Something wicked this way comes…
The arrival of a very important person in her office seemed to be the start of a lot of problems for Kit Colbana, investigator extraordinaire. Claiming that he needed somebody with her special skillset, he sends her on a series of jobs that made little to no sense until one culminated with both her and her partner, Justin barely escaping with their lives.
Back in Orlando, they go their separate ways to recover, Justin heading to the house of a local witch, while Kit returns to the Lair, where she’s recently been living with her lover Damon, the Alpha of the Southern Cat Clans.
There’s barely a chance for Kit to catch her breath before trouble of the highest order comes knocking on her door. This time, it’s the form of a psychic by the name of Nova. Nova has bad, bad news…Justin has gone missing and so has the witch who was going to put him up while he healed. Colleen, one of Kit’s closest, dearest friends.
With all sorts of non-humans disappearing, fury doesn’t even touch what Kit is feeling as she heads out to hunt down the people responsible.
But Kit isn’t the only one out on a hunt…somebody is hunting for her…somebody Kit would rather never, ever see again.
It was just pure dumb luck that I found her at all.
The…well, I can’t say it was a house, but it had been her home. But she’d left it weeks ago, maybe longer. It was dying, too.
Granted, when I’d been sent out to look for her, I’d thought maybe it was another wild goose chase—the first job had been a pain in the ass, too.
But this one…
I was staring at a dryad.
A real dryad.
She turned her head and stared at me with eyes the color of good, strong oak. In her hand, she held a branch that she used to draw circles in the earth.
After a few seconds of us studying each other, she went back to looking out over the river, her gaze sad.
“What is it you want?” she asked, her voice reedy and thin.
Like she was fading, dying as swiftly as the tree she’d left behind.
As I fumbled for an answer, she lifted the branch and plucked off one of the leaves. They were still green. But the moment she plucked that single leaf away, it withered, shriveled and then it was dust, even before it hit the ground.
“I…” Uneasy, I licked my lips. “Your tree is dying.”
“No.” Those dark brown eyes came back to mine. “It is already dead. It died when I left it. It just hasn’t figured that out yet. It will. But that isn’t what you want.”
“Why did you leave it?”
“Because the wind whispered it was time.” She lifted a shoulder and the wispy strips of cloth that made up her garments drifted with the movement before settling back into black. She was more naked than clothed, covered at her breasts and hips and her skin was a mottled mix of brown and tan. She could stand in the trees and scarcely be seen, but standing out her on the side of the road and gazing into the river, she stood out.
That was how I’d found her.
I’d been heading back to East Orlando, carefully think through the call I’d have to make when I saw her.
I’d been hired by somebody I’d recently decided was a self-important pompous prick but I’d accepted the contract and for another three weeks, I was giving him twenty hours a week for work of a sensitive nature. The first job, I’d been asked to find out if there was any truth to the rumors of a Green Man who might be living in Alabama—he had a locale and a few names and he wanted my thoughts on it. I’d also been asked to talk to the families of a couple missing NHs. That was why I’d agreed to work with him anyway. Missing people. He had connections.
There weren’t many people who had more connections than the President of the United States of America, after all.
When I’d told him I didn’t see the connection between a possible Green Man and the disappearances, he’d pointed out that a Green Man would have ways of seeing things happening in nature that I could never see.
But if there was something weirder than a shifter in those woods, then I hadn’t felt it.
My boss hadn’t seem bothered when I’d been unsuccessful. But I hadn’t wanted to tell him I’d found a dryad’s tree…and no dryad.
Right now, though, I wanted even less to tell him I’d found the dryad.
“The wind told you it was time?” Raking her up and down with a look, I shook my head. “What else is the wind telling you to do?”
“The wind tells me to do nothing.” A serene smile curled her lips as she plucked off another leave. This time, when it shriveled and faded, she seemed to fade a little more, too.
“Is that from your tree?” I asked softly.
“Yes. All that is left, all that is living.” She plucked another leave. “Once it is gone…”
“So why are you killing it?”
“Because unlike Albus, I am not strong. I cannot stand up to pain and torture. Even cutting down a single tree would break me and he has much more in mind than cutting down trees.”
Abruptly, she wrenched a handful of leaves, four, five, six…dust blew around me and I rushed to her as she swayed, then staggered. She felt lighter than air as I eased her down. Her skin felt like the smooth bark on a young tree. “What are you talking about?”
