Thursday, November 15, 2018

Book Birthday: Soul Syndicate by Lily Luchesi and Faith Marlow


A soul is a heavy burden to bear.

There’s a gala celebrating the city and many notable celebrities are attending, including a rock star, a socialite, a baseball player, and an entertainment reporter. Each of them is notable in their own right, and each one holding a secret.
When they all get stuck in an elevator together after the gala is over, they think that that is the worst thing that could happen to them...until the doors finally open.
It’s a battle for the ultimate prize: their souls and the souls of everyone else on Earth. Can they save the world, or will these disparate individuals kill each other first?

The world as they knew it has gone, now they have poppies attached to their chests and are facing down soulless friends, family, and strangers, including a crotchety old woman and a former drag queen.

Jake and Xander came up behind the women, and Jake then saw what the others were seeing.
Or rather, what the others didn’t see. It was the middle of the day on Saturday, just a week from
Thanksgiving in downtown Chicago. And yet the street was empty of people.

“Guys? Why do I feel like I’m about to be in an episode of The Twilight Zone?” he asked, gazing
around at the empty street and shops. It didn't seem like any of them had even opened that morning,
closed signs hung in every window.
“Is there a holiday we forgot about?” Xander asked.
Rachael scoffed. “Places stay open on Christmas these days. Trust me; there’s no holiday. But should
we check the news? Perhaps something's going on that we missed in the elevator.” She looked at
Lianne. “I’m going to guess you don’t have any news apps on your phone, do you?”
Without waiting for an answer, she rummaged in her purse for her smartphone, clicking on the local
news’ app. Jake looked over her shoulder as she flicked down, refreshing it. Nothing changed. It
stayed with the same report from eleven the previous night, about the gala.
“Maybe it’s broken,” Jake said. “Check Twitter.”
“Thank you, peanut gallery,” Rachael said, clicking on the other app. Jake saw that she followed
about eight thousand people. Yet there were no updates from anyone since eleven the previous night,
central time. “Is it my connection?” She typed out a quick tweet, “Hello, is this thing on?” and it
posted immediately. And why was Wifi working but not landlines or text messages?
She showed the phone’s screen to the other three who just stared.
“What could this mean?” Xander asked. “An empty street, no one online except for us,
doesn’t make sense.”
Lianne shook her head. “I don’t get it. Let me call someone. See if anyone’s got an answer.” She took
out her phone and pressed a few buttons, holding it to her ear. After a few minutes, she hung up. “It
went to voicemail. But it’s my mom; she doesn’t always answer.”
Jake then recalled that he was supposed to be back home last night. His wife must have been worried
sick about him. Taking out his phone, he was dismayed to see that there wasn’t a single text or missed
call from her. Wasn’t she worried? Or even upset that he pulled an all-nighter while she was home
alone with their son? And what about his band? Didn’t they wonder why he hadn’t shown up for
“Anybody hear from anyone?” he asked. “I mean, we’ve all got to have at least one person who would
have text messaged us.”
Rachael nodded. “My editor. I was supposed to turn in my report by noon, which means he would have
been hounding me by nine. But nothing.”
“Do you know how many notifications I get in an hour?” Lianne asked, preening a bit. “There’s not a
single one on here.”
Xander grinned ruefully as he said, “In the off-season, she’s the only one who nags me.”
“Why you little—”
“Cool it with the antagonization,” Rachael said. “Something’s wrong here. Seriously wrong. And we
need to figure out what.”
Lianne scoffed. “We’re not the police. Let them figure it out. I mean, isn’t that what we pay taxes for?”
Jake watched as Rachael cocked her head, a lock of dark hair falling across her forehead. “Huh. And
here I never would have expected you to know what your taxes went for or how to pay them.”
Lianne’s mouth dropped and she was about to retort when Jake gasped. A sudden pain hit him in the
center of his chest, like there was a little knife inside stabbing its way out. Everyone turned toward him,
but he couldn’t be bothered with their quizzical glances.
He unbuttoned his shirt partway, the pain making his hands shake. He gasped as the stabbing sensation
increased. Looking down, he saw that there was a spot on his chest, over his heart, that was bulging out,
the skin stretched taut around something. Fear mingled with the pain, and he felt his heart begin to beat
“What the Hell is that?” Xander asked.
Something green poked through the skin on Jake’s chest and he screamed as the pain became nearly
unbearable. Blood trickled down off of the green stem, staining his skin. But the pain was receding as
he watched as the green stem began to...blossom? Like a nature film on fast-forward, a red flower
began to grow, budding and blooming until it was a small red poppy, the color matching that of the
blood that had been spilled.

