SALE ALERT: Ghosts of Kingston Cottage

Ghosts of Kingston Cottage is on sale today through Monday for $0.99!

The first book in the Revenant Investigations series 🙂 ❤

AMAZON ~ EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING

BLURB:

Medium and paranormal investigator Arabella Pierce is sent with her crew to Kingston Cottage, a haunted Maine seafarer’s cottage on an isolated island. For this investigation, her boss has stuck them with skeptical reporter Lucas Brown. Though he’s hot as they come, Arabella can’t trust a man whose sole job is to discredit her and the work she does. Not after what happened with the last few skeptics…

All Lucas may want is the truth, but that doesn’t change her feelings towards him. And when the ghosts appear, she and Lucas must work together—in tight quarters—to convince the resident ghosts to move on before a storm strands the entire crew on the island. Can Arabella put aside her prejudices long enough to see what the ghosts are trying to tell her? And if she does, will she and Lucas have a shot at a lifetime?

 

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Special Guest: Shari Elder

I’m pleased to welcome author Shari Elder to the blog!

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Unnatural Allies (Shifting Alliances, #2 by Shari Elder)

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’m very excited to share Unnatural Allies, Book Two in the paranormal romance series, Shifting Alliances. Although part of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Unnatural Allies (Shifting Alliances Book 2)
By: Shari Elder
Genre: M/F Paranormal Romance
Release Date:
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

Blurb

A World in Transition
Violent fae encroachment on shifter land is heating up. With death tolls rising, the impossible becomes necessary – an alliance among predator and prey shifters.

An Inconceivable Love
Nicca Baron, lone wolf and wolf clan beta, finds herself under the command of Evan Grant, the rat alpha. In different circumstances, he’d be dinner. Or so her wolf keeps reminding her. Evan proves to be a perceptive leader, a skilled fighter and irresistible to her lonely heart.

To rule the rats, you have to rule the pack. Evan is a whiz at managing people and groups. Until he finds himself leading a mission made up of every single large animal that thrives on rat flesh. And not the kind between his legs. The only bright light is Nicca. Her storm gray eyes miss nothing, her brilliant mind comprehends everything and her succulent curves offer the perfect place for a rat to nestle.

An Impossible Future
In each other’s arms, Nicca and Evan discover love and a new perspective in an off-kilter world. But a wolf cannot mate with a rat, no matter the strength of the human attraction.

