met.”
Quite a compliment from someone over three thousand years old, but Raf had led a sheltered life. Sort of. He spent his first few hundred years with his family and in a temple where they treated him like a God; the next two thousand, hiding from the demoness who tried to seduce him. So, he hadn’t known as many people as you might think, not normal people anyway. Whatever normal meant.
We were all on a big, huge, learning curve. In the beginning we had thought Raf might be the first vampire, made by Lilitu, also known as the succubus Lilith, when he refused her seduction. Raf’s gay. He had agreed to let her take his blood instead of sex to save his village from the curse she placed them under. But Raf never drank her blood, so how could he be a vampire? His brother Senh was really the first vampire… Forget I brought it up! The whole business was all a big cosmic mystery, a chicken or the egg sort of thing.
“Those girls must be frozen solid by now. Leeann,” I called into the still night. An answering feline growl came from the woods to the west of the house, followed by a wolf’s howl. “Sounds like we’ll be having company for breakfast,” I said to Raf, only to pause as a voice whispered in my head.
I smiled; the words still took me by surprise. “Mommy.” Did I mention Becky is a telepath? It took us a while to figure that out, longer because only Raf and I heard her; yet another facet of our cosmic riddle. I sat Willy on the porch floor. “Go potty.”
Big brown eyes looked up at me and glared. You didn’t need to be a mind reader to understand the look; six inches of snow, four inches of body clearance, less in the most pertinent areas. Nope, Willy wasn’t a fan of snow, or rain for that matter. With a final glare he marched off the porch, disappearing into the drift formed under the eave. When he reappeared, his nose and the top of his head wore a cap of snow. He did the dachshund headshake, ears flapping loudly to dislodge the frigid mix, before walking up the stairs to stand at the door. Willy wanted in. He had tired of the cold.
“I can’t go in until the girls get back,” I told him. “Come get back under the covers.” He eyed me for a moment, but the draw of blanket and warm bodies was too much to resist. Walking to stand in front of Raf, to let me know he was miffed, he stood waiting to be picked up. Shrill laughter, followed closely by what sounded like a thunderclap, caused him to turn and fly back down the stairs, snow forgotten. The girls, or more precisely, Leeann, landed. Willy’s eyes fixed on his lady love. No, not the dragon. Becky. He belonged to her, heart and soul. They had been joined at the hip since the day we brought her home. I couldn’t find it in me to be jealous.
“Mommy, did you see?” Becky squealed as she scooped the bouncing pogo stick that Willy had become into her arms. No small feat, since she was only half again his weight. “We flew high!”  
I snatched the blanket from around Raf and headed down the stairs. Shifters didn’t feel the cold like humans, but the thought of Leeann naked in the snow sent shivers down my spine enough for the both of us. The air still shimmered with whatever magic transformed and reformed a shifter. Leeann changed quicker than most, and regained her human form by the time I reached them. She wasn’t at all shaky as she stood and I wrapped the blanket around them. Fi remained tucked under the arm which only moments before, had been a huge scaled wing. Satisfied the blanket covered them both, I turned back to my daughter whose lips were blue with cold.
“Yes, I did! And—you had so much fun you forgot you were freezing. Let’s go inside, Raf made cocoa.” Two shadows came out of the woods, neither ready for polite society, but at least they walked on two feet and not four. “Take her.” I handed Becky and Willy over to Raf and reached for two more blankets from the chest on the porch. Bianca naked, I could deal with. Jimmy, on the other hand, was something else entirely!
I watched as their remaining fur and claws retreated from whence they came, blindly tossing my life-long friend and werewolf, Jimmy, a blanket as soon as he got in range. His laughter made me scowl, turning, I wrapped the other blanket around Bianca. Jimmy seemed a little too pleased with his effect on me. Why he’d give me a second glance when Bianca stood naked in all her glory, I couldn’t figure. Perhaps they didn’t click because she was feline and he canine? I didn’t care. I was engaged, not dead. Jimmy’s body affected any woman with a pulse, no, any woman at all—and some men. Unfortunately for Raf, Jimmy doesn’t swing his way.
“Let’s get you two inside before we freeze to death,” I suggested. We don’t get much snow in central Arkansas and while I think the white stuff is beautiful, I’d rather look at it, than stroll through the drifts. “My toes are numb.”
Strategically maneuvering Bianca between Jimmy and me, I asked, “Is your Mom watching BJ or is she out here, too?”
“He’s with Mom, she can’t leave Dad. Not now. It’s too soon. I’ll stay home tomorrow and let her run.”
“Is he any better?” I felt awful. No one told me what happened to Jimmy’s Dad until long after Dee’s funeral. Dee, Jimmy’s wife, BJ’s mom, and my best friend was also a witch who had used her powers for self-gain. I understood a little more about witchcraft now than a year ago, thanks in part to Bianca. They believe if you use magic to harm others it comes back to you three fold. Dee had ignored their teachings by casting spells to aid her in life and in love. As a result she lost her Jimmy, BJ and finally her life. She tried to make things right in the end, but that went wrong as well. During all the drama, Jimmy’s Dad got shot.
“Yeah, he can feed himself and talk some. He’s still in the wheelchair. The injuries will heal; they’ll just take more time. A lot of energy is required to heal a severed spinal cord, even when it wasn’t made by silver shot. It’s a risk we all take.”
Pop Andrews was a werewolf like his sons and wife Nancy. He’d been out for a run in wolf mode under the full moon on Jimmy’s property and got a bullet in the back. Unfortunately Jimmy’s neighbor owned cattle and it was calving time. Some of his calves had been killed by a predator, though not by Pop. The law allowed the killing of an animal threatening your livestock. Not that it would have mattered one way or another. Some people are trigger happy. He shot Pop as he tried to run away and left him for dead. The incident was horrible but at least he hadn’t checked to make sure he made a kill shot. Pop couldn’t survive a shot to the head. The whole episode made me furious. Luckily, his sons found him before he bled out.