Lily Luchesi is the USA Today bestselling author of The Paranormal Detectives Series, #1 bestselling Coven Series, and other paranormal tales. You can reach her via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her newsletter.

Faith Marlow is the USA Today bestselling author of the Being Mrs. Dracula series and other horror stories. You can reach her via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her newsletter.

Both authors are part of Vamptasy Publishing, an imprint of CHBB Publishing.
Twitter/Instagram: #NEWRELEASE from #USAToday #bestselling authors @LilyLuchesi & @FaithMarlow! #FREE via #KindleUnlimited! A soul is a heavy burden to bear. #Apocalypse #apocalyptic #horror #paranormal #amreading Facebook: NEW RELEASE from USA Today bestselling authors Lily Luchesi & Faith Marlow! FREE via Kindle Unlimited! A soul is a heavy burden to bear. There’s a gala celebrating the city and many notable celebrities are attending, including a rock star, a socialite, a baseball player, and an entertainment reporter. Each of them is notable in their own right, and each one holding a secret. When they all get stuck in an elevator together after the gala is over, they think that that is the worst thing that could happen to them...until the doors finally open. It’s a battle for the ultimate prize: their souls and the souls of everyone else on Earth. Can they save the world, or will these disparate individuals kill each other first? The world as they knew it has gone, now they have poppies attached to their chests and are facing down soulless friends, family, and strangers, including a crotchety old woman and a former drag queen.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Blog Tour: What They Don't Know by Nicole Maggi -- Author Interview + Giveaway!

About This Book:

Mellie has always been the reliable friend, the good student, the doting daughter. But when an unspeakable act leads her to withdraw from everyone she loves, she is faced with a life-altering choicea choice she must face alone.

Lise stands up -- and speaks out -- for what she believes in. And when she notices Mellie acting strangely, she gets caught up in trying to save her...all while trying to protect her own secret. One that might be the key to helping Mellie.

Told through Mellie and Lise's journal entries, this powerful, emotional novel chronicles Mellie's struggle to decide what is right for her and the unbreakable bond formed by the two girls on their journey.

Find the Book Here:

About the Author:

Nicole was born in the suburban farm country of upstate New York, and began writing at a very early age. Of course, her early works consisted mainly of poems about rainbows and unicorns, although one of them was good enough to win honorable mention in a national poetry contest! (Perhaps one of the judges was a ten-year-old girl.) Throughout high school, her creative writing was always nurtured and encouraged.

Nicole attended Emerson College as an acting major, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Post-college, she worked as an actress in New York City for over a decade, focusing mainly on Shakespeare and the classics. 

Now living in Los Angeles, Nicole balances writing full-time with motherhood. WINTER FALLS, the first in her TWIN WILLOWS TRILOGY (Medallion Press, 2014) is her debut novel. She has a stand-alone novel, HEARTLINES, coming out in February 2015 with SourceBooks Fire, as well as the second and third novels in the TWIN WILLOWS TRILOGY in 2015 and 2016.

Author Interview:

1)    Do your characters’ stories ever reflect experiences you’ve had in real life?

Yes. But not so much in What They Don’t Know. I’d say my Twin Willows Trilogy has the most personal experiences in it, because the main character’s mother in that series was based on my Italian grandmother and so much of my Italian upbringing was woven into the main character’s daily life. 
Though it wasn’t based on personal experience, there is a scene in What They Don’t Know where Mellie, who finds herself pregnant after being raped, goes to a “pregnancy crisis center.” These “fake abortion clinics” have been in the news a lot lately. They’re run by anti-choice organizations and lean very heavily on coercing women not to terminate their pregnancies. Mellie’s experience in the clinic is based on real accounts I read from women who visited these clinics, seeking help and medical care. Everything that happens to Mellie in that scene - from being forced to undergo an ultrasound, being given baby clothes, and not being allowed to leave - happened to someone in the research that I did.

