Friday, June 29, 2012

New Release! The Donors by Jeffrey Wilson

Hey y'all!  Be on the lookout for a review and author interview with Jeffrey coming up in the next few weeks (I'm reading RIGHT NOW!).  For now, here's all the official info on the release of The Donors, which is on sale TODAY!!!

Also, HAPPY 10TH ANNIVERSARY to my amazing hubby! :-) <3


SAN FRANCISCO, June 25, 2012 –JournalStone Publishing President, Christopher C. Payne is pleased to announce the imminent release of Jeffrey Wilson’s novel, The Donors, which will go on sale on June 29th.

ISBN 13: 978-1-936564-46-0
LCCN: 2012937961
Category: Horror/Dark Fantasy/Occult/ Supernatural/Paranormal                 
Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback
Trim: 9x6
Page Count:  248
Pub Date: June 29, 2012

An evil force is at work at the Hospital where Nathan is recovering from injuries he received at the hands of his Mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend. Demonic looking men with pale faces and glowing eyes lurk in the shadows. Someone is harvesting skin and organs from living donors against their will. In his dreams, Nathan can see these demons in their true form -- evil creatures who feed on the fear and hatred they create in their victims. Nathan’s only ally is the Doctor who cares for him. Together they must find a way to stop these creatures before they, and their loved ones, become the next victims.

“With its tight muscular prose and sharp dialogue, The Donors will keep you hooked from the opening page. Wilson has written a novel packed with surprises and suspense, and drawn characters whose every pang the reader feels. This is a novel full of visceral, intense moments. It will keep you holding on until the brilliant end.” - Richard Godwin, author of Mr. Glamour and Apostle Rising.

“Jeffrey Wilson can spin a chilling scene with the best of them, but it’s his characters that make his writing so horrifying.  These are real people and real families, and Wilson forces us to walk with them on a terrifying journey into the blackest shadows where creatures of primordial evil feed on their darkest fears.”  -  Brett J. Talley, 2011 Bram Stoker Finalist and author of That Which Should Not Be and The Void

About the Author: Jeffrey Wilson has worked as an actor, a firefighter, a paramedic, a jet pilot, a diving instructor, a Naval Officer, and a Vascular and Trauma Surgeon. He also served two tours in Iraq as a combat surgeon with both the Marines and with a Joint Special Operations Task Force. He has written dozens of short stories, won a few fiction competitions, and participated in the National Endowment for the Arts “Operation Homecoming” collection. The Traiteur's Ring is his first published novel. Jeff and his wife, Wendy, are Virginia natives who, with children Emma, Jack, and Connor, call Tampa, Florida home. When not working as a surgeon or chasing his three kids, Jeff is hard at work on his next novel.

JournalStone Publishing is a small press publishing company, focusing in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres in both the adult and young adult markets.  We publish in multiple book formats and market our authors on a global level. In addition to showcasing new authors, JournalStone publishes a yearly anthology of collected short stories, and we host an annual contest for Horror Novels. We are also active with major writer’s groups, including the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and produce a monthly newsletter with exposure to thousands of people. Our online presence and marketing effort is constantly expanding and recently we began our own forum. The company’s main goal is to publish quality novels that will showcase an author’s work and promote that work utilizing our evolving presence. Assisted by a hard-working and distinguished staff of employees, President and Editor-In-Chief Christopher C. Payne has led JS on a rapid and successful journey to recognition and sales within the marketplace.

With two books nominated for awards in JournalStone’s first 12 months of operation, Chris and his team are still not willing to slow down.  2012 has already seen JournalStone on the front cover of Publishers Weekly magazine in an April issue; with three of its authors highlighted on the inside cover.  Additionally, Joseph Nassise (international bestselling author), Jonathan Maberry (New York Times bestselling author), and Benjamin Kane Ethridge (2010 Bram Stoker Award winner), have been added as JournalStone signed authors, complimenting Brett J. Talley and Anne C. Petty on a shared world anthology titled Limbus, to be released in the fall of 201

# # #
For further information –
Contact:          Christopher C. Payne, President JournalStone Publishing

Friday, June 22, 2012

Guest Post: Writings from the Heart: Stories and Poetry from Around the World - Beth Ann Masarik

Hey guys and gals!  I really don't see enough of you these days.  Editing has sure kept me busy, which I am thankful for, but I miss my Gathering Leaves peeps! :-(

Today I have Ms. Beth Ann Masarik back for a little guest post and to introduce you all to her latest endeavor, an anthology titled Writings from the Heart: Stories and Poetry from Around the World.  

