Immortalis Series, m/f paranormal
Bad Mouth, Immortalis #1
So good to be bad…
After her ex-husband’s obsession with vampires, Valerie Craig is on a mission to stop transformations. Of all vampires, Kade Rollins is the worst of the worst, but when multiple murders plague Seattle, Val is forced to enlist his aid. Kade’s crude wit and seductive nature attract her like no other, but she can’t ignore his violence toward his human servants, no matter her yearning to forget.
She’s torn when she learns Kade may be behind the murders. Val’s worked hard to protect humans from vampires, but the truth surrounding the murders could ignite a bloody battle between their races, one humans are sure to lose. Someone is pulling strings to build a vampire army and spark the war—setting Kade up to kick it off. But if she trusts the vampire prince, she risks her job, her integrity, and her heart if he betrays her as all the men in her life have.
A Black Friday Shopping Adventure featuring Kade & Val. "The Perfect Gift."
Bonus story takes place after Bad Mouth and before Bad Cop. Originally posted @ Literary Escapism Blog Dec 2012.
Five stories of chaos stretched above Kade. What the hell had he gotten himself into? He’d sooner eat his own liver than be here in the midst of humanity’s stench.
“Kade!” Val elbowed him sharply in the ribs, her eyes pummeling into him like icy, jade hail.
“—dge me,” he ended. “I’m behaving. Let me finish.” Ignoring his discomfort in the throngs of human vermin swarming around him, he let his words sink in, and a lecherous grin replaced his scowl.
“Stop it, caveman. I mean it. There are kids here.” She glanced around surreptitiously. Checking for baby eavesdroppers, no doubt.
He searched the area himself but, unlike Her Properness, kept an eye out for potential danger. So this was Pacific Place. Impressive. He’d never celebrated the holidays, much less stepped foot in a mall before, but Val had twisted his arm with some insane idea that more exposure to humans would improve his outlook. Joy to the world and all that crap. It wasn’t joy in the air here. The scent of anxiety, anger, and distress flooded his senses. Why would anyone endure torture like this?
“Huh,” he said.
She twined her arm in his, sending giddy little girlie-flutters into his belly. “What?”
“So this is why I have professional shoppers.” He swept his free arm around to encompass the hectic scene.
She parted those luscious lips to reply, but then tracked his attention at her lips and closed them into a tight, disapproving line. Instead, she tugged him deeper into hell on Earth.
He had to give credit where credit was due. The humans had gone all out to present a cheerful façade. Christmas lights, glittering garland, and bright red bows—and he had an affinity for the particular color that matched his eyes—hung on every store and kiosk. A large number of humans wore jovial smiles and Christmas gear, the gaudy sweaters, Santa hats, reindeer antlers and such. Their agitated, uptight body language revealed the reality of things.
The truth was if Santa had been a real being, they’d all get coal or something worse in their stockings. Kade knew better than most about the inner heart of man. As one of the elite adjuvants, the only vampires capable of turning humans, his unique ability was to see scenes from the past of those he drank from. He’d given those he’d turned a permanently mutilated appearance to match their sins, though Val had put a stop to that. The softie. As much as he’d like to believe that a detriment, he loved her generous heart. It had been a new lens through which to view the world.
His softie eyed him with trepidation. He raised a brow and tugged her tighter against his side. “Something wrong?”
“Yes.” She frowned. He was a heartbeat from kissing it off of her when she pressed her fingers to his lips and shook her head. “We have to split up.”
“What?” he bellowed. The horde near them stepped back and gave them a wide berth. Guess he’d put on his anti-social face. “The hell we do.”
“How’m I supposed to shop for you with you hovering?” Her eyes widened innocently as something akin to panic crept through his veins. That little—she’d dragged him here to purposely leave him battling his demons alone. “You’re not afraid, are you?”
He scoffed. As if. Still, he scanned the surrounding mob, half-expecting them to brandish torches and pitchforks. All he saw were strollers, bags burdened by overspending, and weary faces. Children’s whines, whispered arguments, and a heavy mix of perfume settled over him. Holy Christ, if he backed out now, she’d think him weak. He could do this. They were only… humans.