2)    Are you friends with any authors? If so, have they ever influenced your work or helped you to become a better author?

I’m friends with many, many authors. I’m so fortunate that where I live, in Los Angeles, the YA author community is vast and wonderfully supportive. We’re all showing up at each other’s launch parties, meeting up for drinks, and organizing panels with each other. So many of these authors have been such a huge help to me; not to just my writing, but to my emotional well-being as a writer! 
But the writer who has been the most helpful is Romina Garber (author of the Zodiac series under the name Romina Russell). Years ago she posted a Craig’s List ad to start a critique group. I answered the ad, and an amazing friendship was born. We often joke that we’re twin brains because we think so much alike. We did have a critique group for a while; it’s since disbanded but Romina and I still meet up once a week to write together, and we’re always bouncing ideas off each other. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her!

3)    Is there a specific book genre that you prefer to write within, such as paranormal, contemporary, or thriller?

Although What They Don’t Know is contemporary YA, I actually prefer writing paranormal or fantasy, and historical. It’s what I loved reading when I was growing up, and it’s still what I prefer to read. I actually don’t read a ton of contemporary fiction. I just like being able to escape into a totally made-up world, whether it’s my own or another author’s. 
Writing What They Don’t Know was a hugely rewarding experience, and incredibly enriching. I learned a lot about myself while I was writing it. But when I finished it, I realized that I really missed writing fantasy, and I think that’s what my next project will be.

4)    Why did you choose to write stories for a young adult demographic?

My first novel (which remains unpublished) wasn’t written as YA, but when my agent sent it around to editors, we got a lot of feedback that it felt like YA. This was just at the beginning of the Twilight craze, at the dawn of this Golden Age of YA that we’re in now. So she encouraged me to try writing YA for my next book. When I started writing in a teen voice, it felt like coming home. It took me right back to all those books that I’d loved when I was growing up: Tamora Pierce, Judy Blume, Lois Lowry.
I love writing for an audience that is still figuring out their place in the world, at a time when they’re starting to think about their own beliefs and values separately from their parents’. Being able to reach teens at this powerful time in their lives is incredibly gratifying and humbling.

5)    Are there any books that had a significant impact on your writing?

So many! But I’ll just name a couple. The books that made me want to be an author were the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. I wanted to live in the world of those books; I wanted to be friends with all the characters. It was the first time that I realized the power an author has to create worlds that other people want to live in. I thought, “I want to do that, too.”
When I plot out a book, I usually use the Hero’s Journey as my template, and no one is a better master at that than JK Rowling with Harry Potter. Not only does each book of the series fit into the template, but the entire 7-book series fits into it too. I really looked to her character journey arcs when I was writing my Twin Willows Trilogy.

6)    What is your favorite quote?

I have a few, but I’ll mention this one from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?”

I think it’s so easy to be consumed by fear, and allow ourselves to be smaller than we are. Especially for women, who are taught from a very early age that we shouldn’t be too big, too loud, too successful, or too good at anything. When I’m feeling like that, like I don’t deserve happiness or success, I remind myself of this quote.


There are two prizes up for grabs! Two winners will each win one (1) copy of What They Don’t Know by Nicole Maggi. The giveaway will run from October 2nd to October 12th and, unfortunately, is US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Dates:

OCT 2nd – What A Nerd Girl Says – Guest Post
OCT 3rd – Bookschief Managed – Interview
OCT 4th – Movies Shows n Books – Guest Post
OCT 5th – Luna Reviews – Guest Post 
OCT 6th – Gryffindor Books – Interview
OCT 7th – Knightingale Reviews – Interview
OCT 8th – Starkiller Reads – Interview
OCT 9th – Nite Lite Book Reviews – Guest Post

OCT 10th – The Readers Antidote – Guest Post

Friday, October 5, 2018

Release Blitz: The Coven Heir by Lily Luchesi


The Dark never dies.
One year after The Company of Clan Munro was defeated, things in the UK Coven are se beginning to be shaken up.
The Princess, Harley Sinclair, is building her potion business and planning a wedding to James Quigley, while still taking lessons from her father, the Coven King.
Her younger half-brother, Nick Smith, is moving to London with three friends ... including Roger Ainsley, the son of the former leader of the Dark.
When a mysterious stranger appears back from the dead, his words of warning of another Dark Clan rising might change Nick and Harley's lives forever.
There's a deathwitch in the Coven, and she has her sights set on the Princess.