Thank you for having me on your blog today, Cassie!  

Hello everyone!  Today I am here to talk to you about why I think it is important to be compassionate towards the youth.  

For those of you who don’t know, I am a YA author and indie publisher, and I am also one of the adult coordinators of the youth group in my parish. One of the things that I have learned while working with the youth group is that they just want to be heard and have someone that they can talk to and rely on.

That is why it is so important that we support the youth of our world.  For the older generations, the youth of today are going to be the ones that take care of us in the future.  If we don’t show them love and compassion NOW, how can we expect them to show us the same when we are “old?”

That is one of the reasons I have compiled the anthology titled Writings From the Heart: Stories and Poetry From Around the World.  All proceeds from this anthology will go to the pediatric cardiology unit at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of NY.  The cardiology unit is important to me, because when I was a baby, I had open heart surgery. This anthology is my way of giving back to a community that has helped me over the years.

You can find out more information on the anthology by going to the Goodreads page here:

You can purchase the anthology through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Check out this trailer for more details:

Beth Ann Masarik
Author of The World Among Us, Prince of Darkness (available where books are sold!)
Author of 5 star story, Murderous Regrets, a The World Among Us Short Story (available where ebooks are sold!)
Moon Spirit, a The World Among Us short story, available where ebooks are sold!
Luney Writers, an anthology coming in 2012
Founder of Literary Lunes Magazine 
Founder of Wordsmiths and Ink Scribblers writing network
Follow her here:            
Twitter: @theworldamongus           
Personal Website:           

Friday, June 8, 2012

Feature: Excerpt of A Fall of Water (Elemental Mysteries #4) by Elizabeth Hunter

Finally Friday again, folks!  This has been a busy week of work for me, and it looks like a busy weekend of work is in the forecast, but that's okay. I love my job! Part of that job is getting to meet and work with amazing authors, like our guest today!! :-)

Today, as part of her Fall of Water blog tour, Elizabeth Hunter has stopped by to give us a little peek into her latest novel A Fall of Water (Elemental Mysteries #4).

I posted my review of A Fall of Water yesterday.  Be sure to go check that out HERE.

You can find the full tour schedule here:
And enter to win a signed paperback OR a full ebook set of the series here:

So, let's get to the fun stuff!  Enjoy!

Thank you for reading this excerpt from Chapter Two of A Fall of Water: Elemental Mysteries Book Four. 