She just shook her head. “It’s been a long time coming. This…this is best. I’ll see Albus soon.”
She tried to fumble a few more leaves off but her hands shook too much.
“Please.” She looked at me.
My phone rang.
She continued to watch me with those calm, patient eyes. Patient, solid. Like an oak.
I took the branch and stripped the remaining leaves off as the phone rang again.
By the third ring, she was withering away, turning to nothing but dust and ash that blew away in the soft, chilly fall breeze.
I answered the fourth ring.
“Ms. Colbana, I was calling for an update.”
“I found her.” Dragging a finger through the dust, I rose to my feet and stared down. Even the branch was gone. “She’s dead, sir.”
**releasing in April. Release date was changed. Explanation here.
Book is still a work in progress, but I’ve got a cover!
Some might noticed yet another model. Why, yes. Yes, it is. I loved the model I had on the last two books (three, if you count the boxed set), but over the last year especially, she seemed to be showing up on a lot of books.
And because I aspire to be unique in all ways (in other words, I sulk if I don’t stand out), I decided I wanted another model. The old books are going to be repackaged in the coming months, too.
This model’s image won’t be appearing on dozens of other sites, either. I’ve got lock, stock and barrel rights on the images. I took them, see. That’s Diva. My daughter.
Due out in spring 2016
This story is set in Kit Colbana’s world. It’s loosely connected, but can be read as a stand-alone.
Her name is Frankie. At least, that’s what she calls herself.
She looks human, but she’s no more human than she is a faith-healer. That doesn’t stop her from using her…more unique abilities to take care of certain needs. It’s those abilities that lead to a chance encounter with an unusual woman in Florida.
It’s a chance encounter with fate that will set these two down a collision course with destiny.
“It’s crowded tonight.”
I glanced up at the man who’d slipped up to join me. I stood just outside the curtain of the tent. Through the slit, I could peer inside and the darkness of the night kept them from seeing me. It was one of the few remaining moments of solitude, of peace, that I’d have for the rest of the night.
Saleel’s presence didn’t disturb that solitude.
He was as welcome as the whisper of air against my skin, as the twinkle of stars overhead.
He was a reminder of what I did have—even if I didn’t have something as simple and coveted as humanity, I had my life. I had freedom. And I had him as my companion.
We shared a moment of comfortable silence before I looked back inside.
“You’re restless,” he said after another moment.
I wasn’t surprised he’d noticed. Saleel noticed everything.
I slanted a look up at him. “I guess I’m getting bored here. Ready to move on. Have you scouted out the next spot?”
Saleel lifted one shoulder. “Yes. Montana. I tire of the heat.”
“Montana?” I grimaced and mentally shuddered. Summer was rapidly drawing to a close. That would mean cold. Snow. Worse…ice. “I hate the cold.”
I’d spent many of my earliest years in the muggy heat of America’s south—or in the heart of Africa. Some of those years that hadn’t been spent…elsewhere. Heat was simply bred into my bones. I could handle the cold, but that didn’t mean I liked it.
Saleel’s teeth flashed white in the faintest of smiles when he glanced at me. “Then perhaps next time when I ask you if you have a preference, you should give me an answer. Instead, you say, Do whatever you want, Sal.”
He managed an imitation of my voice that was almost dead-on.
I stuck my tongue out at him.
He went back to staring into tent. “Offer your tongue again, my angel, and I will make use of it.”
The two of us were like gasoline and fire and we both knew it. Combustible—and dangerous.
“Promises, promises,” I said lightly and then I eased closer, bracing my shoulder on the lightweight metal of the door frame, gazing deeper into the tent.
Saleel was right.
I was restless.
But I hadn’t yet figured out why.
A hot summer wind caressed the back of my neck. I enjoyed it while I could. Once I got inside, the air would be stifling. Already, I was dreading it. I could smell the heat of too many bodies and the air was thick with sweat. Heavy with despair.
Hope clung to many of the people who awaited me but hope was a capricious bitch. I could all but hear the cackling, gleeful laugh as she darted from one person to another, crooning…you don’t really think this will work, do you? You’re going to die…you’re all going to die…
Fans churned from all corners, laboriously whirring away. They did little to cool the temperature, but at least the air kept moving.
It wasn’t the heat, though, that plagued me. It wasn’t even the promise of death. People died. It was simply part of life. It wasn’t the despair or the misery—the hunger inside me reached for that, but that wasn’t what made me restless.