“Come. Mahon gave me the location of the grave I need to take samples from. Thank God it wasn't
the one you just regurgitated your beer all over.”
They began to walk through the darkened cemetery, and he noticed how perfectly in place Harley
looked with her long black cloak with batwing sleeves. She was the perfect picture of a storybook
“Can you feel it?” she asked him, voice hushed. “The Darkness is getting stronger.”
Nick nodded. “The necromancer is getting stronger.”
They found the grave. It was across the lot from the four who had been risen before. There was a
Wiccan pentagram at the top, with the inscription:
Caelum Serpens Lynx
22nd March - 31st October
Fortune favours the brave.
Harley was gaping at the headstone. “You have got to be joking!”
“That name sounds familiar,” Nick said, looking at the grave. The years listed said this guy was
born the same year as his parents and had died during the battle that had killed them both as well.
Harley bent down and removed ampoules from her pocket. Nick had no idea where she kept those
things while wearing such a tight dress and blazer under her cloak. She used a broken branch she
found to scrape up some of the dirt and put it in one ampoule. She stepped back, held out her hand,
and Nick saw green energy forming in the centre of her palm. Her father’s bloodline, Clan Munro, w
ere energy manipulators which meant that she could attack people with her life force alone.
Praemium,” she cast, and the energy shot out of her palm and blasted the headstone into pieces.
Methodically she sifted through the rubble and put a piece inside the second ampoule. She stood
up and said, “All right, let’s go. You probably won’t vomit the second time around.”
Nick didn't respond, as he turned towards the nearby bushes and saw those eerie yellow eyes …
staring right at him.

* * *

Harley couldn’t believe that Caelum Lynx was alive again. Who the Hell would want to raise him
from the dead? He was rotten, but not in a supervillain way. He was a bully, cruel and malicious.
Let’s figure out what’s going on and get him right back in his grave where he belongs, she thought
as she gathered the materials.
When she stood up and spoke to her brother, he didn't respond. He was staring straight ahead, eyes
frozen in fear. She turned and saw why.
Deep in the bushes, glowing eyes stared at them both. The bushes moved, and out popped a sleek,
large cat with black markings and tufts of black hair on its ears. Harley didn't know what it was,
but she sensed magic.
The cat bounded closer, suddenly just a few yards away instead of metres and her nerves were singing.
It wasn’t something that should’ve been loose in London. Perhaps it escaped the zoo? Still, she’d
never dealt with anything like this. They should run, but it could easily overtake them and kill them.
Best to stand still and see if it went away. If not, she’d try some spells on it.
However, her brother was in no rational position whatsoever. Fear had taken him prisoner.
“For crying out loud, Nick, get behind me!” she snapped, yanking him behind her. He was smaller
than she was, so she shielded him fairly completely. She wasn’t a self-sacrificing person, but she
had a natural instinct to protect someone currently incapable of protecting themselves. It was a bit
of a problem, actually.
The large cat bounded even closer, hissing but not slobbering or foaming at the mouth. Harley was
pretty sure it wasn’t rabid, but it was angry … and hungry. Its thick, golden fur was matted, torn
away in some places, and it looked far too skinny.
“If it comes at us, run and get a head start,” she told Nick, who nodded weakly. Slowly, she removed
her right hand from the pocket of her cloak. Holding her fist firmly at her side, she maintained eye
contact with the beast. It was so close she could smell it: the thing needed to be bathed badly.
It looked almost as if it hated her. She knew that was madness, but it was true nonetheless as she
looked in its glowing eyes.
Suddenly, it yowled and ran around them in a semicircle, going for Nick. For some unknown
reason, it wanted him. Harley tossed her brother behind her again, holding her hand out.
Stupefaciunt!” she cast, but the beast dodged it, now heading for her. In the moment, staring into
its snarling mouth and hate-filled eyes, she couldn’t recall the shielding spell to keep it off of her.
The cat knocked into her, almost as tall as she was when it was on its hind legs, and she struggled
with it, keeping its fangs away from her neck.
Claws dug deeply into her left arm and she screamed in pain, somehow tossing the thing from her.
Adrenaline rushed through her system as self-preservation kicked in.