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Buy Links

Amazon

Evernight

Bookstrand

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Excerpt

Evan had never seen Nicca look frightened before. Those silver eyes expanded into saucers, and they were still beautiful. He wanted to wrap her in his arms, just hold her close as they both tried to process a world spinning out of control. Even his rat wanted to comfort her.
She was getting under skin and fur.
The last leaves hung limp on the branches, resisting winter’s pull. Away from the sidhe, the air had warmed, although the sky retained a grayish winter hue. Shifter bodies held heat, keeping them comfortable in the most brutal frost. Evan burned hot from continuous movement, the too frequent adrenaline spikes, and Nicca’s nearness. Everything about her fit, like she was made for him. That agile mind, open-mindedness, those lush curves. Hell, she even spouted poetry. He yearned to put a sign around her neck—no trespassing, this woman belongs to Evan Grant.
Except for that whole wolf thing…
“Why don’t we find a comfortable place to set up camp near Fairy Falls and call it a day?” he said to get his mind back to practical things, not wishing for something he couldn’t have. He told himself he selected the location as part of the mission. All species declared the pristine, wild falls a safe zone, so they wouldn’t need the wolves or eagles to stand guard. The fact that it was the number one rated site for shifter romances had nothing to do with the selection. Nothing at all.
No one would ever accuse Nicca of talking too much, but she was withdrawn even for her on the hike to the Falls. “Any suggestions on places to sleep?” he asked when her silence got too loud for him.
“I’ve, uh, never really been here,” she whispered, looking at the ground. “Just run by it on patrols sometimes.”
“And that makes you sad?” He itched to run his hand down her cheek.
“This mission makes me sad.” Her gaze stayed lowered as she walked.
His rat senses perceived a deep despondency wrapped around her like a black aura.
“This mission makes you angry, anxious, and confused. Not sad.”
“Who are you to correct my assessment of my emotional state?” She gave him a half-hearted snarl. He figured he’d hit an open, raw nerve.
“I lead this mission, and I will not have you fall apart on me. Right now, you are not okay.” He opened his arm, aping Rafe’s earlier action, inviting her to him to take comfort. “Let me help.” Let me touch you.
She visibly shook herself, ignoring his outstretched limb. “You’re right. I need space. Let me run as wolf.”
He dropped his hand, then nodded to cover the ripping sound his heart was making. “Stay close,” he said over the lump of disappointment lodged in his throat. “Give me your backpack, and I’ll find a place to sleep. Meet me at the falls when you’re done.”
Relief brightened her eyes. Once shifted, she brushed against his leg, then licked at his hand dangling by his side. He ran his fingers through her thick, gray fur touched with black and silver as she trotted off. “Grab some happy, Nicca,” he said into the air, as she raced out of sight. Come back to me. Accept me.
Alone, he hummed as he walked toward the falls. The low tune soothed his skittish rat, who hated being alone and wasn’t too fond of the woods. Rats felt secure in the pack. The human in him appreciated the red gold of the sunset streaking across the powder blue of the sky, weaving in and out of spiky, hunter green firs that ate up the landscape. Beauty truly did soothe an aching heart. The whirr of winter birds, a chorus to his ears, unnerved the rat. He picked up his pace, following the smell of ice and the roar of the falling water.
When he arrived at the falls, he saw Nicca standing at the edge of the descending water, running her fingers through the stream. That sadness he’d sensed earlier scented the air and dulled those unique gray eyes. Following a powerful intuition, he approached quietly, staying upwind so she wouldn’t notice until he stood directly behind her. She may have rejected his offer of support earlier, but he was determined to try again. His way.
She turned to face him, and tilted her head up to meet his gaze. He pushed behind one ear a lock of hair that was draped along her cheek. The tresses felt like silk, the skin velvet against his fingertips.
“Evan?”
He leaned over, touching lips to lips ever so gently. Giving comfort. Sneaking a taste. Exploring what might be. She pressed back, her mouth opening slightly beneath his. He sank into cherry and cinnamon, shyness and heat. She didn’t require a friend; she needed a lover. He desperately wanted to be that man.
He pulled back, falling hard for the blush staining her cheeks a bright pink.
“Follow me,” he said, taking her hand, and led her to the camping spot he noticed along the way.
To love a wolf.

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About Shari Elder

Hello, I’m Shari. By day, I crawl out of bed, mainline coffee, walk the dog, get my kid off to school, hop on the metro, and save cities within the four walls of my office. Usually by email.

At night, the other Shari emerges. I take off the suit, curl up on the couch and let my imagination play, with words and images until stories take shape (while periodically checking on my teen-ager, hiding out in the bedroom and plotting world domination). As my alter ego, I save cities in a cape and spangled tights, wander space and time on a surfboard, fly over the Himalayas on feathered wings, make six-toed footprints in indigo talc snow on the sixth planet in the Andromeda galaxy or eavesdrop on Olympian gods while pretending to whip up a bowl of ambrosia.

In all these wondrous worlds, romance and passion blossom. I can’t resist a happy ending. And I am particularly prone to writing happy endings for those who have given up on ever getting one. That gives me immense satisfaction.

Join me on my journey. The best ideas emerge from team work.

Hang out with Shari on the Web

Website – www.sharielder.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ShariElderStories/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ShariElderBooks
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/ShariElder
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/ShariElderBooks/

Ghosts of Emerald Bay Excerpt

Here is an excerpt of Ghosts of Emerald Bay for your Saturday reading pleasure 🙂 I hope you all have a great day!

Evernight Publishing ~ Amazon ~ ARe ~Bookstrand ~ Smashwords

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Fog shrouded the winter morning, cloaking the lighthouse in a beautiful cloud of eerie white and light gray tones. The light at the top was beaming, a warning to those braving the northern Atlantic.

