Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Look: The Devil's Playground

Enjoy this first look at my new romantic suspense, The Devil's Playground!


Professional burlesque dancer Francesca "Frankie" Strong has learned the hard way: on San Francisco's cutthroat party circuit, crime has a way of going unnoticed. When her best friend is brutally attacked, she's determined not to let the case fall through the cracks, even if that means crawling through every alley and back room in San Francisco to find the truth.

Undercover cop Johnny Marsden is in desperate need of a win.  His career on the rocks, he's infiltrated  the infamous nightclub Cafe OutrĂ©, rumored front for San Francisco's Chinatown mafia.  Johnny has  never seen anything like the glitter-and-sin-encrusted world he's now a part of.  He's certainly never  met anyone like Frankie Strong.

Realizing they'll get farther together than on their own, Frankie and Johnny forge an uneasy  partnership. Neither expects the heat that flares between them. Neither is ready for what it could  mean. Together, they run down a trail that leads directly to Chinatown, and a faceless terror its  residents refuse to name.

Frankie's only interest is in protecting her friend, and she's willing to make a deal with the devil to do it.  But Johnny suspects the attack was part of something larger, something darker... and he's right.

***

CHAPTER ONE 



"Move over, would you? I need to put on my mustache."

Francesca Strong sifted through the jumble of glitter and makeup products littering the top of her vanity. Then she turned to the balding, six-foot-two man applying yet another layer of lipstick beside her. She handed him a small bottle. "Here."

The man snorted, but obediently set down his lipstick. Frankie swallowed a chuckle. Leave it to Cookie Mambo to take "over-the-top" over the top. His lips were slathered a deep fuchsia color. Pink cream blush streaked his pale cheeks, and his yellow and turquoise eyeshadow looked like it had been laid on with a palette knife.

Ah, show business.

She tried not to breathe while Cookie opened the bottle and painted a thin line of adhesive over her upper lip. The acrid scent of acetone burned her eyes nonetheless. She flashed him an appreciative half-smile, careful not to move her face too much.

Bianca used to help you get ready.

Frankie blinked. Her smile faded. Why was she thinking about that now? She started buttoning the crisp white tuxedo shirt over her black pasties. The starchy material itched. She ignored it.

Cookie finished, and passed her a small box. "Need a hand?"

Frankie popped it open. "I got it." She peeled out the thin, startlingly realistic pencil mustache inside and gingerly pressed it above her lip.

He caught her eye in the mirror and batted his thick false lashes at her. "How's my makeup?"

Frankie relaxed and flashed him a teasing grin. "You're the prettiest girl I ever saw."

A loud, brassy swing number pulsed through the dressing room's closed door. The band was on earlier than usual. Frankie double-checked her shirt's stiff French cuffs. In went her cufflinks. The glittering stones in the centers mirrored the deep red of her lipstick. She stood, hooked her thumbs under the suspenders dangling from the waist of her tuxedo pants, pulled them up over her shoulders.

She turned back to Cookie, wriggling her nose to keep the mustache from stiffening. "Catfish said he's pushing the Queens back next week. What's going on?"

Cookie shrugged. "Some new act he brought in. A knife-throwing team. Not my thing, personally. Too sideshow, you know?" Frankie chuckled. Cookie's expression grew devious. "Word is, the guy's a real ladykiller. 'The Blade'. That's his name."

"How original."

Cookie started to speak when the door to the dressing room swung open. Frankie looked up sharply. Her stomach sank. "Oh. It's you."

Of all the people she least wanted to see before a show. Her heart gave a stubborn flutter. She locked her chest. Maybe she'd needed what they'd had before, but she'd been younger then. Stupider. Weaker.

Now she was finally ready to move on.

A rubenesque woman with skin the color of roasted coffee and teased-out black hair leaned back against the door. It shut with a click. Her eyes didn't leave Frankie's face. "Been missing you, Firebug."

Frankie turned back to the vanity. Her cheeks felt hot. Next to her, Cookie was arranging a towering blond beehive atop his bald head. He caught her eye in the mirror and cocked an eyebrow. She shook her head as imperceptibly as possible.

"I saw that." The woman sauntered towards her, taking her time to examine the jumble of silks, velvets, and feathers scattered around the room. With each step, the slit in the side of her royal blue evening gown gaped a little wider.

Seemingly oblivious, she trailed a finger along a blood-red corset hanging on a rack. "Mmm. You should wear this color more often."

Frankie didn't move. The woman came up behind her. Frankie kept her eyes down, refused to see the sumptuous cleavage, the muscular, shapely leg framed in the dress's deep slit. The woman stuck out her lower lip. "Where you been lately?"