“Not at all.” His voice came out a little too hoarse and unsteady for his liking. “It’s not like you picked the worst day of the year to go shopping.”
“Come on. Don’t be a baby. Black Friday is the best day to shop.” She laughed. Laughed. A raspy, throaty laugh of pure delight. Oh, the little imp was having fun now, but paybacks… She’d be in for it when he got her home. Hell, when he got her to the limo. Her laugh died a sudden death. Yep, she knew she was in for it. She cleared her throat and untangled her arm from his. “Well, I’ll text you when I’m done,” she chirped cheerfully, her words a bit too squeaky to be said with comfort. With that, she disappeared from his side, leaving him as cold as wind off the Puget Sound. Damn.
Well, then. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been around humans. Maybe just not this… much. At first, he watched, his eyes narrowed. The squat ones caught his attention the most and held it enslaved. Something about their tiny bodies and round, chubby cheeks and stubby little fingers held him captive. Noisy and squirmy with adrenaline, they tested even the most patient parent. Would he be that patient? Could he be a good father someday? An aching spear sank into his chest. He hadn’t had the best example as a child. Would he end up corrupted by power like Olen, his own father? Guess he’d find out the hard way.
With a mental prod, he headed to the map of the shopping center. Aw, hell, he hadn’t given any thought to what gift he could give Val. Thoughtfully, he examined his options. He should know her well enough after feeding from her, but he was drawing a blank. Aha. Tiffany’s. What self-respecting chick didn’t like expensive jewelry? He had a fortune at his disposal. He could buy out the store. With a grin, he headed toward the shop. At least it was on the first level, and he wouldn’t have to get any deeper into the mob.
It could have been the instinct of prey, but the humans parted to allow him through. Good choice. The glower he sent in all directions may have had a little to do with that. The sales clerks at Tiffany’s fell all over themselves to serve him, and he found himself in a lighter mood when he left. More. He needed more. There couldn’t possibly be enough treasure in the center to show Val how he felt for her. He zipped through store after store, his collection of goods multiplying exponentially. Fortuitous that he had long arms. He’d hit paydirt with Victoria’s Secret. What better gift than one that kept on giving?
He was actually smiling when he got Val’s text to meet him at the front where they’d entered. Just shy of his destination, a shrill cry pierced the constant buzz of the noisy crowd. It went beyond the fit-throwing he’d heard throughout the mall. Little hiccupping sobs, and they didn’t stop. He searched the crowd.
At the entrance to a bookstore, a tiny boy stood alone. The mass of foot traffic passed the kid as if he were invisible. Kade hesitated. Somebody had to stop for the kid. But nope. No such luck. Damn. He craned his head, scanning over the humans’ heads for a set of frantic parents. Damn again. Any other day, he would have walked away. It was a predatory world, and he was a predator. Predators weren’t in the habit of rescuing prey. But damn.
With a sigh, he worked his way, fairly easily, over to the boy and crouched down to his level. “What’s wrong, little man?”
He smoothed the aggravation from his expression, trying to look harmless. Hah. Must have worked because the sobs settled somewhat, though the kid didn’t speak.
“Lost your parents?”
The boy nodded, swiping his reddened nose with his sleeve. Gross, but despite that, he was a cute little thing with disheveled dark hair, doe-like eyes, and tan skin, like he played in the sun a lot—however he could accomplish that in the Pacific Northwest. Val’s babies would look like this, all sweet and cuddly. Ugggh. When’d he turn into such a prissy little girl?
“How about we find them, hm? Ever play Where’s Waldo?” Hells bells. The kid grinned like Kade had transformed into Santa Claus. Freaking ridiculous. Kade’s Merry Men—yeah, Val had rubbed off on him—would have a field day with this. Better dump the kid before anyone found out Kade might have a heart buried in his chest somewhere. How was he supposed to rule over a nation of dangerous and terrifying vampires with that sort of reputation?
A mall security officer passed as Kade stood. Yes! He caught the guy’s arm. Startled, the officer grabbed at the radio on his belt. Kade couldn’t help himself. He laughed aloud. Like the human could do anything to Kade even if it had been a gun.