Throughout the series, Livia has been a mysterious presence in the background: an information source, an ally, and even possibly, a threat. An ancient Roman noblewoman, she has a special relationship with Giovanni Vecchio, along with a history that will become more clear in the fourth book. She is a vampire of extravagant wealth and power, and one of the leading immortals in Europe. But why has she called Gio and B to Rome? And what, exactly, is she going to think about the woman that Giovanni has married?
“What is on your agenda tonight?” [Giovanni] asked as he dressed in his uniform of black slacks and a dress shirt.  Beatrice lounged in the bath, enjoying the calm of the water before she left their room.
“I’ve got some translation to do on the journals.  I already helped Ben with his homework today, but I’ll drive him to Tenzin’s later tonight and practice for a while.”
“I wanted to talk to you about that.  I asked Ernesto to call Baojia back from San Diego.”
Beatrice raised her eyebrow.  “Oh, really?  Did Grandpa decide to let him out of time-out?”
Giovanni grimaced.  “I asked Ernesto to bring him back so he could continue your training.  I spoke to Baojia last week and he wanted to know how your weapons were progressing.  He says Tenzin is not a good enough teacher.”
She smiled.  “It’s going fine, though I’m always grateful for help.  I was talking about it with Tenzin the other night.  She says I’m more than proficient with the dao, and I’m fine with the jian.  I never really liked using a jian much, to be honest, so I’m not too concerned—”
“Baojia says you’re ready for the shuang guo.”
Her eyes lit up.  “The hook-swords?”
He smirked and walked over for a quick kiss.  “Glad you agree.  I’ll probably be in the library most of the night.  I want to go over some of my uncle’s correspondence before we leave for Rome.”
“This trip is going to be safe, right?  I know you want to bring Ben, but it’s not worth it if you think there’s any danger of—”
“Nothing we can’t handle, Tesoro.” He leaned against the edge of the counter.  “We’ll see Livia, and I’ll introduce you to her people.  We’ll play nice for a week or so, and then she’ll lose interest.  That’s what she always does.  She’s always after the shiny new toy.  Right now, she’s curious, that’s all.  Honestly, I should have taken you to see her right after we got married, but we had a bit on the schedule.”
“So no reason to worry?”
“No,” he frowned.  “Are you worried?”
Beatrice shrugged.  “Well, she’s the closest thing I have to a mother-in-law.  From all reports, she’s also an incredibly beautiful, two thousand year old, Roman noblewoman.  And she is, according to you, one of the most powerful vampires in Europe. Nope, nothing intimidating about that at all.”
Giovanni bent down, ignoring the water that soaked his knees.  “Nothing to worry about.  She’ll love you.”
“Yeah?”  She couldn’t hide the skepticism in her voice.
He grabbed her chin and laid a hard kiss on her mouth.  “Since when is my woman afraid?”  
Her eyes narrowed.  “I’m not afraid.”
“Good.”  He stood and straightened his collar.  “You’ll love Rome.  And since Kirby and Desiree can come along with Benjamin, we’ll all have a grand time. Tenzin will...she’ll put up with it for your sake.  Try to persuade her not to kill anyone.”
Thanks again for stopping by the tour! And please check out A Fall of Water: Elemental Mysteries Book Four to find out if Beatrice has anything to worry about in Rome or if everything will go according to Gio's careful plan. Everyone’s favorite characters are back and working together in the final book of the Elemental Mysteries.

Thanks so much, Elizabeth!!  

You can visit Elizabeth here: 

And here's where you can buy the books:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feature: A Fall of Water (Elemental Mysteries #4) by Elizabeth Hunter

Welcome to another fabulous blog feature!  This week, the spotlight is on Ms. Elizabeth Hunter, the author of the amazing Elemental Mysteries series!  I have had the pleasure of working on Elizabeth's books, and I have loved every minute of it. I truly have become a huge fan, and I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to share in this world. 

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of the fourth and final book of the series with a little blog tour, and she will be joining us tomorrow, Friday, June 8, 2012, with a bit of an excerpt including some behind-the-scenes commentary to give you a little peek into the novel.

Today, you can read my review and see what I really think about the book, series, and some of the characters.  Hahaha...  Be sure to stop back by tomorrow!  See you then!

A Fall of Water (Elemental Mysteries #4)
by Elizabeth Hunter
Published June 5, 2012
Available Format: Paperback, ebook

My Rating: ★★★★★

While the couple still mourns their losses in the far East, Gio and Beatrice are called to Rome. The city proves to be a hotbed of vampire politics and danger for the two, as well as their friends, Tenzin and Carwyn.  When Gio is taken prisoner by his "step-mother," it is up to Beatrice to devise a plan for his escape and a way to thwart his captor's power for good.  The elements finally collide in this remarkable conclusion to the series.

Thank God, Elizabeth knows how to write!  Her voice is superb, her characters are so intricately developed, and the plot is absolutely flawless.  I have been completely enamored with this story from the very beginning, and I truly hate to see the series end (although I believe we haven't seen the last of these characters!). 

This book brought out so many emotions in me.  From some steamy love scenes, to fast-paced action, to heart-wrenching good-byes, this book (series) has it all.  At one point, I was in tears, and it struck me that I would be so moved by that particular scene.  I don't want to give any spoilers away, but it was 'a long time a comin',' and it was probably one of the saddest scenes from the series for me.