“It’s time,” Saleel murmured.
But still, I didn’t move, searching inside the tent.
“I’m going.” I took a deep breath and reached deep inside for the well of calm that would carry me through when I took another’s pain inside me. I craved pain—fed on it. That didn’t mean it was pleasant.
Sometimes I think I should have gone into photography. 🙂
See this? The next time you see it, it will be magically morphed into a cover for the Kit Colbana books.
Who is that gorgeous young lady, you ask?
Why…that’s Diva. My oldest. Yes, it’s kinda small and you can’t enlarge, but I don’t want anybody grabbing it. I’m taking a whole bunch of pictures of her and my cover lady is going to make her into Kit. Blonde hair, bad-ass backgrounds…
Cute young lady with kicking sword = awesome urban fantasy book covers.
I’m planning to repackage the whole series. I love the model I’ve used for the Kit books, but she’s popping up on a lot of books now. Once I’m done repackaging these, nobody will have these covers. And I gotta say… my daughter makes one hell of a Kit. At least when it comes to cockiness. 😉
My first straight SF in…well…ever. There is a romantic sub-plot, so for those who need some romance, and for those who think…ewww…yuck, romance…
“If you’re in the mood to watch, he might let you. After he’s done.”
I looked away from the couple to find Garner staring at me with his dark, dead eyes. “Watching isn’t really my thing, Garner.”
“No. You prefer to fuck my brother and try to play cunt-games with him.” He leaned in, the smell of synthetic garlic heavy on his breath. “The games don’t work. But it’s fun to watch you try.”
My gut rolled. Play with his brother. If only I had much choice in it. I’d stay on the other side of the galaxy if I had any say in the matter. But I didn’t mention that. If either of them had any idea just how deep my revulsion ran, it would become a tool, a weapon against me. Instead of showing how I felt, I reached up and touched a finger to his cheek. “You spend an awful lot of time worrying about the games I play with your brother, Garner… What’s the matter?” I leaned in closer and pressed my lips to his ear. “Are you jealous?”
Then I pushed around him and headed for the center of the dance floor.
You might think he’d have his offices in the back. Or down below the floor, in a dungeon, where monsters like him should rot.
But no. He kept his offices high above, and if I wanted in during business hours, I had to take the tube in the middle of the floor. Where he could see me coming.
Garner was right behind me.
I pretended not to notice.
It wasn’t that hard. If he were going to try and hurt me, he’d have had more of his men with him, and he would have done it outside.
That meant I had a bigger fear to concern myself with. I’d rather take pain over his other forms of keeping me in line. Pain was easy. The humiliations… Shudders gripped me, wrenched at me, even as I fought not to let Garner see any sign of what I was feeling.
No matter what he’d said to get me here, my handler wouldn’t just let me walk away from a job like that.
There would be a reckoning.
And if he wouldn’t take it in blood, he’d take it in flesh.
My body was already burning.
My soul was already screaming.
A hand came up behind me and shoved me into the tube and then Garner crowded in around me.
As it sucked us up into the air, I bowed my head, my hands braced on the smooth, clear ’stene surface.
I’d get through this.
I’d done it before.
I’d even do this job, I thought, just because doing it took me away from Jakor. Maybe this would be the last one. Maybe when it was done, I’d guide my transport into the nearest star and end it, swift and easy. Or I could just fuck with the wiring on my transport, dump the oxygen supply—I knew how to do that. I’d killed one of my targets that way once. It wasn’t a pleasant way to die, but I didn’t need pleasant. I just needed it done and final.
Anything to be away from here, forever.
The tube opened up and Garner slid past me.
I stepped outside and slowly lifted my head. Darkness greeted me. This…this wasn’t good. Heart hammering against my ribs, sweat trickling down between my breasts, my shoulder blades, a dull memory worked its way free. It was an old memory; more than a decade had passed since that day. The first time I truly remembered much of anything…including the man who awaited me somewhere in the darkness.
He owed me money. But he was too afraid to face me himself…so I’m taking you instead. You’ll have to serve in his stead…
And here I was. Still serving. Still trapped.
It would end when I made it end.
Twelve years. It was enough.
Yes. I’d do this final job, and then I’d find a way to end this. I’d either find that botanist, or I’d find my own end. Either way, I’d never return here, to this place, ever again.
A shimmer of gold moved in the darkness and I turned my head, saw him.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I managed to form words.