Today is the 25th of August, and I have no fucking idea where this month went! Wasn’t it my birthday, like, yesterday? And didn’t the kids just get out of school a week or two ago? (Actually, here, they did just get out of school in the third week of July, but still.) This summer has flown by, and here we are, only five days before the release date of MADE FOR SIN!
Speaking of which…I believe I mentioned that the book received a STARRED review at Night owl Reviews? Reviewer BookGirl gives it 4.5 out of 5 and states:
This is a must read for fans of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
I’ve been asked if this book is the start of a new series or a stand-alone, and the answer is that I don’t know. When I was asked if I’d like to do the book, it was presented to me as something that could go either way, and I honestly wasn’t sure as I was writing it how it would end. Then the ending appeared (as they do) and ideas for future stories with these characters trotted along behind it. I’d certainly enjoy writing those future stories, because they’re pretty fun and exciting, but I imagine it’s really going to depend on sales and whether or not you lovely people are interested in reading them. Either way, it was fun to write! I haven’t really gotten to do something that’s (intended to have) a more noir-detective-novel feel than a UF or romance feel before, so I definitely enjoyed playing with that kind of sensibility and trying something a little different. (It was/is a little scary, too, but that’s how it goes, really.)
Would you like to see a bit more of that, by way of an excerpt? Of course you would! Here you go:
“So who knows what you’re looking for? Who shot at you?” she asked, leaning against his desk. Like it was her fucking house or something.
“I don’t know,” he replied, aware that he sounded irritated, and not caring. “Who knows what you were doing there? Maybe they were shooting at you.”
“What makes you think—”
“Oh, fuck this.” Having her stand over him as if he were a kid was really getting on his nerves. She was getting on his nerves, like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Maybe that was why he didn’t feel tired anymore. “I’m not playing these little word games you seem to enjoy so much, okay? I’m not that kind of guy. I—”
“Yes.” Her arms were folded across her chest, her legs crossed at the ankle; her voice dripped with meaning. “I know what kind of guy you are, Speare.”
“Then you know I don’t like to waste my time.” She really knew how to make it sting, didn’t she? Damn. “Cards on the table. There are a lot of reasons somebody might take a shot at me, just like I figure there’s a lot of reasons they might take a shot at you. But it probably happened tonight because somebody doesn’t want us talking, which means no matter what we do now, we’re both targets. And the sooner we find the people responsible, the better. Right?”
“I—wait, were you hit?”
He glanced at his arm, his short sleeve and the bare skin below it soaked with blood. The bullet had grazed the back of his biceps, so he couldn’t see the actual spot very well, but he could feel it well enough. That would stop soon, though. One of the few benefits of the beast in his head was that he healed fast—not Wolverine fast, but faster than normal people. “Oh. Yeah. Don’t worry about it, it barely—”
She ignored him and lifted the bloody fabric away from the wound. Maybe Felix was right about how good she was at her work; he barely felt the touch, and he was actually watching it happen. “It looks torn.”
“It only scratched me.” He glanced at it—at what he could see of it—and saw it did indeed look torn rather than scraped. What kind of bullet had done that? Had it been a bullet? “A flesh wound.”
“We should clean it up, though.”
“I can do it.”
“I doubt you can even see it. Come on, quit being a baby and let me clean it up for you.”
Shit. He didn’t want her to do it. He didn’t want her to touch him, not when the pressure in his head was higher than it should have been already. Especially not when he was getting a good look at her in a well-lit room and realizing that her eyes were even deeper and brighter than he’d thought, that her hair was the color of bloody copper and sparks of flame were buried in it like secrets, that his eyes kept wandering up and down her slim figure and watching it move.
“Besides,” she said, “for all we know, those bullets were coated with something unpleasant. The kinds of people we both deal with have access to all sorts of things.”
She had a point there, he had to admit. It had happened before—not to him, or anyone he knew well, but it had happened. And that wound really didn’t look like it had been made by an ordinary bullet.
Damn it. He’d just have to focus on what a pain in the ass she was, instead of on that fragrance that clung to her skin. “Fine.”
“Your place is nice,” she remarked, as he led her down the hall to the bathroom where he kept his first-aid kit. “You have a cleaning woman?”
He pulled out the kit and set it on the counter; his eyes narrowed. “Why? Because a guy like me can’t clean his own house?”
She ignored his glare. “Most men who live alone don’t keep their places this neat, that’s all.”
“Yeah, well, I do.” Of course he did, having grown up in Va-va-voom Vera’s house, with piles of skimpy clothing and magazines and makeup everywhere. His mother was not a housekeeper, in any sense. When he was a kid it had been a special occasion if she’d used the oven to heat a frozen meal instead of sticking it in the microwave. “And that’s not a compliment, you know, saying I’m not as much of a slob as most men. That’d be like me saying you seem pretty smart for a girl.”
