Friday, December 19, 2014

Undertow by Kelly Cozy and a Giveaway!


Undertow

Undertow by Kelly Cozy
Paperback and e-book, 270 pages
Published November 18th 2014 by Smite Publications

Drew Finley was a crime journalist, until his mind couldn't shut out the images of blood and bodies. Alcohol made the images go away, but also ruined Drew's career and innocents' lives. 

Drew's eager to make amends and he's got a story that will help him: a profile of a local celebrity who may have been framed for murder. As he digs deeper, he'll uncover secrets and grudges that will put the people he loves in danger. 


My thoughts about Undertow ~~ 

I am a big fan of Kelly's and she has been such a great supporter of The Book Bag. I previously read and absolutely loved her book The Day After Yesterday. (Read my thoughts here.) I am so excited to tell you that she has another hit on her hands! 

Undertow is really quite different from The Day After Yesterday but Kelly is such a wonderful writer that they both are great stories, in their own right. Undertow has a much darker feel to it and the reader gets entrenched with Drew as he investigates a story about a coach who may or may not have committed a murder in the past. Drew pokes his head up from his self-induced hiding place to try to get to the truth of a murder sentence which may have been given to an innocent man.  
'No, stop chasing it. Stop this story now. It's going to hurt you.'
I am not going to give away too much of this story except to tell you that it kept me on the edge of my seat and held my attention clear to the end. And what?? I was not expecting the story to go that way! When I got to the end of the story, I just had to sit there for a little bit to think about the story and the characters, and the way it ended. Way to go, Kelly - your wonderful story caught me by surprise!

Undertow is another one of Kelly's books that I highly recommend! 

About the author


Kelly Cozy became hooked on books in early infancy, when she turned one of her parents' paperbacks into a teething ring. She lives in California with her husband, son, and cats. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, watching movies, and attending nerdy conventions.

She is the author of The Day After Yesterday (contemporary fiction) and Ashes (suspense, first in a two-book series).

Connect with Kelly



I just love Kelly's stories so much and this is another great one!

I am going to gift a Kindle copy of Undertow to one lucky person. You can get a copy of it for only $.99 right now on Amazon. I am not sure how long it will be that price so double check before purchasing.



Be sure to check the sidebar for my current giveaways!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Tour: The Faithful by S.M. Freedman and the Voices Question


The Faithful


The Faithful by S.M. Freedman
Print and e-book, 364 pages
Published April 20th 2014 by Createspace

For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts. They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick. Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force. Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears. All the children had psychic abilities. All the cases went cold -- with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered. Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.

For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies. The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place. New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape. Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey; and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.

For Sumner, memories have become weapons. He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders. He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.

To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth. They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale. If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive. Crossing several genres, The Faithful will appeal to anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries; high-tech, edge-of-your-seat suspense flavored with paranormal elements; thrillers involving psychics, occult and high stakes action/adventure; tied up with a depth and humor usually reserved for works of literary fiction.


Where to Purchase The Faithful


Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist
***************
Welcome to The Book Bag, S.M. ~ I have heard other authors say that they 'hear voices in their head' and that is how they write their books: the characters are telling their stories. Not being a writer myself, that concept has always intrigued me.
When some people hear voices, we get them medical attention, others end up becoming writers. Does this happen to you? How do you come up with your stories?

Thankfully nobody has locked me up yet — although my husband does give me the “lifted eyebrow” when I talk about my characters like they’re real people (umm, aren’t they?). They do begin as an extension of me, but then things go sideways.
Over time, I’ve come to imagine it like a beautifully arched footbridge (you know, the kind that just might have a troll lurking in the shadows). At some point, my characters cross it without me. It’s at that moment that they become real, and real means unpredictable. They delight and horrify me, and they take over and demand their truth be told. People die, they become twisted and ugly, they hurt others or get hurt themselves. Some become appalling and others inspirational. I’m learning to trust in that, rather than fight against it for the sake of “prettiness”. I’m learning that when the writing makes me desperately uncomfortable, I’m getting close to a gritty grain of truth. As a storyteller, that’s the best I can ever hope for. It may be ugly, but if I’ve remained true, it may touch another’s soul.
About the author

S.M. Freedman

S.M. Freedman is a top-ranked Amazon author in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense categories, and a member of the WorldWiseWriters group. She lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children and a giant orange cat.

