Preview: Valentine 5: The Queen’s Fold

This is it, folks. This is the end of the Valentine series. Book 5 will be out within the next week or so, but in the meantime, here’s a preview from the second chapter. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 2:

The Morning After

 

 

            Val wandered into the bathroom and closed the door, and stood restlessly in front of the sink. She raised her right hand and used the heel of her palm to rub the sleep away from her eyes. It was the morning after the meeting she had asked Kelly to arrange behind her office. The morning after she and her family and friends had reached a unanimous decision: John Rafferty needed to die.

            She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her blond roots were making their presence known within the tufts of pink dye in her hair. Dark circles were developing under her eyes.  She sighed, and twisted the hot water knob on the faucet. It always took the hot water a few seconds to become hot. Val leaned forward slightly, and pulled the collar of her t-shirt down, just far enough to see the scar below her shoulder. The scar from her bullet wound…

            There was a sudden knock at the bathroom door. “Val? Are you in there?”

            Val looked over at the door and gave it half of a smile. “Hey, Ronnie,” she said. “Do you need to come in?”

            “Kinda,” Veronica said, through the door.

            Val walked over to the door and opened it, and a grateful Veronica stepped inside. “Sorry,” she said. “I really need to go.”

            “Go for it,” Val said. She closed the door and returned to the sink. The water was hot now. She pulled the lever for the stopper, and reached for her wash cloth on the nearby towel rack. As she wet her face, and lathered it with soap, she asked, “Did you sleep well?”

            “Not really,” Veronica replied. She stood up, and flushed the toilet. “I kept thinking about our meeting yesterday. I don’t think everyone there fully comprehended what we decided to do.”

            Val used her wash cloth to clean her face. “Why do you say that?” she asked.

            “Because the concept of it is absolutely crazy,” Veronica said. She watched Val wring out her wash cloth, then drain the water from the sink. Val stepped aside, and Veronica washed her hands. They reached for their towels simultaneously.

            “It’s crazy to anyone who isn’t involved,” Val said. “Or, to anyone who isn’t part of the Syndicate. But for us, this is normal. Would you rather we let Rafferty live?”

            Veronica sighed. “No,” she said.

            “The only other option, is to let him kill me,” Val said. “His beef is with me, more than any of you.”

            “I don’t want that either!” Veronica said. “It’s just that, we’re talking about killing someone! That’s not normal.”

            “It’s normal for this family,” Val said.

            They walked out of the bathroom, and down the hall to the living room. Victoria and Melinda were already awake, and in front of the TV, watching Cartoon Network and eating bowls of cereal. They looked back at Val and Veronica and smiled.

            “Good morning,” Victoria said, through her mouth full of Cheerios. “Uncle Vincent already left for work.”

            “Okay,” Val said.

            There was a knock at the door, and Veronica was the first to make a move to answer it. When she opened it, she was surprised to see Jo on the other side. “Hey, Jo,” she said, as Jo entered the apartment.

            “Morning, pretty,” Jo said. She chuckled when Veronica blushed. “Hey, ladies. I brought donuts, but I see you’re already eating cereal.”

            “We can eat both!” Melinda exclaimed.

            “I haven’t had anything yet,” Val said, eyeing the Dunkin Donuts shopping bag in Jo’s hand. “Thanks, Jo.”

            “No problem,” Jo said. She set the bag upon the counter.

            “Hey, I know what I want to do this summer,” Melinda said. “I heard someone at school talking about the Pride Parade in June. I wanna go!”

            Veronica, Val and Jo all turned to her in surprise. “The Pride Parade?” Val asked.

            Melinda set her bowl on the coffee table and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes!” she said. “Can we go this year?”

            “Uh, sweetie, do you know what the Pride Parade is for?” Jo asked.

            “Sure,” Melinda said. “It’s about celebrating who you are, and being proud of yourself and your friends.”

            Jo turned to Val and Victoria and smiled. “She’s so innocent, it’s too adorable,” she said. She turned back to Melinda, and said, “Well, you’re not wrong. Pride celebrates the LGBTQ community. It reminds people to be tolerant and open-minded, and embrace everyone’s differences. It helps the community be more aware of people like me.”

            Melinda blinked at her in surprise. “What, do you mean, like, other Marines?”

            Jo raised her eyebrows. “You’re really adorable, do you know that?”

            Melinda beamed, and picked up her bowl of cereal. “Thank you.” Victoria leaned over and whispered something into Melinda’s ear.

            Jo smiled at Val and Veronica. “This year, she should lead the Pride Parade.”