Cookie cleared his throat. "Bianca, maybe you should-"

Bianca turned on him. "You stay out of this. And get that goddamn fright wig out of my face." She focused back on Frankie. Her voice dropped. "I miss our act. Catfish said you were the one wanted out. How come?"

She ran one smooth, artistic finger down the side of Frankie's neck. Frankie jumped. "I already told you..."

"You told me nothing." Bianca stepped away. "'Move on'? What does that even mean?"

Frankie's fingers froze on her bow tie. She looked Bianca's reflection dead in the eye. "Please." Don't make a scene. Don't make this worse.

Bianca's face hardened. She whirled on her heel and stomped back the way she'd come. She paused, hand on the doorknob. "You know you can't shake me that easy, Firebug. We got history, you and me. We got a connection. You can't just turn it off."

Frankie's lips tightened, but she didn't answer. Bianca gave a final huff and swept out of the room. The door banged shut behind her.

Frankie allowed herself to breathe again. She felt Cookie's steely gaze. "Just, don't, all right?"

Cookie's face didn't change. "Thought things were over between you two, is all."

Frankie sighed. "They are, it's just... complicated." She might hate it, but Bianca was right. They had a history. Few people knew her as well as Bianca Black. Few people knew what she'd had to do to get where she was.

The ones who did weren't inclined to keep her secrets the way Bianca had.

Cookie looked up from strapping on his size fifteen platform heels. "You know what you need?"

Frankie rolled her eyes. This should be good. "No. But I bet you'll tell me."

"You need to get laid." Cookie stood, took a couple test steps. He winked. "Maybe you could see if 'The Blade' will show you his blade, catch my drift?"

Frankie groaned. "Thanks, but that is the absolute last thing I need."

She walked over to where her tuxedo jacket was hanging ready, paused to touch the satiny fabric of the red corset hanging next to it. She jerked her hand back and tugged the jacket off its hanger. "Help me with this?"

Cookie held it for her while she slid her arms into the sleeves. "Hey, I'm just doing my job as your friend. Everyone else has a life outside this place. But not you. Do you ever go anywhere? Do anything?"

"Sure I do," Frankie lied. She turned around and struck a pose. "How do I look?"

Cookie pursed his dazzling lips, reached out and straightened her bow tie. Then he stepped back and nodded. "I'd do you."

Frankie laughed and headed for the door. "Thanks."

Cookie's voice echoed out behind her. "Break a leg!"

She closed the door and headed into the wings, weaving her practiced way through the darkness and mayhem that had become her life. She glanced around, and her stomach flipped. She tried to convince herself it was just pre-performance jitters, but deep down she knew that was a lie. Frankie sighed.

If her luck held, she would finish her act and go home, and not see Bianca again.

***

No one had told him it would be like this.

Johnny Marsden stared into the mass of feathers, rhinestones, and sweaty, naked flesh revolving around him. He dodged a tattooed, barely-clad pixie with lurid pink hair, politely ignored the nasty look she sent him before she disappeared around a pile of rigging. He blew out a breath. Even the circus couldn't compare to this.

Well, it might, if the circus was pumped up on speed and Viagra.

Johnny shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to touch anyone. No one paid him the slightest notice. A troop of platinum blondes in various stages of undress bustled by, headed for the stage. It took Johnny a moment to realize one of them was a man.

Behind them was an octogenarian swathed in a Pepto-Bismal-pink feathered dressing gown and staggering under the weight of an immense hat. She muttered to herself in what sounded like Russian, but when she noticed Johnny staring, her irritated "What?" was barked in perfect English.

Johnny raised his hands, and she moved on.

He flattened as far back against the wall as his six-four frame would allow. Somebody up top had one sick sense of humor, throwing him into a place like this. Cafe Outré. At least the name was accurate. He hauled in what he thought would be a deep, fortifying breath, instead nearly choked on the smell of acetone and body odor.

Just do your job, and get out.

"Well, look who we have here. If it isn't Johnny Apocalypse."

He knew that voice. Johnny plastered something he hoped would pass for a smile on his face and turned. "Catfish, you old son of a bitch. Long time."

The man behind him was nearly as tall as he was; whip thin, with a slick, coppery pompadour and a handlebar mustache that curled dramatically at the ends. With his pinstriped zoot suit, he looked like an extra in an old gangster movie.

It was an effect only mildly disrupted by his lavender vest.

He flashed Johnny a grin. A gold molar winked in the side of his mouth. "Couldn't believe it when you called. The Blade, back after a five-year hiatus?" He crossed his arms. "I heard you'd retired. Made off with an oil man's wife, or some shit like that."

Johnny's lips twisted. "Good story, right?"

"So what really happened?"

