Fire & Ice

Exactly how I feel most days. I loved this blog post.

The Renegade Press

‘No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.’


I often have days where I contemplate giving up. They’re the kind of days where I sit down at my computer to write and think to myself why the hell am I doing this? I’m twenty six years of age and I’ve never had a career, I’ve never finished any of the multiple university degrees that I’ve started, and despite having served more than a decade in the workforce I don’t really have anything of substance to my name. I really struggle when those moments arrive. I sit at my computer for hours and stare blankly at a screen clouded by my own insecurities and self-doubt wondering why I don’t just give up and become happy like everyone else. I want to be a writer; I am a goddamn writer. But in those moments I question whether I have what…

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Tortured Soul Sneak Peek

Chapter One
Matthew would like to say a lot had happened since Caroline had killed Amon, but the only thing the boys had concerned themselves with was mourning Amon’s death.

Beer pong, loud music, breaking all the antique glassware he’d spent God-knew how much time collecting. And Matt couldn’t fathom why. The stuff was ugly as hell.

The black marble floors, gray slate walls and black and white leather furnishings weren’t so bad. Normally the place had a recently disinfected smell.

Today, the light musk of beer, old tomato sauce on leftover pizza crusts and the tang of hot sauce on the savagely stripped chicken wings wafted through the air. Ah, this was the bachelor life.

Luke and Nick gripped game controllers with their rapt attention on the new wide screen television they’d purchased and placed in the center of the room—wires showing and all.

That would have irked Amon. Eventually it would irritate all of them, or trip them enough to instigate the professional installation of an entertainment center, but for now, the freedom was like wearing dirty, holy underwear as you purposely wrecked your mom’s brand new car. You knew she would freak, but you did it to piss her off anyway.

They were a bunch of boys free of oppression, free of authority, and apparently free of any organized thought processes to hear Noah tell it as he stepped on a piece of broken glass at the bottom of the stairs.

“Party time is over. Someone needs to clean this place. I’ll sweep the glass as soon as I dig this china mug out of my heel.” Noah limped backward to the stairs and busied himself with taking the piece of glass from his foot. Not gingerly. He ripped it away and stared at the blue substance covering a flower design on the cup remnant. It dripped from the end of the white arrow of glass and dropped in the floor.

“Not to be a smart ass, but you shouldn’t have come down barefoot.” Matt shoved his glasses up on his nose and winced. Noah was sure to give him a colorful reply.

“Yeah.” He dropped the glass and stalked back up to his room. “Tell these boys we’ve partied enough. You’d think Caroline would put a stop to the trashing of her new sanctuary. Where is she anyway?”

Matt cleared his throat. “I know it’s a touchy subject, but she needs time to properly mourn too. I think she’s in her room.”

“Her room. You mean Amon’s room.” Anger sparked in Noah’s gaze up the stairs.

“Um,” Matt coughed. “Yeah, I guess that’s the one.”

“How endearing.” Noah backed up the staircase, turned and in a few minutes returned with bedroom slippers as a protective covering for his feet. He sulked to the broom closet deep in the recesses of a cook’s kitchen and resurfaced with a broom and dustpan muttering something between cleanliness being next to godliness and a long expletive about how he probably didn’t give a rat’s ass about them at this point anyway given the turn of recent events.

To keep his tantrum to a minimum, I gathered food wrappers, drink bottles, beer cans, and a dirty magazine or two—you could thank Luke for that. He’d never been allowed to see the full female form.

Noah noisily swiped glass shards and chunks into the dustpan.

“You two kids could come out of that Call of Duty trance and help us adults with some of this mess. It’s time we got things back to normalcy.” Matt kicked the back of Luke’s gaming chair. “You. Yeah, you.”

Luke slung him an irritated look. “Dude. Three more kills.”

“If you don’t pause it, that fire hazard you have over there can easily be unplugged. Clean or find a new place to hang.” Matt accidentally bumped into Nick’s chair, on purpose.

Some of the guys had been under Amon’s constant scrutiny for hundreds of years. Matt hadn’t known if he could kill the SoulEaters he’d created, per se, but Amon had been able to put them in enough pain to want death over living if they’d continued to go against any whim their leader had had.

Now, to make everything completely right in the world, the SoulEater world, either Noah or Caroline had to be freed from the Cannubis al Moritici (Till Death do we Part) bond. A few weeks back, Noah had found the love of his life, Caroline Clark. She’d saved him from an untimely death, an agreement he’d made with Amon to kill himself by the SoulEater Suicide.