 

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Preview: The Witch of Fulton Lane

 

Greetings, good readers! I’m working on a new book, The Witch of Fulton Lane. This will be my first supernatural story, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. In the mean time, here’s a little preview from the first chapter. Enjoy!

 

She had never been on an airplane before. She had only seen them in the picture books and magazines her mother provided for her, in order to fuel her imagination. In her books, the planes looked big and shiny, and the people on them looked so excited. They were flying to new lands; new destinations. Why shouldn’t they be excited? Planes went anywhere and everywhere. A few days ago, she boarded a plane for the first time ever, to visit the south. Today, her plane was flying both her and her mother home to New York, from an art festival in South Carolina.

The festival had lasted five days, and took place in a public park. Rue Maycriss and her seven-year-old daughter Dylan had flown in and arrived in time for the beginning of the second day. Rue was an artist, among many other things, and was selling some of her abstract paintings at the festival. Her husband, Marcus, had declined to join them on their trip. Instead, he had taken them to the airport, and agreed to pick them up upon their return.

At the terminal, Rue and Dylan sat side by side, watching the other passengers as they walked by. Rue looked over at her daughter and smiled. “Can you believe we sold all of our paintings?” she asked.

Dylan’s face lit up. “Everybody wanted one!” she exclaimed. “Your paintings are really good, Mommy.”

“Our paintings,” Rue corrected. “You helped me paint most of them. We should take the money we made, and open a savings account for you.”

“Can we really?” Dylan asked.

Rue nodded. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “Of course, we’ll have to ask Daddy, first.”

Dylan frowned. “Daddy won’t like it.”

Rue placed her arm around her daughter. “We’ll just see about that,” she said, with a wink.

Their flight was announced, and they stood up from their seats. The first class passengers boarded first, followed by unaccompanied minors. The coach passengers were next. As Rue led her daughter onto the plane and to their seats, she felt a sudden sharp pain in the pit of her stomach. Dylan noticed her discomfort, and placed her little hand over her mother’s. “Are you okay, Mommy?”

Rue nodded quickly. “Mommy’s fine,” she said. “I think I had too much ice cream yesterday.”

“That’s okay,” Dylan said. “When we get home, you can take the pink stuff.”

Rue smiled. When we get home, she thought.

As the plane drove out to the runway, Dylan looked out her window, and watched the other planes take off. A flight attendant passed through the aisle, checking to see if everyone was buckled in. As the plane made its way down the runway, gaining speed with every second, the sharp pain in Rue’s stomach returned. Damn it, she thought. Not here! Not like this!

            Dylan had turned away from her window and was staring at her mother. “Mommy?”

Rue tried to smile, but Dylan was an intelligent child, and she couldn’t hide anything from her. “Dylan, baby, do you remember what Mommy taught you? Do you remember how to hold things together?”

Dylan shook her head vigorously. “Yes, I remember. Why?”

“You’re gonna have to do that, very soon,” Rue said. “There’s something wrong with—”

The airplane suddenly shook violently. The lights flickered on and off. Passengers began to look all around, and the flight attendants stepped into the front of the aisle, trying to reassure everyone, it was only turbulence. Then the plane shook again. The cabin of the 747 suddenly went black, and a few people screamed. The captain was speaking over the intercom, stating it was just a little turbulence. What he hadn’t mentioned, was the 747 was having engine trouble.

“We’ve only been in the air for less than five minutes!” a man near the rear of the cabin shouted.

Rue shut her eyes, and took a deep breath. She held the silver pentagram, which hung around her neck on a black cord. Maybe, I can do it, she thought. Maybe I can fix it, and Dylan won’t have to…

            The lights inside the cabin turned on, and the plane stopped shaking. The passengers began to settle. Rue opened her eyes, and looked around, and found Dylan smiling at her. “You made it better, didn’t you, Mommy?” she asked.

Rue gave a sigh of relief. “Yes, I think I did,” she said. “Let’s just hope it holds.”

 

 

Forty minutes into the flight, the plane began to shake again. This time was worse than before. This time, oxygen masks dropped down from their compartments in the ceiling. People began to scream. The flight attendants were powerless to calm anyone down. Dylan looked out her window, and noticed thick black smoke, coming from one of the engines. Without turning her gaze away from the window, she reached out and tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy,” she whispered.

“I see it, too,” Rue said. “Dylan, it’s time. I need you to help me. I need you to help me hold this plane together.”

Dylan trembled as she nodded her head. She and her mother joined hands, and closed their eyes. Rue grasped her pentagram, as both of the plane’s engine shut off. The 747 began to descend, rapidly.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” a flight attendant shouted. “Please put your oxygen masks on, and fasten your seatbelts!”