Kate stepped out of her car, and despite how chilly it was—a balmy twenty-two degrees above zero—she took her phone out of her coat pocket and snapped a picture. Taking a quick look at it, she was proud of the shot, and decided to have it printed so she could hang it on a wall in her apartment. The sound of a car interrupted the thought and she put the phone back into her pocket, and then opened the door to the back seat, grabbing her duffle bag and a messenger bag––the latter holding the books, notes, and pictures she’d brought.

A dark red Blazer parked next to her forest green Cruze LT as she shut the door. After a few moments, a dark-haired man stepped out, around six-foot-three and quite handsome.

When Murphy’s gaze met hers, Kate knew she was going to have a hard time not pushing him off the lighthouse. A really hard time.

“Kate,” he said, giving a nod.

She returned the nod. “Murphy.” After a moment of awkward silence she added, “I’m going to go unlock the main house.”

“Okay.”

Oh, this is going to be fun, she thought. As she began to walk to the house, she heard him open his trunk. She assumed he was getting his things as well.

The main house was white, with dark blue trim and shutters. It didn’t have a basement but had a large attic—the first floor was living space. Kate heard the trunk close as she walked up the porch steps to the front door. She shifted her bags so they were a little more behind her as she unlocked and opened the door. Stepping in, she smiled softly, admiring the updates that had been made since she last toured the home and almost unable to believe that she was finally going to be able to investigate it.

The Historical Society had done a great job updating the house—a mix of rustic, coastal Maine and modern technology. The living room was to her right, the dining room to her left, and the kitchen was through the swinging door that was placed pretty much centrally in between the two rooms—along the walls that separated the two rooms from the kitchen.

Nick, Judith, and Lena had set up the main monitors on the dining room table—carefully, of course. When Nick had visited her the previous night he’d mentioned there was a small kitchen table in the actual kitchen.

“Wow,” Murphy said from behind her as he stepped into the house. “They really changed this place. It looks really good.”

She took a few steps to the left, giving him room to close the door and enter the house completely. “Yes, they did. The renovations were finished this past July.”

He looked around the two rooms. “They did a great job keeping the old and adding the new,” he waved a hand at the walls, “—and I love the historic pictures.”

Kate turned towards him, meeting his dark brown gaze. “The bedrooms are down that hall,” she pointed to the hall next at the end of the living room, “—and the attic entrance is the door right there at the start of the hall. Why don’t we set our bags in our rooms and meet in the kitchen. We can make coffee and get a plan together for the hunt.”

He lowered his head for a moment, looking uncomfortable, as he damn well should’ve felt in her presence. But she would be professional. At least for now.

“Kate,” he started, looking at her again, “I know how hard it must’ve been for you to say yes to this investigation, and I admit to being … uneasy, about us sharing the same space after what I did to you six years ago.”

Kate did her best not to narrow her eyes, trying to keep things civil between them, but anger stirred at the memories of those events six years in the past and it was hard keeping her feelings hidden—save a bit of irritation. “As you should, but I want to keep things civil. We’re going to have to if we’re going to last a week, or however long it takes, together in this house doing our investigating side-by-side.”

He stepped forward, extending his free hand. As he did so, she suddenly felt a bit short, even at five-foot-six. “Truce?”

She accepted his peace offering, shaking his hand. “Truce, though we both know the past is going to rub against the present.”

“I know,” he said as he drew back, “but I’m willing to try if you are.”

She really didn’t want to. She didn’t want to be anywhere near the bastard. “I truly am. This investigation? I’ve been waiting for it since I was a teenager. It’s a dream come true.”

He nodded, a distant look in his eyes as a smile formed. “I remember you talking about it. That’s what trigger…” he trailed off. “Never mind.”

Kate smiled. “Yeah, not a good idea to bring that up, O’Keefe. Let’s go get settled then meet up in the kitchen.”

He gave a nod. “Okay.”

Turning, Kate made her way to the hallway, taking the first room on the left. Murphy took the one right across the hall from her. The bathroom was the next room down from hers.

The room was nice, with a full-sized bed with a wooden headboard and foot board, a bureau with a mirror above it, and a rocking chair near the window that looked out to the lighthouse. She unpacked her duffle bag, putting the toiletry bag on top of the bureau, then looked out toward the lighthouse.