If you've read any of my other reviews, you know that I am quite the fan of Dottore Vecchio, but I do have to say, I really rather think Father Carwyn is more my type.  Gio would be nice to look at, but Carwyn could certainly keep me laughing, and he obviously has a super-sensitive side as well. I am beyond thrilled that Elizabeth is currently working on a story that is all about Carwyn!  I cannot wait for its release (Winter 2012).

Cover Reveal: Enemy Within by Angeline Kace (plus excerpt, freebie, and Giveaway!)

Enemy Within
by Angeline Kace
Coming August 30, 2012

Two guys who’ve stolen her heart.
Three races and only one of them worthy.
Countless enemies with insatiable bloodlust for power.
Will one girl's curse ultimately save her?

Half-vampire Brooke Keller barely survived the slaying of her worst enemy, only to learn that Zladislov—the world's most powerful vampire, leader of the vampire world, and her father—wants her dead. However, this time, she's not only fighting vampires but a raging monster within her that endangers what's left of her humanity. And when a deadly disease threatens to take her best friend's life, Brooke tries to convince Kaitlynn to accept a monster of her own: becoming a Zao Duh.

As a former slave to the Pijawikas, Mirko is driven to protect the innocent at all costs, but he has never faced a foe more formidable than Zladislov. And when the Commission bears down on Brooke, Mirko finds the stream of enemies runs deeper than he ever imagined.

June 7th - 9th, you can get book one, Descended by Blood, FREE! Head over and grab your copy and see how the story begins...

Enter Angeline's giveaway of one of three eARCs of Enemy Within, which will be delivered as soon as it is ready (late July-early August)!!

If that's not incentive enough, check out this exclusive sneak preview of Enemy Within:

