In case you missed it, I very quietly launched a new series last year: Spero Heights. It debuted with a short, 99¢ novella titled Blood Moon. It was quite a change for me from the Lana Harvey novels. For starters, it's written in 3rd person rather than 1st. It's still in the urban fantasy club, but it leans more heavily toward paranormal romance. Each book focuses on a different couple, and while all series are more enjoyable when read in order, these books can be read out of order and still make sense. The setting is a bit cozier too.
Spero Heights is a small, fictional town set in the Ozark Mountains. It was founded by a vampire, werewolf, and psychic who wanted to create a safe haven for monsters who have lost their bump in the night. Of course, ventures this big don't happen without complications. Even for supernatural folk.
Here's a little peek at book 2, Death at First Sight, available August 30th. (The cover reveal and back flap copy follows below.)
Lia lay awake in bed, her face upturned and eyes squeezed shut. She didn’t need an alarm clock to know the sun was rubbing elbows with the horizon. Dawn would break any second now. The hitch in her heart rate told her that much. Her breath grew shallow and her skin clammy as she waited.
She tried to imagine what her mornings might be like if she were normal. The fantasy was a simple one, but with precise details—the sun greeting her through gauzy curtains pushed aside by a warm breeze, children giggling in the distance, someone’s moist breath tickling her neck.
A breakfast scene followed, with a checkered tablecloth, steaming cups of coffee, and buttermilk pancakes drenched in maple syrup—the real kind, like her father used to make, not the generic crap that Saunders delivered every Wednesday. An imaginary, blissfully happy family would join her at the table. A slew of children would bicker over whose stack of pancakes was tallest, while her pretend husband winked at her over the rim of his coffee cup.
Lia wondered if anyone actually had mornings like that. Then she wondered if she had just seen one too many Folger’s commercials. Her breath steadied long enough for her to expel a disheartened grumble. Then the sun broke the sky.
She couldn’t see it through the boarded up window of her bedroom, but that never seemed to make a difference. Her back bowed and she knotted her fists in the bedsheets, trying to hold herself in place. Pain spiked through her brain in two lines that began in her eye sockets and felt like they exploded at the back of her skull. The room tilted sideways and she was thrown to the floor.
Lia panted against the weathered hardwood as her mind split open, her consciousness stretching out for miles and miles until it crumbled at the edges like a pie crust rolled too thin. Her breath ached in her lungs, and a hoarse whisper slipped past her lips before she braced herself for the main event.
The faces came next. They poked holes through her fragile mind, searing their swan songs into her memory as she relived their final moments with them. She never recognized them, but each one left a scar.
The first was a boy on a skateboard. He glanced over his shoulder—a split second before a van smeared him across the blacktop. Lia strained to pick out details, like the van’s license plate, but the letters blurred at the edge of her sight. The street sign was easier to read, even with the streak of blood running down one side. Someone screamed, but it was drowned out by the shrill horn of a nearby train.
The scene spun away from Lia, as if she were on a merry-go-round, and then there was an old man, clutching his chest in a tattered recliner, a television remote squeezed in his opposite hand. For a second, Lia could hear the channels clicking through too quickly in the background. A blue and orange lunch tray lay upside down on cheap carpet, the letters LV stamped into the plastic.
Last, she saw a woman reading in a park. There was a concrete bridge behind her, leading to a wide lawn where a dog show was taking place. Lia smelled lavender perfume and felt the aged paper under her own fingers as the woman turned the pages of a novel. A man watched her from the shadows, but she didn’t notice until it was too late. Then there was gunfire and blood on the grass.
Lia pressed her cheek into the hardwood and her eyes closed tighter, as if she could block the image out. Her body shivered, drumming her shoulders and knees against the floor. And then, just as suddenly as the nightmare had begun, it was over. Her mind rolled back in on itself, feeling loose and too large for her head. The visions’ parting gift was a migraine from hell.
The nameless faces were still there, their deaths imprinted on her as if she’d experienced them firsthand, but she’d learned a long time ago to distance herself from them as quickly as possible. They were all strangers, and that was her only comfort. Every morning. For the past twenty years.
She pulled her aching body up off the floor and shuffled through the small house without flipping on any lights. It seemed a neat trick, unless she thought too long on how she’d come by it. It had been nearly a decade since she’d been out in the world—out of the house even.
