I want to be at the Romantic Times Convention with the other Dames. I want to be a part of the mash up Mark Henry talked about at the end of this post. Instead, I’m home working. But that’s okay, because I want to be a Dame with a book cover in our sidebar and on our book page more. I want it badly enough to be closing down the end of the first book in another series I’m writing.
So, while I’m working hard, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Dweller on the Threshold—the book that snagged Agent Dame’s attention. In this scene, my heroine, Beri O’Dell, has managed to tear a rip in a pretty strong magic ward. Oh, and she’s breaking into the hero’s place of business at the time. <g> Hope you enjoy! (And if profanity turns you off, you might want to skip. She’s pretty upset.)
Getting a good grip, I bit down on the inside of my cheek to try and stop the faint I could feel hovering at the edge of my mind and pulled. Pain scrambled my brain but I reached through that rip and managed to get both hands around the top so I could do a sort of chin up and get my head into that opening.
Blythe was clapping and jumping up and down. With my brain screaming from the pain, she sounded far away. So did Phro as she burst into loud laughter. It was the best thing she could have done. Reminded me that I must look a sight squirming in mid air through something they couldn’t see.
When both of them went quiet, I barely paid attention. I did, however, notice when someone grabbed my hand and yanked me through the hole. I hit the ground hard and just lay there, gasping air into lungs that felt singed to the core. I blinked watery eyes, but had already figured out who had pulled me through. I smelled Nikolos’ sharp, masculine scent despite the burning in my nose. I swallowed back a curse.
“You’re an idiot.” He squatted over me, fury making his eyes look like hard, unforgiving onyx. His nostrils flared. “My wards could have fried you into a speck of dirt on my floor.”
He shook his head, lips twisting on one side. “I turned this one down when I felt you kick in the back door.”
“Felt that, did you?” My words were slurred. Come to think of it, his face was kind of uh, slurred. I grinned and struggled to get to my feet.
He frowned, then reached down to help, his big hands hot on my arm. I sucked in air and pulled away. I was too scared of what that writhing mass of life around him could do to me in this vulnerable state.
But Nikolos didn’t know that. He growled and pulled me to my feet before shaking me.
“Hey!” I was still moving weird, like I was surrounded by syrup instead of air, so it took forever to pull out the ruby-handled knife that I had NOT put in a drawstring bag, thank you very much. I swished it in front of his face, scowling when he suddenly laughed. Why was he moving around so much? I narrowed my eyes and went to jab him and just kept moving until I hit one of the real walls in his hallway. I did manage to turn at the last minute and not stab it. Instead, I kind of slid down it a bit.
Damn knees felt like Jello.
“Beri, you’re magic drunk!” Phro yelled from the other side of the ward. “Why don’t you wait a couple of minutes before you get your ass kicked, eh?”
“I’m doin’ the kicking,” I garbled and closed my eyes for a second. She was bopping around over there and it was making me sick. One of her was enough…but two? “Not drunk either. Just stunned.” I held up my thumb and index finger about an inch apart. “Jus’ a little stunned.”
“Suit yourself.” She shrugged and sneered at the handful of spirits crowding her.
I shook my head and started moving unsteadily up the wall, then yelped when Nikolos swept me completely off my feet and carried me down the hall.
“You want to see why I keep that ward so strong?” His hand slid under my butt.
My neck and a few other places went hot. His chest felt solid and so incredibly warm against my cheek. I squirmed. “So you can feel me up? Put me down!” I felt around for my knife and realized I must have dropped it. “I can walk.”
“Shut up. Just shut up.” He gritted his teeth, tightened his grip on me. “All you had to do was wait until I was here and then ask me. I would have showed you anything you wanted to see.”
“Anything?” I closed my eyes. Oh please, please, let me have just thought that. I opened them to find an answering fire burning in his eyes. I realized he’d been sliding his hand under my ass to get to the door handle, but instead, he turned it palm up and cupped one cheek.
Yeah, I had most definitely said that aloud. “What about Blythe?” I peeked over his shoulder to find her standing where I’d left her—on the other side of the ward. Her eyes were the size of half dollars.
“She does not need to see this.”
The door opened and I twisted my neck to see into the room, only to find myself suddenly glad he was still carrying me. My legs would have given had I been standing because the first thing I saw was photographic carnage. Image after image of things no one should see. It hit me that the person carrying me was the one responsible for what was on these walls. Stunned sober, I smashed my fist into his face. Blood flew from his nose as he dropped me.
I hit the floor, harder this time. Scrambling back, I jumped to my feet and gathered the energy for a roundhouse, but he merely caught my ankle in mid air and flipped me.
Fucking flipped me.
His blood still flowed because it splattered the white floor before I hit it again. My knees cracked on the hard tile. With all the wind knocked out of me, I gulped, choking to bring in air, but I quickly stood. My mind desperately tried to sort the images on the walls around me, to understand why he had them there and before I could stop it, acid washed up my esophagus. Spotting a gray trashcan in the corner, I lunged and lost my fast-food breakfast. “Oh man,” I gasped, knees wobbly.
“See why I didn’t want the little witch in here?”
His deep voice was right over my head. I should have known he was a killer, shouldn’t have listened to my suddenly alive and begging female parts and focused instead on the mass of trapped victims around him. Victims that now had faces. People slaughtered like animals.
A cold, wet towel flopped over the back of my exposed neck.
“I didn’t kill these people.”
“You can read minds?”
“No. Reason and deduction, Beri. I warded this part of my shop so animated beings could not pass. I covered the walls with news clippings and photographs of murder victims. But I did not kill these people. Stand up and look again.”