“Do I? How sweet of you to say.” Those red lips of hers curved into a smile that was maybe a bit too satisfied, as she poured antiseptic on a cotton pad. “Of course, I imagine you don’t pay much attention to women’s brains in general, so it might be hard for you to judge, but I’ll still say thank you. Take your shirt off.”
He hesitated. Only for a second before he caught himself, but it was long enough; she noticed it. Thankfully he got the thing off before she could make some snotty comment about it, and from the change in the quality of her silence he knew she wasn’t going to. Not when she saw the scars, the marks. The evidence of the kind of life he’d been forced to live was all over his body: places where the talons he couldn’t always control had sliced at him, places where his skin had torn again and again when the beast took over. Places where he’d paid the price for whatever sins he’d committed to keep that from happening, too, where he’d taken a beating or hurt himself escaping.
And, of course, the count. The tidy little lines, one for each person he’d killed and one for every ten mortal sins, tattooed across his chest, each one a ticket to hell all on its own. Three hundred and thirty-two black lines, in slightly uneven rows like a crooked picket fence, etched into his skin over nine years, starting with the upper left side.
That mark—the upper left—had been the first. The first time he’d killed a man. That was the day he realized that all those sins mattered, that he wasn’t a kid anymore and that beast or no beast, he was making choices—choices he’d one day have to answer for. He’d bought a tattoo gun and spent an afternoon learning how to use it, and ever since then he’d been keeping the count, emblazoning his skin with a physical reminder of what his life truly was.
The slightly awkward pause lasted just a second or two longer than it might have normally before Ardeth spoke. “It doesn’t look that bad.”
His chest? Oh, no, right. The wound. “I told you it wasn’t.”
The last word turned into a hiss of pain as she rammed the antiseptic-covered cloth into his injured arm. Maybe “rammed” was the wrong word, but she definitely pressed it against him harder than she needed to. Harder than anyone would even think they needed to. The thing in his head roared. It could feel the pain, too. More than that, it could smell her and feel the heat coming off her skin just as well as he could, and it was hungry and it wanted things he didn’t want to give it. Maybe not feeling tired anymore wasn’t such a good thing.
“Oh,” she said, her tone as artificially sugary as a diet soda. “Sorry, did that hurt?”
He gritted his teeth, trying to keep his own voice smooth and calm. “It’s fine.”
“I can stop for a minute, if you want.” She’d sat on the edge of the tub beside him, angled so she could get a closer look at his arm. The position meant both of her knees pressed against his thigh.
Worse, she’d decided to rest her left arm on his back, her bent elbow on his shoulder and her breath warm and soft against his side. Shit. The beast didn’t care what kind of person she was, whether or not he trusted her or what the ramifications might be if he even thought about making a move—a move she would probably reject, which would make the whole situation even worse. The beast didn’t give a damn what he wanted. It wanted what it wanted, and it wanted to be fed or to bust out and go feed itself—and it was more gluttonous than Henry VIII at a pie-eating contest. It wanted her. He clenched his fists. She’d be done soon, and once she was done he could get her out of his house and go do what he needed to do. “It’s fine. You almost done? I’ve got shit to do.”
“You don’t have to be so rude,” she said, reaching over to grab the ointment and gauze. Her hair swung down off her shoulder, the only color in the whole room blazing at him. “I’m trying to help.”
“I didn’t ask for your help.”
“Yes, you did, actually. That’s why I’m here to begin with.” Her fingers, her palm, slid over his arm, smearing ointment over the wound in smooth, light strokes. Goddamn it.
It wasn’t her. It was nothing to do with her, personally. If he hadn’t been so busy all day, if he’d had time to do what he had to do earlier, the beast would hardly have noticed her and he wouldn’t be sitting there trying not to sweat.
Her next words didn’t help. “And you said out there that we’re in this together. I think you’re right. Whether I help you or not, they’re going to think I am. Whether you told me anything or not, they’re going to think you did. That means neither of us is safe until we find the people who shot at us, so we might as well pool our resources, right? Maybe together we can figure this out faster than we would alone—in my case I doubt it, but I’m okay with helping you out.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” he managed. It was hard enough paying attention to what she was saying, without trying to think of a clever reply, too. His vision was starting to go red; just a little around the edges, and it would ease when the pain did, but it was still not good.
“I never do.” She finished wrapping the gauze around his arm and tore off a strip of tape with her teeth. “I never have to. There’s plenty of people to do that for me.”
“Lot of drunks in this town,” he said.
Tuesday’s the big day!