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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chapter 3 of "Blood Vice" & #99cent Launch Sale! #TuesdayBookBlog

Blood Vice is releasing in 1 week!!! As promised, here's another preview, of chapter 3 this time. If you missed the first two sneak peeks, you can find Chapter 1 HERE, and Chapter 2 HERE.

Order your copy by July 2nd to take advantage of the special 99¢ launch sale!

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Detective Jenna Skye bombs her first week on the St. Louis Vice Squad when she's bitten by a vampire in a supernatural brothel. Her day only gets worse from there. She wakes up in the morgue and discovers that her partner is dead. Before the sun rises, she realizes she is too.

Jenna vows to continue their investigation until justice is served, but a werewolf squatter, an unexpected visit from her estranged sister, and a nosy FBI agent stand in her way. Not to mention her fresh aversion to sunlight and a thirst for something a little stiffer than revenge.

"Blood and Thunder"
(Blood Vice Book 2)
Coming August 22nd, 2017 

Being a vampire isn’t easy. Jenna Skye thought she could pull it off without giving up her old life, but the compromises are taking a toll. Jenna’s sister Laura is eager to return to her glamorous life in Hollywood, and Mandy, Jenna’s werewolf partner, is getting sick of playing her K9 sidekick to get around the police department’s red tape.

Jenna’s never been good with change, but with her human existence slipping further and further out of her reach, she has no choice but to accept FBI agent Roman Knight’s offer to join the supernatural police force ruled by House Lilith. Her first assignment? Help hunt down a serial killer targeting new vampires in St. Louis…like her.

Pre-order at your favorite retailer today!

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Blood Vice (Blood Vice Book 1) 