Johnny only shrugged. "Truth is stranger than fiction, my friend."

Catfish didn't press him. "Where's this new girl you swindled into working with you? I was looking forward to meeting her."

Johnny winced inwardly. His new partner should have been here by now. If she was smart, she'd gotten cold feet and bailed while she still could. "She should be here any day now. Family emergency."

"Mmm." Catfish didn't even try to sound interested. Onstage, the band was starting to wind down. He straightened his purple tie and nodded to Johnny. "That's my cue. See you on the other side." He melted into the shadows and the crowd.

Johnny glanced around. Still, no one paid any attention to him. He pursed his lips. He was relatively sure he'd seen an office down the back hallway. An office meant records. Records meant evidence. And evidence meant he could get the hell out of here. He turned...

...Only to ram into a warm, solid body. Something clattered to the floor. Johnny looked down at the same time a slender, attractive man cursed vehemently. A pair of bright gray eyes glowered up at him. "Jesus! Watch where you're going, would you?"

The man's features were fine, his face sensual. Johnny blinked. Then it struck him.

This was a woman.

Her face was like white marble, with strong cheekbones and a feminine chin. She pressed two fingers to either side of her Errol Flynn mustache. Satisfied it was still in place, she bent down to retrieve what she'd dropped.

Johnny reached it first. It turned out to be a stylish, gold-tipped presentation cane. He held it for a moment while he studied her. He'd never seen a woman in drag before. She pulled off a tux better than most men he knew, every detail impeccable. A black fedora was jammed over her ebony hair. The mustache over her bowed upper lip was unnervingly sexy.

She cleared her throat, and he realized he was staring. He handed her the cane. "Didn't realize anyone still used these things."

She rolled her eyes and tucked the cane under her arm, straightened a loose cuff. Then she fixed him with that gray glare again. "You're the new knife-thrower. 'The Blade', isn't it?"

Johnny tried on his most charming smile. "In the flesh. Johnny Apocalypse. And you are...?"

"None of your business." The woman turned her attention to her other cuff. "Damn! I lost a cufflink."

Johnny crouched down with her, made a show of searching the floor while he watched her scrounge for the missing cufflink. She turned away from him, and the way her rear end wriggled made his mouth water. "Easy, Slim. You got something against knife throwers?"

She glanced back at him. "Not at all, Steve." Her tone was acerbic. "Just the ones who don't pay attention where they're going."

Johnny bit back a chuckle. So the woman knew her classic movies. Another mark in her favor. "Maybe I had better things to pay attention to."

A blush pinkened her cheeks. It shocked him even more than the mustache or the cane. She quickly looked away, pounced on something just out of his sight. "There it is."

She stood a little too quickly. Johnny stood too, and realized with surprise she was only a few inches shorter than he was. Her fingers fumbled around the delicate cufflink. He held out his hand. "May I?"

The expression on her face came close to panic. She glanced around, clearly hoping to find someone else, but the area around them had emptied. Helpless, she placed the cufflink in his outstretched palm.

Johnny slid the cool metal pin through the slit in her cuff. The starchy material was laced with her heat. He forced himself to breathe and sneaked a glance at her face. Her eyes were down, watching him work, long black lashes dusting her cheeks.

Something tugged at his chest. How long since he'd been this close to a woman? He already knew the answer. But he didn't think about her anymore. Best not to. Not when all the good memories were overshadowed by the way they'd said goodbye.

Johnny sighed. He was a son of a bitch. He snapped the link into place, then, unable to resist, let his finger brush the inside of the drag king's wrist. Her skin was sinfully silky. Just beneath it, her pulse jumped.

Well, wasn't that interesting.

###

Want more? The Devil's Playground will be available for purchase January 1st, 2014. Mark your calendar!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Research Trip! Warm Water Cove, San Francisco

"Ogling ruins is a way of meditating on our own inevitable deaths... A humbling reminder that, yes, it all does return to dust..." 
-David Byrne, JOURNAL 3.26.06

There's a lot to be said for city planning.

It started with the ancient Romans, the first civilization in history to create cities on a grid, with straight streets and geometric neighborhoods. The lack of such planning was one of the hallmarks of the Dark Ages, and its reemergence signified the return of order and peace in the Western world.

It is also highly overrated.

Need proof?

I give you Warm Water Cove. 

Located in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco's Potrero Hill district, this "park" was once a favorite haunt of punks, junkies, vagrants, and other anarchist types. Vibrant graffiti blazed on the surrounding walls. People gathered along its jagged shoreline to zing golf balls into the Bay, or meditate on the extensive collection of tires half-buried in the sludge below. 

It was a place devoid of planning. Untouched by city officials. Unmarred by civility. Graced with its own harsh culture and terrible beauty.

