(Note, there’s still time to vote for Maddox at All Romance eBook’s Ultimate Shifter Challenge. Head here.)
The next Stirling Falls book is almost here! The book drops August 13.
This one took a while. It’s a long book and had a lot of threads to pull together, but I’m really rather happy with it. A couple of notes and then I’ll add an excerpt…
- It’ll be released in eBook and trade paperback, as Wild Horses was. If you only read in print or prefer it for your shelf, there you go.
- The eBook price point will be $1 higher than WH. This is because it’s a longer book. I know a lot of people were unhappy with the length of WH: Cold Cold Winter but that was never intended to be a novel (which is why I tried to include the word “novella” everywhere) and that’s why it was $2 cheaper than WH. Sympathy for the Devil is about 50% longer than Wild Horses, so it’ll be selling for $5.99. (To put this in perspective: Amazon guestimates WH is 198 pgs, based on about 242 words a page; with that as a reference, Sympathy would be 301 pages).
- This is more of an erotic suspense novel with less humor than Wild Horses. It also has stronger BDSM elements. Reader discretion is advised.
Ready for the first chapter? Here you go!
door of Main Street’s Bar & Grill into the din of country music, laughter
and voices chatting, and cues striking balls in the corner pool table. Closed
for usual business though open in that all of Stirling Falls’ residents were
invited in, the bar was hopping with energy and full to the brim with people. Multi-colored
streamers fluttered when people moved and a wall of thick, humid air struck her.
Mr. Holloway apparently didn’t have the air conditioner running—the thing
seemed to die at least three times every summer.
between a pair of heavy-set truckers in a lineup for the bar, ducked under an
arm swinging a stein of beer, and burst through a break in the crowd only to
bump into a very, very pregnant woman.
brown eyes wide and startled for a moment before warming. “Yay, you’re finally
awkwardly with the large baby bump in between them. “Don’t take this the wrong
way, sweetie, but every time I see you, I think you’ve somehow possibly
squeezed more fetuses in there.”
hand across her abdomen. “So far it’s just the one but I suspect it’s not
planning on leaving—there’s probably a crib and dresser in there already.” She
wore a white baby-doll style dress with spaghetti straps, the hem falling to
her knees, loose and comfortable. Her long black hair was pinned up, but sweat
beaded her brow—the heat must be getting to her too.
doted on her excessively—if he’d been intending to get her something, he’d
already be back. “What happened to him?”
his boss, Gus, about something or another—the sound of their voices didn’t
carry across the room.
farm and the owners are idiots—blah blah, the hell if I know what he’s going on
that. Most of these people didn’t need to be sitting. She spotted a couple of
teens at a table a few feet away—nothing wrong with their legs and none of them
was pregnant considering they were all boys.
argument on this.”
out, feet on the spare chair. He gazed up lazily and gave her a cocky grin.
school yet, Tommy.”
thud, loud even over the din of noise in the room. His boots had left a dusting
of dirt on the chair; Tash looked pointedly at the evidence of his footwear on
the seat, then back at him.
she waited while he swept off the seat with his hand and then stood abruptly,
nodding at his companions and jerking his thumb over his shoulder. The group of
them got up and left.
when my kid’s in trouble, it’s not going to call you, the cool aunt. Oh no,
it’ll come straight home to me because you are so not gonna provide bail
leave the hospital. Now I,” Tash set down her purse next to Dani, “will go get
that drink and try to pretend like I’ve been here for an hour.” She slipped
away from the table, squeezing between patrons again. At least she wasn’t
underdressed by the look of it; everyone around here dressed casual no matter
the occasion, so her dark low-rise jeans and black tank top fit in fine. She
swiped curly black hair from her brow and wedged herself in a spot at the bar.
insane they only had one guy working tonight. She frowned as she waited,
drumming her fingers on the countertop. Patience was not something she’d been
born with and she wouldn’t start now. With a sigh she left the bar and headed
around the side, ducking beneath the counter and heading straight for the
didn’t immediately recognize him but he must’ve known her as he backed off.
“Sorry,” he continued while she retrieved a bottle of water for Dani and bottle
of smoked Scotch ale for herself. “Amy is AWOL and I can’t get in a
ducked back out from under the bar.
mouth opening to likely come up with some explanation.
woman before she expires.”
hurt from the tree she’d been lodged in for hours waiting for her client’s
husband to show up with his mistress. The good news was she had photos and soon
the other half of her paycheck. The bad news was she nearly missed her boss’s
with you guys in a sec.”