She was sensitive to the energy of the dead, but nothing like Arabella, Lena, Judith, and Rayna. At the moment, all she could feel was the history of the house: no ghostly energy. She wondered if Murphy was also disappointed that she’d agreed to the investigation because she wasn’t a medium or clairvoyant. She knew the history better than all, but the head of the Historical Society, and that was something he already knew, and she was Revenant’s lead researcher for all of their cases—she knew what she was doing, but was he hoping she’d say no for other reasons than their past?

Hearing the door to his room open made her back straighten and tense, and it took her a few minutes to relax. She’d met him while she was training with a team in Colorado during college, where she majored in history and anthropology with a minor in communications. When she graduated, she took a job with the Revenant team. Murphy asked for her help with research for one of his hunts about two months after that, concerning a long-closed silver mine, but asked for her not to mention what they were working on to anyone because other hunters and psychics would be all over the two of them—which was true, to an extent. Being a friend, she agreed.

Worst. Mistake. Ever.

After weeks helping him find what he’d been looking for—namely, information on two of the miners—he’d taken all of her research and all the artifacts she’d found while on site with him while she was asleep one night, and she never saw him in person again. She saw an article in a magazine while in a bookstore one day a few months later and read the interview, where she quickly learned that legend hunters like him were all about the glory and fortune, and they didn’t care who they walked over to get it. Not once in the interview did he mention that she’d been the one who’d helped him achieve that particular glory. She was so disgusted she quit her job with the team and moved back to Noble, where she now worked and lived happily.

But the taste of betrayal had yet to leave her where it concerned Murphy. Made worse by the fact that she’d started to have more than friendly feelings towards him right before he’d screwed her over.

A knock at her door startled her out of her thoughts. “Kate? Coffee’s brewing. Have you eaten?”

She cleared her throat, hoping to sound normal when she answered, “No.” Point for her, maintaining a completely normal tone. She opened the door. “Sorry. I got caught up looking at the lighthouse.” That was sort of the truth.

He shook his head. “Understandable, and I’m sure you were having memories of things we won’t talk about right now. I know I am.”

Shock had her raising her eyebrows. She hadn’t expected him to just blurt that out. “Yeah, that too.”

He smiled. “Breakfast—I’ll make pancakes if you’d like some.”

He’s trying, I think. “Sure. I am rather hungry.” Her stomach growled in response. She laughed softly as they started towards the kitchen.

“I’d say that growl was a little more than ‘rather’,” he said. “Let’s see what we can do about that.”

Once in the kitchen, Kate walked straight for the coffee maker. A blue stone cup was waiting for her.

“Ladies first,” Murphy said as he got the ingredients for the pancakes together, as well as a bowl and a cast-iron pan.

Kate smiled as her hand grasped the coffee pot, but the smile faded when she remembered how sweet he was to her before the betrayal. She shook off the memory and decided to just enjoy the coffee and pancakes, for now. They’d take the past as slowly as possible … if they wanted to work together. “Thanks. Want me to make you a cup?”

“If you wouldn’t mind, but you don’t have to. I’ll get it when I’m done cooking.”

She filled a second cup. “Still with a dash of cream?”

He chuckled. “Yes, as always.”

After setting his cup beside the stove for him—at which he thanked her again—she picked hers back up. “I do remember your pancakes being the second best I’d eaten.”

“Second?” he questioned when she looked at him, a touch of indignation in his tone.

She sighed, leaning against the counter. “Sorry, but my uncle Trig’s are better than yours.”

He pointed a wooden spoon at her. “I won’t argue because I’ve never tasted them … and because he’s your family.”

She felt the corners of her mouth tilt upward. “The first thing I think we should do after we eat is look in on the monitors for the lighthouse. I want to see if there’s anything strange on screen before we check it out in person.”

“To get the feel of it?”

“Yeah.” She took a sip of coffee. “Basically, I want to do a walk-through of the lighthouse and then the attic. I don’t feel anything in the house right now, but I’d like to get those two things out of the way before we go over the footage from yesterday to this morning.”