Until society decided to take it back.



(above: The Toxic Golf Course)

Armed with a sense of civic duty, volunteers marched into the park and painted over the Graffiti Gallery. Native plants were painstakingly transplanted into the rock-hard ground. Bums were kicked out, trash removed, used hypodermic needles picked out of the chaparral.

Some called it an improvement.



(above: remains of the Muni Graveyard)

And it almost worked.

Warm Water Cove is an industrial wilderness. It always will be. And like all such places, it has its own unique ecosystem. Life shouldn't be able to exist here at all. The water is dark and oily, the soil dead and devoid of nutrients. 

But life is tenacious. The so-called "native" plants are slowly being muscled out by the ugly, rangy weeds that always held pride-of-place. Broken glass shimmers from the carefully carved paths that snake around the park. The Graffiti Gallery, though still a shadow of its former glory, is being reclaimed inch-by-inch. 



(above: Graffiti Gallery, 2.0)

I am pleased to report the attempted gentrification of Warm Water Cove has failed, at least for now. There was one thing the city planners didn't account for: the sheer audacity of the wild soul. But all around it, condos are springing up, and yuppie culture is taking root. Civilization encroaches.

Is this a good thing?



(above: Tire Beach)

The human mind needs chaos, maybe even more than it needs order. We need places safeguarded from the whitewashing effect of civilization. Places where we can retreat. Take our wildness out from under our jackets, admire it for a little while. Warm Water Cove used to be such a place. There aren't many left.

Strange though it sounds, I hope it stays dirty and cold and raucous and rank. From what I've seen, odds are good it just might.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Snow White Goes To The Dark Side...

mirror, mirror, on the wall...
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/c4/05/bb/c405bb7c6e751ac410f0abbd2c69756f.jpg


...Well, sort of.

Ever wonder about fairy tale villains? I've always thought they were much more interesting than the heroes. They have so much to lose. They are so deliciously... evil.

Why?

With that, I'm thrilled to announce a little side project I'll be working on. Authors Alexandra Webb and Mia Bishop have graciously invited me to be a guest on their blog, Twisted Tales. I'll be joining a group of talented, deliciously deviant fellow authors, all of whom have one mission.

Take a fairy tale. Twist it into something... else.

Wondering what someone could possibly do to fairy tales that would turn them into erotica? So am I! Stories to be (re)written include Alice In Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Hansel And Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and mine, Snow White.

More specifically, The Wicked Queen.

Which brings me back to fairy tale villains.

Being pure evil works well on paper, but not so much in real life. Real life villains have pasts, goals, breaking points. Maybe the Wicked Queen wasn't wicked. Maybe she was human. Wounded. Abused.

Want to know more? Find my page on Twisted Tales here.

Posting begins December 1st, and will continue for four months. My first post is December 6th. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Brains... And The People Who Eat Them

Today Writing In The Night belongs to the zombies.

If you haven't heard of the new e-publisher Definition House, you're missing out on another revolutionary turn in publishing. Definition House is engaging readers in a whole new way by using crowdfunding to publish books. Their inaugural campaign focuses on Ryan Hill's zombie novel, Dead New World
Here's the rub: 

Zombies aren’t mindless anymore.

They follow orders. And if Holt and Ambrose want to kill some undead, they’ll do the same. But when a routine mission goes horribly wrong, the best friends’ lives are flayed to the bone.

Now there’s only one light in the darkness of Holt’s life, and when she’s taken, he’ll do anything to get her back. Even if that means defying orders and using his best friend as a weapon. Holt and Ambrose risk all to save her, but what they discover among the hordes threatens to remake humanity. Again.


In the end, will there be anything left to live for in this dead new world?




A glimpse into zombie types in print and on the big screen. In these undead worlds, it’s all about the brains… Whether you’re destroying them or eating them.

Dawn of the Dead
Becoming a zombie: Anyone who dies—no matter how—turns into a zombie. If bitten, the person will die within a few hours.
Intelligence: Instinct and some memories. Although, later zombies are able to reason and learn rudimentarily.
Speed: Rigor mortis slow…
How to kill a zombie: Must. Destroy. Brain.

Shaun of the Dead
Becoming a zombie: A zombie bite kills after a few hours, and then reanimation sets in.
Intelligence: Instinct and memories.
Speed: Rigor mortis slow…
How to kill a zombie: Must. Destroy. Brain.

28 Days Later
Becoming a zombie: Any contact with an infected person’s blood and the victim becomes infected within seconds.
Intelligence: Instinct (aggressive rage) only.
Speed: Human-like with a higher endurance.
How to kill a zombie: Anything that would kill a human.