A slow, 3-year-long process of agonizing starvation and self-sacrifice.

When Caroline Clark, a normal human then, had ventured into his home and stolen his heart, Noah had no choice but to forfeit the two years and two months’ sentence he’d already served to save her from Amon for she wasn’t just any human, but a half-human half-SoulEater.

Amon had her in his sights the second he’d seen her and Noah, being the martyr for all causes, deemed it his personal duty to save her life. Amon would have killed her for she was next in line to take charge of the SoulEater Army.

Noah had bonded himself to Caroline with the irrevocable Cannubis Al Mortici bond so that he could ensure her safety. This bond entailed more pain than a three-year-slow-death could have ever bestowed upon him, but he hadn’t batted one single long model eyelash—most women had gone nuts over his eyelashes. Being in near proximity and having the infuriating ability to hear all their thoughts with undeniable clarity, Matt could hear their tiniest whims. Without pulling out all stop like most of the SoulEaters were required to assail their prey, Noah’s eyelashes of all damned things drew the most attention.

Not his alluring smell, which could transform to whatever the woman or man in his sights most longed for.

Not the angle of his jawline or the curve of his mouth.

But his friggin’ eyelashes.

Matt shoved a Doritos wrapper into the bag he hauled around the room with a little more wrath than he meant to, almost tearing the plastic. Maybe if he’d had eyelashes down to his nose, he’d have been a little more memorable to Keira. Maybe every instance of their love affair wouldn’t have been wiped—

“Hey! I was about to turn it off.” Luke bounded from his game chair with a controller dangling in one hand.

“I’m pretty sure Matt asked for some assistance. There’s so much glass on this floor Caroline is sure to cut a toe off.” Noah stood with four or five cords drooping over his hand like dead snakes.

“I’m pretty sure she’d heal in a matter of seconds,” Luke muttered.

“Why do you worry about her so much, man? She’s in love with someone else?” Nick asked the entirely wrong question.

Noah’s flat gaze finally livened to livid anger as he yanked the cords pulling the television off the new glass entertainment center. It slammed into the floor with a clatter and sparks flew from the screen.

Although Caroline’s undying devotion to Noah had been apparent in her endless attempts to convince Noah that living was better than dying, Caroline hadn’t been bonded to Noah quite the same way he was tied to her.

When duty called, she had to bond herself to Amon to kill him.

Long story short, both of them were in misery now.

Noah pined his days away over Caroline.

Caroline pined her days away over the piece of shit who’d made our lives a living hell.

Whether she meant to or not. The bond could either be infinitely pleasurable or infinitely painful depending on whether the person a SoulEater had bonded themselves to returned the devotion.

Obviously, the whole house was full of unrequited love.

And it sucked ass.

No amount of jerking drapes open to let sunlight in, no amount of aromatherapy candles, not even intensive couples therapy could resolve the thick blanket of misery that smothered the house.

Carrying a bag around the living room to clean up the messes left behind by the SoulEaters wouldn’t be the end of Matt’s cleaning up other people’s messes. Since there was no way he could possibly have the person he loved, he’d find a way to make Caroline and Noah happy again.

Until then, the house, no matter how clean, no matter how light and airy would be dank and unbearably dark.

Waiting behind Noah to drop the remaining glass in the trash, Matt stood staring at Noah. Tinkling, the last of it fell and Noah stared as if he didn’t realize anyone was behind him into the bottom of the trash container.

Matt didn’t let on he was behind him. He also kept his mind reading to himself. It would have been the same. All thoughts of Caroline.

Probably the last time Noah’d seen her dump a dustpan in the trash. He was pathetic. Not in a sickening way. A saddening way. Noah had never given his heart. He’d never opened up to anyone. Not even to one of the guys. He was the keep it to yourself kind of guy. The most he shared with the guys about his past was that he’d cared about Abigail because she was a cool human. One that didn’t judge.

And that it would have been the right thing to do to die to get her soul out of Amon’s deplorable guts. A place much like hell but worse.

He’d come downstairs shirtless with only pajama bottoms on. When Noah turned, he almost bumped into Matt. “Sorry.”

Matt was normally the silent, neurotic one. The one who, when faced with too much, or reminded of his past, ran to his room of darkness and hid away for hours or even days on end, until the Hunger became too much. Noah and Matt had switched places.