“Just concentrate,” Rue said. “Don’t listen to the other people, or the noises inside the plane. Just focus on holding the plane together. Picture the outside of the plane, and hold it, really tight, with your mind.”

Dylan nodded her head and concentrated as hard as her seven year old mind could.

The other passengers were screaming and yelling; some were saying the plane was about to crash. The flight attendants tried to keep everyone calm, but even they knew they were in danger.

“Hold the plane, Dylan!” Rue shouted.

Dylan concentrated even harder, as the plane came ever closer to the ground…

 

 

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Sample from “Valentine 4” (coming soon!)

. “Interesting,” Kelly said.  “Would you like Jo to shoot her for you?”

“I could,” Jo said.

Veronica came back into the living room. “What?” she said.

“Or one of us could do it,” Mac said.

“I’d be glad to do it,” Lola said.

“Why don’t we draw straws?” Jo asked.

Val looked around at the faces of her friends, laughed. “Oh my God,” she said. “All my friends are killers. How did that happen?”

Preview of “Rowdy”

“Rowdy”, part three of the Our Lady of Righteous Rage series, is coming out at the end of the month. Here’s a little preview: Chapters 1-2. Enjoy!

 

Chapter One

Amy

 

            I was sitting on the couch inside the recording studio at Urban Collective, scanning an article in Alternative Press magazine. If anyone had asked me what the article was about, I couldn’t have told them. I wasn’t reading it; not really. There were words and pictures on the page, but all I could see was red. I’d never been so pissed off in all my life. My friends and I had been busting our asses to make a name for our band, and my idiot ex-husband was working to destroy it all! Who the hell does that?

            “Did you know Kurt Cobain died on my sixteenth birthday?”

            I looked up from the magazine to see Aidan, sitting across from me on a stool, scrolling through his phone. He looked up from the screen and smiled at me. “That’s pretty trippy, right?”

            I shook my head and sighed. “I’m sorry, Aidan,” I said. “I completely forgot you were here. I’m still so angry about this whole thing with David.”

            “I know,” Aidan said. He slid his phone into his back pocket, and clasped his hands in his lap. “So, what are we gonna do about him?”

            “I don’t know yet,” I replied. “Nick said he wanted to talk to David, one on one. And Rob…well, Rob just wants to kick his ass.” I set the magazine down on the cushion next to me. “So does Jon.”

            “Well, you can add my name to that list, too,” Aidan said. “Piece of shit. What was he thinking?”

            I shook my head at the idea. “To think we used to be friends,” I said. “I mean, I always believed we would still have that, you know? I believed, even if we didn’t work out as a couple, we could at least hold on to our friendship. I guess I thought wrong.”

            Aidan smiled at me. “David never knew what he had when he was with you,” he said. “That’s why he’s so pissed off. He lost the greatest thing that ever happened to him.”

            “Aidan?” I said, feeling my eyes becoming watery. “Dude, don’t say stuff like that! You’re gonna make me cry.”

            “It’s the truth!” Aidan insisted. “Losing you fucked him up.”

            At that moment, Nick walked in, and plopped down beside me. “Hey,” he said, with a sigh. “What’s up?”

            “The ceiling,” Aidan replied. “What’s up with you?”

            Nick smirked at him. “Trying to figure out what to do about this David situation,” he said. “I could just have him killed, you know. The Lianetti name carries a lot of weight in Sicily, and all I have to do is make a phone call and pay for a plane ticket—”

            “Stop,” I said. “We’re not having anyone killed. We’re going to be rational adults about this.”

            “I don’t want to be a rational adult,” Aidan said, flicking his tail. “I wanna put my foot up David’s ass.”

            “So do I,” I said. “But that’s not the way to handle this.”

            Nick reached up and scratched the back of his head. “Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “What we need to do, is keep doing what we’ve been doing. We need to keep making music.”

            “We need to release another album,” Aidan said.

            Nick nodded in agreement. “I’m going to start working on some songs. If you guys come up with anything, let me know, and we’ll work on it.” He paused for a moment, then added. “I did try to call David, but he wouldn’t answer his cell or return any of my calls. I know he got my voice mails.”

            “Don’t worry about him,” I said. “Like you said, we need to focus on making music.”

Chapter Two

Nick

 

 

 

            It’s always the ones you least suspect, who screw you over. If a total stranger had been behind all of our problems, I could live with that. But my cousin? My own family? How am I supposed to feel about that?

