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What readeres are saying:
Beautifully crafted settings
NOTHING TO FEAR
She needed a creative haven. She got a house with its own agenda.
Nothing But Cheer
Someone's going to have to deal with the spirit of the season...
Some things are justified...
“The video just came through.” With a few taps and swipes, Nadia, Calvin’s assistant, sent the video file to the eRover’s console screen. His second-in-command and head of security, Beth, leaned forward from the back seat and they waited for it to start playing. Beth smelled eager to hunt.
Nadia smelled nauseated.
“Nadia, you don’t have to watch.” He’d rarely met someone so repulsed by violence—and he’d spent an inordinate amount of time with trust-fund fashion models for whom a wrinkle or blemish was a dystopian nightmare.
She acknowledged him with a non-committal sound.
He let her be. They knew from the hospital reports what was coming. She could decide for herself whether or not to bear witness.
The visitor’s lot of UCLA’s Holdridge Memorial Wing for Lycanthropic Health was mostly empty. Too early for scheduled appointments, and the moon wouldn’t be full for another week, so there probably hadn’t been many accident victims admitted overnight. Three women in scrubs were badging in through a staff entrance, while a cleaning crew set up to wash the windows of outpatient reception.
After a moment, grainy security camera footage came up on the eRover’s screen, timestamped at the bottom: 5:48 a.m.
In the video, a man in a dark suit—middle aged, white, average height, slightly overweight in a way that suggested a happy life—walked out of a Tarzana Starbucks juggling two coffees and two paper pastry bags. He held the door with his foot for a woman talking on her phone, checked his watch, then began jogging along the front of the building.
He was just passing the building’s corner when a figure appeared from behind a hedge and grabbed him by the throat, throwing him to the ground.
The coffees flew out of frame. The pastry bags fell to the sidewalk.
The man—Terrance Finley—skidded a couple feet, curled in on himself, then began a scrambling effort to rise. He almost made it. It was a good effort for a fifty-three year old who practiced contract law and whose preferred leisure-time activity was online D&D campaigns.
But his attacker was younger, faster, and infinitely meaner. He kicked Finley in the head and the father of three went down hard on his back. In the blink of an eye, the assailant swiped grotesque claws across his belly, opening wounds that bled black on the security footage.
Nadia made a tiny noise and looked away.
Stopping the feed, Calvin leaned in and squinted, trying to bring the footage into some kind of usable focus. “Is that a tattoo on the attacker’s arm?”
Beth reached forward and played with the screen’s settings until she’d zoomed in on the area that had caught his attention. “Hard to say, but it looks like it.” She put her phone next to the vehicle’s in-dash screen. “Here’s Randy Wayne’s tattoo from his last arrest report. Could be a match.”
Wayne, the werewolf they suspected of slicing up Terrance Finley and leaving him for dead outside a strip-mall dumpster corral, had a whole mess of ink on his right forearm. The photo’s alt text read: first layer a word in cursive script—possibly “Janice”— later superimposed with image of a sun with wings [?], and subsequently with stylized vines, possibly morning glory but detail lacking/inaccurate.
A real riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, their Randy.
In the luxurious quiet of his electric Range Rover, Calvin studied the two images side-by-side. “The size and shape are consistent. Between this and the scent evidence, I’ve got enough to justify confronting Wayne. And if I find out he did this…”
Well, Randy Wayne’s life would change irrevocably. Today.
And so would Calvin’s.
Nothing to Fear
Out in the yard, a chill breeze bullied its way through the tangle of tree branches and undergrowth that grew right up to the Cottage in some places while hanging well back in others. The tip of a limb tapped window glass on the south side of the house, then dragged slowly across weathered siding in a screech pitched perfectly to be felt in gut and bones. Eliza shivered and tugged the zipper of her hoodie up to her chin. Then she let her head fall back against the door and laughed tiredly. “God, this house…” She shivered again, feeling very tiny all of a sudden compared to the hulking decay of Chaste Tree Cottage.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket with an incoming message and she thought, what now? The sad truth was that she got more calls and texts from the pharmacy regarding her mother’s medications than from anyone else. After checking her fingers for blood, she pulled out her phone, handling it awkwardly with her uninjured left hand. Her face broke into a smile. It wasn’t the pharmacy—it was Joey.
Her very hot but mostly absentee upstairs tenant.
They weren’t friends, exactly, but they were friendly. Joey always texted her when he was coming back to the Cottage for a few days between assignments. Sometimes because he wanted her to check something in his place for him—make sure the fridge was still running, see if rodents had gotten into his cereal. That sort of thing. But sometimes it was just to touch base. Eliza lived for those texts. Her life might be a bleak existence of managing Minnie’s mental illness and performing futile acts of maintenance on a terminally neglected Victorian, but somewhere out there a hot guy was thinking of her.