Noah normally only graced the guys with his presence when Caroline called mandatory meetings. That had been three times in a week.

The first meeting had been to update us.

Luke and Zach had found proof other SoulEaters existed. That wasn’t a good thing.

Because if they weren’t with the five guys and Caroline, then they probably didn’t stand for the same things they did. They were here to cleanse the planet of filth.

The new found brothers had probably joined that filth.

The second meeting was about Caroline’s role as leader.

She didn’t really want it, but had no choice. Because she hadn’t heard the voice of The Creator in days, she wanted Luke, Nick, Matt, and Zach’s help. Noah’s too, but she felt like ass with a side order of ass for asking him for anything. She’d already asked him for all he had to give and he’d readily given it.

His soul.

To her.

The Creator had done the same thing to her he’d done to Amon—left her to manage the SoulEaters without guidance, but without reason. Or at least any reason Matt could tell. Caroline was a headless chicken running a horse race. No clue what she was doing in a place she really had no business. Either The Creator had a plan he wanted her to figure out on her own or had run out of things to do to amuse himself.

Matt was really hoping for The Creator-having-a-plan part.

Now, the third meeting was sort of odd.

Caroline had yet to ask any of the guys to do anything personal for her, like massage her feet or make her warm milk at two in the morning like Amon had on various occasions. So, this was a first. And it gave Matt this really great idea. One that was going to probably piss her off, but oh, well. Over the years, he’d gotten good at that.

“We need to find a way to speak with Amon.” She tapped her chin at the end of the last meeting.

The brothers stared at her as if she was a headless chicken.

“I mean absolutely no disrespect, but please tell me this isn’t to ease your bond-pain, and that it actually has something to do with saving the planet.” Zach’s nostrils flared.

Noah stared at the floor as if he had laser vision and was aiming at a really annoying bug or a small country of terrorists.

Matt couldn’t see him clearly enough to tell. But he could read his thoughts. Red. He saw red when Amon’s name came from Caroline’s mouth. She’d done well not to mention Amon much in the last seven days.

Matt, being the sympathetic, but smart ass one, had to take up for her.

“Caroline wouldn’t do that,” Matt said. “She knows we’d form an uprising and put glue in her shampoo or something.”

“I have more regard for the planet than that, and,” she glanced to Noah even though he wasn’t looking, “and more respect.”

She loved him. Somewhere deep down. She had to. Or she wouldn’t have cared how he felt.

“It’s good to know you’re such a philanthropist, but it took enough to get him into the real hell. Why would we want to chance speaking with him and have him latch his leech ass onto one of us and come back?” Luke said.

The guys stood in their normal half-moon circle as Caroline gazed out at the star-filled sky above the beach. She held handfuls of her long flowy skirt in her fists.

The Lair, as they’d once called it, had become her home. She hadn’t started changing things yet to make it look more girly, but, oh. It was heading in that direction. So far everything was still black, gray and angular. All manly and bacheloresque. Matt was sure she had plans to floral up the place, given her love for all things purple and lovey-dovey.

“Amon can’t hurt us. But they can. He must’ve known one of you or all of you would turn on him. He never told you about them. We can possibly use the bond Amon made with me to get information to find them. We have to rehabilitate them.” She tensed at the Amon-part of the sentence. Pain. Matt knew the signs. He almost felt sympathy for her. Almost. He hated that she had to go through it at all, but she’d bonded. Anyone who bonded knew the pain if they weren’t able to touch, hold, speak to or love the person they’d given their soul to. Matt knew it all too well.

Matt also hated that Noah had to hear Amon’s name. For the time being, he’d had done all he could to block the pain that seared through the core of Noah’s being and seeped into his thoughts. His thoughts should have been his own in such a private and desiccating time. Sometimes, Noah’s agony was such that it slipped through and yanked Matt to the ground.

Damned SoulEater gift. It was more of a curse than it was a help sometimes.

“Or blow them to smithereens. You can do that you know. With a touch. Just graze their skin and BOOM!” Zach said being all melodramatic. As usual.

“I’m not going to be making anyone go boom unless I have no other choice.” Caroline turned to us and released the knots of fabric. “I don’t exactly enjoy the kill the way you all do.” Especially you, Noah, she thought. Her eyes widened as if she hadn’t meant for the thought to come through. “And I mean that in the least offensive way possible.”