Natasha for the door at the back that said KITCHEN – STAFF ONLY. She wasn’t
staff but, much like the bar, it didn’t stop her from strolling in like she
owned the place. She hadn’t opened her bottle of ale yet but just holding the
condensation-drenched bottle cooled her off considerably.
lit kitchen. One fan spun overhead while another sat on the end of the counter
and turned back and forth, drying the sweat on her skin and blowing her hair.
book with a worn spine—an old Harlequin, of all things, and it caused a bit of
cognitive dissonance, seeing a large, gruff man in old jeans and a
crookedly-buttoned denim shirt reading a romance novel.
private investigator extraordinaire, and her boss and mentor for the past few
years. Though he wasn’t doing anything with his retirement other than fishing and
spending time with his wife, Natasha would still miss him.
her drink. “They’re gonna notice when I bring out the cake and there’s no one
to cut it.”
offered him her ale, which he accepted. “Maybe I can put it off—”
can’t put it off once there’s cake involved.”
appreciatively. “Yeah, and Susan’ll be on my case about it. But,” he glanced at
Tash sideways, “you know I’m still here. If you need anything—”
for this, after all. Long hours, extra cases. Sure, the sign would still read
MALONE AND ASSOCIATES, PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS on the door. For now. People
trusted the Malone name, after all.
heels of her sandals clicked on the tile as she crossed the bright kitchen.
bearded mountain who was like a wall of fleshy denim. But he had a soft heart
and a soft smile, the latter of which he offered her now. “You know there’s no
race. Take a break once in a while. Have fun. It’s even more important when I’m
knows, I might even date. Maybe. At some point.” Before he could laugh, she
added, “It could happen.”
ambled out of the kitchen.
big deal. Plenty of men worked long hours and no one said a word. But she was
twenty-seven and suddenly a woman who took her job seriously was cause for
concern? Antiquated attitudes prevailed in town, and while it wasn’t a
surprise, it still burned her a little.
sides narrowly close to brushing icing on the refrigerator walls. For a moment
she stared down at it—a blue lake across the front of it and fishing pole.
HAPPY RETIREMENT, GREGORY!
her. He’d been a good boss, a good mentor. And even though it merely meant he
wouldn’t be working in the office anymore, still, things were changing.
door shut with her heel, and headed out of the kitchen.
Natasha. Adam had taken Danyiah home already, a few of the families had left,
and the noise inside had grown louder, full of raucous laughter and loud music.
She slipped outside, unnoticed, for air.
leaned against the side of the Bar & Grill and wished she could’ve brought
while technically not a work day, she’d be in the office anyway. There were the
last of Malone’s files to sort, the upcoming week’s cases to go over, and a
host of other things.
night. There was another bar open a few blocks away, but aside from the thrum
of heavy metal and periodic shouting voices that carried, Stirling Falls might
as well have been a ghost town.
bisected Main Street, right by the Bar & Grill. Shadows hid whoever was
there until light at the end of a cigarette flared, briefly showing the figure
of a man before fading. Smoke drifted out.
deep and rich, edged in gravel—the kind of voice that could give a girl goose
bumps if he said just the right thing.
Eight’s over on Prince, though. Follow the noise. Pay extra and they’ll let you
smoke in there, too.”
possible without actually staring. But the shadows were too thick to
make out much other than his height and build—tall and broad. Her lips parted
to say more but a revved engine and squeal of tires drew her focus to her
double parking on an angle. The driver’s door swung open while the car was
still rocking, engine still running and headlights cutting across the road. A
man flew out of the vehicle, face violently red and she didn’t think it was
from the heat.
terribly big guy but anger had a way of making an average-sized man seem huge. “I’m
gonna kill you!”
Gus’s table, which was where her Beretta 92F waited in a holster. “Calm down,
of the restaurant, the window behind her rattling—the door was three feet away and
now Gordie Martin was too close to avoid, getting right in her face, his
still-pointing finger nearly striking her throat.
people in her line of work were as likely to be recorded as whoever she was
hired to spy on. Gordie’s wife probably could’ve hired the neighborhood kids
with cell phones to film her husband and his mistress, and saved a lot of
launched himself at her and she pulled her fist back to punch him.
jerking his arm back. The stranger twisted her attacker around and thrust him
forward, slamming him on the hood of the car.
back pocket, which she withdrew and began dialing. “Charges of threats and
attempted assault will look great for you during your divorce
proceedings, I’m sure,” Tash said with a dramatic sigh. “Can’t wait ’til this
info goes public.”
other man moved, shoving off the car, casting a glare at Tash, and then
returning to his car.
sight. Well, that was going to go over well with her client—the woman would not
be happy that she’d been made. She’d have to get the photos to her first thing
in the morning—and get paid—before Gordie could explain or apologize
returned her phone to her back pocket, then shifted her attention to the man
who had intervened.
had gone. He wore a dark jacket despite the heat, chocolate-colored hair cut
short—it looked like a fresh trim. Caucasian. Little else she could make out. Tash
took a step to the right, casually, angling herself to at least see his profile.
His nose was well-cut and proud, jaw square and a flicker of movement suggested
he ground his teeth. She couldn’t make out the color of his eyes with the
shadow streetlights cast, but they were narrowed, still, on where Gordie had
taken. The hardness of his expression faded as his eyes settled on hers.
smoldering look. Her mouth was dry. She licked her lips, tried to find her
voice. “Buy you a beer?”
Noise spilled out, as did people. He snapped his mouth closed and turned his
restaurant, arm in arm, chuckling. She swung back, but the other man had left.
A glance both left and right down the street, and she found no sign of him.
With a sigh, Tash headed back inside for one more drink before heading home.