Once in the bathroom, Lia stripped out of her tee shirt and shorts. She left the lights off as she stepped into the shower stall and turned the water on as hot as she could tolerate it. Steam filled her lungs, but the chill in her core was hard to shake. She turned her face into the harsh spray coming from the rusty showerhead and let it wash the tears and snot from her face. Then she took the bar of soap from the plastic ledge along the top of the stall and pretended she was a normal person for a few minutes.
Her eyes still hurt too much, even after she’d dried off and put on her robe, but she went ahead and clicked on the small lamp by the back door in the kitchen. As she filled a tea kettle and put it on the stove, the sound of keys jingled outside. Lia couldn’t see her caller through the blacked out window that overlooked the porch, but she didn’t have to. Only one person ever visited her.
Her heart raced again, but this time from elation rather than dread. She shielded her eyes as the door opened and quickly closed.
Garrett Saunders was a handsome man with broad shoulders and a confident gait. His dark hair was peppered with the beginnings of forty, and his muscled limbs colored richly from the sun. He was made for the crisp, blue uniform he wore like a second skin. He rattled a bottle of pills and set it on the counter with a tight smile.
Lia opened a cabinet with shaking hands to retrieve a glass. She filled it halfway at the tap before prying the bottle open and dumping three pills in her hand. She swallowed them down and refilled her glass before slumping down at the kitchen table.
A few moments later, the stress lines creasing her face faded. The pressure in her head muted to a dull throb, and her breath rolled from her lungs with more ease.
Saunders stayed near the door, shifting from one foot to the other with both hands on his belt. “Let’s have it, Lia. I got a lot on my plate today.”
It was a familiar routine. Saunders showed up every morning, ready to exchange a bottle of pain pills for her visions. That was the deal—at least the one he reminded her of most often. The other deal, the one he didn’t mention unless she rubbed him wrong, was that she could live in his dead mother’s home, all expenses paid, as long as she never stepped foot outside.
Saunders cleared his throat, her last cue before things would turn ugly between them and he’d skimp on her Wednesday delivery of essentials—all the best off-brand crap one could get for twenty bucks or less.
Lia wet her lips and tried to recall the traumatic details without letting her voice crack. Saunders was unaffected by her blubbering, as if her tears were a ploy for his sympathy. “Late morning, Tenth and Hawthorn, a boy on a skateboard is hit by a white van.”
“Late morning?” Saunders scoffed. “Well, that sure narrows it down.”
Lia closed her eyes and frowned, trying to pick through the details for something useful. “A train is passing nearby, right after it happens.”
Saunders shrugged. “Guess I could send a couple of the boys over there to check on the signage before their coffee break. Might get lucky.”
Lia moved on. “Around lunchtime, an old man has a heart attack—I think he’s in a retirement home, something with the initials LV.” She paused and looked up at Saunders.
“Might be Lakeview,” he said, folding his arms across his chest, right below the embroidered sheriff’s badge of his uniform.
“He had a white mustache and a gray beard, if that helps.”
Saunders shrugged. “Old folks whose time is up don’t concern me much. Let’s stick to the homicides.”
Lia sucked in a sharp breath and turned away from him, focusing on the daffodil curtains hanging over the boarded up bay window. She wondered if the late Mrs. Saunders had picked them out herself. She wondered if her son would have bothered saving her if Lia had been around to predict her demise.
“Tick tock, girl,” Saunders snapped.
Lia flinched. “Afternoon, a woman reading in a park is shot by a man. She’s wearing a green dress, and he’s in black slacks and a white shirt. He’s wearing sunglasses. Dark hair. Clean shaven.”
Saunders perked at the shooting. It would look fancier on his resume than the other two incidents. “What park?”
She shrugged and took a sip of her water. “There’s a bridge and a dog show going on.”
“I didn’t see anything else.”
“Rest up. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Saunders slipped back out through the kitchen door.
Lia didn’t close her eyes this time. Morning light creased the sky through the woods that lined the backyard. It was pink and orange, making the trees look like they were on fire. She vaguely wondered if her brain would explode should something that catastrophic ever happen in Barton County. Then she almost wished for it, because this was no way to live.
Lia James would give anything to be normal. Struck with horrific, daily visions of death isn’t what any sane person would consider gifted. Her only consolation is that Sheriff Saunders, her shady keeper, does what he can to change the outcome of her visions—at least, the ones that might lead to a swanky promotion.
Christian Delph is not a normal doctor, and his patients’ maladies are not found in the average medical journal. As the head therapist of Orpheus House in Spero Heights, he sees everything—and usually before it happens. The one thing he didn’t see coming was Lia, and all the ways she would turn his fragile world inside out.
Available August 30th, 2016
to be notified on release day!