“So, when he’s better, he’ll run here with the rest of you. Tom’s trying to buy up the adjoining acreage from the conglomerate that was planning to make a fisherman’s paradise. When the deal comes through, it will up the property to 500 acres. Surely that will be enough room if y’all take turns.”
“If he closes,” Jimmy said under his breath as we entered the house. He dropped the blanket at the foot of the stairs, heading for the bedrooms upstairs to get dressed. Bianca followed behind, her blanket still wrapped about her.
I closed my eyes and counted to ten and opened them to find Bianca had disappeared. Jimmy stood at the head of the stairs. I got a full frontal before my eyes slammed shut again. Jimmy’s laugh was just plain evil—and maddening. My eyes popped back open. “Oh, he’ll close the deal. You’ve met Tom, right?” I hissed, making direct eye contact. Atta girl, keep your eyes on the face.
“You’re so sure of him, even after he turned this place into a zoo?”
“They needed a safe place to start over Jimmy. Most of these people have never had normal lives. This is Arkansas, hunter heaven, how long would they last anywhere else? Look at what happened to your dad. Besides, I didn’t hear any better ideas from you or anyone else. Only Tom stepped up to the plate.”
“Guilty conscience?”
“Sure, he’s made some mistakes, but he’s trying to make them right. Tom’s doing the best he can. That’s all anyone can do. What’s wrong with you tonight? I thought the full moon made you feel great.” He looked bewildered, running his hand through his sandy hair.
“I’m sorry Connie. I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s so many shifters in such close proximity? Too many hormones.” The last he said with a grin. When my gaze didn’t waiver, he gave an exaggerated sigh. “I thought the good guy always got the girl.”
His woebegone expression tugged at my heart strings, as I was sure he meant it to. Jimmy was my friend. In a different life he might have been more. He deserved the truth; my truth at any rate.
“They do sugar. If your head wasn’t so thick, you could figure that out. Tom is a good guy and there is more than one girl out there. You just keep looking in all the wrong places.” On cue, Leeann walked in. She at least had dressed. She came to stand beside me and glared up the stairway.
“Breakfast is almost ready. If the girls come in here and catch you like that, I’m going to kick your ass. Nobody down here is impressed.” She turned on her heel and whispered, “You need to eat; they’ll be here soon, only a couple of hours left before dawn.”
“I can hear you, you know,” Jimmy said between clenched teeth. “Why do you put up with them, Connie? You can’t be everything to everybody.”
“We’re all still trying to find our way in this Jimmy. Why are you so determined to make things harder than they have to be?” My head throbbed; a sure sign my blood pressure was up again.
I was a milk cow, the more you took, the more I made, or so we thought. To the vampires I was some sort of chosen being; something foretold for eons. I was their “fount of blood”; sort of what manna from Heaven had been to the Jews. I didn’t understand, or like, having strange vampires suck on me, but they needed the blood and I needed to get rid of the extra somehow. Why waste the stuff? If life gives you lemons…you know the rest. Perhaps this was Karma. I had everything I ever wanted: a home, friends, family, and a man—men, who loved me. Perhaps this is how I was supposed to return the favor. Hell, I didn’t know!
“They’re here,” Leeann said quietly to me; to Jimmy, “Put your clothes on and act civil or get out.”
“It’s not your place to tell me to leave.”
I had all I was taking. “It’s as much hers, as yours. Do as she says, stay or leave; your choice.” I put my hands to either side of my head and pressed, trying to hold in the pressure as the world swam into blackness.
Feeling much lighter, I awoke with a vampire attached to each wrist, mouths working hungrily. Raf’s familiar chest supported my back and kept me from sliding off the settee. His lips touched my hair moments before I saw Jimmy standing across the room propped on the window frame. His expression was pained, but no longer sullen. I smiled at him and he returned a half-hearted grin.
“This is our Haven, Jimmy. That’s why we picked the name; a place of safety for those who have no other. Everybody, everything, needs a place to call home. We all need one constant, the rest we’re still trying to get a handle on.”
The vampires sealed my wounds with kisses and gratitude. I was the gift that kept on giving. Giving is a good thing, right? It gave me worth. So, I said the only thing I could, “You’re welcome.”

About the Author:

Raised by various relatives in rural Arkansas, a lack of wherewithal developed my sense of adventure and a vivid imagination.  My grandpa's wagon became a royal coach, the plow horse my charger, and the barnyard animals magical creatures. I learned at an early age, my mind could take me wherever I wanted to go and make me whoever I wished to be. 

      As I grew reading took me to far-away lands and places, the past and the future.  I was hooked.
      Content to read, it didn’t occur to me to try my hand at writing until years later.
      In my early teens I discovered romance novels.  I loved historicals and strong, virile heroes.  Later I became interested in the paranormal.  I devoured Ann Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton and others in the genre and found one constant. I always preferred the monsters. While composing my junior and senior themes in high school I discovered my love of writing.

      As I matured my ideas of what made a hero changed, as did my opinions of timid, meek heroines. No Pitiful Pearls for me, my girls have grit!  

      Still in rural Arkansas, I write with dogs at my feet.  Sometimes they weasel their way into my writing!

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