He flipped a pancake then looked at her, his gaze warm. “Start slow? That sounds good to me.”

Butterflies fluttered in her belly in reaction to that warmth, and whether he meant it in regards to her or the case didn’t matter. Crap. Don’t fall for that gaze, Kate. “I’ll set the table,” she said, a little too softly for her liking.

“The plates are in the cabinet right above the coffee maker,” he told her, a hint of regret in his tone. “Silverware is right here beside me in this drawer.” He tapped the drawer to the left of the high-end gas stove.

As she set her coffee down and turned to get the plates, Kate cursed at herself. Idiot. Stop thinking about the warmth in his eyes.

“There’s syrup in the fridge—it’s Vermont-made.”

Kate smiled. “Nick knows what I like to eat. He, Judith, and Lena did the grocery shopping.”

“I’ll have to thank them when the case is over.” Again, regret lay in his tone, a bit more apparent than just moments before.

Their gazes met again briefly as she reached for the silverware, and the look on his face… The butterfly flutters quickened as his arm brushed hers, setting a pancake down on the plate next to the stove. She tried not to hurry as she grabbed the forks and two butter knives, and managed to do just that—act normal.

God, she hoped breakfast went by, and fast. “Why exactly did you agree to the terms of the council and Historical Society, Murphy?” she asked as he turned the stove off.

“I remembered you telling me about the lighthouse and the history of those who lived here in the Keeper’s house,” he said as he brought the pancakes over, “and I was intrigued by Mason Norling, the first keeper and the son of the man who designed and built the lighthouse.”

Intrigued. She should’ve kept her mouth shut.

He placed three pancakes on his plate. “I researched the family a little more, then found all the stories about the pirates. I started seeing connections between Mason and Elise Bennett, and became so hooked on finding the link between them I kept digging.”

“Exactly what do you think is in Mason’s journal?” Kate asked, pouring syrup over her food.

“I believe his personal journal holds the key about the battle between the Whiskey Beauty and the Ravaging Ghost. I found a picture of Elise that someone in town took during that last visit to Noble, when she actually docked in Emerald Bay—I’ll show you when we’re done doing the walk-throughs.” He paused, taking a sip of coffee. “The picture shows her wearing a necklace that’s supposedly an emerald, and a family heirloom.”

“Yes,” Kate said. “It’s written down in the interview with the local newspaper that the necklace was passed down from mother to daughter.”

“But, I found a picture of Mason’s youngest daughter, who was five at the time of the battle. I’m ninety-nine-point-nine percent certain that’s the same necklace Elise was wearing.”

Kate froze, her fork halfway through her pancake stack.

“Kate? You okay?”

She forced herself to look at him. “I’ve seen all the pictures of the Norling family that the town has, which means you must’ve found the missing photos after the storm of 1722.” That wasn’t a question—it was an accusation. “Where?”

Murphy raised a hand, as if to quell her temper. “That daughter, Anya, moved to Massachusetts two years after her father died in the storm. I hunted down her descendants and found only one remaining—that would be a many-greats grandson of hers. He gave me three pictures and I made copies, which I have with me and are going to be given to the Historical Society once the investigation is over.”

The last made her threatening temper calm, and she finished cutting her pancakes. “I have that picture of Elise with me so I can compare them myself, but obviously it must’ve been enough to sway the council to let you investigate.”

The lighthouse and the Keeper’s house were owned by the Historical Society and they planned on using the house as an inn, so vacationers could stay overnight.

“It was one of the top two finds that swayed them, yes.”

“What was number one?”

“Elise returned to Maine in late October the year Anya was born, and looking at the older picture of Anya next to one of Elise…”

Understanding dawned on her. “You think Anya was Elise and Mason’s daughter.”

He pointed his fork at her. “Yep, and I think that before Elise died at sea she gave Anya the necklace and told Mason where he could find some of the treasure from the Whisky Beauty and the Ravaging Ghost.”

Kate hated to admit it, but the thought of all he just told her being true made excitement bubble inside of her. That must have reflected in her eyes because Murphy gave her a knowing smile.

“I also think she may have told him why she and Brenn Remington hated each other so much.”