It began to bound away, and she cast spells after it. One edge of her energy caught it on the tail,
and she took pleasure in its pained yowls, as she tried to control her own pain. She was breathing
hard, and her heart was beating out of control.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Release Blitz: Beauty's Cursed Beast by Mary E. Twomey

Title: Beauty’s Cursed Beast
Author: Mary E. Twomey
Genre: Fairytale Retellings/Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018


When you push everyone in your life away, sometimes they stay gone.
Going from being Avondale’s Sexiest Bachelor to becoming hideously deformed turns Adam Fontaine into an angry shut-in. Though he’s doomed to mutate into a growling member of the Lupine when his thirtieth birthday comes, he wants nothing to do with enjoying what’s left of his sentient life.
When his last remaining friend hires a nurse to look after him, Adam realizes there’s more to his life than just his impending curse. Soon Adam has to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep the woman he loves by his side, hoping she’ll stay with him through his last days.

Mary E. Twomey lives in Michigan with her husband and three adorable children. She enjoys reading, writing, vegetarian cooking and telling her children fantastic stories about wombats.
Author Links:
Buy Links:

Chapter Three.

A Word from the Sheriff
The musty basement hadn’t been used in at least a decade, and even then, it hadn’t been for the traditional purpose most would associate with dungeons. Adam’s gaze flitted over the first cell, where he recalled engaging in raucous sex with a woman who’s name he couldn’t recall. He remembered the fire in her eyes when she’d asked about his dungeon, and her wild screams of ecstasy when she got to fulfill her daring wish of defiling a dungeon. Before then, Adam guessed perhaps his great-great-grandfather had used the space for its intended purpose.
The brass two-foot tall candelabra lit the way, casting shadows that made Fabrice jump with trepidation. Fabrice didn’t fight him, but Adam didn’t lessen his jerky movements as he threw the old man into the dank, cold and dark cell. “You should know better than to pull one over on me.”
With arthritic fingers, Fabrice brought himself to his feet and held tight to the bars. “Please, Mr. Fontaine. Sheriff Aston does stuff like this all the time. He’s angry that I won’t give him what he wants, so he abuses his power to try and twist me. If it was anything else, I might bend, but not this.”
“Save your stories for someone who cares.”
“You should care!” Fabrice cried out when Adam turned his back. “You should care because it’s your business that suffers. The sheriff makes up tariffs and takes money we don’t have. Then we’re late on paying our mortgage to you. If it doesn’t affect your conscience, then you should at least be upset that he’s gouging your bottom line. How many homes have you foreclosed on in the past year in the West Village?”
Adam paused, and turned his chin to glance at Fabrice over his shoulder. “Too many. But I always abide by the contracts. I wouldn’t force an eviction on your home if you were only two months late. No sheriff would enforce it if I did.”
Fabrice nodded, now that it seemed they were finally getting somewhere. “Yes, but a notice was posted on my property, and you’ll see I was only two months late. And we wouldn’t have been late if we hadn’t had to pay four thousand dollars in an unexpected bridge tax this year. No one can keep up. As soon as we pay the tax, another comes. I’m telling you, many are losing their homes and their reputations because the sheriff is taking money that’s rightfully yours.” Fabrice’s fingers tightened on the bars. “I’ve only been able to keep up because he didn’t give me the newest tariff. Everyone else in the village had to pay, but we didn’t.”
Adam didn’t like being in the dungeon, but he turned to face Fabrice and folded his arms over his chest, resolving himself to hear the man out if it affected his business, as Fabrice claimed. “And why is that?”
Anger flashed in the old man’s eyes, causing Adam to take a step back. “Because Gabe Aston wants my daughter! He’ll do anything, including throwing me in jail, to get at her. When the newest tariff came about, she went to him without my knowledge and agreed to take him up on his bribe.”
“What bribe?”