“When the Hunger hits, you’ll change your mind.” Nick’s grin was sinister. “You haven’t had a chance to experience it yet. Like the SoulEater Suicide, the hunger takes a while to really get its claws into you. When it does, you’ll understand why it was so easy for us to stray from the straight and narrow.”

“Which is why someone will be assigned to her. Someone who knows exactly how to control it,” Matt kept his gaze away from Noah. But he knew that Noah knew who he meant. It would have to be Noah. Noah was the only person who could read Caroline in that intimate, primitive way. He’d bonded with her. “Someone to shadow her every move, night and day. Someone who can sense what she’s feeling and thinking.”

Everyone automatically looked to Noah before Matt could warn them in thought not to attack him. Yet.

“If you’ll excuse me.” Noah looked up from the imaginary country he’d just obliterated on the floor. “I have a head to savagely rip off.”

He’d covered himself up in work since everything had changed. The day his wife had become married to another man. A, now, dead man. His current mark was a rapist.
Matt had dropped in on Noah during the final stages of his last kill. The scene was alarming for even him. There were days Matt was so angry at what life had thrown at him that he wasn’t ashamed to admit he’d taken out his aggression on the assholes who polluted this Creatorforsaken planet, but Noah’d been in the process of tearing this man from limb to limb. While he was alive.

Oh, he’d deserved it. Noah’s “mark” had a special liking for toddlers.

And Noah was one of the most honorable half-men Matt knew. The Angel-part instilled in him was filled with rage and needed redemption for many different reasons. That day, a streak of fear caused Matt to cringe backward toward the door of the abandoned warehouse.

Noah had stalked toward Matt, red blood mixing with blue from the man’s bones tearing his own skin. He’d looked like the Fourth of July had thrown up.

“Um, was all that really necessary?” Matt had shivered.

“Probably not. But it felt good.” Noah tossed an imaginary match over his shoulder.
What was left of the man went up in smoky flames and the heat of hell. No clue to the death of the man would be left. Only ashes.

Noah had sauntered toward the abandoned warehouse entrance and sank into the floor before he crossed the threshold.

“You have a new assignment,” Matt told him before he could sink completely out of the room today. All the guys had always looked to Noah for guidance when Amon had been especially self-serving and had hoped Noah would be the one to lead them to freedom. With Amon dead, Caroline clueless, and Noah in no shape to lead a marching band much less a group of lethal killers, Matt would have to usurp leadership.

Sticking up through the floor like an animated head on a platter, Noah’s head turned slowly and met Matt with level eyes and an eerily even voice. “Do not ask that of me.”

Noah’s gaze shifted directly into Caroline’s guilty countenance for the first time the group had seen in a days, a week, maybe more.

A hush blanketed the group.

Caroline took a step toward Noah. Her voice was quiet reverence and the emerald green of her eyes flashed anguish. At either having to ask anything of him or at the prospect of having to be near him for anything other than necessity. “You’re the only person who can help me.”

Noah’s body lifted from the floor and he faced her. “You’re the only person I can’t be alone with and stay sane.”

The moment was so private Matt and from the looks of it, all the other guys, wanted to crawl out of the room and hopefully not be noticed.

Caroline searched the faces of her followers.

“We can’t help you, chick,” Matt thoughtspoke to her.

Noah nodded a stiff goodbye-for-now to Caroline, slinked through the foundation to the metal in the stairwell, and transferred somewhere other than the room Caroline occupied.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Caroline thought back to Matt.

Matt couldn’t help but be a little angry. He knew firsthand what Noah was going through and it wasn’t a funnel cake at the State Fair. If she thought this was hard, dealing with someone bonded to her, then she really hadn’t suffered. Not really.

Sure her bonded Soulmate was dead, but she really didn’t know Amon. The way he took his coffee—heavy on the cream, not just harsh black, the way he truly liked puppies—the only thing he had any real softness for, his lack of love for anything else other than his own reflection in a mirror. There had been nothing else even remotely endearing about him. If you wanted to call any of those things endearing.

Caroline Clark hadn’t had a chance to learn any of the Amonisms enough to realize that she should fight any inclination of being bound to him for eternity. It was sickening. And hard as hell to have sympathy toward. “If you humans didn’t throw yourselves around like volley balls, stuff like this wouldn’t happen.”

“I’m sure every day a female human runs into a SoulEater, bonds with him, and then ends up bonded to another one. Has to happen all the time.” She poked her small fists into her hips.

“Just sayin’.” Matt considered his nails the way a cat would after eating a mouse.