“Whoa, there, Tex.” He held his hands up to symbolize how harmless he was. “Got a lost kid here. You were passing him up.” He ruffled the boy’s hair. “Can you help him out?”
“Oh, shi—I mean, darn.” The officer turned fully toward Kade. “Sorry, man. Thought you were…”
Ah, guy realized what Kade was. He looked a bit dumbfounded. Had the guy never met a vampire in public before?
“Got it handled?” Kade put an ounce of warning into the question. The officer pulled his head out finally.
“Yeah,” he answered, kneeling next to the boy. And then he looked up at Kade. “Hey, thank you.”
Shock zinged through Kade. The guy seemed to genuinely mean it. Kade’s world took a serious tilt and whirl. His body still numb from that zing, he turned away from the guard and immediately froze when he met Val’s gorgeous, emerald eyes, eyes sparkling with tears and an emotion more foreign to him than if aliens had landed in front of him.
He lifted his bags and held them out to her. “Found you some things.” Lame. He was a complete and utter lame-ass. She didn’t even look at the bags, her focus entirely on him.
“That was the best gift you could have ever given me.” Her voice trembled.
This. God, this was why someone would endure the holiday torture. The look on a loved one’s face when she was given the perfect gift. He’d endure hell for this. He dropped the fortune and a half of extravagantly-packaged things and took her in his arms.
“Merry Christmas, Sir Lancelot.”
The inside joke warmed him to the marrow. “Merry Christmas, Val.”
Bad Cop, Immortalis #2
Right and legal don’t always see eye-to-eye…
Vampire Ian McCready doesn’t care for Alice Capshaw’s opinions about his version of justice. Her humanity makes her off-limits, but that does nothing to lessen his overwhelming desire for her.
To Alice, Ian is just another bad cop as detestable as the one who destroyed her family. She’s attracted to him, yes, but he threatened his way into her agency’s murder case and is hiding the truth from her.
When a new case resurrects ghosts Ian believed long dead and buried, his law-bending ways might result in his execution. The second Alice becomes a target, his cold heart flares into blinding existence. But following the law for her sake may end with devastating results.
Read an excerpt here. "You've been a great friend..."
He licked over the punctures from his fangs with the curative serum that would seal the love marks and the contact made her shiver. He lowered her gently but had to catch her before her legs collapsed under her. With a husky laugh, she looped her arms around his shoulders and rested her head against his chest. He scooped her up beneath her knees and carried her to her bed. He barely made it before his legs gave out, too. He didn’t have the energy to do more than pull up his jeans. She watched him, her lip between her teeth, as he stretched out beside her.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
He scowled at her. “Don’t start that shit, Alice.”
“Look, it’s not that I’m sorry it happened, exactly. I just don’t want you to read anything into it. I kind of used you because you were convenient.”
A sharp ache lanced the middle of his chest, but he bit into it to keep it from his face. He grinned. “And you’re welcome to use and abuse me like that at any time.”
“That’s lecherous Irish hick.”
She laughed and sagged against the bed as her tension let go. “This is going to hurt for a while.”
He frowned. “Did I injure you? I got a little rough—”
“I wanted rough.” She eyed him a little dreamily. “You were perfect.”
He tried not to show his smug gratification, but she rolled her eyes at him.
“It’s going to your head now. I can tell.” She narrowed her lids. “Your tiny pecker could be bigger.”
He laughed outright. “Any bigger and I’d split you in half, turtle.”
“No comment.” Her face went serious. “What do we do about Revenant?”
“You do nothing for now. Get some rest.” He winked at her. “After that workout, I doubt you’ll be walking about for a while.”
“You’re funny.” She ran a velvety caress along his cheek. “Thank you, Ian. You’ve been a great friend.”
Another stab to his middle. She would be the death of him inside and out if she kept talking. He went for his usual flippancy, hoping he could pull it off after her offhanded blow.
“Don’t you cuss at me.”
Must have worked because she laughed while he bled internally.