Fabrice’s voice shook with palpable pain. “He said he would drop the tax on our family if she agreed to go away for a weekend with him.” Fabrice cringed as he gripped the bars, his eyes squinching tight. “I hope you never have to know what it feels like to have someone you value more than anyone else in the world allow herself to be traded like trash and trinkets to a violent swine like the sheriff.” He sniffed, his wet nose running and red. “The eviction notice was just to scare me. The false charges for arrest is what’s truly dangerous, though. If he takes me away and locks me up, then my daughter will have no one, and he’ll win.”
Adam gaped at the old man, wondering how he’d stumbled into such a tangled web that had apparently been going on right under his nose. All he’d seen were the numbers. The annual household income, and the average mortgage price. He hadn’t understood why the people in the West Village couldn’t pay their rent. On paper, it certainly looked like they had the means. He’d assumed they were lazy, uneducated or frivolous, but apparently it had been something else entirely.
For the second time that day, Adam’s doorbell rang. “That’ll be the police. Faster than I was anticipating. Stay here, and I’ll get it all sorted.” He pointed at the old man with a menacing finger. “Never come to my house with this much drama again.”
It was the humble, “yes, sir,” that made Adam cringe. Had Fabrice been petulantly silent or begged for more time to make his case, Adam wouldn’t be able to justify the gruff behavior he’d never hesitated to heap onto strangers. Adam clenched his fists but didn’t say anything. In fact, just for the man’s sweetness, which had no real place here, Adam shut the door without turning on a single light, taking the candelabra with him, and shrouding the old man in darkness.
Adam’s steps were heavy as he stomped up the stone steps. The chill in his house was far more unforgiving in the basement, making the drafty main floor feel like a heated sunroom by comparison. He stalked over to the front door and flung it open. “Sheriff,” he greeted the dark-haired officer, but didn’t invite him inside.
From a single look, Adam had a hard time finding holes in Fabrice’s story. He’d never seen a cop wearing fine leather shoes before. Gabe’s black, coifed hair was perfectly done, and his face was shaved so closely, it looked like a barber had recently done it. He wore four gold rings, each of them shiny, jeweled, and something to stare at.
It wasn’t the opulence that put Adam off – he himself had plenty of baubles in the safe upstairs – it was the bawdy impracticality, and the obvious display of wealth that didn’t seem befitting with the “servant” aspect of “public servant” all cops usually adhered to.
“Do you have the suspect inside?” Gabe adjusted his gold name badge and flashed a perfectly white-toothed gleaming grin at Adam. His uniform shirt was two sizes too small, which allowed him to show off his musculature with the simplest flex.
“Depends. I do a lot of entertaining. You’ll have to be more specific. Who are you looking for, and what’s he being charged with?”
Gabe’s smile fell, and the squat, portly cop standing on the stoop behind him shoved his hands in his pockets. The deputy had part of his shirt untucked, his pants were too big for his shorter frame, and he had a clubbed foot. “You were the one who called in the tip. Surely Fabrice is here. His old beater is still in your driveway.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the car.
Adam grimaced at the hideous vehicle, and silently marveled that it had made it all the way to his home from the West Village. “What’s he being charged with?”
“Public disturbance.”
“Well, as you can see, he’s not in public, and he’s only disturbing me. I’ll not press charges for that. Show me the warrant, and then tell me why you posted an eviction notice on his property. I’m the mortgage holder. You can’t carry through that process unless I initiate it, and I haven’t.”
The deputy shifted nervously, and scratched an itchy spot on the back of his head. His brown hair was messy and didn’t look like it had seen the inside of a barber in months. “You saw that, did you?”
Gabe didn’t waver, but Adam could see the lie blooming in his haughty eyes as it curled his upper lip. “Must’ve been a paperwork mix-up, then. I’ll remove the notice. I know he’s late on his payments, though.”
“And how would you know that?” Adam folded his arms across his broad chest, not holding back his stature that towered still a couple inches over the strapping Gabe.
At this challenge, Gabe shrank marginally. “Word around town spreads.”
Adam’s puffy upper lip coiled in a sneer. “You posted an eviction notice on hearsay?”
Gabe backpedaled quickly. “I was over their house. I’m dating Fabrice’s daughter, you know.” He adjusted his belt, as if to brag to Adam about the prize he’d nabbed. “Anyway, I saw the late notice in the mail on the table. Thought I’d do you a favor and start the process for you.”