She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and spent years as a private investigator and business owner.

Inspired by authors of many different genres (favorites include Sue Grafton, Diana Gabaldon, Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Suzanne Collins and Lawrence Hill, to name a few) she eventually turned back to her first love: writing.

The Faithful, a paperback and kindle Amazon Bestseller in both the US and the UK, and a Quarter Finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is her debut novel.

She's currently working on the sequel.

Connect with S.M.



Follow the entire The Faithful tour here

Brought to you by Worldwind Virtual Book Tours


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WWW Wednesdays December 17, 2014


WWW Wednesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Clicking on the book covers will take you to Goodreads for more information about the books listed below.

What are you currently reading?

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
I love her stories!

Zoey & the Moment of Zen by Cat LaVoie (audio-book)

What did you recently finish reading?

Undertow by Kelly Cozy
Great story! My thoughts will be posted soon.

Atonement (Debt Collector #18) by Susan Kaye Quinn
The last installment of this season. Can't wait for the next one.

What do you think you will read next?

A Place Beyond (The Danaan Trilogy #3) by Laura Howard
This is a great trilogy! 

What's on your WWW this week?

Leave me a comment and
I'll stop by to check out your reads.


Be sure to check the sidebar for my current giveaways!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FREE!! Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton, an Excerpt, and a Giveaway!


I am thrilled to announce that Tortured Souls will be FREE on Amazon from December 15 - 19, 2014.

Be sure to grab your copy before it's too late!


Tortured Souls
The Orion Circle #1

Kimber Leigh Wheaton

YA Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
June 30, 2014
Sea Dragon Press

FREE on Amazon 12/15 - 12/19/14

Sometimes Rest in Peace isn't an option

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it's ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can't keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie's longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he's never seen before—a medium powerful\ enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can't ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.

Excerpt

From Chapter One
Something Wicked

Deafening music shakes the walls, vibrates the floor, and pounds a rhythmic beat in my skull. Gyrating bodies turn every bit of space into a dance floor. Sweat breaks out on my forehead, and my heart races. Strobe lights flash, teens dance with wild abandon. Shrieking laughter bubbles around me.

“Gotta take a leak!” my dance partner shouts over the music.

He races off, weaving through the thick wall of bodies. Mike or Mick or something—I didn’t catch the name he yelled when he asked me to dance. Doesn’t matter, he wasn’t my type at all. I mean, the guy guzzled beer while dancing. After grabbing a diet soda from a nearby cooler, I’m about to search for my friends when a dark feeling washes over me. My feet refuse to move, and I stand rooted in place.

The once loud music is now hollow in my ears. I gasp for breath, choking on the lack of air around me. Tiny hairs on the nape of my neck rise to attention. Something wicked is behind me. I know I’m the only one here who feels a difference in air pressure. An oppressive weight presses against my skin, making me feel as though I’m underwater. I blink a few times, watching the people around me continue their manic dancing—oblivious to the bogeyman that just entered the room.

Afraid to turn around, I stand my ground, sipping my soda. I pretend I’m unaware of the shuffling noises behind me, sounds I shouldn’t be able to hear over the blaring music. Swaying my hips, I hum along with the music, trying to ignore the ominous presence crushing me.

Whatever it is, I can’t let it know I sense it. Evil pours off it in waves, blanketing the entire room. I close my eyes, willing the creature to go away, return to whatever mausoleum or grave it calls home. Malevolent spirits feed on fear. I must control mine at all costs.

When I open my eyes, I’m gazing into the face of an angel. Not literally, but he may as well be in my book. Logan glances behind me, and I know he sees the spirit. He doesn’t gasp or scream or faint dead away. His golden eyes narrow as though he’s in a staring contest with the specter.

“You’re not welcome here,” Logan says to the presence behind me. He meets my gaze again. “You know it’s there.”

It’s not a question but a statement. I nod, a weak bob of my head, unsure whether this intimate moment with my dream guy is a good thing or not. Meeting over a nasty phantom is not my idea of romantic. And yet I can’t stop staring at the way his blue t-shirt hugs his broad shoulders and chest—how his light brown hair curls around his earlobes. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. For six weeks I’ve wanted out of the friendship box with Logan, but I was hoping for girlfriend, not crazy girl.