“What are you going to do tonight?” she asked.
He pushed her wayward midnight curls from her face. “I’ll meet up with Dec and Ezra. Revenant may be good, but he can’t evade three of us working together. He’s fucked.”
“Good. The sooner, the better.”
“You know you can call me tomorrow. After.” He swept his thumb over her lips. “I don’t think I’ll sleep, knowing what’s happening. I could figure out some way to be there with—”
“No. It’s fine, Ian. I don’t need you to do that.”
His mind tripped over the I don’t need you part. It sat like an elephant on his chest, though he tried to shake it off. He was acting like a fucking sentimental little girl. He’d offered a casual relationship with her, and she’d finally taken it. He should be happy with that. He was happy with it. It had been earth shattering.
With the weight clinging stubbornly to his shoulders, he dipped close and kissed her one more time. At least her lips would know how he felt. He rose and ducked into her bathroom to clean up. He was half-hard, ready to go another few rounds with her in her bed.
“Down, boy,” he muttered. He might never get to be with her like that again. No sense in getting his hopes up. He should be proud. He was a great friend. He left her apartment with those words echoing like a death knell. Stupid thing was he really had wanted to be there for her tomorrow. For once, his vampiric nature was biting him in the ass, though she might’ve chosen to go alone regardless.
Well, not alone. She’d have Benning there, and there was no way in hell he’d begrudge that. Despite the bad news the detective had imparted, it was important for her to know the truth. She’d never find closure without it. If there was one thing he couldn’t abide, it was her unhappiness. He’d seen enough of that to last a lifetime.
As he pulled away from the curb, putting distance between him and Alice, it occurred to him he was as well and good fucked as Revenant would soon be. He liked Alice too much. Humans and vampires didn’t mix well when it came down to relationships. It was rare to get a transformation approval based on a relationship alone.
To top it all, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to help her where Graham was concerned. Even if he could get the man into the Tracker world, which would take a stretch of protocol, there was no guarantee Izel wouldn’t have the bastard executed. He could very well get Alice what she was after, but she’d end up hating him for it, for what he’d have to do to satisfy her. Any way he looked at it—fucked.
Beyond the Boardroom Series, m/m contemporary
The CEO’s Christmas Manny
The best things in life lie beyond the boardroom…
Billionaire CEO Nic Price lives for his job. With sales down and grumbling from the board of directors—including Nic’s permanently dissatisfied father—the last thing Nic needs is distraction from the new manny, whose freewheeling approach to childcare is outlandish… and who makes Nic feel things he’s never allowed himself to feel.
Ex-teacher Sasha Lindsey is all about fun—that’s the reason people love him, so he has to be. After a bad break-up leaves him jobless and homeless, the live-in manny job with Mr. Price seems like a windfall. But his chemistry with Nic is off the charts, and he can’t afford another workplace romance disaster.
Can Nic leave his dominance in the bedroom and open his heart to the best thing that’s ever happened to him? Or will Sasha’s leap of faith backfire and ruin his chances at the family happily ever after he’s always dreamed of?
Read an excerpt here. "On the outside looking in..."
Once Nic filled out all the names and drew a diagram of the Price family’s most recent ancestry, Ben and Sasha got to work cutting out multicolored leaves. Sasha used watercolor markers to create a large tree with branches widespread in the center of the poster board and began filling in details and shading. The strokes bold and precise and colors flawlessly blended, the poster could have been an art piece.
“Wow, Sasha.” Staring at the tree, Ben stopped his scissors halfway around the edge of a leaf cutout. “You’re an artist?”
Sasha paused, lifting his head to shoot a surprised look at Ben. “Uh, no. It’s only kind of a hobby, drawing, painting, crafts.”
Nic slid over, standing next to Sasha for a better view and trying to ignore the phantom heat from Sasha’s muscular body. “This is amazing, Sasha. I can’t believe you did this in just a few minutes.”