Chapter 3

I stood frozen for a long moment, staring at the bloody keys on my kitchen counter. They had been in my pocket last night. I remembered stuffing them in there with a handful of mints I’d swiped from Will’s desk before we left the precinct. They should have been in evidence with everything else that had been on me when my body was found. What the hell were they doing here?
The sandwich and chips were alarming, too. My memory was a bit scrambled, but I wasn’t one to leave food lying around for the bugs to snack on. Someone had been here. Someone was still here, I realized as my ears pricked at the sound of creaking floorboards behind me.
I ducked just in time. A baseball bat whooshed over my head. As I spun around to get a visual of my attacker, a foot landed in the center of my chest, sending me backward over the counter. The chips and sandwich went flying. My hand slapped out to brace my fall, and I managed to snag my bundle of keys before flipping ass over elbows and landing in a mangled heap on the floor.
I hurled the keys over the counter, trying to buy myself time as I scrambled to my feet and into the pantry where I kept a spare .380 hidden in a breadbox on the top shelf. When I spun around and took aim at the intruder, my breath caught in my throat.
The girl was a hundred pounds tops, all razor-sharp bones under flushed skin. Her tangle of brown hair was wet and dripping onto the collar of one of my mother’s terrycloth bathrobes. The bat shook in her hands, and her eyes darted back and forth between the gun and my face.
Shit, shit, shit,” she chanted.
I lowered the gun an inch but kept it trained on her. “What are you doing in my house?”
“You were dead.” She gave me a twitchy, nervous shrug. “I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“So you stole my keys and decided to help yourself to my amenities?” I was beside myself. What kind of person took keys off a presumably dead body? Wait— “You were at the warehouse.” I lifted my gun again as a knot tightened in my chest.
The girl shifted her weight from foot to foot as if preparing to bolt. “Hey, I tried to help. I was just…too late. Or so I thought,” she added under her breath. Her gaze slid down to my neck.
“What happened down there? What did you see?” I squeezed the grip of my gun tighter to keep my hands from trembling.
“Nothing! Okay?” She blew out a disgruntled sigh and tilted the bat back to rest over one shoulder. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Secret?” Nausea stirred in my stomach. Maybe I didn’t want to know what had happened in the basement. What if I’d done something even worse than watch my partner die?
I swallowed and panted my next few breaths while my vision clouded over, washing the room and the strange girl in shades of red. That was new. Something was definitely wrong with me. Vin was right. I needed to schedule an appointment with my doctor.
The girl squinted at me. “Oh, man. You don’t know. Do you?” She took a tentative step toward me, her hands wringing the neck of the bat.
“Get back!” I shook the gun at her, determined to hold my ground. “I’m… I’m—” Placing you under arrest for breaking and entering. The words were there, but my train of thought had barreled ahead before I could get them out.
If I turned her in, I wouldn’t be the one interrogating her about what had happened at the warehouse. I wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the investigation—not now that my partner was dead and I’d spent the day in the morgue. I’d be required to take a few weeks of leave and go through a dozen therapy sessions before Mathis even considered giving me another case.
Someone else had probably already taken over the investigation. They’d be interviewing me soon, and I didn’t have half a clue what to tell them. I needed to find out more first, and this girl was the only lead I had. But calling her sudden appearance luck was premature, especially considering she’d made herself a little too at home for my liking.
 “What were you doing in that basement?” I asked, trying to keep the panic out of my tone.
The girl sucked on her bottom lip and lowered the bat to the kitchen counter before sliding onto one of the barstools. “Probably the same thing you were.”
“And what is it you think I was doing?”
“Looking for those missing girls.” Her eyes met mine for a brief second, and then she looked down at her hands. “I promised I’d come back and bust them out.”
I recognized her now, from a photograph in the file. It had been dated, taken when she was in foster care. Maybe eighth grade. “Amanda?”
“Mandy,” she said, giving me an offended sneer. “Mandy Starsgard.”
“Are you homeless?” I asked, deciding I could forgive her for breaking in if that were the case.
She glanced around the kitchen and cocked an eyebrow. “Not at the moment.”
“Well, Mandy,” I said, finally lowering my gun to my side. “I’m going to need you to tell me everything you know. Who runs this prostitution ring? Where are their headquarters and other locations of operation? Do you think you could identify them and their affiliates from a suspect lineup?”
Mandy let out a hiccup of a laugh and grinned at me. “You don’t give up, do you? Not even death stands in this one’s way.”
“I had an aneurysm,” I said, blushing at the absurdity of Vin’s theory. “Or something like that. It’s nothing, and I’m sure my doctor will agree tomorrow.”
“I wouldn’t be too quick to check in with your doc.” The amusement faded from Mandy’s expression. “The humans can be problematic and draw a lot of unwanted attention from the higher-ups.”
And just like that, my hope evaporated. I stared at her, wondering if maybe I should call a psychiatric ward rather than the police. Taking her statement about the warehouse incident seemed a bit futile at this point, but even mentally ill people provided useful tips from time to time.
“Yes, the humans. Such a pain,” I said, unable to keep the sardonic tone out of my voice.
Mandy picked a stray potato chip off the counter, one of the few that had survived our introduction, and popped it into her mouth. “You think I’m crazy. That’s okay. You’ll figure it out soon enough.”
I sighed and tucked the .380 into the waistband of my pants. “You can stay here tonight, but tomorrow, I’m taking you to the station so you can give your statement, and then to the woman’s shelter.”
“I don’t need a shelter,” Mandy snapped. “I need to find the Scarlett Inn and bust my friends out before it’s too late. Girls don’t last long in that place, not even the ones they turn.”
“The Scarlett Inn? That’s what they call it?” I wanted to be excited by the new detail, but my faith in Mandy as a reliable source had been crippled. I couldn’t take her seriously now. My focus shifted to the unquenched thirst that had plagued me since waking in the morgue.
I yanked open the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of orange Gatorade. Mandy gave me a horrified look as I twisted the lid off.
“This isn’t going to end well,” she said as I turned the bottle up and chugged.
The liquid burned on my tongue and gums, almost as if it were carbonated. Or half-cut with battery acid. The sensation only worsened as the drink ventured down my throat and sloshed into my empty stomach. It gurgled once, twice, and then I was suddenly a stunt double for the Exorcist. The Gatorade spewed across the room in a wide arc, creating a vomit rainbow over the countertop before sloshing against the back of one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
Mandy had retreated from my trajectory in the nick of time and pressed herself against the back wall next to the sliding glass door. “Told you so.”
I gave her a dirty look. “How could you have possibly known that would happen?” I wiped my chin off with the back of my hand and then coughed up a clot of blood across my knuckles. That wasn’t a good sign.
“You need blood,” Mandy said, creeping back to her abandoned barstool.
“I hardly see how a transfusion is going to help.”
“To drink.” She raised both eyebrows and gave me a pointed look. “And don’t even think about asking me. I would scrub toilets in a truck stop before opening a vein for a bloodsucker.”
“Bloodsucker?” I swallowed and winced at the searing pain in my throat. And I’d thought I was thirsty before. “Maybe I should stick to water.” I opened a cabinet and pulled down a glass.
“Water won’t be any better. Maybe hold your head over the sink this time?” Mandy suggested.
I ignored her warning and filled my glass at the tap. I meant to take a small sip, but I was so thirsty. Before I could stop myself, I’d downed half the glass, greedily gulping until cool water spilled over my chin. It soothed my tongue and throat. For a few seconds anyway. And then I was choking and gagging up water over the sink like I’d just survived the Titanic.
“What. The. Hell?” I glared accusingly at Mandy.
“I tried to tell you.” She sighed and rested her chin in the palm of one hand. “You’re dead, Miss Detective Lady. But don’t take my word for it. Have you checked your pulse yet?”
“What?” I shouted at her. I wanted to roll my eyes, but my fingers were already pressed to the side of my neck, searching. It felt like a million years, but I did finally feel a gentle pulse against my fingertips. “Ha! I have a heartbeat. What now, crazy pants?”
She snorted and rapped her knuckles along the counter’s edge. “How many beats would you say per minute?”
My fingers went back to my neck, and after a few seconds of waiting, my patience evaporated. “I’m not a damn doctor. I’ll schedule a physical tomorrow, and everything will be fine.”
“If you do that, House Lilith will sic their agents on you,” Mandy said, a serious note creeping into her voice. “I won’t help you if they get involved. They kill mutts like me for sport.”
“Nothing you say makes any sense!” I screamed at her. I was starting to lose my cool. Not being able to keep anything down and choking up blood probably hadn’t helped. I seized the dishtowel hanging off the oven door and wiped my hands and face off while I waited for my temper to dissipate. “You probably have some contagious disease that you’ve passed on to me—”
“I’m healthy as a horse.” Mandy gave me a smug grin. “My digestive tract and heart work fine, but then again, I’m not the walking, talking, bitching undead.”
“I’ve had about enough of this. I’m calling the police.” I snatched the phone off the wall cradle beside Mandy, but before I could punch in any numbers, she ripped the entire base free with one hand, leaving a gaping hole in the drywall. The plastic cracked and groaned in her grasp, and the inner workings wheezed out a dying ring.
“You want my help finding those girls, and I want yours,” she hissed. “So quit being stupid and get your shit together. We have work to do, and I don’t have time to coddle a baby bloodsucker through the change.”
I ground my teeth and stared at her until my vision turned red again. My hand went to the .380 in my waistband, but I didn’t get a chance to draw it. The doorbell made us both jump, and the heavy pounding that followed sent my lagging heart into overdrive.
“Skye, open this damn door before I kick it in,” Captain Mathis shouted from my front porch.
I was going to strangle Vin.

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