“Kassandra,” a voice rasps behind me.


About the Author


Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a bestsellingYA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance. She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs, four cats, and lots of dragons. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!) She currently lives in San Antonio, TX but has been somewhat a rolling stone in life, having resided in several different cities and states.

Author Links


Giveaway



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Monday, December 15, 2014

On Tour: If You Believe by Mya O'Malley, Voices, the Trailer, an Excerpt, and a Giveaway!

If you believe

If You Believe

If You Believe by Mya O'Malley
ebook
Published November 18th 2014 by Smashwords Edition

Sometimes love only comes once in a lifetime. For some lucky people, it is possible to love again.

Melody and Jack had shared an unforgettable love story that abruptly came to an end. Melody, left picking up the pieces, finds herself alone years later, with no hope or desire to date again. With the holiday season approaching, Melody finds it particularly difficult to get Jack out of her thoughts.

Jack isn’t sure if he’s an angel or a ghost, but his mind is set on one thing only, finding a new love for Melody by Christmas Eve at midnight. Easier said than done, with many obstacles to tackle, Jack underestimates how difficult the task is. With conflicting emotions, Jack takes it upon himself to find a man for a woman he still loves.

With the clock ticking as the holidays approach, this charming story of finding love the second time around will have you laughing and crying, but ultimately, it will have you believing in true love.



Voices 

Welcome to The Book Bag, Maya! I have heard other authors say that they 'hear voices in their head' and that is how they write their books: the characters are telling their stories. Not being a writer myself, that concept has always intrigued me.

When some people hear voices, we get them medical attention, others end up becoming writers. Does this happen to you? How do you come up with your stories?


Inquiring as to whether or not authors actually hear characters’ “voices” while writing is an intriguing question.

When I write, I often think about the plot of the story ahead of time, but I’m not always sure how the plot will unfold until I’m sitting down to write. 

Do I hear “voices” of the characters while I’m writing? I wouldn’t say that I necessarily hear voices, but I kind of visualize a movie of sorts going on in my head as I’m writing and sometimes the characters actions and dialogue just come to me as if I’m watching the scene play out. 

One of the best things about being a writer is the ability to create stories from using your imagination. I’m always interested in hearing how authors come up with their thoughts and ideas, as writing can be a truly unique experience. 

Trailer



Excerpt

He stood, watching her, feeling every ounce of her pain, her anguish. He was probably the only one who understood what it was like to lose the person you loved, the person who was everything in the world to you.

If only he could just touch her, reach out to her, make her feel happy again. But that was just selfish on his part, wasn’t it? It wouldn’t be fair to Melody. Anybody could see that even three years later, she was still struggling. Hadn’t he always told her that if something happened to him, he would want her to fall in love again? It saddened him to think that if she continued down this cold and lonely path, she would be alone forever.

Melody had wanted it all, a home filled with children, a loving marriage. Thinking back to how happy they had once been, it broke his heart to see her this way, and it was always saddest to see her like this around the holidays, which were quickly approaching.

Jack’s mind was whirling with ideas, if only...He wished that he could talk to her just one more time, but alas, that was against the rules. If only there was some way, if only he could help her see the light. The corners of Jack’s mouth crept up as his mind took hold of an impossible thought. Would he be able to pull this off? If he did, could he ever be the same again? …

The electricity was undeniable. It was something that he should have considered, knowing how powerful their attraction and love had been in life. The look on Melody’s face was shock, confusion and curiosity all rolled into one. He would have to remember not to touch her again, it was simply too much of a risk to take. He knew that if his cover was revealed, the rules stated that he could never make contact with her again.

“What was...did you feel?” Poor Melody peered at him with those gorgeous light brown eyes of hers. 

There was something different about her eyes now; once they had been filled with spark and mischief, but now they were sadder, as if the light had somehow gone out. The same eyes that had looked at him with varying degrees of emotions for all those precious years they had shared together. The same eyes that held him spellbound right now. Jack didn’t know what to expect; he had no way of knowing how hard it would be to not reach out and touch this woman who was his wife, the love of his life. She evoked so much emotion in him that he had to turn his head before she saw the tears that sprang from his eyes. He had known this would be hard, but Melody took his breath away. 