            When I left the studio, I went home. Nyda wasn’t in yet, so I had the place to myself. With so much idle time on my hands, I figured I could get some writing done. We needed a new album; one that would blow all of our haters out of the water. I had a lot of work ahead of me.

 

 

Sneak Peek at “Black Queen; Killing Machine”

I’m currently working on 3 manuscripts now, and I’d like to share a little sneak peek at the upcoming “Black Queen; Killing Machine”, another book in the “Valentine Apart” series, featuring Jo Fuentes, who I introduced in the third Valentine book. Enjoy!

 

Roger Plankman could feel the blood rushing to his head, as he dangled six flights up, over the side of the motel. Jo had a vice grip on his ankles, but every few seconds, she would lower him, then raise him again. He heard her groan, then he felt her tighten her grip even more. “He’s getting heavy, Kelly,” she whined.

            “I know, I know,” Kelly said. She put one foot up on the edge of the building, and leaned forward, with her hands resting upon her thigh. “What’s it going to be, Roger? Are you going to tell me what I want to know, or am I going to have to let Jo drop you?”

            “I don’t know anything!!” Roger insisted. “I swear!”

            Kelly rolled her eyes. “This is becoming very tiresome.”

            “Tell me about it,” Jo muttered.

            “So, you’re not going to cooperate?” Kelly asked.

            “I don’t know anything!” Roger declared.

            Kelly sighed heavily, stood up straight, and waved her hand. “Oh, just drop him,” she said.

            Jo shrugged, and release both of Roger’s ankles. He yelled as he plummeted towards the pavement below. He landed in a heap beside a dumpster. Jo leaned over the edge and looked down at him, and gasped. “Hey, look!” she said. “The fall didn’t kill him.”

            Kelly stood beside her and looked down at where Roger had fallen. She saw him move his head, and one of his hands tried to reach up, towards them. “Oh,” she said. She reached into her waist band, and pulled out her hand gun. Pointing it down at Roger, she fired a single shot, and struck the center of his chest. “Yes it did,” she said, flatly. “Let’s go.”

 

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Black Queen: Killing Machine

Two more books in the Valentine Apart series are on their way! Until they are ready, here’s a sample of the first chapter of Black Queen: Killing Machine. This book in the series reveals Jo Fuentes’ s past, before she met Valentine and just before she began working for Kelly McCormick. Enjoy!

 

Chapter One

She sat at the table, with her head down; right ear pressed against the surface. Her eyes were open, staring straight ahead at the metal door. The room was a typical interrogation room: painted in that drab matte gray. No windows. No pictures. No contact with the outside world. Only silence. Beyond the door, she imagined people going about their business, doing their jobs. Filing paperwork. Making phone calls. People in their fatigues or “dress blues”. Maybe a handful of people in “civies”. People who were moving around and doing important things, while she sat in a quiet little room, just waiting…

The door suddenly opened, and a man in uniform stepped inside. He was carrying a manila folder. She lifted her head and stood up from her seat, and saluted him. He nodded as he walked over to the table and took the seat across from her. He gestured for her to sit back down. Her eyes remained on his uniform as she seated herself. Marine. A Colonel. Bars. Awards. This guy seemed important.

“I’m Colonel Brantley,” he said. He set the folder on the table, and opened it. “It’s good to have you state-side, Lance Corporal Fuentes.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said. “But everyone calls me Jo.”

Brantley looked up at her through middle-aged gray eyes. “Jo, is it?” he said. “Jo. Okay, Jo. We need to talk about what happened. I’m going to ask you some questions, for my report. Is that okay with you?”

“Begging your pardon, sir,” Jo said, “But I thought a report had already been filed.”

“This is for my report,” Brantley clarified. “You see, what happened to you is a pretty extraordinary thing. I would like to know more about it.”

Jo shrugged her shoulders. “There’s nothing more for me to tell, sir,” she said. “We came under attack. Corporal Sullivan and I survived, and we’re both here in the states.”

Brantley looked down at the contents of the folder. He thumbed through a few documents, then looked at the eight-by-ten photos behind them. “I believe there’s more to it than that,” he said. He looked up at Jo. “Do you remember that day, Jo? Do you remember what happened?”

Jo stared ahead at him. Her face was still, but her mind was active. Images a Hummer, driving down a road in the Iraqi desert, her unit talking and laughing. Sullivan—Sully, as she called

him—made a joke, and everyone laughed. Suddenly, no one was laughing. There was an explosion, followed by darkness…

“Jo? Fuentes?”

She blinked at him, and furrowed her brow. “Yes, sir?”

“I asked you if you recalled anything strange happening before the explosion?”