Chapter One


Immortality is a lie. It’s something the Pijawikas tell themselves to feel godly. Pijawikas and Zao Duhs don’t age like humans, but we do age and we can die. With Pijawikas directing the Zao Duhs to do their dirty work, the lie that they will never die is a lot easier for them to believe.
Not so for Zao Duhs. Death doesn’t just haunt me. It slaps me in the face, then holds my eyelids open as person after person dies. I’ve watched people I have known, loved, and who didn’t deserve to, die. Pijawikas don’t mind. As long as the person dying is only a Zao Duh or a human, nothing is lost to them.
Brooke is part Pijawikan and instead of them adding her to their list of sacred lives among the chosen, they see her as an abomination—a death sentence deserved. One I can’t allow them to make good on. I’ve fought for and against the Pijawikas, but I have never felt as strongly as I do now about not giving them what they want.
Brooke is innocent, and she holds a place in my heart so deep I didn’t think it existed before I met her. Pijawikas have broken my heart, and broken my body and almost my mind, but I can’t let them harm her. Not this girl.
When she ran out of her father’s house, the look on her face sent a cold chill through my limbs and sinking horror in my gut. Whatever we thought we conquered had come back tenfold.
She was tired and battered, barely able to clean the dirt and blood off her face and change into clean clothes. Even her nap on the plane couldn’t replenish her. Although she still had enough fight in her to make sure we went home and not on the run from her father.
“He’d find us anywhere,” she had said. “Please. I just want to go home and see my mom and Kaitlynn.”
She was right, and the bruised and heart-wrenching look she gave me melted any resistance I would have put forth. I wasn’t prepared to fight this battle. Not against the Head of Pijawikas. We needed resources and a plan. Garwin could provide the recourse. I still had to come up with a good plan, but no matter how creative a solution I could find, I knew my time with Brooke was limited. Zladislov would hunt her down and kill her. Realistically, I couldn’t save Brooke from her father, but I sure as hell had no doubt I would die trying. I knew my days were numbered.
Garwin came out the front door as we made our way up his steps. He met Brooke with open arms, and even though she whimpered a little when he squeezed her tight, the relief on her face was palpable.
   “I’m glad you’re all right. I have been so worried about you,” Garwin said as he walked us inside.
   Garwin had increased his security since the last time I was there. Strange faces littered the hallway, and a burly man stood by the marble statue. I took note to test his reflexes and agility later. We needed more than to look like a strong force. I needed everyone to deliver when Zladislov arrived.
   “Where’s Mom?” Brooke asked as she looked around and eyed the security detail. 
   “She’s on her way,” Garwin said. “She’s been worried about you. I haven’t told her anything yet, only that you were coming home.” He eased Brooke down on the couch and then took a seat in a large chair by the fireplace. Jaren and I sat on the couch with Brooke across from Garwin. Yes, Jaren was still hanging around. I couldn’t seem to get rid of the kid.
   “I understand you had to be discreet while talking to me on the plane, but I can’t wait for Brooke’s mom to get here. What’s going on?” Garwin had a calm demeanor, but I could feel the anxiousness stirring below the surface.
   “Zladislov’s my father and he wants to kill me,” Brooke said. She didn’t sound scared, but she did sound hopeless and tired.
   “Oh, dear God.” Garwin ran his hand along the outside of his mouth and stood. He walked over to his liquor cabinet and dropped two ice cubes in a glass, then poured his favorite brandy in after. He picked up his glass, swirled the liquid a couple of times and then took a swig. The whole time he stared ahead as if looking at something but seeing nothing. Wherever his mind was, it wasn’t in that room.
   I had never seen Garwin speechless before. He always had someone to call or a brilliant idea to offer as a solution.
   Brooke tensed. “Garwin? Say something.”
   I knew our situation was daunting, but I never expected that eerily distant look in Garwin’s eyes, which only set Brooke further on edge. She was scared but fought to stay awake. Her eyelids grew heavier and heavier with every exhale.
   Garwin stared on for a moment longer before he turned to us. “I have a lot to think about and you need to get some rest,” he said, then looked at me. “Will you make sure she gets to her room all right?”
   “Of course.” I stood and gently tugged Brooke up by her arm.
   She yelped and guilt sliced through me. She was injured and anywhere I touched her I’d cause her pain. However, she didn’t appear to have the strength to get off the couch, let alone climb the stairs to the bedrooms. I bent over and caught her underneath her knees. They buckled with ease and she rested in my arms.
   Jaren rose with a scowl on his face and his footsteps sounded behind us. There was a reason Garwin asked me to take Brooke up to her room and not him; I was best suited to handle her.
   Brooke’s breathing was rough and deep, full of both exhaustion and pain. I hoped once I laid her down, she would fall asleep and the pain would subside.
   I walked as smoothly as I could and paid attention not to jostle her as I climbed the stairs. “Which room?” I whispered to her.
   “It’s the second to last door on the right,” Jaren said. I didn’t like the idea of Jaren knowing which room belonged to Brooke.