Melody was always beautiful, but now she also appeared slightly sad and fragile. Looking down at her so many times before, he knew of her sadness, of course, but standing right here beside her, Jack could practically feel her strong emotions within his own heart.

Since he had gone to great lengths to disguise his true identity, Jack would have to do better than this. There was no way that she could recognize him by his appearance. He was once tall, standing six foot three inches tall, maintaining a trim physique with messy light brown hair. He now stood barely five foot seven with wavy dark hair and a stocky build. The only thing about his appearance that Jack wasn’t able to change was his eyes. Nobody could change their eyes, because it was a fact that eyes were the windows to the soul.

Melody stood before him, her mouth gaping open as if she were caught in a spell. Think of something, quick, he told himself.

“Melody. I heard great things about your store. You see, I’m new to this area and I was just walking around and I figured I’d come check out your store.”

Melody appeared as if she had composed herself slightly. Clearing her throat, she finally spoke. 

“Where are you from, if you don’t mind me asking.”

He really should have been more prepared, how could he have forgotten how inquisitive Melody was?

“Um, I’m from down south, Florida.”

“Whereabouts? I have a friend from the Orlando area.” He should have also remembered her old college roommate from Orlando. Was Miami far enough away to field off further questions?

“Miami.”

“Miami? What brings you all the way up north to the New York area?”

Wow, she should have been a lawyer instead of owning a business. “My job. I work in the city now and live here in the suburbs.”

“What do you do for work?”

Thinking quickly on his feet, Jack steered away from his real occupation in life, working for an insurance company.

“I work for a pharmaceutical company. I’m in sales.” That ought to do it. He was reminded of a time when Melody had quizzed him nonstop when they had first met, he had felt like he was interviewing for a job. They had laughed many times together over that memory.

“Oh. Well, who is it that recommended you to my store?” Her eyes peered cautiously through her striking auburn hair. The long hair that was always slightly out of place, always in her eyes. Wishing that he could reach out and touch her beautiful hair just once more, he reeled himself back in.

“Just some guy at a diner recently. He raved about the selection of books and the coffee. Hmm, if I recall, he also said that you have the best cheesecake in town.” That should do it. Melody loved to bake and could go on and on about her desserts.

And that she did, thank goodness for the distraction of a good cheesecake. When Melody had stopped gushing about how she prepared her cheesecake, she caught herself and chuckled.

“You must think I’m something, rambling on like this. I’m sorry, I just realized that I didn’t catch your name.”

My name, my name. Something unusual perhaps, but fitting for a friend. “Oliver.” Where did that come from?

“Oliver. Well, Oliver, I don’t usually do this because we are closed, but would you like to try some of the cheesecake? We happen to have some left over.”

“Oliver” could tell that he had gotten on Melody’s good side. She wasn’t a particularly outgoing person. As a matter of fact, she was usually pretty shy, but he was delighted to see that he had made an impression on her. Or perhaps it was just good business sense. Either way, Oliver had succeeded in completing the first step of his mission: meeting Melody.

****


Melody couldn’t recall the last time that she had felt so comfortable with a total stranger. It wasn’t like she was even physically attracted to him, Oliver wasn’t her type at all. He was the complete opposite of Jack in every way. Well, in every way except for those captivating blue eyes. It was uncanny how much Oliver’s eyes reminded Melody of Jack’s eyes. It wasn’t just the color or the shape, but it was the intensity of his gaze. That was probably why Melody had felt so comfortable with him from the start.

“I know that you’re going to think this is forward, but would you mind showing me around town sometime?”

Melody sucked in a breath and inwardly panicked.

“My girlfriend is coming up in a few weeks and I wanted to show her around a bit.” He finished.
Melody’s shoulders visibly dropped as she let out a sigh. “Sure, yes, Oliver, I think that would be fine.”

Two finished slices of chocolate cheesecake and decaf coffees later, Melody realized this was the best evening she’d had in, well, just about three years.


If You Believe (1)


About the author

Mya Omalley
Mya O'Malley

Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters. The family also consists of two boxers; Destiny and Dolce and a ragdoll cat named Colby. Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy. She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students.