“Well don’t. This is nothing like that. I can’t help the way I feel. It’s not like I woke up one day and decided I wanted to be Amon’s little fangirl.” Caroline’s eyes filled with unspilled tears.

Matt glanced upstairs. Noah’s bedroom door was shut. “I know. I’m sorry. I just…this takes me back a few years. I can’t help but be a little bitter. He’s beyond hurting. You have this emptiness born from the need to be with someone that the stupid bond holds you to like a cheap adhesive. Every time Noah has to be in the room with you, it’s like he’s falling further into an abyss of black death. Because he loved you before the bond. And his love is infinitely stronger than anything you could imagine right now. Take what you feel, multiply it by a million, then put the pain of being two feet from the sun into that mixture and you might experience even a modicum of what he’s feeling.”

Caroline’s face twisted in agony as she sat on one of the cold leather sofas. She ran her hand over its surface in quiet contemplation.

“Seriously, I’ve been trying to help, but he won’t let me in. It’s like he’s me, and I’m him. It’s going to take a while for him to be in the place I am. If someone asked me to protect and serve Keira right now, I think I could do it and not lose what few threads of sanity I still hold onto.” Matt stepped back and listened to Noah. Same thoughts. Same angsty pining away. No need to try to talk to him at that very moment.

Caroline’s fingers stopped their pointless fingering of the material. Her face was as blank as a white sheet of paper. “Can’t you do something to make him forget?”

Matt could have, but Noah would miss a girl, not know who, be miserable, and things would be even worse. And of course, he’d be all obsessive about finding her. Then all the guys would have to pay. Because knowing Noah, during down time he’d have them hunting some faceless girl, when the whole time, she was right there in front of him.

And, there was always the chance, the good chance that Matt’s mind swiping would wear off. Noah would never forgive him.

After considering doors one, two, and three, Matt thoughtprojected, “Nope. Not a thing.”

She huffed. So human. Yet so angelic. The sun caught the chocolate streaks in her chestnut brown hair lending her pale complexion an even more porcelain glow. The moon did even cooler stuff for her, but Matt’s male musings never went any further than a healthy appreciation for her all-encompassing beauty. The Creator had probably designed her so we’d all stand around staring at her in awe. Today was one of those days of admiration.

Matt understood half of why Noah had such a hard time dealing with his emotions when he was around her.

Another woman so good and pure hadn’t existed since….

Matt stared past Caroline, remembering Keira’s face. It took all he had not to find her. To distract himself, he tried to hone in on what the other guys were talking over with Caroline. “…and if we can, we’ll talk to him for you. If The Creator isn’t talking to you though, I don’t know how we’ll get there.”

Matt did. He wouldn’t tell them what he’d planned. None of them would have agreed with it. Least of all Caroline.

From upstairs thoughts darker than any he’d ever had permeated Matt’s mind.

“I should have run her out of that house as soon as I saw her aura. I should have known. I should have found strength to get up from the bed, run her out of the entrance way, and I’d have never fallen in love with her. I should have let the world end. The pain of knowing every human would die is less than what I feel right now. My chest is in a vice, my insides are dying now, so why didn’t I go ahead and let it happen again. And if she thinks about him one more time, I swear I’ll tear this place to shreds. I thought I could do it, but I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Noah was frantic.

Matt caught Caroline’s gaze and gestured upstairs.

“He’s losing it. It’s really bad,” I thought told her.

Something crashed upstairs.

“Go to him. I’ll only make things worse. I shouldn’t have expected him to be that strong. It was cruel to ask of him.” Her blue eyes softened as she turned from me, head bowed.

Luke cringed when something glass shattered on the marble floor. Eyes closed, he shook his head in pity and stalked from the room. His thoughts were along the same lines as Matt’s. And the rest of the guys. Zach was the more verbal one of all of them.

“Remind me again why you guys ever got involved with the opposite sex?” Zach asked flopping back on the leather sofa.

“I’m going to take a walk.” Caroline glared at Zach and opened the sliding glass door to the patio. The beach was just beyond. The door slammed behind her.

* * * *

Upstairs, Matt paused at Noah’s door, his hand on the doorknob.

Sure, a long walk on the beach. Probably to daydream about him some more. I’m not even a passing thought in her mind. Did I ever matter? She probably looks at me and sees him. It’s what I deserve, isn’t it? Something else crashed.