Adam scoffed, understanding enough of the story to realize Fabrice had been telling him the truth. “How about this: if Prince Henry looks into your dealings with Fabrice and his daughter and finds anything shady, I’ll have you throw in your own jail. How does that sound?” He snarled as he fisted the doorknob. “I don’t need a crooked cop doing me any favors, and I certainly don’t need him breaking the law and blaming it on my company.”
Gabe’s jaw clenched as he took a step back, bumping into his partner, who fell backwards off the cracked concrete dais. “I can have the charges dropped, if that’s what you need.”
“I need you to do your job. If you’re not capable of doing that, Prince Henry will replace you.”
Gabe raised his hands, his sneer juxtaposing with his humble words. “Consider the charges dropped. And I’ll remove the eviction notice first thing.”
Adam was about to slam the door in his face, but the cough of an old red sedan caught his attention. He frowned, wishing the outside world would just leave him alone already, but paused his impending tirade when the squeaky car door opened, and its owner stepped out.
Adam hadn’t seen any woman aside from Rory in so very long. She had long legs, which she put to use stomping toward Gabe with a steadiness that belied the tremble in her slender fingers. With a look of brazen determination on her heart-shaped features, she beelined for the porch with an angry story on her face. “Gabe, how could you? Where is he?”
Gabe hopped down the steps and offered her a cocky smile he produced out of nowhere. It had a sideways tilt, and his voice carried a note of bravado that Adam found off-putting. “Here I am, tasty cakes.”
Adam’s face soured at the term of endearment. He didn’t need to know the woman to understand that the nickname didn’t suit her – or anyone, for that matter.
“Where is my father?” she clarified with a ripple of disgust marring her beauty. “He left a note that he was coming here. Why are you here? Where is he?”
Her hair was the color of pure maple. Despite the bun it had been fashioned into, several bits had fallen out, and blew back with the bite of the wind. The snow was deep enough that her jeans would be wet at the ankles, which for some reason bothered Adam. Her gloves were just as tattered as her father’s, but the holes in her winterwear made him irate instead of indifferent, as he had been with Fabrice.
“Belle, calm down. You’re always so tense. Let me give you a ride home. Your face is positively red with the cold.” Gabe leaned toward her with a smarmy grin that made Adam recoil. “Or perhaps that’s a little blush I see.”
Adam felt as if it could be seen from space how much she loathed the man who was clearly making a pass at her – and badly, at that.
Belle didn’t address Gabe, but made her way past him up the porch. When she took in Adam standing in the doorway, her big brown eyes grew impossibly wider. She seemed to forget her mission at the sight of his beastly features, but finally her shrunken voice found the words. “Sorry to bother you, sir. Have you seen a man around here who answers to Fabrice?”
Adam hadn’t been addressed by a beautiful woman in ages. Sure, the kingdom was enamored of Rory’s delicate features, but he’d known her since they were children, and didn’t appreciate her beauty the way the public did. He straightened his posture and wished he’d changed into proper clothes that morning. Or showered. “You’re welcome to come in and wait for him here.”
Gabe spoke for her the moment she opened her mouth to respond. “I’m sure she would rather wait in my squad car. Come on, Belle. We’ll make Rufus ride in back.” He let out a haughty laugh that Rufus joined along with halfheartedly.
Adam held open the door for her and jerked his head to indicate the choice was hers.
Despite her obvious reluctance to be near the deformed man in pajamas whom everyone knew was a gruff shut-in with mental health issues, Belle braved the unknown rather than stay another second in Gabe’s presence. She would take a chance on the monster who used to be a man, rather than stand another second next to the man who was truly a monster. “Thank you, sir.”
The moment she stepped inside, Gabe moved to follow her. Adam stood in the doorway, his barreled chest blocking the path and proving to the arrogant sheriff that he would not be intimidated. While Gabe was powerful in his village, Adam had deep pockets and even deeper connections. “You don’t step inside without a warrant, Officer. You can call to confirm that the eviction notice has been removed, and then I never want to hear from you again.” He slammed the door and locked it, wondering how his day had gone so very off the rails.