Mya currently has two new releases: At First Sight, a contemporary romance about dating in the modern world, published by Astraea Press, and Where There is Love, a contemporary romance in which a woman struggles with past obstacles, ultimately faced with whether or not she will open her heart to love. Where There is Love is published with Solstice Publishing. Mya is excited to say that Astraea Press will be releasing her contemporary holiday paranormal romance titled If You Believe on November 25, 2014. Due to be released late January is The Calm After the Storm, published by TouchPoint Press. This novel is a contemporary romance taking place in the setting of Hurricane Sandy. The story revolves around the idea of a utility worker from Georgia falling in love with a woman in New York.

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child. Mya spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters. Mya likes to travel; she has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica. Mya is currently working on her sixth novel.

Connect with Mya


25_Amazon_Paypal

$25 Blog Tour Giveaway

Enter to win an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 1/4/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by readinglight.com. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.




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Release Day Blitz: The Debt Collector Season Two by Susan Kaye Quinn and an Excerpt


The Debt Collector
Season 2
by Susan Kaye Quinn

What’s your life worth on the open market? 

In this gritty urban fantasy, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more “worthy”… all while paying the price with black marks on their souls.

“Wraith is amazing and just as compelling as Lirium—once again I'm hooked!!” 
“I loved being back in this world! Wraith has captivated me.” 

Wraith is a shadow in the night, haunting the bedrooms of the rich "high potentials" who have stolen life energy from the desperate and dying. The justice and the sweet mercy hit that follow keep her from falling into her own personal abyss. Her secret nighttime work also keeps her on level for her real mission: carrying on her father's legacy of attempting to bring an end to debt collection as a whole. But when a mysterious debt collector interrupts her in the act and discovers her secret, everything Wraith loves may be destroyed by the one thing she can never fix-- the original sin of being a debt collector herself.

Contains mature content and themes.

OPTIONED FOR VIRTUAL REALITY BY IMMERSIVE ENTERTAINMENT 
2014 Semi-Finalist in Science Fiction in the Kindle Book Awards

The nine episodes of Season Two of the Debt Collector serial are collectively 125k words or about 500 pages. 

It is recommended that you start with the first season, but each season is a complete story for that debt collector and can serve as an entry point to the series. There are five planned seasons in the Debt Collector series, the first four each from the perspective of a different debt collector with the fifth season bringing all four together. 

READING ORDER

Season One – Lirium - COMPLETE
Episodes 1-9: Delirium, Agony, Ecstasy, Broken, Driven, Fallen, Promise, Ruthless, Passion

Season Two – Wraith 
10 – Wraith (10.20)
11 – Specter (10.27)
12 – Menace (11.3)
13 – Temptation (11.10)
14 – Shattered (11.17)
15 – Penance (11.24)
16 – Judgment (12.1)
17 – Corruption (12.8)
18 – Atonement (12.15)
BOX SET (Vol 10-18) – (12.15) 


Available for purchase at


Excerpt

Excerpt from Debt Collector Season 2, first episode – Wraith
My new collection suit weighs less than a shadow on my skin, and my soft-soled boots don’t even whisper as I creep across the thick, yielding carpet of my target’s apartment. With the best bullet-resistant synthetics money can buy, the black curve-hugging suit makes me look more like female-special-forces than someone’s hot date for the night. It raised the bellman’s eyebrows, but an untraceable debit card got me waved through the lobby, no problem. Money buys a lot of things. Access to one of the highest-security luxury buildings in LA. A ninety-fifth-floor apartment high above the smog-soaked city, complete with all the clean air you can breathe. And the no-doubt illegal collection of ivory-handled daggers I passed on the way in. It’s too bad for data-mining mogul Adrien Odel that money can’t buy your way out of a blackened soul.

I know.

I’ve tried.

And tonight I’ve come to collect a debt he doesn’t even think he owes.

Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of Odel’s apartment, the city is lit up with a nighttime electric haze, the kind that makes it look seedy even in the high-rent district. It’s the perfect backdrop for a collection, and my suit is a black silhouette against it, a hole of death punched in the city’s twinkling lights. The high-tech fabric clings to me like the original sin I can never expiate, the one every debt collector is born with: the ability to deliver death with the slightest touch. We traffic in it, surround ourselves with it, and can never escape it.

Not that I haven’t tried that, too.