“I’m coming in. Can you keep the flying objects to a minimum?” Matt asked inching in the door.

“Totally not in the mood for your humor.” Noah growled. In his right hand, a picture of himself when he’d been about ten years younger hung in danger of being the next thing thrown.

“I wasn’t being humorous. Being hit by chairs and beds aggravates me. And you know how touchy I get from time to time.” Matt pushed his way through a mess of clothes, shoes, broken lamps, food containers. All this in a week? He really was worse than Matt. And what was that smell?

“Don’t pass judgment.” Noah’s voice was dangerously even.

“I’m not. I get it. Remember?” Matt righted a chair and rounded it, heading toward the bed.

Noah turned on me, fury on fire in his blue eyes. “Then why the hell would you ask me to shadow her?”

Matt flopped on Noah’s bed where something unknown stabbed him in the back. A coat hanger. With a sigh, Matt tossed it to the floor. “I forgot how the bond muddles the mind in the early months. Think about it. If you’re around all the time, you’re in her face. He’s not. It would eventually have to have some sort of effect on her.”

“You’re just trying to get me killed.” Noah yanked a book from his book shelf. His breathing had regulated, and his face wasn’t as blue. When the blood rushed to the surface of a SoulEater’s face, it tinged slightly blue, as if they’d held their breath too long. Noah placed the book on his desk. At least he looked like he was going to read the book instead of throw it.

“She wouldn’t kill you. She’s more likely to blast that smart ass brother of mine to bits before she’d ever hurt you.” Matt tugged at a lump of the bedspread and straightened it. “Your remodeling skills are beyond reproach.”

Noah turned slowly, a look of suspicion growing in his eyes. “You know something. What aren’t you telling me about her?”

Giving up, Matt tossed a pillow to the headboard and lay back. “Without giving away her secrets, which you know I never do, all I can tell you is, she doesn’t even realize what’s in her head or her heart. She needs prodding.”

Noah righted a chair. “I’d like her to come to that conclusion of her own volition.”

“She’s a woman. Use charm, good looks and that cute little way you flip your hair when you’re concentrating.” Matt propped his hands behind his head and gazed on Noah.

Noah’s face pinched up. “What?”

Matt crossed his legs. “You wouldn’t know a clue if The Creator came down, laid it in your lap and explained it to you in detail.”

“You’re moody.” Noah flipped through the book. “So, she thinks that? About my hair?”

Matt sighed a martyr’s sigh. Noah was so easy. It was almost laughable. Almost. “I told you I’m not telling you anything straight out. But if I slip, I can’t help that. Listen and quit with the bitch fits. I’ll guide you through this. So are you going to shadow her?”

“Absolutely no—”

A crash came from downstairs.

Noah and Matt steadied themselves when the ground rumbled so hard the few remaining pictures left on the wall rattled.

“Matt!” Caroline’s scared thought scream cut through everything else he’d been about to say to Noah.

Noah shot up from the chair. “What was that?”

“Caroline.” Matt transferred through the hard wood floor and shot up through the marble to a spot just beside Caroline.

She stood facing west, staring at the beach.

Lining the foaming ocean was men of all nationalities. More popped up through the sand before he could ask her what was wrong.

The house rumbled again.

Noah didn’t bother to stop inside. His protective instincts sent him up through the sand to stand alone in front of Amon’s massive SoulEater army.

“Why does he insist on killing himself?” Matt said more to himself than anyone. He turned to Caroline. “We don’t know what you’re capable of or what they could do to you. Until we have more answers, I want to keep you secret. Stay here.”

She looked as if she were about to argue, but Caroline nodded, her hands trembling. She called after me, “Be safe.”

Matt’s head disappeared through the floor. He was beside Noah in two seconds. As he transferred, Matt put a block on all his SoulEater brother’s minds in case any of the new SoulEaters had the gift of thought-speak or mind-reading.

“Two of you?” An African-American linebacker in front of the group scoffed.

Beside Matt and Noah, the beach birthed their three brothers, grainy white sand sliding off them as they rose.

“I don’t think you want to test our numbers,” Matt said.

Nick, Luke and Zach sauntered toward the group and stood in battle-ready stance, their fists clenched tightly at their sides.

“What is your business here?” Noah demanded. His fingers were splayed out at his sides. They trembled.

Another man stepped forward. His skin was an olive complexion, his eyes slanted. Japanese, maybe. “We came for our leader.”

With clenched fists now, Noah answered, “He’s dead.”