Autumn
Becoming a zombie: A world-wide plague killed 99% of the population within days. A third of those reanimate after a few hours.
Intelligence: Only animation at first, then instinct, and possibly later some intelligence.
Speed: Rigor mortis slow…
How to kill a zombie: Must. Destroy. Brain.

The Walking Dead
Becoming a zombie: Anyone who dies, no matter the reason, becomes one. A zombie bite makes the victim die after only a few hours.
Intelligence: Instinct only.
Speed: Rigor mortis slow…
How to kill a zombie: Must. Destroy. Brain.

Marvel Zombies
Becoming a zombie: A zombie bite causes death and reanimation within seconds.
Intelligence: Full intelligence, skills, memories, and powers (if applicable) from previous life. Absolute lack of morals. Feeding is the only goal.
Speed: Same as in previous life.

How to kill a zombie: Must. Destroy. Brain.

And because I know you want more information, here are the social media links for both
Definition House and Ryan Hill:

Stalk Ryan on...

Stalk Definition House on...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting Wet: Recipe #4

Tough times call for tough drinks.

Whiskey Cocktail

Wow, it's been a while since we've shared a drink, hasn't it? All I can say is, cut me a break. I've been writing.

That said, the Sazerac is just too good to keep to myself. I admit, my personal recipe is a tad different from the classic, but it's still pretty damn good on a cold autumn night.

In any case, let he who has never improvised a cocktail cast the first stone.

Laura's Sassy Sazerac

splash some absinthe into an old-fashioned glass

swirl to coat, then dispose of the leftover absinthe (either down the sink or down your gullet)

to a shaker with ice, add 1-2 jiggers good whiskey (I usually use Bulleit bourbon, but a purist would use rye)

shake until cold, then strain into the old-fashioned glass

add 1-2 dashes blood orange bitters (or regular bitters)

stir in 1tsp granulated sugar (I like extra-fine, but regular is fine too); mix well

shave in a long strip of fresh lemon peel (minus the white pith- just use the yellow zest part)

Drink like a boss.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

When Did "Romance" Become A Dirty Word?


"I had a romance novel inside me, but I paid three sailors to beat it out of me with steel pipes." 
-Patton Oswalt

What does the literary community have against romance novels?

This is a question I've been asking myself more and more lately. When was the last time you heard anyone professionally affiliated with the book world seriously discuss or review a romance novel? I mean, a romance novel that wasn't 50 Shades Of Grey?

Anyone? Anyone?

Every time I hear a professional reviewer, critic, or commentator deign to mention romance, it is with a smirk, a snort, or a disparaging remark. At best, romances are dismissed out of hand. At worst, they are called "fluff".

When did "romance" become synonymous with literary dross? Have people forgotten the numerous classics that are also -gasp- romance novels? Here are a few to refresh our collective memories:
-Pride And Prejudice
-Sense And Sensibility
-Wuthering Heights
-Jane Eyre
-Lady Chatterly's Lover
-Anna Karenina
-Romeo And Juliet
-Much Ado About Nothing
-The Taming Of The Shrew

I grant, there are plenty of romance novels out there that meet the definition of "fluff". But I don't understand why people treat that as a bad thing. Many of Shakespeare's romantic plays were "fluff". Does Shakespeare count as "literary dross"?

If so, this is news to me.

There are also plenty of other romance novels that use love stories to delve into deep human and political issues. Why are these not taken seriously? What better way to understand these issues than through the one thing we all have in common?

Seriously, is this just me?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Memory

Some anniversaries you don't want to remember, but know you can never forget.

#911 #9-11

"The world breaks everyone, and after, some are strong at the broken places." 
-Ernest Hemingway


Monday, September 9, 2013

Decisions, Decisions: When To Go With Your Gut, And When To Stick To The Plan


"I love it when a plan comes together!" -Hannibal

I like plans.

Meal plans, chore plans, wardrobe plans, travel plans. When it comes to my writing, I'm a plotter. I rarely start anything without having a plan first. Plans are delightful. Plans work for me.

Except when they don't.

It all started when I was almost finished with my most recent book. The plan was, it would be the first book in a trilogy. I'd even started planning the next two books, but hadn't gotten very far (read: I knew the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary characters, the titles, and the plots).

But then I had this idea.

You know the Greek myth where the goddess Athena springs, fully formed, from the head of Zeus? It was like that, only instead of a Greek goddess (I'm pretty sure Sherrilyn Kenyon has the rights to those), this was a story.

Okay, seven stories.

It was a tough call. I was already invested in the trilogy, and what I had in mind for the new series was a massive project. My brain rebelled against shucking an entire notebook's worth of work to start over on something else. I had to stick to the plan.