Sasha’s head ducking down couldn’t quite hide his flushed cheeks as he fanned the poster board to help dry the painting. The unexpected bout of shyness hooked Nic in the gut. Had no one noticed and complimented his artwork before? Before Nic could think twice, he slid his hand to the small of Sasha’s back, the urge to soothe too strong to deny. The man was a beacon of sweet and hot at the same time, always ostensibly lighthearted, but something melancholy took over when he thought no one was watching.
“It really is incredible. I’d love to have half your talent.”
“Thank you.” Sasha’s eyes shifted up to glance at Nic, his cheeks coloring even more. How much of a bastard was he that his mind went straight to sex at the sight of that blush? The play of muscles beneath Nic’s fingertips sent sparks up his nerves, and his mouth went dry. Sasha’s gaze lowered to Nic’s mouth the moment he wet his lips, and that show of interest lit Nic up with a craving for more contact and pumped blood straight to his groin.
Reluctantly, he dropped his hand and shifted away from Sasha, ignoring the sense of disappointment that followed. He’d only meant to comfort the Adonis, not start something he wouldn’t allow himself to finish. Sasha seemed to come aware of his surroundings, clearing his throat and leaning back over the painting. He prodded a few spots.
“I think it’s dry enough,” Sasha said. “Your leaves ready, Ben?”
Ben answered and the two of them continued with the project, securing the leaves to the poster board in the appropriate places. Nic listened halfheartedly, but it was clear he had nothing to contribute beyond the information Ben had needed to fill out the leaves. As minutes passed, he grew more and more tense. Finally, he couldn’t stand another minute.
“It looks great, Ben.”
It took Ben a second to look up, apparently forgetting Nic was there. “Oh. Thanks, Uncle Nic.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll be in my office working for a while if anyone needs anything.”
“Really?” Sasha asked, his head jerking up. At seeing Nic’s raised eyebrow, he continued. “You’re working on a Sunday?”
“I got a little behind on emails while I was in Italy. It’s a good day to catch up.”
Sasha looked down at the poster and then glanced at Nic, his jaw clenching and unclenching. Whatever he was thinking, he was either uncertain how to say it or uncertain whether he should. He shifted on his feet and then shrugged. “I guess it is. Will you be at dinner?”
He wanted him around? Well, fuck. That’s what the strange behavior was about. Sasha didn’t want him to retreat to his office. A spike of pleasure curled through him. He fought the impulse to step right up to Sasha and kiss the hell out of him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t successful at keeping his thoughts from showing on his face. Sasha’s expression tightened, the heat in his eyes showing Nic how onboard he was with those thoughts.
The clatter of Ben knocking over the glue gun reminded Nic they weren’t alone. Good thing too. Nic’s willpower was woefully absent in the face of Sasha’s appeal. Forbidden fruit had never been more tempting.
He made his escape—having no illusions that it was an escape—and buried himself in work. The deal with Anselmo had nearly brought him to his sales goals for the quarter, but he needed to come up with a few more strategies to either cut costs or nail down more sales contracts. His father wouldn’t settle for meeting a goal rather than exceeding it.
Combing his email for leads, he found a few promising responses he forwarded to his sales team. Working his way down the queue, he reached a memo from the board sent two days earlier. That was unusual. Such emails routed to his primary email folder to be reviewed right away. Obviously, he’d been too distracted lately, and responsibilities suffered when that happened.
As he read, his blood pressure skyrocketed and his hands gripped the edge of his desk. A familiar frustration climbed the back of his throat begging for expression, something he’d never allowed himself. The damned board—led by his father, no doubt—had approved and created an audit committee. Fuckers hadn’t convened a scheduled meeting so Nic could be present for the deliberation and vote.
Adrenaline flooding his veins made him jittery, and he launched from his seat and paced in front of the tall, wide window behind him. On the surface, the creation of an audit committee was a positive thing. Any company concerned about optimizing operations and growth would want such a committee.
Nic, however, knew his father better than that. There were only two reasons Nicolas Senior would want an audit committee. The biggest one was simply to show the extent of his lack of trust in Nic, grinding his censure in as deeply as he could. The most worrisome reason, though, was that having an audit committee was a requirement for a company to go public. Did his father intend to submit an IPO?