Before she could click on Joey’s message, Eliza’s phone flashed a notification that she was now connected to the EcoAbode 3 Smart Thermostat. “Lies,” she muttered, thumbing the window away. Yes, there was a smart thermostat installed in the foyer next to the stairs, but there was nothing else in the house modern enough for it to connect with. No alarm system. No central air. Certainly no solar panels.
Her phone lagged (that was becoming an all-too-frequent issue), then finally disgorged Joey’s text: Coming home tomorrow p.m. for extended stay. Can you turn the heat up in my place?
Eliza tried not to be disappointed. Joey usually prefaced his requests with a little chitchat—where he’d been, what the weather was like there, funny (though non-NDA violating) anecdotes about the clients he was protecting.
Maybe he was having a bad day. He probably wasn’t coming home for a long stay by choice. Joey was a nomad to the bone.
Sure, she replied. You ok?
A small text bubble appeared. Yep. A moment later, he added, minor concussion—no biggie.
Eliza’s heart gave a hard thump and adrenaline trickled cold through her veins. She didn’t know exactly what Joey’s work as an executive security specialist entailed. She’d been too shy to ask. But she worried about him while he was away. Which was stupid, because she had more than enough to worry about between Minnie's mental health and her threadbare finances. Plus, Joey was the epitome of competence and good sense.
But she couldn't help it. He was a good guy, and, through no fault of his own, the highlight of her current living situation. So she worried.
Nothing But cheer
A Dos Alamos holiday novella!
“We’re late,” Joey murmured against Eliza’s mouth.
She nipped at his bottom lip. “Weird. We had so much time when we started getting dressed.”
He grinned. “I wonder where it all went?”
“Total mystery.” She slid a hand around to cup his butt
through his jeans.
He groaned. “We don’t have to go to the craft festival.”
She sighed, nuzzling Joey’s neck. “We really do, though. The moms are expecting us. And I paid for a vendor spot.”
Tonight was the potluck dinner kicking off the winter solstice craft festival at the art colony where Eliza’s mother, Minnie, lived. Resident artists, alumni, friends, and family would get a sneak peek at the wares, then the festival would open to the public tomorrow.
Joey inched her sweater up past her waistline, caressing the skin of her belly with his thumbs. “You could set up your stuff in the morning. It’s pouring out there,” one thumb dipped inside her jeans, “and it’s so warm and dry here at home.”
She laughed, squirming as his touch turned ticklish. “Stop teasing. You know you’re not going to stand up your moms when they’re driving all the way up here from the city. Besides,” she stepped back and adjusted her sweater, “setting up tomorrow would mean being there before dawn. Doors open at eight.”
He sighed. “I was hoping to sleep in this weekend.”
“There ya go. No skipping the potluck, mister.”
Resigned, Joey pulled on the “fab-yule-us” sweater Minnie had knitted him for the occasion. It was a very un-Joey shade of purple, but decadently soft, and it fit him perfectly. He spread his arms and turned in a circle. “How do I look?”
“I mean…” She gestured at the words on his chest. “Obviously, you look fabulous.”
He grinned. “You’re looking pretty fab yourself, hot stuff.”
Eliza glanced down at the long-eared equine decorating her own purple sweater. Happy Mule Tide!
“Are you sure I don’t look like an ass?”
Joey snorted. “Never.”
Coming in 2021!
Single mom Lisa Sommers was just finding her “authentic self” when she was bitten by a werewolf a year ago.
With no time in her schedule to discover a different self, she started an Instagrowl account and otherwise ignored her new inner predator. Now, a threat is stalking her and her daughter.
Is it too late to trade her likes and re-growls for fangs and claws?
Being a Wer Enforcement Bureau Special Agent is more than a job for Phil Gorman: it’s a calling. His team is his pack.
Unfortunately, WEB: Los Angeles is succumbing to budget cuts and political infighting just as a major wer exploitation case erupts. Can he trust local human agencies to help stop a dangerous, anti-wer criminal organization?
Or is it time to bring back old-school werewolf justice?
Liable To Bite is a paranormal romance featuring friends-to-lovers, found family, banter, possible socio-environmental impacts of a werewolf population boom, bad words, and hot sex!
Also in 2021:
July: Wolves of the Furpocalypse #2
October: Dos Alamos #3
Coralie lives in Northern California with her spouse, two teens, two dogs, a cat, and a lot of plants. (Poor plants—always an afterthought.) She loves books, hiking, native flora, stunning vistas, chocolate, and naps.
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