That's when it struck me. Wait a minute. I'm an indie. Whose plan do I have to stick to, exactly?

Planning is great. It's the only reason I'm able to crank out books at the pace I do. But sometimes, your plans hamstring you.

Sometimes, you have to go with your gut instead.

Curious about my new project? For a sneak preview of the first book, check out its Pinterest board.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Good News, Everyone!

Professor Fransworth from Futurama spouting his catch phrase "Good news everyone!"

It's a Launch Day Extravaganza!

Sunday, September 1st, marks the launch of my newest book, What The Body Needs

I know! I'm excited too! And I've been thinking to myself, "Self, what could you do to make this even more exciting than it already is?"

Not bloody much, let me tell you.

But then it struck me. I'll make it free on Launch Day!

I hope you'll join me over on Amazon.com this Sunday for my Launch Day Extravaganza. It's going to be great! And if anyone wants to bring drinks, well, I won't say no...

Monday, August 26, 2013

What The Body Needs: Epic Cover Reveal!

What The Body Needs has a cover! And not just any cover: a really, really, awesome one!

Thanks as always to my Epic Rockstar Designer Jesus, also known as Zen Mateyka. Because of him, my work looks way classier than it probably is.

So without further ado...


Before you ask, yes. The book really is that hot. Can't wait for September 1st? 

Me neither.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday's Children Blog Hop: Onward And Upward (And An Excerpt)

So, Thursday's Children is winding down.

A shame. I've had so much fun and met so many awesome writers! Thank you Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for creating this little community for us. You guys are awesome, and I'm excited for the devious brainchild you've come up with now!

But, enough crying. In honor of the last Thursday's Children Hop, I decided to publish the first bona-fide excerpt of my new book, What The Body Needs. Enjoy!

At first, she only saw dark.  Dark hair, dark jacket, dark pants, dark shoes.  Dark eyes glittered from a hard face.  Eyes fixed squarely on her.

Jak stared down into her glass.  Too late.  He'd already caught her.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him smile.  It was visceral.  Devastating.  The kind of smile that could get a woman to make all kinds of bad decisions.  Jak pounded back the last of her drink.

"Not often you see a woman taking straight whiskey."

Jak tried to ignore him.  He slid a barstool closer.  "Bourbon or scotch?"

She gritted her teeth.  "Bourbon."

The man's smile took on a darker note.  "That's my girl."  He lifted a finger to catch Sam's attention.  "A bottle."

Sam slid over a bottle of Jak's bourbon.  He caught her eye, opened his mouth to speak, when something else distracted him.  Brow furrowed, he strode away briskly.  Jak sighed.  She was on her own.  She turned to the stranger.  "I buy my own drinks."

"Sure you do, honey."  He tossed back his shot, refilled his glass, tossed the second shot back too.

Jak's eyebrows went up.  "Most people only drink like that when they're trying to forget something."

The man picked up her glass and filled it to the brim.  Without a word, he slid it back to her.  Jak stared at it for a moment, then tossed it back.

The man smiled again and poured them each another.  Jak's eyes narrowed.  "If you're planning on getting me drunk, it's going to take more than a few shots."

He tipped his glass to her.  "I've got the whiskey if you've got the time."

"And if I don't?"

His eyes were piercing.  "You do."

Jak's heart pounded.  Damn it, what was wrong with her?  It wasn't as though she'd never been hit on before.  That was what he was doing, wasn't it?  She couldn't quite tell.  Maybe his voice, those eyes, that smile, were giving her the wrong idea.

She glanced at him again, more openly this time.  He wasn't just dark.  He was wild.  Hair a little too mussed.  Shirt a little too rumpled.  That leather jacket had seen a few too many hard rides.  His jaw looked capable of taking a punch, and his nose had clearly taken several. 

But his lips were fascinating.  A thin scar drew the top one into a perpetual sneer.  They were neatly carved, oddly sensual.  Out of place in his harsh face.  Jak fought the delicious shiver that went down her spine.  Lips like that had experience making women scream.

No, she definitely had the right idea.

She'd never needed a drink so badly in her life.  Jak stretched for the whiskey bottle.  His hand closed over her wrist.  She froze, splayed across the bar in front of him.  It was disconcerting.  Intimate.  She forced herself to meet his eyes.  In the dim light, she couldn't make out their color. 

The corners of his lips lifted.  "Buyer pours."

She cleared her throat.  "Oh."  She wracked her brain for something else to say.  "Thanks."  His hand still imprisoned hers.  She looked down at it pointedly.

He ignored her.  His thumb traced a slow circle around the inside of her wrist as he poured them each a shot with his other hand.  His skin was rough, warm.  Jak swallowed hard.  A smile twitched at the edges of his mouth.  Damn.  He must have felt her pulse jump.