Quelling her excitement, Kate replied, “The ghost in the lighthouse refuses to speak with anyone—he just walks up and down the stairs of the lighthouse and turns on the light on clear days. He’s even been seen looking out at the sea, for long hours. Getting him to communicate will be difficult.”

Especially since neither of them was psychic.

“Hopefully he does, but if all of what I’ve researched and outlined is true, it could mean finding the treasure as well as solving one of the most infamous chapters of Noble’s history,” Murphy said.

She didn’t like the way he said that. The words sounded as if he were trying to lure her into his games by using what she loved—history and Noble. But she kept that suspicion to herself, and would continue … for the moment.

“And if we, or you, find it necessary we can call in one of your team to help.”

“True, though I’ll warn you right now that what I just said is the truth—no one’s ever been able to get that ghost to talk, not even a ‘hmm’.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt you, but at least we’ll have someone who may be able to persuade him to talk.”

“Lena’s an empath, so she could feel him out better than I can. Folger will do anything to help so I can call in whomever I feel we need.”

“You mean he’ll do what he can to help you work with me,” Murphy said, a knowing expression passing over her face.

Her gaze locked with his. “Both. He wants to help me with you, but he also knows how important this investigation is to me and Noble.”

Murphy gave a nod. “I understand what this case means to you, Kate,” he said, gaze softening. “I plan to uphold that truce we shook on.”

Really? Again with the warm gaze? Her stupid insides threatened to turn to mush. “So do I.” She really did. “And these are good pancakes.”

The smile he gave her nearly undid her. “Second best?”

She laughed. “Second best.”

God, was she in trouble.

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Thursday Teaser

Here is an excerpt from Son of Thunder 🙂

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copyright@ Libby Bishop 2016

The thunder boomed, rattling the windows and pots and pans of her home in the Adirondacks of New York. Liv was certain at any moment the glass would implode. Normally, she found thunderstorms beautiful—the power breathtaking, the lightning mesmerizing—but this storm wasridiculous.

Turning back to the paperwork in her lap, she studied the original police report of the murder. She’d read it about ten times in the last two days, which truly wasn’t necessary as she had the damn thing memorized. Solving her best friend’s murder—a cold case for six years—was her mission in life. Every year on the anniversary of the death, she took a two-week vacation from her job at the FBI, burying herself in case files, photos, and evidence…or rather, lack of evidence.

Something compelled her to read the file over and over again, as if a new clue would jump out at her. Deep down she knew going over the file time and time again wouldn’t change the fact there was no biological evidence—even though it was clear that Soosie had been brutally victimized—and it wouldn’t tell them if they were dealing with a human or a god.

The emotions she’d felt in the days following Soosie’s death still very much lingered, hitting her as strongly as a punch in the gut. At times it seemed the feelings hadn’t faded at all, though some of that was due to not having brought the killer to justice. She remembered, quite clearly, the day she’d fallen apart and allowed herself to feel the full weight of grief. As if it were yesterday…

 

She barely remembered how to breathe, the weight of loss so deep it etched into her bones. She didn’t want to eat, and sleep was near impossible. Burying her best friend had taken a piece of her soul that would never be returned.

“Liv Agda Winter, you need to sleep.”

Looking toward the doorway from the porch swing, she watched her close friend—and work partner—as he walked toward her, taking a seat and putting his arm around her shoulders. He’d been there from the beginning, leading the investigation when she was too broken to deal with it.

“When I close my eyes all I see is her torn and broken body tied to those trees.” She sniffled, and he held her closer. “Granted, I see it when I’m awake, too, but when I sleep it’s more…vivid.” Fresh tears filled her eyes, and raw grief caught in her throat as the images flashed, taking her ability to speak.

Every sound, every piece of scenery, would be etched in her mind forever. The loss of Soosie had forever and irrevocably changed the course of her life.

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” he soothed, rubbing his hand up and down her bicep gently. “You’re going to get through this. I’m going to get you through this. So you go ahead and cry, scream, collapse in grief—I’ll be right here to catch you.”

“I don’t know how to deal with this,” she said.