The linebacker grinned. “Nice try.”

Another man with a British accent stepped between them. He looked Noah up and down as if he were documenting his measurements. “We came for the girl.”

Noah froze. “Do something Matt. If I speak, I’ll give her away. They’ll see my devotion. They can’t take her.”

“You came to the wrong place. We don’t know what you’re talking about,” Matt said.

“A very smart teacher of mine once said, ‘Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.’ I think this applies here just as much as it did then. We’ve lost contact with Amon. The last we heard from him were his plans of bonding with a human female. With that bond in place, that makes her next in line to lead us if something has happened to him. You have three days to produce him or we find this female and take her,” the African-American man said. A sinister smile gave us a view of his gleaming white teeth.

Nick took a step toward them and with commendable acting skills, he said, “Maybe he and this girl you speak of have run off together. If you see him, he owes me money.”

“No closer, cockroach.” The Brit growled instead of spoke.

“Cockroach?” Nick’s demeanor darkened.

“Not only are they inferior, they have hearing problems, too, Salem,” the Brit said to the large African-American. So his name was Salem. That’s all Matt could glean from any of their thoughts. That was troubling. Normally, he would have tapped out all their thoughts and known exactly how they’d been made, where, and what their plans were. They’d found a way to block him.

That was almost impossible to do. Matt thought almost because Caroline could. She blocked both him and Noah most of the time. She didn’t know how she did it though.

These guys were pros.

The new SoulEater army began slipping down into the sand leaving the last three who’d spoken to finish the conversation.

Before they could speak Matt interceded.

“What would you need with the girl? And if there is one and something has happened to Amon, that makes her your leader. She’s—she’d probably be very strong, so fighting her wouldn’t be in any of our best interest.” Matt aimed the question at the guy who seemed to lead them, Salem.

“Whatever I please. At this point, I’m not sure what that will be. My new leadership role is very appealing. I’m not above killing to keep that role,” Salem said.

The ground rumbled under Noah as his hostility set an imbalance in his energy and the ground under him. Before Noah could wreak havoc on him, Matt stepped in front of him. At the same time Matt spoke to Salem, he thought-spoke to Noah, “Take her to my parents cabin. Hide her there.” “As you probably already know, we didn’t agree with Amon’s plans to annihilate the human population. And we don’t agree with harming an innocent, so if in fact there is a girl, and we find her first, I can promise you, she’ll be under our protection. I hope you won’t go against that. It would be a very poor leadership decision.”

“And if we do?” Salem stepped nose to nose with Matt.

“You’ll go against the Dictates. And punishment for that is harsh. Plus,” Matt paused for effect. “I’ll find ways to make you sorry.”

Salem laughed, reached forward, grasped my shoulder with a bear’s grip and sent the worst pain Matt had ever felt through every joint in his body. He crumbled to the ground.

Zach, his twin brother brother, lunged for Matt, but before he could make it, the Brit separated himself from his body leaving a clone behind and wrapped his arms around Zach.

Matt couldn’t squeeze sound from his vocal cords. If the pain he felt was anything like what was about to happen to Zach, Matt was terrified for him.

Salem number one released Matt. He gained control of his neck and turned to over in the sand to get a full view of Zach.

Just as Zach’s body went up in flames.

Ever Tempted Cover Reveal

For years, Allie Knowles wondered why she dreamed of a guy with no face. In the dreams, he had the perfect masculine build but where expressions should have matched his low, sensual voice, his face was always a blur. This nameless, faceless guy would do nothing short of kill for her. Her affections were just as strong, but the bond made no sense. He didn’t exist. Or did he?

I can relate to Allie on so many levels. For years, I’ve written, rewritten, reworked scenes, killed off characters, renamed characters and through it all, it was so hard to imagine what Cole looked like. How did his hair look when it fell into his eyes? Did his eyes crinkle when he smiled or was their smoldering gaze so intoxicating that one wouldn’t notice the crinkles? I knew his eyes were green and haunted with years of loneliness. Chestnut streaks born from working in the sun highlighted his milk chocolate brown hair. He was strong but not muscled up like massive body builders. Veins didn’t bulge down his arms, but they were quite capable of putting a hurting on anyone or anything that threatened Allie.

But how would all those qualities come together for a reader?

Allie was revealed on the cover of Ever After which was just as striking beautiful as I’d always pictured her to be.

Today, I present you with Cole on the cover of Ever Tempted.





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