When Nic had started at the family business, he would have never imagined his father opening the company to public trading on the stock market, diluting the family’s control. Now? The man had already threated Nic’s seat as CEO. Who knew what the hell he was willing to do? Nic just wished he knew why he’d never been good enough for his parents to be proud of him.
Sometimes, he felt the weight of giant target on his back and a permanent bruise sinking all the way to his soul from all the hits to that target. The shining light in his life when he was growing up had always been Josephine, though his parents had eventually separated them, sending him to boarding school while she went to live with their aunt. Though he’d hated the distance, Josie had been happier there, so he couldn’t entirely regret it. If anyone knew the kind of pain his parents could inflict without a single touch, it was Nic. He would have done anything to protect Josie from that.
She’d married well, pleasing even their parents when she’d said yes to Daniel, a good man from—incidentally—a wealthy family. They’d saved all their barbs for Nic, somehow deducing he wasn’t going to provide the family heirs they’d always expected of him. It had been somewhat of a blessing he hadn’t needed to come out to his parents. They’d probably known from the time he was a preteen, right around the time they’d sent him away. Strangely, that knowledge didn’t change his relationship with his parents. They’d always disapproved of him.
The alarm on his phone blared, making him flinch. It was almost time for dinner. Shit. He’d forgotten to let Vicki know he’d need meals for today. Grilled cheese was really the only thing he could manage to cook on his own. Hopefully, the kids would be satisfied with that or else they’d be stuck with cold sandwiches.
He closed the door behind him and turned straight into Lucy.
“Whoa!” She grabbed his biceps at the same time he caught her elbows.
“Careful. Where are you going in such a hurry?” he asked.
She patted him and smoothed the sleeves of his button-up as if he were the child. “To get you. It’s time for dinner.”
His brow creasing, he opened his mouth to ask more, but she spun and hurried away, curling her finger in a beckoning motion for him to follow. Dinner? Since when did they fetch him for dinner? Other than the dreaded Sunday brunches, when they ate together, it had always been a pleasant coincidence. At least, the last few years. It’d been almost too painful for them to all be in the same room when Lucy and Ben first came to live with him, the collection of their sorrow weighing more on Nic than when he was alone.
No wonder they didn’t need him around. It’s what he’d taught them from the start.
Delicious aromas seduced his senses, making his mouth water and his stomach rumble. The scent only got stronger as he neared the dining room. The table was set for a family meal, and several dishes already lined the space in the middle of the table settings. The kids took seats across from each other right before Sasha came from the kitchen carrying a large ceramic platter with a beautiful, caramelized roast. He placed it at the end of the table and served perfect slices to each plate before sitting beside Ben. Nic sank into the chair across from him and next to Lucy.
He gave a rather weak laugh. “And I thought we’d be stuck with my specialties—burned grilled cheese or some takeout.”
“Nah. I needed something to do, and your pantry is a home cook’s wet dream.” The mixture of Sasha’s adorable smile with the bit of verbal imagery probed right to Nic’s heart and his cock at the same time. He took a big gulp of water, trying to cool the sudden heat to his skin, and he was suddenly glad for the flurry of activity around him, everyone passing around the roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes and gravy. The meal was outright divine, and why wouldn’t it be? A golden angel had prepared it.
By the time the meal ended with an incredible bread pudding dessert, he was pretty much overwhelmed. Every time he’d begun to feel edged out, isolated in the presence of his own family, he’d been drawn back in. The kids were talking to him, joking with him, asking him questions. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed so often, the bullshit about the audit committee all but forgotten. It didn’t take a wealth of analysis to figure out who brought him back from the outside looking in. Did Sasha see him in that isolation? Was he doing this deliberately?
God, his manny really was a magician and not only with kids. The man was working impossible magic on Nic, exhilarating and terrifying at the same time because now that he’d spent time with Sasha, it was more than simple physical attraction beating at Nic’s resolve.
Now, his heart was in danger.
The CEO's Right-Hand Man
BtB #2, est. 2019
Coming in 2019
A Match for the Matchmaker
A Servants of Eros novella
Dec and Piper’s story