His grip tightened again. “First, you fall apart, you feel the loss. Then, once you’ve taken the time to do that, you get up, you get dressed, and you use that pain to hunt the son-of-a-bitch down so the monster can’t hurt anyone else.”

She inhaled deeply then shakily exhaled. “But first…I feel it.”

“But first you feel it.”

With him holding her tightly, she let the tears roll unchecked. A soft, mournful cry left her as a fresh wave of grief rolled through her, heavy sobs soon following…

 

The fact that she’d not fulfilled that promise ate at her daily, but she’d learned to use that guilt as fuel during other cases.

Closing the file, she sighed. “Time to get some sleep.”

She ran her hand over the folder once then set it on the nightstand, placing her phone on top of it. She lay down on the bed and closed her eyes, though she doubted true sleep would take her anytime soon—grief robbed that from her when it stripped her of her best friend.

“Good night, Soosie,” she whispered, then curled up under the covers.

Rune still couldn’t believe his ears. Two days after the ruling, and he was still unable to grasp his punishment. And now, after hearing it for a third time, all he could do was stare at his great-grandfather Odin in disbelief. How could this be happening? How could the All-Father make this decision based on the evidence?

“I am truly sorry, Rune,” Odin said as they stood near the Gate. “But this is the only way to deal with this situation.”

Rune’s eyes widened, and something in him snapped at those last words. Anger gripped him, raw and fiery. “Only answer? Reign butchered my closest friend, and he has no remorse for it. Nor does he care that they’d been friends for centuries! Not one of you—not you, Thor, or my father—has done a damn thing to treat Reign’s anger and lust for violence, for blood. The punishments given to him over the years have only strengthened those emotions in him because you only seek to punish him for the deed done. I’ve told you all, since Reign and I were in our first century of life, that you need to focus on why he does what he does, not the deed.”

“Rune—”

“And you have the nerve to banish me from Asgard after seeing what he did. What justifies this sentence?” he demanded, his gaze locked to Odin’s. “What justifies sending me to Earth and not allowing me back home until I’ve redeemed myself for something that was a defensible reaction?”

And how could his grandfather, Thor, and his own father, have agreed to it? Nothing about it made sense. What his brother had done was wrong, unprovoked, and beyond monstrous. Yet Rune found himself the one being chastised.

The patient expression on Odin’s face did nothing to quell his anger or his sorrow for his fallen friend. But Rune waited for the All-Father to speak, to explain himself, his actions.

“While your reaction to Reign’s deed is understandable, I find your nearly beating him to death to be worrisome. You are the levelheaded one, the honorable one at all turns, so it bothers me greatly that you could have almost killed your own brother.” Odin looked away a moment, then back, his brow knitted. “Despite your valid arguments, my judgment still stands—you are to be banished to Earth until you redeem yourself for this bloody, uncharacteristic deed.”

Shaking his head, Rune spread his arms out then dropped them to his sides in exasperation. “That answers none of my questions. This punishment still makes no sense.”

Odin held his head high, hands clasped behind his back.

The conversation was over. He would get nothing more from the god in front of him. He squared his shoulders, swallowing his anger and confusion. “Very well. I do not accept this chastisement, but I will take it all the same, as you’ve given me no other choice. Make no mistake—I will return very soon, as I have no intention of letting Reign harm those I care for in retaliation.”

Odin nodded once. “Reign will be watched closely. You can trust in that.”

But Rune didn’t trust in that. If his brother wanted retaliation, his brother would get it, unless he was locked away and allowed no visitors. That hadn’t happened yet—four days after the killing, and Reign was still free of consequence. His other friends were in great danger…and Odin seemed rather cavalier about it, which only strengthened his resolve to get home as soon as possible.

“Once you pass through the Gate, you will have to earn your right to be near humans. This will not be easy on you and for that I am sorry. But it’s the way I’ve done things since I took the throne—you being my blood changes nothing.”

“I understand that.”

“Good-bye, Rune.”

“All-Father,” he replied, then walked into the Gate.

He’d never fallen so fast through the Gate—everything was blurred, and a buzzing penetrated his mind like a sharp, jagged knife. Was this part of the punishment for nearly killing his twin brother? Odin hadn’t told him where he would be sent; Rune just hoped the pain would stop once he got there.