But even a short three-week dry spell away from collecting has me needy as all hell. The craving for a life energy hit claws at my back, and every step across the carpet amps up the desire. Even the possibility of Odel pulling a gun and shooting me dead hypes the thrill a little. My palm aches in anticipation—for the justice and the high that comes with it—but I take it slow, watching the placement of my feet and checking the windows. Along one edge, next to a mile-wide screen and some pretentious artwork, there’s a control panel. Only the rich want windows that open in the city, but it’s a bonus for me, especially given the windows face the broad expanse of the skyline and not the high-rise next door.

As I check out the control panel, the high-rise becomes a peep show. A woman’s naked body is pressed against the glass, exposed to the city’s onlookers as a man clutches her bare skin and makes love to her. I’m transfixed by the way they move, skin against skin, without care for the contact or the watchers. In a moment, they’re gone. Maybe reason broke through the passion. Maybe the glass was cold, in spite of the perpetual heat of LA.

Regardless, the image holds me hostage.

Having a lover isn’t something that’s part of my future. Or my present, for that matter. But that doesn’t stop the base need from surging up, usually at the least convenient of times. Then a different image—a cold, pale specter from my past—crawls out of the dark corners of my mind and reminds me I’m not the kind of woman who gets to have a normal life. I’m the kind who takes life and then gives it away. And the ecstasy of that is the closest I’ll ever get to the normal kind again—so it had better be good enough.

I couldn’t stomach even that pleasure for a while, not after what the debt collectors did to my father. I managed a whole three weeks without a single collection. But in the end, it’s the only thing that keeps me stable. And I’ve had a severe lack of stable ever since my father’s death nearly tore down the teetering scaffold of lies that comprises my life. That’s when the abyss reared up and stared me full in the face. Will-power alone wasn’t enough to stop it—the darkness just opened its maw and threatened to swallow me whole. At least that would have put an end the torment… but I couldn’t let the sin of who I am destroy everything my father had worked for. That we had both worked for. So here I am, dressed like a phantom, stalking the rich to give to the poor. With a tremor in my hands that’s more than a little unsettling. For better and worse, it’s the one thing that keeps me out of that dark place and gives me hope that one day I might redeem everything I am and everything I’ve done.

I stalk, heel-to-toe, past the windows, through a long hallway tastefully decorated with more pretentious art, and toward the back bedroom where Odel is supposed to be sleeping. I buy information just like I buy access. My source tells me Odel is in bed every night at ten, like clockwork, occasionally with companions, but mostly not. Tonight, his companion will be a darkness-clad nightmare who will leave him in a cold sweat, instead of a hot one.

When I reach his room, it’s vast—there’s a ridiculous round bed that’s so large, it’s practically a playground; several lacquered pieces of furniture that form glistening shadow-lumps around the perimeter; and more windows, the kind with wide vertical slats that leave shadowed stripes across Odel’s room. A giant aquarium is built into the wall behind the bed, and bioluminescent creatures undulate through the clouded water. They cast a blood-red glow that oozes in between the slices of darkness. I have no idea how the man sleeps in this room, but his barely audible breaths are the slow, steady rhythm of the unconscious.

There’s a lot of floor to cover before I can reach him, so I keep my footfalls muted. I give silent thanks that he’s alone in his bed—I could handle two at a time, but his companions are probably innocent of any real crime, with the exception of their bad taste in men. I slowly tug off my gloves on the way and tuck them in the back of my suit. The less DNA I leave behind, the better. Not that my targets are eager to call the police—too much scrutiny in their lives might turn up the source of those ill-gotten hits. And the mob doesn’t like it when a bright light shines on their bustling life energy trade business. The mob cutting Odel off from his supplier would be the best he could hope for. The worst would involve caskets and weepy nighttime companions. At least with me, he only stands to lose the years of life he’s stolen.

I reach the bed without him waking. His bio says he’s ten years older than me, but thanks to a steady supply of life energy, he looks about my age: twenty-five, if you count the years, not the mileage. With all that life energy in store, he would outlive me by a long shot, if he kept everything he has taken.
I’m about to fix that.

About the Author

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy and the Debt Collector serial, as well as other speculative fiction novels and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Synchronic anthology and has been optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainment. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" but she mostly sits around in her PJs in awe that she gets to write full time.


You can find her at 

         


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