She took a deep breath and withdrew her hand.  He let it slide out from under his and raised his glass.  "Your health."

Jak tried to ignore the tingle where he'd touched her.  "What about your health?"

Even his chuckle was dark.  "Trust me, yours is worth more than mine."

Jak snorted.  "I doubt it."  She drank anyway.

The man drank, eyes never leaving her face.  "Interesting."  He refilled her glass.  "Want to talk about it?"  A mocking note edged his voice.

"What?  No."  Not with you.  Jak swirled the whiskey around in her glass.  She looked up to find him watching her again.  "Yes?"

The man shrugged.  "Just wondering what goes on in a head like yours."

Jak stiffened.  "What are you talking about?"

He looked at her a moment longer, then returned to his drink.  "Calm down, honey."  He glanced back at her.  "Your honor is safe with me."  His lips twisted, as if in appreciation of a private joke.

Jak stared at him.  Had he moved closer, or had she?  She glanced back at where she'd been sitting.  Christ.  She had.  From her new seat, she could smell the heady mix of leather and smoke that seemed to emanate from the man's every pore. 

She resisted the urge to lean over and breathe it in.  Instead she studied her whiskey, suddenly unsure whether to drink it.  When was the last time she'd been drawn to someone like this?  Was it her?  The alcohol?  Or something else altogether?

She cleared her throat.  "You been in town long?"

The man's eyes sharpened.  "Who said I'm from out of town?"

Jak forced herself not to cringe, sipped her drink instead.  "Never seen you here before.  And there's a motel next door.  Doesn't take a genius."

He inclined his head.  "Score one for the lady."  He focused back on his glass.  Jak waited.  He didn't look up again.

Her eyes narrowed.  "You're a criminal."  If that wasn't just perfect.

The man sipped his drink.  "What makes you say that?"

Jak pushed her glass away.  "You're not from here.  You hardly seem the type to be visiting family."  She shrugged.  "So you're here on business.  If it was good business, you'd be in a better hotel.  Those bags under your eyes-you don't sleep enough.  Probably work at night."  She sat back.  "And you drink too much.  Guilty conscience?"

The man stared at her, expressionless.  Jak's blood iced over.  "I'm right, aren't I?"

He took another drink.  A shadow of pain flickered across his features, so fast she nearly missed it.  "And why would I admit it if you were?"

Now she was curious.  "Like I said, people who drink like you do are trying to forget something."  She peered into his face.  "What are you trying to forget?"

The man didn't answer.  He drained the last of his drink and tossed two twenties on the bar.  "Rest of the bottle's yours."  With that, he slid off the stool and disappeared into the crowd. Between the bodies, Jak saw the side door swing open.  The outside lights glinted off his leather jacket as he slipped out.

She sighed and reached for her glass.  Sam tore himself away from the blond man he was talking to and made his way back to her, a concerned look on his face.  "Was that guy bothering you?"

Jak snorted.  Now he asked her.  She shook her head and tried to ignore the strange heat pooled deep in her belly.  "Nah.  Who was he, anyway?"

Sam shrugged.  "Never seen him before.  Came in and started drinking almost," he checked the clock on the wall behind him, "Christ, almost four hours ago now.  Said his name was Marcus, I think?"

"Marcus."  The syllables rolled off her tongue.  Marcus.  It sounded elegant.  Patrician.  It didn't fit the dark man at all.  "He say what he was doing here?"

"No, don't think so."  Sam started wiping a water ring off the scarred wood.  He glanced back at the blond, focused on Jak again.  "The amount he had to drink, I'm amazed he remembered his own name."

Jak sighed.  She looked back at the door Marcus had disappeared through.  His presence seemed to linger around it, animalistic and magnetizing.  She sighed again.  She was going to regret this.

She hopped off her stool and waved to Sam, then quickened her pace and disappeared into the crowd before he could say anything.  Satisfied there were enough people around the door to block her, she stole out the same way Marcus had gone.

The night air bit her cheeks and cut through her canvas jacket.  Jak rubbed her arms and blinked, eyes adjusting slowly to the dim light.  The pungent aroma of cigarette smoke pricked her nostrils.  She turned in the direction it was coming from.

A heavy, muscular arm swept her back and pinned her to the wall of the building.  Jak's mouth flew open, but no sound came out.  She did the only thing she could think of and drove her knee towards what she hoped was a sensitive target.

Marcus caught it.  His dark eyes flashed.  "That," he said, "was not very ladylike."  His voice was so low it might have been a growl.  Smoke wafted off his breath.  Usually she hated the smell, but now it only intensified that mysterious feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Jak shifted.  "I-"

His eyes bored into hers.  "You shouldn't be here."