   “Hmph,” I huffed, and Brooke stirred slightly. I wouldn’t make any more of that. Brooke needed to rest, not worry about Jaren and me.
   Jaren’s footsteps sped up as he went around us and then turned the doorknob. I paused for a second before entering. A part of me didn’t want to put Brooke down and that side struggled with the part of me that wanted her to be in a painless sleep. The selfish side lost and I moved forward and set her on top of the bed. A content sound escaped her lips, telling me she needed the rest as much or more than I assumed.
   “Thanks for carrying her up,” Jaren said, as if I were doing him a favor.
   “I didn’t do it for you.” A fuzzy blanket lay at the foot of the bed. I grabbed it and covered Brooke’s arms. She seemed to calm and her breathing became more relaxed.
I kissed her forehead, comforted because she was.
   I walked away, but Jaren stepped around me and kissed Brooke on the cheek. Anger and possession flared up inside me. She had yet to choose me, but she was mine. My days with her were numbered and I wasn’t sure how many of them I could deal with this kid trying to one up me. I focused on Brooke to read her response to Jaren’s sign of affection, but there wasn’t one. I expected at least some sort of reaction, even in the slightest, but there was nothing. Almost as if he kissed the cheek of a corpse.
   I had seen this before, but I had to make sure. I strode back over to Brooke’s side and shook her shoulder. “Slatki.”
   She was still as a stone. My fears were confirmed.
   “What’s wrong?” Jaren asked from behind me.
   “She’s in a sleep.” Not even her eyes fluttered from behind her lids.
   “And that means what?”
   I turned to face him so he knew exactly how serious I was. “It means no one comes into this room alone. When she wakes up, she’s going to be ravenous for blood. Anyone in here when she comes to will not be you, or her mother, or anyone else she recognizes. Until she feeds, she will be completely controlled by that hunger. You are not to call Kaitlynn, and no one is to come in here without me with them. Is that clear?”
He glared at me and his jaw tightened but he nodded. 
   I smirked and waited at the door until he cleared it, then I shut it, letting him see that I alone controlled the access to Brooke. I wanted it clear that my commands went deeper than any boyish possession over her. Lives were on the line.
   He marched across the hall, opened a door to another room and then closed it behind him. Did he think he was going to stay in the room across the hall from Brooke? I shook my head and looked to the doors next to Brooke’s. I moved to the one on the left and opened it. Furnished but bare of any personalization. I’d talk to Garwin about taking that one.
   Brooke being in a sleep complicated things. It wouldn’t be easy to move her in her condition and any plans we made would have to be implemented without her input. We couldn’t wait for her to wake, though.
   I descended the stairs two at a time and stopped at the burly guy standing at the stairs’ base. I didn’t need to ask Garwin his thoughts on him as the guy’s mere presence told me everything I needed to know. “Zao Duh?”
  He nodded.
  “Good. Don’t let anyone go inside her room. She’s in a sleep, but if you hear her come out, grab her.”
   His nostrils flared. He knew what that meant, but I wasn’t sure if he’d seen it or just heard about it. “Are you Mirko?”
   “Yes. And you are?” I was familiar with many Zao Duhs, but this one was unknown to me. That would normally make me unsettled, but I trusted Garwin’s judgment. Especially when it came to Brooke. He did hire me at the onset, which was the best call he could’ve made for her.
   “Rorik.” He struck his hand out and I shook it. His grip was firm and assertive, a good indication he was confident in his stature. “I’ve heard a lot about you. It’s a pleasure to finally meet the infamous Mirko.”
   I grinned. Damn right he’d heard of me. I lead some of the fiercest and most sought after group of Zao Duhs on the planet. “I’d like to say the pleasure is mutual, but I need to know a few things first.” Business before anything else. That’s the way I worked, which was what kept people alive. I wasn’t about to let my guard down because some guy was impressed with my name and told me so. 
   “I assume Garwin filled you in on why you’re here?”
   He frowned. “Zladislov is after the girl.”
   “And you care because?” His answer was crucial in gaining my trust.
   “I had a sister about her age who was killed by Pijawikas. I aim to protect the innocent. No matter who the perpetrator is.”
   “Do you understand if you get caught, you’ll be arrested for treason?” Not only was that a loaded question, asking him if he knew the full implication of his actions, but I wanted to see the look on his face when the idea of his death became fresh in his mind.
He didn’t even flinch. “Yes, sir. I do.”
I shook his hand again. “Good. I think we can work together.” That was one down. I only needed about one thousand more to call it a fair fight.
To get a few more, I went to the rental car for my phone and dialed Ace.
   “Hey, man. How’d it go?”
   “Jelena was neutralized—by Brooke, actually.”
   “No shit? How’d she do that?”
   “That will have to wait for later. I need a favor and what I’m about to ask you is huge. I’ll understand if you can’t do it, but I need you.”
   “Bro, you know whatever it is you need, I’m there. What’s up?”