A bright light jetted toward him from the end of the tunnel, blinding him. Nausea swam through him as he broke through the barrier into the realm of Earth. A few seconds later he impacted with something soft, and sank down a few inches.

A woman’s scream broke through his haze.

A fist to the side of his face brought him abruptly back to himself. The power behind it rattled his brain as he fell sideways onto a hard floor.

“Who the fuck are you, and what are you doing in my room?” She didn’t sound as scared as much as strong-willed, something he was used to in both humans and goddesses.

He started to stand, but the click of a gun made him slow his actions. “I am not here to harm you, my lady.”

Turning to face the person he landed on, he was slightly taken aback by the tall, curvy, red-haired beauty. She stood straight, her gun aimed at his forehead. The bullet wouldn’t kill him, but it would take a healer of the gods to make him right and restore his mind.

She narrowed her eyes. “Who are you?”

He bowed his head then met her sea-blue eyes. “I am Rune, grandson of Thor.”

She huffed out a sigh, lowering her weapon. But he could clearly see that she’d pull the trigger before he could conjure whatever power his great-grandfather Odin had left him.

“The Son of Thunder? Are you friggin’ kidding me?”

“No,” he replied, not surprised that she’d used the nickname given to him by humans centuries back.

“What are you doing here?”

“Odin sent me to Earth as punishment, and I cannot return home until I’ve redeemed myself.”

She put a hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow. “And that has what to do with me?”

He answered, “I don’t know. The journey through the Gate was harsher and faster than I’ve ever experienced. I should have landed miles from any human—that’s what I understood from Odin.”

“How so?”

Persistent. She showed no fear toward him and kept her eyes on him, watching his slightest twitch like a predator. And the way she held the gun loosely, but firmly, ready to fire at a moment’s notice…he’d bet good money on her being law enforcement.

“He told me, quite clearly, that when I entered the Gate I would have to earn the right to be near humans and redeem myself. The hundreds of times I’ve heard him say that, those he punished were sent to the most desolate places on Earth.”

Her eyebrows rose. “So, you don’t know where you are?”

“No.”

She nodded, clicking the safety back on the gun. She was a beautiful woman, her hair a tangled mess, her legs long, her porcelain skin smooth save a scar on the right side from her temple to her jaw then over to the left side of her mouth, like an L.

What gave you that scar?

“You are in the Adirondacks, in New York. The middle of nowhere, though not what one would call desolate. But you landed in my second home, a cabin in the woods.”

“The nearest neighbor—”

“Is a half hour away in pretty much all directions.”

Rune was confused at this turn of events, as Odin never made this kind of mistake…to his knowledge, anyway. How had he ended up in this woman’s home?

“I’m sorry, but you can’t stay here. I’m…” She trailed off, taking a deep breath. “I can’t have company right now. That said, it is the middle of the night. You can sleep on the couch, but tomorrow you’ll have to find another place to lodge.”

“I apologize for the intrusion.”

“Thank you. Follow me.”

He followed her out of her bedroom, enjoying the view as they walked. A scent lingered behind her, something crisp like an autumn morning. Intoxicating.

“It’s pretty comfy to sleep on, but you’re about six inches too tall to really fit,” she said as they stopped near the couch.

A blanket was folded at the other end of the couch, a pillow atop it. “Do you have company coming?”

“No. I slept on it the other night,” she replied, not elaborating. “The bathroom is on the other side of the kitchen, through the laundry room. There’s a nightlight on in there.”

He briefly looked over at the kitchen, seeing the soft light emanating from the bathroom.

“Good night, Rune. Sleep well.”

As she turned to go, he realized she knew something about him that he didn’t about her. “My lady?”

She turned to him. “Yes?”

“What is your name?”

Her shoulders relaxed.

“Liv. My name is Liv Winter.”

Beautiful name. “Good night, Liv.”

She gave a nod and then continued to her bedroom.

He was fairly certain his sleep would be filled with her scent and image. Someone had certainly done well when they’d made Liv Winter.