I know.  She swallowed and tried again.  "You left so fast."  She felt like she was strangling.  "I was concerned."

He made a disbelieving sound deep in his throat.  "I bet you were."  His eyes skated over her face, lower.  He shifted closer. 

Jak fought back a shiver.  She couldn't move, couldn't breathe.  She wasn't sure she remembered how.  Deep in her gut, something primal throbbed in time to her pounding heartbeat.  The sounds of traffic from the street faded to the blood rushing in her ears.  She forced herself to meet his gaze.

He shook his head, eyes never leaving hers.  "Nice girls like you shouldn't follow men like me into dark alleys."

The world was spinning.  Whether from the whiskey or something else, she wasn't sure anymore.  A warning siren blared in the back of her head.  Bad decisionBAD decision.  Jak ignored it and squared her jaw.  "I'm not that nice."

Marcus's face was so close she could see the lines weathered into his forehead.  His lips peeled back from his teeth in a predatory smile.  "Good."

Then his mouth closed over hers.

***

Farewell, Thursday's Children! May you slip gently into that good night. 

Now, onward and upward!

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday's Children Blog Hop: See? I Really Have Been Working...

"Hadn't she always known it would be like this?  That first night in the alley, she'd dismissed whatever it was that sparked between them.  She should have known better.  Should have known no one could control a blaze this strong.  The only thing to do was let it burn until there was nothing left to feed it." What The Body Needs, Laura Oliva

"I do not need a bodyguard." -What The Body Needs, Laura Oliva

It's almost embarrassing how long it's been since my last blog post.

Almost, but not quite. Because finally, after much ado, it's almost time for the launch of my next novel! September 1st, guys. It just keeps getting closer.

Things are still pretty crazy, but I thought I'd share what is going to be the backcover copy for my book, titled What The Body Needs. Just to prove that, yes, I have actually been working...


Jak O'Mara is a survivor.

She's survived in her father's construction company.  She's survived in the boxing ring.  And she survived the brutal attack that left her permanently scarred.

For the last five years, she's tried to convince everyone -including herself- she's no victim.  But with the apparent return of her unknown assailant, the life she's rebuilt crumbles overnight.

Ex-cop Marcus Cutter has his own scars, they just don't show.  Following the violent death of his younger sister, he fled his old life in disgrace.  After almost six years, "rock-bottom" feels a lot like home.

As Jak's new bodyguard, Marcus is forced to return to the city -and the memories- he's tried to forget.  All he wants is to do his job, but Jak isn't what he expects.  When he's with her, he finally feels something besides pain.


When the danger escalates, Jak decides it's time to take matters into her own hands and find who's after her, no matter the cost.  Marcus knows he has to protect the woman who's made his life mean something again.  But how do you protect someone who's convinced they have nothing left to lose?

September 1st can't get here fast enough!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Wet: Recipe #3

Tough times call for tough drinks.



Winston's Gin Martini

To a shaker with ice, add 1-2 jiggers of gin (my favorites are Hendricks or Tanqueray 10).

Look at a bottle of dry vermouth.

Shake gin for 10-15 seconds, until good and cold.

Pour into a martini glass. Garnish with olive or lemon twist, if desired.

Enjoy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday's Children Blog Hop: Goals, Endings, And The Hashtag



"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." -Richard Bach

At first glance, the symbol now known as "the hashtag" doesn't look like much. Unless you're a mathematician, Tweeter, or obsessive tic-tac-toe player, it's one of those keys that doesn't get much air time.

I confess, I don't use it much, either. In fact, there's only one time it really shows up in my writing.

At the end of a manuscript.

That's really just a long way of getting to this: I finished my book!

When I first sat down at my computer again in mid-March, I had some pretty ambitious goals. I wanted to write 2,000 words per day. I wanted to live a more balanced life. I wanted to finish my first draft by June 1.

I stuck (mostly) to 2,000 words per day. Some days I wrote more, some, less. As for a more balanced life, there are still clothes languishing in the hamper, and the dust bunnies have grown so big I now regard them as family pets. An unexpected, two-week vacation meant I had to revise my finish date, so instead of June 1, I gave myself until July 1.

As of July 1, I had been finished for six days.

Goals are decidedly not my strong suit. I've always been something of a free spirit (read: scatterbrained), I have a toddler who insists on being fed regularly, and there always seems to be laundry to put away.

But they have their value, even for me.

When I'm nearing the end of a book, it's tempting to rest on my laurels and coast. I can drag those last couple chapters out for weeks. Having a set "done" date in mind is just the kick in the ass I need.

Nowadays, I need all the ass-kicking I can get.

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