   “Zladislov knows about Brooke and he’s going to kill her. I need reinforcements. I know it’s as close to a suicide mission as you can get, and I’d never ask this of you, but I have to put up some resistance for her—something to make Zladislov’s men think twice when they come for her. I can’t let her go down without a fight. I’m sorry, Ace, but I love her. I can’t not ask this of you.” Ace knew how deep my feelings for Brooke went. I’d made them clear when he and Brooke talked me into using her as bait for Jelena.
   “Whoa. That’s pretty steep.” Silence hung in the air, and I almost regretted asking him. “But you know I’m with you. Where are you? Are you guys on the run?”
   Relief the strength of something unnatural washed over me in waves. The kinship Ace offered was unlike anything I could’ve asked for in my life. Sure, I’d been there to save his ass more than I could count on two hands, but every time I was in a bind, he was there. Just like the time we met.
   I was on a mission to save a kidnapped Pijawikan girl from a rogue Zao Duh. He’d captured her and threatened her life in exchange for money. Life as a Zao Duh is tough, but you don’t use a child like that. Ever. Let alone a Pijawikan child. They’re rare and almost revered within Pijawikan culture. It wasn’t just a recovery mission, though. It was a rescue and assassination. Things went wrong and when I thought my life was over, Ace came out of nowhere and rescued me. Bros ever since.
   “I couldn’t talk her into running. And this might be her final days, so she should get to spend them the way she prefers. But she’s in a sleep right now, so any persuasion I would normally use to get her out of here won’t work, and I can’t just take her. No matter how bad I want to, it’d be wrong, and she’d never forgive me. I can’t do that to her.”
   “A sleep? Talk about worst-case scenario.”
   “God, you have no idea.”
   “So where are you now?”
   “Lexintgton, Virginia. Garwin Johnson’s home. Come and bring everyone who’s willing. Tell them what’s at stake and ask anyone who’s willing to please come. I can’t thank you enough for this, Ace.”
   “I’m with you. Just hang tight. We’ll be there soon.”
   I hung up the phone and smiled, an unexpected happiness started to take root within my chest. I may not be able to stop Zladislov completely, but I was one step closer to delaying him.
   The next step was a plan and I needed Garwin for that, so I went back inside to find him. My phone rang before I reached the den. When I pulled it out of my pocket, Unknown read across the display. “That was quick,” I told Ace when I answered.
   “Yes, I do pride myself on my efficiency.”
   Acid rose in my throat. “Dikan.”
   “It really is heartwarming to find you remember my voice. We’ve had some good times, haven’t we?”
   The bastard taunted me. His idea and my idea of good times were not even in the same hemisphere. “How did you get this number?”
   “A little birdie from The Base gave it to me.”
   I growled.
   “Ah, now don’t take it out on the little birdie. I’m a hard one to resist, as I’m sure you’re well aware.”
   I knew exactly how hard it was to resist him. Resentment took hold of me so swift and strong I heard the phone creak as I squeezed it. I forced myself to release some of the tension in my fingers. I couldn’t afford for the phone to break and end the call. Dikan called for a reason beyond taunting me. Everything he did had ulterior motives. I had to hang on long enough to figure out what they were this time.
My jaw clenched beyond my control, so I had no choice but to speak between my teeth.    “What do you want?”
   Dikan chuckled. “I’m calling out of consideration for you, old friend. I saw how much you were taken by the young melez. It’s sweet really. And disgustingly fitting for you. Too bad it won’t last.” His smirk was layered within his tone. “Jelena’s death will be avenged. Your time with Brooke should be well spent as it will end soon.”
   “You come near her and I’ll kill you. You have nothing to use against me this time.”
   Dikan’s maniacal laugh filled the line. “I’m afraid that’s not so. But until then, I bid you farewell and a pleasant time spent with your lady friend.”
   The call ended, and hatred I had long ago conquered swelled up inside me. Its tentacles took hold around my heart, in my gut, and possessed all possible thought within my mind. I rode it for a flurry of a few minutes until I realized I could no longer allow myself to be controlled by hatred and resentment. I had a purpose beyond revenge and bloodthirsty justice for a past so ugly and wrong. Brooke was my focus now. I pushed harder and harder on the hatred, trying to quell and lock it up enough to clear my mind and get a handle on the proper move I needed to take.
   I concentrated on Brooke: her laughter, her blush, the smell of her hair, and the memory of her velvety skin as I stroked her cheek. The acute memory helped ebb the anger, but what replaced it was less satisfying.
   I looked down on the phone and hit redial. Ace answered on the second ring.
   “I know I said warn the others and to ask those who are willing to come. But I need more than that,” I said, hopelessness thick in my words. “Offer them money. If they won’t come for me, or for Brooke, or because protecting the innocent is what we stand for, offer them money. I’ll split everything I have with those who will be persuaded by it. Just get anyone and everyone you can.” 
   “Sure, sure. What happened?” Ace knew me and he knew it was unusual for me to sound like that—desperate.
   “Dikan called. He’s up to something and I don’t think it has anything to do with Zladislov.”
   “Oh, shit. I’ll see what I can do.”
   Oh, shit was right.