Jo could feel her heart beating rapidly inside her chest. The explosion. The explosion…

 

(End of Sample)

 

Sample from Novocaine

NovocaineCover

Hello everyone. Here is a sample from my latest book, Novocaine. Enjoy!

10. The New Erin
Mom really wanted me to look into going to school, but I convinced her, it would be better for me to get a job. We needed money. I made a list of all the things I knew Mom needed to pay for, such as insurance for her car, gas, our prepaid cell phones, metro cards, food, and the storage unit in Georgia. She couldn’t do it alone. So, I started putting in applications again. A few places were a little skeptical of even considering me, because of my age. I reminded them, I would be turning eighteen in January.
Finally, I applied at a bookstore called The Strand. On the application, I was asked to match the titles of classic, well-known literary novels with their authors. It was child’s play. Three days later, I received a phone call, to come in for an interview. During the interview, the manager asked me which books I’ve read. I told him all about my childhood love of books, and listed some of my favorites. The manager mentioned it was interesting to meet someone my age, who had read more classics than “fluff”. The interview ended with the standard, “I’ll give you a call”, so I went home and waited. Thankfully, the following day, he did call me, to say I had been hired.
When I got off of the phone with the hiring manager, I screamed like an idiot. I immediately called Mom at work to give her the good news. She said she was proud of me, and working in a bookstore would be good for me. I’d be surrounded by the works of my favorite authors. Plus, I was happy I’d be working in a place where I didn’t have to dress up; I could come to work dressed as myself. My new self.
My first day at The Strand, I realized, I really didn’t have to wait to change my hair. In fact, changing it now would help me blend in a bit more. There wasn’t much of a dress code at The Strand; employees were either dressed in renaissance-style clothing, or punk, or Goth, or grunge, or…whatever. My first day consisted of a tour of the store, learning where each section was located, and watching one of the cashiers run a register. One of the managers said I probably wouldn’t be on the register very often, according to my application and my knowledge of literature, I’d be more useful at the customer service desk or on the floor.
After work, I stopped by a drugstore, and bought a box of black hair color and a bleaching kit. My plan: dye my hair jet black, and bleach my bangs. I’ve been wearing my natural color (dark brown) my entire life. The new Erin required a new hair color.
I followed the instructions to the letter. After dying, shampooing, conditioning, then blow-drying my hair, I had achieved the results I wanted: black hair with bleached bangs. I had also bleached two locks of hair in the front.
“I didn’t think I was going to like it,” Mom said, when I was finished. “But I have to say it looks nice.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I like it, too. I needed a fresh start.” It was a pleasant distraction from the house we were currently living in, and the lop-sided bed I had to sleep on. I know, I’m being negative, and I should be more grateful…I am grateful. But I’m also pissed off at my family, for putting us in this position. Perhaps, I can channel that anger into something positive.
I decided to walk up to Main Street, to the 99 cent store. Mom came with me. I needed some supplies: notebooks, pens, a sketchpad, and the cheapest colored pencils I could find. Roaming the aisles of the store, made me miss a familiar place in Hampton: Paul’s Arts and Crafts. I loved that place. I should stop thinking about it, though. Thinking about it makes me miss Virginia.
I figured, I’m a nerd of sorts, but just being smart doesn’t classify you as a nerd. Liking very specific things, is what makes you a nerd. In my mind, I made a short list of what I liked: punk rock (thank you Green Day and My Chem), art, books (good books, not “fluff”) and science fiction. So, I decided the new Erin needed to devote more time to the things I (she) liked. I used to draw when I was younger; I needed to start drawing again. Mom and I were going to change our driver’s licenses over from Virginia to New York, which meant I’d be able to get a library card and do more reading. And as far as music was concerned, I needed to get into more bands.
During one of my days off I spent the entire day in the library up the street from Aunt Ella’s house. I gathered every book and magazine they had on punk rock, past and present, and started reading and taking notes. I wrote a lot of poetry when I was in school; maybe I could give song writing a try.
I wanted to absorb everything. Gilman Street. Green Day’s beginning. My Chemical Romance’s New Jersey roots. Patti Smith. London punk rock. The Who. The Clash. The Smiths. The Ramones. How punk wasn’t just the way you looked, it was a state of mind. All of it. This would build the new Erin. This would build the new me.
Mom and I agreed to save as much money as possible. In between saving, since I had a job, I was permitted to make small purchases here and there. Nothing major. If I saw an inexpensive band T-shirt, or a magazine, I could buy it with my own money. It made me feel normal, or at least, next to it.

END OF SAMPLE

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